Where to Stay in Tokyo: A Guide to the Best Neighborhoods for Shopping, Dining, and Family Fun

> May 14, 2024
Where to Stay in Tokyo: A Guide to the Best Neighborhoods for Shopping, Dining, and Family Fun

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Welcome to Tokyo, the sprawling metropolis that, let's be honest, can be a bit overwhelming and even a tad underwhelming all at the same time. It’s a city you can wrap up in 2 days—3 if you throw in a visit to DisneySea (because, why not?). Just look at my Tokyo itinerary, you literally have nothing to do after day 2. While it's packed with more neon than Vegas and has more sushi spots than the ocean has fish, it's... well, kind of boring.

But I get it, nobody is going to skip Tokyo altogether, and you’ll need a place to sleep while you’re doing the tourist rounds. We stayed in a neighborhood so bizarre it could only belong in Tokyo, and despite the weird shite (or maybe because of it), I actually had a blast (especially when I was discovering my hidden talent for rapping—during karaoke).

So, if you’re planning a trip to Tokyo and want to know where to drop your bags and your inhibitions, you’ve come to the right place. This guide will delve into Tokyo’s best neighborhoods for tourists, from the geeky tech paradise of Akihabara to the bustling shopping havens of Shibuya and Ginza (which I semi-despise). Let’s find you a spot where you can enjoy Tokyo (remember, just for 2 or 3 days!), whether you’re a foodie, a family, a shopper, or a bit of everything.

I’ve added concrete hotel tips in the neighborhoods where it made sense—most of the 4-star, a couple 5-star. For the sake of transparency, I want to tell you that the hotel links are affiliate links, meaning if you book through them, I get a small kick-back in the form of a commission. You pay nothing extra, but I smile knowing I’ve been of use to you and you were kind enough to send me some love. High five for that.


A map of the best areas to stay in Tokyo for first-time visitors, Japan travel

Here’s a map of the best neighborhoods to stay in if you’re visiting Tokyo for the first time (or any time). I recommend some much more than others! (The large central green area is the Imperial Palace)

1. The best neighborhood to stay in Tokyo overall: Akihabara

This is where we stayed on my first Tokyo visit and I’d stay there again if I re-visited (not gonna happen).

  • Pros: Central location, great transport connections, rich in pop culture, loved our hotel
  • Cons: Can be crowded, somewhat commercialized, full of epically weird and very Japanese “entertainment”


Akihabara neighborhood street scene, best area to stay in Tokyo, Japan

A typical street in Akihabara neighborhood
 

Akihabara's central location puts you within easy reach of Senso-ji and Tokyo Skytree to one side, and the Imperial Palace and Ginza to the other. Shibuya is a bit further away, but that's alright—I wasn’t blown away by the iconic crosswalk or the crowded streets anyway.

With Akihabara on the Yamanote Line, Tokyo's most crucial transit route, means you're well connected to the rest of the city, so you can get anywhere in the city easily.

In Tokyo, a city with so many people that every peculiar niche finds an audience, you might as well stay in the epicenter of strange, right? Staying in the Akihabara neighborhood means you get a crash course in modern Japanese culture in the weirdest ways possible—maid cafes, gadgets upon gadgets, anime stores, pachinko machine “casinos”, people wearing costumes in broad daylight, etc. Oh, and karaoke! Loved me some karaoke (who would've thought?).


Tourists in front of Senso-ji in Tokyo, Japan

It’s easy to reach Senso-ji from Akihabara

Hotel recommendation in Akihabara

During my stay at Nohga Hotel Akihabara, I found it to be a bit on the pricey side for what you get, but seemed to be the norm in hotels in Japan in general. However, it does have a standout feature—a very good restaurant right on site, which isn't always a given in Japanese hotels. The rooms themselves are comfy, albeit small, and come with great black-out curtains, yet surprisingly for Japan, a chilly toilet seat that wasn't heated—how annoying after your butt gets used to being pampered with heated toilet seats all over the country!

