How to Spend 3 Days in Tokyo

by | Last updated Mar 16, 2024 | Japan Live Work and Play

Shibuya Crossing – watch the organised madness of this crossing on Day 3 of this 3 Day Visit to Tokyo

 

Kon’nichiwa Tokyo! Hello Tokyo. Tokyo is the capital city of Japan and it is the most densely populated city in the world. That’s right, it is home to some 40 million people all living in some 850 square miles (2,200 square kms). And now you are spending 3 days in Tokyo in the Tokyo Metropolis, as the city is officially known.

Tokyo has a rich cultural history, as it has been the seat of government of Japan since 1603. Within the city is 23 wards. Each ward operating as an individual city, within the Tokyo Metropolis. And now, you are going to visit Tokyo so to make the most of you time in Tokyo, here is a 3 day Tokyo itinerary. It only scratches the surface of Tokyo, which means, it will wet your appetite to return or to extend your stay to discover more.

I have divided this Tokyo itinerary 3 days post into two sections. The first is the Tokyo itinerary covering some of the best places to visit in Tokyo, and the itinerary I followed for my first visit to Tokyo. And the second part is on organising your Tokyo visit. I will fill you in on not only the best places in Tokyo to visit but how to get around Tokyo and where to stay in Tokyo for your first time.  So let’s get started.

 

My best tips for 3 days in Tokyo:

Purchase a Japan esim and/or pocket wifi to stay connected in Tokyo.
Book your entrances and tours before your arrive – including the Hop On Hop Off Bus.
Stay close to all the main attractions you want to see.
See more of Japan with a Japan Rail Pass.

Tokyo Skytree Is The Tallest Tower In Tokyo and The World. It dominates The Tokyo Skyline.

Skytree, one of the best places in Tokyo to visit dominates the Tokyo skyline

 

One thing I always like to do when I visit a city for the first time, is to go on the Hop on Hop off sightseeing bus. Yeah, I know, they are touristy, but I love them all the same. They are great when short of time in a new city, take you to all the best sights, provide a commentary and allow you to get on and off at the sights that attract you. I usually do a full loop first, to get my bearings and to help me choose the places I wish to return to return to visit longer. And Tokyo has a Hop on Hop off sightseeing bus.

 

>>>Book your ticket on the Tokyo Hop On Hop Off Sightseeing Bus here.

 

If you decide not to go on the Tokyo Hop On Hop Off Sightseeing Bus, then after you set out from your hotel, grab a quick breakfast and hop onto the nearest train or subway. Head to Asakusa Station to start your morning at the Sensō-ji Temple. This temple is a stunning example of Japanese architecture and Buddhist tradition and one of the best places to visit in Tokyo to kick off your Tokyo itinerary. Leading up to the temple gates is a shopping street where you can purchase fans, yukata, snacks, plus a heap of other souvenirs to cart home.

Sensō-ji Temple is found at 3-1, Asakusa, Taito with the main hall open from 6am to 5pm. And admission is free.

Get back to Asakusa Station and take a train to Ueno-Hirokoji. From there, you can walk the few blocks to Ueno Park the next Tokyo must visit places on this Tokyo itinerary. Here you’ll find a diverse array of attractions including museums, shrines, fountains, and even a zoo. Ueno Park is a popular place to view cherry blossoms when they are in bloom usually in Spring but depends on the area.

Have lunch at one of the many restaurants in the park before taking your pick of things to do. If you have an interest in Japanese history, then visit the Tokyo National Museum that sits in the park.

Make your way back to Ueno-Hirokoji Station and take the subway to Tokyo Skytree Station. Note: you’ll have to transfer trains at Asakusa.

Tokyo Skytree is the tallest freestanding broadcasting tower in the world and a great place to see the city from. So definitely put a visit to Skytree on your Tokyo in 3 days itinerary. You can take a tour of the shops around Skytree Town and eat dinner in one of the many restaurants. Of special note are Skytree Café 340 and 634 Musashi Sky Restaurants (you’ll need a reservation for the latter). Both are high up in Skytree and will give you a fantastic view while you enjoy your dinner. They’re a little pricier than the restaurants on the bottom floors. Considering that they offer arguably the best scenery in the city, the extra cost is worth it. And if this is your first trip to Tokyo, I’d definitely put it as a must do in Tokyo.

When you’re ready, head up to Floor 350 (or the higher-up 450, if you’re willing to pay a little more) to see Tokyo’s evening landscape. As it gets dark, find a nice spot for the “Round Theatre”. This is a fun, fifteen-minute show projected onto the windows all around Flour 350. Since there are 3-4 shows every evening, you can be pretty flexible with timing. Once you’ve had your fill, take the elevator down before heading back to your hotel.

