From shopping, food and dining, and unusual spots, here are the best things to do in Shinjuku, Tokyo’s most exciting district!
Shinjuku is one of Tokyo’s most exciting districts, offering a plethora of activities and sights for all types of travelers.
From the serene Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden to the bustling streets of Kabukicho, Shinjuku offers a diverse range of attractions. You can enjoy peaceful green spaces, historic sites, and lively entertainment districts all in one area.
Shinjuku is a shopper’s paradise, featuring everything from high-end department stores like Isetan and Takashimaya Times Square to unique boutiques and electronics megastores.
The area is renowned for its diverse culinary scene, offering everything from Michelin-starred restaurants to casual izakayas and street food stalls.
Shinjuku boasts an energetic nightlife, with options ranging from karaoke bars and traditional pubs in Golden Gai to extravagant shows at the Robot Restaurant. Shinjuku is a major transportation hub, making it easy to explore other parts of Tokyo and Japan.
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1. Visit Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is a must-see among things to do in Shinjuku, offering a serene escape from the bustling city. It blends traditional Japanese, English, and French garden elements, making it uniquely picturesque.
Especially stunning during cherry blossom season, it’s perfect for picnics, photography, and leisurely walks. For visitors, it’s advisable to check the opening hours (typically 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM) and note a small entrance fee.
The garden is closed on Mondays, so plan accordingly. Wear comfortable shoes for walking and bring a camera to capture the scenic beauty.
2. Explore the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Exploring the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is a highlight among things to do in Shinjuku for its panoramic city views and architectural grandeur.
This iconic building, resembling a Gothic cathedral, offers two observation decks at 202 meters high, providing breathtaking views of Tokyo and, on clear days, Mount Fuji.
The best part? It’s free! For visitors, it’s best to go on a clear day for optimal viewing, and visiting in the evening offers a stunning night cityscape. The building is open until 11:00 PM, making it a great after-dinner activity.
Remember to bring a camera. Inside, you’ll also find gift shops and cafes, perfect for souvenirs and refreshments. It’s easily accessible from Shinjuku Station!
3. Walk through Kabukicho, Tokyo’s red-light district
Walking through Kabukicho, Tokyo’s famous red-light district, is an intriguing item on the list of things to do in Shinjuku. It’s known for its vibrant nightlife, neon lights, and entertainment options ranging from bars and restaurants to peculiar-themed cafes and clubs.
While you should embrace the lively atmosphere, remain cautious and aware, as the area can be overwhelming. It’s advisable to avoid solicitors and overly aggressive promoters on the streets.
Exploring Kabukicho is best done in a group, especially at night, for safety and a more enjoyable experience. Keep an eye on personal belongings and stick to reputable establishments.
Photography is often discouraged, so be respectful of local customs. This district offers a unique glimpse into Tokyo’s night culture, making it a fascinating, albeit adventurous, part of your Shinjuku visit.
4. Go shopping at Isetan Shinjuku
Shopping at Isetan Shinjuku Store is a premier experience in the array of things to do in Shinjuku, especially for those seeking high-end retail therapy.
This iconic department store, known for its luxurious brands and exquisite food hall, offers a wide range of products from trendy fashion to traditional Japanese crafts.
For visitors, it’s advisable to allocate enough time to explore, as the store spans multiple floors with diverse sections. The food hall in the basement is a must-visit for gourmet treats and beautifully packaged gifts.
To make the most of your visit, consider checking for seasonal sales or events, often offering unique items and discounts. While English assistance is available, downloading a translation app can be handy for seamless shopping.
Don’t forget to bring your passport for tax-free shopping if you’re a tourist. Isetan Shinjuku Store embodies the blend of modern luxury and traditional elegance, making it a top shopping destination in Shinjuku.
5. Experience the Robot Restaurant: unique things to do in Shinjuku
The Robot Restaurant is a uniquely futuristic and extravagant spectacle, a standout in the list of things to do in Shinjuku. This entertainment hotspot is famed for its dazzling light shows, energetic performances, and, of course, giant robots.
It’s a sensory overload, blending Japanese pop culture with over-the-top robotics and neon lights. For visitors, it’s recommended to book tickets in advance as shows often sell out.
Be prepared for a loud and lively atmosphere; it’s not a traditional dining experience but rather an entertainment show with light snacks available. The show lasts about 90 minutes, so it’s a perfect evening activity.