If you're curious about my full Tokyo experience, see my article about the best and worst things to see in Tokyo. It’ll help you decide which neighborhoods you should try to be close to on your own trip to Tokyo.

2. Where to stay in Tokyo for foodies: Anywhere really

When hunting for the best places to stay in Tokyo for food enthusiasts, you might be tempted to pick a spot right next to top-notch restaurants. But I wouldn’t choose the best area to stay in in Tokyo solely based on restaurants. Really, if you're in Tokyo just to eat and not explore, what’s the point?


Tourists in Shinjuku neighborhood in Tokyo, Japan

Some people swear Shinjuku is the best place in Tokyo for foodies
 

Then again, there are good restaurants in any of the centrally located neighborhoods in Tokyo, so it’s not like you won’t be able to eat unless you’re in “the place to stay for foodies”. Also, your idea of foodie heaven might not be the same as mine. Are you a fine-dining foodie? Or more of a street food foodie? Because I’m not really a market-type foodie.

I’ve always said there’s not much to do in Tokyo, so why not just treat the dining as one of the stops on your Tokyo itinerary, but not as the focal point of your hotel choice. And just so you know, the best restaurants in Japan aren't even in Tokyo! I found some incredible eats in Nagano and Hakone that outshine Tokyo's offerings by miles.

When I stayed in Tokyo, I chose the neighborhood called Akihabara because it is centrally located and very Japanese, and stayed at Nohga Hotel Akihabara precisely because it had a solid restaurant—problem solved. I wouldn’t, for example, stay at

Like I said, all of the central neighborhoods in Tokyo will satisfy your foodie cravings. Here’s a little breakdown of top foodie neighborhoods if you can’t help yourself and let your stomach do the hotel bookings:

  • Ginza: Known for its upscale dining and luxury, Ginza is home to numerous high-end sushi restaurants and exclusive Japanese cuisine spots. Very central.
  • Shibuya: Offers a mix of affordable eats and trendy dining options, perfect for foodies looking for variety, innovation, and crowds. Not my favorite tbh.
  • Shinjuku: Let’s call it a diverse culinary landscape where you’ll find everything from tiny izakayas serving authentic Japanese fare to top-tier restaurants. A place that also has lots of shopping… Remind me again why you traveled here across the world?!
  • Asakusa: Great for traditional Japanese food and street eats. This is where Senso-ji shrine is, and it’s close to SkyTree, but pretty far from everything else.

Oh, and if you’re a weird type of foodie then you’re making a great choice by visiting Tokyo, because they cater to all kinds of fetishes! If you melt at the thought of getting waited on by a maid that’ll talk to you in an annoying and overly complacent tone and draw pictures for you on your dessert, head to Akihibara’s maid cafes. I loathed every second of them, but I understand not everyone is as sane as me.

And as a foodie, you need to read my Big Japanese Food Guide to get the lowdown on the food culture, what is what in Japanese food, and tips on things like chopsticks and tipping (very important!).


Photos from restaurants in Tokyo, Japan

Eating our way through Tokyo. All parts of Tokyo…

Hotel recommendations for foodies in Tokyo

I’m not about to list 16 hotels for you to choose from. Since there are so many neighborhoods in Tokyo that can be thought of as “foodie-friendly”, you’ll need to do your own research based on the area you choose.

To be honest, I don’t even really want to tell you where to stay if you want to eat well, because I know (from my experience with myself) how annoyingly unique and high maintenance someone’s food obsession can be. I wouldn’t dare bring your disappointment onto myself and face the wrath of an angry foodie. I can see it now: “Jan said I’d eat well close to this hotel but the [whichever food you were dissatisfied with] was too dry/small/chewy/bland and now I hate Jan forever and think he cannot be trusted!!”.

Like I said, I chose to stay in Nongha Hotel Akihabara, because it has a good onsite restaurant, which is key for me.

But if you want to take your food travel to the next level, I have to mention this hotel, more as a curiosity than a real recommendation (I haven’t stayed there): ANA InterContinental Tokyo. It has 12 restaurants and bars on site, including Michelin-star Pierre Gagnaire Restaurant and an award-winning cocktail bar on the top floor. You know, in case you really just want to spend all your time in Tokyo eating and drinking.