 

Day 2 in Tokyo

 

For your second day in Tokyo of this 3 day Tokyo itinerary is to wake up early and pop out of Tokyo Station for a ten-minute walk to the Tokyo Imperial Palace. There’s a unique majesty to the old, Edo-era castle and palace grounds. I loved how it is surrounded by a moat. You can book a free 90-minute tour to get an insider’s look at the historical and cultural significance.

 

Tokyo Imperial Palace Surrounded by Moat.

Imperial Palace is surrounded by a moat – here is one of the Watch Towers

 

Tokyo Imperial Palace Gate.

Gate of Tokyo Imperial Palace

 

After your visit to the Tokyo Imperial Palace head to Ginza where you can shop till you drop or Kabuki till you can’t stop! If you go through Tokyo Station and head a few blocks south, you’ll quickly find yourself in the heart of Ginza. Among the many stores stands the Kabukiza Theatre, where you can watch 400 years of tradition play out in a kabuki show. Grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants and get ready for your next destination.

For the next stop, you can either take the train from Shimbashi to Odaiba-Kaihinkoen or walk down to Hinode Pier where you can take a cruise to Odaiba Seaside Park. Either way, you’ll end up in Palette Town, a pier chock full of some hidden gems.

Kick off at teamLab Borderless. This is a one-of-a-kind interactive art gallery and has some mind-blowing exhibits that make full use of light, space, and optical illusions for an experience unlike any other. Or, if your interests lean more towards the sciences, you can instead check out the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. It has an out-of-this-world display of scientific discoveries, from space exploration to the latest in robotic technology.

Afterward, eat dinner and end the evening with a ride on the largest Ferris wheel in Japan. Board a train at Odaiba-Kaihinkoen Station back to your hotel or if you are leaving Tokyo tomorrow night, may tonight, take a trip to the observation deck of Tokyo Metropolitan Building. This tall structure splits into two in its higher floors and offers a spectacular view of Tokyo. Take a peek at the gift shops for some last-minute memorabilia and return to Shinjuku station for a ride back to your hotel.

 

Day 3 in Tokyo

 

Your day in Tokyo starts by catching a morning train to Harajuku Station. A minute’s walk away you’ll find the gardens for Meiji Jingu Shrine, a wonderful, authentic and historic part of Tokyo. Take a leisurely walk through the paths laid out in traditional Japanese fashion making this one of the best things to do in Tokyo. They are particularly popular to visit when the cherry blossoms are in bloom (spring – March-May). Admire the solemn façade of the Shinto shrine, rebuilt in 1958 after being destroyed during World War II.

 

Meiji Shrine Light.

Meiji Shrine Hanging Ornament

 

Before heading out, you can also check out the Ota Memorial Museum of Art. Here there is some classic Japanese art by the famous Ota Seizo. The collection also includes some art by Hokusai, who painted the iconic white-crested blue wave entitled Under the Wave off Kanagawa.

Return to Harajuku Station and off-board at Shibuya Station. Take a picture with Hachiko, the loyal dog statue standing guard at one of the station’s exits. So what is so amazing about this statue of a dog that you need to get a photo with it? Well, the story goes back to the 1920s, when this dog would come to meet its owner every day from their train trip home from work. And when the owner died, the dog still came to wait for its owner some 10 years until its own death. There was a movie made based on the story that starred Richard Gere. And a statue of Hachiko was erected in its memory and now it’s one of the top Tokyo places to visit.

After photos with Hackiko, emerge onto Shibuya Crossing. The crossing is a diagonal crossing, an intersection of 7 crossroads, or ‘scramble’ and is amongst the top things to do in Tokyo. People wait for all the intersection lights to turn red to stop the traffic then people cross from all directions. Shibuya is constantly abuzz with people and pop culture. There is a ton to see and do here. Be sure to take a lunch break at one of the restaurants or cafés in the surrounding buildings for a chance to marvel at the organized chaos of the city.

If you take the train from Shibuya to Shinjuku, you’ll find Omoide Yokocho. This is a classic shopping street brimming with an “old Japan” feel amidst neon lights and modern convenience. If you are wanting to see more traditional Japan, then visiting Omoide Yokocho is one of the best areas to visit in Tokyo for this. Here, you can find restaurants squeezed into close quarters with mouth-watering smells. As well as outlet stores with high quality items right alongside cheap plastic trinkets. It’s a great place to get a taste of a Japan from past decades.

