What to do in Tokyo in one day

With one foot firmly planted in the future and the other lingering about somewhere in the past, Tokyo is a city that charms and puzzles visitors from the moment they arrive. Unlike anything else on earth, it is both an ultra-modern and deeply traditional place where any day trip should blend the best of both of these identities. Start your day in the luxurious Mandarin Oriental Hotel, where spa treatments and top-class dining is an everyday thing. Move on to visit the iconic Tokyo tower before taking a quick coffee break at the perfectly positioned Hoshino Coffee. Then it’s time to experience the verdant splendor of the Imperial palace before taking a sumptuous lunch at the Grand Kitchen

Let it all digest at Chidorigafuchi Park before refuelling your sugar levels at the fun 100% Chocolate Café. Enjoy the wonders of the National Museum and its adjacent park before visiting the city’s most important Buddhist temple, Senso-Ji. After dining on traditional delicacies at the intimate Komagata Dozeu Asakusa it’s time to take in a Sumo tournament at the iconic stadium of Ryōgoku Kokugikan. Then you will continue the evening at craft beer mecca Popeye before taking a bus out to the mega club that is Ageha@Studio Coast to dance the night away with the city’s beautiful young things. A day trip in Tokyo is the perfect way to taste everything that this most intriguing of cities has to offer

09:00 – Stay in the lap of luxury at the sumptuous and flashy Mandarin Oriental Hotel

The Nihonbashi area of Tokyo is home to one of the city’s most luxurious hotels, the five-star Mandarin Oriental. With almost two hundred rooms, this contemporary, chic option makes all of its guests feel like a V.I.P. From the eloquently decorated lobby area to the top of the range spa facilities, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel is the perfect base from which to enjoy your Tokyo day trip

The decor throughout the Mandarin Oriental combines classic Japanese styling with contemporary elegance to beautiful effect. The bar and lounge area are a study in stylish relaxation, perfect for an aperitif or late night drink before bedtime. It is a truly huge place, boasting more than ten restaurants that each offer something different to diners. With views as exquisite as the fine French dining they offer, Signature is one of the very best gastronomic options that the Mandarin Oriental has to offer. There’s also the Cantonese-inspired Sense, as well as the Sushi restaurant Sushi Sora, where refined Japanese classics get a contemporary spin. The decor changes throughout, depending on the restaurant and cuisine, yet it is always in the utmost of good taste and refined class

The rooms at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Tokyo are a wonderful example of Japanese style and design. Each blends futuristic luxury with natural elements to keep things cool yet endlessly enjoyable. Huge windows, neutral colour schemes and a liberal use of wood ensure a relaxed environment. Upgraded rooms and suites include luxurious bathtubs and breathtaking views across the city. The Mandarin Oriental’s 37th floor is home to the hotel’s excellent spa and wellness facilities. Highlights include both western and oriental massage options, beauty treatments, aromatherapy and there’s even a dedicated men’s spa team as well as a gym and pool at this state of the art centre for wellness  // Mandarin Oriental Hotel Tokyo – Muromachi Chuo-ku, 日本橋三井ビル内局 2丁目-1-1 Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 東京都 103-832

09:30 – Take in the view from the Tokyo Tower

After a relaxing morning at the hotel, your Tokyo day trip takes in its first activity at the enormous Tokyo Tower, just a short distance from the hotel. Inspired by the iconic Eiffel Tower, this Tokyo landmark is the perfect vantage point from which to admire the soaring skyline of this ultra-modern metropolis. Built in 1958, the tower still serves as a major broadcasting apparatus and it is one of the city’s major tourist attractions. It’s orange and white paint job means that the Tokyo tower stands out amid the concrete jungle of downtown Tokyo

The second-tallest structure in all of Japan, the tower itself if in fact simply a supporting structure for the massive antenna within. Today the tower’s antenna broadcasts analog television, digital television, radio and digital radio, including every major Japanese network across each of these platforms. The Tokyo tower is the iconic hub of the Japanese broadcasting industry and as such it’s figure is enshrined as a national emblem in the psyche of many Japanese people. In addition, the tower is representative of the success of Japan in the modern age, with it’s construction in 1958 coming at a make or break time for the nation after the destruction of World War Two

