1. Shibuya Sky
    Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa
  2. The Bellwood
    Photo: The BellwoodThe Bellwood
  3. teamLab Planets, Vegan Ramen Uzu Tokyo
    Photo: 'Reversible Rotation - Non-Objective Space' teamLab, 2021, Digital Installation, Sound: Hideaki TakahashiVegan Ramen Uzu Tokyo at teamLab Planets

If you only do three things in Tokyo… as recommended by Time Out Tokyo editors

Here are our personal favourite restaurants, cafés, bars, shops and attractions in this great metropolis

Written by
Time Out Tokyo Editors
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As one of the largest metropolitan cities in the world, Tokyo has so much more to offer than our curated list of 101 best things to do in the city. With so many events happening every day and so many things to discover around each corner, Tokyo still induces a sense of fomo in us who live here – even more so for visitors who only have a few days to cram in all the biggest hits the city has to offer.

So if you’re short on time, check out our 24-hour guide to Tokyo. Otherwise, take this feature as your tried-and-tested itinerary as we reveal to you the Time Out Tokyo editorial team’s personal favourite restaurants, bars and things to do in Tokyo. You’re welcome. Now go out there and explore.

RECOMMENDED: 24 incredible illuminations and light displays in Tokyo

Recommended by Emma Steen, writer

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Shibuya

It’s no secret that The Bellwood – headed by owner and bartender Atsushi Suzuki – is one of the finest cocktail bars in Tokyo. What most people don’t know, however, is that this small tavern inspired by coffee shops of the Taisho era (1912-1926) also happens to offer a modern omakase sushi course as imaginative as its drinks.

The Bell Sushi is created by the bar’s young and talented chef Ayaka Terai, who serves a 12-course sushi meal (¥10,000 with three cocktail pairings) in the bar’s backroom for parties of up to four diners per session. The seasonal sushi here isn’t something you’ll find at the classic joints at Toyosu Market, either. Instead, expect to see bold takes on nigiri like banh mi-inspired maguro tuna topped with pickles and tempura batter, or shima-aji (striped horse mackerel) with jalapeno and tortilla chip.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Ginza

Mixology Salon embodies everything we love about Tokyo’s drinking culture. Located on the 13th floor of Ginza Six, this small but stunning cocktail bar offers an unmissable array of tea-based concoctions with housemade blends of spirits like aromatic sobacha-infused vodka and hojicha-infused bourbon.

With a table charge of ¥800 per head, prices here are steep, but the impeccable service and delicious tipples are well worth the splurge. Order from the menu of roughly 30 signature cocktails, or tell the bartender your spirit of choice and watch as they muddle fresh fruit with Japanese bitters for a drink you’d be tempted to guzzle rather than sip.

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

Visits to the hot spring are a quintessential part of local life – and travelling – in Japan. While Tokyo doesn’t have the same reputation as cities like Beppu and Hakone when it comes to famous onsen destinations, you can still get an authentic hot spring experience without leaving central Tokyo. Opened in the laidback neighbourhood of Shimokitazawa in 2020, Yuen Bettei Daita serves as a traditional ryokan and spa retreat to busy Tokyoites and weary travellers. 

If you’re not staying overnight, you can book a day trip package (from ¥3,500) for a restorative dip in the onsen, with add-ons like an hour-long massage at the ryokan’s Sojyu Spa (from ¥9,350) or a noh theatre performance (from ¥11,700). 

Recommended by Lim Chee Wah, editor-in-chief

  • Restaurants
  • Ginza

Golden, crispy deep-fried tonkatsu is always a winner, but Ginza Katsukami has elevated this crowd-pleasing comfort food into an omakase feast that’s worthy of special occasions. The small 12-seater restaurant, hidden in a nondescript building in Ginza, serves up different cuts of two types of brand pork piece by piece as a course meal. It’s a revelation how each of them could taste so different, in flavour and in texture. And if you’re looking to indulge, go all out and enjoy this meaty meal with wine pairing.

  • Restaurants
  • Tea rooms
  • Aoyama
  • price 2 of 4

Japanese tea is the physical embodiment of Zen, and you can experience this at Sakurai in Minami-Aoyama. This stylish little tea salon offers a comprehensive range of locally grown teas from sencha and hojicha to matcha and seasonal blends, all served with a side of wagashi, the dainty little traditional confectionery. If this is your first time, go for the gyokuro, one of the most luxurious green teas in Japan that’s less bitter and more umami. In fact, the tea leaves are so high quality that you can eat them after they’re steeped for tea.

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  • Art
  • Mixed media
  • Toyosu

Despite how many times you’ve seen it on your Instagram feed, teamLab’s digital art is a singular experience – nothing beats seeing it for yourself. While we’re waiting for the new Borderless to reopen, teamLab Planets does a good job of presenting some of the art collective’s best known immersive works, including two new installations: the infinity-room-like ‘Floating Flower Garden’ with live orchids and the otherworldly ‘Moss Garden of Resonating Microcosms’.