Bring a camera, but flash photography is usually not allowed during the performance. It’s also close to Shinjuku Station, making it easily accessible.
6. Wander in Golden Gai, a historic bar area: top things to do in Shinjuku
Golden Gai, a historic bar area, is a quintessential experience in the myriad of things to do in Shinjuku. This charming and narrow alley is packed with tiny, eclectic bars, each with its unique theme and atmosphere.
It’s a perfect place to immerse yourself in Tokyo’s retro side and enjoy intimate conversations with locals or fellow travelers. For visitors, it’s key to remember that some bars may charge a cover fee, and space is often limited, making it ideal for solo travelers or small groups.
It’s respectful to be mindful of noise levels, as Golden Gai is nestled in a residential area. Trying a few different bars to experience the variety is recommended.
Most bars open in the evening and stay open late, making Golden Gai a great choice for a nightcap. This area offers an authentic glimpse into Tokyo’s past and present nightlife, making it a must-visit spot in Shinjuku.
7. See a show at Shinjuku Koma Theater
Shinjuku Koma Theater is a cultural treat among the many things to do in Shinjuku. Renowned for its extravagant productions, this theater showcases a variety of performances ranging from traditional Japanese plays to modern musicals and concerts.
For first-time visitors to Tokyo, it’s an opportunity to experience Japan’s rich performing arts scene. To ensure a spot, booking tickets in advance is recommended, as shows can be quite popular.
Keep in mind that most performances are in Japanese, but the visual spectacle is universally enjoyable. Be aware of theater etiquette; photography and recording are usually not allowed during performances.
8. Stroll around Shinjuku Ni-chome, Tokyo’s LGBTQ district
Shinjuku Ni-chome is a vibrant and inclusive experience among the diverse things to do in Shinjuku. Known as one of the world’s largest LGBTQ areas, it offers a plethora of bars, clubs, and cafes, catering to a wide range of tastes and interests.
It’s a chance to experience Tokyo’s progressive and welcoming side. The area is most lively at night, but many establishments are welcoming throughout the day. It’s advisable to explore different venues, as each has its unique charm and clientele.
While Ni-chome is known for its nightlife, it’s also a place of cultural significance with various events and gatherings celebrating diversity. Be respectful of the community and mindful of local customs.
9. Visit Hanazono Shrine
Hanazono Shrine is a serene and spiritual experience amidst the bustling things to do in Shinjuku. This Shinto shrine, nestled in the heart of Shinjuku, offers a peaceful retreat and a glimpse into traditional Japanese culture.
It’s known for its beautiful red torii gate and tranquil atmosphere. For visitors, it’s an ideal spot for quiet reflection and to enjoy the traditional architecture and shrine gardens.
Try to visit during one of the many festivals held here, like the Tori-no-Ichi festival in November, for a more vibrant experience with food stalls and cultural activities.
Remember to follow shrine etiquette, such as cleansing your hands at the entrance and being respectful of the sacred space. Photography is allowed, but be mindful of worshippers.
10. Enjoy the view from the Park Hyatt Tokyo’s New York Bar
Park Hyatt Tokyo’s New York Bar is a sophisticated and luxurious inclusion in your list of things to do in Shinjuku. Perched on the 52nd floor, this iconic bar offers stunning panoramic views of Tokyo’s skyline, including Mount Fuji on clear days.
It’s renowned for its elegant ambiance, live jazz music, and an extensive selection of cocktails and wines. Arrive early, especially on weekends, to secure a good spot by the windows.
The dress code is smart casual, adding to the upscale experience. While the prices are on the higher side, the exquisite atmosphere and breathtaking views justify the expense.
Remember, there’s a cover charge after 8 PM.
11. Explore the Omoide Yokocho alleyways
Omoide Yokocho alleyways is a step back in time and a must-do among the vibrant things to do in Shinjuku. This network of narrow lanes, also known as “Memory Lane” or “Piss Alley,” is famed for its tiny, traditional eateries and izakayas (Japanese pubs), offering an authentic glimpse into Tokyo’s post-war era.
It’s an opportunity to savor local delicacies like yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), sizzling hot pots, and sake in an intimate, retro setting. The alleyways are bustling, especially in the evenings, so be prepared for a cozy experience.
It’s a great place to mingle with locals and enjoy the lively atmosphere. Keep in mind that space is limited, and some spots may have a queue. Cash is king in many of these establishments, so have enough yen on hand.