Below the tower itself is FootTown, a four-story complex that houses a massive range of museums, shops and restaurants and is perfect for a wander around during your visit to the tower. The complex includes both the Guinness World Records Museum of Tokyo as well as the Tokyo Wax Museum, which features life-size replicas of some of Japan and the world’s most well-known figures. There’s also a range of shopping options including H&M and Uniqlo among other high street staples  // Tokyo Tower – 4 Chome-2-8 Shibakoen, Minato, Tokyo 105-0011

10:30 – Refuel with brewed drinks at Hoshino Coffee

Located just a floor up from the madness of the Shibuya Crossing, this excellent café offers visitors the perfect vantage point from which to view the theatrics below. The location is great, sure, but there’s much more to Hoshino coffee than that. The coffee here is hand-dripped, which means that each drop of coffee has been carefully brewed not by machine, but by the staff here themselves. What results is a superior brew that will refuel any tired travellers after a morning spent at the dizzying heights of the Tokyo tower

The decor here is simple and clean with classic Japanese undertones. The clientele is seriously mixed although the classic coffee house layout makes for a conversational yet relaxing ambience. Take a seat near the window with your freshly brewed coffee, tea or ice tea and watch the carnage below ensue whilst you remain safe in the knowledge that you are not involved

Whilst the decor, location and coffee at Hoshino Coffee make it a worthy contender for any Tokyo day trip itinerary, it’s the food here that really separates it from the pack. Pillowy pancakes, soft soufflé and super-moist cakes of all varieties make Hoshino Coffee a real winner. There are classic options like chocolate and blueberry muffins as well as Japanese inspired pastries that make ingenious use of green tea and other local favourites. Something handy to know about this place is that it’s separated into two sections; one smoking and the other non-smoking. This is perfect for those of us who don’t like to offend anybody when getting your nicotine fix, and for those who are offended when somebody else is doing just that. In Tokyo, a city of seemingly limitless functionality, they find a way to solve everything  // Hoshino Coffee – 1-23-10 Jinnan, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0041

11:00 – Walk with emperors at the Imperial Palace

Perhaps a little misleading here is the name Imperial Palace, because visitors to the official residence of the Japanese emperor are in fact prohibited from entering the palace itself. Not to worry though, the building is an impressive but by no means magnificent structure built in the 1960’s. However, any self-respecting Tokyo day trip itinerary should include this famous attraction for its sprawling, lush garden and park

Visitors to the palace will doubtless be drawn to the area’s main park, named the Imperial Palace East Garden. This verdant area is open to all members of the public for free and features some stunning examples of Japanese landscaping. From its quaint bridges to its stunning floral gardens to its atmospheric series of ponds, this is the most beautiful park area in the city and should not be missed by anybody looking for a taste of the zen. During springtime, the gardens become shrouded in the fabled white Cherry Blossoms, creating a scene of unequalled romance

The site of the palace and its gardens is actually the same place that served as headquarters for the Tokugawa Shogun, the federal ruler of the district in a time now long forgotten. The Nijubashi, a historic site comprising of two bridges that form an entrance to the inner palace grounds, is formed by the Meganebashi (Eyeglass Bridge) and another smaller bridge. This is easily viewable from the plaza just in front of the palace itself and gives visitors the opportunity to take a memorable photo for their memories of a Tokyo day trip. For eager travellers, guided tours of the palace grounds are offered and come highly recommended, packing in a lot of history in the hour and a half it takes to complete the tour  // Imperial Palace – 1-1 Chiyoda, Tokyo 100-8111

12:30 – Satisfy your cravings with elegance at Grand Kitchen restaurant

Housed in the spectacular Palace Hotel, Grand Kitchen offers top-class dining in a luxurious setting just a stone throw from the Imperial Palace. This is the place to come if you’re missing some of your favourite dishes from home, with the menu taking in everything from American to European to Asian, all with a touch of that vital Japanese elegance

