48h in Tokyo: Free Things to Do in the City

When we think of Tokyo, “cheap” doesn’t exactly come to mind. There are just so many things we want to buy and spend our money on (read: Japanese snacks & shopping)! That said, you shouldn’t have to forgo your end-of-year plans. From hip enclaves to picturesque temple grounds, here are a couple of money-saving (i.e. free) attractions to slot into your itinerary. You’re welcome!


#1 Fall in love with one of Tokyo’s largest city parks

things to do in tokyo

Outdoor-loving folks will heart this spacious 134-acre park.

Conveniently located beside the all-popular Meiji Shrine (see our tour here), Yoyogi Park is known to be a vibrant space for the thriving community of artists, buskers (there’s even a performing stage ) and sports fans to gather and mingle.

things to do in tokyo

The beautiful autumn foliage is yet another reason to visit this beautiful national park.

It also houses a cycling course, an observation deck, multiple dog runscomplete with essential facilities like public toilets and vending machines. Of course, it’s also the perfect spot for a lovely date; put together packed sandwiches, fruits and the likes, and you’re set for a memorable day out!

#2 Visit the Meiji Shrinea tribute to the late Emperor Meiji

things to do in tokyo

The wooden tablets, called “Ema”, are displayed on prayer boards in front of the shrine.

A mere 10-minute walk away from Yoyogi Park is the Meiji Shrine, a tourist spot dedicated to Emperor Meiji after his death. Check out dedicated areas to pen down wishes and prayers, and soak in the Zen surroundings for a time of meditation and contemplation.

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It is also common to see weddings, festivals, and ceremonies here.

Bonus tip: Visit the Meiji Shrine on a Sunday morning and you might get to see a local wedding procession taking place!

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#3 Drink hip coffee & go people-watching

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The famed Starbucks spot is often patronised by both locals and tourists alike.

Take a short coffee break at the Starbucks Shibuya Tsutaya chain which overlooks the iconic Shibuya Crossing. People watching at this viewing spot can be therapeutic, and is great if you need a break from the hustle and bustle. Though it might be a little challenging to secure the window seats (given how busy it always is),  many don’t mind waiting and would still drop in to take videos and pictures.

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The Shibuya Scramble has become a symbolic feature of Tokyo.

#4 Dabble in some politics, or just enjoy the night-time cityscape

things to do in tokyo

A panoramic sunset view from one of the two observatories.

Set in metropolis Shinjuku, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is home to two observation decks (North and South) which you can enter for free. There are gift shops and a trendy cafe. The political headquarter is the place to be for a dose of fun and sightseeing.

Bonus tip: The observatories may be closed to public on selected days, but fret not: They are hardly ever closed on the same day, so you’ll still be able to at least visit one of them on any given day.


#1 Visit a famous fresh seafood market and eat sushi for breakfast

things to do in tokyo

Otoro aka tuna belly, is one of the most sought-after parts of the popular fish.

For fresh (and affordable) sushi, there’s no place like Tsukiji Fish Market. While Sushi Dai makes one of the most notable joints in the market, there are a couple of others to check out too. The highlight? The 10-piece sushi set which includes the staple Otoro (tuna belly), omelette, and a seasonal sushi of choice.

Optional: Check out the legendary 5am tuna auction. It is said to be able to hold up to 120 people per auction per morning. Fun fact: In the 2017 New Year auction in January, the highest bid ever made (at press time) was  74.2 million yen for a 466-pound bluefin tuna! And if you haven’t heard, the market is relocating real soon, so here’s your best chance at catching it before its big move.

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#2 Take a step back into the royal history of Japan

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Set in the former royal residences, the Niju-bashi Bridge is a popular photo spot in the Imperial Palace.

If you combine the best parts of both nature and history, you get The Imperial Palace. Explore the historical side of Japan and learn a thing or two about the preservation of nature. Check out the free tour (you can submit an application here). If you can, apply for it a month or two in advance as the slots run out fast.

Bonus tip: If you are visiting the palace on a Sunday, you can rent a bicycle for free and tour a 3km stretch of greenery. Bicycles are limited in quantity so do come early! All you have to do is fill up an application form at the bicycle reception desk in the Palace Cycling Course.

#3 Snap some shots of contemporary art and upload it on Instagram

things to do in tokyo

An installation at Espace Louis Vuitton in Tokyo. Image credit: Creative Commons

Enter ESPACE Louis Vuitton Tokyo, a hip conceptual art space located on the 7th floor of Omotesando. As a cultural hub of the area, we can only understand how apt it is for renowned Japanese architect Jun Aoki to build a space to match the tree-lined streets. Featuring various works by international artists, it is operated by the Louis Vuitton Foundation. Its aim: To provide young artists with a platform to showcase various forms of expression through a series of evolving artworks.


What kind of free attractions would you like to slot into your itinerary?  Share with us in the comment box below! 


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