15 Must Visit Kyoto Attractions & Travel Guide

Beside Kyoto Attractions, you may want to check out other relevant articles:

Save this Kyoto Bus Map & Kyoto Subway Map on your phone so you won’t need a bus & metro map for your travel convenience.

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1. Kinkaku-ji Temple (金閣寺)

Kinkaku-ji Temple is the most recognized Zen Buddhist temple. Its 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 the Muromachi period which is considered to be a classical age of Japanese garden design.

How to Get to Kinkajuji Temple

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

2. Kiyomizu Temple (清水寺)

Kiyomizu-dera was built on the site of the Otowa Waterfall in 778 by the Tokugawa Iemitsu. The temple was built 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).

There are there separate streams at the Otowa Waterfall located at the base of Kiyomizudera’s main hall. Each stream’s water is said to fulfil different cause: longevity in life, success at school and blissful love life. Visitors will use cups attached to long poles to drink from them.

How to Get to Kiyomizu Temple

By Bus : Kiyomizu-michi – 86,100, 106, 110, 202, 206, 207

Book Online: Tea ceremony and Kiyomizu-walking Tour

3. Arashiyama (嵐山)

Arashiyama has been a popular destination, particularly during cherry blossom & fall foliage since the Heian Period for its beautiful natural settings. You can either enjoy a leisurely walk to roam the area as the attractions are nearby to each other.

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

How to Get to Arashiyama

By Train: JR Saga Arashiyama Station

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

Countless cherry blossom trees in the Spring, vibrant green leaves shining on sunny days in the Summer, mesmerizingly colourful maple leaves in the Autumn, and the snow-landscapes in the Winter, Arashiyama exemplifies Kyoto’s traditional aesthetics and the beautiful nature. No wonder that the area is one of the most visited sites in Kyoto. But, let’s all be real now. It is oftentimes too packed with tourists and their selfie sticks during the peak seasons.

We believe Arashiyama offers so much more than just instagrammable spots and our local guides are there to show you around! Take this Arashiyama Walking tour to know more about Arashiyama! Kyoto-style lunch is also included.

4. Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社)

Fushimi Inari Taisha is the head shrine of the god Inari. The shrine is famous for its almost never-ending Senbon Torii or Thousands of shrine gates. Each of the torii at Fushimi Inari Taisha has been donated by a Japanese business.

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 you can see many fox statues across the shrine grounds.

How to Get to Fushimi Inari Taisha

By Train: Keihan Line – Fushimi Inari Station

Hike up the mountain through a hidden trail where you won’t encounter other tourists on this Fushimi Inari Hidden Hiking Tour by Magical Trip.

Book Online: Fushimi Inari Walking Tour

5. Nishiki Market  (錦市場)

Nishiki Ichiba Market houses more than 100 shops and restaurant in these 5 blocks long street. Most shops specialized in fresh seafood, tea, local food and Kyoto vegetables.

It all started as a wholesale district in 1310. As time goes by, different variety of shops started to open and slowly the market changes from wholesale to the district.

How to Get to Nishiki Market

By Bus – Shijo Karasuma Station. Bus No 5,8,11,12,26,32,46,91,101,201,203,207

By Subway – Karasuma Station (K09). 5 mins walk from the station.

Join this Nishiki Market Breakfast Walking Food Tour by Magical Trip to see the most popular market in Kyoto with a local guide! You’ll sample some tasty foods unique to Kyoto as well as get the deep insight about the culture and history of Kyoto!

Book Online: Nishiki Market Walking tour

Cooking Class in Kyoto

If the sights and smells of Nishiki Market have got your mouth watering, you should check out one of the local cooking classes held in Kyoto for an authentic taste of Japanese cuisine. These cooking classes not only allow you to learn how to cook delicious traditional dishes but also provide travellers with an opportunity to experience Japanese culture and to interact with local people.

6. Hokanji Temple

Hokanji Temple (also known as Yasaka Pagoda) is a 46-meter tall pagoda situated in the middle of Kyoto old city. The surrounding quaint neighbourhood makes this area picturesque of what ancient Kyoto looks like.

