Five days in Tokyo | Nature in the city

This day in Tokyo is one of nature, this may seem surprising in one of the biggest cities of the world, but there are a lot of green spaces in Tokyo when you look for it. We will also visit the Mori art Museum for some great contemporary Japanese art and the best panoramic view of Tokyo. The neighbourhoods were visiting this day are also excellent for shopping, so if this is something you like, make sure to bring enough excess baggage space.

Shinjuku Gyoen

Shinjuku Gyoen

We start the day in Shinjuku Gyoen. The great size of Shinjuku Gyoen makes it a great place to escape the bustling city scape. It interestingly combines three forms of gardens. One part is dedicated to the traditional Japanese Garden. Another to the French formal garden. Elements of this style are a geometric plan, constrained and trimmed vegetation to demonstrate the mastery of man over nature. Another element is a terrace overlooking the garden, so you can get an overview of the design. The third part is dedicated to the English landscape garden, this style is known for its rolling grounds and big patches of grass against a woodland background with some big centrepiece trees. When you’re done exploring the garden, you can either head over to nearby Shinjuku for some shopping or continue straight to the Meiji shrine.

Shinjuku shopping

Shinjuku ward is huge and you can shop for days if you would like. The area around Shinjuku station has a cluster of many brands and shops and is a good option for a short, focused shopping trip. If you want your shopping to be more of an experience head over to Harajuku station and go down Takeshita-dori. It’s as much a shopping as a people watching experience. Just around the corner lies Jingumae where all the top brands have their flagship stores. Go there for more a more exclusive shopping experience or to watch the beautiful modern architecture of the exclusive shops.

Meiji Jingu

Meiji Jingu
Meiji Jingu

Harujaku station is also the starting point for a trip to Meji Jingu, the great imperial shrine in Tokyo. The shrine was completed in 1920 to commemorate emperor Meiji and his wife empress Shōken, whose return to power is marked as the Meiji Restoration. Under his leadership Japan opened towards the outer world and started on a path of rapid industrialisation and modernisation.

You enter the shrine through a huge torii. The shrine is a favourite spot for traditional Japanese weddings. So, head over there in the weekend to catch a glimpse of a Japanese bride and groom. The shrine lies in a big forest with trees donated by the Japanese people. If you’re still up for more parks, head over to the next-door Yoyogi Park. On Sunday, it’s the always busy with groups of people engaging in their different hobbies like martial arts, cosplay and Japanese rock.

Mori Art Museum

Tokyo by night

For the perfect panoramic view of Tokyo and some great contemporary art, head over to the Mori Art Museum. This art museum has a collection of contemporary art from Japan and Asia. It also hosts many exhibitions of other contemporary art. The museum has long opening hours, it’s open until 22h every day except Tuesdays, so it’s also ideal as an evening activity. When you arrive at the building where the museum is housed, you’re greeted by a huge spider created by Louise Bourgeois.

Tokyo City View

Via the top floor of the building you can gain access to the outdoor panorama deck of Tokyo City View. Here you have the best unhindered views of Tokyo since you’re not behind glass.

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5 days in Tokyo
Neus Palais

Potsdam Palaces, parks and museums

The ferocious bombing campaigns of the second world war destroyed many palaces in and around Berlin. Luckily most of them have been rebuild and you can enjoy them once again. Potsdam has quite a few palaces to see and is a great destination for a day trip from Berlin.

Buying the sanssouci+ ticket gives you access to all the palaces Potsdam offers. But to make the most of your visit it’s important to plan ahead. The palaces are only accessible by guided tours and the guided tours work with time slots. So, when planning your visit take into consideration that you will have to wait for the guided tour to start. Also, guided tours usually take twice as long as an unguided visit. The Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin are UNESCO World heritage sites.

New Palace (Neues Palais)

We took an early train from Berlin Zoologischer Garten. From there it was a 30-minute train ride through the Grunewald forest to Potsdam. We started at the far end of the Palace park, so we got off at Potsdam Park Sanssouci Bahnhof. From here it was an short walk to the ‘Neues Palais’. Frederick the Great built this big official palace in 1769. Later it also was the residence of William II, the last German emperor. This palace escaped major damage during the war and is in great original state. As is much of the interior which William II shipped to the Netherlands when he moved there after his abdication. Now most stuff has returned to its original place, giving you a rare view into the final days of the European emperors.

Neues Palais
Neues Palais

The Park

From here we began making our way back to the city of Potsdam through the big park. The next stop were the botanical greenhouses. As it was a cold January morning, we could use some warming up. They keep a broad range of tropical and desert plants here, including a wide assortment of flesh eating plants. Warm again, we continued exploring the park and made our way to the Orangerieschloss. This is the largest palace in the park and shows Frederick William IV’s love of Italy through its design. It’s enjoyed best from the outside especially in winter when it’s closed.

Schloss Sanssouci

From here it is a short walk to Schloss Sanssouci, the carefree palace of Frederick the Great. This was his favourite palace and he used it as a personal retreat from all his daily worries, like fighting wars with the other European powers. The design of this palace reminds us of Versailles. Although it is much smaller in scale and far less extravagant. The guided tour takes a long time and is just a supervised audio tour where you must stay in each room until the allotted time has passed. Next to the palace is the Picture Gallery, the oldest in Germany and home to a collection of mainly Dutch and Italian Baroque paintings. This gallery is only open during the summer season.

Schloss Sanssouci

Potsdam conference

As we exit the park we pass the Friedenskirche, where Frederik IV of Prussia and the German emperor Frederik III are buried. In the town, we wait for the bus to take us to the northern part where the Schloss Cecilienhof is. This was the last palace the Hohenzollerns built, and it looks more like a country manor than a palace. It wouldn’t be worth the visit if it wasn’t for the post-war Potsdam conference which was hosted here. This last big second world war conference determined so much of Europe’s future even till this day.

From the Cecilienhof, we walk southwards through the park in the direction of the town. Here you are surprised to find a small pyramid, commemorating something. It’s an example of Europe’s fascination with antiquity. Faux antique buildings fill both parks to lend history where it is lacking and to fascinate and intrigue the visitor.

Marmor Palace


We skip the red Marmor Palais as we would have to wait 45 minutes for the supervised audiotour of the place. King Frederick William II had this marble palace built in 1787 at the shore of the lake. The palace is in the Neoclassical style which also shows in the interior decoration.

Potsdam centre

At we exit the park, we pass the Holländisches Viertel. It is the largest collection of Dutch brick houses outside of the Netherlands. Originally built for Dutch immigrants, they now house cafes and art shops. A little bit further lies the Altes Markt with the Nikolaikirche. Karl-Friedrich Schinkel designed it in 1837. We come here for our last palace of the day. The rebuild Barberini Palace which houses the Museum Barberini. The museum has great modern art exhibitions. When we were there, it hosted a beautiful impressionist exhibition. Showing many otherwise private works by famous artists. It was a real treat to finish the day on this high note.

We also have other articles about other UNESCO World Heritage Sites if you are interested.

Potsdam day trip