What Can I Do in Tokyo During a 48-Hour Stopover?
A place of harmonious contrasts, in Tokyo tradition and heritage is expertly absorbed into a city that espouses modernity like no other. This huge city is home to 14 million people. It’s the cultural and economic hub of Japan, which means there really is a lot to do and see. But what can I do in Tokyo in 48 hours, you may ask? The good news is the city, vast as it is, boasts an excellent public transport system, making it easy to cover a lot in a short time. This essential guide to a Tokyo mini-break provides the essential lowdown on the must-dos and must-sees of the city.
Where should I go in Tokyo?
1. Sensō-ji, Tokyo’s top temple
It might just be a skip and a hop on the subway, but once inside you’ll find yourself a world away from the modernity of the central Tokyo. The impressive Sensō-ji Temple was first established as a Buddhist Temple and Shrine in the 7th century. It has been rebuilt many times but remains as architecturally enchanting and colorful as ever. The entire temple precinct occupies a plot of over 50 acres, offering plenty of space for contemplation. Highlights include the three metre red lantern at the Kaminari-mon Gate and the 200 metre Nakamise shopping street beyond it. A visit at night has the bonus of fewer crowds and sees the temple lit-up with beautiful illuminations.
2. The Imperial Palace
Built in the 15th century it was from here that the city of Tokyo, once just a small fishing village, was truly born. Still the seat of the Imperial Family, the palace very much remains as one of Japan’s symbols of power and also geographically, at the center of the city. Highlights of the palace include the East Higashi-Gyoen Garden, Fujimi-yagura (a keep with views of Mount Fuji) and the palace’s famous entry point, the Nijubashi Bridge. The name translates as ‘double bridge’, so-called for its near perfect reflection in the water below.
3. Shopping in Ginza
The Ginza District is Tokyo’s answer to Times Square, Rodeo Drive or the Champs-Élysées, it is one of the most prestigious shopping destinations in the world. Home to every designer brand worth knowing including Tiffany & Co, Bvlgari, Chanel, Fendi, Gucci, Swarovski and Dior, the main thoroughfare closes off to cars on weekend afternoons, making a luxurious experience even more pleasurable. At night banner adverts light up the streets as it becomes one of the city’s go-to nightlife districts.
4. Experience the Tokyo food scene
Tokyo is finally and deservedly being recognised as the world’s greatest foodie mecca. The food is so good in fact, that Japanese cuisine been added to the Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Haute cuisine is where it’s at in Tokyo, which boasts more Michelin stars than any other city in the world, with over 200 restaurants having gained star credentials. The city’s leading restaurants tend to blend traditional Japanese dishes with experimental twists and European cuisine. Whilst dining out in fine restaurants is an essential Tokyo experience, you will also find treasures galore at the city’s street stalls. Street food highlights include tamogoyaki (essentially an omelette on a stick), sweet anpan rolls, tempura vegetables, karaage (Japan’s answer to fried chicken) and of course sushi, ramen and noodles, the staples of Japanese cuisine.
5. Ueno Park
A large public park that blooms with cherry blossoms in spring and houses many of the city’s best museums and art galleries, Ueno Park is worth dedicating at least half a day to. Choose one or two of the park’s main attractions and leave enough time to simply wander around. Attractions include the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum of Nature and Science, the Japanese Museum of Western Art, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and Ueno Zoo.
How close to the city center am I when I arrive in Tokyo?
One of the main international airports, Narita International Airport, is located outside of central Tokyo, in the Chiba prefecture. The fastest transit options take just under an hour to reach the city center, but it does transport passengers straight to the heart of the Tokyo, granting you an opportunity for some essential sightseeing. From Tokyo Central station easy to reach attractions include the Imperial Palace and the Ginza shopping district. If you arrive at Haneda International Airport, take the local train in you will reach the heart of Tokyo in just 15 minutes.
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