Japan

Where to stay in Tokyo: 6 neighbourhoods you need to visit

With its nine million residents, getting lost in Tokyo is easy to do, especially if it’s your first time. To make life a bit easier, we’ve divided the city up into six must-see neighbourhoods, a Tokyo beginner's guide if you will.

Wander through bustling city streets, admire the vivid neon glow of billboards and shop signs as you cross those infamous intersections and embrace the fast-paced local lifestyle where everyone seems to always be rushing to their next meeting, next lunch date or catching the next train home.

Soak up the smells and tastes of laneway restaurants serving up fresh sushi or steaming bowls of ramen, experience the succulence that is Wagyu beef, indulge in desserts made with mochi and red bean or try the simple yet quirky combination of strawberries and cream between two pieces of white bread.

But don’t be fooled, Tokyo is much more than tall buildings, eclectic cuisines and busy walkways. Immerse yourself in the beauty and subtlety of Japanese culture. Visit religious and historic temples and shrines, admire traditional clothing such as the Kimono made from luscious silk fabric, or the entertain yourself with the creativity of Japanese pop culture, such as anime, manga or the free-spirited nature of karaoke, which translates as ’empty orchestra’.

Shinjuku

Shinjuku might just be what you imagined Tokyo to look like, a vibrant haven of bright lights, tall buildings and crowded streets. This is where you’ll find the famed Robot Restaurant located on Kabukicho Street, an entertainment strip that’s often referred to as the “Sleepless town” where you’ll find restaurants, bars, clubs and love hotels.

 

For a taste of Tokyo in the 1950s, step into Omoide Yokocho (meaning ‘Memory Lane’), a maze of narrow alleyways filled with cheap drinks and yakitori restaurants that started out as an illegal drinking quarter in the late 1940s. When the area was ruined by a fire in 1999, the government decided to rebuild it exactly how it had been and it’s since become an area cherished by locals and enjoyed by tourists alike. The smell of charcoal fills the alleyways and if you close your eyes it’s like stepping back in time to old Tokyo and experiencing Japanese after-work life.

If you’re looking for a piece of tranquillity in the middle of the city, a visit to Gyoen National Garden is a must. During Spring, the park is filled with cherry blossoms but year-round you can enjoy this urban oasis that once used to be the residence of the Naitō family in the Edo period, some 400 years ago.

Where to stay in Shinjuku

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Centrally located, the Shinjuku Granbell Hotel was designed with the help of artists and creatives from both Japan and around the globe, with some of their Loft rooms offering 11-foot ceilings – a rare find in a city like Tokyo. The modern designed rooms are clean, compact and cosy, offering home comforts such as an iPod dock speaker, complimentary toiletries and a Simmons bed. A nod to its artistic roots, the hotel also hosts an on-site art gallery with various exhibitions.

Just a four-minute walk to Higashi-Shinjuku subway station, Shinjuku Granbell is a convenient home-away-from-home after a day of visiting Tokyo’s major attractions. Be sure to make use of the hotel’s bike rental service to enjoy sightseeing opportunities in the immediate vicinity. If you choose to dine-in, the hotel offers French and Italian cuisine at its restaurant on the 12th floor, a cafe on the ground floor for on-the-go snacks, and a romantic rooftop bar on the 13th floor that offers spectacular views of the neon lights and crowded streets of Shinjuku.

Hotel Shinjuku Granbell

Tokyo, 16.5 km to Ajinomoto Stadium
8.2 Very good (9390 reviews)
WiFi in rooms
Car park
Pets allowed
Restaurant
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Shibuya

Shibuya is the heart and soul of Tokyo; home to trendy youth culture, shopping and music. You can’t come to Tokyo without visiting the world-famous Shibuya Crossing, often dubbed the busiest intersection in the world. The area is jam-packed and when the traffic lights turn red at the intersection, pedestrians fill the streets in all directions.