The lunch here comes as a prix-fixe, with various options set at differing prices depending on what it is that you order. The cheaper option includes soup or salad followed by a choice of pasta, burger or wood fired pizza, whilst at the other end of the scale, things begin to get really interesting with the inclusion of delicate seafood and French style haute-cuisine. One of the highlights includes Japanese beef, which comes as a main and is by now well documented as one of the very best qualities of meat anywhere on earth. Like any quality establishment, the Grand Kitchen changes its menu seasonally, so be sure to take a leaf out of the Japanese book and order something fitting for the time of year

The Decor at Grand Kitchen is sublime, a sleek and modern look graces the dining area, staying in line with the rest of the superb Palace Hotel. If weather permits, guests can take their meal on the outdoor terrace whose riverside location and views of the Imperial Palace are a highlight in themselves. This is a highly relaxing area in the middle of a chaotic global city, take advantage of it while you can. All in all Grand Kitchen offers a top class dining experience in opulent surrounds. There is so much quality to the food as well as plenty of variety to keep any Tokyo Day Trip ticking over nicely  // Grand Kitchen in Palace Hotel – Tokyo, Chiyoda, Marunouchi, 1 Chome−1−1

14:00 – Connect with nature at Chidorigafuchi Park

If you are lucky enough to be in Tokyo during springtime, then Chidorigafuchi Park is the undisputed champion of Cherry Blossom viewing spots anywhere in the city. The sight of endless white flowers emanating from the trees here is something that stays with those lucky enough for a lifetime. If this is not the case however, then this city centre park is still a must-see for any Tokyo day-tripper. Not only are the grounds stunningly verdant and cultivated to the point of perfection, yet Chidorigafuchi Park is the perfect spot to come and watch as Tokyo lets down its hair for once

Take a rowing boat and feel the anxieties of this huge city wash away with every stroke, the pond is as picturesque as any you will have seen, flanked on all side by lush Cherry Blossoms and reams of relaxing locals. In fact, it’s not really a park at all, Chidorigafuchi is simply the name of the small cemetery located nearby and the pond is actually one of the twelve moats of the Imperial Palace. Nonetheless, it’s still one of the prettiest parks out there, even if it’s not technically a park at all

As the city looms overhead, take a seat on one of the many benches at Chidorigafuchi Park and watch life go by in a rare moment of peace in this booming metropolis. This is the perfect place to let that rich lunch digest as you leaf through a newspaper, book or magazine, meander through the gorgeous plant life or bob calmly on the surface of this park’s famous pond. It’s also a prime spot for locals to throw a Hanami party, when they take large mats and lay them across the floor, then begin to eat, drink and talk their way through an entire afternoon. Who knows, if you ask nicely, they might even let you join in  // Chidorigafuchi Park – Japan, 102-0091 Tokyo, Chiyoda, Kitanomarukoen, 1−1

16:00 – Indulge yourself at 100% Chocolate Café

Yes, you read correctly, this is indeed a café entirely dedicated to the delights of that most beloved of sweet treats, chocolate. Here visitors can indulge in over 56 single chocolate varieties as well as a whole range of chocolate based desserts. This is Tokyo though, so expect to do so in surroundings of the utmost style and modernity. Just adjacent to Kyobashi station, 100% chocolate has been serving up delicious treats to visitors for over ten years. It is a sleek, airy space drowning in light from the enormous windows. The use of wood is prevalent throughout, lending this café a tranquil vibe that only the Japanese seem to be able to truly pull off

Squeaky clean and ultra modern, it’s a sprawling space that has the air of something special from the moment you enter through the automatic doors. The staff speak a little English too, which is handy for help deciding exactly which indulgence you will  choose. They’re friendly and of course, practice the strictest of hygiene controls. Once visitors make it to the counter, things really begin to get interesting. Make no mistakes, 100% chocolate is a temple to the cacao bean. The products here are of the utmost quality, meaning visitors will pay handsomely for their half an hour in heaven. With such creations as green tea and jasmine chocolates though, it’s hard to resist

