tokyo akihabara

Weird & Wonderful Tokyo

Tokyo is one of my favourite places in the world. I love big cities, getting to know a different culture, and finding the unexpected at every corner, so it’s the perfect place for me! While I fell in love with Kyoto’s temples and gardens, Tokyo was the Japan I’d been dying to see since I was little. Tokyo takes you out of your comfort zone without being scary, it takes cute (kawaii) to another level, and it is full of all of my favourite foods (and some stranger foods too!).

It’s fun, it’s big, and it’s lively. If you’re not used to big cities it might overwhelm you a bit, and if you’re used to visiting places like London, New York or Paris it will make you realise how small those cities really are! It’s a city-loving explorer’s dream, a paradise for those with a sweet tooth, and really has something for everyone – from parks and temples to robots and maid cafés.

These are just some of the more unusual things you can do in Tokyo!

owl cafe tokyo

Go to an Animal Café

Dogs, cats, rabbits, owls, hedgehogs… take your pick! Last year I went to the owl cafe in Akihabara and had a great time, although after going I felt guilty and wondered how often the birds get to fly. I’ve also been to a dog cafe in South Korea and that was really fun for a dog lover like me – I had dogs sleeping on my lap, walking on my table, and hiding behind my back. I really want to go to the hedgehog cafe next time I’m in Tokyo!

 

robot restaurant

Visit the robot restaurant

The Robot Restaurant is a hilarious show in Shinjuku. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen – a sensory overload with loud music, smoke, giant robots and flashing lights. I don’t think it could exist anywhere else in the world! At 8,000 yen it’s definitely not cheap but it’s something you’ll never forget. Book online for a discount.

Please, just don’t eat there! Although it’s called a restaurant the food is terrible – don’t waste one of your meals in Japan there. Instread try some yakitori from Omoide Yokocho (‘piss alley’!) before or after the show.

 

Grab lunch from a sushi train

Go to Uobei in Shibuya for the coolest sushi experience ever. Sit down, order from a tablet and wait a few minutes for your order to come zooming down on the sushi train and stop right in front of you. I’m telling you now, it’s not the best sushi but it’s worth visiting for the fun experience and it’s very quick and cheap.

 

A post shared by Janice (@janicexjapan) on

Sleep in a caspule hotel

Not for the claustrophobic, capsule hotels are a very Japanese way of providing budget accommodation! Some actually seem quite nice, clean, and modern, with your own personal TV, plug socket, hangers and a safe. You’re often provided with pyjamas, towels, shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste – better than any hostels I’ve been to! Male and female dorms are often very separate which is great for solo ladies but can be annoying if travelling as a couple. There’s always a lounge for you to hang out in and meet fellow travelers.

Book and Bed is another really interesting hostel concept that is perfect for book lovers!

 

 

Tokyo totti candy factory

Enjoy some multicoloured candy floss…

These are HUGE and every colour is a different flavour. You can even select exactly which colours you want and watch as the sugar gets spinned before your eyes. There’s even the option to get the pink colour in the middle shaped like a heart! So kawaii. Head to Totti Candy Factory in Harajuku to give them a try.

 

or a crème brulée crepe!

I’m definitely going to have to try this at Comcrepe when I go back to Harajuku.

 

purikura harajuku tokyo

Get transformed by Purikura

This is the thing to do if you’re a Japanese teenager in Harajuku. Even if you’re an adult and a tourist, I’d definitely recommend giving purikura a try! It was the highlight of my day exploring Harajuku and Omotesando with my Japanese friend Haruka. We went to Eggnam at the top of Takeshita Street, rented out some cute costumes, and walked into a photobooth where we copied the hilarious poses that came up on the screen. It’s all over very quickly and when the photos are done you go to the computer outside the booth and edit the photos, adding cute messages and even extra makeup to them. I found it so funny how airbrushed it made my skin and how huge it made my eyes!

 

arcade games tokyo

Play arcade games

I already mentioned this in my little guide to Akihabara, but Taito game station is such a fascinating place! It’s full of grown men and women playing all sorts of arcade games, often with impressive skills. There are several locations all over Tokyo so definitely go there even if you don’t fancy playing any games.

