What to do in kyoto?

HotbotBy HotBotUpdated: June 20, 2024

Kyoto, Japan's ancient capital, is a city rich with history, culture, and natural beauty. From historic temples and shrines to exquisite gardens and bustling markets, there's no shortage of activities to engage in. This guide will help you navigate the myriad of options and uncover both popular attractions and hidden gems.

Explore Historic Temples and Shrines

Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)

Kinkaku-ji, also known as the Golden Pavilion, is one of Kyoto's most iconic landmarks. The top two floors of this Zen Buddhist temple are completely covered in gold leaf, creating a stunning reflection in the surrounding pond. The temple is set within a beautiful garden, marked by meticulously landscaped paths and stone arrangements.

Fushimi Inari Taisha

Fushimi Inari Taisha is renowned for its thousands of vermilion torii gates, which form a mesmerizing path up the sacred Mount Inari. This Shinto shrine is dedicated to Inari, the god of rice and agriculture. The journey to the summit is both spiritual and visually stunning, with smaller shrines and stone fox statues lining the way.


Kiyomizu-dera, a UNESCO World Heritage site, offers breathtaking views of Kyoto from its wooden stage, which juts out from the main hall. The temple is particularly famous during the cherry blossom season and autumn foliage, providing a picturesque backdrop for photos. Don’t miss the Otowa Waterfall, where visitors can drink sacred water for health, longevity, and success.

Immerse Yourself in Traditional Culture

Tea Ceremonies

Kyoto is the perfect place to experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. These ceremonies, rooted in Zen Buddhism, are a form of art that emphasize harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility. Many tea houses in Kyoto, such as Camellia Tea Ceremony and En Tea Ceremony, offer sessions for visitors to participate in and learn about this age-old tradition.

Gion District

The Gion District is Kyoto's most famous geisha district, where you can stroll through narrow streets lined with traditional wooden machiya houses. In the evenings, you might catch a glimpse of a geiko (Kyoto dialect for geisha) or maiko (apprentice geiko) on their way to appointments. For a deeper experience, consider attending a traditional geisha performance at venues like Gion Corner.

Nishijin Textile Center

Delve into Kyoto's rich textile heritage at the Nishijin Textile Center. Here, you can witness live demonstrations of traditional weaving techniques and even try your hand at weaving. The center also features a kimono fashion show, showcasing exquisite designs and craftsmanship.

Discover Kyoto's Natural Beauty

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is a must-visit for nature lovers. Walking through the towering bamboo stalks provides a tranquil and almost otherworldly experience. The grove is part of the larger Arashiyama district, where you can also visit the Tenryu-ji Temple and the scenic Togetsukyo Bridge.

Philosopher's Path

The Philosopher's Path is a picturesque stone path that follows a canal lined with cherry trees. Named after the philosopher Nishida Kitaro, who is said to have walked this path for meditation, it’s especially beautiful during the cherry blossom season. The path connects Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion) and Nanzen-ji, two other notable sites in Kyoto.

Kyoto Imperial Palace Park

The Kyoto Imperial Palace Park is a vast green space surrounding the former residence of the Imperial Family. The park features beautiful gardens, ponds, and walking paths, making it an ideal spot for a leisurely stroll or a picnic. The palace itself can be visited on guided tours, offering insights into Japan's imperial history.

Shopping and Culinary Delights

Nishiki Market

Known as "Kyoto's Kitchen," Nishiki Market is a vibrant narrow street lined with over a hundred shops and restaurants. Here, you can sample local delicacies such as yuba (tofu skin), tsukemono (pickles), and fresh seafood. The market is a fantastic place to experience the flavors of Kyoto and pick up unique souvenirs.

Pontocho Alley

Pontocho Alley is one of Kyoto's most atmospheric dining areas, offering a mix of traditional and modern cuisine. The narrow alley is packed with restaurants and teahouses, some with views of the Kamo River. Dining here in the evening, under the soft glow of lanterns, is a truly memorable experience.