The first tatami Starbucks is also located in this area. In our opinion, Starbucks is definitely over hype as there are plenty much better tea and coffee house.

How to Get to Hokanji Temple (Yasaka Pagoda)

By Bus : Kiyomizu-michi – 86,100, 106, 110, 202, 206, 207

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

How to Get to Gion

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

Go on a food adventure with a friendly local guide on Kyoto Night Foodie Tour offered by Magical Trip! You’ll enjoy the food and drinks as well as the fun time with an outgoing guide and some other companies.

Book Online: Kyoto Night Foodie Tour in Pontocho

8. Tenryu-ji Temple

In the 9th century, Empress Tachibana no Kachiko (786-850) founded the temple Danrin-ji, Japan’s first Zen temple, on the present site of Tenryu-ji. Tenryu-ji was then established in 1339 by the shogun Ashikaga Takauji in memory of Emperor Go-Daigo.

Tenryu-ji is ranked first among 5 Zen Buddhism temple in Kyoto. Since its founding, the temple has been ravaged by 8 major fires however the garden survived its original form and was not affected by the fire.

How to Get to Tenryu-ji Temple

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

By Train: JR Saga Arashiyama Station

9. 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.

How to Get to Yasaka Shrine

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

10. Nijō Castle (二条城)

Nijo Castle was built by the Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu in 1603 to protect Kyoto Imperial Palace. The building is also used as a residence for the shogun when he visited Kyoto. It was completed in 1626 by 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.

How to Get to Nijo Castle

By Bus: Nijojo-mae – 9, 12, 50, 101

11. Kyoto Imperial Palace

The Kyoto Imperial Palace was the residence of Japan’s Imperial Family until the capital and the emperor moved from Kyoto to Tokyo in 1868.

Visitors are able to visit the palace and garden by themselves or by joining the complimentary guided tour. No prior appointment is needed.

Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 9.00am to 4.30pm. Closed on Monday

Entrance Fees: Free

Free Guided Tour Schedule: English or Chinese – 10.00 am & 2.00 pm (50 min tour)

How to Get to Kyoto Imperial Palace:

By Bus – Karasuma Marutamachi 10,93,202,204

12. Kyoto Tower

Kyoto Tower is an observation tower right in front of Kyoto Station. The tower was completed in 1964 in conjunction with Tokyo Olympic.

The tallest tower in Kyoto stands at 131 meters high from its base to the tip of its spire. There are plenty of restaurants surrounding the Kyoto Tower & Kyoto Station. We recommend visiting the food court below the Kyoto Tower and the Ramen Alley on the 10th floor in Kyoto Station.

How to Get to Kyoto Tower

By Bus – 4,5,9,17,26,28,50,81,86,88,100,101,103,104,105,106,110,205,206,208

By Train – Kyoto Station

13. Heian Shrine (平安神宮)

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

In 794 AD, the Emperor Kanmu moved the capital from Nara to 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

Book: Kyoto City Highlights Bike Tour

14. Philosopher’s Walk (哲学の道 Tetsugaku no Michi)

Credit: @chai_work

The Philosopher’s Walk is a pedestrian path which follows cherry trees lined canal. The route’s name came from Japanese philosopher and Kyoto University professor Nishida Kitaro who walks the path daily for meditation.

The path starts from Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion) and ends in the area of Nanzenji.

How to Get to Philosopher’s Path

By Bus – Ginkakuji-mae 32,100

15. Walk around Kyoto in Kimono

Credits: @mackiddbill

One of our most memorable part in Kyoto was to rent a Kimono for a full day sightseeing. Renting a kimono is fairly affordable contrary to the belief that it is expensive.

Tips: Reach the shop 15 mins before it is open to be the first few customers. Therefore, you will have wider selections and able to maximize one-day rental. However, most shops require you to return by 6 pm.

Book Online: 20% OFF Book a Kimono Rental Hana Plan in KyotoKimono rental services in central Kyoto

Kyoto Guided Tours

Fancy to understand more on history? We recommend joining guided tours

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About Tommy Ooi 439 Articles
Luxury Hotel Reviewer & Destination Blogger. Passionate for travel, exploring new culture & indulging divine food, Tommy has traveled to 42 countries & 140+ destinations.