Watch the chaos unfold from the Starbucks’ second floor and then head upstairs to the Tsutaya bookstore where you’ll find a vast collection of Japanese and international magazines and design books. For something a little less crowded, the JBS Jazz club is a vinyl sanctuary tucked away around the corner from one of the busiest streets in Tokyo. Home to over 10,000 records, you’ll be treated to a remarkable jazz playlist and can even indulge in a taste of fine whiskey.

Where to stay in Shibuya

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For panoramic city views, plan your stay at Cerulean Tower Tokyu. The luxurious guest rooms are modern and sleek, including plush bedding, designer furniture and an ensuite bathroom with complimentary toiletries.

After a day of fast-paced city sightseeing, make sure to take some time out to relax. Take a dip in the indoor pool, break a sweat at the state-of-the-art gym, or even enjoy a rejuvenating treatment at the on-site beauty salon. Foodies aren’t forgotten here, feel free to indulge at one of the nine on-site restaurants that cater to every palate: Chinese, Italian, Japanese or French.

Cerulean Tower Tokyu

Top rated
Tokyo, 15.6 km to Ajinomoto Stadium
8.9 Excellent (3883 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.4 / 10
WiFi in rooms
Car park
Pets allowed
Gym
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Akihabara

Known as the gaming and electronics area of Tokyo, Akihabara is home to multi-level camera stores like Yodobashi Camera, where you can easily spend a few hours geeking out over their neverending selection of cameras, computer, gadgets and mobile phones. If tech gadgets aren’t your thing, Akihabara is also the home for all things anime, gaming and manga. You’ll be bombarded with stores selling Japanese memorabilia and figurines down Chuo Dori street.

 

If you want to experience something a little quirky, take a visit to the Akiba Fukuro Cafe, an owl cafe that offers an intimate experience with these unique animals. You’ll need to book in advance for an hour-long session to get up close and personal with their parliament of owls.

Akihabara is especially great to explore in the evenings when the buildings light up, as well as on Sundays when the streets are closed to vehicular traffic for hokosha tengoku, which translates to ‘pedestrian heaven’.

Where to stay in Akihabara

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Hoshinoya Tokyo is a Japanese Ryokan hotel located right within the centre of the city. A ryokan is a traditional Japanese-style hotel that offers an immersive experience which usually means sleeping on a futon bed on a tatami straw mat, bathing in a communal hot-spring bath, and enjoying a multi-course kaiseki-style meal.

On the rooftop space, guests can enjoy their open-air onsen where women and men bathe in separate spaces. Offering both an indoor and outdoor bath hall that is connected by a tunnel, unwind in hot spring waters drawn from 1,500 metres below the ground that relax the body while also increasing it’s resistance to heat.

Hoshinoya Tokyo

Tokyo, 21.6 km to Ajinomoto Stadium
8.9 Excellent (288 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.5 / 10
WiFi in rooms
Car park
Pets allowed
WiFi in lobby
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Harajuku

The hub of Japanese pop culture, Harajuku is known for its eccentric street fashion, trendy stores, crepe and dessert stands and thrift stores. The crowd here is mostly young high-schoolers, especially on the weekends, when you can feel the hustle and bustle of youthful energy and will see girls embracing the Harajuku fashion trends.

 

Takeshita Street is the biggest attraction in the area and is a pedestrian-only pathway with a huge array of fashion and accessories stores. Trying a cream filled crepe or a mountain of rainbow candy-floss is both a Harajuku novelty that needs to be tasted (and photographed). For something sweet and fluffy, the pancake stack at Burnside St Cafe is every bit as dreamy as it looks.

Closeby, the sounds of the city quickly fade when you enter Yoyogi park. This tranquil forest, where the Meiji Jingu shrine is located, is one of the most popular shrines in Japan and where visitors can take part in Shinto activities, like buying charms and making offerings.

Where to stay in Harajuku

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Trunk offers a hip, high-design stay in Harajuku. Their minimal rooms are stylish with a modern Japanese edge and filled with abstract artworks of Japanese paper art fabric wall hangings and contemporary art.

