Tokyo for First-Timers - United Hub

Tokyo for first-timers

By Nick Harper

With a population of more than 9 million people, Tokyo is the most populous city on the planet. A vast, sometimes chaotic, neon-soaked playground that never sleeps, the city can feel daunting to the first-time visitor. Yet Tokyo is surprisingly manageable, as its 23 'wards' are easy to navigate via the city's world-class transportation system.

Search flights

With so many options, knowing where to go and what to see on your first visit isn't easy. To help guide your trip, consider the following tips — enough to fill a few days in the city.

Getting into the city

Most international flights arrive into Narita International Airport (NRT), located just 37 miles outside Tokyo, but we also have international flights arriving into Haneda Airport from San Francisco. From Narita, the city center can be easily reached by bus, train or taxi. The quickest option is the JR Narita Express (NEX), which takes about 60 minutes and departs twice every hour. From Haneda, Tokyo is located less than 30 minutes from this airport and can easily be reached by bus, train or taxi.

Some international flights arrive into Haneda Airport, also located outside the city center and easily connected through public transportation.

Tokyo U-Bahn

Where to stay

In a city so vast, you'll need to check in somewhere close to the main attractions or close to Tokyo's subway stations — the quickest and cheapest way to navigate the center. (Note: Taxis are the only form of transportation that runs all night but can be expensive.) Shinjuku, Ginza, Shibuya, Roppongi and Tokyo Station are excellent areas to stay with multiple hotel options and subway stops.

While it's possible to find accommodation to suit even the tightest of budgets, Tokyo does glitz very well. If your budget allows it, book at least one night in luxury — The Ritz Carlton, The Peninsula Tokyo and Aman Tokyo are just three opulent options among many. For added kudos, live like a movie star and check in at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, the hotel featured in the movie, Lost In Translation.

What to see and do

Seeing everything Tokyo has to offer requires more than a few days, but if you only have a few days, the following should be toward the top of your must-see list. To get your bearings and appreciate the size and scale of the city, visit one of Tokyo's many observation decks. At 2,080 ft tall, the Tokyo Skytree is currently the highest in the city, but Tokyo Tower and Toranomon Hills are also impressive. For the full neon-lit effect, head up at night.

Embrace your jet lag, rise crazy early and head for Tsukiji Market, not for the fruit, vegetables or flowers on sale there, but for the seafood. The world's biggest seafood market is an experience not to be missed, particularly its live tuna auctions that begin at 5 a.m. You'll have to visit soon though: beginning in November of 2018, the iconic market will reopen slightly further east as Toyosu Fish Market.

Shibuya Crossing from top view in Tokyo

In Tokyo, all roads seemingly lead to Shibuya Crossing — possibly the busiest intersection in the world. When the lights turn red, hundreds and often thousands set off in all directions. Walking, dodging and even taking selfies is an art form in itself.

For a sense of the city's history, add Tokyo's largest and most famous shinto shrine to your itinerary. Meiji Jingu is surrounded by 175 acres of forest in central Tokyo and reached via a long forest path marked by towering gates (torii). The city's oldest and most photographed temple is Sensoji Temple, accessed through the massive Kaminari-mon (Thunder Gate).

If you're limited on time, you'll need to choose museums wisely. The best of a broad bunch is the Tokyo National Museum. It houses the world's largest collection of Japanese art, including Buddhist statues, vibrant kimonos and samurai swords. Visit the Tokyo National Museum and you're on the doorstep of one of Tokyo's best green spaces. Ueno Park is also home to Ueno Zoo, which opened in 1882 and allows you to get up close with its giant panda bears.

Sensoji Temple around Asakusa area in Japan


To experience Kabuki-classical Japanese dance-drama, head to the grand Kabukiza Theater in Ginza. It offers three performances a day or, if you just want to stop by, one-act tickets. Alternatively, you might prefer to witness the national sport of Sumo Wrestling in all its glory. Ryoguku Kokugikan (Sumo Hall) hosts Grand Tournaments in January, May and September, each spread across 15 days. If you visit outside of these tournament times, it's possible to take a tour of a sumo 'stable' and watch the athletes in action.