12. Visit the Samurai Museum
Samurai Museum is a fascinating and educational journey into Japan’s warrior past, a standout among the cultural things to do in Shinjuku. This museum offers an immersive look into the samurai era with its extensive collection of armor, weapons, and artifacts.
It’s an opportunity to learn about the history, culture, and art of the samurai. The museum provides guided tours in English, which is highly recommended to fully appreciate the exhibits and stories behind them.
You can even try on samurai armor and helmets for a photo opportunity, adding a fun interactive element to your visit!
The museum is relatively small, so a visit doesn’t require a lot of time, making it easy to fit into a busy Shinjuku itinerary. Be sure to check out the souvenir shop for unique gifts.
13. Enjoy a movie at Shinjuku Wald 9 Cinema
Enjoying a movie at Shinjuku Wald 9 Cinema is a modern and comfortable entertainment option among the things to do in Shinjuku. This state-of-the-art cinema offers a wide selection of films, including the latest international blockbusters and Japanese releases, often with options for English subtitles.
It’s a chance to relax and unwind after exploring the city, with the added bonus of experiencing movie-going in Japan. The theaters are known for their comfortable seating and excellent sound systems.
It’s advisable to book tickets in advance, especially for popular films, as seats can fill up quickly. Don’t miss the chance to try unique Japanese cinema snacks, a fun twist on the traditional movie experience.
Located conveniently in central Shinjuku, it’s easy to fit a movie into your evening plans.
14. Shop at Takashimaya Times Square
Shopping at Takashimaya Times Square is a must for retail enthusiasts among the many things to do in Shinjuku. This large and modern shopping complex offers a wide range of stores, from high-end brands to popular Japanese retailers, making it a one-stop destination for all shopping needs.
It’s an ideal place to find fashion, electronics, cosmetics, and more. The complex also houses a fantastic food court and several restaurants, offering a variety of dining options. Plan to spend several hours here to fully explore the diverse offerings.
For added convenience, there are tax-free shopping options for tourists, so remember to carry your passport. The complex is easily accessible and close to Shinjuku Station, making it a convenient shopping choice.
15. Admire the architecture at Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower
Admiring the architecture of Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower is a must for architecture enthusiasts and a unique item on the list of things to do in Shinjuku. This strikingly futuristic tower, resembling a cocoon, is a symbol of innovation and creativity in Tokyo’s skyline.
It’s one of the most distinctive buildings in Shinjuku, standing out for its elliptical, cocoon-like design that represents nurturing students for the professional world. For visitors, it’s an excellent opportunity for photography, especially capturing its contrast with the surrounding buildings.
While the interior is not open to the public as it’s an educational facility, the exterior alone is worth the visit. The best views can be enjoyed from a distance or the nearby Shinjuku Central Park.
Visit at different times of the day to see how the building’s appearance changes under varying light conditions.
16. Experience VR at VR Zone Shinjuku: best activity for families
Experiencing VR at VR Zone Shinjuku is a cutting-edge adventure, adding a high-tech twist to the things to do in Shinjuku.
This facility is one of Tokyo’s premier virtual reality hubs, offering a wide array of VR experiences that range from exhilarating games to immersive simulations.
For visitors, it’s a unique opportunity to dive into worlds beyond imagination, whether it’s battling dragons, piloting giant robots, or exploring fantastical landscapes.
To make the most of your visit, it’s advisable to book sessions for popular attractions in advance, as they can get busy, especially on weekends.
Be prepared for a mix of physical activity, depending on the experience. Also, keep in mind that instructions and guidance are often available in English.
17. Walk around Shinjuku Central Park
Walking around Shinjuku Central Park is a refreshing and tranquil activity in the heart of Tokyo, making it a delightful inclusion in your list of things to do in Shinjuku.
This urban oasis offers a welcome break from the bustling city streets, with its green lawns, serene ponds, and seasonal flowers.
It’s a perfect spot for a leisurely stroll, picnic, or simply to relax and people-watch. The park also features playgrounds, making it family-friendly. Art enthusiasts will appreciate the various sculptures dotted throughout the area.
Visit during cherry blossom season for a spectacular display of blooms. It’s also a great place for a morning jog or an evening walk, offering a different vibe throughout the day.
18. Visit Shinjuku Historical Museum
Visiting the Shinjuku Historical Museum is an enriching and educational choice among the things to do in Shinjuku, offering insights into the area’s rich history.
