20 best free things to do in Tokyo

Busy crosswalk in Shibuya, Japan
Here are our top tips for visiting Tokyo on a budget © Alessandro Crugnola / 500px

Exploring Japan's capital is a mind-blowing experience, but it can also blow your budget. Don't despair  there’s an abundance of things to do and see in Tokyo that don’t cost a single yen. From gardens and temples to contemporary art, sumo practice and a world-famous fish market, here's Tokyo's best free attractions.

Editor's note: during COVID-19 there are restrictions on travel and opening hours may vary. Check the latest guidance before planning a trip, and always follow local health advice.

A Japanese imperial palace with an arch bridge in the foreground
Tokyo's Imperial Palace is a serene (and free) escape from the city ©Guillermo Olaizola/Shutterstock

1. Imperial Palace

Follow the broad moats and park paths that surround the Imperial Palace for views of its famous bridges and medieval keeps. In total, it’s 3.1 miles (5km) around the palace grounds – a popular local jogging course.

2. Toyosu Market 

Want to witness Tokyo’s famous tuna auction at Toyosu Market? Set your alarm early because it starts at 5am (and finishes by 6:30 am). A limited number of visitors who apply in advance can watch from a viewing platform near the market floor; check the market website for details.

Close up of a large red lantern at one of the Sensō-ji entrance gates in Tokyo
Sensō-ji in Tokyo is one of many free-to-visit temples and shrines in Japan © Anek / Getty Images

3. Sensō-ji

Follow in the footsteps of countless pilgrims by approaching Sensō-ji, Tokyo’s most famous Buddhist temple, in Asakusa, along Nakamise-dōri. The way is lined with colorful stalls selling all manner of souvenirs, from giant rice crackers to exquisitely decorated battledores.

Colourful crepe and ice cream vendor at Tokyo's Harajuku's Takeshita street, known for it's colourful shops, punk manga and overall anime look.
Wandering fascinating Harajuku is a great way to spend some free time © StockStudio Aerials / Shutterstock

4. Harajuku

The neighborhood of Harajuku is probably the world's greatest eye candy. Stroll zelkova-tree-lined Omote-sandō, a glam boulevard of up-scale boutiques housed in contemporary architecture; check out the arty explosion at funky Design Festa gallery or hang out in Yoyogi-kōen (Yoyogi Park), with dancers and drum circles.

Young sumo wrestlers practice while other wrestlers look on in Tokyo
It's possible to visit a sumo stable to watch wrestlers practice for free © Lottie Davies / Lonely Planet

5. Sumo practice

Even if you can't make a sumo tournament, you can see sumo wrestlers going through their training drills at a sumo stable," such as Arashio Stable, where visitors watch the morning practice session (asa-keiko) through windows on the street.

Odaiba island is an artificial island in Tokyo featuring a Statue of Lady Liberty Statue offered by France to Japan and you must cross the Rainbow Bridge to go there
Cross the Rainbow Bridge to Odaiba to see Lady Liberty © Guillaume WWP / Shutterstock

6. Odaiba

This island of reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay is linked to the city by the Rainbow Bridge. Walk over the 2618ft-long (798m) single-span suspension bridge to Odaiba, where you can sunbathe on an artificial beach (weather permitting), see a Statue of Liberty replica, and gaze upon a larger-than-life Gundam statue.

7. Washi making

Lessons in the art of paper folding are offered for a fee at the Origami Kaikan, but you can view artisans making washi (Japanese paper) in the workshop here, and peruse the gallery, for free.

Crowds of people crossing Tokyo's Shibuya crossing
Try to keep up at Shibuya Crossing, one of the world's busiest pedestrian crossings © Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

8. Shibuya Crossing

Every few minutes a wave of humanity washes across Shibuya Crossing. Join the masses or stand back and watch. An ideal vantage point is Mag's Park, on the roof of the Shibuya 109-2 department store. Here you can also view Myth of Tomorrow, a monumental piece of modern art by Okamoto Tarō.

