First and foremost, anyone visiting the Ueno area has got to take a stroll through the Ueno Park. It's a prominent feature of the old shitamachi (traditional neighborhood) of Tokyo and has been featured in many works of art for its stunning beauty. It encompasses a shrine and an amazing lotus pond. To see the lotus flowers, head to the park towards the end of the summer. Some restaurants also open during that season around the pond. It's definitely worth dining at one of them!
If you happen to visit in spring, you're in luck because the park has an abundance of sakura (cherry blossom) trees! For the Japanese, it's a popular spot to have a picnic with friends and coworkers so at the peak of the blossom season, expect the park to be packed with cheerful crowds.
Access to the park is easy from the JR Ueno Station. It only takes about a minute walk from the station.
Within the Ueno Park, there is Japan's oldest zoo, the Ueno Zoo. It's managed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. For a low entry fee (600 yen for adults, free for young children), you can see many kinds of exotic animals including gorillas, flamingos, polar bears and, the most popular inhabitants, giant pandas from China!
Ueno Park Museums
Ueno Park is truly a paradise for art lovers! It has a collection of world-class museums with entry fees that are ridiculously cheap (about 500 yen for an adult entry). If you are really into museums, you can easily spend the whole day visiting Ueno Park's museums.
National Museum of Western Art
The NMWA is quite possibly the most important museum of Japan because it boasts many world-class collections of western art, mostly paintings from renowned artists from the 18th to the 20th century. The museum building is a cultural asset in itself as it was designed by Swiss architect Le Corbusier.
National Museum of Nature and Science
For those who prefer nature and science to art, this is the place for you to visit! You'll find many exhibitions about natural history, many of which are interactive.
Ancient Asian and Japanese art lovers must visit this museum! It's one of the largest museums in the world, housing over 100,000 objects, of which 87 are listed as Japanese National Treasures.
Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
This museum exhibits collections of both western and Japanese art. Exhibitions typically last 2 to 3 months. Check out the link below to see current, past and future exhibitions.
The Ueno Royal Museum is the only private museum within the park. Admission fees vary based on the event. It exhibits original world-wide collections and features the Japanese Nature Painting Exhibition every year.
Once you're done with your museum tour, you might want to head out to one of Tokyo's most vibrant street market, an area of back alleys called Ameyoko. You'll find heaps of small shops selling delicious street foods, cheap restaurants, izakaya taverns, discount clothing shops and much more!
The entrance to it is located very near the Ueno Station. You can't really miss it. While you are there, a fun thing to do is to do an eating tour of the market, stopping at various eateries to try out different local foods! Here's a guide on that.