This museum showcases the transformation of Shinjuku from a small village to a bustling metropolis, through various exhibits including maps, photographs, and artifacts.
It’s a chance to deepen their understanding of Tokyo’s development and the unique history of Shinjuku. The exhibits often feature English translations, making it accessible for international tourists.
Allocate a couple of hours for your visit to thoroughly enjoy the displays. It’s a great indoor activity, ideal for all ages and particularly intriguing for history buffs. The museum is usually less crowded, allowing for a more leisurely experience.
19. Enjoy live music at Shinjuku Loft
Shinjuku Loft is an electrifying experience and a must-do for music lovers among the things to do in Shinjuku. Known as a hub for live performances, Shinjuku Loft hosts a diverse range of music genres, from rock and punk to indie and electronic.
It’s a chance to dive into Tokyo’s vibrant music scene and discover both established and upcoming artists. It’s advisable to check the schedule in advance and book tickets for performances, as popular shows can sell out quickly.
The intimate venue provides an up-close experience with the artists, enhancing the live music atmosphere. Remember, most shows have a drink minimum, so factor that into your budget.
The Loft is known for its lively and welcoming vibe, making it a great place to mingle with locals.
20. Explore the shopping and dining at Lumine Shinjuku
Lumine Shinjuku is a delightful and stylish experience, a must-visit for anyone looking for things to do in Shinjuku. Lumine is a trendy shopping complex offering a wide range of stores, from popular international brands to unique local boutiques.
It’s an excellent spot for fashion enthusiasts and those looking for the latest Japanese trends. For dining, Lumine boasts an array of eateries and cafes, catering to diverse tastes with both Japanese and international cuisine.
Visitors should consider timing their visit during weekday afternoons for a less crowded experience. It’s also a great place to find gifts and souvenirs, with many shops offering unique items not found elsewhere.
21. Visit Taisoji Temple
Visiting Taisoji Temple is a serene and spiritually enriching activity, offering a peaceful contrast to the bustling cityscape and a unique addition to the list of things to do in Shinjuku.
This historic Buddhist temple, nestled in the heart of Shinjuku, provides a tranquil space for reflection and appreciation of traditional Japanese architecture and garden design.
It’s an opportunity to experience the quietude and beauty of a traditional temple setting. Take time to explore the temple grounds, admire the intricate details of the temple buildings, and enjoy the carefully maintained gardens.
It’s a perfect spot for a quiet break from the busy streets of Shinjuku. Be respectful of the temple’s serene environment, and remember that photography should be discreet and non-intrusive.
22. Go to a themed café, like the Cat Cafe Mocha
Going to a themed café, like the Cat Cafe Mocha, is a charming and unique experience, adding a touch of whimsy to the things to do in Shinjuku. These cafés offer a cozy environment where you can relax with a drink and enjoy the company of friendly felines.
It’s perfect for animal lovers or anyone looking for a relaxing break. Before visiting, check the café’s rules, such as washing hands before interacting with the cats and not disturbing them if they’re sleeping.
There’s usually an hourly fee, which often includes a beverage. The café provides a great opportunity for some adorable photos, but remember to turn off your camera flash to not startle the cats.
23. Enjoy art at the Shinjuku Ophthalmologist Art Gallery
Shinjuku Ophthalmologist Gallery is a unique and intriguing experience, a hidden gem in the myriad of things to do in Shinjuku. This distinctive gallery, known for its avant-garde and contemporary art exhibitions, offers a fascinating glimpse into the works of emerging and established artists, often with a focus on unconventional and experimental art.
It’s a chance to engage with Tokyo’s contemporary art scene in an intimate setting. The gallery is relatively small, so you can enjoy a thorough visit without allocating a lot of time.
It’s a good idea to check the exhibition schedule in advance as the gallery frequently updates its displays and hosts various events. Entry is usually free, making it an accessible cultural experience.
24. Visit the Shinjuku Sumitomo Building for great views of Tokyo
Visiting the Shinjuku Sumitomo Building for its view is a breathtaking experience and a highlight among the things to do in Shinjuku.
This skyscraper offers one of the best panoramic views of Tokyo from its observation deck, allowing you to see the city’s expanse, including iconic landmarks and, on clear days, Mount Fuji.
It’s an opportunity to capture stunning photographs and appreciate the vastness of Tokyo. The best times to visit are either during the day for clear city views or in the evening for a mesmerizing urban nightscape.