9. Kaiju

Fans of kaiju (Japanese monster flicks) will want to pay their respects to the giant Godzilla that lords over the Hotel Gracery Shinjuku. While you’re here, pose for photos with the robot ladies outside Robot Restaurant.

A Yebisu draft beer poured into glass from gold beer dispenser by a bartender at Museum of Yebisu Beer, Tokyo.
Entrance to the Yebisu Beer Museum is free, sadly pints are not © karanik yimpat / Shutterstock

10. Yebisu Beer Museum

The Yebisu Beer Museum, run by one of Japan’s largest brewers, covers the history of beer in Japan, including displays of cool vintage posters and bottles. Tastings sadly aren’t free, but a serving here is only ¥400 ($3.80).

11. Advertising Museum Tokyo

One of Tokyo's most interesting free museums is the Advertising Museum Tokyo. The montage displays of old ads provide an illuminating visual history of commerce in Japan over the last century or so.

Visitors around the giant torii gate at Meiji Jingu shrine, Tokyo.
Stand in awe of the giant tori gate at the Meiju-jingu shrine © enzozo / Shutterstock

12. Meiji-jingū

Escape to the densely wooded grounds that envelope the capital’s premier Shintō shrine, Meiji-jingū. If you’re lucky, you might spot a traditional wedding procession.

13. 3331 Arts Chiyoda

Based in a former junior high school, 3331 Arts Chiyoda houses a score of free contemporary art galleries offering a mix of exhibitions and interactive installations. Be sure to check out the galleries of the Bakuchoro area such as Taro Nasu Gallery.

14. National Diet

Art and anime not your thing? Then how about a free tour of Japan’s seat of governance, the National Diet, to view the wood-panelled, leather-bound and gilded interiors and the gardens planted with species from across the country.

People picnic beneath a large cherry blossom tree overlooking the water on Yoyogi-kōen in Tokyo
Locals picnic beneath the cherry blossoms to celebrate spring in Yoyogi-kōen © Lottie Davies / Lonely Planet

15. Green spaces

Beautiful foliage and horticultural skills can be admired in Tokyo’s traditional gardens. Free-to-enter gardens include those attached to the Hotel New Ōtani in Akasaka and the Hotel Chinzanso, as well as the lush grounds of Happō-en, near Shirokanedai Station, and the Imperial Palace East Garden. Tokyo also has excellent public parks, from the central Yoyogi-kōen, to Inokashira-kōen in west Tokyo.

16. Yanesen

The streets of Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagi – three areas collectively known as Yanesen – provide an idea of what pre-WWII Tokyo was like. Here you’ll find small temples and shrines, craft shops, galleries and cafes, and Yanaka-reien, one of the city’s oldest graveyards. Interesting galleries include SCAI the Bathhouse, in a 200-year-old public bath.

17. Tokyo technology

No need to resort to industrial espionage: at Toyota’s public showroom, Mega Web you can test drive prototypes of the automaker’s Winglet – a Segway-like personal mobility vehicle. At METoA Ginza, check out the latest technologies on display from Mitsubishi Electric.

View of the TV Asahi building across an open central courtyard in the Roppongi Hills complex in Tokyo
The Roppongi Hills complex boasts contemporary architecture and public art © cowardlion / Shutterstock

18. Roppongi

This fabled nightlife neighborhood is also a treat to explore in daylight. There’s plenty of public art scattered around the glitzy commercial complexes of Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown, as well as dazzling contemporary architecture at the National Art Center Tokyo.

19. Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

Survey the city 663ft (202m) above ground from the observation deck of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building – on a clear day you may catch a glimpse of Mt Fuji. Come at dusk to catch spectacular sunsets and the city burst into neon-lit action.

20. Tsukiji Market

Tsukiji Market has a bunch of stalls selling dried aonori (edible seaweed), pickles, bamboo rolling mats and more. Come early to get breakfast from the food vendors and to bask in some old Tokyo ambience.

Discover Tokyo neighbourhoods

This article was last updated in February 2021.

Get more travel inspiration, tips and exclusive offers sent straight to your inbox with our weekly newsletterMake the most of your travel with sightseeing tours and activities from our trusted partners.

Related content