This post was updated in August 2019.
This Tokyo itinerary for first-time visitors will show you some of the best things to do in Tokyo in 3 days, while still leaving room to just wander around Tokyo’s streets and get a little lost (the best way to explore a city in my opinion!).
This post contains affiliate links.
Please read my disclosure policy for more information.
Tokyo itinerary: how to spend 3 days in Tokyo
In this Tokyo guide you will find:
- What it’s like to visit Tokyo
- What is the best time to visit Tokyo
- A map with the places we visited during our 3 days in Tokyo
- How to travel Tokyo on a budget
- Where to stay in Tokyo
- How to get around in Tokyo
- Where to eat in Tokyo
I wrote this post because I had a really great time in Tokyo and I hope this Tokyo itinerary will help you make the most of your Tokyo trip as well!
What it’s like to visit Tokyo
Tokyo, what a city! It is the most populated metropolitan area in the world, almost 37 million people live in the greater Tokyo area…
I have to admit arriving in Tokyo was a little overwhelming: confusing Kanji signs everywhere, delicious smells drifting through the doors of tiny restaurants, happy jingles playing in the metro and so many people…
And yet, the streets (even the very busy ones) are fairly quiet. Japanese people tend to speak softly and with so many electric cars there wasn’t that much traffic noise either. Entirely the opposite of many other Asian cities I’ve visited, where the noise (and chaos) of tricycles, taxis and scooters is everywhere.
Give yourself some time to sleep off your jet-leg and to get into the rhythm of the city, I’m sure you will fall in love with this big beautiful and busy Japanese city.
I explored Tokyo for 3 days and tried to find a balance between seeing as much as possible, while also leaving enough time to wander around Tokyo’s hidden streets and alleys.
And while I only managed to visit a tiny sliver of everything there is to see and do in Tokyo, I can say Tokyo is an amazing and unique city!
What is the best time to visit Tokyo
While you can visit Toyko year-round, I personally would avoid visiting Tokyo in summer. The city is very hot and humid, plus, it’s the rainiest time of the year as well.
Winter in Tokyo isn’t extremely cold, so this can be a nice time to visit if your goal is to avoid any crowds.
Nevertheless, in general the best time to visit Tokyo is March-May and between October-mid-December. I’d avoid Christmas as it’s very busy (and an expensive time to visit as well).
We visited Tokyo at the end of April and had nice weather, comfortable temperatures and no crowds.
If you travel in late March, you can usually see the beautiful cherry blossoms, called sakura in Japanese. Popular places to view the blossoms are Chidorigafuchi, Ueno Park and Shinjuku Gyoen
In late fall, usually November, you can admire the colorful foliage in Tokyo, popular places to watch the vibrant leaves are Yoyogi Park, Rikugien and Meiji Jingu Gaien.
Tokyo 3 day itinerary: map & highlights
Tokyo 3 day itinerary
- Tokyo day 1: Kagurazaka and Shibuya (including the famous Shibuya crossing).
- Tokyo day 2: Ueno Park, Asakusa and crazy Akihabara.
- Tokyo day 3: Tokyo Skytree, Roppongi Hills and Harajuku.
You can find all the details of our trip (Tokyo highlights, budget information, transport details, best things to eat and where to stay in Tokyo) further on in this post. At the bottom of the post you can find a printable Tokyo map.
Tokyo itinerary day 1
We started our Tokyo sightseeing day in the afternoon (having just arrived from a long flight, I really needed to take a short nap before hitting the crowded streets). We visited two of Tokyo’s neighborhoods on our first day: Kagurazaka and Shibuya.
A very cute neighborhood in the midst of Tokyo, known for its geisha houses and French cafes. Kagurazaka was a great place to start exploring!
In Shibuya you can find what is probably the most famous pedestrian crossing in the world. Of course we had to visit this iconic place in busy Shibuya. What’s nice is that a couple of streets from the crossing there aren’t that many people at all.
Walking around Shibuya neighborhood is a nice way to get to know the city and take in some of the craziness. Because there are definitely some strange things to be seen in Japan.
Tokyo itinerary day 2
Our jet-lag was a little better and thus we headed out around 10am. First stop was breakfast with yummy shrimp tempura (more details about food in Tokyo further on in this post), the rest of the day we wandered through the different areas of Tokyo (Ueno, Asakusa and Akihabara).
Ueno Park is a nice and quiet green zone in busy Tokyo. Though in some places of the park it was very busy, because there was some sort of school performance in progress. It was so much fun to watch!
Asakusa is a beautiful and historic neighborhood in Tokyo. I loved strolling around this charming area!
Akihabara is one of the more quirky neighborhoods of Tokyo. Well, it’s actually a little crazy: neon all over the place, noise and jingles coming from the countless electronic shops, people everywhere…
In conclusion, sensory overload! But a unique area and visiting Akihabara is a great experience.
Tokyo itinerary day 3
Walk from Asakusa to the Tokyo Sky Tree
I walked all the way from Asakusa to the Tokyo Sky tree and this was one of my favorite activities in Tokyo. For me, walking around is the best way to feel the vibe of a city and really get to know the place!
Tokyo Sky Tree
The observatory of the Tokyo Sky Tree is 350 meter high and you can see the whole city of Tokyo, the size of which is truly impressive.
Unfortunately I couldn’t see Mount Fuji (on a very clear day you can) but I could make out the Yokohama Landmark Tower, located 33 km away! It was also fun to spot a couple of places we visited the days before.
Insider tip: buy your ticket online to save money and skip the queue!
Stroll from Roppongi Hills to Harajuku
I really liked the vibe in Roppongi Hills, there were cute cafes and nice boutiques. In Harajuku on the other hand, the amount of designer stores was overwhelming!
Want to read more about Tokyo? Check out this article with lot’s of Tokyo pictures!
