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Things to do in Kyoto

Things to do in  Kyoto

Welcome to Kyoto

Boasting an impressive 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites—one of the world’s largest collections—Kyoto epitomizes traditional Japanese culture. Quaint, serene, and rooted firmly in tradition, the city operates at an entirely different pace than bright, frenetic Tokyo. In the historic Gion district, geishas scurry to work wearing trademark silk kimonos; during sakura (cherry blossom season), Maruyama Park swells with pastel-pink flowers; and in Nishiki Food Market, vendors front stalls selling Japanese delicacies. Kyoto brims with dazzling Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, all set against striking natural landscapes typical of Japan. Tick off more highlights in less time on sightseeing tours, which typically cover the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji), Nijo Castle, Kyoto Imperial Palace, Heian Jingu Shrine, and Kiyomizu Temple. Culture lovers can arrange a traditional tea ceremony and watch a Maiko show, nature fans can hike through Arashiyama and the Sagano Bamboo Forest, and foodies can master the art of Japanese cuisine during a sushi-making lesson. Within easy reach of Kyoto are several popular destinations that make ideal choices for half- or full-day tours: Nara, home to Deer Park (Nara Park) and Todai-ji (one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Japan); and Osaka, with its picturesque canal, grand Osaka Castle, and vibrant Dotonbori district. Farther afield but doable as a one-day tour, Hiroshima and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park are popular among travelers looking to learn more about Japan’s history.

Top 10 attractions in Kyoto

#1
Gion Corner

Gion Corner

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Gion Corner is a convenient place for art lovers to visit while in Kyoto, as it brings seven traditional Japanese performing arts together under one roof. Attending one of its nightly performances is an ideal way to spend an evening in the heart of the Gion entertainment district while learning about traditional Japanese culture.More
#2
Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)

Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)

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With its gleaming gold tiers reflected in the lake below and a backdrop of forests and twisted pines, Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion) is an enchanting sight. Dating back to the 14th century, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of Kyoto’s most popular attractions and among Japan’s most visited temples.More
#3
Arashiyama Park

Arashiyama Park

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For classic Kyoto in a nutshell, head to Arashiyama Park. The perennially popular area is rich in temples and a riot of fall colors in November, with pink cherry blossoms in April.The park area embraces several major sights, including Tenryu-ji Temple, founded in 1339. The main temple of the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism, Tenryu-ji is a UNESCO World Heritage Site surrounded by tranquil Zen gardens and bamboo forest.There are many other temples in Arashiyama, including the Gio-ji, Jojakko-ji and Daikaku-ji temples. Another highlight is walking across the Moon Crossing Bridge, with views over to Mt Arashiyama.More
#4
Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market

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With more than 100 shops, stalls, and vendors selling everything from fresh-off-the-boat fish and seafood to tasty sweets and sushi takeaway, Nishiki Food Market is a wonderland of culinary delights. It's no surprise then that Kyoto’s biggest and most popular food market is a local institution and a popular attraction for traveling foodies.More
#5
Fushimi Inari Shrine (Fushimi Inari Taisha)

Fushimi Inari Shrine (Fushimi Inari Taisha)

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One of Kyoto’s most sacred temples and among the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan, the Fushimi Inari Shrine (Fushimi Inari Taisha) is dedicated to Inari, the God of rice. The shrine’s five magnificent temples lie at the foot of the Inari mountain, and thousands of red torii gates (the Senbon torii) mark the forested trails to the top.More
#6
Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

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Kiyomizu-dera Temple is one of Japan’s oldest and most eye-catching Buddhist temples. Its classic red pagoda has been influential to Japanese architecture for centuries. Located on a hilltop, Kiyomizu-dera Temple is also worth visiting for its sweeping views over Kyoto.More
#7
Yasaka Shrine (Gion Shrine)

Yasaka Shrine (Gion Shrine)

