During the three years I lived in Japan I made a lot of visits to Tokyo, and I got to know the different neighborhoods quite well. I definitely have some favorite parts of Tokyo that I always go back to, and there are three areas I always recommend to any friends wondering where to stay in Tokyo for the best time and the most convenience.
Keep in mind I’ve only traveled to Tokyo solo or with friends, and this list is geared towards people around my age (I’m 30 and lived in Japan in my early 20s). While I did visit Tokyo several times as a kid with my parents, I don’t remember what was the best area of Tokyo for families – sorry!
These areas focus on ease of access to all the major attractions, fun places to go out, and lively atmosphere. And while there are lots of quirky, off the beaten path places to stay in Tokyo, I’m going to stick with ease here and recommend the areas closest to the attractions and within easiest access. Because while a lot of tourists come to Tokyo each year, it can still be an overwhelming city to navigate if you don’t speak any Japanese. But these places are easy to get to and to get around from, don’t worry.
And if you’re looking for things to do in Tokyo, here’s my guide to Tokyo for first-timers.
Where to stay in Tokyo: my top 3 picks
Whenever anyone is on a first time visit to Tokyo I tell them to stay in Shibuya. In fact, when I took my friend Danielle to Tokyo for the first time, Shibuya was the first place we stayed!
I really love Shibuya, and I think it makes for the perfect introduction to Tokyo. Plus, enough tourists stay here that a lot of the hotels and restaurants are used to foreigners and often have English speaking staff (a rarity in Japan – even in Tokyo!).
Shibuya is a huge shopping area, so you’ll find a fun mix of familiar global chains and quirky local shops here. There are also a lot of restaurants and bars here, but also not too many, so it doesn’t feel quite as overwhelming as say Shinjuku.
And of course Shibuya is most famous for the Shibuya crossing, the busiest intersection in Japan (and possibly the world?). You can see the crossing in my Shibuya vlog here:
But another advantage of Shibuya is that it’s in easy walking distance – like 15 minutes – from Harajuku, another must-see area in Tokyo. While I would definitely try to visit Harajuku while you’re in Tokyo, it can also be fairly overwhelming to newcomers with all of its lights and music, so I think actually staying in nearby Shibuya is a better idea.
WHY NOT SHIBUYA?
Shibuya is one of the most touristy areas of Tokyo and it gets crowded. However I generally think it’s good that Shibuya is touristy, as since this is Tokyo you still won’t be overwhelmed by tourists (it’s too crowded with locals), but this also means that some people will speak English.
WHERE TO STAY IN SHIBUYA
I’ve stayed in so many places in Shibuya, but I’ve narrowed it down to three options, based on price.
★ Luxury Shibuya Tokyo accommodation
My top choice for Shibuya would definitely be the Shibuya Stream Excel Hotel Tokyu. Last time I was in Tokyo my friend and I met a a couple staying here and they showed us their room and the view was amazing! It’s right next to Shibuya Station and the famous Shibuya crossing, and the rooms are gorgeous. Check here for current rates and availability
If you want something really easy, there’s a shuttle bus from both Narita and Haneda airports that goes directly to the Cerulean Tower Tokyo Hotel. It’s not quite as central in Shibuya as the Stream Excel Hotel, but it’s an easy walk and definitely the easiest hotel to get to. Check here for current rates and availability
★ Mid range Shibuya Tokyo accommodation
Mustard Hotel Shibuya is excellent value for the location. It’s brand new and within easy walking distance to everything you’ll want to see in Shibuya. Check here for current rates and availability
★ Budget Shibuya Tokyo accommodation
I’ve stayed at Turn Table Hostel in Shibuya in their private room, but they also have dorms for even cheaper. The location is perfect, I love the design, and the breakfast is great. Check here for current rates and availability
Almond Hostel & Cafe is also central and super chic and the capsule bunks offer privacy. Plus they have a female dorm, which I always look for in a hostel! Check here for current rates and availability at Almond Hostel
★ Best Shibuya Airbnbs
It’s also well worth checking out Airbnb in Tokyo! Recently there was a big ban on a lot of Airbnbs in Tokyo, which means that now all of the listings in Tokyo have met with strict criteria to become officially registered. The also means that you have to move quickly if you want to book an Airbnb, but it’s well worth it for the chance to stay in local accommodation at often a much more reasonable price than hotels.
This spacious apartment has a beautiful traditional Japanese design and it’s right in the center of Shibuya and this lovely apartment is also centrally located at a great price, and both come with a free pocket WiFi to use during your stay, which will be really helpful in Tokyo. This apartment is also gorgeous, as well as this budget-friendly room – I would definitely prefer staying here over a hostel dorm.
