In Tokyo, art lovers are spoiled for choice: There are just so many good museums and galleries to choose from. This 1-Day Art Lovers Itinerary is the best way to see the four best museums in Tokyo without tiring yourself out.
Nezu Museum with Japanese Garden
Tokyo Art Lovers Itinerary Summary
- This itinerary includes the Tokyo National Museum (Ueno), the Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum (Tokyo Station Area), the Nezu Museum (Harajuku/Aoyama), and the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum (Meguro).
- Base yourself somewhere central to save time (see Notes below).
Tokyo Art Lovers Full Itinerary
- Visit the district pages linked below for full details on the museums mentioned below. Check the websites of the actual museums to see what exhibitions are currently on and plan accordingly. Note that three of the museums here are closed on Mondays, while the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum is closed 2nd and 4th Wednesdays.
- 9:00am: Ueno – Tokyo National Museum
Head up to Ueno and walk across the park to the Tokyo National Museum. Try to arrive right at 9:30am, when the museum opens, because it gets very crowded later on. This museum gives you a great overview of the major periods and categories in Japanese art.
- 10:30am: Tokyo Station Area – Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum
Take the JR Yamanote Line south from Ueno to Tokyo Station. Walk south from the station to the superb Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum. Focusing on Western art, this museum is one of Tokyo's great treasures.
- Noon: Tokyo Station Area – Lunch
The area in and around Tokyo Station is crammed with restaurants. The Marunouchi Brick Square, just outside the Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum (above) is a good place to eat and is slightly less crowded than places closer to the station at lunch hour. For more choices, see my Tokyo Station Area Places to Eat section.
- 1:30pm: Harajuku – Nezu Museum
Take the Ginza subway line from Nijubashimae Station (very close to the Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum) to Omotesando Station in Harajuku. From this station, it's a short walk east to the wonderful Nezu Museum. The museum alone is well worth a visit, but the garden (admission is included with museum entry) is breathtaking – it's probably my favorite place in all of Tokyo! Don't miss it.
- 3:00pm: Meguro - Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum
Take the Chiyoda subway line one stop west to Meiji Jingumae (Harajuku) Station and switch to the JR Yamanote Line and ride it south three stops to Meguro. Exit and walk east for about 15 minutes to this seldom-visited Art Deco (by tourists at least) building which houses an every-changing schedule of fine exhibitions. Don't miss the adjoining garden.
- If you're only going to be in the city for one day, you should try to base yourself in a central location so you don't waste time moving around. I'd suggest Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ginza or the Tokyo Station area. For more on where to say, check out my Where to Stay in Tokyo page.
- If you're tired or just want to sleep in, cut out Ueno and the National Museum and start at the Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum in the Tokyo Station Area. This allows for a much more relaxed pace during the day.
- Don't try to do any more than this in one day in Tokyo – you'll tire yourself out. If you want to relax, subtract one or two places from this itinerary. As usual, it's better to enjoy a few places properly than to sprint through many places.
Tokyo Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Tokyo guide
- Check Tokyo accommodation availability and pricing on Booking.com – usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Tokyo
- You can buy a Japan SIM card online with Klook for collection on arrival at Tokyo Narita or Haneda airports. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Compare airline flight prices and timings for the best Japan flight deals.
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass – here's why it's worth it
- A prepaid Suica card makes travelling around Tokyo much easier - here's how
- Get esssential travel insurance for Tokyo – World Nomads is well-regarded (and here's why)