The observation deck is usually less crowded than other popular spots, providing a more peaceful viewing experience. There’s also a restaurant where you can enjoy a meal with a view. Entry is typically free, making it a budget-friendly option.
25. Explore the Shinjuku Batting Center
Shinjuku Batting Center is a fun and energetic activity, offering a unique sports experience among the things to do in Shinjuku. This batting center provides a chance to try your hand at baseball, a popular sport in Japan, in a casual and entertaining environment.
It’s suitable for all skill levels, from beginners to experienced players. For visitors, it’s a great way to have some active fun, whether alone or with friends. The center offers various pitching speeds, so you can choose according to your comfort level.
It’s also a good idea to wear comfortable clothing and shoes for better movement. The Shinjuku Batting Center is usually open late, making it a perfect evening activity after a day of sightseeing.
26. Discover the nightlife in Kabukicho Ichibangai Street
Enjoying the nightlife at Kabukicho Ichibangai is an exhilarating experience, a highlight among the many things to do in Shinjuku.
Known as Tokyo’s entertainment and red-light district, Kabukicho Ichibangai is a vibrant area teeming with bars, clubs, restaurants, and unique entertainment venues like the Robot Restaurant.
It’s a chance to immerse themselves in Tokyo’s lively night scene. It’s advisable to stay aware and cautious, as the area can be overwhelming, especially for first-time visitors. Stick to reputable establishments and be wary of street touts or overly aggressive promoters.
Exploring in a group is recommended for a safer and more enjoyable experience. Make sure to try some local izakayas for an authentic Japanese dining and drinking experience.
Remember, photography might not be appreciated everywhere, so be respectful. Kabukicho Ichibangai’s nightlife offers a dynamic and unforgettable experience, showcasing the energetic and diverse aspects of Shinjuku’s urban culture.
27. Visit the Shinjuku Gyoen Greenhouse
Shinjuku Gyoen Greenhouse is a tranquil and beautiful experience, adding a touch of nature to the things to do in Shinjuku. This greenhouse, located within the expansive Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, showcases a stunning array of tropical and subtropical plants, offering a lush escape from the urban environment.
It’s a chance to admire exotic flowers, towering palms, and rare plant species, regardless of the weather outside. The greenhouse is well-organized, with informative displays about the plants.
It’s advisable to visit during off-peak hours to avoid crowds and fully enjoy the peaceful ambiance. Don’t forget to bring a camera to capture the beauty of the unique flora.
28. Take a photography walk around Shinjuku
Taking a photography walk around Shinjuku is an engaging and creative way to explore the area, a must-do for photography enthusiasts among the things to do in Shinjuku.
This vibrant district offers a diverse range of photo opportunities, from the neon-lit streets of Kabukicho to the serene beauty of Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. For visitors, it’s an opportunity to capture the essence of Tokyo’s urban landscape, including towering skyscrapers, bustling alleyways, and hidden cultural gems.
Start your walk in the early evening to capture the transition from day to night, when Shinjuku’s lights start to illuminate the cityscape. Make sure to bring a good camera and comfortable walking shoes.
Be respectful when photographing people or private property, and always ask for permission if necessary.
29. Shop at the Shinjuku Marui Annex
Shinjuku Marui Annex is a trendy and diverse retail experience, a key highlight in the variety of things to do in Shinjuku. This fashionable department store caters to a young and stylish crowd, offering a range of clothing, accessories, cosmetics, and lifestyle goods, often from up-and-coming and niche brands.
It’s an excellent place to find unique items and explore the latest trends in Japanese fashion. The store is known for its friendly layout, making shopping enjoyable and convenient.
It’s advisable to check out the top floors for quirky and cute items that make perfect souvenirs or gifts. While exploring, don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy a snack or a meal at one of the cafes or restaurants within the building.
30. Enjoy a traditional tea ceremony at a local tea house
A traditional tea ceremony at a local tea house is a culturally immersive and serene experience, adding a touch of tranquility to the things to do in Shinjuku.
This ceremony is not just about drinking tea, but about appreciating the art and ritual involved in its preparation and presentation.
It’s an opportunity to experience a quintessential aspect of Japanese culture. When participating in a tea ceremony, dress comfortably as you may be sitting on tatami mats. Be punctual, as respect for time is important in Japanese culture.
During the ceremony, observe and follow the host’s movements and instructions. Remember to turn off your phone to maintain the serene atmosphere. Enjoy the moment, the taste of the matcha (green tea), and the sweets typically served with it.