There are also some more unusual concoctions available, like the black pepper and basil varieties, whilst premium single bean chocolates are every popular among the real cacao connoisseurs. Even the drinks here are, yes, chocolate themed. There are chocolate milks, chocolate coffees, chocolate teas and much more besides to tempt even the most frugal of visitors. The chocolate sundae here is a truly luxurious thing, with white and strawberry flavoured frozen chocolates replacing any hint of ice cream. A stop at 100% chocolate café is a unique Tokyo experience that adds some fun to this Tokyo day trip. Grab a snack, a chocolate-themed drink, and get high on sugar in these ultra cool surroundings right in the centre of town // 100% Chocolate Café – 2 Chome-4-16 Kyobashi, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0031

17:00 – Experience Japanese heritage at the unique Tokyo National Museum

Established in 1872, this is the largest art museum in Japan and for that matter, one of the largest on earth. Work your way through an impressive collection of Japanese relics, artefacts, paintings and sculptures from throughout the nation’s long, complex history. This is the place for definitive information about Japan and is sure to give any visitor a deeper understanding of this country that can so often be an enigma

The building itself is a stunning late nineteenth-century work of the classical Japanese style. The size of the place means that exhibitions are never too full and visitors have plenty of time to saunter slowly around the installations, enjoying them at their own pace. Some of the more notable points here include an exhibition on the samurai, a sure fire winner for any foreigners attracted by the mix of nobility, violence and honour that shrouds this fascinating tradition. There are further areas dedicated to pottery, tea ceremonies and ancient Japanese painting

Just next to the museum is the splendid area of Ueno Park, much like the park at Chidorigafuchi, this is a place to relax and people watch as you digest the experience of the museum. It’s a spacious area that serves as a public garden for the citizens of Tokyo and on sunny days in can feel like the entire city is here for a stroll, which makes space that little bit tighter. There’s also a small zoo within the park too as well as a variety of small temples and shrines. It’s a splendid way to while away an hour. Take in the splendour of the native plants and trees, listen to the sound of flowing water and take a minute for yourself at the ever popular Ueno Park, a must see on your Tokyo Day Trip  // Tokyo National Museum – 13-9 Uenokoen, Taito, Tokyo 110-8712

18:30 – Take things down a notch at the intimate Senso-Ji

This is Tokyo’s oldest, most visited and perhaps its most significant temple. With so much modernisation, it’s easy to forget that Tokyo and Japan in general, continue to be highly spiritual places with a population devoted to tradition. Come to Senso-Ji temple and connect with the older, more complex side of this incredible nation. The current structure hails from the 1667 yet there has been a temple on this site for millennia. Legend has it that two fishermen pulled the golden relief of the goddess Kannon from a nearby river, with the structure still standing at the temple today, albeit a version from the 1950’s

Entering the complex through the Red Thunder Gate, a stunning structure of wood and concrete in the classic Japanese Buddhist style, let yourself be taken to a time long forgotten and feel the undeniable ambience of a working Buddhist holy site. The towering layered roofs of the complex’s various buildings offer visitors a taste of the Japan of yesteryear, a nation of strict cultural customs, marauding shoguns and elegant geishas

A perfect place to watch as worshippers perform their various ceremonies, a visit to the Senso-Ji Buddhist temple is the ideal way to balance any Tokyo Day Trip. By this time of day, the crowds of tourists should be much smaller and so you will get a sense of what it is really like to come here for worship, a more intimate experience all around. Just next to the temple itself is the famous Asakusa Shinto shrine, one of the most famous shrines in the whole city that pays homage to the three men said to have found the Senso-Ji temple itself. Miraculously, the shrine survived the American air raids of the second world war and so visitors can enjoy it in all of it’s original 17th-century beauty  // Senso-Ji Temple – 2 Chome-3-1 Asakusa, Taito, Tokyo 111-0032

19:30 – Experience the japanese tradition at Komagata Dozeu Asakusa

The definitive Tokyo dining experience, Komagata Dozeu has been serving classics for more than 200 year years at their gloriously old world Asakusa locale. Expect a dining experience like no other from the moment you step through the door at this institution of traditional cuisine