If you came to shop, you're in luck. Nakamise Dori and Omotesando Avenue are shopping musts for different things, the former for souvenirs, the latter for boutique stores along Tokyo's version of the Champs-Élysées in Paris. Follow Omotesando until you reach Harajuku, where Tokyo's trailblazing tribes ferment their new and ever more daring fashion statements.

Despite being so densely populated, Tokyo is a city of many green spaces. Visit in spring and you'll see the city (and country) covered in pink blossoms —hanami season. Many of the city's parks and green spaces are in full color as winter gives way to spring. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Chidorigafuchi and Ueno Park are three jaw-dropping options.

Mt. Fuji with fall colors in Japan.

Last but not least is Mount Fuji, Japan's highest and most prominent mountain. While it's tempting to make the journey out to Mount Fuji, 60 miles southwest of the city, you really need a full day to scale its 12,388-foot-high summit to experience it properly. If time is tight, but you really want to experience that view, the solution is easy. An hour north of Tokyo is Fujimi Terrace in the Kanto region. It's not the only place affording views of the iconic mountain, but it's considered the best and worth the journey.

Where to eat

While Tokyo proudly boasts more Michelin stars than any other city, that's not what makes eating here such a life-affirming experience. More important than the fact you can eat the best sushi in your life made by one of the city's most celebrated chefs is that the greatest ramen noodles or yakitori (grilled chicken) you'll ever eat can be served by a street vendor in the middle of nowhere.

Sushi on a wooden set.

For the highest of the high end, try three-Michelin-starred Kanda, if you can reserve one of the eight seats along its wooden counter. For surely the cheapest Michelin-starred food you'll ever taste, try ramen restaurant Tsuta — but expect long, long lines.

Alternatively, but every bit as good, look for a neighborhood izakaya — a cross between a tapas bar and an English pub — to eat and drink like (and with) the locals. Kushirokuya, Kagaya and Gonpachi are excellent options — the latter reputedly an inspiration for the movie Kill Bill's iconic fight scene.

Wherever and whatever you eat, be aware that in almost all restaurants, tipping is not expected.

When to visit

Spring and autumn are the best times to visit, with the city in full color. Plus, during both seasons, rainfall is low and temperatures are mild. It's best to avoid mid-June to mid-July during the city's rainy season.

Getting there

United Airlines flies to Tokyo Narita and Tokyo Haneda. For details and to book your tip, visit united.com or use the United app. Don't forget to share your story on social media with the #MyUnitedJourney hashtag once you arrive.

Search flights

Weekend inspiration: Sydney

By Kelsey + Courtney Montague

Sydney continues to be one of our favorite cities in the world – vibrant, stunning, with an amazing foodie scene and genuinely nice people. Each year we try to schedule a few street art jobs in Australia so we can spend the Northern Hemisphere's winter in the summer sun of Australia. If you're in town for a few days, here are some of our favorite spots.

Friday evening

If you're looking for places to stay, we recommend anywhere near or on Sydney Harbour. If you can swing it financially, our two favorites are The Pier on Sydney Harbour and the Park Hyatt. Both are majestic hotels set out on the water with equally magnificent views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

Steps up to the Opera House

Pasta at Kindred

We find that we crave comfort food after a long flight, and there's no better place to enjoy it than Kindred. It's a warm cozy space with pasta and bread made in-house. The lasagna and the burnt butter triangoli can't be beat, and be sure to order a loaf of homemade sourdough with dinner.

Saturday

Wake up early for a full day of exploring the city. Take a short cab or Uber ride to Lorraine's Patisserie – their croissants are warm and buttery and their coffee is strong.

The Rocks Market in Sydney

Kelsey's Magic Wand street art piece

After breakfast, head over to The Rocks Market where they have a stunning array of locally crafted art, jewelry, house ware and beauty products. The homey, cozy cobblestone lanes lead you to some of the best local artisans that Sydney has to offer. Be sure to also take a moment to pose with our Magic Wand street art piece on Atherdan Street.

We recommend The Glenmore Hotel's pub for lunch. This pub, built in 1921, has incredible views of the harbour from their rooftop. Grab one of their Australian Brewery Session IPA's, play a game of pool and end up on the roof with a Glenmore Burger in hand.