 

Visit a maid cafe

I’m a little bit reluctant about mentioning this one after watching a Stacey Dooley documentary about very young girls being sexualised in Japan. I’m sure there are some harmless maid cafes though – @Home in Akihabara is recommended by Lonely Planet and looks really cute. I think it’s a fun thing to see once in your life, despite the overpriced menu! I’m definitely having the matcha latte with a cute face on it…

 

A post shared by nameko2012🎈 (@nameko2012) on

Eat in a themed cafe

There is no shortage of themed cafes in Tokyo. From Moomins to vampires, there’s a cafe for everyone! Some of the cutest ones are Pompompurin, Peter Rabbit, and Peanuts. Hello Kitty fans should go to Café de Miki. For an overload of colours and a decor like you’ve never seen before, head to Kawaii Monster Cafe and try the rainbow pasta.

 

hitokara tokyo solo karaoke

Give solo karaoke (hitokara) a try

This might sound a bit sad, but individual karaoke booths are pretty popular in Tokyo. These are ideal for solo travelers and I’d imagine going to one would be a pretty fun experience! Head to one of 1kara’s (wankara) 10 “ships” to find out.

 

A post shared by Sanghyeon (@sanghyeonhwang) on

Go on a Mario Kart tour of the city!

I just know my boyfriend is going to love this one, and even though I HATE go-karting I am still super tempted to try this tour with Maricar. Basically you get dressed in hilarious Super Mario costumes and drive around the city for two to three hours, passing by Tokyo Tower and driving through the famous Shibuya Crossing. It has 5/5 stars on TripAdvisor so it must be good!

 

tokyo akihabara

Planning your trip? Have a look at my other posts for more tips:

 

What’s at the top of your Tokyo bucket list?

Let me know if you can think of something I should add to the list!

Follow:

Castle Combe Nissan Figaro

CASTLE COMBE

Having a car has given the boyfriend and me the freedom to explore further than we normally would. For my birthday weekend we booked a lovely cottage on airbnb (get £30 off here) in Batheaston, a village near Bath, and drove over from London. Before buying a car we would have had to stay in the centre of town and probably wouldn’t have ventured very far out, but this time we decided to enjoy driving the tree-lined country roads and visit the Cotswolds.

I’d been wanting to see Castle Combe for a long time (it’s all over Instagram!) and it was only a short drive away from our cottage so it made for the perfect excursion.

 

Castle Combe is often called the prettiest village in England, and it’s easy to see why. Every cottage in the village looks like it could be on a pretty postcard. Don’t expect to see an impressive castle here though; little remains of the one the village gets its name from.

malthouse

castle combe cotswolds

Castle Combe Cotswolds Nissan Figaro

How to get to Castle Combe:

The village is a 25 minute drive from Bath, or a 10 minute drive from Chippenham. If using public transport, get bus 35 from Chippenham train station.

There are free parking spaces at the top of the hill, North of the village.

 

Castle Combe

castle-combe cakes

“It’s run on trust”. This baker is counting on people to put money in the letterbox if they want to buy any cake. Very sweet to see!

Castle Combe door

Castle Combe houses

Castle Combe road

Castle Combe bridge

Things to do in Castle Combe:

  • Go for a walk along Bybrook river
  • Visit the tea room – contact them before you go as they don’t have regular opening times
  • Alternatively, have afternoon tea at the luxurious Manor House Hotel
  • Have a pint at The White Hart, a 14th century pub
  • Take pictures by the bridge – obviously!

 

Question is: where should we drive to next?

Follow:

A frequent flyer's tips for finding really cheap flights, beyond just using Skyscanner.

How to find cheap flights

Flying for less

People are often surprised to hear that I’ve been on yet another long weekend away, and wonder how I can afford it. The thing is, travelling doesn’t have to be expensive! Staying in London, doing a bit of online shopping and going out for a few meals and drinks can often be just as expensive as going abroad.

I do have a few tricks that help me find cheaper airfares and go away without blowing all my savings. They take some extra effort and research but I think it’s all worth it because I get to travel so much more. Hopefully they can help you to plan your next trip too!

 

Compare, compare, compare

Compare the comparison sites! I used to be a loyal Skyscanner user, but more recently I’ve started using Momondo or Kayak to double check that I’m getting the absolute best deal. I’ve found that sometimes one website will have a slightly better price for the exact same flights. It’s always a good idea to check what fare the airline is offering on its own website.

 

skyscanner

How about a weekend in Norway?

 

Keep an open mind

The best way to get cheap flights is to be really flexible, both with your dates and your destination. Try searching for “everywhere” on Skyscanner or “take me anywhere” on Momondo to find the cheapest destinations for your chosen dates. This is how Chris and I ended up going to Stockholm for £50 return. We didn’t have a set destination in mind but Stockholm came up so we booked it. Also great is Momondo’s little calendar above your search results, showing you if you could get a cheaper fare on a different day.

