Things to do in Ueno: Cherry Blossoms, Museums, a Zoo & More

Updated October 15, 2019

Ueno is a fantastic destination with beautiful parks, interesting museums, delicious eats, and a great zoo.

Ueno, Tokyo, Japan

This guide brings you 21+ sights, eats, nightlife, and shopping experiences to discover in Ueno, Tokyo, Japan. Ueno is far more than just a cool park, zoo, and an “underground” shopping street.

Things like:

  • National Museum of Western Art
  • Smoke and Cheese Haze
  • The Warrior Celt

And much, much more.


Ueno is best known for its cultural richness and iconic, picturesque park.


In this modern, yet historic town, Ueno serves as the epicenter for people who seek knowledge of their cultural history. It’s also a place to relax while taking a break from your busy life.

It’s a city of the arts where cultural expression can be seen everywhere you look.

You can spend an entire day exploring the remarkable museums or having fun at the zoo where you can see some of Japan’s native species. Visit the giant panda that China gifted Japan in 1972 as a symbol of the normalization of the relationship between Japan and China.

You don’t have to visit the museums or the zoo to appreciate the historic temples and shrines that can be found inside the park as well.

There are many scenic walkways where you will find historical monuments to visit. They are great for picture taking, but when you understand the history of Ueno, these monuments will have much more of an impact.

Ueno park has always been a safe-haven of sorts to the Japanese people. During the bombings of Tokyo, it provided them protection, and during the Great Kanto Earthquake, it was once again a place where they sought shelter and security.

Eventually, it became a gateway for people coming in from different regions in search of employment, and when they arrived, they were greeted by a wall painting entitled “Freedom.”

This sparked hope in those who entered and eventually inspired the people to keep this park as a cultural awareness of our ancestors and their struggles that brought us to where we are today.

1-Day Itinerary in Ueno

Morning

We’re going to start our morning off with breakfast inside the train station at either Wired Café Atre or at Andersen. Both are quick places for a coffee and something to get you started. Once you are ready to go, we will head out to Ueno Park.

At this point, there really could be two separate itineraries, one for adults and one for people with smaller children.

We are going to start off visiting all three Museums, but if you have little ones, I would recommend skipping the museums and going straight to the zoo.

If you don’t have kids, you might want to spend your time in the museums and skip the zoo. Or do both…your choice.

The first museum we’ll visit will be the National Museum of Western Art. On the way over, take the time to stop and see the different shrines, statues, and lanterns along the way.

After you have visited the Western Art Museum, we will go next door to the National Museum of Nature and Science, and then on to the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum.

At this point, if you have spent most of the morning at the museum and are ready for lunch, I recommend Restaurant Muse inside the Metropolitan Art Museum.

But if you just kind of browsed through and it’s still pretty early, then we’ll head for the Ueno Zoo.

The zoo has many animal areas to visit, like the giant panda, but also make sure to visit the Toshogu Shrine, Five-Storied Pagoda of Kan’ei-ji, Shinobazuno Pond, Bentendo Temple, and Ueno Toshogu Shrine.

Afternoon

If you didn’t eat lunch yet, then I highly recommend grabbing lunch at Ueno 3153 or Ueno Bamboo Garden. After you have eaten, it’s time for some shopping! One of the most popular shopping destinations is Ameyoko street.

While there, make sure to grab something sweet from any of the crowd-pleasing dessert stands along the way.

Ueno Marui is right around the corner and offers a more typical indoor mall experience if you are still up for some more shopping.

Evening

Shopping definitely works up an appetite, so if you are ready for dinner, I would recommend Smoke and Cheese Haze. You have so many delicious options to choose from, but this one is one of my personal favorites.

Although, if cheese isn’t your thing and you want something that’s not so touristy, then you have to try Kazu Taste.  It’s a favorite among the locals and serves traditional Japanese cuisine.

After dinner, head over to Bar Samurai or Cocktail Works for a perfect nightcap.