3. Best area to stay in Tokyo for families: The one the parents will enjoy… or Ueno

Photos from Ueno district and Ueno Park in Tokyo in Japan

Ueno is popular for families because of the park and zoo
 

In this section, I’m assuming you mean you’re traveling with children, not your uncles and grandmas. Because I think the grannies are ok staying anywhere where other people would, right? They are, in fact, people too, you know? Do you know who else qualifies as “people”? Kids!

So not to get all philosophical on you, but why do we even need a specific "family-friendly" tag for a neighborhood? Doesn't every tourist, old and young, need comfort, convenience, and a bit of culture? I mean if you’re looking to stay close to the zoo, just see where the Tokyo zoo is and stay there.

If I were to leave it at that, the best area to stay in Tokyo for families is the one the parents would enjoy. Apart from maybe not staying in nightlife central—Roppongi and even Shibuya could be too over-the-top for some people—and trying to avoid the red light district—Kabukicho in Shinjuku—, any neighborhood you deem appropriate for your particular travel style and interests is perfect for families with kids, even in Tokyo. Though I can’t lie, I’m pretty sure your kids would appreciate Godzilla’s hand in the room @ Hotel Gracery Shinjuku!

That said, the aforementioned Tokyo zoo is in Ueno district, which actually happens to be adjacent to Akihabara aka the best part of Tokyo to stay in for tourists (of all ages). The zoo is also right next to Ueno Park, which I admit could be useful to let your mini-me let out some steam in a place that doesn’t involve just concrete and traffic. So that actually works out well, doesn’t it? One stop to the north from Akihabara Station, Okachimachi Station in Ueno is also on the main transportation loop line called JR Yamanote Line.


Photo showing the Imperial Palace on one side and the view over the Imperial Palace gardens to the Ginza district on the other side

Ginza is centrally located and adjacent to the Imperial Palace
 

If you’re more of a fancy pants family or just like your surroundings to include fewer adult men dressed as Naruto and Pokemon, maybe look into Ginza. It’s not my cup of tea, but it’s a more refined, shopping-heavy neighborhood with more upscale establishments. Plus, it’s extremely centrally located, and very close to the Imperial Palace. More on Ginza below.

And last but not least, if you’re in Tokyo with kids, you’re going to at least one of the Disney parks, right? We loved DisneySea and thought everyone, child or no child, should visit. It’s not one of the top Disney parks worldwide for nothing! Here’s more about my DisneySea experience. Obviously, staying in one of the hotels around Dinseyland and DisneySea would be the absolute top place to stay in Tokyo with kids if the kids were the ones to choose. A warning for the parents: Expect lots of kids, haha. What? Don’t think I don’t know you hate other peoples’ kids!


Tourists at DisneySea in Tokyo, Japan

You don’t need kids to enjoy DisneySea! But if you do have some, staying close to the Disney Park could be a good idea
 

Here's a summary of best areas to stay in with kids:

  • Try these: Ueno, Akihabara, Ginza, close to Disney
  • Maybe not these: Roppongi, Kabukicho in Shinjuku, anywhere close to Shibuya crossing, anywhere far from the main transportation loop line called JR Yamanote Line

Hotel recommendations in Tokyo for families

I don’t have kids, nor do I travel with my granny, but here are some hotels I think would be great for those traveling as a family.

Tip: One thing you do need to look out for if your kid is annoyingly large (I mean they need their own bed and won’t squeeze into a cot or your bed) is hotels with family rooms or at least rooms that’ll comfortably fit you all—Japan isn’t known for their spacious accommodation! Ueno does have a higher concentration of hotels with family rooms.

