Posted: 3/24/2023 | March 24, 2023
Tokyo is the largest city in the world, home to a whopping 37 million people in the metro area. The city. Incredible, amazing, and bewildering. But massive.
In terms of neighborhoods, there are 14 urban hubs spread out across the megalopolis. There are also 23 wards — five of which make up the central part of town — and, within those wards, hundreds of neighborhoods.
But, as a visitor to the city, there are only a few areas that are ideal to stay in. You don’t need to go through all the centers and wards. In my view, there are only about eight areas worth staying in.
Here is my breakdown of those eight best neighborhoods in Tokyo for visitors (as well as suggested accommodations in each) so you can figure out which area is right for you.
But, first, here are some frequent questions I get asked about staying in Tokyo that I want to answer:
What’s the best neighborhood for sightseeing?
Shinjuku is a busy, centrally located neighborhood that has enough attractions to awe any visitor — especially a first-time visitor.
What’s the best neighborhood for travelers on a budget?
Shibuya is a lively, action-packed part of town that also happens to have some nice hostels, cheap eats, and affordable nightlife options.
What’s the best neighborhood in Tokyo for museums?
Located in and around the main park in Ueno are some of the city’s best museums. If you want to spend a day or three going museum-hopping, this is the place to do it.
What’s the best neighborhood for nightlife?
When the sun goes down, Roppongi comes alive. It’s already a buzzing neighborhood, but at night the bars and clubs open up and fun-seeking locals gravitate here.
What’s the best neighborhood for shopping?
Upscale Ginza is one of the world’s most well-known shopping districts. Everyone from legendary, household-name international designers to local up-and-coming ones have stores here.
What’s the best neighborhood for foodies?
Perhaps the most bustling district in the busiest city on the planet, Shinjuku is also a great place for hungry food-loving travelers, as it is home to swaths of bar-and-restaurant-flanked lanes.
What’s the best neighborhood for history?
Asakusa is a central neighborhood that also happens to be one of the most traditional. If you’re looking for old Edo — the erstwhile name of this metropolis — you might find it in Asakusa.
What’s the best neighborhood for hipsters?
Shimokitazawa, known as “Shimokita” to locals, has been transformed in recent years into a go-to spot for hipster cafés and cinemas.
What’s the best neighborhood overall?
Marunouchi is smack in the center of it all. It’s not necessarily loaded with all the attractions — after all, this is Tokyo, so they’re spread out — but it’s geographically ideal and has a little bit of something for everyone.
So, with those questions answered, here’s a breakdown of each neighborhood, with suggested accommodations, so you know precisely where to stay in Tokyo:
Where to Stay for Sightseeing: Shinjuku
Shinjuku is fascinating. It’s like Tokyo in microcosm. Sparkling skyscrapers, temples, placid parks, hip and traditional restaurants, chaotic street crossings, and the busiest train station on the planet — it’s all here. There are nearly a dozen and a half Michelin-starred restaurants in the neighborhood, as well as scores of narrow-laned swaths lined by diminutive bars and street-food eateries, namely Golden Gai and Omoide Yokocho. Shinjuku is also home to a LGBTQ+ district.
Best Places to Stay in Shinjuku
- BUDGET: Unplan Kagurazaka – The dorms here all have self-contained bunks complete with a comfy mattress, light, power outlet, and security box. The hostel also has a common room, shared kitchen, and active bar/restaurant.
- MID-RANGE: Hotel Century Southern Tower – Request as high a room as possible at Hotel Century, located just a few minutes’ walk from Shinjuku Station, and you’ll be rewarded with a fantastic view of the Shinjuku skyline. The spacious guest rooms have a desk and a couch. The hearty breakfast buffet is included.
- LUXURY: Hilton Tokyo – A 10-minute walk from Shinjuku Station, the Hilton Tokyo is a swank and sleek hotel bathed in soft, off-white hues. The guest rooms are loaded with all the amenities you’d expect from a luxury hotel, including posh bath products and ultra-fast Wi-Fi. If you can nab an upper-floor room, the views are spectacular.