Following lunch, grab your swimsuit and take a 30-minute Uber to Bondi Beach – Sydney's most iconic beach. There's more to Bondi than just a beach, beyond is a village full of cafes, restaurants and shops worth exploring.

Bondi Beach, Sydney

Bring a towel and start off with a cold swim at the Instagram-worthy Icebergs Club swimming pool. When in need of some warmth, lay in the sun on the white sand beach while watching the surfers – you can even take surfing lessons if you'd like.

If you have time, there's a wonderful walk between Bondi and Coogee Beach. This walk takes you along the rocky coast to hidden beaches and swimming holes. It's a beautiful walk that will get your heart pumping.

For dinner walk up the hill to the trendy Bondi Trattoria for great local eats. If you're still awake when you get back to Sydney and looking for a drink, we highly recommend stopping by the Sydney Opera House Bar.

Sunday

Head over to Paramount Coffee Project to grab some caffeine and breakfast. Take a moment to check out the workout schedule for the recreation club on the roof to see if there is a class that interests you.

If you're looking to pet a wallaby or hold a quokka (quite possibly the cutest creature you have ever seen) we highly recommend signing up for the Featherdale Wildlife Park Mammal Encounter. It's about an hour drive from Sydney, but it's definitely worth it.

Featherdale Wildlife Park Mammal Encounter.

Sydney Harbour


When you get back to Sydney check out Ribs & Burgers on The Rocks for a hearty lunch. In the afternoon, check off two essential experiences by booking an Opera House Tour and, if you're not afraid of heights, the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb. Both offer stunning views and completely unique experiences.

After a somewhat exhausting day we love when we can come back to a hotel and dine there. Park Hyatt offers wonderful dining options, including The Dining Room, which is their signature restaurant. Finish your weekend with stunning harbour views and elegant food.

Trending

The reimagined United app: What you need to know

By The Hub team , January 22, 2019

Starting on January 24, customers will be able to access the updated United app. With useful enhancements that provide intuitive assistance every step of the way, the United app still includes the features you know and love. And now, thanks to dynamic messaging, the updated app provides useful information throughout your journey whether at the airport or on the go.

How to install the updated app

If you've enabled automatic updates, the United app will automatically update. Otherwise, you'll need to manually update the app to see the updated version. Once you've updated the app, you'll no longer be able to use the previous version. If your phone is set to auto-update, the app will automatically appear on your device and stay. Otherwise, you'll have the previous mobile experience until you manually update.

Dynamic messaging

The United app will now display the most useful and relevant information throughout your journey. For example, 24 hours before departure, the home screen on the United app will prompt you to check-in. Once checked in, an option to get your boarding pass will populate right on the home screen so you'll no longer need to access it via the boarding pass tab on the current version of the app.

Locating your boarding pass

If you're signed in to your MileagePlus® account, access to your boarding pass will appear on the app's home screen along with other details about the flight. If you're not signed in to a MileagePlus account, you'll need to go to "My Trips" on the bottom navigation bar. (Please note that mobile boarding passes are available for flights departing from all U.S. airports and select international airports.)

Accessing your profile and United Club℠ card

All this information will now be accessible from a "My Profile" section, so you can see everything in one place. You can find the "My Profile" section by selecting the icon of a person in the top right corner.

New options on the navigation bar

The new bottom navigation bar provides quick access to the most popular and helpful features. Find information about upcoming flights under the "My Trips" section that houses important information like your boarding passes and flight details. You'll also find an inbox icon section that stores important and useful information including gate changes, flight status updates and boarding alerts. You can also easily toggle back to your home screen from the bottom navigation bar.

Personal device entertainment

If personal device entertainment is offered on your flight, you'll see a tile titled Inflight Entertainment within the "Just for you" section on the home screen. The "Just for you" section will also give you access to other features such as how you can locate a United Club or how to earn award miles. You can also select "Wi-Fi & entertainment" from the More menu, located at the upper left hand of the app's home screen.

Finding the seat map

You can access the seat map for your flight via Flight Status on the bottom navigation bar or within Trip Details — when you have an upcoming flight there will be an option to view the seat map.

