Vast, sprawling, and just a touch chaotic, Tokyo can seem like an overwhelming destination for a first-time visitor.
With over 13 million residents to keep busy, you can bet there’s a lot to see and do in the Japanese capital.
From history and serenity at Tokyo’s shrines and palaces, to incredible food, bizarre experiences and bustling shopping centres, there’s just so much to discover.
To help, here’s my guide to the very best things to do in Tokyo for a first timer…
1. See the view from the Tokyo Skytree
At 634 metres, the Tokyo Skytree towers over the city – providing incredible views from its two observation decks at 350 and 450 metres.
On clear days, you can see for spectacular distances. This is a great starting point in Tokyo as you’ll get a bird’s eye view of the city.
2. Imperial Palace
The Imperial Palace is a must-see in Tokyo.
Set within stunning, tranquil gardens, the castle is a beautiful site and well worth a visit.
If you want to explore inside, you need to apply for tickets weeks in advance – and they are very hard to come by.
You can admire the castle from the serenity of the East Gardens for free. Perfect if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city centre for an hour or two.
3. Eat Sushi at Tsukiji Market
When it comes to food, you can’t go wrong in Tokyo.
There are so many delicious places to eat all over the city.
But for sushi lovers, you cannot miss a visit to Tsukiji fish market.
This is the largest and oldest fish market in Tokyo, and it’s a mecca for fresh sushi and other tasty seafood dishes.
4. Discover Harajuku
Colourful, chaotic and completely bonkers, Harajuku is a district in Tokyo that shouldn’t be missed.
This is where teenagers come to show off their cosplay outfits and “lolita” dresses (think pastel-coloured Victorian dolls clothes).
You can browse a few of the fashion boutiques on Takeshita Street, spot the cosplayers around Yoyogi Park, or indulge in some of the bizarre confectionary creations that dot the neighbourhood – like giant rainbow-striped candyfloss.
It’s all very weird and wonderful!
5. Try to Catch a Wedding at Meiji Shrine
You’ll find a completely different side to Harajuku in the Meiji Shrine, which sits at the heart of the beautiful Yoyogi Park.
Surrounded by forest, the shrine is dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife.
Weddings are common here, especially on weekends, so you may well catch a traditional wedding procession on your visit.
6. Visit a Themed Café
Tokyo is known for its themed cafes and restaurants.
From maid cafes to ninja restaurants, there are lots of fun ways to dine around the city.
You can hold owls at the owl café, or re-discover your favourite childhood games at a retro video game café.
The most bizarre option is probably the Kawaii Monster Café, which has incredible theming courtesy of famed sculptor Sebastian Masuda.
It’s a hit with families at lunchtime, thanks to dishes like rainbow coloured pasta and monster cakes.
7. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
In the west of downtown Tokyo lies a surprising urban oasis.
The Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden covers over 144 hectares and comprises of three landscaping styles.
Alongside the traditional Japanese gardens you’d expect, you’ll also find French Formal and English style gardens.
Visit during spring to catch the gardens filled with glorious cherry blossoms.
Looking to see more of Japan? Check out our 5 must do experiences in Japan.