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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

Fushimi Inari Shrine (Fushimi Inari Taisha)

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Dedicated to the gods of sake and rice, the Fushimi Inari Shrine is one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan. Five shrines dot the forested temple grounds, and the arched red lines of torii gates straddling the pathway leading up to Inari Mountain are a truly iconic sight. You’ll also see plenty of stone foxes at this temple, another symbol of Shinto. A lovely place for a stroll in rural surrounds, there are fine views of Kyoto from the top of the torii gate pathway up the mountain. Stop off for a sustaining bowl of tofu soup at the small restaurants along the way.More
#2

Gion Corner

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The refined traditional arts of Japan are highlighted for visitors at Gion Corner, an entertaining and informative nightspot. From tea ceremony to the twang of the Koto, Ikebana floral arranging to puppet plays, Gion Corner dramatizes and explains the ins and outs of the esoteric world of Japanese traditions. There are two performances each evening, plus an on-site photo gallery and the opportunity to experience tea house hospitality at a traditional Kyoto banquet, hosted by geisha.More
#3

Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)

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The Golden Pavilion, or Kinkaku-ji, is one of the most famous temples in Kyoto, and a major highlight of any visit to the city. The three-story pagoda gleams with gold leaf, though it is a 1955 replica of the original 1397 temple, which was destroyed by fire in 1950. The beautiful temple hovers over a lake, surrounded by twisted pines and forests. The image of its reflection captured in the mirror-like water is a Kyoto symbol, and a must-have photo opportunity. The classic stone and water gardens are another highlight for a stroll.More
#4

Nishiki Market

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From sushi fish to kitchen knives, you’ll find everything under the sun relating to food at Nishiki Market. The covered market is a foodie's wonderland, and provides fascinating glimpses into the shopping and eating habits of Kyoto's locals, chefs and families. Pick up produce to prepare in your hotel/apartment if you’re self-catering, or choose from a staggering array of ready-to-eat snacks, sweets and drinks. This is a great place to pick up a Kyoto souvenir with a difference, from authentic cooking equipment to green tea or photographs of this colorful market.More
#5

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

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The Kiyomizu Temple is an ancient institution, dating back to 798 AD and the days of Nara, which has inspired temple architecture for centuries. This Kyoto landmark provides fabulous views over the city and is surrounded by gardens and shrines. Climb the steeply inclining steps leading up to the temple where You’ll find pavilion teahouses and restaurants in the grounds and the main hall jutting out over the hillside.More
#6

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
#7

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
#8

Kyoto Imperial Palace (Kyoto Gosho)

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Japan's royal family no longer live in Kyoto Imperial Palace, but the imperial furnishings have been preserved. The immaculate parkland surrounding the palace is one of Kyoto’s favorite public gardens. The palace has been empty since 1868, when the Emperor moved into the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. You need to book ahead to take a palace tour led by the Imperial Household Agency. Tours highlight the ceremonial halls, Imperial Library, the Empress quarters and throne room. The lovely parklands are filled with flowering trees and grassed areas, carp ponds and cherry blossom trees. Pack a picnic and come for the day.More
#9

Himeji Castle (Himeji-Jo)

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If you take a day trip from Kyoto or Osaka, make it Himeji. The famous many-tiered white castle at Himeji is acclaimed as Japan’s most beautiful and complete historic citadel. Known as the White Egret, the hilltop castle was built in 1580. The main features are its five-story central tower and surrounding moats, walls and pagodas. From its mountain-top eerie, the castle appears to float on a sea of Japanese pine trees. Take an organized tour to discover the castle’s history and many nuances, such as the many openings in the defensive walls that were used for pouring boiling oil onto intruders. The castle grounds are flanked by the ponds and tea rooms of Koko-en Gardens, a welcome retreat for a stroll or lunchtime stop. Himeji Castle recently underwent a full renovation and reopened to the public in March 2015.More
#10

Nijo-jo Castle

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Nijō Castle was built in 1603 as the official residence of the first Tokugawa shogun. With its moats, walls, secret passageways and hidden chambers, the heavily fortified castle stands as a defiant symbol of the shogun's power. Entered through an elaborate main gate, the castle complex includes two palaces, Ninomaru and Honmaru. A visit to Ninomaru Palace reveals spectacular artworks, including painted screens and intricate gold leaf ceilings. Known as 'nightingale' floors, the squeaking floorboards were designed to alert the shogun’s bodyguards to the presence of intruders.More

Trip ideas

Kyoto Temple Guide

Kyoto Temple Guide

Recent reviews from experiences in Kyoto

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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!
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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.
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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
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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.
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Excellent Tour
Melissa_L, Feb 2020
Kyoto Late Bird tour
Can't wait to visit Kyoto again to visit additional sites.
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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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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.
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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.
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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.
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Living Room Visit to Kyoto
Joe_F, Aug 2020
Kyoto Virtual Tour
We're all hoping to visit soon.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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Interesting visit, good tour guide
Ali P, Aug 2019
Nijo Castle and Imperial Palace Visit with Private Guide
She was friendly, professional, and spoke good English.

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