How to add or remove flights from your Flights Status list

Any upcoming flights will be displayed in the Flight Status section of the app. There is no option to remove a flight as the Flight Status section will be automatically update itself two days after your travel is completed.

Changing the image on the home screen

There is no way to change the image on your home screen manually. Instead, the image will update once a day based on the destinations most commonly searched for by our customers.

Amazing destination

Porto: Portugal’s surprising second city

By Bob Cooper

“Second cities" or those that rank #2 in population often surprise world travelers. And second doesn't mean second-rate. Porto is Portugal's second city — so off-the-radar that many world travelers haven't even heard of it. Yet, Porto and nearby spots in northern Portugal can be delightful destinations even if you don't visit the more well-known city of Lisbon.

Search flights

Old city by day

The best place to get oriented, as in most European cities, is in the old city center. Porto's Old City is so well-preserved that it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A 12th-century cathedral and the 15th-century Church of St. Francis, notable for interior wood carvings gilded by hundreds of pounds of gold, are mixed in with a rich collection of imposing granite, red-roofed Baroque buildings. Add 225 stairs and a stirring view to your walking tour by ascending the 250-foot-high Clérigos Church bell tower, built in 1754, which dominates the Porto skyline. Historic bridges over the Douro River and Soares dos Reis National Museum, an art museum housed in a palace, are also excellent sites to see.

Food and music by night

Porto's youthful population has turned it into a lively city after dark. You might start off the evening in the Old City at Abadia do Porto, a 1939 restaurant that serves traditional Portuguese dishes like roasted lamb and grilled octopus, or at Astoria, with its modern Portuguese fare served inside a former palace. Whether you choose a Portuguese, French or fusion restaurant, seafood is likely to be highlighted, drawing on Porto's proximity to the Atlantic and the Douro. Then, you can head to the large collection of bars and nightclubs in the nearby Galerias district, which includes Radio Bar, inside a former court building, and Gare, a disco in a tunnel that stays open until 6 a.m.

Head west to the beaches

The closest Atlantic beaches to central Porto are at Foz do Douro (mouth of the Douro), just 20 minutes away by city bus. But why settle? In a rental car you can explore Atlantic beaches and beach towns that extend for hundreds of miles along Portugal's coastline. Two of the best are Foz do Minho, the nation's northernmost oceanic beach that's just across the Minho River from Spain, and Quiaios, a dune-fringed paradise of sand south of Porto. Many beaches in northern Portugal are cradled in coves protected by rocky promontories, similar to northern California and Oregon beaches.

Or east to the wine country

The Douro Valley wine region is another World Heritage Site and one of the world's best and most scenic wine regions. It's up the Douro River from Porto by boat or 90 minutes by road. Namesake port wines and other fortified wines are the region's signature beverages, which can be sampled at tasting rooms on the Douro along N-222, a wine road that's been called the world's most scenic drive. While you're in the area, check out the wine and anthropology museums in the wine towns and yet another World Heritage Site — Coa Valley Archaeological Park — known for its prehistoric rock carvings.

The basics

Portugal's Mediterranean climate and coastal breezes bless it with mild weather year round, as the average temperature ranges from 57 degrees (and rain) in January to 78 degrees (and a little rain) in August. Whenever you come, there's no need to learn Portuguese as English is spoken even more widely than elsewhere in Western Europe. Once you arrive, rent a car only if you don't mind ridiculous drivers. The trains are more relaxing — light-rail and subway trains crisscross the Porto area and funicular cable cars climb its steepest hills. There's even a scenic train that follows the Douro nearly to Spain, with a roundtrip fare of only about $30.

Getting there

Portugal requires that visitor passports don't expire until at least three months after the arrival date, so check that. Next, buy some Euros (for a great exchange rate) and reserve a flight. United Airlines flies nonstop from New York/Newark to Porto and MileagePlus® award miles can be redeemed to cover accommodations and Hertz rentals. Go to united.com or use the United app to plan your trip.

