8 Must Visit Kyoto Attractions & Travel Guide

1. Kinkaku-ji Temple (金閣寺, Golden Pavillion)

Kinkaku-ji Temple is the most recognised Zen Buddhist temple & one of the main Kyoto attractions with top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf.

Initially, the building’s was to serve the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu as a residence. However it was converted into a Zen temple shortly after his death.

The harmonious settings between buildings and surrounding were greatly emphasized during Muromachi period which is considered to be a classical age of Japanese garden design.

Getting there

By Bus : Kinkakuji-michi – 12, 59, 101, 102, 204, 205

2. Kiyomizu Temple (清水寺)

Located halfway up Otowa Mountain in the eastern part of Kyoto City, Kiyomizu-dera which name come from the waterfall within the complex is a historic temple that was established in 778 ordered by the Tokugawa Iemitsu, before Kyoto became the capital of Japan.

The temple has burned down many times. Most of the current buildings were rebuilt by the 3rd Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu in the early Edo period (1631 to 1633).

Getting there

By Bus : Gojozaka – 100, 202, 206, 207

3. Nijō Castle (二条城)

Nijo Castle was built by the Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu, in 1603 to protect Kyoto Imperial Palace and as a residence for the shogun when he visited Kyoto. It was completed in 1626 by the his grandson, Iemitsu.

After the Tokugawa Shogunate fell in 1867, Nijo Castle was used as an imperial palace for a while before being donated to the city and opened up to the public as a historic site.

Getting there

By Bus : Nijojo-mae – 9, 12, 50, 101

4. Arashiyama (嵐山)

Arashiyama has been a popular destination particularly during cherry blossom & fall foliage since the Heian Period for its beautiful natural settings. Many attractions are nearby one and another. You can either enjoy a leisurely walk or rent a bicycle to roam the area.

Notable attractions are Tenryu-ji Temple, Bamboo forest & Iwatayama Monkey Park.

Getting there

By Train : JR Saga Arashiyama Station

By Bus : Arashiyama Tenryuji-mae – 11, 28, 93

5. Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社)

Fushimi Inari Taisha is the head shrine of Inari. Famous for its almost never ending Senbon Torii or Thousands shrine gates.

The shrine was dedicated to the gods of rice and sake by the Hata family in the 8th century. Foxes are believed to be Inari’s messengers, hence many fox statues across the shrine grounds.

Getting there

By Train : JR Inari Station

6. Gion District (祇園)

Famously known for Geisha, Gion’s true origins were to cater to weary visitors to Yasaka shrine. It is good to note that geisha are entertainers, not prostitutes.

From Yasaka as starting point, just walk straight and you will arrive Shijo-dori a modern shopping district filled with department stores & pedestrian shopping street.

Getting there

By Bus : Gion – 12, 46, 100, 201, 202, 203, 206, 207

7. Yasaka Shrine (八坂神社)

Yasaka Shrine also known as Gion Shrine is located between the popular Gion District and Higashiyama District.

The shrine dates back to 876, when the priest Enjo invited Gozu Tenno, the god of illness prevention, to the shrine in an effort to stop the run of epidemics and other disasters that were afflicting Kyoto residents at that time.

Getting there

By Bus : Gion – 12, 46, 100, 201, 202, 203, 206, 207

8. Heian Shrine (平安神宮)

Heian Shrine was built to celebrate the 1100th anniversary of the capital’s foundation in Kyoto.

In 794 A.D., the Emperor Kanmu moved the capital from Nara to what is now Kyoto and named the new city “Heian-kyo”, which means “the capital of eternal peace”.

Getting there

By Bus : Kyoto Kaikan Bijutsukan (Heian-jingu) mae – 32, 46

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Disclaimer :
All the information above is correct upon published & is subject to change without further notice. Please make an effort to double check. Neither the author nor owner will be liable for any damage or lost caused.


About Tommy Ooi 327 Articles

Luxury Hotel Reviewer & Destination Blogger. Passionate for travel, exploring new culture & indulging divine food, Tommy has traveled to 42 countries & 140+ destinations.


  1. Hi Tommy,

    WOuld like to enquire on the Kyoto attractions. Is it easy to take the Bus to go to the places – when and how would you know where to board and get off.

    • Hello Tommy.. Your blog is most helpful… Super thanks.. May I ask your advice?.. Planning to go to Osaka and Kyoto this November 2016 and would like to know iwhere to base ourselves.. Arashimaya, Fushimi Inari, Osaka castle are among the places we missed at our last trip. Your must-see sites in both areas are in my to-do list. Thank you and more power to you.. ?