Kyoto Handicraft Center

The Kyoto Handicraft Center is a treasure trove of traditional Japanese crafts. From lacquerware and ceramics to textiles and woodblock prints, the center showcases a wide range of artisanal products. Many workshops are available where you can try your hand at crafting your own souvenir.

Off-the-Beaten-Path Experiences

Okochi Sanso Villa

Okochi Sanso Villa, the former retreat of the silent film actor Denjiro Okochi, is a hidden gem in the Arashiyama district. The villa's gardens are impeccably maintained and offer stunning views of Kyoto and the surrounding mountains. A visit includes a matcha tea and sweet, adding to the serene experience.

Tofuku-ji Temple

While not as famous as some of Kyoto's other temples, Tofuku-ji is a beautiful Zen temple known for its stunning autumn foliage. The temple's gardens, designed by the renowned landscape architect Mirei Shigemori, are a masterpiece of design, blending traditional elements with modern aesthetics.

Kyoto International Manga Museum

For a unique cultural experience, visit the Kyoto International Manga Museum. The museum houses an extensive collection of manga, including rare and historical works. Visitors can read manga from the library, participate in workshops, and explore exhibits on the history and influence of manga in Japan and around the world.

Seasonal Highlights

Cherry Blossom Viewing (Hanami)

Spring in Kyoto is synonymous with cherry blossoms. Famous spots for hanami (cherry blossom viewing) include Maruyama Park, the Kamo River, and the aforementioned Philosopher's Path. Many temples and gardens host special evening illuminations, providing a magical atmosphere to enjoy the blossoms.

Gion Matsuri

Gion Matsuri, held in July, is one of Japan's most famous festivals. The highlight is the grand procession of elaborately decorated floats, known as yamaboko, through the streets of Kyoto. The festival also includes traditional music, dance, and food stalls, offering a lively and immersive cultural experience.

Autumn Foliage

Kyoto's autumn foliage is a spectacle not to be missed. Popular spots for enjoying the vibrant reds and oranges include Tofuku-ji, Kiyomizu-dera, and the Arashiyama district. Many temples and gardens also host evening illuminations, allowing visitors to experience the beauty of the autumn leaves in a different light.

Kyoto is a city where every corner offers a piece of history, culture, or natural beauty. Whether you are walking through the serene gardens of a Zen temple, participating in a traditional tea ceremony, or exploring bustling markets, each experience adds a layer to the rich tapestry that is Kyoto. Discovering Kyoto is a journey that goes beyond the guidebooks, inviting you to uncover your own unique moments and memories. What will you find in Kyoto?

Related Questions

Where to stay in kyoto?

Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, is a city with an enchanting blend of traditional and modern elements. When planning a visit, choosing the right place to stay is crucial to immersing yourself in its rich culture, historical landmarks, and tranquil gardens. The city offers a diverse range of accommodation options, from luxurious hotels to traditional ryokans and budget-friendly hostels. This guide will help you navigate through the best areas and types of lodging available in Kyoto.

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What to see in kyoto?

Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, is a city teeming with cultural heritage, historical significance, and natural beauty. From timeless temples to serene gardens and bustling markets, Kyoto offers a plethora of attractions that cater to every type of traveler. Let's delve into the must-see sights and hidden gems of this enchanting city.

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How far is kyoto from tokyo?

Kyoto and Tokyo are two of Japan's most iconic cities, each steeped in rich history and modern advancements. The distance between them is a topic of interest for many travelers looking to explore Japan. The geographical separation between Kyoto and Tokyo is approximately 450 kilometers (280 miles). However, the actual time and method of travel can influence this perceived distance greatly.

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Kyoto what to do?

Kyoto is renowned for its historic temples and shrines, many of which have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One of the most iconic is the Kinkaku-ji, or the Golden Pavilion, which is a Zen temple covered in gold leaf. The reflection of the pavilion in the surrounding pond creates a mesmerizing scene, especially during autumn when the foliage turns vivid shades of red and orange.

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