The decor hails from the 19th century and makes the atmosphere of the place like nothing else in the world. Muted colours and an overall feel of calm are the dominating factors. Take a seat on the floor as the kimono-clad waitresses cater for your every need. You will be surrounded by tipsy, constantly chattering businessmen here, it’s one of their favourite hangouts, and with good reason, too. Visitors soon find that even the decor and clientele at Komagata Dozeu Asakusa are a part of the cultural experience

Yet it’s the food that matters most, of course. Here you will not be disappointed, with simple classics such as dojo nabe (eel hot pot) and other strange delights waiting to alter your taste buds. Ask the waitress for a translation or simply take the plunge and point at some characters on the menu. Regardless, whatever arrives at the table will be of the highest quality and when washed down with some local beer or a selection from the extensive sake menu, it’s bound to be even better. Make like the locals and cover the lot in green onion and chilli powder and let the feast commence, you’ll have experienced nothing quite like it before. A dinner at Komagata Dozeu Asakusa is a highlight of any Tokyo Day Trip, this restaurant combines the very best of traditional Japanese cooking and brings it to you right here in the modern day. As much of a historical experience as a culinary one, you’ll be thinking about this place long after the eels have digested  // Komagata Dozeu Asakusa – 1 Chome-7-12 Komagata, Taito, Tokyo 111-0043

21:00 – Get physical at Ryōgoku Kokugikan

What better way to continue your Tokyo day trip than by taking in one of Japan’s most celebrated traditions, Sumo wrestling. At Ryogoku Kokugikan, a venerated temple of the ancient combat sport, you will gain a deeper understanding of Sumo and have a damn good time in the process. Grab a drink, snacks, a sense of humour and cheer on the fighters as they compete in a night of events at this 13,000 capacity stadium

This is as big as sport gets in Japan, with the very best Sumo wrestlers living a life that’s something akin to that of professional footballers in Europe. The atmosphere inside the stadium on fight nights is electric and you’ll hear everyone from glamorous girlfriends to tipsy teenagers screaming the name of their favourite wrestler. It’s an ancient sport with deep spiritual significance and anybody attending an event at Ryogoku Kokugikan is sure to come away with food for thought

If you think these guys are just enormous babies pushing each other around a ring then think again. The Sumo wrestlers are extremely well-trained athletes who live together and follow a strict daily regimen of their exercise and diet routine. Each bout only lasts a minute or so, meaning there are plenty throughout the evening and you will stay entertained all night. For those looking to gain an even deeper understanding of the ancient art of Sumo, there is an excellent museum housed within the stadium too. Visitors will be taken on a tour of Sumo from its inception hundreds of years ago to its present day form as an elite, fanatically followed national sport. A good tip is to rent an English guide book for both museum and match, whilst radio rentals for live commentary of the tournament is also a good idea  // Ryogoku Kokugikan – Japan, 〒130-0015 Tokyo, 墨田区Yokoami, 1 Chome−3番28号

22:30 – Loosen up with drinks at Popeye

Now that you’ve dined on local delicacies and enjoyed a traditional Japanese sporting event at the Sumo wrestling, it’s time to crank your Tokyo day trip up a notch and head to this famous pub to sample some of their incredible local craft beers. For many a trip to Popeye is a definite experience in Tokyo. It is a sprawling space with bow-tied waiters and an American/Irish feel to it, accentuated by the constant chatter of rowdy clientele relaxing after a day hard at work in the city’s offices. There are taps lining the bar area and the selection is a sight to behold, with metal pumps and valves displayed all over the place, and not just for decoration

This is the mecca of beer not just in Tokyo but perhaps in all of Japan, with a matchless seventy choices on tap alone. Most of the beer here is Japanese too, and you might well be surprised not only with the variety on offer yet at the sheer quality of the tipples at this famous institution. Every drink comes with a small plate of food that could be anything from a couple chicken wings to a stodgy cheese pizza, but it’s really not about the food. In addition to the tap beers, there’s also a great imported selection with ales from England, dark Belgian beers and Czech lagers