    • Hi Samantha, Osaka just stay near a metro or Namba area should be convenient to get around. Kyoto perhaps near Kyoto Station since getting around kyoto mostly involve in bus

  2. Hi Tommy, any recommendation on budget onsen for a night stay somewhere near Kyoto/Osaka? I see most of the onsen are quite expensive, do you know is there any good one with cheaper rate? thanks!

  3. Hi Tommy. We’re going to Kyoto in November for autumn season. We plan to stay there for 3 days. What’s you recommend for places to visit; you have “8 must visit Kyoto” for us, we don’t think we can do 8. So what are the best one for autumn?

  4. Hi Tommy

    We have booked airtickets to Narita Tokyo and leaving from Kansai Airport, in early to mid Dec 2016, for 11Days 10Nights trip (2 Adults 1 Teen 2 older children).

    Our planned itineraries as follows (INCOMPLETE AS RESEARCHING STAGE):-

    Tokyo – 4 Nites (DisneySea, Asakusa Temple, Science Museum)
    Kyoto – 3 Nites (Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Nishiki Market)
    Osaka – 3 Nites (USJ)


    1) The number of days allocated at the 3 locations seems all right?
    2) Any other places of interest that you can recommend?

    Appreciate your guidance as its our first family Free & Easy holiday (stress mode for us parents ;p)

    • Hi Vien, we dont advise to do tokyo & osaka together as it will be a rush trip & you will miss surrounding areas. For example u will be missing Mount Fuji & Nara.

  5. Hi Tommy,

    I will be in Osaka for a 8 days. I plan to stay in Kyoto for 4 days and remaining 4 days in Osaka.

    Please advise what pass I should get to travel around Kyoto, Nara, Osaka and maybe Kobe or Himeji.

    Also how do I travel from Osaka to the airport because I am afraid to miss the flight back!

    Thanks in advance.

  6. Hi Tommy, I have booked return air ticket to tokyo for 16 days. izit sufficient to cover tokyo, kyoto and osaka?

      • Hi Tommy, thanks for your reply. Here are my itinerary appreciate you could advise especially Kyoto.
        Day 1: Reach tokyo 9.30am rest afternnon to Odaiba.
        Day 2: Harajuku, Yoyogi Park, Shibuya, Shinjuku.
        Day 3: Asakusa, Ueno Park, Ginza.
        Day 4: Disneysea.
        Day 5: Yokohama (Optional seem like ntg much to see).
        Day 6: Kawaguchiko, Kochi Kochi Ropeway stay 1 night.
        Day 7: Oshino Hakkai, Chureito Pagoda night take bus to Kyoto.
        Day 8: Reach early in the morning to Arashiyama, Sagano Scenic railway stay Kyoto 2 nights.
        Day 9: Gion, Philosopher’s path, Nanzenji temple, Maruyama Park, Higashiyama DIstrict (Optiona), Pontocho.
        Day 10: Fushimi Inari shrine, Golden pavilion, Ninnaji transfer to Osaka for 3 nights.
        Day 11: Aquarium, Namba, Dontobori, Shinsaibashi.
        Day 12: Osaka castle, Umeda sky building (still thinking transport back to tokyo).
        Day 13: If take flight reach tokyo in afternoon to tokyo tower, Chidorigafuchi or Megurogawa.
        Day 14: Any suggestion place?
        Day15: Free and easy.
        Day16: Back to KL.

        Thank you in advance.

  7. Hi Tommy, I am transitting in Tokyo. Planning to stay in Japan for 3 days. Should we stay in Tokyo or kyoto?

  8. we hv 8/10days for Japan trip . Will go Tokyo . So between Osaka n Kyoto with one better ? My friends say 3places too rushing . N can go Mount Fuji as well ? Fly to which place 1st more convenience ? Pleas advice
    Thanks .

  9. For a 24-hour trip to Kyoto in early August, is it realistic to go to all of these temples:
    Kinkaky-Ji Temple (Golden Pavillion)
    Arashiyama (Bamboo)
    Fushimi Inari Taisha (Famous)
    Nijo Castle
    Kiyomizu-dera Temple
    Gion District (Known for Geisha)

    Any recommendation for dinner, breakfast and lunch? We will be around the Rokkaku Takakura Higashiiru, Nakagyo-ku area. Thank you much.

  10. Hi Tommy,

    Your blog post was really helpful. Im planning to visit Kyoto/Nara, do you think we can cover both places in 6 days? Thank you.


  11. Thanks for the swift reply! 🙂 Im planning to go there with my friend anything u can advise as we never been to Japan before.

    Thanks Tommy.

  12. Hi Tommy, this is one really helpful blog. Could you help,which one is close to another. How many sites can we visit in one day? We are 20 pax travelling (9 are aged 12-16) for 7 days, Dec 20-27 -Osaka, Kyoto, Nara only.. Thank you so much.

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