The Best Things To Do In Kyoto

Written By: Grace Williams

Delicate cherry blossoms, inviting teahouses and enchanting traditional gardens all give Kyoto a very special charm and ambience of serenity which sets it apart from its other competitors in the tourist stakes. Considered Japan’s cultural capital, this delightful haven is located on Honshu south of Maizuru and Wakasa, east of Himeji and north of Nara and Osaka, while Nagoya lies to its east. Visitors to this cultural jewel will discover temples covered in gold leaf, traditional theatre shows, elaborate tea ceremonies and an experience quite unlike any other in Japan. With a plethora of sights, sounds and experiences to enjoy one thing’s sure: that a vacation in this charming city is the stuff dreams are made of.

Many a former capital has faded into obscurity following the emergence of a newer city on the scene – but not Kyoto. With a number of very handy trump cards in its possession, it has continued to hold its own in spite of the rather close proximity of tourist magnets Tokyo and Osaka, and is actually pretty much one in its own right too. If you happen to be enjoying the neon-lit sights of the capital and are thinking of immersing yourself in Kyoto’s soothing ambience, you will be able to arrive following a Shinkansen train trip of just 2 to 4 hours. Osaka renowned for its amazing selection of edible temptations is merely a 90-minute flight away. Kyoto itself boasts an excellent transport network consisting of its metro, rail lines and bus services. Thanks to this indispensable trio, navigating its quarters is quite straightforward ensuring you will able to get to your destinations of choice in record time. Kyoto’s illustrious past is evident in the number of beautiful palaces which dot its landscape. Royal residences such as the Katsura Imperial Villa and the Sento Imperial Palace are available for viewing and visitors can get to tour their well-manicured grounds and catch a glimpse of the opulent surroundings which the very lucky royal family get to enjoy on occasion.

Kyoto is also renowned for its natural beauty and a stroll along the Philosopher’s Path is just one of many opportunities to experience such magic. Walking along the path is an especially enjoyable activity particularly since it winds through a sunlit bamboo forest which is also close to a monkey park filled with mischievous and joyous residents.


Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-Ji)

Set on the bank of a majestic lake, the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-Ji) is a stunning temple, clad in gold leaf. Each of the three floors has a different and distinctive architecture. While you can’t go inside, the exterior will leave you spell bound and the gardens are just spectacular.


Kiyomizu Temple

The approach to the Kiyomizu Temple is full of interesting restaurants and shops, which are likely to delay your arrival as you explore the amazing wares that are on sale. However, once you arrive, you’ll be glad you made the trip! Dating back to 798AD, the views from the main hall are spectacular, with a wooden stage extending out over the hillside. Admire the fascinating statues and the traditional buildings that make up the temple complex, and watch as people use long sticks to gather a drink from the Otowa Waterfall.


Kyoto Imperial Palace

Take a break from the hectic pace of Kyoto and enjoy time out in the gardens of the Kyoto Imperial Palace. Whilst you cannot enter the palace itself, admire its magnificent architecture from the outside, while having a garden picnic among the beautiful trees, moats and ponds. Then, explore the many other buildings and shrines which surround it, such as the Kaninnomiya Mansion!


Nijo Castle

Dating back to 1603, Nijo Castle is a stunning exhibition of feudal era architecture, and a spectacular defensive fortress. Imagine the fear in the hearts of the attackers as they faced the imposing moats and heavily fortified walls. Explore the defence of the inner circles, be amazed by the elegantly decorated Ninomaru Palace, and stroll through the perfectly manicured gardens. You can even test your skills as an assassin! Attempt crossing the “nightingale floors” without making a sound; they were designed to creak as an alarm against intruders!


Nishiki Food Market

The Nishiki Food Market is a foodie’s paradise, and a great place to absorb the culture of Kyoto. Stroll along the narrows alleyways of this covered market – spread over five blocks – and explore the diversity of the local produce. Try some snacks and maybe pick up a memento for your kitchen back home!


Fushimi Inari Shrine

Take a trip to the Fushimi Inari Shrine; one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan! The shrine is famous for its thousands of torri gates, which create a stunning tunnel affect as you walk along the pathways of the temple grounds. Explore the beautiful buildings, and the majestic gardens dotted with many stone foxes. As you climb towards the peak of Mount Inari, take time to rest and enjoy the magnificent views of the city.


Gion Corner

For a snapshot of traditional Japanese culture, you can’t go past Gion Corner. With two performances each evening, be entertained by seven magnificent acts – demonstrating seven cultural traditions of Japan – including dancing, puppetry, theatre and a tea ceremony. Enjoy the traditional dress and soak up the amazing atmosphere of this majestic theatre.


Tenryu-ji Temple

Dating back to the fourteenth-century, the Tenryuji Temple is surrounded by serene gardens and a magnificent central pond. Explore the grounds and meander through the decorated temple, which was rebuilt in the nineteenth-century after it was ravaged by fire. The complex has several buildings to be viewed, including The Kuri – which displays the living quarters – and the Hojo, which was the Abbots Quarters.

Related Links


World Regions




Cities & Towns

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This