If Shibuya is an easy intro to Tokyo, I would say Shinjuku really throws you into the heart of Tokyo – or at least the Tokyo we know so well from the movies.
If it’s neon lights, fast-paced crowds, shopping, restaurants, and bars you’re after, then Shinjuku is perfect. Seriously, you could spend a week here and not get bored.
While I always recommend Shibuya to newcomers to Tokyo, I personally actually often opt for Shinjuku instead because it’s so fun. It’s also a great transport hub for reaching the rest of Japan, as Shinjuku train station serves trains going pretty much everywhere – including the Narita express train from the airport.
You can read more about things to do in Shinjuku here, but I’d say definitely check out the Golden Gai area for its teeny tiny little bars, Kabukicho for its cheap izakaya bars and night life (though be careful here – it’s also home to Tokyo’s seedy nightlife), the free view from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, and while I’ve never been, there’s also the popular Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku if you’re up for a crazy performance.
WHY NOT SHINJUKU?
Just be warned that Shinjuku gets really crowded, at night you could see a lot of drunken businessmen roaming the streets, and because it’s so popular with tourists, Shinjuku accommodation is quite expensive.
WHERE TO STAY IN SHINJUKU
★ Luxury accommodation in Shinjuku
Okay, so the most famous place to stay in Shinjuku, and really all of Tokyo, is the Tokyo Park Hyatt Hotel. You probably know it from Lost in Translation. You can check it out here, though I’ve never actually stayed here so I can’t really say anything about it.
However I have stayed at the Keio Plaza Hotel on multiple occassions, and oh my goodness it is so fancy and so lovely, and really just perfect. They actually have a wide range of rooms from standard to superior, and they even have a Hello Kitty themed room! You can check current rates and availability here
★ Mid range accommodation in Shinjuku
If you’re up for a very Japanese experience, try out a capsule hotel! A lot of capsule hotels are male only, but Nine Hours in Shinjuku has female capsules as well. It’s such a unique place to stay and while it might sound claustrophobic when I stayed here I was surprised by how big my capsule felt.
GLOU Higashi is a new hotel in walking distance to the busiest area of Shinjuku. It’s basic but has everything you need with a great location and it’s quite affordable for Shinjuku. Check current rates and availability here
★ Budget accommodation in Shinjuku
The Capsule Hotel Transit Shinjuku is a capsule hotel with really affordable female and male dorms. Check current rates and availability here
★ Best Shinjuku Airbnbs
Shinjuku is a great place to opt for an Airbnb, especially if you’re on a budget, as they tend to be much better value than the hotels in the area.
Both this apartment and this apartment are trendy and right in the center of Shinjuku, and they even come with a pocket WiFi to use during your stay. I also really love the design of this apartment. And if you’re on a budget this room is really affordable and looks lovely.
Ginza doesn’t always make lists for the best places to stay in Tokyo, but hear me out because I personally think it’s a brilliant place to stay!
Ginza is known for its high-end shopping, but it also has plenty of affordable shops (including the typical chains like H&M and Uniqlo), and there are so many amazing restaurants here. The nightlife is really cool and a good mix of locals and foreigners. You can read all of my tips for where to eat and go out in Ginza here.
And you can watch my vlog from Ginza here:
WHY NOT GINZA?
Ginza isn’t quite as easy access to the airports as Shibuya and Shinjuku, but it’s still fairly straightforward to get here. Plus it’s a little more offbeat than the Shibuya and Shinjuku, so I think it’s worth the extra effort getting here.
WHERE TO STAY IN GINZA
★ Luxury accommodation in Ginza
The Park Hotel Tokyo is right by Shiodome subway station, and an easy walk from all the main sights in Ginza. The hotel starts on the 26th floor, so all the rooms have amazing views of Tokyo, but I recommending staying in one of their famous artist rooms. These have been designed by artists and are stunning. You can see more photos and read about my stay at Park Hotel Tokyo here. And check current rates and availability here.
★ Mid range accommodation in Ginza
The square hotel GINZA is super stylish and even has a Japanese style communal onsen bath. Check current rates and availability here.
★ Budget accommodation in Ginza
Bed & Breakfast RENGA has super affordable dorm rooms, plus they offer breakfast. Check current rates and availability here.
Tokyo Ginza Bay Hotel has male and female capsule dorms so you’ll have tons of privacy. This was the cheapest place I could find in Ginza with good reviews. Check current rates and availability here.
★ Best Ginza Airbnbs