Me personally, I prefer to combine my dinner with my nightcap, and for that reason, I recommend The Warrior Celt or World End Irish Pub. Both offer excellent pub food, ice-cold beer, and have a high-spirited atmosphere that is perfect for sending you off with great memories to share.

Top Sights in Ueno

Ueno Zoo

Home to over 3,000 animals, including 3 of the rarest – the Giant Panda, Pygmy Hippopotamus, and the Okapi (zebra giraffe). 

Ueno Zoo also houses some really incredible creatures that are unique to Japan. Here, you can get a close look at the elegant Japanese Crane, Japanese Salamander, White Stork, and the Japanese Serow. 

This is a highlight while visiting Ueno. The animals are well taken care of, but because this is an older zoo, the enclosures are smaller than what you might think they should be. If you are sensitive to this type of thing, I suggest sticking with the panda’s and then visiting the other attractions the zoo has to offer. 

Ueno Zoo map pin

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Ueno Park

Ueno Park, Tokyo, Japan

Inside Ueno Onshi Park is where you will find most of Ueno’s top sights to visit. 

This is where you will find the zoo, renowned museums as well as beautiful shrines, temples, gardens, and ponds to enjoy.

It’s also a popular spot for enjoying the cherry blossom’s when they are in bloom. 

Inside you’ll find:

  • Shinobazu Pond – on the south part of the park and is separated into 3 different ponds: Lotus pond, Boat pond, Cormorant pond. A beautiful site to see when the water lilies are blooming. Keep your eye out for migratory ducks and birds as well as alligator snapping turtles.
  • Bentendo Temple –A floating hexagonal tower floating in the middle of the Shinobazu pond. Named after Benzaiten, a goddess who is enshrined there is said to bring good luck.
  • Toshogu Shrine – This is a very strikingly beautiful shrine that was built to honor the religion of Shinto and Tokugawa Leyasur, the Shogunate who unified all of the primitive domains of Japan.
  • Hanazonoinari Shrine – designed after the popular Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto, this shrine is a smaller version but has the same red torii gates that line the walkway to the shrine. A popular spot amongst tourists for Instagram photos.

Ueno Park map pin

National Museum of Western Art

The oldest and largest art museum in Japan, where you can see medieval Japanese art as well as Asian cultural objects.

There are seven special exhibits, each holding their own collection of works and relics. The museum has restaurants and shops for snacks and souvenirs and even has its own garden for relaxing.

National Museum map pin

National Museum of Nature and Science

COST: ¥620 for all regular exhibits
OPEN: Mon-Thu: 0930-1730; Fri/Sat: 0930-2100; Sun: 0930 – 1800;
closed Mondays

Learn how humans came to inhabit Japan and how their interaction with nature precipitated rice cultivation and how that cultivation influenced technology.

If you remember the story of Hachiko, the ever-loyal dog who waited at Shibuya station for his master, you will be delighted by seeing his stuffed body here.

There is a meteorite that fell on China, a fighter plane from WWII, a 360 theater, a 3D movie theater, and much more.

Nature and Science Museum  map pin

Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum

Enjoy strolling through 6 galleries of contemporary Japanese art with artistic expressions in paintings, sculpture, ceramics, and calligraphy. 

No matter your specific taste in art, there are plenty of showcases that are sure to captivate your interest.

Metropolitan Art Museum map pin


Eating in Ueno

Wired Cafe Atre Ueno Store

Wired Cafe Atre Ueno Store

You will find this café located inside the train station in the basement corridor next to Ueno Station’s Retro Gate. 

It’s a quaint little place to grab a quick breakfast and a coffee before heading out to explore Ueno. Their menu is varied but has a decent selection of foreigner-friendly food.

Wired Café map pin

Andersen

Andersen, Ueno, Tokyo, Japan

Andersen is a modern little bakery located inside the train station, making it really convenient, it’s the best place for people on the move. 

Everything is presented in a way that’s easy for you just grab what you want, pay, and go.

Of course, you can always grab a seat and enjoy your coffee, whichever you prefer.

Andersen map pin

Restaurant Muse

An inviting, open restaurant inside the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum that caters to the variety of taste preferences that will surely be visiting the museum. 

