Last updated on April 9th, 2024 at 04:58 am

Welcome to Kyoto, a city that seamlessly blends tradition and modernity, where ancient temples stand alongside bustling streets. As you immerse yourself in the rich heritage and captivating landscapes, Kyoto will leave an indelible mark on your soul. In this detailed Kyoto travel guide, we’ll introduce you to the top 20 things To Do In Kyoto. From iconic landmarks to hidden gems, cultural wonders to gastronomic delights, Kyoto promises an enchanting journey like no other. Let’s embark on this unforgettable adventure together!

How To Get To Kyoto

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Before you begin your Kyoto adventure, you need to figure out the best way to get there. Kyoto is well-connected and easily accessible via various modes of transportation. You can fly into Kansai International Airport (KIX) or Osaka International Airport (Itami Airport) and then take a train or bus to Kyoto. The Shinkansen (bullet train) is also a popular and efficient option, connecting major cities like Tokyo and Osaka to Kyoto in a matter of hours.

Where To Stay In Kyoto

  • The Millennials Kyoto, Kyoto, Japan – Located in Kyoto, Japan, The Millennials Kyoto seamlessly combines modern innovation with traditional charm. This unique accommodation offers a dynamic blend of sleek design and cultural heritage, providing travelers with an immersive and comfortable experience that bridges the gap between the old and the new.
  • THE POCKET HOTEL Kyoto – Situated in the heart of the city, reimagines hospitality with its innovative approach. Embracing the concept of minimalist luxury, this cutting-edge establishment offers compact yet stylish rooms designed to optimize space and functionality. Travelers are invited to experience the essence of Kyoto while enjoying modern comforts and personalized service, making THE POCKET HOTEL a captivating choice for those seeking a new dimension in accommodation.
  • Sotetsu Fresa Inn Kyoto-Kiyomizu Gojo – Convenience and comfort in the historic city of Kyoto. With its prime location near the iconic Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Gojo Station, this hotel serves as an ideal base for exploring the city’s cultural treasures. Boasting contemporary rooms, thoughtful amenities, and a commitment to guest satisfaction, Sotetsu Fresa Inn offers a harmonious blend of modern hospitality and traditional charm for an unforgettable stay in Kyoto.

1. Fushimi Inari Taisha – Top Must Do In Kyoto

things to do in Kyoto

Fushimi Inari Taisha is the top best places to go in Kyoto for anyone exploring Kyoto. This iconic Shinto shrine is renowned for its thousands of vibrant red torii gates that create a mesmerizing path leading up to the sacred Mount Inari. As you wander through the tunnel-like pathways, you’ll feel a sense of tranquility and spiritual energy. The shrine’s mystical ambiance makes it a perfect spot for both cultural exploration and photography enthusiasts. Don’t miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in the allure of Fushimi Inari Taisha and witness one of Kyoto’s most iconic and captivating sights.

2. Arashiyama Bamboo Grove – Best Places to Go In Kyoto

best places to go in Kyoto

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is an absolute must do in Kyoto, enchanting visitors with its ethereal beauty and serene ambiance. Stepping into this bamboo wonderland feels like entering another world, where the towering bamboo shoots create a mystical atmosphere. As you meander through the winding pathways, the rustling bamboo leaves dance with the gentle breeze, transporting you to a place of tranquility and wonder. The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is a bucket-list destination for anyone exploring Kyoto, offering a unique and enchanting experience that will leave you awe-inspired by nature’s grandeur.

3. Sagano Scenic Railway – Top Things To Do In Kyoto

The Sagano Scenic Railway, also known as the Sagano Romantic Train or Sagano Torokko, is a picturesque train ride that takes passengers on a captivating journey through the serene landscapes of Kyoto’s Sagano area. This is one of top things to do in Kyoto, experiencing an enchanting railway that offers a unique and leisurely way to experience the beauty of Japan’s countryside, passing through lush bamboo groves, scenic rivers, and charming rural scenery.