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Host to Japan’s most famous festival, Gion Matsuri, Yasaka Shrine is located in the heart of Kyoto. Yasaka Shrine dates back to the 7th century, when it was known as Gion Shrine for its location near the Gion district, famous for the geisha that live and work there. The shrine consists of several buildings. The main hall houses an inner sanctuary and a secondary hall. One of the most prominent features of the shrine is a large stage out front lined with hundreds of lanterns. One of the most popular times to visit the shrine is in the evening or at night, when the lanterns light the stage.The annual Gion Matsuri festival began more than 1,100 years ago at Yasaka Shrine. In modern times, it takes place every July. Originally, the festival sought to expunge the city of illnesses. Today, the festival celebrates craftwork. Intricate fabrics, textiles, and sculptures adorn floats that men carry through town. Music, costumes, and street food contribute to the festive atmosphere. Yasaka Shrine is also a popular place to visit during the Japanese New Year and during cherry blossom season.More
#8
Sagano

Sagano

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Often mistaken for the Arashiyama district of Kyoto, Sagano expands north of the Togetsukyo Bridge in Kyoto. The tranquil area encompasses some of Kyoto’s most stunning landscapes. With rural residential areas, mountains dotting the horizon, fields ablaze with color and a famous bamboo forest, Sagano may just be one of Japan’s prettiest (and lesser known) spots.By far, Sagano is best known for its bamboo groves. Walking trails wind through the forest, with thin, tall bamboos lining either side. Sun light filters through the narrow trunks, casting shadows along the path. Beyond the grove, one of the best ways to experience Sagano is on bicycle. In addition to the bamboo groves, there are numerous temples to explore, as well as the river and the well-traveled bridge. This idyllic nook on the outskirts of Kyoto should not be missed.More
#9
Kamogawa River (Kamo River)

Kamogawa River (Kamo River)

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Strolling along the Kamogawa River (Kamo River) at night is a quintessential Kyoto experience. The fourth longest river in Kyoto spans from the northeastern most parts of the city southwest to the Katsuragawa River. The most popular section of the river runs through the famous geisha district of Gion. In warmer months, the river becomes a popular spot for picnics, walks, and people watching.A walking path along the river’s edge gives way to stretches of parkland, perfect for enjoying an afternoon or evening. Restaurants situated above the river light up at night, illuminating the river below. There are five bridges that span the Kamo River. More adventurous travelers may enjoy finding each of them. Along with the Seine in Paris or the Tiber River in Italy, the Kamo River is a favorite spot among locals.More
#10
Pontocho Alley

Pontocho Alley

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Foodies who spend any time in Kyoto will want to dedicate at least one evening to PontochoAlley, an incredibly atmospheric dining area packed with restaurants and exclusive tea houses lining a narrow, cobbled alley just west of the Kamo River.Visitors from around Japan and the world come here for the open-air dining along the river and the opportunity to spot apprentice and master geishas scurrying to their appointments. While most of the tea houses are difficult to visit without a connection, visitors will find a range of restaurants — everything from inexpensive yakitori to modern Kyoto cuisine – to choose from in the evenings.More

