Best for history and location: around the Imperial Palace
The enigmatic Imperial Palace lies at Tokyo’s geographical and spiritual heart. Home to the emperor and his family since 1868, the palace itself is closed to the public, but the surrounding parks are a natural place to start any exploration of Tokyo.
Japanese-style luxury: Hoshinoya. Tokyo has been crying out for a place like this, and finally it’s here – a top-end hotel with ryokan-like elements to its décor and service.
Classic style and convenience: Tokyo Station. A grand old dame of a hotel, recently renovated – designers have plumped for dainty Euro-chic in the rooms and chandeliers all over the place.
Best for big spenders: Ginza and around
Look east from the Imperial Palace and you’ll see row upon row of high-rise buildings. Many of the city’s swankiest places to eat, drink and sleep can be found within these mushrooming towers, in between which stretch crowded streets that are transformed come dusk into neon-lit canyons. Most hotels here are, unsurprisingly, rather expensive.
Sweeping views: Conrad Tokyo. It’s the views that really steal the show at this luxury hotel – from the lobby and bayside rooms feast your eyes on what are arguably the best vistas in Tokyo, taking in Hama Rikyū Gardens, Odaiba and the Rainbow Bridge.
Cosy and comfortable: Ginza Bay Hotel. It’s more expensive than most capsule hotels, but designed with far more care too. It’s also the cheapest place to stay in the Ginza area.
Best for traditional style: Asakusa and Ueno
Ueno is way up north and not terribly convenient (though it has a major station), but there are lots of sights in and around the area – notably Ueno Kōen, which contains several excellent museums. South of this large park are a few good spots, such as the bustling, rough-and-ready Ameyokochō market. Further south again is a cluster of love hotels.
Just to Ueno’s east, Asakusa is one of Tokyo’s most characterful areas, and the de facto choice for backpackers thanks to its large concentration of hostels. There are also some great ryokan choices here, as well as the city’s most venerable Buddhist temple, Sensō-ji.
Best traditional ryokan: Sukeroku-no-vado Sadachiyo. Step back into Edo-era Asakusa in this delightful old inn marked by a willow tree and stone lanterns, northwest of Sensō-ji temple. Dinner and breakfast are included, and they can arrange performances of traditional arts, including geisha dances.
Best hostel: Khaosan Tokyo Origami. This hostel is an appealing option – rooms have been given Japanese stylings, and you’ll see a fair few paper cranes around the place. There are grand views of Asakusa from the lounge, and the location can’t be sniffed at.
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Best for 24-hour living: Akasaka and Roppongi
At one time pretty much all about nightlife, this area is now also known as Tokyo’s arts hub – Roppongi is home to the National Art Center, Suntory Museum of Art and Mori Art Museum. The iconic Tokyo Tower, nearby, also draws the daytime crowds. Roppongi boasts some of Tokyo’s best hotels, while Akasaka is somewhat earthier, and correspondingly cheaper.
Post-partying peace: Kaisu. One of the only hostels in the club-heavy Roppongi area. However, this is no party hostel, but a beautiful place set into an old geisha house.
Old-school style: Grand Hyatt Tokyo. Glamour is the order of the day at the Grand Hyatt. The rooms’ appealing design uses wood and earthy-toned fabrics, while the restaurants and bars are all very chic.