4. Gion – Experience Edo Japan

Gion Kyoto

Gion stands as one of the best places to go in Kyoto, captivating visitors with its timeless beauty and cultural charm. This historic district is renowned for its geisha culture, traditional tea houses, and charming alleyways. As you stroll through the cobbled streets, you’ll be transported back in time, witnessing the graceful presence of geisha and maiko gliding gracefully. Gion’s enchanting ambiance makes it an ideal destination to experience Japanese traditions and immerse yourself in the city’s rich heritage. Whether you’re seeking a glimpse of Kyoto’s past or simply admiring the picturesque surroundings, Gion is a must-visit destination that exudes an alluring allure that will stay with you long after your visit.

5. Philosophers’ Path

When exploring what to do in Kyoto, the Philosophers’ Path is a must-visit destination that promises a serene and picturesque experience. This cherry tree-lined trail runs alongside a peaceful canal, offering a tranquil escape from the bustling city. The path’s beauty is especially enchanting during the cherry blossom season in spring and when the vibrant foliage paints the surroundings in autumn hues. Strolling along this path is not only a feast for the eyes but also a chance for contemplation and reflection, much like the philosophers who once walked here. Whether you’re a nature lover, a photography enthusiast, or simply seeking a peaceful retreat, the Philosophers’ Path offers an unforgettable journey through Kyoto’s natural splendor.

6. Pontocho

Pontocho Alley Kyoto

When it comes to must do experiences in Kyoto, Pontocho is an unmissable destination that exudes an enchanting charm. This narrow and atmospheric alleyway runs parallel to the Kamo River and is famed for its traditional teahouses, restaurants, and lantern-lit ambiance. As night falls, Pontocho transforms into a magical place where visitors can witness the graceful movements of geisha and maiko, adding an authentic touch to the Kyoto experience. Whether you’re looking to savor exquisite Kyoto cuisine, immerse yourself in Japanese traditions, or simply soak in the romantic atmosphere, a visit to Pontocho promises an unforgettable and memorable journey through the heart of Kyoto’s cultural allure.

7. Maruyama Park

When searching for things to do in Kyoto, Maruyama Park offers a delightful escape into nature and a serene oasis within the city. This scenic park is famous for its stunning cherry blossoms, making it an ideal spot for hanami (cherry blossom viewing) during the spring season. As the cherry blossoms bloom, the park transforms into a pink-hued wonderland. Maruyama Park also features a tranquil pond, walking paths, and picturesque landscapes, making it a perfect place for a leisurely stroll or a peaceful picnic. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast or a seeker of seasonal beauty, Maruyama Park offers a blissful retreat where you can connect with nature and experience the enchanting allure of Kyoto.

8. Kifune-jinja Shrine

In our Kyoto Travel Guide, we cannot miss mentioning the charming Kifune-jinja Shrine. Nestled in the lush mountains of northern Kyoto, this sacred shrine offers a unique and enchanting experience for visitors. Accessible by a serene forested path, the shrine is known for its mystical atmosphere and beautiful surroundings. Its unique architecture and tranquil setting make it a serene escape from the bustling city. As you explore the shrine and its surroundings, you’ll be captivated by the soothing sound of the flowing stream and the sense of spiritual tranquility that pervades the air. For a serene and off-the-beaten-path experience in Kyoto, Kifune-jinja Shrine is a hidden gem worth discovering.

9. Samurai & Ninja Museum with Experience

When it comes to must do experiences in Kyoto, the Samurai & Ninja Museum is a thrilling and immersive adventure that you must do in Kyoto. Step back in time as you delve into the world of Japanese warriors and embrace the spirit of the samurai and ninja. This interactive museum allows visitors to try on authentic samurai armor, wield traditional weapons, and even learn the art of ninja techniques. Engaging demonstrations by skilled instructors bring history to life, making it an educational and exciting experience for all ages. Whether you’ve dreamt of being a samurai or fascinated by the stealth of ninjas, the Samurai & Ninja Museum offers an unforgettable journey through Japan’s legendary warrior culture right in the heart of Kyoto.