When you’ve had your fill of the sights and sounds next on this itinerary to Tokyo could be to take a moment to relax in Shinjuku Gyoen National Gardens. This beautiful slice of nature lies hidden amidst the skyscrapers and city streets and offers the perfect chance to get away from the noise and bustle. After, stop at one of the many restaurants for dinner and prepare to leave this magical city to home or your next destination which could be on a 1 month Japan itinerary.

 

The Lights Of Tokyo At Night From the Metropolitan Building.

Tokyo at Night from the Metropolitan Building

 

Extend Your Stay in Tokyo

 

Three days in Tokyo is a great starting point to discover this wonderful city. But the longer the better if you have the time! If you have more time to spend in Tokyo, say on a 4 day Tokyo visit you could add a day trip to Mount Fuji. Mount Fuji or ‘Fuji-san’ as it is commonly called is an active volcano about 100 km southwest of Tokyo. It is the highest peak in Japan standing at some 3,766 metres and can be seen from Tokyo if the weather is clear. But many like to get closer to Mount Fuji for hiking and to get those fabulous photo shots!

You can visit Mount Fuji by taking a train or bus or go on a tour.

 

>>>Book your day tour to Mount Fuji here.

 

If you have 5 days to spend in Tokyo you may be interested in including a visit to Tokyo Disneyland and/or Disneysea. Disneyland would have to be one of the Tokyo top attractions and a great day trip from Tokyo. When it comes to visiting Tokyo with kids, there is something at Tokyo Disneyland for kids of all ages. This big kid had a great time! I found it very similar to the original Disneyland in Los Angeles which I have also visited. If you have already been to Disneyland and want to do something different, consider a visit to Disneysea. Like Disneyland, Disneysea is divided into worlds such as Arabian Coast, Mermaid Lagoon and Mediterranean Harbour. You can visit both in the one day as they are near each other.

 

>>Book your ticket to Tokyo Disneyland here.

>>Book your ticket to DisneySea here.

 

Organise Your 3 Days in Tokyo

 

Now you know the best things to see and do in Tokyo, let’s sort out getting to Tokyo.

 

Best Time to Visit Tokyo

 

The best time to visit Tokyo will depend on when you have the time to visit Tokyo or if you are wanting to see something in particular – such as the cherry blossoms. The best month to visit Tokyo for cherry blossoms is during Spring (late March and April).

If you are wanting the best weather for your Tokyo visit, then Spring (March to May) and Autumn (September to November) will be best. This is also the time when Japan is crowded with lots of tourists. The summer months (June to August) can be very hot and steamy and not overly pleasant for sightseeing. And the winter months (December to February) can be very cold with snow on the mountains. Ski and snowboard lovers will love this time as Japan has some wonderful ski resorts. Possibly you could extend your time in Japan on a working holiday visa working and skiing in Japan.

Personally, I think anytime is a good time to visit Tokyo, Japan.

 

Getting to Tokyo

 

When coming to Tokyo from an international country, you will reach Tokyo by arriving at either Narita or Haneda Airports. Alternatively, you may come by fast train or bus from another city in Japan.

Narita Airport is about 60km from the city with two ways to reach Tokyo, either by JR Narita Express Train or via the Limousine Bus. I actually took the bus and I really enjoyed discovering the outskirts from the bus window of Tokyo as we drove into the city. You can organise a ticket for a private transfer here. You can purchase a ticket on the Narita Express train at the Narita Airport train station or by using your JR pass.

Haneda Airport is closer to Tokyo’s city centre and most either travel into town by train, monorail or Limousine Bus. You can purchase a limousine bus ticket here.

 

Getting around Tokyo

 

There are a number of ways to get around Tokyo. From walking, riding a bike and catching public transport. But the trains in particular are a great way to travel to get you to the places you will want to see. If you have purchased a Japan Rail (JR) Pass, it is valid for travel around Tokyo, however, check this. Otherwise, on your arrival, buy a Suica or Pasmo IC card. These credit card size cards allow you to credit the card for use on the train network. Having one of these will help you save and also not have the hassle of having to buy a ticket for each trip. The easiest way to buy a Suit card is from a JR ticket office at a station – possibly at Narita or Haneda Airports on your arrival.

 

READ MORE: Travel Japan by Train using a Japan Rail (JR) Pass

 

Where to stay in Tokyo

 

When it comes to the best places to stay in Tokyo, know that Tokyo is a huge place so my best tip for of where to stay in Tokyo for the first time is to stay in a convenient area to the places you will be visiting. For your first time in Tokyo it is best to stay in one of the city’s main urban hubs. Such as Shinjuku, the Tokyo Station Area, Ginza or Marunouchi. Or as close to the JR Yamanote subway line as possible so you have easy access to the main tourist sites of Tokyo.

