WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN KYOTO?
Here is a list of 30 places and places of interest that you must absolutely visit in Kyoto (Japan). It will certainly be hard for you to see everything in one go, so if I can give you good advice it is first to plan your trip to Kyoto, noting on a map all the sights you want to visit.
Then rent a bike: Kyoto is a pretty flat city so it’s pretty easy to get around by bike, especially since you’ll find rental shops in various locations. The bus transport is pretty galley and you will lose valuable time. With a bike, you can visit many more places in less time.
Another thing: some places are only worth visiting during the Hanami, the cherry blossom season (like the path of the philosophers, not very interesting outside this season).
And finally, get up very early in the morning, because there are a lot of tourists who go there! Having lived a year in Osaka I can guarantee you that I was surprised by the number of tourists when I went to Kyoto for the weekend.
Before you go, don’t forget to book your hotel in Kyoto on Booking.com
Here are the top 30 things to see and do in Kyoto:
The most visited temple of Kyoto, and therefore shielded by tourists especially in autumn and for cherry blossom. Kyoto tower is visible in the distance. Below, there is a small waterfall. Very charming place.
2. THE GION NEIGHBORHOOD
The traditional Kyoto district with its restaurants, tea houses and cobbled streets. Here you may have the opportunity to see a Geisha or a Maiko. Go for a walk on Shinbashi Dori when it’s cherry season, it’s worth it. Otherwise, go at night when the stores are lit.
3. THE SANCTUARY OF FUSHIMI INARI (THE 1000 RED TORI)
Located in the southeast of Kyoto, it is one of the most photogenic sanctuaries with its thousands of red tori forming a path that leads up a hill and provides access to other small shrines, most of which are dedicated to foxes.
4. KINKAKUJI (THE GOLDEN PAVILION)
The Golden Pavilion is one of the most visited places in Kyoto. It is covered with gold leaf and is in a beautiful garden. Its construction dates back to 1398. I advise you to do it in the late afternoon, because it is at this time that the sunlight is reflected in the golden pavilion. The place can be visited quite quickly (30-45 minutes).
5. NIJO CASTLE
One of the last places I visited in Kyoto but it would have been a shame to miss. It is the former residence of the Shogun of Kyoto.
6. NANZENJI TEMPLE
A pretty impressive temple, not to be missed. There is an old railway not very far that you must absolutely see during Hanami.
7. GINKAKUJI (THE SILVER PAVILION)
Not as impressive as the Golden Pavilion, and unlike its name it is not entirely covered with silver leaf. However the garden around is very pretty. There is also a sand garden next door that deserves a look.
8. SANJUSANGENDO (THE TEMPLE OF 1000 BUDDHAS)
A very long Buddhist temple (the longest wooden temple in the world) and built in 1164. Inside are 1001 Buddha statues on a human scale. Photos prohibited inside!
9. THE IWATAYAMA MONKEY PARK
Located right next to Arashiyama, it is a hill where macaque monkeys have elected residence. The view is nice but be careful because the monkeys can be aggressive.
10. THE PATH OF THE PHILOSOPHERS (TETSUGAKU NO MICHI)
A simple path along a small canal. Be careful, it’s only worth it during the season cherry blossoms (if not bother to go there). On the other hand, when the trees have bloomed … it’s indescribably beautiful!
A narrow cobbled street with posh restaurants, bars and tea houses along the Kamo River. To see at night.
12. KYOTO STATION
Kyoto Station is one of the largest building in Japan. Take the stairs that lead to the right as you enter and admire the view from above.
13. HEIAN JINGU
A very big sanctuary where all the buildings are red, with just in front of a big gigantic red torii.
14. HIGASHI HONGANJI
The largest wooden building in Kyoto, located in the city center and not far from the Kyoto tower. Impressive.
15. TENRYUJI TEMPLE
Certainly the most beautiful garden in Kyoto, with a pond surrounded by rocks and forest. A must see in autumn when the leaves change colors.
16. SANNENZAKA & ISHIBE KOJI
Old streets where there are souvenir shops and restaurants but have a lot of charm, near Kiyomizudera. It’s like being in a ninja movie.
17. TOGETSUKYO BRIDGE IN ARASHIYAMA
A wooden bridge built in the 30’s. Very popular in autumn and spring, to see the sakuras. Impossible to miss if you go to Arashiyama.
18. THE BAMBOO FOREST OF ARASHIYAMA
One of the coolest places in Kyoto I think (I love going there). We can cross a path surrounded by gigantic bamboos. Avoid going there in the late afternoon because it is too dark and not ideal for taking pictures.
19. WALKING ALONG THE KAMO RIVER (KAMO GAWA)
FYI, ‘Kamo’ means ‘duck’. If you have a bike go for a walk along the river at night, it’s very nice as a walk.
20. WALKING AROUND TERAMACHI
A long shopping street with lots of shops and restaurants (and some tidy temples).
21. WATCHING A MAIKO SHOW
Do not miss the Maiko shows at Yasaka Hall (building on the right in the photo, with the white windows). It is near Shijo Dori and Yasaka Shrine, at the end of the paved street called Hanamikoji Dori. More info here.
22. NISHIKI MARKET
A narrow street with lots of fresh fish, vegetables … interesting to see and good photo opportunities.
A street with modern shops that looks more like Tokyo than Kyoto and where you can go shopping.
24. THE GION MATSURI FESTIVAL
One of the most important festivals of Japan which is held in June each year.
25. THE OLD RAILWAY LINE NEAR NANZEN JI
A spot not to miss if you go to Japan during Hanami (cherry season). I came across this old railroad a bit by chance, and I must say I had a bowl! It is south of Nanzen-ji.
26. MARUYAMA PARK
A very visited park during Hanami, especially for its huge sakura located in the middle and is photographed by everyone.
27. NISHI HONGANJI
After a 20-minute walk from Kyoto Station, on Horikawa Avenue you will find the Nishi-Hongan-ji Temple, one of Kyoto’s UNESCO World Heritage sites. His real name is Ryukokuzan Hongan-ji. Most rooms are decorated with nice lanterns, sliding doors, old wooden floors and other ornaments, prefectly preserved. Free entry.
28. KYOTO INTERNATIONAL MANGA MUSEUM
A large building that serves as a manga museum where you can read … manga. There is a pretty funny sight to see which is included in the entrance fee. Entrance costs 500 Yen and is closed on Wednesdays.
29. ADASHINO NENBUTSU TEMPLE
A Buddhist temple with 8000 small Buddha statues.
30. DAIMONJI YAMA
A hike easy enough to get to a beautiful view of the city of Kyoto.
BEFORE YOU GO
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