10. Mount Daimonji

Hike up Mount Daimonji: Embark on a rewarding hike up Mount Daimonji to witness breathtaking views of Kyoto from above makes this a spot on the popular things to do in Kyoto list. During the Gozan no Okuribi festival in August, the character for “dai” (large) is lit on the mountain, creating a mesmerizing spectacle.

11. Ryoan-ji

Kyoto Zen Garden

Embrace Serenity at Ryoan-ji: Experience Zen tranquility at Ryoan-ji, known for its enigmatic rock garden. Appreciate the minimalist beauty and contemplate the raked gravel patterns, a masterpiece of Zen philosophy and best places to go in Kyoto to experience a relaxing atmosphere.

12. Nishiki Market

When searching for what to do in Kyoto, Nishiki Market is an unmissable destination that offers a feast for the senses. This vibrant and bustling market is a culinary haven, where visitors can sample a wide array of traditional Japanese delicacies and pick up unique souvenirs. As you meander through the narrow stalls, you’ll be enticed by the aroma of freshly prepared street food and tempted by the colorful array of local products. Nishiki Market’s lively atmosphere and diverse offerings make it a perfect must do in Kyoto spot for food enthusiasts and curious travelers alike, providing a delightful and immersive experience into Kyoto’s culinary culture.

13. Hozugawa River Cruise

Experience the beauty of Kyoto by embarking on a serene boat cruise along the picturesque Hozugawa River. Immerse yourself in the lush landscapes, appreciating nature’s charm while enjoying the tranquil journey. It’s one of the exciting things to do in Kyoto while enjoying nature.

14. Kiyomizu-dera

Best Things to do in Kyoto

In our Kyoto Travel Guide, Kiyomizu-dera stands as an architectural marvel and a spiritual sanctuary that should not be missed. This iconic Buddhist temple, perched on a hillside, offers breathtaking panoramic views of Kyoto’s cityscape. Its grand wooden veranda and stunning main hall, supported by towering wooden pillars, are engineering feats that have astounded visitors for centuries. Surrounded by lush forests and serene gardens, Kiyomizu-dera exudes a sense of tranquility and sacredness that captivates the soul. As you wander through this revered temple complex, you’ll be immersed in a profound sense of history and spirituality, making it a must-visit destination for anyone exploring Kyoto.

15. Kinkaku-ji

Must see places in Kyoto Japan

A must do in Kyoto, Kinkaku-ji, also known as the Golden Pavilion, is an iconic and breathtaking destination that embodies the city’s rich cultural heritage. This stunning Zen Buddhist temple is adorned with shimmering gold leaf, creating a mesmerizing sight reflected in the tranquil pond. Its meticulously landscaped gardens and graceful architecture make Kinkaku-ji a true masterpiece. The temple’s serene surroundings and historical significance make it a top attraction in Kyoto, drawing visitors from all over the world to marvel at its resplendent beauty. When exploring Kyoto, a visit to Kinkaku-ji is an absolute must, promising an unforgettable encounter with Japan’s artistic and spiritual legacy.

16. Ginkaku-ji

Silver Pavilion

Explore the captivating Ginkaku-ji, also known as the Silver Pavilion, a Zen temple boasting meticulously maintained gardens. Despite the absence of silver, the temple’s understated beauty remains alluring and serves as a remarkable testament to Japanese aesthetics. If you’re seeking serene zen gardens, Ginkaku-ji is one of the best places to visit in Kyoto.

17. Kyoto Railway Museum

Visit the Kyoto Railway Museum: Perfect for train enthusiasts of all ages, the Kyoto Railway Museum offers a captivating journey through Japan’s railway history. Explore an impressive collection of locomotives and carriages, and even experience a train simulator.