Serving up Japanese-Western fusion cuisine at their Trunk Kitchen restaurant, enjoy dinner and a signature cocktail at the bar or try out their skewered “Shibuya soul food” at the Trunk Kushi stand located right within the hotel.

Trunk

Tokyo, 16 km to Ajinomoto Stadium
8.5 Excellent (34 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.3 / 10
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Ginza

If a high-end shopping spree is what you’re looking for, Ginza is the retail hub where you’ll find international names and designer brands. Chuo-dori Street is the main street, a kilometre long stretch of shops that is closed to traffic on weekends making it easy to cross over and explore all the flagship stores, like an eight-level Uniqlo.

After you’ve put away the credit card for the day, step into the two-level basement food hall at Matsuya Department Store which houses food kiosks serving up freshly prepared and delicately presented bento boxes, cakes, desserts, bakery items as well as grocery items.

Continue your foodie adventure at Mitsukoshi Department Store, located on the next block. It is Japan’s oldest surviving department store chain, dating back to 1673, and their Ginza location is their flagship store. If a caffeine fix is what you’re after, Café de L’Ambre is a legendary coffeehouse that’s been in operation since 1948. The original owner passed away at the age of 104 in 2018, but the coffee continues to be excellent and is an iconic place to pop in for a brew.

Where to stay in Ginza

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If you choose to rest your head in this part of town, Hyatt Centric Ginza is a stylish and plush space to recover from a day’s worth of shopping. Once a newspaper office, the hotel is tucked away on the ritzy side street of Namiki-dori, not too far from the bustle. Their guestrooms are stylish, bold and bright and feature a multifunctional table that transforms the vanity space into a breakfast station or work table to maximize space.

The on-site restaurant, NAMIKI667, offers slow-cooked specialties incorporating local Tokyo ingredients, such as Akigawa Wagyu Beef and fresh fish from the Market. But if you just prefer a nightcap, try one of the six original cocktails that feature local Roku craft gin.

Hyatt Centric Ginza Tokyo

Tokyo, 21.3 km to Ajinomoto Stadium
8.8 Excellent (155 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.3 / 10
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Roppongi

The entertainment hub of Tokyo, Roppongi is the go-to place for nightlife with plenty of karaoke bars and clubs. By day, there’s plenty to do in the area. Not to be missed is the Mori Art Museum, wander around the art museum and then head up to their sky deck for incredible panoramic sunset views and watch Tokyo’s lights come on from above.

When you’re ready for a bite to eat, pass by Gindaco who serve only one item- takoyaki octopus balls. Watch as the chef quickly and carefully fries up the batter right in front of you. These tasty and traditional treats are made to order and great for a quick snack on the go.

For dessert, Yelo is the place for a mountain of Japanese shaved iced, which is especially perfect on a warm Tokyo day. Pick from flavours like strawberry or melon and finish it with a variety of toppings like shiratama, a sweet rice dumpling, red bean and tapioca.

If you’re a Beatles fan, don’t miss out on Beatlemania at Abbey Road Tokyo, where every night tribute bands take to the stage to play the classics. Reservations are recommended and you should come early and eat if you want a good seat.

Where to stay in Roppongi

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Rest your head at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, a sophisticated, luxurious, inner-city hotel spanning 21 floors and is directly connected to the Roppongi Hills shopping centre. Spoil yourself at their fifth-floor spa, Nagomi, a peaceful space with Japanese-inspired treatments or work on your backstroke in the indoor swimming pool. The rooms here are warm and welcoming with features like mahogany furniture, cotton yukata robes, rain showers and deep-soaking limestone bathtubs.

Get your taste buds tingling at one of the seven on-site restaurants. Aside from the three Japanese restaurants, you can try Chinese, Italian or enjoy a juicy ribeye at the steakhouse.

Hotel Grand Hyatt Tokyo

Top rated
Tokyo, 18.2 km to Ajinomoto Stadium
8.8 Excellent (946 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.2 / 10
WiFi in rooms
Car park
Pets allowed
Wellness centre / Spa
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