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Welcome to the birthplace of Japanese culture, art, and tradition. Kyoto is one of Japan’s most unique destinations with many golden temples, and thousands of red shrines.

Wander through a waving bamboo forest, spot Geishas in Gion, or admire the stunning views from a scenic train ride. There are just so many fantastic things to do in Kyoto that I listed all my favorite places here.

This article fits perfectly in a 3-day Kyoto itinerary, however, during my trip of 3 weeks in Japan, I spent 5 days in Kyoto to discover some places at a slower pace (or even twice) so I could capture stunning photos during sunrise and sunset.

READ ALSO: The perfect itinerary for Japan in 3 weeks

Higashiyama District - BLOGPOST HQ1

How To Get To Kyoto?

BY FLIGHT: Kyoto has no international airport, so if you’re planning to start your Japan itinerary in Kyoto, I recommend flying to Osaka or Tokyo first and then catching a train to Kyoto.

There are multiple flights a day from all over the world arriving at Osaka and Tokyo International Airport, however, for my trip, I searched the best flight to Tokyo with Skyscanner and traveled by bus to Kyoto.

BY TRAIN: If you’re coming from Osaka or Nara, you can go by train to Kyoto, which is the most popular way of getting around. Taking a train in Japan is super easy, comfortable, and incredibly fast. From Tokyo, I recommend taking a Shinkansen train as this is the fastest way to reach Kyoto.

The Japan Railway Pass covers all trains and most Shinkansen trains in the country.

BY BUS: Many people don’t know that it’s easy to get around Japan by bus. Taking the bus instead of the train will save you money, but it will take longer.

For example, the Shinkansen takes only 2 hours to get from Tokyo to Osaka, while it takes about 8–9 hours by bus. So it’s up to you to choose what makes you feel most at ease. I used 12GOAsia to book most bus tickets to travel around Japan as I had the time to travel at a slower pace

Although, if you only have 7 days in Japan or you plan to visit Japan in 2 weeks with the same arrival and departure destination, I recommend buying a Japan Railway Pass

Bus from Kyoto to Osaka - BLOGPOST

Best Time To Visit Kyoto

The best time to visit Kyoto is during spring (March-April) and autumn (October-November) when the temperatures are pleasant and when it is not too humid. These two seasons are when most of the city’s famous sights are at their peak so you can be sure that they’ll look amazing in your photos!

There will be fewer available rooms and higher prices at hotels during the peak tourist seasons of springtime cherry blossoms and autumn foliage.

Although fewer people are visiting Japan throughout the summer and winter, some people find the humidity of June and the extreme cold of January unpleasant.

Best time to visit Kyoto

Where To Stay In Kyoto?

Kyoto is a city that will stay with you because there is so much to see and learn in the cultural and historical heart of the country. There are a dozen historical castles in the city, as well as a lot of temples and shrines that you have to explore during your visit, so I recommend staying for at least a few days.

I stayed 5 days in Kyoto to explore all these amazing things at a slower pace as I wanted to take the time and photograph some places at a specific time.

Similar to Tokyo, there are so many accommodations in Kyoto and you can easily find some great options close to Kyoto Station, which makes it easier for you to get around.

For a dorm bed, you can expect to pay between € 30-50 per night while a private room in a hotel will cost € 60-100 per night

Best things to do in Kyoto

Walk Through The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Time to spend here: 1-2 hours

The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is one of the best Kyoto tourist spots and it is located in the western part of the city. It’s over 1 kilometer long and gets its name from how the bamboo sways in the wind like waves on a sea. It looks like it belongs in a picture book!

The beautiful scenery and peaceful walks make it a very interesting place for tourists. These days it can be overcrowded so I recommend coming very early in the morning if you would like to take some photos without the crowds.

Once you walked through the waving bamboo trees, you’ll find the Okochi Sanso Gardens and Kameyama Park where you can walk through the colourful trees and have stunning views of the gorge from the many view platforms.

HOW TO GET TO THE BAMBOO FOREST: From Kyoto station take the San-In Line to the Saga-Arashiyama Station, which takes about 30 minutes. Once you arrive at the Saga-Arashiyama Station, it is a 10 min. walk to the Bamboo forest.