Search flights
Contributor

United 787-10 Dreamliner launch

By The Hub team

Story was contributed by: Jennifer Lake | Photography: Alicia of Aesthetica

It was a typical Monday morning. I'm sitting at my desk at work, drinking coffee, reviewing my to-do list for the week. All around me, heels are clacking through the office and phones ring intermittently. However, this particular Monday morning was different. Ultimately, I would receive an offer from my favorite airline for a collaboration to participate in the United 787-10 Dreamliner launch from Los Angeles LAX to New York/Newark EWR. Read the full story here featured on Style Charade.

Featured story

Fit for the runway: We begin testing new uniforms

By The Hub team , January 16, 2019

Last year we announced new partnerships with Tracy Reese, Brooks Brothers and Carhartt — best-in-class fashion and apparel designers — to help reimagine uniforms for more than 70,000 of our employees. Focusing on high quality fabrics, improved breathability and overall enhanced fit, our goal is to design and develop a more cohesive collection that looks good, feels good and enables employees to perform at their best on behalf of our customers.


United employees can learn more on the uniform designs by visiting Flying Together.

An insider's guide to Boston

By Betsy Mikel

Boston is a pack-it-all-in kind of place. Founded in 1630, one of America's oldest cities does many things well. Boston's many claims to fame include many of America's oldest historic landmarks and one of its oldest ballparks. It's a destination for history buffs, culture vultures, foodies, sports fans, families and more. No matter who your travel companions are or what they're interested in, everyone will find something to pique their interest in Beantown.

Getting there & around town

Fly direct to Boston's Logan International Airport (BOS) from many U.S. cities — visit united.com or use the United app to book your flight. Flights are 90 minutes from New York, two hours from Cleveland and five to six hours from California. From Logan International Airport, it's easy to hail a taxi, use ridesharing apps or take public transportation. If you want to take the scenic route, take a water taxi across Boston Harbor directly into downtown.

Downtown Boston is easy to navigate. It's walkable and taxis are plentiful. The MBTA, Boston's public transportation system, offers affordable access to Cambridge, many attractions and the suburbs. Keep in mind it's one of the oldest transportation systems in the country, so expect a few bumps. Because the city is dense, parking can be expensive or hard to find, so avoid driving if you can.

When to visit

Summer and fall are the most popular seasons to visit. Summer is prime time to enjoy Boston's many parks, outdoor eateries, open-air concerts and baseball games at Fenway Park. Mild fall weather, beautiful autumn foliage and Halloween festivities in nearby Salem, Massachusetts make October one of Boston's busiest months. The city also sees an influx of visitors for the Boston Marathon in April. You'll find smaller crowds and more affordable prices in winter, but brace yourself for the cold.

What to do

There's so much to take in just by walking through Boston's cobblestoned streets. Downtown is quaint, compact and easy to explore by foot. The small city is packed with historic sites, New England's finest food, proud sports fans and friendly locals.

As the birthplace of the American Revolution, Boston's historic sites are an attraction in themselves. Walk the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail to visit 16 of them around the city, including Revolutionary-era museums, churches, buildings and an impressive warship. Faneuil Hall Marketplace is on the trail, too, and is one of Boston's top attractions, with plentiful shopping, dining and live music. Not much of a walker? Boston Duck Tours operate land-and-water historic tours on World War II-inspired vehicles, which transform from truck to boat mid-tour.

Many museums and sites are tucked along Boston Harbor. The waterfront is always bustling with activity year-round. The harborwalk is the perfect place to meander and explore without a strict agenda. Plan to visit a major attraction or two, but leave time to enjoy the scenery or to pop into a café for a coffee and sweet treat (award-winning Flour Bakery + Cafe is a local favorite).

Deemed the “Athens of America," Boston boasts not only some of the country's oldest and most architecturally significant buildings, but also a thriving arts and culture scene. You could spend your entire trip touring its dozens of world-class museums. Take in classical music at the famous Boston Symphony Orchestra, or take a leisurely stroll through Boston Public Garden and Boston Common, the city's most well-known public parks. Riding the giant Swan Boats through the Public Garden lagoon is a kitschy, yet delightful experience, especially for kids.