There is also plenty of Holiday Accommodation in Japan and it should be noted that you don’t get much for your money. Rooms are often small – but you won’t be in your room much anywhere on this busy 3 days in Tokyo itinerary!

I stayed in Marunouchi Hotel, a western style hotel in central Tokyo that was part of a flight and accommodation package. It had everything I needed, a clean bed, bathroom, TV, free wifi and was close to shops and supermarkets. Click here for pricing, availability and to book your stay.

I haven’t stayed in these options but have heard good things about them. If you are after a central hostel that is only 1.8km from the city and has free wifi and a bar then consider the Hostel Unplan Shinjuku – get rates and availability here. If looking for a budget hotel try the Shinjuku City Hotel N.U.T.S Tokyo – get rates and availability here

To find a place to stay on this 3 day itinerary to Tokyo, check out HostelWorld for a budget hostel. Or Booking.com for more options. I actually stayed at the Maranouchi Hotel on my first visit to Tokyo. I chose this hotel as I was travelling on my own and hadn’t stayed in a hostel before. It had everything I needed and is a western-style hotel. That suited me because it was nice to have a little ‘western life’ still because there is so much Japanese culture everywhere else to experience!

 

Stay Connected in Tokyo with Pocket Wifi

 

I found being connected to the Internet while in Tokyo allowed me to use apps and Google Maps which helped me no end navigate around Tokyo. Pocket Wifi was also great for using social media and keeping in contact with family and friends. And as a travel writer/blogger I was able to continue working online. It was also great to play games and stream Netflix during down time in Tokyo.

With the pocket Wifi, you pick it up at the airport and then pop it in the post when you arrive at the airport to return home.

 

>>>Organise your Pocket Wifi for Tokyo and Japan here.

 

Final Words on this 3 day Tokyo Itinerary

 

Tokyo is such an interesting and buzzing place to visit and I must admit, 3 days in Tokyo is nowhere near enough to truly discover it. If you can, extend your stay or include it as part of a longer Japan holiday. If you have been to Tokyo or are planning to visit I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments following.

 

Shibuya Crossing Is A Must See On This 3 Day Tokyo Itinerary.

Thanks for sharing!

Join my Facebook Group — Ask questions, get answers!

Expat Travel Nest – Living and Working Abroad

Just so you know: some of the links in this post might be affiliate links, which earn me a small commission at no extra cost to you. No pressure to use my links, but I REALLY appreciate when you do! Also, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. 


My favourite tools to Travel Live and Work Abroad

 

🏠 Where Will You Be Sleeping Tonight? – Get a bed in a hostel dorm through HostelWorld or for a hotel room check out Booking.com. Get free accommodation house and pet sitting through Trusted Housesitters – this has saved me thousands on accommodation, no joke!

✈️ Need a cheap and flexible airfare – head to Skyscanner.

 🚙 Car Rental – search and compare vehicles at DiscoverCars.

 🚆 Train Travel: I love riding the rails. For a rail pass in Europe head to Raileurope. And Japan has a great one too – JapanRail Pass.

🚌 Travelling by bus is often the cheapest way to travel. Compare and get a ticket or a pass at Busbud.

🏃🏻‍♀️ Jump-the-queue entrance tickets and day tours: I book these through GetYourGuide.

 🌏 How to pick a country to live and work abroad in? Check out my Working Holiday Visa Country Guides and Digital Nomad Visa Country Guides to see where you can live work play travel abroad.

 🚑 Should you buy travel insurance? Absolutely Yes! SafetyWing is great digital nomads and long-term travellers and World Normads has policies for general and adventure travel.

 

Buy the Guide to Get Ready to Live Abroad, Work Abroad and Travel Full Time Like a Pro

Three Suitcases Standing On Top Of The World For The New Cover For Ready, Set,Go - Travel Your Pre-planning Guide For Your Overseas Adventure.

Join Me and Subscribe

Follow Along on Facebook

Meet Live Work Play Travel?



Booking.com

Sharyn McCullum Sailing Through The Panama Canal With Storm Chasing Boat.

Sharyn McCullum – Travel Writer / Blogger, Remote On-line Worker, sometime Digital Nomad and Travel, Live and Work Abroad Expert. Is a chocoholic, coffee connoisseur and lover of ’80s music. Been travelling all her life thanks to her dad who worked for an airline. Lived in London 4 years on a working holiday. Has holidayed in Hawaii over 15 times and currently calls Melbourne, Australia home. Is inspiring others to get the live work play travel lifestyle with this blog. Read more about Sharyn here.

