Tokyo is a sprawling city, the most populated city in the world in fact! We were eager to see all that combustion in action all together from a killer skyline view. The Tokyo Tower offers a stunning view of Tokyo, but comes with a high price tag too.
Instead, the best free view of Tokyo can be found at the Tokyo Metropolitan Building.
The Best Free View of Tokyo [Travel Hack]
We love observing every city we visit from a panoramic view: Coit Tower in San Francisco, California; Space Needle in Seattle, Washington; Willis Tower in Chicago, Illinois; CN Tower in Toronto, Canada; Plaça d’Espanya in Barcelona, Spain; and our favorite: The Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, Australia!
Why View the City From Above?
Ariel views of Japan offer a perspective of the area like no other. You can view the city from a vantage point that shows you where you’ve been and what you’ve experienced on a broader scale.
Conversely, you can also see where you want to go and what you want to experience in the future!
Tokyo Metropolitan Building vs. Tokyo Tower
When planning our trip, the more we kept reading about the dynamics of the Tokyo Tower, the more we kept seeing a recurring theme.
Tokyo Tower = Expensive
Tokyo Metropolitan Building = Free
We discovered we could see the same views from Tokyo Tower at the Tokyo Metropolitan Building – but for free.
It’s not quite as tall as Tokyo Tower, but it’s also not as crowded, not a tourist trap, easy to get to…, and did we mention free?
Tokyo’s Tallest Structures
Tokyo Tower held the title for tallest structure in Tokyo for 58 years, until 2010, when Tokyo Skytree was completed.
The Tokyo Skytree is nearly double the height of Tokyo Tower, and is not only the tallest tower in Tokyo but the tallest in the world. Both function as antennas for broadcasting.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Building was the tallest building through the 90’s. It is classified differently as a building vs. a tower.
You can visit all three, but only the Tokyo Metropolitan Building offers the best free view of Tokyo.
Why Save Money?
When you travel as much as we do it only makes sense to take advantage of opportunities to save money. Especially with kids. Money saved means money you can spend on your next adventure. That is a bucket list worthy goal.
We definitely wanted to experience as much of Tokyo as possible while we were in Japan, and that includes the best view of Toyko!
How to Get to the Tokyo Metropolitan Building
It’s in a upscale part of town near the Hilton and Hyatt Hotel high rises, and the Denny’s.
If you take the JR train you’re going to want to make your way to the Tochomae Station. From there, it’s a 2 minute walk south.
Google maps is a bit misleading where the correct entrance is, but you can see the correct entrance on the map even though you can’t pin it. It reads popular observation room in a skyscraper.
You’ll want to head to the underground parking structure, but rest assured there are signs once you arrive at the building.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Building is just a short walk from the Kit Kat Chocolatory. If you plan it right you can pass through Piss Alley on your way there, a notorious location where you can dine on authentic Japanese food such as still beating frog hearts and pig testicles. From there head through the Yodobashi Camera District, low rise, ground level buildings full of electronics, lights, sounds and more to stimulate your senses.
► Ranking: #cleandiaper
Tokyo Metropolitan Building
2 Chome-8-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo 163-8001, Japan
Hours: 8am – 11pm
North or South Tower
The Tokyo Metropolitan Building has 2 towers, the North Tower and the South Tower. We went up the North Tower. The tower you visit depends on where you fall in line.
The elevator takes you straight up to the 45th floor observatory with no stops along the way, in under a minute. That’s one floor per second to the best view of Tokyo.
What Else Can You See?
From this location you can see sprawling views of the massive city that reach all the way to the horizon in every direction and never ends.
- Tokyo Tower
- Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower
- Shinjuku Chuo Park
- Shinjuku Central Park
- Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
- Meiji Jingu Gaien
- Mt. Fuji (on a clear day)
- Roppongi Hills
- Rainbow Bridge
- Tokyo Skytree
- Meiji Shrine
- Tokyo Dome
- Plus hundreds of skyscrapers & Japanese neighborhoods
Best Time of Day to Visit
We planned our visit towards sundown so we could see both day and nighttime views, plus watch all the city lights turn on and illuminate the city from above.
We stayed about two hours.
Best Gift Shop in Tokyo
The gift shop here was adorable.
There are two small open air gift shops to peruse in addition to the 360° views, though one corner of the floor is blocked off for restaurant goers.
We thought it would be so easy to track down unique, cutesy Japanese merchandise, but it was surprisingly hard. This was one of the few places we found to have a lot of great items, for decent prices.
We found some fun kids toys, magnets for our growing collection, family packs of decorated reusable chopsticks, and some Nintendo merchandise for Gabriel.
► For Kids: The gift shops here are filled with tons of fun toys not just to buy, but that are open and welcome for children to play with! Our children weren’t quite as interested in the best views of Tokyo, but they had a blast playing with all the toys.
What do you think? Do you prefer Tokyo Tower, or Tokyo Metropolitan Building?
► Nap-Time Version: The best view of Tokyo that’s free! Lines are short, it’s not crowded, and it’s not a tourist trap!
Be sure to check our our full Tokyo itinerary to make the most of your trip to the land of the rising sun!