BOOK: Ride through Arashiyama bamboo Forest with a Rickshaw Tour 

Kyoto - Bamboo Forest4
Kyoto - Bamboo Forest
Kyoto - Bamboo Forest

Take the Sagano Romantic Train

Time to spend here: 2-3 hours

The Sagano Romantic Train is one of Japan’s most beautiful railways. The scenic train ride is about 25 minutes each way and runs from Torokko-Arashiyama to Kameoka through the stunning Hozukyo Gorge.

The Hozukyo Gorge offers fantastic views and the train has open windows so you can enjoy the views even more.

Along the way, you will have breathtaking landscapes throughout the year with picturesque cherry blossoms in the spring, lush vegetation in the summer, or brilliantly coloured foliage in the fall.

It is possible to take the train to Kameoka and join a river cruise back through the Hozukyo Gorge, however, I didn’t experience it myself it looks impressive.

TICKETS: You can buy tickets for 880 JPY (€ 6) at either Torokko Saga Station or Torokko Arashiyama Station but during peak season the train might be fully booked so I recommend booking in advance.

TIP: Get off the train at the Torokko Kameoka Station, there is a food stall where you buy some snacks while waiting for the train to go back.

BOOK: Join a guided tour and experience a romantic train ride through the scenic Hozukyo Gorge

Kyoto - Nagano scenic train
Kyoto - Nagano scenic train

Visit Fushimi-Inari Shrine

Time to spend here: 2 hours (open 24 hours, so I suggest visiting during sunrise and sunset if you have time on your trip)

Fushimi-Inari Shrine is located in the south of the city and it’s one of the best things to do in Kyoto. Walk through the thousands of beautiful orange-coloured Tori Gates and get lost at Fushimi-Inari Shrine.

Visit the shrines as early as possible (around sunrise) to avoid the big crowds and trust me, this is perhaps the most instagrammable spot in Japan so it gets crowded.

Once you get there, walk up the hill and find a nice spot to make some photos of the beautiful orange tori gates instead of the tori gates at the entrance.

There are many paths through this fascinating temple complex, so you can visit multiple times and always discover something new!

BOOK: A guided tour to learn more about the history of the Tori Gates or discover unexplored paths through the maze of shrines

Kyoto - Fushimi-Inari Shrine2
Kyoto - Fushimi-Inari Shrine
Kyoto - Fushimi-Inari Shrine

Rent A Bike And Explore Kyoto With Kons Cycle

Time to spend here: full day

Renting a bike was the best thing I did during the incredible 5 days in Kyoto. This was the most convenient way to travel to all the beautiful shrines and temples and besides it helped to explore more places around the city, it was also pretty safe.

After doing some research, I came across Kons Cycle near Nishiki Market and it was actually cheap. Many places rent out bikes for you to use while exploring Kyoto, and you’ll be able to get off the beaten track to see some hidden gems along the way.

PRICE: I rented a bike at Kons Cycle and paid JPY 1500 / €11 for a full day (returning the same day)

BOOK: If you travel solo or want to know more about some places, consider a guided cycling tour around Kyoto.

Have Lunch At Morpho Cafe Or Falafel Garden

Morpho Cafe and the Falafel Garden are two of my favourite places to unwind and eat in Kyoto. Both places have delicious vegetarian food and a cosy atmosphere.

Morpho Cafe is situated right close to the Fushimi Inari Shrine, making it an ideal spot from which to shoot incredible photos of the sacred temple. While Falafel garden is located along the bank of the Kumo river and near the Imperial Palace

Kyoto - Falafel Garden - BLOGPOST HQ

Visit Nijo Castle

Time to spend here: 3-4 hours if you visit the Castle and the gardens

If you’re interested in Japanese culture and history, then visit the Nijo Castle. After the castle was constructed, it became the official residence of Japan’s shogun, who served as the country’s military dictator at the time.

I went during Autumn and what I loved the most was the colourful gardens of the Nijo Castle.

However, during spring you will need to make a reservation to visit these gardens as they will be so crowded due to the abundance of cherry blossom trees that surround the castle.

BOOK: With this guided morning tour you will visit Nijo Castle, Kyoto Imperial Palace, and the Kinkakuji Temple

Kyoto - Nijo Castle

Immerse Yourself Into The Culture Of Japan At The Kyoto Imperial Palace

Time to spend here: 1 hour

The Kyoto Imperial Palace is the former residence of Japan’s emperor. This is where he lived before moving to Tokyo after WWII, and now it functions as a modern museum that tells you all about traditional Japanese culture.