Their menu serves both Eastern and Western foods with English speaking staff.

Restaurant Muse map pin

Kamonka Ueno Bamboo Garden

Kamonka Ueno Bamboo Garden

This is a great place if you are in the mood for Chinese food. 

When you walk in you will notice that the place looks like it was decorated by an expensive designer in a modern motif. They use traditional Chinese ingredients and import seasonally.

This is one of the places where you can try the controversial Shark Fin Stew; although, it is a little pricey.

Kamonka Bamboo Garden map pin

Hard Rock Cafe Tokyo

This place really needs no introduction. It is a classic American style restaurant that serves hamburgers, French fries, onion rings, and the like. 

It is a smaller version than the more typical restaurant and is found inside the train station on the basement floor. 

But don’t let that deter you! The rockin’ ambiance is still the same, and so is the music memorabilia that decorate the walls.

Hard Rock Cafe Tokyo map pin

Ueno 3153

Ueno 3153

If you’re not sure what you are in the mood for and just need some options, then try this place out. 

There are 3 stories of restaurants and cafés with more than fifteen dining options to choose from. 

There is an oyster bar, an American diner, seafood, teppanyaki, shabu-shabu, and more.  

Ueno 3153 map pin


Smoke and Cheese Haze

Smoke and Cheese Haze

Definitely not for the lactose intolerant, but absolutely for the cheese lover! 

It’s a simple menu with big flavor, and it is a perfect accompaniment to an ice-cold beer. You have a choice between roast beef, mature wood ham, or just a plate of cubed bread and meats that they will cover with melted cheese that has been resting in from of a fire pit. 

They bring the whole wheel over and gently scoop off the melted cheese and cover your plate with this smoky gooiness – and its heaven.

Smoke and Cheese Haze map pin

Kazu Taste

This place is not a typical tourist spot. 

They serve high-end Japanese cuisine, but without the high price.  It is a cozy and comfortable restaurant where you can enjoy your meal in peace, which is the reason it’s a favorite among the locals. 

You can expect your meals to be served in different courses with lots of varying sashimi choices.

Kazu Taste map pin


Local Top Chef Recommendations

Ever wonder where chefs go to eat after a long day’s work? One thing is for sure, the bar is going to be set pretty high, and you know it’s going to be satisfyingly delicious. 

Here a few of their favorite places in Ueno:

Torie

Torie

Recommended by Chef Takashi Hosonaga, of Yakitori-Taka restaurant. 

Torie specializes in charcoal-grilled chicken skewers, otherwise known as yakitori. To produce its unique flavor that would be hard to find anywhere else, Torie restaurant uses 5 brands of chicken. 

To accompany the skewers, try the oyakodon, a rice bowl with chicken and eggs.

Torie map pin

Nidaime Kei

Recommended by Chef Hisashi Terasawa, of Spain Club Ginza, he eats here specifically for the oysters. 

Of course, you don’t have to eat oysters if that’s not your thing, it is also the place where you will find the best seafood around. 

Enjoy a nice cup of sake while you watch your food be cooked in front of you in a sunken fire pit.

Nidaime Kei map pin


Drinking in Ueno

The Warrior Celt

The Warrior Celt

This is not the place to go if you are looking for a quiet drink to end the evening! 

It is, however, the place to go where you are always welcomed by the long-lost friends you’ve never met. 

The staff wants to make sure you have a good time, and that mentality is contagious. It is also the reason you can effortlessly lose yourself and track of time. 

But is that a bad thing? 

Only if you have to catch the last train out. One thing is for sure, you’ll leave with a heck of a story to tell in the morning!

The Warrior Celt map pin

The World End Irish Pub

It’s nothing fancy, but who needs their Guinness to be fancy anyway?  

It is perfect for what it is, an Irish Pub. 

You won’t find loud sports groups, or music blaring overhead, just good food to go with great beer. That’s all you need.

The World End Irish Pub map pin

Bar Samurai

You have to check this place out. 

