Imperial Palace picture
Marc Buehler/Flickr

Key Info

Chiyoda-ku

Price & Hours

Free
East Gardens: 9 a.m.-4 or 5 p.m. daily

Details

Castles/Palaces, Monuments and Memorials, Parks and Gardens, Free Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
4.3

scorecard

  • 5.0Value
  • 4.0Facilities
  • 5.0Atmosphere

You'd think the Imperial Palace would be mobbed with tourists, but it's not. You can credit the lack of crowds to an application policy, which limits the number of visitors. That's because the Imperial Palace is home to the Emperor of Japan and the royal family. And before that, it was the residence for some of Japan's most important figures, including Emperor Meiji (credited for modernizing Japan) and rulers during the Edo Period (the time period before Japan was modernized by Meiji). Because of its significant importance in Japanese society, admittance to the site is hard to get (you have to put in your application several weeks in advance) and access inside the actual palace is even fewer and far between.

As such, most travelers suggest skipping the application entirely (those who went on the tour were disappointed with how little of the palace is open to visitors) and admiring the compound from afar. Visitors also say the East Gardens, which are part of the Imperial Palace complex, are much more of a sight to see. This flourishing green space has plenty of shady spots and open fields, perfect for relaxing. And during cherry blossom season, these gardens are a choice spot for locals looking to enjoy the seasonal foliage. 

Visitors are free to explore the East Gardens anytime between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. The park closes a half hour earlier during the winter and a half hour later during the summer. Tours of the palace are given at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and they usually last one hour and fifteen minutes. The closest metro station is Nijubashi-mae station. For more information and to apply for a visit, check out the Imperial Household Agency's website

See all Hotels in Tokyo »

More Best Things To Do in Tokyo

Tokyo National Museum1 of 13
Meiji Shrine2 of 13
Type
Time to Spend
#1 Tokyo National Museum

If you're looking to learn a little (or a lot) about Japan's history, the Tokyo National Museum is the place to go. This museum is one of the country's most expansive, housing about 116,000 pieces of art and artifacts that cover the longest recorded history of Japan. Strolling through the halls of its numerous buildings, you'll spot relics such as samurai armor and swords (a traveler favorite), delicate pottery, kimonos, calligraphy, paintings, and much more, some of which are designated as national treasures and Important Cultural Properties by the Japanese government. In addition to artifacts from Japan's history, you'll also find pieces from all across the Asian continent, including Buddhist scrolls that date all the way back to 607. 

Travelers were impressed with all that the Tokyo National Museum has to offer. Even some who admitted they aren't museum people enjoyed the variety of unique artifacts on display. Travelers appreciated that the museum featured English translations, something that some visitors noticed other Tokyo top attractions lacked (think the Ghibli Museum). Museum goers also say that there so much to see in the Tokyo National Museum that you probably need an entire day if you want to get through everything. If you don't have enough time to do this (or just don't want to) the best thing to do is get a map of the museum beforehand and pick what you want to do before you venture in. 

Read more
haru__q/Flickr
See full list of Best Things To Do in Tokyo »

Explore More of Tokyo

If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.

Recommended

The 50 Most Beautiful Places in the World

Let these gorgeous destinations inspire you to travel more.

Holly JohnsonJanuary 16, 2020

50 Amazing Honeymoon Ideas

From relaxing weekend getaways to epic adventures, these honeymoon trips will help couples create memories to last a lifetime.

Kyle McCarthyJanuary 8, 2020

The Cheapest Days to Fly: A Guide to the Best (and Worst) Times to Travel

Use these tips and tricks to get the best deal on your next flight.

Lyn MettlerDecember 23, 2019

30 Top Florida Weekend Getaways

Spend sun-filled days exploring Florida's beautiful beaches, cities, parks and small towns.

Gwen PratesiDecember 9, 2019

The Best Travel Backpacks for 2020

U.S. News rated the best travel backpacks using recommendations from experts and consumers.

Lyn MettlerNovember 25, 2019

30 Top Wellness Retreats

Rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit at one of these relaxation-focused properties.

Kyle McCarthyNovember 21, 2019

30 Fun All-Inclusive Family Vacations

Book one of these all-inclusive trips that cover food, accommodations and activities galore.

Holly JohnsonNovember 14, 2019

5 Ways Cruise Lines Are Becoming More Environmentally Friendly

Industry considers impact as it looks to the future.

Gwen PratesiNovember 12, 2019

11 Unique and Quirky Cruise Destinations

Venture off the beaten path for an authentic cruising experience.

Christine SmithNovember 12, 2019

The 2020 Best Cruise Lines for Families

Gather up the gang and head out to sea with one of these six kid-friendly cruise lines.

Nicola WoodNovember 12, 2019