 

momondo calendar - how to find cheap flights

Leaving on Sunday could save you a lot of £€$!

 

Good timing

Timing is everything! Fares fluctuate a lot depending not only on when you fly but also on how far ahead you’re booking. Momondo has this cool feature called ‘flight insight’: it tells you all sorts of things like how many days ahead of flying you should book and what the seasonality is for your destination.

If you’re not ready to book straight away, you can also set up a fare alert so you get an email when the price changes for your chosen route.

 

fare seasonality

November is looking good!

 

Look out for error fares

This is how I booked return flights to Tokyo for £245! Normally I would have had to spend £500+ to get myself over to Japan so when I saw this fare I jumped on it. You have to be very lucky, quick, and flexible to make the most of error fares, but they can save you a lot of money. Sign up to Jack’s Flight Club and you will get great deals emailed to you. Websites worth checking include Cheap Flights Lab, Flynous, Secret Flying, and Fly4free.

 

Consider buying a package

Sometimes you can make great savings when you buy your flights and your hotel as a package. EasyJet Holidays are great! If you find the same flight and hotel for less elsewhere, they will match it and even give you an extra £10 off. Chris and I have bought holidays from them twice (skiing in France and a long weekend in sunny Croatia) and saved money this way. Kayak lets you compare holiday packages from different providers, so it’s worth checking there before booking.

 

Happy flying!

Let me know if you found this useful or if you have any other tips.

Follow:

Manhattan NYC sunset

Boro Hotel corner king

Boro Hotel, Queens

I did so much research before booking a hotel for our NYC trip. I spent hours trawling through Tripadvisor, travel blogs, Booking.com and I even had a spreadsheet going (anyone else love a travel spreadsheet?). Although Chris and I were really excited about making the most of the post-Christmas holiday vibes and New Year’s Eve in New York, going in December meant that hotel rooms were waaay more expensive than usual. We wanted to find a cool, modern hotel, preferably with a view, but that wouldn’t break the bank. Boro Hotel was a great combination of (relatively!) good price, incredible view, convenient location, and cool minimalist design.

 

Boro Hotel reception NYC

Boro Hotel nyc

Boro Hotel NY

Boro Hotel bar
Boro Hotel LIC

The hotel reception is lovely, with comfortable sofas to hang out in and a modern fireplace in the middle. There’s a lot of space for working or lounging, with sofas and tables at the back and a nice cafe/bar area at the front where you can get food and drinks. I’d love to come back in the summer to make the most of the rooftop view and the outdoor seating area on the ground floor.

 

NYC sunset view

Boro Hotel view

Manhattan sunset view

Manhattan view long island

The View

We booked a Corner King Room with Manhattan View Balcony, and it didn’t disappoint! Waking up to the amazing view every morning was such a treat and made us really excited to go out and explore. We also caught some incredible sunsets from our window, the kind that you can’t take your eyes off of and that you want to take a million photos of so that you can remember it. We also had a nice little balcony which would have been great if it weren’t absolutely freezing outside!

 

Boro Hotel bedroom

Boro Hotel bathroom

The Room

I loved the minimalist design of our room – very scandi-chic. The problem with a minimalist hotel though is that a lot of things you expect to have are missing! When we checked in we were given a list of things that we could request to get sent up to the room: kettle, bathrobes, slippers, mini bar, etc. A kettle got sent to us but we had to buy our own tea and milk. The TV also had a strange selection of channels, most of which were selling stuff like wrinkle cream. Otherwise, we loved the bed and the bathroom was modern and spacious. It would have been nice to have a bath, but there’s an extra charge for that.

The Location

Most tourists think that staying in Manhattan, usually Midtown, is really important so that they can walk around easily. Instead I think everyone should consider staying in Long Island City in Queens because it’s super convenient! Boro Hotel is near stations with four different subway lines going into Manhattan. Just get a one week Metro card – you’re only two stops away from Midtown! The W train takes you to Lexington Av/59 St in under 15 minutes.

Boro Hotel queens

Boro Hotel cafe

Boro Hotel corner room

Boro Hotel prices start around £120, or £160 for a Manhattan view room. If you want a cheaper option (£29 for bed in a dorm) in the same area and with the same rooftop view, try The Local Hostel NYC – it’s cool and modern and is perfect for backpackers, solo travellers or party people. You could even split your stay between the two hotels if you wanted to treat yourself but also save money.

