If you ever travel to Japan, you must stop a few days in Kyoto and enjoy its magic.
Kyoto has a countless number of temples and gardens, a beautiful scenery, refined traditions, great food and a unique beauty with each Season. Personally, I love Kyoto in Fall. “Kōyō” (“fall colors”) adds a magical touch to everything.
There’re lots and lots of things to do and see so walk walk walk! At the end of the day, you’ll barely have any energies left but it’s totally worth it! Here are a few of my favourite places to visit when I’m in Kyoto.
Kiyomizudera Temple (literally “Pure Water Temple”) is one of the most celebrated temples of Japan. It was founded in 780 and it’s best known for its wooden stage that offers a wonderful view of cherry and maple trees below, as well as of the city of Kyoto in the distance.
Walk around any temple and you will see “Ema”, small wooden plaques on which people write their prayers or wishes. The ema are then left hanging up at the shrine where the spirits or gods receive them.
And origami cranes! An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted eternal good luck, a long life or recovery from illness or injury.
Wander around and absorb the wonderful nature and beautiful views in Kyoto
The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is probably one of my favourite sites. It is usually very crowded but try to find a spot and just stand amid the stalks of bamboo. You’ll feel like being in another world.
After charging your energies in the Grove, walk to Tenryu-ji Temple, a beautiful Zen temple with one of the finest gardens in Kyoto and wonderful mountain views.
Do you need a break from walking? Enjoy a boat ride in Oi River!
On the other side of Togetsukyo Bridge, there are a few lovely restaurants to indulge yourself with a perfect Japanese lunch ♡
I’m sure you’ve seen photos of Kyoto’s Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) before. The main hall is covered in brilliant gold leaf so the building reflects on the pond and it’s truly spectacular. Needless to say the temple is always packed no matter what day of the year. My suggestion? Visit on a weekday, early in the day or just before closing.
In the late evenings, when the temples are closed, stroll along Pontocho-dori or through Gion’s back streets. Just wander in either direction along these streets, packed with old houses, art galleries and shops and restaurants and if you’re lucky, you might even spot a Geiko (Kyoto’s name for geisha) and a Maiko (apprentice geisha)
A few tips for Kyoto:
Personally, I don’t think you need a guide to enjoy Kyoto. Main temples, shrines, gardens and other attractions are easy to find. There’re plenty of signs in several languages and also information centres (main Tourist Information Centre is inside Kyoto Station).
Is it easy to find a restroom? Yes! All temples, parks and shopping malls have them. It is practical, however, to bring a little hand towel with you.
How to take buses and trains? Kyoto City Transportation Bureau offers different transportation passes and tickets. I usually get the one day pass for city buses. This pass is good for one whole day within a designated area of Kyoto City. (adults: ¥500 and children ¥250). More info HERE
Where to stay? If possible, stay in a ryokan for at least one night. You will enjoy the whole Japanese experience in these traditional-style inns where you sleep on futon, wear a yukata (light cotton kimono) and eat kaiseki cuisine (Japan’s refined and subtle multi-course cuisine)
Kyoto by bike? I’ve never rented a bike in Kyoto, but I’ve noticed there are plenty of bicycle rental options lately. This seems like a great option for touring around since Kyoto is largely flat, all the roads are well maintained and what’s more important…drivers are sane! Just make sure you park your bike in the designated bicycle parking zones. The city regularly removes illegally parked bicycles. More info for biking tours HERE
Kyoto with kids? YES! I want to note that Japanese people are incredibly friendly with kids and willing to help.
Record your trip memories! Bring a little notebook or diary with you. Almost every temple, shrine and main sites have an official seal with a beautiful design. You can find these seals at the main entrance of tourist attractions.
Usually, you visit Kyoto for a few days. My advice? don’t try to do too much, too quickly. Otherwise it becomes just a box ticking exercise instead of taking the time to enjoy each place. When you plan your day, focus on one zone (East/West side or North side) and choose the main sights there.
Did I miss any favorites from any locals? Please share in the comments!
Kyoto, you will always have a special spot in my heart. More about Kyoto this week!
All photos on this blog were snapped by me unless otherwise noted. If you see something you’d like to share, please be sure to provide a link back to this space. Thank you!