Where to Stay for Budget Travelers: Shibuya
When most non-Japanese people think of Japan, particularly Tokyo, they think of Shibuya — whether they know it or not: the bright flashing lights, the glass skyscrapers, the sidewalks crammed with people, the mesmerizingly busy intersections with pedestrians marching in every direction.
It doesn’t appear at first that Shibuya would be a good candidate for the budget-minded traveler, but there are some really nice, affordable hostels here, and the thoroughfares are sprinkled with above-average street food. Plus, the eye-candy spectacle of it all means that you can just plant yourself somewhere and spend hours beguiled by the extravaganza that is Shibuya — all without spending a dime.
Best Places to Stay in Shibuya
- BUDGET: Almond Hostel & Cafe – This fun and relaxed hostel has mixed and female-only dorm rooms. The sleeping quarters consist of private cubby-hole-like areas for maximum privacy. Each pod has a light, an electrical outlet, hooks for hangers, and a shelf.
- MID-RANGE: Shibuya Creston Hotel – While a little bland, this hotel is clean, comfortable, affordable, and in a great location. Rooms have coffee- and tea-making machines and complimentary bottled water.
- LUXURY: Cerulean Tower – Set in a high-rise building in the center of Shibuya, Cerulean Tower starts on the 19th floor, so you’re guaranteed a great view from your room, which will be large and come with Japanese green tea sets, a chaise lounge, mini-bar, and luxe bath products. The hotel also has eight different restaurants and bars.
Where to Stay for Museums: Ueno
The Tokyo National Museum, the Ueno Royal Museum, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, the National Museum of Nature and Science, the National Museum of Western Art, and the Shitamachi Museum are but a few of the museums that are sprinkled around Ueno — mostly Ueno-koen, the Central Park–like swath of greenery that is the centerpoint of the neighborhood.
Staying in Ueno means you’ll be mere steps from the biggest and best museums. But it’s not all museums here. In addition to the great park, Ueno is a fabulous dining destination too.
Best Places to Stay in Ueno
- BUDGET: Grids Hotel and Hostel – Located right across from Ueno Station, Grids is smack in the center of the action. The wood-paneled dorm rooms are clean and modern, and each bed has a light and power outlet. The toilets in the shared bathrooms are of the super-high-tech Japanese variety.
- MID-RANGE: Centurion Hotel & Spa – Just a few minutes’ walk from several subway stations and a train station, Centurion is an oasis. The spacious rooms have tea kettles and coffee makers, the bathrooms feature luxury bath products, the in-house eatery focuses on steak, and the spa uses natural spring water.
- LUXURY: Mimaru Tokyo Ueno Okachimachi – The rooms at this property are extra-large; some have four futon beds, and others have kitchens and dining tables. Bathrobes and slippers in each room make the stay that much more comfortable. And the location is hard to beat.
Where to Stay for Nightlife: Roppongi
Home to the iconic Tokyo Tower, the Mori Art Museum, the Roppongi Hills, and Tokyo Midtown shopping/entertainment complexes, Roppongi has a little something for everyone. But if you’re into nightlife, it’s particularly great. When the sun sets, the clubs and bars shine — everything from wine, craft beer, and liquor bars to clubs where you can dance until the sun rises.
Best Places to Stay in Roppongi
- BUDGET: Hotel Villa Fontaine Tokyo-Roppongi – There are not a ton of budget options in Roppongi, but Villa Fontaine makes up for it by offering superior service and clean, comfortable rooms with fridges, humidifying air cleaners, AC, electric kettles, and TVs (and bidets).