  • MIMARU TOKYO UENO EAST: Great, comfortable family rooms with bunkbeds, kitchenettes, and a rooftop terrace area where you can get some fresh air. Right next to Ueno Station. Mimaru has more hotels around the city if you wanted a different location.
  • Section L Ueno-Hirokoji: Smack in the middle between Ueno and Akihabara, I’d love this place if I were a kid. The rooms come with a sort-of-bunk bed that converts from a small couch and a top fold-down bed like it would on a train. Need I say more?
  • Hotel GrandBach Tokyo Ginza, MUJI HOTEL GINZA, and Dai-ichi Hotel Tokyo are all in Ginza and have rooms that’ll fit families. That alone is more what most of the hotels in Ginza can offer—many just won’t be able to get another bed into the room and you’d need 2 rooms to fit the whole family.
  • Urayasu Brighton Hotel Tokyo Bay. All rooms have a Disney view, and it doesn’t look like Cinderella threw up all over it. You’re welcome.
  • Grand Nikko Tokyo Bay Maihama. Colorful but still tastefully done, cool pool area that is straight out of a fairytale.

4. The best places to stay in Tokyo for shopping: Shibuya and Ginza

Picking a place to stay based on shopping? Now that's something that really puzzles me. Even more than choosing based on restaurants. I don't see anyone choosing the best neighborhood for temple and shrine enthusiasts, which would make a lot more sense, right?!


Photos of Ginza district during the day and the night

Ginza’s the place to shop if you like that kind of thing
 

Maybe I just don’t get shopping therapy. Maybe because I’m a dude, maybe because I think clothes are just a great way to not walk around naked, but not much else. But hey, if shopping’s your game, here’s my two cents on where you might want to stay in Tokyo:

  • Ginza: Think of it as Tokyo’s upscale shopping boulevard—luxury and elegance at every corner. If you're looking to splurge, this is your spot. On weekends, cars are banned from the main street and Ginza becomes a little more tolerable.
  • Shibuya: It's the heart of youthful exuberance with trendy boutiques and some seriously eclectic street fashion. Always buzzing, always something happening, always makes me want to run away.
  • Shinjuku: Imagine a forest of skyscrapers with more stores than trees. It’s a shopping jungle where you can easily get lost among retail giants. That’s a no for me, but maybe a yes for shoppers. And for those that love Godzilla (stay at Gracery Hotel Shinjuku if you want to be roomies with the big guy).
  • Extra tip for the quirky shoppers: Akihabara neighborhood offers a variety of shopping experiences that can really be experiences—from electronics to pop culture merchandise. It's vibrant, it’s busy, it’s where I stayed (but I’m not a shopper). You’ll have no doubt you’re in Japan if you stay in Akihabara!


Looking over the Shibuya Crosswalk in Tokyo Japan

We went to Shibuya, we saw the crossing, we weren’t especially impressed with it, and we wouldn’t stay in the area because it’s not our style

Hotel recommendations in Tokyo for shoppers

If you choose to stay in Ginza, I’m assuming you want something a little nicer and with enough room for all those shopping bags. Try these hotels:

  • THE BLOSSOM HIBIYA: Big rooms with big windows so you can peak at those skyscrapers whether you’re in your room resting after you shopped and dropped, or from the restaurant when you’re still getting ready to drop some serious cash in the stores in the morning at the breakfast with rave reviews.
  • The Tokyo EDITION, Ginza. If you need A LOT of room for your bags, appreciate minimalist design, and you don’t mind that a night there costs as much as a month’s rent for a small apartment in Prague.

If you’d rather hit the second-hand shops and trendy boutiques in Shibuya, here’s where I think you’d have a good night’s sleep:

  • SHIBUYA STREAM HOTEL: Directly connected by a walkway to Shibuya Station. Cool design. Rooms aren’t huge, but even the smallest ones have a couch.
  • Shibuya Excel Hotel Tokyu: Another hotel directly connected to Shibuya Station, so you can get direct views of the Shibuya Crossing if you feel like trying to figure out what the hype is all about. Not as nice as Shibuya Stream Hotel.