23 Comments

  1. Jen Nilsson

    This is such a great and detailed itinerary! I’ve been to Tokyo, but I haven’t seen so many of the must-do items on your list, so you are so right that we should spend many more days in the city. But this is a really good way to do it if you have limited time. Love the Hop-on-Hop-Off bus tip, too. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Sharyn McCullum

      It is a lot to pack into 3 days! Yes, I do the Hop-on Hop-off buses wherever I go. They give you so much info on places to see and do.

      Reply
  2. amy

    i have wanted to travel to japan for so long and was meant to go this year, but sadly cannot because of covid. one day!!

    Reply
    • Sharyn McCullum

      Ah yes, covid…… well hopefully you will make it to Japan very soon. Tokyo is a very interesting city. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there.

      Reply
  3. Krista

    Fantastic guide to the city! I haven’t had the chance to travel to Tokyo yet but it looks amazing. There’s definitely a lot to do in three days!

    Reply
  4. Alaina Thomas

    I might be traveling to Japan next fall, so I will be sure to mark these sites down! I especially enjoyed the pictures of the Tokyo Imperial Palace and the views from the Tokyo Skytree and Tokyo Metropolitan Building.

    Reply
    • Sharyn McCullum

      I found the Tokyo Imperial Palace very interesting. I never knew it was surrounded by a moat! Nor was so big with so many entrances. I really enjoyed visiting there. And the tall buildings give great views over Tokyo. I hope you enjoy your visit.

      Reply
  5. kmf

    This looks like the perfect three-day itinerary for Tokyo. What a beautiful city with lots of cool things to do and see.

    Reply
  6. Josy A

    Goodness you really crammed a lot in to your 3 days in Tokyo! This is a great post. I love that you included a mix of art, culture along with the normal sightseeing of temples and the tallest buildings.

    I have lost count of how many times I have visited Tokyo, but you know, I’d never considered taking the hop on hop off bus! Did you find it easier to navigate than the trains?

    Reply
  7. LindaJane

    Such helpful advice for a short visit to Tokyo. Thanks so much for sharing. I’m saving this for later!

    Reply
  8. Heather Markel

    Tokyo is an amazing city. I haven’t been in years and your post brought back wonderful memories!

    Reply
  9. ANUKRATI DOSI

    The Hop on Hop off buses are indeed so helpful in big cities. Tokyo has been on my bucket list for the longest time. I am desperately waiting for the time I would be able to visit the vibrant city.

    Reply
  10. Madhu

    Wow I dint knew Tokyo is so densely populated. Thanks for sharing the itenerary.hope to visit soon.

    Reply
  11. Elena Pappalardo

    Tokyo looks like such an interesting city! Imperial Palace is stunning – thank you for putting it on my radar!

    Reply
  12. Trisha Velarmino

    I love Tokyo and I always spend 10 days here during my visits! It is so big and I feel like I need a year to finish it all!

    Reply
    • Sharyn McCullum

      Like many cities Tokyo is an ever changing place so you can discover new things every time you visit. I’m glad you spend 10 days every visit as I’m sure you will see different things each time!

      Reply
  13. Marga

    Great timing as we’re planning our trip to Japan soon. Can’t wait to discover more in this amazing city!

    Reply
  14. Yvonne

    My kiddo saw this post and said “Oh! I want to go to Japan!” Same. We will definitely save this post for later.

    Reply
  15. Phoenyx

    This is comprehensive, yet so doable! My family is planning a trip to Japan in a couple of years and we wanted to stay in Tokyo for a few days with only knowing a couple places to go to. With there being so much to do and see, it seems nearly impossible to sift through everything. I love that you included cultural sights as well as things the kids would find fun like the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation!

    Reply
    • Sharyn McCullum

      Thank. Three days in Tokyo will give you a good grounding but the more days you can spend there the better. It has lots to see and do – it just depends on your time available.

      Reply
  16. Cosette

    Japan is high on the bucket list. So hopefully we’ll get to use this itinerary the coming year.

    Reply
  17. Travelling tam

    Tokyo is such a cool place and you have covered some great things in this 3 day itinerary! I feel like this gives a really great overview of the city!

    Reply
  18. Josy A

    Aaah I love Tokyo! This is a great list for three days. 🙂

    I quite often end up in the more off-beat areas – like I LOVE Edo onsen monogatari (the giant onsen in Odaiba) but mostly, it’s fun to just explore and enjoy the atmosphere, and eat amaaazing food 🙂

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Claim your FREE Moving Abroad Checklist

+ receive work and travel abroad tips and news delivered to your inbox.

 

 

You have Successfully Subscribed.