- MID-RANGE: Mitsui Garden Hotel Roppongi – Set in a sleek high-rise tower, Mitsui Garden is an excellent spot in which to lay your head. Rooms come in varying sizes — there’s one with a “super king” bed that could fit a large family — and all are equipped with instant-coffee machines, green tea, fridges, electric razors, pajamas, and a bidet in the bathroom.
- LUXURY: Ritz-Carlton Tokyo – Housed in the top eight floors of one of the city’s tallest skyscrapers, the Ritz-Carlton is one of the most luxurious spots in Tokyo. There are seven restaurants and an entire floor dedicated to wellness and working out. Rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows, some with stunning views of Mount Fuji. Even the basic rooms are huge and laden with all the posh amenities you’d expect from a hotel of this caliber.
Where to Stay for Shopping: Ginza
If you’re looking to max out your credit card in Tokyo — and it’s certainly not a challenge to do that — polished and posh Ginza is the place, Its streets are flanked by upscale shops for all the household-name designers, as well as some Japanese ones that might be unfamiliar to you. Whatever the case, you can spend days here jumping from boutique to boutique, immersed in all the latest styles and trends.
And if all that shopping builds up an appetite, Ginza boasts an amazing collection of restaurants. Not surprisingly, it’s easy to break the bank here at counters serving some of the best sushi you’ll eat in your life. But if you look a bit, there are ample affordable ramen and soba places, izakayas, and yakitori restaurants scattered around the district.
Best Places to Stay in Ginza
- BUDGET: Imano Tokyo Ginza Hostel – Imano has comfortable dorm-style rooms, in which each bed is in a pod-like setting. So expect to get some extra privacy here — as long as you don’t mind sleeping in a pod. Each has its own lights, outlets, shelves, and a comfortable mattress. There is also a larger room for traveling families and a few private rooms, as well as a communal kitchen and a comfortable common lounge.
- MID-RANGE: The Celestine Ginza – The 104-room Celestine is located up in a tower on a street flanked by shops, restaurants, and bars so it’s right in the middle of the action. The rooms are fairly large and have desks, minibars, and spacious bathrooms. Some have floor-to-ceiling windows; others have comfortable sofas.
- LUXURY: Hyatt Centric Ginza – The 164 rooms at this property are understated but filled with comfortable luxury amenities. BeeKind bath products, Bluetooth speakers, Nespresso coffee machines, and, of course, stunning views of Ginza and beyond make this one of the poshest spots in town. There’s also a celebrated restaurant and a 24-hour gym in the hotel.
Where to Stay for History Lovers: Asakusa
Asakusa-jinja, one of Tokyo’s greatest Shinto shrines (from the 17th century), the imposing neo-Baroque imperial palace, and a handful of other stunning shrines contribute to the historical makeup of tranquil Asakusa. If you came to Tokyo to delve into the history of this fascinating city, Asakusa is the place to plant yourself for a while.
But there’s more to this neighborhood than just historical sites. Hoppy Street is a fringed with indoor and outdoor pubs; Nakamise Street is the same but for shopping. There’s also the historic Hanayashiki amusement park, and, in neighboring Ryugoku, you can witness sumo wrestlers practicing.
Best Places to Stay in Asakusa
- BUDGET: Plat Keikyu – Conveniently located across from Akasaka Station, Plat is bathed in a lot of wood, giving it a very homey feel. The hostel has private and semi-private rooms, as well as 12-person dorm rooms (and also a 12-person female-only dorm) with semiprivate pods that have lights and outlets.
- MID-RANGE: Asakusa View Hotel – This unique property tries to take you right into the heart of historical Tokyo. Expect to find geishas strolling by as if the 19th century never ended, as well as a theater for performing traditional Japanese plays. The rooms are comfortable and simple, bedecked in dark woods and boasting bathtubs, TVs, and kettles for sipping green tea.
- LUXURY: Asakusa Excel Hotel – A nice, luxurious base for a stay in Asakusa, this hotel has a huge gym, a laundry room, an upscale Japanese restaurant, and even a cigar bar. The 487 rooms are all a bit on the smaller side, but they make up for it with some of the most comfortable beds around.