In the past, it was not possible to visit the Kyoto Imperial Palace without a guided tour but these days the gardens and palace are open to everyone

The easiest way to reach the palace is by taking the Karasuma Subway Line from Kyoto Station to Imadegawa Station, which is the closest station to the entrance.

BOOK: With this guided morning tour you will visit Nijo Castle, Kyoto Imperial Palace, and the Kinkakuji Temple

Admire the Shimogamo Shrine

Time to spend here: 1 hour

A short walk from Kyoto Imperial Palace and a small detour on the way to the Kinkaku-Ji Temple, you can find the Shimogamo Shrine, where a ceremony was taking place during my visit, so I decided to explore this area a bit.

The shrine is massive and surrounded by beautiful Japanese bridges, colourful trees and at the event, many Japanese children were dressed up in traditional clothes, while the elderly people were worshipping and praying.

A unique experience to see this in person.

READ ALSO: How much does a trip to Japan Cost? Japan on a budget

Kyoto - Shimogamo Shrine
Kyoto - Shimogamo Shrine
Kyoto - Shimogamo Shrine

Go To The Kinkaku-Ji Temple With Sunset

Time to spend here: 1-2 hours

The Kinkaku-Ji Temple is a very popular place in Kyoto and is also known as the “Golden Pavilion” because it was covered with real gold.

You can visit the temple any time of the year, however, during the Cherry Blossom Season and Autumn, the trees are changing their colours and transforming it into an even more beautiful place.

The best time to visit the Kinkaku-Ji Temple is at sunset but be on time as there will be a lot of tourists and the queue might be long.

TIP: Once you are inside the complex, go to the right side near the pond to get the best views and reflections of the temple in the water.

BOOK: With this guided morning tour you will visit Nijo Castle, Kyoto Imperial Palace, and the Kinkakuji Temple

The Kinkaku-Ji Temple - BLOGPOST HQ

Join An Authentic Tea Ceremony

Time to spend here: 1 hour

If you’re interested in Japanese culture, then I recommend joining an authentic tea ceremony. You can drink matcha green tea and eat traditional sweets while learning all about the history of the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

There are dozens of places to attend a traditional tea ceremony, however, the lovely lady of my hostel recommend a local place nearby the hostel where I was not allowed to film or photograph.

BOOK: Join a traditional Tea Ceremony with GetYourGuide for only € 20

Shopping at Shijo-Dori Street

One of the busiest and most well-known shopping streets in Kyoto is called Shijo-Dori Street. Along this road, there are many traditional shops, and restaurants, as well as several art galleries and hotels, which makes it an ideal place for taking a stroll at night.

I visited Japan during autumn and therefore I needed much warmer clothes than the swim shorts and tank tops that I had in my backpack during my world trip.

Although the temperatures were pretty pleasant in Tokyo, it was colder than I expected in Kyoto, so I went to H&M, ZARA, and some other boutique shops to buy more winter clothes

Kyoto Nishiki Market - BLOGPOST HQ

Stroll Around The Nishiki Market

Time to spend here: 1-2 hours

The Nishiki Market is recognized as one of the city’s most important and extensive markets. The streets are lined with shops selling everything from traditional Japanese ceramics and souvenirs to instant ramen and local foods.

It is recommended that you visit this market early in the morning before it gets too busy which makes it easier to make some great photos of the market, although I like to observe and photograph the local people.

BOOK: Explore the Nishiki Market and try the Japanese foods during a small group tour with a local guide

Kyoto Nishiki Market - BLOGPOST HQ

Geishas in Gion District

Time to spend here: 2 hours

Among the many geisha districts in Kyoto, Gion is by far the most well-known. The evening is the best time to visit if you want to see geishas as they will walk around this area to go to work.

Since they dress so beautifully, they are easy to recognize, however, it is not appropriate to photograph them without permission.

BOOK: Spot traditional dressed Geishas in Gion District during a guided night tour

Gion District of Kyoto- BLOGPOST HQ1

Walk Around The Kennin-Ji Temple

Time to spend here: 1 hour

The Kennin-Ji Temple is the oldest Zen temple in Japan and was located in Kyoto’s entertainment district, Gion. This lovely place is full of history and tradition, but it’s best known for its beautiful moss garden and unique interior.

The temple holds beautiful traditional paintings and images on the walls and ceiling, which makes it a very admiring place to wander around.

