The big city of Tokyo, where there is so much to see and do and the best thing is that most of the sights, and especially the best ones are free to visit.
There were so many places and great things which I saw whilst visiting, however here I have put together a list of the best free things to do in Tokyo which were my favourites. As Japan is an expensive country to travel around, be sure to check out my post on how to see Tokyo on a budget and for the more glamorous version of Tokyo see my Tokyo through the lens edition.
Or I made a quick video of a few of the sights here-
First up I wanted to see how busy Tokyo really gets and I headed to Shibuya. This is the famous shopping area where massive crowds flock in and out to get their shopping fix in amongst the crowd. This place is always busy, although the best time to see it is at night with all the flashy billboards lit up. To get to see how busy it really gets, you must witness the famous Shibuya crossing. This can be seen as you walk directly out of Shibuya station and into the streets of madness where I had a lot of fun visiting.
The famous Shibuya crossing
This was probably my favorite Temple out of all the temples in Tokyo and it was right next to where I was staying in Asakusa. It is the oldest temple in Tokyo, being completed in 645.
Sensoji in Asakusa, Tokyo
You can access Sensoji from Asakusa station and by then walking through the Kaminarion gate. To exit you can walk down a shopping street called Nakamise which is just 200m long. This street has a long history over many centuries where shops offer traditional snacks and souvenirs.
My tip, don’t miss this temple upon your visit. If you are there in May you should see the annual festival of Asakusa Shrine or in August you can witness the Asakusa Samba festival.
The palace has very nice gardens and is a nice walk, however you can’t actually get up close to the actual palace as it is surrounded by a moat to prevent intruders, although necessary when the palace was originally built, the moat is still effective today.
The Palace was built in 1888 when the country’s capital and Imperial residence moved from Kyoto to Tokyo. The palace was destroyed during World War II, but was rebuilt shortly after.
You can view Nijubashi from Kokyo Gaien, which are the two bridges that form the entrance to the palace. Although you can’t view the inner ground of the palace unless on the New Years greetings or the emperor’s birthday, you can stroll about in the palace gardens which are just north of the Imperial Palace.
To get to the palace it’s just a short walk from Tokyo station.
This is a major commercial and administrative center to Tokyo which is home to one of the worlds busiest train stations, Shinjuku Station. In Shinjuku you can find just about everything due to its’ mass amount of shops and retail outlets.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
This is just next to Shinjuku and is certainly a place you must visit in Tokyo. It is free to enter and you can head up to the observation deck at 202m high to gain spectacular panoramic views of the Tokyo cityscape. I suggest heading there at night time to see the cityscape lights, however day time also boasts a great view, especially on clear days.
From the observation deck of the Tokyo Metropolitan building
To get there by metro get off at Tocho-mae station or you can walk there from Shinjuku as it’s not far.
Well this is an interesting place to visit to say the least. Harajuku is between Shinjuku and Shibuya where Japan’s most elaborate, odd and extreme teenage cultures hang out and shop for their quirky fashion styles. This section of Tokyo also offers adult stores and other sights to see such as Yoyogi Park and Meji Jingu.
The main street you should visit here is Takeshita Street, where the streets are lined with trendy fashion stores, dessert stands and fast food restaurants. To experience this street at its best, head there on a Sunday as the majority of the teens flock there and dress up in costumes to look like anime characters and punks,
This huge park is beautiful and comes alive during spring as the Sakura (cherry blossoms) start to bloom. This park is the most famous to visit in spring where you can sit under the stunning cherry blossoms and enjoy an alcoholic drink and snacks with friends. In Japanese this is called a Hanami, which is basically like a picnic.
A bird sits in the Sakura tree
Ueneo park isn’t just all lovely trees either, you can expect to see museums too. From the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum of Western Art , the National Science Museum, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and even the Ueno Zoo.
Meji Jingu Shrine
One of Japans most popular shrines, Meji Jingu is located right by Yoyogi Park and is near Harajuku station. It is a quaint and nice shrine to visit amongst the 100,000 trees that were donated by all different regions of Japan.
The shrine was built for Emperor Meiji and his consort, Empress Shoken. It was destroyed during World War II, however was rebuilt not long after. It is a popular place for people to get married and I was lucky enough to witness a slice of a traditional wedding whilst there.
Tsukiji Fish Market
A lot of people say a visit to Tokyo is not complete without visiting the Tsukiji fish market; however I don’t believe that to be true. Although, whilst Tokyo does have a lot of cool, exciting, odd and random things to see and do, a visit to the Tsukiji fish market really is worth it if you can do it, especially to see the size of some of the fish, other seafood and the way they prepare it so delicately.
Frozen tuna at the Tsukiji fish market
You are going to have to get up early to see this though, and it is now quite hard to see the main attraction, here is a post I wrote about all about the Tsukiji fish market which explains it in more depth.
I visited at night to take some photos of the stunning bay view, which I believe is the most spectacular view in all of Tokyo. During the day you can also enter the shopping mall, check out the seaside park that overlooks the Rainbow Bridge and find plenty of places to eat in its 15,000 square meter gourmet zone, which is also the largest zone in all of Japan.
The Tokyo bay night view