Where to Stay for Hipsters: Shimokitazawa
Once the one-stop neighborhood to go thrift-store shopping in Japan, Shimokitazawa has changed a lot in the last five years. Shimokita, as locals call it, has been transformed into a district for people who love indie film, indie bookshops, hipster cafés, and cutting-edge restaurants.
Best of all, many of the hip thrift stores are still here. So you can stay in Shimokita and go shopping during the day and then hit up the great restaurants and bars that have opened up relatively recently.
Best Places to Stay in Shimokitazawa
- BUDGET: The Wardrobe Hotel – This hostel has private rooms and a large dormitory for those on a serious budget. As is the case in many hostels in Japan, the sleeping situation in the dorms is pod-like: each guest gets their own individual pod with a light and outlet — and therefore, a lot more privacy than your average hostel dorm room.
- MID-RANGE: The Mustard Hotel – Opened in late 2021, the 60-room Mustard is a minimalist boutique hotel in the center of Shimokita. Naturally, the guest rooms have record players with a selection of vinyl. The on-site café serves up third-wave coffee to locals and visitors alike.
- LUXURY: Yuen Bettai Daita – Located just to the west of Shimokitazawa, this is a ryokan-style property (meaning a traditional inn). There’s even an onsen (hot spring) in the hotel. The guest rooms are minimalist in the Japanese manner, but oh-so-comfortable at the same time. The on-site traditional Japanese restaurant/teahouse is worth staying in for.
Where to Stay for Convenience: Marunouchi
If you can’t figure out a neighborhood to stay in because you’re too little (or too much) of a foodie, history buff, shopper, nightlifer, etc., then just shrug and put yourself in Marunouchi. Geographically, it’s in the center of it all.
The neighborhood is host to classic traditional sites as well as tall glass skyscrapers. So it’s old and new, traditional and contemporary. Home to Tokyo Station, the National Museum of Modern Art, the Tokyo International Forum, and scores of shopping centers, galleries, and restaurants, Marunouchi is just a short train ride to the rest of Tokyo.
Best Places to Stay in Marunouchi
- BUDGET: Hotel Metropolitan – Marunouchi doesn’t have a lot of affordable accommodation options. Hotel Metropolitan may not have hostel prices, but for a bit more than an average hostel, you can stay in total comfort here. Located in a tower across from Tokyo Station, the rooms here are on the smaller side but have bathtubs, bath products, flat-screen TVs, and free bottled water and green tea (plus electric kettles).
- MID-RANGE: Marunouchi Hotel – It’s hard to get more Marunouchi than this hotel. The property has a few nice restaurants, including French, Japanese, and teppanyaki ones. The large standard double rooms have massive beds, plus enough amenities to make any traveler feel relaxed and comfortable.
- LUXURY: Four Seasons Hotel at Marunouchi – You can expect to be pampered at his posh, centrally located, five-star hotel. The rooms are huge, and many have great views of Tokyo Station and beyond. There are only 57 rooms at this boutique Four Seasons outpost, so expect to get all the attention you want here. The in-house eatery fuses French and Japanese cuisines to great fanfare.
Tokyo is massive. There are few other places where I really need to emphasize that the location you choose to base yourself is of utmost importance. This way, you won’t spend so much time traversing the city on the subway.
But don’t be too concerned about it, either. Tokyo is great for just wandering too, taking in the organized chaos that is the world’s biggest — and busiest — metropolis.
Book Your Trip to Japan: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight. They are my favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.
For more places to stay, check out my article on my favorite hostels in Tokyo. It has a long list of them!
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.
Be sure to check out the Japan Rail Pass if you’ll be traveling around the country. It comes in 7-, 14-, and 21-day passes and can save you a ton of money!
Want More Information on Japan?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Japan for even more planning tips!