When you walk in, you feel like you have stepped into a really exclusive club. 

The bar counter alone is astonishing, but the whole place is exceptional. It’s a place to stop in and sip on a custom-made cocktail while enjoying the company you came with.

Bar Samurai map pin

Cocktail Works

A sophisticated, classy cocktail bar that is meant to be enjoyed with a group of friends. 

They have elegant appetizers that pair nicely with your lavish cocktail. This is the kind of place where you meet up with friends to talk the night away, or where you and your spouse can sit and enjoy a lovely evening together.

Cocktail Works map pin



Shopping in Ueno

Marui Department Store

Here you will find 9 floors of trendy Tokyo fashion, household items, and just about anything else you would find at a typical mall. 

The first four floors are dedicated to female fashion, the fifth floor is mostly accessories, and the sixth and seventh floor is for men fashion. 

The eighth floor is home goods, and the ninth floor is where you will find food.

Mauri map pin

Ameya Yokocho

Called Ameyoko for short, this area is like an outdoor mall, but with a local farmer/flea market vibe. 

It’s almost always crowded, but it is primarily on the weekends and around New Year’s. This is where you will find the best prices on just about anything you are looking for. 

Ameyoko used to be home to a black market after the war. Plus, there is a plethora of incredibly tasty food, and dessert stands to satisfy your taste buds while on the go. 

And yes, you can eat and walk here.

Ameyoko map pin

Yamashiroya

This is the place to find Japanese or International toys and collectibles. 

Of course, there are 6 floors, so it is also where you will find a vast selection of popular items like Star Wars, Lego, and Barbie. They have everything from Studio Ghibli to Disney, and it is always packed. 

One of the things children love in Japan is the capsule toy vending machines. Here you will find 60 machines that will instantly capture your little one’s attention.

Yamashiroya map pin


Is Ueno Park free?

The park itself is free to roam, explore, and just plain enjoy. However, it does cost to get into the attractions that are located inside the park. 


How much does Ueno Zoo cost?

  • Admission is free for children under 12
  • 200 yen for children 12-14
  • 600 yen for adults 15-64.
  • 300 yen for senior citizens.

How much does it cost to get into the Tokyo National Museum?

Adults 19-69 years of age are 620 yen per person. A group of 20 or more at this age is 520 yen per person. 

University students are 410 per person. A group of 20 or more is 310 yen per person

High school, Junior High, Elementary School Students under the age of 18 are free

Seniors over 70 are also free.


Is Ueno worth visiting?

Absolutely!  

Ueno offers you a more laid back kind of day than the hustle and bustle of downtown Tokyo. The park alone is worth the visit, but the museums are pretty amazing. 

Of course, depending on your point of view when it comes to shopping, it will either be one of the best things you’ve done, or nothing special, but it really depends on you.


What is Ueno Koreatown

It’s not an official town on the map, but you can ask anyone in Ueno and they know exactly where it is. 

Koreatown is north of Kabukicho and east of Shin-Okubo, but of course, you will know it when you see it. Koreatown has a very different look and feels to it. 

Oh, and the smell, there is a totally different smell to this little city within a city. 

Thanks to Japan’s labor shortage in the ’80s, migrant workers started to flood the area. As they set up shop, they brought their heritage with them. 

They have expanded over time due to more Korean families coming over, but also because people respond to the experience of Koreatown. 

It gives people a little taste of the Korean culture.


What to do in Ueno Zoo

When visiting the zoo, the first thing that you must see is the pandas. They are absolutely the main event at the zoo. 

Another unique animal to see is the Okapi. It is a cross between a zebra and a giraffe and just a very different looking kind of animal. 

Of course, there are many other animals to see, it is a zoo after all, but Ueno Zoo is also where you will find other attractions that are must-sees in Ueno. 

For example, Shinobazu Pond, the five-storied pagoda, and Bentendo temple can be found on zoo grounds.


What are your favorite things about Ueno?

Been to Ueno? Or maybe researched a lot and have a really cool place you want to check out?

Tell me about it in the comments below.



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