Tokyo on a budget: how to save money in Tokyo
Tokyo can be an extremely expensive city to visit. However, with these tips you will be able to visit Tokyo without breaking the bank. Our average daily expenses in Tokyo were €110 per day as a couple. Read along for my Tokyo money saving tips!
Buy a Tokyo Subway 72-hour ticket (¥1500 per adult)
The advice I am going to give you now will safe you lots of money. I didn’t know this, but there is a 72-hour pass which entitles you to unlimited rides on Tokyo’s subway. This pass costs only ¥1500 per person!
We didn’t buy this and paid a lot more for metro rides. On our first day in Tokyo we paid separately for each fare. This is the most expensive option, don’t do this! It costs lots of money and you need to buy a ticket each time you travel on the subway so it takes a lot of time as well.
On our second and third day in we bought a ¥600 day ticket, which also gives you unlimited rides but only for a 24h period.
However, if you buy the 72-hour pass you don’t have to spend ¥6200 (€50) on subway rides like we did, but only ¥3000 (€24) as a couple, saving you ¥3200 (€26)! Check the Tokyo metro site for more info and make sure you buy this pass immediately after arriving at Narita airport.
Eat from vending machines
There is so much delicious food to be found in Tokyo and while you definitely have to try out as many different dishes as possible, buying your food from a vending machine instead of eating in a fancy restaurant will save you lots of money. And the quality will still be great!
Just follow the locals to sniff out the best places to eat on a budget, who knows where you will end up and what you will end up eating;-). You can find some suggestions where to eat in Tokyo below.
Buy food at a supermarket
Head to one of the bigger supermarkets (usually found in the basement of Tokyo’s shopping malls) just before closing time. You’ll find lots of discounted dishes for very low prices!
If you are on an extremely tight budget, 7/11 has acceptable food as well. However, I’d only choose this option if you cannot find a cheap local place to eat.
One of my favorite things about travel is to try out the local cuisine, so better to spend a bit more on food and save on accommodation than vice versa (in my opinion;-).
Stay a bit further from Tokyo city center
Accommodation is expensive in Tokyo, however, if you are willing to travel a bit longer on the very comfortable subway, you can find much better value for money.
And since you are going to buy a 72-hour unlimited travel card anyway, transport won’t cost you extra when staying at a hostel or hotel a bit further from downtown Tokyo. Read my advice where to stay in Tokyo on a budget below.
Where to stay in Tokyo on a budget
We stayed at a nice Airbnb in the Itabashi area, a nice green suburb, for 3 nights. Our hostess was very nice and spoke English very well. Tea and coffee were complimentary, the shower was good and the apartment was clean. The only downside? The walls are thin so the apartment is rather noisy.
We paid €38/$42 per night, click here to see the apartment on Airbnb.
Accommodation discount: if you have never traveled with Airbnb before you can get €30 of your first Airbnb stay with this link!
Other Tokyo budget hotels I recommend are:
- Asakusa: Via Inn Asakusa (check prices on Booking and Agoda)
- Akihabara: Dormy Inn Akihabara (check prices on Booking and Agoda)
- Shibuya: Mustard Hotel Shibuya (check prices on Booking and Agoda)
How to get around in Tokyo: transportation
How to get from Narita Airport to Tokyo City Centre
We arrived at Narita airport in the morning. From Narita there are various ways to get to the city center of Tokyo, but we choose to travel with the Keisei bus.
The price for a single fare is ¥1000 (per person), about €8/$9. The journey takes around an hour, depending on the traffic.
You can find all the information (timetable and where to find the bus stops at Narita airport and in Tokyo city center) on the Keisei website. Don’t worry, it’s in English!
Alternatively, you can take the Narita Express from Narita airport to Tokyo station. This is more expensive (¥3000 per ticket), however, it’s included in the Japan Rail Pass. If you have one of these (or want to buy a JR Rail Pass) this would definitely be the easiest way to Tokyo city center!
Getting around in Tokyo by public transport
The Tokyo metro system is one of the largest in the world, however, it’s not difficult to use. First of all, you can find the metro map here. Stops are numbered and once you figure out the system it’s very easy to determine where you are and when you need to get out.
Stops are announced both in Japanese as well as English, so don’t worry: you won’t have any issue navigating the Tokyo subway!.
Where to eat in Tokyo
Oh Japanese food… It’s the best! There are so many options in Tokyo and they are all equally delicious. Nevertheless, here are some of my Tokyo favorites, enjoy!
Where to eat this: 10 meters from Keisei bus stop nr. 3 on Sotobori Dori Street, across Tokyo station (Yeasu side).
Where to eat this: in Tokyo’s famous ramen street, located in the basement of Tokyo station. There are 8 ramen shops to choose from, good luck picking one, all the dishes look amazing…
Prawn tempura with rice
Where to eat this:
3 Chome-41-5 Yushima, Bunkyō-ku, Tōkyō-to 113-0034, +81 3-3837-3373
Where to eat this:
Takobon, Narita Airport, Terminal 2, Main Building, 4th Floor, +81-476-34-6223
Our Tokyo itinerary: in conclusion
That’s about it, everything you need to know about a 3 day trip to Tokyo. Again, you could spend much more time in this wonderful city. However, I hope this itinerary will help you to have a wonderful time in Tokyo. So wonderful that you’ll want to return for more…
Do you want to read more about traveling in Japan? Check out my other posts as well:
- Japan itinerary
- Japan on a budget
- Japan off the beaten track
- Hokkaido itinerary
- Tips for driving on Hokkaido
- Kyoto itinerary
- Hiroshima itinerary
- Miyajima itinerary
- Japanese Alps itinerary
- 3 days in Kamikochi
- Hiking to Koyasan
- Japan packing list