The Japanese royal family lived in Kyoto Imperial Palace until 1868, when the capital moved to Tokyo. It’s located within the Kyoto Imperial Park, which also houses other palaces and shrines. This must-visit attraction allows visitors to gain a greater understanding of Japan’s rich history and culture while enjoying landscaped gardens.
Although Japan’s royal family haven’t lived in the Kyoto Imperial Palace for more than 150 years, the imperial furnishings have been preserved and reflect the life of the royals in the mid-19th century. The beautifully landscaped Kyoto Imperial Park surrounding the palace contain jogging trails, picnic benches, numerous plants and water features, and is one of the finest public gardens in the city.
Travelers can visit the Imperial Palace independently, or as part of a full- or half-day sightseeing tour of Kyoto. Such excursions also tend to include sites such as the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji), the Silver Pavilion (Ginkaku-ji), Kiyomizu Temple, Gion, and Nijo Castle. The palace is located in Kyoto City, to the north of Kyoto Station, so is a convenient stop on sightseeing tours of the city.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Admission to the park is free.
- While the gardens can be visited independently, the palace buildings can only be entered by prior arrangement with the palace authorities.
- The palace is very close to Nijo Castle, and the two places can be visited together in a convenient morning or afternoon of sightseeing.
How to Get There
The Kyoto Imperial Palace is located between two JR Subway stations, Imadegawa and Marutamachi, both of which are a short walk away. Imadegawa station is a bit closer to the entrance gate.
When to Get There
The palace is closed Mondays, as well as from December 28 until January 4, plus some other public holidays. From April to August, it is open from 9am until 5pm; in September and March, from 9am until 4:30pm; and from October to February, from 9am until 4pm. Last admissions are allowed in 40 minutes before the grounds close.
Visit Kaninnomiya Mansion
While it’s not easy to go inside the Imperial Palace itself, visitors can go inside Kaninnomiya Mansion, a restored Edo-period luxury home within the Imperial Park. There were once hundreds of such mansions around the Imperial Palace, but this is the only survivor. The mansion, teahouse, and gardens with a pond are worth visiting—plus, they’re also free.