Follow:

tiny's and the bar upstairs NYC

Pretty NYC Lunches & Brunches

When I’m looking forward to an upcoming trip, I like to do A LOT of research. Whenever I have a free minute, during my commute or my lunch break, I love to browse through Instagram, Pinterest and blogs in search of inspiration and cool places to visit.

The thing I was most excited about when planning our New York trip and daily itineraries is food. NYC is so full of delicious food options and a variety of cuisines. London is pretty good for that too, but NYC just has an incredible amount of great Mexican, Korean, Italian and American food (duh) that we don’t really have over here.

While scrolling through Instagram, I found out about so many really pretty restaurants that are worth a visit for both their food and their decor. After all, if you’re going to pay for a nice meal it might as well be in a beautiful setting!

This is the first part of what will probably be a series of NYC food posts… I have a lot to say on this topic!

 

Tiny’s

I had marked the location of Tiny’s on Google Maps after seeing a picture of the building, so when we happened to be in the neighbourhood at lunchtime it was an obvious choice. The menu is a little limited but the meatballs are great and it’s lovely and cosy inside.

Where: 135 W Broadway (between Thomas and Duane, in Tribeca)

Best for: getting warm and cosy by the fireplace in the back

Everyone’s talking about: the kale salad and the meatballs

 


 

A photo posted by cynthia kuo (@cynthiaakuo_) on

By Chloe

I had this one on my list because of its great reviews but didn’t get a chance to try it (boyfriend wasn’t keen to eat vegan!). Definitely next time!

Where: 185 Bleecker St (West Village), but also Flatiron and Soho. More locations coming soon.

Best for: hungry vegans

Everyone’s talking about: the guac burger and the air baked sweet potato fries. Try Sweets by Chloe for vegan desserts too!

 


 

Café Henrie

The pink and blue decor really caught my eye while I was scrolling through Instagram! It was popular with bloggers during NY Fashion Week.

Where: 116 Forsyth St (Lower East Side)

Best for: #foodstagram addicts

Everyone’s talking about: the avocado toast and the dragon bowl

 


 

Jack’s Wife Freda

Everyone I asked said we should go here. I loved it! The decor is very pretty and the menu has a good mix of delicious treats and healthy eats.

Where: 224 Lafayette Street (Lower Manhattan) and 50 Carmine Street (Greenwich Village)

Best for: all-day breakfast lovers

Everyone’s talking about: green shakshuka, duck bacon, and rosewater waffle.

 


 

Pietro Nolita

I’m a sucker for pink restaurants, and this one is entirely pink! Its owners met while working at Dolce & Gabbana so as you’d expect the interior is pretty dreamy. The idea for it is to create an American diner-style place serving healthy Italian food.

Where: 174 Elizabeth Street (in Nolita, obviously!)

Best for: adding some colour to your ‘grams thanks to its pretty all-pink interior (and exterior!)

Everyone’s talking about: pasta! Make it wholewheat or gluten-free for an extra dollar or two.

 


 

 

A photo posted by NYCTips (@nyctips_) on

La Pecora Bianca

My friend who lives in NYC recommended this one and after a quick look at the reviews I really want to go there. There is nothing more satisfying than freshly made pasta!

Where: corner of 26th and Broadway (NoMad)

Best for: fresh pasta and quality ingredients

Everyone’s talking about: gramigna pasta and kale lasagne

 


 

A photo posted by Alycia Jack (@leashajack) on

The Butcher’s Daughter

Another recommendation from a local, The Butcher’ Daughter is great if you’re trying to eat healthy or stay away from the bacon. Don’t go there if you’re looking for fluffy pancakes!

Where: 19 Kenmare St (Nolita) and 581 Hudson St (West Village)

Best for: healthy vegetarian food and (expensive) cold-pressed juices

Everyone’s talking about: avocado toast (popular at all the pretty NYC spots it seems!) and salads

 


 

Two Hands

I’d heard about this place a few times before going to New York as it seems to be one of those places that everyone loves. Started by two Australians, this place is bright, modern, and filled with plants.

Where: 164 Mott St in Little Italy (cafe) and 251 Church St, TriBeCa (restaurant and bar)

Best for: avocado and coffee lovers

Everyone’s talking about: gluten-free walnut and banana bread with espresso mascarpone. It’s a must try!

 


PIN IT!

NYC's prettiest restaurants for lunch or brunch!

Phew, that was a lot of pink and avocado! Let me know if I’ve missed any of your favourite pretty restaurants and I’ll add them to the list. I certainly wish I had all of these great spots on my radar on our first day in New York.

Follow: