View from top of the Shibuya crossing in Tokyo

Where to stay in Tokyo for your first trip: best areas and hotels

It’s not easy to figure out where to stay in Tokyo for your first trip.

The place is HUGE! And there are so many interesting things to do all over it!

When we were planning our first trip to Japan and to Tokyo, we felt just as overwhelmed as you when researching the best places to stay.

So, we completely understand you and want to help out! 

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Where to stay in Tokyo for your first trip?

Wikipedia says: since 2001, Tokyo consists of 62 municipalities: 23 special wards, 26 cities, 5 towns and 8 villages. Quite a lot, huh?

There are loads of things to see and do in all of them, which makes it quite a job to decide where to stay in Tokyo for your first trip.

After doing quite a bit of research, though, we’ve decided that the best places to stay in Tokyo are Shinjuku, Shibuya, the area around the Tokyo Station (including Ginza) and Roppongi.

For your first trip, especially if you have just a couple of days to spend in this incredible metropolis, it’s a good idea to stay somewhere close to a metro station.

Staying near the JR Yamanote line is ideal since it loops all around Tokyo’s main attractions. Plus, if you have the JR Pass, you can ride this line for free.

All of the districts that we’ve listed offer plenty of options for dining, shopping, and entertainment and all except Roppongi are also important transport hubs.

So, a win-win!

I’ve provided some things to do in each district as well, but the lists don’t even come close to including all the interesting options. If I included everything, the article would be endless!

Tokyo Station area and Ginza – best place to stay in Tokyo for your first trip because of great transport connections

Ginza in Tokyo

If you’re following our 2 days in Tokyo itinerary (or the whole Japan 10-day itinerary), you know that we stayed in Ginza during our trip to Japan. It was a very convenient place to stay, with lots of options for food and close to public transport stations that led to everywhere we wanted to go.

Ginza is pretty much a shopping street – or district –, such as Oxford Street in London. You can find everything from luxury boutiques such as Gucci or Tiffany to affordable shops like H&M. Plus, department stores, and the restaurants. Oh, the food there is incredible!

Tokyo station is just next to Ginza, and it offers incredible connections to anywhere you’d like to go. It’s pretty central to many sights in Tokyo as well.

Things to see and do in Ginza and Tokyo Station area include:

* The Tsukiji outer market (the fish market itself has moved to the Toyosu market) has a lot of sushi restaurants and vendors selling all kinds of seafood.

* Hama-rikyu Onshi-teien Garden – a gorgeous garden with a beautiful tea house inside it

* The Imperial Palace – an incredible Edu castle where the emperor of Japan lives. Although the castle itself is closed to the public, you can visit the gardens.

* The Ginza itself – the shopping street becomes a pedestrian street on Saturday afternoons, so you have a chance to actually walk on the street itself.

Pros of staying in Ginza and Tokyo Station area for your first time in Tokyo

* These two areas are generally quieter than the other popular places to stay in Tokyo because there’s less nightlife.

* There are lots of great restaurants all around, including many Michelin-star rated ones, so there’s a lot of interesting food choices available. Many of the Michelin restaurants offer reasonably priced lunch menus.

* Good place for connections to all parts of Tokyo and day trips out of the city, including the airport limousine bus.

* Of course, if you love shopping, this is really one of the best places to stay in Tokyo for your first trip.

You will not enjoy staying in Ginza and Tokyo Station area if…

* You like having lots of historical buildings around.

* You want to enjoy the busy nightlife.

Sushi restaurant in the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo
We went to a sushi restaurant in Tsukiji fish market (the market has relocated to Toyosu Fish Market). It was heavenly!

Where to stay in Ginza and Tokyo Station Area

Other options in Ginza and Tokyo Station Area

Shinjuku – best place to stay in Tokyo for tourists

A street in Akihabara district in Tokyo
Apparently, we didn’t take any pictures in Shinjuku! Weird! So here’s one from Akihabara, haha.

Neon lights, huge crowds, restaurants, shopping centres, bars, entertainment – Shinjuku has everything you’ve probably thought Tokyo to be. It’s the typical Tokyo from movies.

Shinjuku is a great place to stay in Tokyo for your first trip if you’d like to pack as much as possible into your itinerary. The Shinjuku train station provides excellent connections all around Tokyo (JR Yamanote line) and outside it as well.

It is the world’s busiest railway station! But no worries, everything in Japan is well organized, so you don’t have to worry about the crowds.

Things to see and do in Shinjuku

* Stroll through the district itself with all of the skyscrapers, shopping, pubs, and other ways of entertainment.

* Enjoy a dinner and a show at the Robot Restaurant.

* Check out the Piss valley”.

* Go to the Yoyogi park with the splendid Meiji Jingu shrine.

* Nishi-Shinjuku Nishi-Shinjuku – the west side of Shinjuku with corporate buildings and towers including the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.

* Shinjuku Gyo-en Garden – a beautiful garden near the train station.

Pros of staying in Shinjuku

* Lets you experience the image of Tokyo you’ve probably gotten from TV.

* Great connections both in Tokyo, for day trips and to the airport.

* Lots of restaurants, bars, clubs, and other entertainment options.

* Not too far from some historical sites as well.

* Great for those “Tokyo lights at night” pictures.

Things you might not like about Shinjuku

* It’s very busy all the time, day and night.

* It’s crowded.

* Because of the bars and pubs, there might be quite a few drunk people roaming around at night.

* Accommodation tends to get expensive because it’s so popular.

* There’s a huge red-light district.

Related: inspire yourself to visit more places in Japan with our photo diary!

Where to stay in Shinjuku

Other options in Shinjuku

Shibuya – a great youth-oriented place to stay in Tokyo for younger travellers (or at least younger at heart)

Night view of Shibuya in Tokyo

Shibuya is pretty much Shinjuku lite. It’s a huge shopping area that has everything from huge international brands to small local stores here. And, of course, restaurants, bars, pubs, Izakaya, everything. According to many travel bloggers, Shibuya is the best area to stay in Tokyo for first-time visitors.

Hustle and bustle describes Shibuya the best. Unlike Shinjuku, though, everything is geared towards younger people.

Just as the other two already mentioned locations, Shibuya offers great connections all around. As I’ve already said, that’s a very important thing to have on your first trip to Tokyo!

Things to see and do in Shibuya

* Statue of Hachiko – the loyal dog who waited for his master to come back from work long after the man died.

* Shibuya crossing – the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing.

* Yoyogi park – a gorgeous park where the Meiji-Jingu Shrine – Tokyo’s biggest shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken is located.

* Go shopping or just roam around the neighbourhood, admiring the neon lights.

Pros of staying in Shibuya

* Great train connections both in Tokyo itself and to the Narita airport.

* Local atmosphere with younger people.

* Great shopping, food, and entertainment options.

* Great nightlife options.

Why JR Pass is a must-have in Japan

Cons of staying in Shibuya

* Crowded is an understatement.

* There’s a small red-light district.

* Can get quite loud.

Where to stay in Shibuya

Other options in Shibuya

Roppongi – the best place where to stay in Tokyo for your first trip if you like bustling nightlife

Tokyo skyline
Tokyo Skyline with the Tokyo tower just in the upper left corner of the picture

Roppongi is known as the most nightlife-oriented place to stay in Tokyo, so if you’re into that, it’s the place for you to go. Yes, it offers even more nightlife than Shinjuku and Shibuya.

It’s more foreigner-friendly because lots of expats and students live there which means that you are bound to find more people who speak English.

There’s quite a big art scene in Roppongi, so if you’d like to enjoy an abundance of museums and galleries, Roppongi is the place to go!

The biggest problem of Roppongi is that the transportation around there is quite bad. And, if you’re looking for where to stay in Tokyo for your first trip, that’s actually quite a significant problem.

Things to see and do in Roppongi

* Obviously, enjoy the nightlife if it’s your thing.

* Museums, galleries – there’s an abundance of those. Some examples include the Suntory Museum of Arts, The National Art Center Tokyo, and Mori Art Museum.

* Roppongi Hills – don’t be fooled by the name, it’s actually a cultural centre called Mori Tower full of shops, entertainment, and arts. On clear days, you can see both Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree, as well as Mt Fuji from the top decks.

* Tokyo Tower – go for a view from the top of Tokyo! Although the Tokyo Skytree, where we went ourselves, is like 300m higher (the viewing platforms, though, are 200m higher).

* Check out the Shrines and Temples both in Roppongi and Akasaka, which is right next to Roppongi – such as Zojo-Ji and Toyokawa Inari Tokyo Betsuin temples and Atago and Hie Shrines.

Pros of staying in Roppongi

* Great nightlife.

* More people speak English, which is easier for first-time visitors.

* Great place for enjoying contemporary art.

* Quite a good food scene.

Cons of staying in Roppongi

* The nightlife can get quite loud.

* There’s no JR line running to it.

Related: What you need to know about Japan before visiting

Where to stay in Roppongi

Other options in Roppongi

Interesting accommodation options for your first trip to Tokyo

The previous accommodations that I listed are hotels and apartments, but if you are looking for more unusual places where to stay in Tokyo for your first trip, check out these!

Tokyo Disney resort – where to stay in Tokyo with kids!

If you’re looking for where to stay in Tokyo with family (and not only family, actually), why not consider at least a couple of nights at the Disney resort?

A ryokan

Futon bed in a ryokan
In a ryokan, you can choose traditional beds where you sleep on a mattress on the floor.

If you want to stay in a traditional Japanese hotel, Tokyo can deliver! There are loads of ryokans available in the city. One of them – the Hoshinoya Tokyo – is actually Japan’s most luxurious urban ryokan and was voted Travel&Leisure magazine’s best hotel in Tokyo 2020.

A capsule hotel

One of the most unique places to stay in Japan – a capsule – or a pod – hotel. The capsule is basically a bed-sized… well… capsule. There’s either a curtain for privacy or a door – which will not lock (it’s a Japanese law). Initially, it was meant for drunk people to sleep the night and shower, but now it’s become kind of one of those cool things that are fascinating in Japan.

I wouldn’t recommend staying in a capsule long-term, as it’s not really cost-effective for what you get, but trying it out for a night might be pretty cool. For example, before or after your flight if it doesn’t correspond with check in/out times of your hotel.

Book and bed

Just like it sounds, Book and Bed hostels provide you with books and a bed. It’s a capsule hotel, but the concept is so interesting that I wanted to put it separately, haha.

There’s a Book Tea Bed available as well.

Last thoughts on where to stay in Tokyo for your first trip

If you’re visiting Tokyo for the first time, I believe you’re confused about how to choose anything out of all the things Tokyo has to offer, not just hotels. There’s so much to do and so much to see!

So I hope that I at least helped you figure out where to stay in Tokyo for your first trip.

If you have some other places to suggest for a stay in Tokyo, please comment them just below!

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