Trip ideas

Kyoto Temple Guide

Kyoto Temple Guide

Recent reviews from experiences in Kyoto

star-5
Great walking food tour in Saga-Arashiyama area
Jose, Jun 2021
Kyoto Arashiyama & Sagano Walking Food Tour
Guide was very kind and knowledgeable, he even gave us tips on what to do in Kyoto after the tour.
star-5
Virtual Kyoto tour
DoraPerera, Jan 2021
Kyoto Virtual Tour
The tour was a great virtual escape that will definitely make you want to visit Kyoto in real life asap!
star-5
Wonderful Way to Connect to the People and the Culture
Nancy, Jan 2021
Kyoto Virtual Tour
Minako and her assistant have a great way of engaging you throughout the tour with humorous stories, historical information, and fun quiz activities.
star-5
Covers major Kyoko highlights
Wayne_S, Mar 2020
Kyoto Cultural Forest, Shrine and Temple Tour with Options
Excellent one day tour of Kyoto attractions.
star-5
A must do in Kyoto
Ca_souza, Mar 2020
PRIVATE Experience Tea Ceremony wearing a Kimono in Kyoto MAIKOYA
They speak a perfect English and they were so careful to make sure we are all fine :) I'm simply loved my experience and the tea was delicious
star-5
Excellent Tour
Melissa_L, Feb 2020
Kyoto Late Bird tour
Can't wait to visit Kyoto again to visit additional sites.
star-5
Excellent
Camper50312046361, Jan 2020
Arashiyama Bamboo Bike Tour (Early Bird)
Excellent recommendations at the end of the tour about what to do next in Kyoto very helpful.
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Our First Virtual Tour
Jim_S, Sep 2020
Kyoto Virtual Tour
Aki and Minako were fabulous hosts, tour conducted in English via Zoom call.
star-5
Fantastic tour!
Trip46708962741, Jan 2020
5 Top Highlights of Kyoto with Kyoto Bike Tour
This was the best way to see all of Kyoto in one day.
star-5
Valuable and amazing tour
SubiAG, Nov 2019
Kyoto Cultural Forest, Shrine and Temple Tour with Options
It gives you a taste of the cultural Japan and offers the opportunity to see many iconic Kyoto spots in 1 day.
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Kyoto walking tour
thachvo, Nov 2019
KYOTO Walking Tour [Customize Your Itinerary]
We were able to visit some of the best places of Kyoto and just like exactly the books say, all is marvelous, the gardens, the temples, the shrines and the food.
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Kyoto half-day private tour - highly recommend it
Nomad44556182242, Oct 2019
Kyoto Half-Day Private Tour with Nationally-Licensed Guide
Spoke good English and took us to all the top spots in Kyoto.
star-5
Enjoyable Tour
wilbyonclyde, Oct 2019
Kyoto Morning Tour - Golden Pavilion and Kyoto Imperial Palace from Kyoto
We enjoyed visiting the various attractions although unfortunately we couldn’t visit the Imperial Palace as it was closed due to the Emperors Coronation in Tokyo.
star-4
Excellent Kyoto & Nara Bus Tour
Gary S, Oct 2019
Kyoto and Nara 1 Day Trip - Golden Pavilion and Todai-ji Temple from Kyoto
Very good Japanese lady with good English speaking guide.
star-5
A good morning out and about
Jorgus50, Oct 2019
Kyoto - Morning Private Cycling Tour Including Bicycle and Helmet rental
highly recommended way to see Kyoto.
star-5
Fantastic !!
Dianne W, Oct 2019
5 Top Highlights of Kyoto with Kyoto Bike Tour
This was the perfect way to see the best sights Kyoto city.
star-5
Living Room Visit to Kyoto
Joe_F, Aug 2020
Kyoto Virtual Tour
We're all hoping to visit soon.
star-5
Lovely guide
bettybud0ck, Oct 2019
Kyoto Small-Group or Private Bike Tour
It was a lovely tour which took us around the quiet streets of Kyoto to visit temples and shrines.
star-4
Great overview of Kytoto
El_blasian, Sep 2019
Kyoto Lazy Bird Tour
Our tour guide gave us a great overview of the Kyoto‘s essential places to visit.
star-5
A great time
Grace M, Sep 2019
Kyoto and Nara 1 Day Trip - Golden Pavilion and Todai-ji Temple from Kyoto
This was amazing to see the deer!

A local’s pocket guide to Kyoto

Akie Watanabe

Akie—a tour guide, origami instructor, sake sommelier, and the 29th generation of a Samurai family—loves Kyoto for its history, traditional culture, and great food.

The first thing you should do in Kyoto is...

go to Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavilion). You'll find traditional Japanese beauty in the spectacular garden. Coming to Kyoto and skipping Kinkakuji is like going to Paris and skipping the Eiffel Tower.

A perfect Saturday in Kyoto...

starts with coffee from Café Good Day Velo and continues with take-out mackerel sushi and mochi from Nishiki Market. Afterwards, take a walk along Kamo river, before getting dinner and drinks in Pontocho, a famed geisha district.

One touristy thing that lives up to the hype is...

the Fushimi Inari Shrine where there are 10,000 red gates. It's so unique, special, and spiritual. And, of course, you can take amazing photos.

To discover the "real" Kyoto...

ride a bike. Go down narrow backstreets, the Imperial Gardens, and the Sanyo Shopping Street, where you can feel the old-world atmosphere and sample affordable ramen in cool local cafés and supermarkets.

For the best view of the city...

go up to Iwatayama Monkey Park. You'll get a great city view from the top of the mountain and the 20-minute hike is worth it. Plus, you can also see cute monkeys roaming around.

One thing people get wrong...

thinking that Kyotoites are close-minded. People from Kyoto generally welcome visitors.

Frequently Asked Questions
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