To put it bluntly, you can’t get bored in Ueno. Even us cheapos could enjoy multiple days here without bleeding our wallets dry. You’ve probably heard about the usual the stuff: that zoo with pandas! That famous park! All the museums! Well, there’s all that, and more.
What to eat and drink in Ueno
With all the fun you’ll be having, you can bet you’ll need to take some food breaks in between. One of our favorite tsukemen (noodles with broth served in a separate dish) restaurants, Menya Musashi Bukotsu Souden, is right near Ueno Station.
Another good eating spot is Okachimachi, Ueno’s neighbor to the south. You need to walk a little, but it’s well-known for its good eats. We love getting seafood donburi (a rice bowl dish) at Minatoya, and other reasonably priced places are in no short supply.
Back to Ueno, the park takes up most of the space, and pretty much every weekend you could just stop by and find some cheap food stand fare at an ongoing festival. Seriously, something’s always going on, and depending on the event, you could get some pretty unusual foreign cuisine. Remember, the park is your friend for food and fun.
What to do in Ueno
Speaking of fun, to make things easy, we made a handy-dandy list of 10 free/cheap things to do AND a half-day walking tour for Ueno. Of course, we’ve got the museums, zoo and famous Ameya-Yokocho Market covered here. As an added tip, we suggest using the Grutt Pass for free or discounted entry to tons of museums or visiting Ueno Zoo on one of its Free Admission Days (yes, that’s a thing).
And again, the rest of the park is also your friend. On weekdays you’ve got a nice place for a stroll and entertaining—and sometimes bizarre—street performers. On weekends there is always a festival (or at least 99% of the time). In spring, hordes of people sit under the cherry blossoms for hanami as well. If you can actually find a place to sit, it’s definitely a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.
Lastly, we’d like to throw in a good word for is Nezu Shrine. It’s just northwest of the park, and it’s 1) one of Japan’s oldest shrines and survived the bombing of Tokyo in WWII, 2) it’s beautiful, and 3) it’s got way more peace and quiet than Ueno Park or any other major shrine in Tokyo. So go, seriously.
Where to stay in Ueno
With all the attractions in Ueno, they’ve somehow managed to squeeze in a few good cheapo-friendly places to stay (praise for Japan’s insane use of space!). We found hotels like Tokyo Ueno New Izu Hotel and our go-to safety pick Super Hotel has branches in the neighborhood too.
There are also lots of hostels in the area. We like Oak Hotel. Our full list of Ueno accommodations with our seal of approval is here.