Honestly, the idea of choosing a place to stay just for the shopping opportunities is beyond me. But if that's what tickles your fancy, Ginza and Shibuya should cover all your bases and are well located for sightseeing too. I know a lot of people are torn between the two neighborhoods, so I’ll be comparing them in more detail in 3, 2, …

5. Ginza vs Shibuya: A shopper's dilemma or just a tourist trap?

So, you're tossing up between Ginza and Shibuya, eh? Well, buckle up, because here's my two cents on these two frenetic shopping hubs.


Shibuya and Ginza shopping districts in Tokyo Japan

At first glance, there’s not a huge difference between Shibuya and Ginza
 

Ginza: Upscale

  • Pros: It’s upscale and refined—think the Beverly Hills of Tokyo. The main drag becomes pedestrian-only on weekends, making it less of a bumper car experience. It’s the kind of place where you can pretend to be a high roller, even if you're just window shopping. It’s centrally located, close to the Imperial Palace, and hey, if you're into watches, Mickey Mouse, or need a new pen (or a thousand), you’ll be in paradise.
  • Cons: However, the high-end vibe feels a tad pretentious to me. It's like every other swanky neighborhood in any major city. A bit too polished and boring for my taste.

Shibuya: Youthful

  • Pros: Shibuya is the pulsing heart of Tokyo's youth culture, a chaotic blend of the latest fashions and retro finds that could energize even the most jaded traveler. Unless you’re me. Now, I’m not old, but wandering through the throngs of trendy youth mixed with bewildered tourists can feel like an anthropological study on the exuberance of age. It's here you also stumble into Harajuku, the mecca of all things kitsch and quirky. For someone who recoils at the sight of hipsters, it’s a love-hate relationship. While the vibrancy is magnetic, the crowds can test your patience faster than you can say "avocado toast."
  • Cons: The place is consistently packed with locals and tourists alike. The famous Shibuya Crossing gives you a taste of what to expect—I went, I saw, I never need to see again. A busy crosswalk, WOW! Honestly, it feels overrated. Once the novelty wears off (in about 5 minutes), Shibuya’s just another crowded shopping area—just with a lot more neon.

Ginza and Shibuya each has its perks and quirks, and choosing between them really boils down to what kind of crowd you can jive with—or how thick your wallet is. For me, both places capture the frenetic energy of Tokyo, though they aren’t anywhere near the top of my list of Tokyo must-visits.

Okie dokie. We've traversed Tokyo's varied neighborhoods, from Akihabara's quirky streets to the upscale allure of Ginza and the youthful energy of Shibuya (and even more “youthful” in Ueno!). Each area caters to different interests and travel styles, whether you're in for the culture, shopping, or a bit of everything.

But remember, Tokyo is much more than its tourist hotspots. Like karaoke—it was my favorite thing we did in Tokyo (here’s my Tokyo itinerary if you want to be sure to sightsee, eat well, AND sing your heart out!)! Seriously, while the food and shops are great, do try to see more than just that. Heck, you’d probably get a more Japanese experience if you really did hit up the zoo.
 

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About me

About me

Hi! I’m Jan. I live in Prague, Czech Republic. I try to experience the best the world has to offer, and I don’t cease to be impressed. But if I’m not, I’m sure going to tell you! You can count on my full honesty and real opinions here. No bullcrap. I own and run several companies, which gives me great (but not unlimited) freedom to roam the world.  

I was first inspired to start this blog by my own experience of researching for upcoming trips—I often struggle with a lack of good information, accuracy, and authenticity of resources. You wouldn’t believe how many “travel bloggers” don’t even visit the destinations they write about! 

My goal with this blog is to provide you with complex and practical information so that you can plan your own vacation, complete with insights you’d only get if you visited the place. I also put together itineraries that are fully planned out trip guides.

Another aspect that drives this platform is my curiosity about the history, geography, politics, and economy of each country I visit, so I try to include this information in my articles, too. It’s always great to get the bigger picture, right? 

And just to be clear, I am not trying to compete with backpacking blogs or provide hacks for an economical and affordable experience. My vacations follow the standard pattern of traveling by plane, staying in good hotels, and renting a car on the spot to get around. I’m also always up for a fantastic meal, though I don’t shy away from local delicacies and street food, either.  

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