Tips: wear shorts or pants you can easily roll up as you’ll be threading through water in some exhibits, and no skirts as some floors are mirrored.

Recommended by Kaila Imada, associate editor

  • Restaurants
  • Otsuka

Onigiri rice balls might just be the perfect food. You get a hefty portion of rice plus your favourite fillings all packaged into a neat, nori-wrapped triangle, which you can easily enjoy with one hand. Onigiri Bongo turns out some of the best in town, with classic fillings like ume plum and salmon as well as unconventional combos featuring bacon and cheese or curry and beef.

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Kiyosumi

Coffee lovers need to make a beeline for Koffee Mameya Kakeru. The stunning space is somewhat of a coffee laboratory, where you can explore the many facets of coffee through tasting courses. You can also purchase a well-curated selection of beans from around the world.

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  • Shopping
  • Consignment store
  • Harajuku

Amongst the plethora of vintage and consignment shops in Harajuku is Kindal, where you can always rummage for a good designer deal. There’s an impressive selection of second-hand clothing and accessories for men and women, including a sizable selection of Japanese designer labels.

Recommended by Youka Nagase, editorial assistant

  • Restaurants
  • Ramen
  • Kanda
  • price 1 of 4

For a different kind of ramen, make a beeline for Kikanbo’s ultra spicy noodles. The standard soup is made from a pork-and-chicken-based stock and accentuated with a punch of miso. You can then choose your preferred strength on a scale of five for two types of spice mix: ‘kara’, which refers to the chilli heat, and ‘shibi’, which is the numbing sensation of sansho pepper.

Be prepared to feel the burn if you order the highest ‘oni’ level – it has caused many bruised egos as only a few have managed to finish the entire bowl so far.

  • Attractions
  • Shibuya

Catch one of the best views of Tokyo at Shibuya Sky. Perched on the rooftop of Shibuya Scramble Square, the observation deck is the highest point open to the public in Shibuya, and as such, you’ll get an unobstructed 360-degree view of the city skyline. The Sky Edge corner makes a great photo spot for those who want to get a panoramic shot of the city, including a view of Mt Fuji on clear days. It’s a place you can linger for hours – just park yourself on a hammock and watch the sky change from day to night.

Psst... Now's the best time to visit Shibuya Sky as the venue is celebrating Christmas with special rooftop light shows and mirror balls.

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  • Shopping
  • Ginza

Japan’s popular stationery brand Itoya has a massive 12-storey flagship store in Ginza, stocked with everything you could imagine, from fountain pens and fine paper to journals, postcards, washi tape, stamps and so on. There are basic necessities as well as fancy gifts and souvenirs to take home. Better yet, many of its products including pens and notebooks can be customised and personalised by engraving initials or embroidering designs on them.

Recommended by Chris Hough, deputy editor

  • Restaurants
  • Tsukishima

It doesn’t get much more Tokyo than eating monjayaki in Tsukishima. Monja, as it's often called, is a kind of savoury pancake and Tokyo’s answer to the much more well-known okonomiyaki from Osaka and Hiroshima. And the best place to try it is in Tsukishima, a district packed full of monja restaurants, such as Monja Muji.

This popular restaurant opened in 1983 and is beautifully atmospheric with tatami floor seating and hand-written menus plastered on the walls. Despite its runny appearance and gooey texture, monja tastes much better than it looks, especially here. The mentaiko (spicy pollock roe), mochi and cheese is a flavourful, chewy classic.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Craft beer pubs
  • Nihonbashi
  • price 2 of 4

Bounce out of the south exit at Kanda Station and you’ll stumble across an array of craft beer bars. One of the best is DevilCraft. The menu of up to 20 beers changes daily, making it perfect for repeat visits.

Take a seat at the bar downstairs and journey through the selection of mostly Japanese IPAs, brown ales, pilsners and more to quench your thirst. Or you can squeeze up the narrow staircase to find a table upstairs. DevilCraft isn’t just about the hops: pair a pint with one of the deep-crust Chicago-style pizzas and your quick drink might just turn into a late one.

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  • Things to do
  • Shinjuku-Sanchome

Shinjuku is many things. Mostly noisy things. Nightclubs, yokocho streets full of restaurants, and crowded, neon-lit game centres. But it doesn’t have to be like this. Take the south exit from Shinjuku Station – the world’s busiest – and in just ten minutes you’ll be in another world.

The huge Shinjuku Gyoen park is split into different sections with traditional, landscape and formal gardens among them. As it’s the perfect place to see the changing of the seasons, the park is especially scenic in spring and autumn. You can lose yourself peacefully strolling through this pocket of nature, while being just a stone’s throw from the city.

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