Home to Sensoji, metropolitan Tokyo’s oldest and buzziest temple, Asakusa is one of the most tourist-infested parts of old Tokyo. Its appeal was further boosted by the 2012 opening of nearby Tokyo Skytree, which stands on the opposite side of the Sumida River, and has become an essential stop on every city newcomer's itinerary.
If you're looking to dodge the hordes and discover another side of Asakusa, read on: our guide to the best things to do in the area features not only Asakusa but also the less thoroughly explored streets on the east side of the Sumida River, from Mukojima and the Skytree all the way down to Kameido and Ryogoku. It invites you to discover the shitamachi's culture of craftsmanship, its newly trendy cafés, tasty eateries and bars, plus a few hidden gems known only to locals.
Gaze out over the vastness of Tokyo from the 634m Tokyo Skytree's twin observatories (350m and 450m) – the upper observatory offers grand views of the whole Kanto plain – and check out the tower's evening light-ups, which illuminate the entire structure and sees twin colour patterns alternate daily. Tokyo Skytree
Not a museum at all, this huge beer hall has room for more than 300 imbibers but still gets packed almost every day. Choose from over 150 varieties of bottles from all over the world, including Belgian, German and Czech brands. On sunny days, check out the terrace and its Skytree views. World Beer Museum
This shrine near the Skytree is a great sakura-viewing spot, but its top attraction is the 'nade-ushi', a cow statue said to have healing properties. Got an ache? Rub the corresponding body part on the cow, and its power will help you get back into shape. Ushijima Shrine
Asakusa's very own amusement park has been in business since 1883, and it shows: most rides are more nostalgic and cute than thrilling. Still, Japan's oldest steel-track roller coaster offers a fun alternative to the area's otherwise austere attractions. Hanayashiki
Looking for a kid-friendly souvenir? Officially a Japanese kite specialist, this charmingly dishevelled shop right by Kuramae Station also stocks traditional fans, kokeshi dolls, old-school toys, streamers, quirky masks and the like. Tako Kimura Shoten
A traditional sweets shop by trade, this local old-timer does most of its business selling jumbo varieties of melon pan, a melon-shaped (but not flavoured) sweet bun sold warm straight from the oven at the storefront. Go for the tea set if you're sitting down. Kagetsudo
When a conventional tour just won’t do, hop aboard this amphibious bus, which plies the streets around the Skytree before going for a swim in the nearby river. The Sky Duck departs three times a day (four during summer) from a stop close to Tokyo Skytree Station. Sky Duck
The 'Edo-style cuisine' on offer here may be heavily adapted to contemporary tastes, but grilling your own grub over a charcoal hearth is always fun and makes for a great icebreaker. For the full experience, consider investing in the wild game course. Sakurada
This café sits inside a 90-year-old house and switches up the chefs each day so that the menu changes often – one day you might order an organic lunch, the next you might tuck into a Hawaiian dish. At night, it turns into a bar, hosting various gigs and other events. Reptile Branch
The tenuous rationale for this unique museum's pairing of themes is that both were once government monopoly commodities. Tobacco gets the most exposure, with much of the space devoted to the history, manufacture and culture of the killer leaf. Look out for the rotating special exhibitions, too – these can be real pieces of work. Tobacco & Salt Museum
Looking to set up a restaurant? You'll find everything you need in the neighbourhood also known as 'Kitchen Town' – from pots, dishes and knives to colourful storefront lanterns, noren curtains and the unmissable plastic food samples. Kappabashi
Feeling creative? Step into this small neighbourhood workshop and try your hand at designing traditional Japanese glass beads. These tonbodama are infinitely customisable, and you can choose your favourite style from a wide range of options. Reservations required. Asakusa Tonbodama Kobo