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

14 Top Jigsaw Puzzles, Games and Books to Keep Travelers Entertained

Even though you're stuck at home, you can still indulge your wanderlust with these activities.

15 Top Cookbooks to Buy

Travel to far-flung destinations and enjoy international food without leaving home.

The 12 Best Language-Learning Apps, Programs and Online Courses

Now is the perfect time to learn a new skill.

The 13 Best Sedona Tours

Get lost in the magic of Sedona's red rocks on these top adventures.

What is an Ecolodge? 21 Top Eco Resorts and Eco Hotels Around the World

Luxury meets environmental welfare at these top-notch ecolodges.

The 12 Best Puerto Rico Tours

Experience island living at its best on one of these guided trips.

I Went On a Cruise During the Coronavirus Pandemic. This Is What Happened.

Coronavirus concerns, itinerary changes and uncertainty lead to an unusual vacation.

5 Travel-Themed Activities to Do at Home During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Use these suggestions to fill the travel void amid the pandemic.

Cancel For Any Reason Travel Insurance: What You Need to Know

If you are rescheduling a vacation or booking a future trip, consider purchasing an insurance policy with the CFAR benefit.

The 21 Best Costa Rica Tours

Dive into this natural paradise on these exceptional excursions.