18. Katsura Imperial Villa

Katsura Imperial Villa

Uncover the Beauty of Katsura Imperial Villa: Explore the Katsura Imperial Villa, a masterpiece of Japanese architecture and landscape design. Its exquisite gardens and meticulously crafted buildings showcase timeless elegance.

19. Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle Kyoto

In our Kyoto Travel Guide, Nijo Castle stands as a remarkable historical gem that offers a captivating glimpse into Japan’s feudal past. This UNESCO World Heritage site boasts impressive architecture, beautifully landscaped gardens, and intriguing artifacts that reflect the country’s rich heritage. As you explore the castle’s opulent interiors, including the renowned “nightingale floors” designed to alert against intruders, you’ll be transported back in time to the era of shoguns and samurai. Nijo Castle’s cultural significance and grandeur make it a must-visit destination in Kyoto, where history comes alive, and the spirit of ancient Japan is palpable.

20. Day Trip To Nara

Nara Japan

Embarking on a Nara day trip from Kyoto is an enriching and unforgettable experience that should be on every traveler’s bucket list. Located just a short train ride away, Nara offers a treasure trove of historical wonders and natural beauty. From the majestic Todai-ji Temple housing the Great Buddha to the serene Nara Park, where friendly deer roam freely, Nara presents a perfect blend of cultural exploration and scenic tranquility. The chance to interact with the gentle deer and explore ancient temples amidst serene landscapes creates a magical day trip that complements Kyoto’s allure. If you’re seeking a delightful escape from Kyoto’s bustling cityscape while immersing yourself in Japan’s cultural heritage, a Nara day trip is an absolute must do in Kyoto.

Must Do Experiences in Kyoto:

Kyoto Tea Ceremony
  • Experience a Traditional Tea Ceremony: Immerse yourself in Japanese culture by participating in a traditional tea ceremony. Savor the elegance of matcha tea preparation and learn about the customs associated with this ancient art form.
  • Hanami: Experience the magic of hanami (cherry blossom viewing) in Kyoto during spring. Join locals and tourists alike as they picnic under blooming cherry trees, celebrating the ephemeral beauty of nature.
  • Gion Matsuri Festival: Time your visit with the Gion Matsuri, one of Japan’s most famous festivals held in July. Witness grand processions, traditional performances, and floats adorned with intricate craftsmanship.
  • Kimono Experience: Embrace the elegance of traditional Japan by donning a kimono. Rent one from various shops in Kyoto and wander through the city’s ancient streets in style.
  • Taste Kaiseki Cuisine: Treat yourself to a kaiseki dining experience, a multi-course traditional Japanese meal that showcases seasonal ingredients and refined culinary techniques.

Free Walking Tours:

Conclusion of Kyoto Travel Guide:

Discover the allure of Kyoto, a city brimming with rich heritage, stunning landscapes, and immersive cultural experiences, offering an unforgettable journey for every traveler. This Kyoto Travel Guide presents the top 20 must do things in Kyoto, showcasing the city’s diversity and charm. From the resplendent Kinkaku-ji to the serene Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, and from the captivating Gion district to the enchanting hanami celebrations, Kyoto beckons you to explore its wonders. So, pack your bags and embark on an enchanting adventure to this timeless city, where unforgettable experiences await!

How many days should I allocate to explore Kyoto fully?

To experience the highlights of Kyoto, it’s recommended to spend at least 3 to 4 days. However, if you wish to delve deeper into the city’s culture and attractions, consider extending your stay to a week.

What is the best way to get around Kyoto?

Kyoto has an excellent public transportation system, including buses and trains. Consider purchasing a Kyoto City Bus Pass or a Kyoto Sightseeing Card for unlimited rides on buses and trains within the city.

When is the best time to visit Kyoto?

Kyoto is stunning year-round, but the cherry blossom season in spring (March to April) and the autumn foliage in fall (October to November) offer the most breathtaking experiences.


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