What to eat

What must you absolutely eat in Boston? In short, everything. Long ago the city was nicknamed Beantown, allegedly after slow-cooked molasses baked beans served to sailors and traders. Today, Boston continues its reputation as a great eating city. From clam chowder to cannoli, the most popular dishes here are often hearty and decadent. Boston is also known for fresh lobster rolls, roast beef sandwiches and, of course, Boston cream pie.

Ask any Bostonian where to find “the best" of anything, and everyone will recommend a different spot. Cannoli from Mike's Pastry, Boston cream pie from Omni Parker House (where it was invented) and the roast beef 1000 sandwich from Cutty's frequently top the must-try lists. If you make it to a ball game at Fenway Park, Fenway Franks are a Boston staple.

Featured story

Our role in ‘Spider-Man™: Far From Home’

By Matt Adams , January 15, 2019

In Columbia Pictures upcoming release in association with Marvel Studios, "Spider-Man™: Far From Home," our web-slinging hero finds himself – yep, you guessed it – far from his home in New York City. And since flying is one of the few superpowers Spider-Man doesn't possess, we gave him a little help, meaning United is featured in the film.

The scenes of Peter Parker and his pals traveling to Europe take place on one of our Boeing 777s with the all-new United Polaris® business class, and several of our employees – including members of our Tech Ops, Inflight, Flight Operations and Airport Operations teams – served as actors and production support during shoots at New York/Newark (EWR) and London-Stansted (STN).

London-Heathrow (LHR) Customer Service Representative Manjit Heer and LHR Cargo Warehouse Operations Manager Richard Miller were background extras on board, and multiple flight attendants had a role, including San Francisco (SFO) Flight Attendant Tammy Harris.

"It was extremely surreal," said Tammy. "I was in my element because I was on the plane in uniform, but not really, because I'm not an actor."

Tammy said she hit her mark and delivered her line with gusto, and she's excited to see if she made the final cut when "Spider-Man™: Far From Home" hits worldwide theaters this summer.

"Hopefully, I'll have my two seconds of fame and all will be well," she joked.

Los Angeles (LAX) Aircraft Maintenance Supervisor Fernando Melendez is a veteran of several film shoots but said this one was his favorite. When the production went to London, he was one of five members of LAX Tech Ops who went over to look after our airplane and make adjustments to its interior based on the filmmaker's needs.

"When we parked the plane at Stanstead, there were lights and cameras surrounding us. It was like the plane was the star of the movie," he said. "Each day, we would work with the assistant director; he would go through and say, 'Okay, for this shoot we need these seats, or these panels removed,' so they could get the camera angles. Pretty much, the airplane was our responsibility; we opened it in the morning and closed it at night. We were the first ones there and the last ones to leave every day."

Fernando said the actors were all very gracious and engaging, and said the whole experience was fantastic from start to finish. It also earned him a little cooler cred with his 18-year-old son, who is a massive Marvel fan.

Leading up to the film's premiere this year, there will be plenty of ways for employees and customers to get into the Spidey spirit in anticipation of our cameo. Stay tuned for more details.

---

Peter Parker returns in "Spider-Man™: Far From Home," the next chapter of the Spider-Man™: Homecoming series! Our friendly neighborhood Super Hero decides to join his best friends Ned, MJ, and the rest of the gang on a European vacation. However, Peter's plan to leave super heroics behind for a few weeks are quickly scrapped when he begrudgingly agrees to help Nick Fury uncover the mystery of several elemental creature attacks, creating havoc across the continent!

Directed by Jon Watts, the film is written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers based on the Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. The film is produced by Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal. Louis D'Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Thomas M. Hammel, Eric Hauserman Carroll, Stan Lee, Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach serve as executive producers. The film stars Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, JB Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Martin Starr, with Marisa Tomei and Jake Gyllenhaal.

"Spider-Man™: Far From Home" makes its way to North American theaters on July 5, 2019.

What to expect from our improved app

By United Airlines , January 15, 2019


"Talking Points," host Brian Kelly, aka The Points Guy, is joined by Linda Jojo, Executive Vice President for Technology and Chief Digital Officer at United Airlines to discuss what passengers can expect from our improved app.

Read more about the improvements to the United app here.

Scroll to top