Kennin-ji temple - BLOGPOST HQ

Wander through the Higashiyama District and admire the Yasaka pagoda

Time to spend here: 2-3 hours

There is no better place to experience Kyoto’s rich cultural heritage than in the Higashiyama neighbourhood. Beautiful gardens, shrines, and temples bloom in this neighbourhood every spring and many Japanese people dressed in traditional clothes walk down the streets.

There are also many stores selling traditional Japanese crafts, making this an excellent destination for those looking to take home some authentic trinkets from Japan.

The Higashiyama District is located on the top of the hill with a view of one of the most photographed pagodas in Kyoto, the Yasaka pagoda. Visit this beautiful place during the sunset and take photos with the dressed-up Japanese locals.

When you come here before sunrise, the streets of this authentic neighbourhood are empty and it is the perfect moment to make stunning pictures.

LOCATION: Find the most amazing and photographic street in the Higashiyama District here.

BOOK: Explore the Higashiyama District and the Yasaka pagoda with a locally guided tour 


Walk Along Philosopher’s Path

Time to spend here: 1-2 hours

The Philosopher’s Path is a relaxing path that may be found between the northern Ginkaku-Ji Temple and the southern Eikan-do Temple. It is a serene and beautiful walk to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Besides its spiritual atmosphere, it is also very popular as there are many cherry blossom trees. During Spring, these cherry blossom trees are in full bloom and attract many people.

It is not only a great place to take pictures during Spring but also when the leaves start changing colours in the Autumn season.  If you’re into photography, you should come here about the time the sun is setting to get some stunning light and shadows.

LOCATION: This is the exact location of the Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto.

READ ALSO: Explore the Izakaya’s in Tokyo

Kyoto - Philosopher's Path1

Visit the beautiful Daigoji Temple

Time to spend here: 2-4 hours (the train ride to get there is about 45 min)

The actual reason why I love this place is not because of the main temple but the peaceful and beautiful gardens around it and the Benten Temple across the pond. A beautiful red-coloured temple that’s accessible by a small bridge is the perfect spot to make stunning photos.

The best time to visit the Daigoji Temple is during the Cherry Blossom season or in Autumn when the foliage changes its colour. I came at a busy time of the year and I was almost the only person in the park as it is a bit further from Kyoto center. However, I believe this temple is definitely worth visiting!

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the Tokaido-Sanyo Line to Yamashina Station and transfer to the Tozai Line until Daigo Station. From there it is a small walk to the Daigoji Temple. 

TIP: Follow the path to the back of the gardens until you reach the Benten-pond, here you will find the beautiful Bentendo Temple

BOOK: With this guided morning tour you will visit Nijo Castle, Kyoto Imperial Palace, and the Kinkakuji Temple

Kyoto - Daigijo Temple

Make a day trip from Kyoto to Nara

The main reason to visit Nara either on a day trip from Kyoto or Osaka is to see a large amount of deer roaming in the town. Since many people enjoy feeding them, they are approachable and will likely come close to you.

Although another reason to come here is to admire some of Japan’s most famous landmarks, the Todai-Ji Temple, which is an absolute must-see if you are interested in gazing upon enormous statues of the Buddha.

The Buddha statue is one of the largest in all of Japan and it is very magnificent to see in person.

READ ALSO: 17 Awesome things to do in Osaka

Day trip to Nara from Kyoto

My goal with this post is to help future visitors to Kyoto by giving them a general idea of what they need to know before coming here. I hope this article helped you a bit with your trip to Kyoto.

As I said before, it’s tough to cover everything about a city in one blog post, but if you have any questions, please feel free to leave me a comment down below, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible

Kumo river in Kyoto sunset walk - BLOGPOST

Save these pins for later

18 best things to do in Kyoto
18 best things to do in Kyoto
18 best things to do in Kyoto

Plan the best things to do in Kyoto with my favourite travel apps

To plan my adventures, I use these FREE websites and apps as they provide the best information, the best deals, and they are user-friendly. 


All the pictures on this page are made and owned by me. If you are interested in some pictures to use for your magazine, website, blog, or any other purpose, just send me an email and we’ll figure it out.

Do you like the edits? My Presets will be online soon so you can edit your pictures in just one click!

The camera gear I used for this trip

I never go out without my camera and many people ask me which gear I use. So to make it quite easy, I listed all the gear I used for this trip below.

Most of the time, I travel with the Sony A7III and the Sony 24-105mm/f4 as my primary lens but depending on the location, I change to another setup. However, I love the Tamron 17-28 to shoot in the big cities.


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