The Best Things to Do in Shinjuku, Tokyo

Shinjuku street view

Alexander Spatari/ Getty

Tokyo's famous entertainment district, busy Shinjuku, is awash with neon and everything you could want to experience in Tokyo. From one of the city's most famous gardens to endless shopping options, and alleyways brimming with bars and restaurants, this is a real day to night area that seemingly never sleeps. With diverse nightlife on offer, including a wide selection of gay bars, everyone is catered to in this area. Those who prefer to spend their evenings in late-night cafes, at the theatre, or even in a bookshop will also find something for them. Here are the best things to do in Shinjuku.

01 of 10

Explore Shinjuku’s Hidden Alleyways

Shinjuku Yokocho

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Shinjuku is particularly famous for its yokocho—alleyways and side streets typically found in Tokyo’s business areas—and as people pour out of offices and into the izakaya for drinks and food, it’s easy to see why.  Perhaps most popular in Shinjuku is the Golden Gai, where you can enjoy over two hundred bars and restaurants across seven alleyways. Omoide or Memory Lane is another popular spot, conveniently located outside the West exit of Shinjuku station and bursting with traditional food stalls. Due to its cramped and bustling atmosphere, steaming food, and bright lanterns, Memory Lane is popular with photographers in the evening. Nearby is Nonbei Yokocho, also known colloquially as Piss Alley, which began as an illegal drinking quarter during World War II—this is one of the best places to try yakitori, chicken skewers washed down with beer, whiskey highballs, or sake. Most izakaya will be shut during the day, so this is a perfect way to spend your evening after a busy day.

02 of 10

Wander Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Shinjuku Gyoen Park

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One of Tokyo’s largest and most beloved parks is less than a 10-minute walk from Shinjuku Station and has a lot to offer whatever the season. The garden dates back to 1590 and was formerly the private mansion of a feudal lord, completed in 1906. With busy Shinjuku surrounding the park, the meandering paths and manicured trees and shrubs around the lake provide a tranquil respite. It’s a popular cherry blossom viewing spot with hanami parties held there during the spring, and, in November, you can enjoy the chrysanthemum exhibition. The Momiji path is perfect for seeing those fiery colors of the maple trees in the fall. The park is separated into the English Garden, the French Garden, and the Japanese Garden. Be prepared to spend a few hours wandering. 

11 Naitōmachi, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0014, Japan
Phone +81 3-3350-0151
03 of 10

Visit the Samurai Museum

Samurai Armour

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Delve into the samurai world and see this impressive collection of samurai armor, weapons, art, and paraphernalia spanning seven hundred years. You will also be able to see live demonstrations with weapons and participate in workshops. Another highlight of visiting is enjoying the Samurai Museum shop, where you can be unique souvenirs and samurai-related items, including antique katana and other swords as well as armor—they also offer free international shipping. Hence, there’s no need to worry about luggage restrictions. Within a 10-minute walk from Shinjuku Station, the Samurai Museum is one of the most memorable things to do in Shinjuku.

Japan, 〒160-0021 Tokyo, Shinjuku City, Kabukichō, 2-chōme−25−6 ホライズン・ビルディング 1F・2F
Phone +81 3-6457-6411
04 of 10

Pick up Souvenirs at Don Quixote

Don Quixote Shinjuku Shopping

Yanis Ourabah/ Getty

Stepping into the organized chaos of Don Quijote is an experience in itself, but this infamous general discount store contains everything and anything you could want to buy in Japan. Spread over five floors, you will find everything from kitchen supplies to beauty and makeup products to anime and Jpop-themed toys and memorabilia. Not only do they provide duty-free purchases, but they also conveniently accept U.S. dollars and other foreign currencies and foreign credit cards. 

Japan, 〒160-0022 Tokyo, Shinjuku City, Shinjuku, 5-chōme−11−28, Star Heim, 101
Phone +81 90-5775-0407
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05 of 10

Enjoy the Kabukicho Nightlife

Kabukicho Gate

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Whatever you like to do in the evening, you will find it in Kabukicho. Aside from enjoying the bustling and boozy side streets, Kabukicho is also the heart of Tokyo’s gay scene, and though you won’t find any giant nightclubs, the cluster of intimate and vibrant bars will keep you busy; you will also find LGBTQ+ friendly restaurants and cafes in the area. If you prefer to spend your time at the movies or late-night bookshops, restaurants, and cafes, you can also find it here. You will also find the infamous Robot Restaurant here if you fancy a quirky night of lights, food, and music.

06 of 10

Browse the Art at Yayoi Kusama Museum

Yayoi Kusama Exhibition

Junko Kimura / Staff/ Getty

Founded by the avant-garde artist Yayoi Kusama and run by the Yayoi Kusama Foundation, this is a must-visit for anyone who is a fan of her work or wants to learn about one of Japan’s most iconic artists. The museum presents significant works from Kusama’s earlier years until the present day and holds regular events and lectures to get to know her work more intimately. Instantly recognizable, Kusama’s work has been installed worldwide, from the famous infinity rooms to the pumpkin sculptures found in the most unlikely places.

107 Bentenchō, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 162-0851, Japan
07 of 10

Enjoy the Views from Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

Tokyo skyline view

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With two free observation decks, this is one of the city's most famous city skyline photography spots. Offering panoramic views of the city and beyond, it's the second tallest building in Tokyo and a perfect location to observe other iconic Tokyo buildings such as the Tokyo Skytree and Tokyo Tower from above. Both observatories, one in each tower, have their own souvenir shop and cafe.

2-chōme-8-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 163-8001, Japan
Phone +81 3-5321-1111
08 of 10

Enjoy a Bowl of Ramen

Close-up of ramen noodles in red bowl on table
Jackyenjoyphotography / Getty Images

Competition is fierce for the best bowl of ramen in the foodie hub of Shinjuku, with over three hundred ramen restaurants in the area; as a result, you can enjoy some of Tokyo’s most delicious ramen right here. Vegans don’t have to miss out here either, with Ippudo, Shinjuku Gyoen Ramen Ouka, and Menya Musashi offering delicious and innovative vegan options. Menya Sho is popular with visitors due to its English menu and easy ordering system; their chicken shio ramen is one of the best in the area. You can visit Afuri for their signature spicy and yuzu ramen dishes for something a bit different. 

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09 of 10

Spend a Night at New National Theatre, Tokyo

New National Theatre Tokyo


Spend a night at Tokyo's famous New National Theatre, considered the heart of performing arts in Japan. Performances range from opera and ballet to their range of dramas, including timeless classics and recent shows from Japan and worldwide. Shows are subtitled into multiple languages and clearly stated on the website on a show-by-show basis. Tickets can be bought online or through the box office.

1-chōme-1-1 Honmachi, Shibuya City, Tokyo 151-0071, Japan
Phone +81 3-5351-3011
10 of 10

Enjoy a Cocktail and View at Park Hyatt Tokyo

Park Hyatt Shinjuku

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If you have seen the award-winning film "Lost in Translation," you will be aware of the iconic bar scene with views of the Tokyo nighttime skyline. Park Hyatt Shinjuku, which sits on top of Shinjuku Park Tower, was the filming location. As a result, the bar draws hundreds of visitors to the Sitting in the Club bar to get a drink, some snacks, and enjoy the truly spectacular views. You can also stay the night in the hotel and enjoy the facilities and indoor pool, which also has an excellent view.

3-chōme-7-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 163-1055, Japan
Phone +81 3-5322-1234
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The Best Things to Do in Shinjuku, Tokyo