49 Comments

  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)

    Questions:-

    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.

    Yukisha

  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.

  13. Hi Tommy, i have 7 days for a Japan trip. Is Tokyo-Kyoto better or Tokyo Osaka? Should i spend more time in Tokyo or Kyoto/Osaka? This is more of a food trip cum to unwind. Thank you.

  14. Hi Tommy ,
    Thank you for your time and efforts in replying to all those Questions.
    I am going to Osaka & Kyoto for 8 nights and would like to stay in a private Onsen for 1 or 2 nights ( not too expensive ) and taste the exquisite food.
    Do you have any to recommend ? And how to I get there

  15. Hi Tommy,

    Thanks for your guide,

    would like to have your guide for my itinerary,

    plan to have 7 days in Osaka, plan to go osaka, kyoto, nara, kobe all round,

    my question is, is it worth if overnight in kyoto?

    my plan is as below

    Day 1 morning reach Kansai Airport -> Kyoto, overnight kyoto
    Day 2 Kyoto whole day, Kyoto overnight
    Day 3 Kyoto -> Nara -> Osaka overnight
    Day 4 Osaka -> Kobe -> Osaka overnight
    Day 5 Osaka
    Day 6 Osaka

    Thanks in the advance for the advice.

    thanks

    • Hi Xue, i think kyoto should be the main focus as there are more historical places in kyoto than osaka. it’s like ancient japan in certain neighborhood. To be honest you will need 3 nights min for Kyoto. From your plan Kobe should be just touch n go. Maybe perhaps skip Kobe so u have more time for Kyoto?

  16. Hi Tommy,
    Any places closer by Osaka or Kyoto where we can see snow? I have family members of four visiting Osaka/Kyoto from Dec 3 till Dec 14 this year.

  17. sorry ..pass by..i also travel to osaka dec at this period, i going kanazawa , shirakawa..if you trip allow can add in

  18. Hi Tommy,

    Thank you for your guide.

    I am going to Japan for my honeymoon. I really need your help to plan my Kyoto cuz it seems like all the good places are scattered around in Kyoto.

    Nevertheless, would like to share with you my plan for the whole trip
    Day 1: Touch down Haneda & head to Mt. Fuji, overnight at onsen ryoukan
    Day 2: Head off to Osaka in the late afternoon & overnight in Osaka
    Day 3: Osaka (USJ)
    Day 4: Osaka till late afternoon & head to Kyoto
    Day 5: Kyoto Full Day
    Day 6: Kyoto till late aftenoon & head to Tokyo
    Day 7: Tokyo
    Day 8: Tokyo & head to Haneda airport at about 8pm & home sweet home

    What do you think of this itinerary? is it too rush?

    Do you think I can cover Fushimi Inari Taisha & Arashiyama in 1 day or it is advised to split to 2 day?
    I am thinking of renting a kimono for the Day 6 for touring of the city areas.

    How would you advice?

    • Hi Sitong, if you are asking for our opinion. First advise not to combine Tokyo and Kyoto, Osaka in a trip. It is way too rush and your Japan Rail pass cost is almost the same as your flight cost. Most importantly you are on honeymoon, pace should be slower

  19. thanks for reply… For Kyoto, is ICOCA IC Card necessary? Or I will just need to buy 2 Day Pass bus tickets… Thank you…

    • Hi Khimmy, for us 2 day bus pass is sufficient to get around. ICOCA is just a touch n go card. So if you are not using more frequent, then is not needed

  20. Hi Tommy. My family and I are going to Kyoto on 24/11/2019-27/11/2019 and we will be staying in Kyoto River View House Kyoraku. We will be arriving in Kyoto on the midnight of 24/11/2019 which means we can only start exploring Kyoto on 25/11/2019. We will leave Kyoto on 27/11/2019 for Osaka. What are your recommendations for places to visit in Kyoto for that period. Thanking you in advance.

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