At Popeye it’s as much about the characters of the place as it is anything else. This is the perfect place to try getting a bit more intimate with the notoriously shy Japanese. After a few glasses of craft ale it’s normal that barriers get washed away and you might have the rare treat of a conversation with a Tokyo local. Everybody from stressed out businessmen to craft ale aficionados comes here, whoever you might meet is sure to offer some new insight into local life in this ever perplexing city  // Popeye – 2-18-7 Ryogoku, Sumida-ku, Tokyo

23:59 – Have the night of your life at Ageha@Studio Coast

With things nicely lubricated after a few glasses at Popeye, it’s time to finish this Tokyo day trip with a bang. At this mega club in Tokyo’s Koto district, you’ll see how locals like to party and get involved with the festivities yourself. This is one of the city’s biggest and most popular nightclubs and a night here will live long in the memory, just go easy on the sake

The first thought that most visitors to Ageha@Studio Coast have is something along the lines of “this is the biggest club I have ever seen”. With good reason, too. This huge space has been described as three clubs in one and when the party is heating up here, the scale of the place really adds something to the fun. You’ll see the previously introverted Japanese letting go like never before, drinking and chatting and dancing away their stresses to the sound of everything from house to techno to Japanese rock music

There are all the facilities you expect from a club of this size. Lockers, a VIP area and overpriced drinks are the norm here. Make sure you load up on craft ale at Popeye because the drinks here are twice the price and half the quality. That’s not the reason you came though, the best thing to do here is meet people, dance until you drop and stumble around the buzzing spaces of this party hotspot until it’s time to go home. There are trains coming out to this place all night and then trains back to the city centre begin again at five in the morning. If you have done this place in the right way, you should have no problem finding an early morning train to deliver safely back to your bed. A night at Ageha@Studio Coast is the perfect end to a Tokyo day trip and an experience that is truly unique  // Ageha@Studio Coast – Japan, 〒210-0003 Kanagawa-ken, Kawasaki-shi, Kawasaki-ku, Horinouchichō, 7−7

We mapped out your day trip in Tokyo

Each highlight of your day trip is numbered, simply follow the guide

What you should absolutely know about Tokyo

City highlights, food & drinks, expressions, weather, how to get there and how to get around

Tokyo day trips are nothing short of amazing. Immerse yourself in the cultural side of Tokyo by visiting the city’s museums, theaters, and sports clubs. Catch a symphony orchestra performance or a rock concert that goes late into the night. Shop at the eclectic local stores and designer fashion shops. Eat at quirky restaurants and try new foods as you wander down the streets. Explore the charming back streets of Tokyo and enjoy good cups of coffee to start your morning off right. Sip green tea in a cute café and people-watch. Visit the many national parks and monuments Tokyo has to offer or watch the cherry blossoms bloom in a nearby park

The main attraction in Tokyo is the Imperial Palace and its spectacular gardens. Meander through the Ginza District if you’re in the mood to shop. Visit the Sensō-ji Temple and learn about its fantastic and unique rich history

Tokyo is well known for their sushi and fresh fish, so don’t go light on the fish dishes. Try a juicy deep fried pork cutlet, Tonkatsu, or fill up on amazing cream puffs after lunch. Tokyo is also big on tea, especially green tea

“Sumimasen” is a multipurpose word in Japanese that translates to “Excuse me” and “Thank you”. It also is used as an introduction. “Doko” means “Where” and comes in handy when navigating. To ask how someone is, say “ii desu ka?”

Summer is hot and humid, with temperatures in the 80s. Fall tends to be very wet with a nice breeze. Winters are cool and mild, with temperatures in the upper 40s and spring is sunny with light showers and temperatures in the 60s

A limousine bus is a safe and easy way to transport tourists and their luggage into the city and costs around 3,000 yen. The train is also a great option for traveling into the heart of Tokyo and costs 3,000 to 6,000 yen

There definitely isn’t a shortage of ways to explore Tokyo. Many tourists walk or rent bikes to see the city. There are many subway lines and trains that can take you all over Tokyo. Take a taxi, boat, or bus around the city

Feeling adventurous? Have a look at these city guides