This post was updated in August 2019.
This Tokyo 3 day itinerary for first-time visitors will show you some of the best things to do in Tokyo, 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!).
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Tokyo 3 day itinerary
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 what to see in Tokyo in 3 days
- Where to stay in Tokyo
- How to get around in Tokyo
- Where to eat in Tokyo
- Tokyo budget tips
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! I’ve visited Tokyo three times now and always find new things to see and do in this vibrant city.
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.
How to spend 3 days in Tokyo: 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, 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 travel 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 tour 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!
Where to stay in Tokyo
I highly recommend the Candeo Hotel Tokyo Shimbashi. Their welcoming staff will go out of their way to make sure you have a great time at the hotel and in Tokyo.
Opened in January 2018, Candeo Hotels Tokyo Shimbashi is a new and modern hotel with beautifully decorated rooms and an unbeatable location.
Rooms are between 15-22m2 and offer lots of amenities, including air conditioning, a private bathroom with Japanese toilet, a flat-screen TV, high-speed WiFi, refrigerator, a kettle, toiletries and more.
The Sky Spa on the top floor of the hotel is definitely one of the highlights of this hotel, it’s the perfect way to relax after a day of sightseeing in Tokyo.
There are separated baths for men and women. In each of the Spa’s you can find both indoor and outdoor baths, a sauna and shower facilities.
Breakfast at Candeo is excellent, with over 60 different foods to choose from. There are lots of typical Japanese dishes, salad, fresh fruits, several types of bread rolls, coffee, juice and more.
Tokyo is a very big city, therefore choosing the right location is key when planning your Tokyo trip. The Candeo Hotel Shimbashi is all about location, it’s only a 5 minute stroll to Shimbashi station.
From Narita Airport you can take the Keisei Narita Sky Access to Shimbashi station which takes about an hour. When landing on Haneda Airport you can take the Keikyu Line to Shimbashi Station which takes approximately 20 minutes.
Click here to book the Candeo Hotels Tokyo Shimbashi.
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…
But basically it doesn’t really matter where you decide to have a bowl of ramen in Tokyo, there are so many delicious options!
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
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.
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.
Order 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;-).
What to do in Tokyo in 3 days: 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: