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What To Do In Kyoto – A 3 Day Kyoto Itinerary

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Kyoto is the place to head to experience the historic and ancient Japan. Kyoto is Japans cultural capital, and have all the things that the Land of the Rising Sun is all about: 400 colorful Shinto shrines, 1600 ancient Buddhist temples, and stunning Japanese gardens. That Kyoto is home to incredible 17 Unesco World Heritage Sites really says it all!

But Kyoto is not only about old cultural sites and buildings, it also has cool shops, great restaurants, mountains and nature, and geisha dance performances. You will never run out of things to do in Kyoto! Kyoto has it all and should be on everyone’s bucket list. No trip to Japan is complete without a visit to Kyoto.

Kyoto has a lot of accommodation options to choose from. If you haven’t yet decided on where to stay in Kyoto, then click here to read our complete guide to our favorite Kyoto areas and hotels.

Kyoto Station
Kyoto Station

How To Get Around Kyoto

Kyoto has an extensive network of buses and trains. There are, however, few JR lines in Kyoto, so if you have bought a JR Rail Pass, and plan to stay several days in Kyoto, you might want to wait to activate it until the day you leave Kyoto. You can activate the JR Rail Pass at the main JR ticket office in Kyoto Station.

Kyoto station
Kyoto Station is the transportation hub in Kyoto for all buses, subways, and trains

The best way and cheapest way to get around Kyoto is with a Kyoto pass. You can choose between different types of Kyoto passes (which are all bought at Kyoto Station):

  • Kyoto City Bus Only, All-Day Pass – 500 Yen for adult and 250 Yen for a child. This pass gives you unlimited use on the same day on all buses inside Kyoto city. Not valid for zones outside of Kyoto city, so it is not valid for Arashiyama (Bamboo Grove) or Fushimi Inari shrine.
  • Kyoto Sightseeing Bus and Subway, One or Two-day Pass Card – 1200 Yen for a one-day adult card, 600 Yen for a one-day child card. Two-day card: 2000 Yen for adult, 1000 Yen for a child. Unlimited use on all buses and subways for one or two days.
  • Surutto Kansai Miyako Card – You charge it with 1000 Yen, 2000 Yen, 3000 Yen or 5000 Yen, and use it on city buses and subway lines, as well as Hankyu Line, Keihan Line, and other participating private companies. You pay per trip until the card is empty.
  • Traffica Kyoto Card – You charge it with 1000 Yen or 3000 Yen and it is valid on all city subways and buses. You pay per trip until the card is empty.

3 Day Kyoto Itinerary – What To Do in Kyoto

Day 1 – Temples and Shrines in the Higashiyama Area

The Higashiyama area of Kyoto is where all the action is in regards to temples and shrines. This is the main sightseeing area of Kyoto and is packed full with colorful temples, shrines, museums, parks and Zen gardens.

The Higashiyama area is divided in two; The Southern and The Northern part. You can easily spend an entire day exploring these two areas and their magnificent temples.

  • Opening hours: Most temples 09:00 – 16:30/ 17:00
  • Ticket price: You have to buy a ticket at each temple, around 300-500 Yen = 3-4 USD per temple for an adult

1. Southern Part of Higashiyama Area

Start with the Southern Higashiyama, this is the most popular area and contains the most famous sights.  The walking tour we have outlined below is easily walked in less than an hour, but you will, of course, want to stop to explore the temples along the way.

Sothern Higashiyama walking route. Click here to open in Google Maps

If you want to shorten it, you can choose some of the temples and shrines and skip the rest. To start, take the Tozai Line to Higashiyama Station.

  1. Higashiyama Station – from the station walk up Sanjo-dori street.
  2. Shoren-in Temple – This is one of the biggest temples in this area and used to be the residence of the chief abbot of one of the biggest Buddhism schools in Japan.
  3. Chion-in Temple – A grand temple, dating back to 1234, where one of the most famous figures in Japanese Buddhism taught and later starved himself to death. It is the most popular pilgrimage temple in Kyoto.

    Cionin Temple
    Cion-in Temple
  4. Step into the Maruyama-koen park, and take a look at the  Gion shidare zakura, Kyoto`s most famous cherry tree.
  5. In the park, head west to see the grand and colorful Yasaka-jinja Shrine.
  6. Walk past the Otani cemetery and on to Kodai-ji Temple, founded by a woman to honor her late husband. The temple is surrounded by a really nice garden and tea house designed by a famous Japanese landscape architect.

    Kodai-ji Temple
    Kodai-ji Temple
  7. From Kodai-ji Temple, walk west down the long flight of stairs past the parking lot, and into Ishibei-koji street, the most beautiful street in Kyoto. Going for a stroll here feels like stepping back in time to when samurais and geishas dominated the streets of Kyoto.

    Ishibei-koji Street

  8. Continue back towards the parking lot at Kodai-ji, but turn right onto Ninen-zaka street and Sannen-zaka street lined with beautiful old traditional wooden houses. If your stomach is starting to rumble at this point, step into one of the many cozy cafes and teahouses in this area and have a well-earned break.
    Sannen-zaka street
    Sannen-zaka street

    Ninen-zaka street
    Ninen-zaka street is packed with kimono dressed girls, cozy cafes, and shops
  9. At the end of Sannen-zaka street, take a left and continue onto Kiyomizu-michi street and follow it uphill till you reach the famous Kiyomizu-dera Temple. The hall has a huge verandah with stunning views of the hillside and Kyoto city.
Kiyomizu-dera Temple
Kiyomizu-dera Temple with great view of Kyoto city
the Nio-Mon Gate of Kiyomizu-dera temple
The Nio-Mon Gate of Kiyomizu-dera temple

Below the temple is a waterfall where you can drink sacred water for good health.

Drink the sacred water at Kiyomizu-dera Temple and you will have good health

You can also test your success in love by closing your eyes and walk 18 meters between two love stones. If you walk past the love stone, you will not find love.

The entrance to Tainai-meguri, a symbolic womb of a female bodhisattva
The entrance to Tainai-meguri, a symbolic womb of a female bodhisattva

Just next to the entrance to Kiyomizu-dera Temple is Tainai-meguri, a symbolic womb of a female bodhisattva.

Enter its pitch darkness, spin the rock and make a wish.


2. Northern Part of Higashiyama Area

If you still have some energy left, you can spend the afternoon exploring the Northern Higashiyama. If you have more than three days in Kyoto, consider splitting the temple sightseeing over two days and save Northern Higashiyama for the next day.

Northern Higashiyama walking route. Click here to open in Google Maps

To start on the Northern Higashiyama tour take the Tozai Line to Keage Station, or Kyoto City Bus no. 5 to Eikando-michi stop.

  1. Keage Station – walk for five minutes downhill and turn right and walk a little uphill.
  2. Nanzen-ji Temple – Maybe the absolute finest temple in Kyoto. It is surrounded by a big park and consists of several sub-temples. At the entrance is the huge Sanmon gate. Step up to the second level, and you will have an amazing view of Kyoto city. The temple has a beautiful classic Zen garden, Leaping Tiger Garden.

    Nanzen-ji Temple
  3. Follow the Path of Philosophy/ Tetsugaku-no-Michi street, a pedestrian path that goes beside a canal, beautifully lined with cherry trees and flowers. It got its name from the 20th-century philosopher Nishida Kitaro who used to wander this street lost in thoughts. It takes about 30 minutes to walk this path.
  4. Along the Path of Philosophy is the famous temple Honen-in, dating back to 1680. It is beautifully set back in the woods and is very peaceful.
  5. Head over to the Ginkaku-ji Temple, following the walkway through the garden containing cones of white sand that symbolize mountains, tall pines and a small lake in front of the temple.

Day 2 – Golden Pavilion & Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama Area

1. Golden Pavilion at the Kinkaku-ji Temple

Early in the morning, head to the Northwest of Kyoto and the Kinkaku-ji Temple. This is where the famous Golden Pavilion is “floating” on a small lake in the middle of a beautiful garden.

Golden Pavilion Kyoto
Golden Pavilion Kyoto

The building dates back to 1397 and was once the retirement villa for a famous Japanse Shogun. His son later converted the house into a temple.

The temple, however, sadly was burnt down in 1950 by a young monk obsessed with the temple.

The temple was then reconstructed in 1955 and is today one of Kyoto´s most popular sights. By getting here early in the morning, you might beat the crowds, but don`t expect to be alone…..

Expect to spend about an hour exploring the temple and its garden.

  • How to get there: Kyoto City Bus 205 from Kyoto Station to Kinkakuji-michi Stop, or Kyoto City Bus 59 from Sanjo-Keihan to the Kinkakuji-mae Stop, or take a taxi to Kinkaku-ji Temple.
  • Opening hours: 09:00 – 17:00
  • Ticket price: 400 Yen = 3,7 USD
  • Webpage

2. Tenryu-ji Temple, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove & Okochi Sanso Villa

From Kinkaku-ji Temple, take a taxi to Tenryu-ji Temple in Arashiyama, which is the easiest option, or see the “How to get there” section below for public transport.

Enter and explore the Tenryu-ji Temple which was built in 1339.

Tenryu-ji Temple
Tenryu-ji Temple

History says that this temple was built on the former site of an Emperor`s villa because a priest had dreamt that a dragon was rising from the nearby river, which meant that the Emperor`s soul was at unease. So they built the temple to ease his soul, thereby it`s name which means “Heavenly Dragon”.

The temple building you see here today was built in 1900 and is surrounded by a stunning 14th-century Zen garden.

Tenryu-ji Temple Zen Garden
The beautiful Zen garden at Tenryu-ji Temple

From the Tenryu-ji Temple, you can easily enter the Bamboo Grove by its north entrance.

Bamboo Grove Kyoto
The famous Bamboo Grove
Bamboo Grove Kyoto
Girls in kimonos walking through the bamboo forest

The Bamboo Grove located in Arashiyama area is one of the absolute highlights of Kyoto. Walking between these bamboo stalks which are shivering in the breeze is atmospheric and a somewhat magical

Start at the north gate of Tenryu-ji Temple, and walk all the way through the Bamboo forest up to the Okochi Sanso Villa, which is the home of the famous samurai actor Okochi Denjiro.

The walk takes about half an hour at a slow pace. The garden surrounding the villa is beautiful and open to the public, although the entrance ticket (1000 Yen = 9 USD) is a bit expensive, you get tea and cake included in the price.
If you’re feeling a bit hungry, there are several eateries on the main strip. Grab a bowl of noodles.

If you want to visit the forest with an English speaking guide, then you can book a private tour.

  • How to get there: From the Golden Pavilion (early in the morning), head back to Kyoto Station by bus 205 from the Kinkakuji-michi Stop. Take Kyoto City Bus 28 from Kyoto Station to ArashiyamaTenryuji-mae Stop, or take the Hankyu Line to Arashiyama Station. Or just take a taxi from Kinkaku-ji Temple to Tenryu-ji Temple like we did.
  • Opening hours: Tenryu-ji Temple: 08:30 – 17:30 (till 17:00 21st of October to 20th of March), Bamboo Grove: Dawn – Dusk, Okochi Sanso villa: 09:00 – 17:00
  • Ticket prices: Tenryu-ji Temple: 600 Yen 5,5 USD, Bamboo Grove: FREE!, Okochi Sanso villa: 1000 Yen = 9 USD
  • Webpage: Tenryu-ji Temple

3. Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama

Bamboo Grove KyotoWalk over the Togetsu-kyo Bridge, and climb up the steps near the orange torii of Ichitani-jinja.

The climb up the hill to where the monkeys are is a bit steep, and expect to be a bit sweaty, especially if it is a hot day, as you reach the top, but it`s totally worth it!

Over 200 Japanese monkeys live in this park, of all sizes and ages. And what`s cool about this monkey park is that the monkeys run around free and all the human visitors are in cages! Love it! 🙂

You also get a great panoramic view of Kyoto from the park.

  • How to get there: From the Bamboo Grove, walk over the Togetsu-kyo Bridge, and up the steps near the orange torii of Ichitani-jinja. If you are in downtown Kyoto, take Kyoto City Bus number 28 from Kyoto Station to Arashiyama-Tenryuji-mae Bus Stop.
  • Opening hours: 9:00 – 17:00 15th of March till October, 9:00 – 16:00 November till 14th of March
  • Ticket price: 550 Yen = 5 USD per adult and 250 Yen = 2 USD per child. You buy the entrance ticket to Monkey Park at the machine to the left of the shrine located at the top of the steps.
  • Webpage

Day 3 – Downtown Kyoto, Nishiki Market, Manga Museum, Fushimi Inari Shrine & Gion

1. Nishiki Market

Start your day at the famous Nishiki Market in downtown Kyoto and indulge in lots of delicious snacks.

The Nishiki Market is packed with all the weird and delicious food that makes up the famous Japanese cuisine.

Nishiki Market Kyoto
All sorts of strange Japanese delights at the Nishiki Market

All the stalls are very welcoming and many hand-out free samples. This is also a great place to buy souvenirs and gifts to bring back home.

You can even join a Nishiki Market Tour which includes a delicious seven-course Japanese lunch. It is a great way to learn about Japanese food and snack, and what makes the Kyoto cuisine so special.

  • How to get there: Take the Karasuma Line to Shijo Station, or the Hankyu Line to Karasuma Station or Kawaramachi Station.
  • Opening hours: 09:00 – 17:00. Some stalls are closed on Wednesdays.
  • Ticket price: FREE!

2. Kyoto International Manga Museum

From Nishiki Market, walk over to the Kyoto International Manga Museum (takes about 15 min).

The Kyoto International Manga Museum is huge, and contains over 300 000 (!) Japanese comic books or manga.

This is the perfect place to learn about this Japanese art form that is a huge part of Japanse culture, and to see how the art of manga has changed over the years. There is also a section of manga translated into other languages like English.

Kyoto International Manga Museum
Manga cartoons from all over the world at the Manga Museum

You can even learn how to draw manga and have your portrait drawn by a manga artist. We did this, and this is how it turned out, pretty cool if you ask me:

Kyoto International Manga Museum
Us as manga. Aren`t we cute?! 😉
  • How to get there: Take the Karasuma or Tozai Line to Karasuma-Oike Station. It is just a short walk from Karasuma-Oike Station to the Manga Museum (4 min)
  • Opening hours: 10 – 18, closed on Wednesdays
  • Ticket prices: 800 Yen = 7,5 USD for an adult, 300 Yen = 2,8 USD for a child
  • Webpage

3. Fushimi Inari Shrine

Fushimi Inari Shrine
The amazing Fushimi Inari Shrine

Fushimi Inari Shrine is a stunning and atmospherical shrine that consists of thousands of red torii gates lined up as a pathway 4 km up the mountain.

It’s best visited in the afternoon when the light renders the gates at their most beautiful and the temperature is a bit cooler. Walk as far up as your energy permits, and head back down.

Hundreds of Torii gates leads up to the small mountain at Fushimi Inari Shrine

The Fushimi Inari Shrine was first built as early as the 8th century by the Hata family to worship the gods of rice and sake.

The is one path going up and one path going down
Fushimi Inari Fox
A fox who is the messenger of Inari, the god of rice and business

Along the pathway, you will also see plenty of stone foxes.

The fox is considered to be the messenger of Inari – the god of rice and business.

The fox is carrying a key in its mouth which is the key to the granaries.

  • How to get there: From Manga Museum, walk to Karasuma-Oike Station (3 min) and take the Karasuma Line to Kyoto Station and then change to the Nara Line to Inari Station. This takes about 20 min. Or take the Tozai Line from Sanjo Station to Keihan Line to Fushimi Inari Station. This takes about 20 min. You can also walk to Sanjo Station, which takes about 20 min walking.
  • Opening hours: Dawn to Dusk for the shops, although it never really closes
  • Ticket prices: FREE!
  • Webpage


4. Geisha spotting in the Gion neighborhood

At dusk, head back to downtown Kyoto for dinner, and go for an evening stroll through Kyoto’s geisha district Gion. Maybe you are lucky and get to see a real geisha?!

Gion Area Kyoto
The Gion neighborhood is Kyotos most famous Geisha district
Gion Area Kyoto
Beautiful old buildings in Gion

Don`t miss the Shimbashi street in Gion, which is a beautiful street in the evening (start at the intersection between Shijo-dori and Hanami-koji, and walk north, take the third left).

Gion Area Kyoto
Shimbashi street in Gion

There are a lot of options for dining in Gion. From upscale restaurants serving traditional Kyoto cuisine to weird and wonderful restaurants such as the  Issen Yoshoku Restaurant, that serves Issen Yoshoku which is a sort of the Japanese specialty Okonomiyaki (pancakes) filled with all sorts of yummy stuff like spring onion, egg, dried shrimp, beef, and ginger. Delicious!

The restaurant is unique, pay attention to the interiors and decorations on the walls.

Issen Yoshoku Restaurant
Funny decorations at the Issen Yoshoku Restaurant
Issen Yoshoku Restaurant
This crazy scene welcomes you at the entrance of Issen Yoshoku Restaurant
Okonomiyaki
Okonomiyaki in the making

You might even be so lucky that you get to dine with one of the five Kimono girls that sit at some of the tables. The girls are mannequins and made of plastic! 🙂

You also get to see how they make the Issen Yoshokus (or Okonomiyaki) as the kitchen is an open space.

  • Address: 238 Giommachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama-kuKyoto (in the middle of Gion)
  • Opening hours: 10:30 – 22:00

These are the highlights of things to do in Kyoto in our opinion, packed into three pretty intense days. We hope you find this article helpful when deciding what to do in Kyoto.

Feel free to pick and choose from what interests you most in this itinerary.

If you want a guided tour of the highlights of Kyoto (temples and castles), check out the Kyoto Tour: From the Golden Kinkakuji to the Nijo Castle

Other Things To Do In Kyoto

If you have more than three days in this beautiful city, you can either take things a little slower by spreading this itinerary out across more days or add some more activities. Some of the highlights that we could not fit into this three-day Kyoto itinerary are:

  • Kyoto Imperial Palace Park – Located in Central Kyoto the Imperial Palace and especially the garden surrounding it is a lovely place to relax and have a picnic. It’s very popular during Cherry Blossom season.
  • Nijo-jo Castle – An impressive castle from the Edo period that shows off the power and influence of the Shogun Warlords.
  • Shopping in Shijo – Along Shijo-dori there are modern shopping malls that can rival Tokyo. The two largest are Takashimaya and Daimaru department stores.
  • Ponto Cho – A traditional nightlife area and Geisha district. Ponto Cho has many old wooden buildings that are lit by Japanese lanterns in the evening making it a lovely place to go for a drink and an evening walk.
  • Toei Kyoto Studio Park – A combination of theme park and working television/ film studio. Here you can dress up as Samurais and wander around a replica Edo period Samurai town where many movies and tv series have been shot. It’s all a bit crazy but a lot of fun too.
  • Kyoto Station – Is well worth a visit for its famous modern architecture made of steel-and-glass, it’s hundreds of shops and varied selection of restaurants. The station has many levels. Make sure to go up to the 15th floor where there is an observation deck with a nice view of Kyoto.
Kyoto Station
Kyoto Station is also a huge shopping mall with shops and restaurants
  • Kurama and Kibune area – Here you find the famous Kurama-dera Buddhist temple, established as early as 770. It is beautifully located just below the peak of Kurama-yama, and you will have a nice walk up a small hill through a forest to get to the entrance of the temple (or you can take the tram to the top). You can also relax at the nearby hot spring Kurama Onsen, which has an indoor bath and a sauna.

Day Trips From Kyoto

There are several great day trip options close to Kyoto. Here are our favorites:

Nara
Nara (1 hour by train from Kyoto one way) used to be Japans capital back in the 8th century. Nara is famous for deer roaming the streets and is packed with beautiful ancient temples and shrines. The most famous is Tōdai-ji Temple with the 15-meter tall bronze Daibutsu (Great Buddha) as it`s highlight.

Nara
The grand and beautiful Tōdai-ji Temple in Nara

Osaka
Osaka (1 hour by train from Kyoto one way) is also a popular place to visit, with the 16th-century Osaka Castle as it`s highlight. Osaka also has a great nightlife and delicious street food.

Check out our recommended Osaka Itinerary

Ise
Another great option is the coastal city Ise (3 hours by train from Kyoto one way, so you might want to stay the night here). Ise is famous for Ise Jingu – a massive Shinto shrine. The city also has more than 100 other temples and shrines.

Where To Stay In Kyoto

Kyoto has a lot of accommodation options to choose from in many different areas of Kyoto. Click here to read our complete guide to our favorite Kyoto areas and hotels.

Century Hotel Kyoto
We highly recommend this hotel, as we loved it! The best hotel we stayed at throughout our entire Japan trip!  

Century Hotel Kyoto
The beautiful lobby at Century Hotel Kyoto

The rooms are big and beautiful decorated, with huge comfortable beds. Great service from the staff and excellent location just next to Kyoto Train Station (100 m walk). You will love this hotel!
Click for latest prices


Hotel Mystays Kyoto Shijo
We stayed at Hotel Mystays in Tokyo and it was fantastic! Hotel Mystays is a business hotel chain. The rooms are not the biggest but have everything you need and more (even slippers!).

The location of Mystays Kyoto is perfect, close to Maruyama park and many shrines, and very close to a subway station (300 m) and bus stops. There is a good selection of restaurants nearby and there is a supermarket next to the hotel. It is a quiet hotel, and all rooms have good wifi. There is a laundry room with washing machines and a dryer and a coffee machine in the lobby that you can use for free.
Click for latest prices

Karasuma Kyoto Hotel
A nice budget hotel centrally located with plenty of eating places within a short walk. It is within walking distance to the Gion area and to Nishiki market. Reasonably sized rooms (big for Japan) and have a small fridge and coffee/tea maker. The breakfast is delicious. The bathroom is fully equipped with all the necessary toiletries.

There is a Starbucks next to the hotel, and the hotel is close to a big supermarket, many restaurants, as well as bus stops and a subway station (2 stops from Kyoto Station). Take subway Karasuma Line to Shijo Station (exit 6).
Click for latest prices

Travel Guides

We used Lonely Planet`s Japan Travel Guide on our trip. You can get that and other great books by clicking on the pictures below which will take you to Amazon.com (affiliate links):


Have you been to Kyoto? Have we missed something in this itinerary? What did you like the most about Kyoto? Please leave a comment in the comment area below. If you like this article and find it useful, please share on social media. Thanks! 🙂 


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Written by Maria Wulff Hauglann

Maria is a Norwegian travel nerd who has explored more than thirty countries on four continents. She holds a master's degree in Computer Science, as well as an MBA. In 2014 while on a year-long trip across South East- Asia, Maria co-founded the travel blog Nerd Nomads to help others get out and explore the world. In 2018 she left her day job permanently for a life of full-time travel. See our about page for more about Maria.

65 Comments

  1. Wow! Just Amazing. Kyoto is very interesting place to spend such a good time. Beautiful Pictures and valuable detailed information is shared by you. After this read, definitely plan for Koyto to enjoy my vacation.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Nitin,

      Thank you so much! Kyoto is such a beautiful city with so much to see and do. We loved it and can`t wait to be back! I`m sure you will love it too.

      Happy travels!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  2. Great article and very appealing pictures, if only Japan was more affordable =( For now we’ll have to stick to South East Asia =)

    Reply
    • Hi Graham,

      Thank you so much! Really happy to hear that you like it, it was a lot of work. 🙂

      Happy travels!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  3. Is day 1 too much for a first timer? Except for moving from north to south, is this a walking itinerary? My base will be osaka so I am thinking if there is enough time.

    Reply
    • Hi Wel,

      I would say that Day 1 of this Kyoto itinerary is perfect for a first-time visitor to Kyoto. The Higashiyama area is the main sightseeing area of Kyoto.

      Yes, Day 1 (Southern and Northern Higashiyama) is a walking route. By doing this walk, you will see the highlight of Kyoto temples and shrines. You can for instance only do the Southern part of Higashiyama and skip the Northern part if you see that you don`t have time to do both areas.

      The train ride from Osaka to Kyoto is about 1,5 hour each way. Most temples have opening hours from 09:00 to 16:30/ 17:00. You should get there early in the morning when there are lesser people. From Kyoto Station, take the Tozai Line to Higashiyama Station (Southern Higashiyama) and start your walk from there.

      Have a great trip to Osaka and enjoy your day-trip to Kyoto!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  4. Nice article. One small point: isn’t your photo of the Yasaka Jinja Shrine actually the Nio-Mon Gate of Kiyomizu-dera temple?

    Reply
  5. Hi Patrick,

    Thank you so much! Eh, you are absolutely right. I had a hard time organizing all the photos we took (with two different cameras) and finding out the names of all the shrines and temples we visited and photographed. I really struggled. Thanks for noticing and letting me know. I will, of course, move the photo and change the caption.

    I had a look at your webpage, by the way, and absolutely LOVE your photos!!! OMG, they are amazing! We will definitely buy your “The Photographer`s Guide to Kyoto”. Wish we knew about it before our trip to Kyoto. I`m sure our photos would have been better 🙂 Do you do photo tours of Kyoto, too, or? If so, we would love to join you on a photo tour some day.

    -Maria-

    Reply
  6. Hi Maria,
    Thank you for sending your Kyoto 3 day Guide super,
    You have woken me up, had not given our Japan coming Holiday any attention.
    Just fully recovered from our 7 week tour of New Zealand ( Our 6th visit)
    I think we have now covered all the sights now? Phew ha ha.
    Yes read your Kyoto and will be doing most of the places mentioned, You sure
    know how to wet our appetite ha ha.
    I have been notified a small change in my flight times, SO………. change it a bit and got 1 extra day ( Yippee )
    So advice please we have 2 extra nights ( had booked Osaka for the last night) we want to see Osaka Castle. But also want to visit Nara.
    So do I book a extra night Kyoto? in the Hotel MYSTAYS, or book 2 nights in Osaka.?
    Just to remind you of our previous comments. Yes I have use your 2 week Itinerary. Tokyo, Masumoto, ( Alpine Route ) Kanazawa, Kyoto , fly out Osaka,
    Re buying Train pass before we arrive Japan, How do they work? Can I use 1 day, then leave for 2-3 days? then use 1 day , Miss a day then use again ?
    So this way I only need a 7 day rail Pass? Most interested in your Reply.
    Best Regards and Thanks again for the good Information.
    Barry

    Reply
    • Hi Barry,

      Since you got two extra nights, you can either have one extra night in Kyoto, and do a day-trip to Nara (1 hour train ride from Kyoto), back to Kyoto for the night, and then go to Osaka for your last night. Or you can have that extra night in Osaka (2 nights in Osaka) and do a day-trip to Nara (1 hour train ride from Osaka). Hmmm, I think I would choose to stay two nights in Osaka and do a day-trip to Nara from Osaka. Since you fly out of Osaka. It seems more convenient. But having an extra night in Kyoto is also doable, no problem.

      Regarding the Japan Railway Pass:
      The days start running once you activate your train pass. So if you stay put in one place/ city for several days without using the pass, these days will still be “used” and taken off your pass. So you would need a 14 day Railway Pass if you plan to travel around Japan for 14 days (including the days where you don`t do any train rides), I`m afraid. The railway pass is only valid for 7, 14 or 21 days in a row, depending on which one you buy, from one fix date to another.

      With this Japan Railway Pass you can also do seat reservations for free, which is very convenient.

      The Railway Pass will still save you a lot of money, even though there are days where you will not actually use it and do any train rides. But make sure to only activate it when you leave Tokyo, as you will not need it in Tokyo, as only a few metro lines take this Railway Pass.

      Click here to check prices and buy your Japan Railway Pass

      Ah, lucky you who have just been to New Zealand for 7 weeks, wooooow!!! I really hope to get to New Zealand one day, it would be a dream come true. Seems like an amazing country, they say it looks a bit like my home country Norway nature-wise at least. 🙂

      Have a great trip to Japan!!!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  7. Hi Maria! Came across your blog while searching for itineraries for Kyoto. Great post and thanks for sharing the tips! Since you’ve been to Kyoto, and I only have 2 days there, what do you think of this itinerary:
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Kevin,

      Thank you so much! The itinerary you have linked to looks great! It is a bit packed, but it is doable. Hmmm, I would have skipped the Kyoto Tower as I don`t think it is that impressive (not nearly as cool as Tokyo Skytree). Also, I would have dropped the Kyoto National Museum, as you will see plenty of old ancient art treasures in the temples and shrines in Kyoto. But I am not that into museums I must admit. 🙂

      What you should add to your itinerary is the Bamboo Forest in the Arashiyama area of Kyoto. I love that forest!

      Have a great trip to Kyoto!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  8. Hi Maria! My friends and I used your itinerary for Kanazawa last year and it was a blast! 🙂 Using your kyoto itinerary for a guide again! Because last time, we spent too much time at the markets and shops (We were lured by the snacks!). Thank you for such excellent posts! You are a life saver!!! 🙂 More power to you and your blog!

    Reply
    • Hi Tabby!!

      Wow, that is awesome! Thank you so much! Your comment made my day! 🙂 So happy to hear that our Kanazawa itinerary was useful to you!

      Have an amazing time in Kyoto!! Yeah I know what you mean, the Japanese snacks are the best! 🙂

      -Maria-

      Reply
  9. Hi Maria, Thanks for sharing! Wonder if you know of any ryokans to recommend in Kyoto? My teenager children love to sleep on tatamis & soak in onsens. Thanking in advance.

    Reply
  10. Nice post, we spent 5 weeks using Kyoto as a base and there are so many temples you risk getting temple burnout…
    Actually, one of our favorite daytrips was Nara. Might actually have been our favorite place in Japan.

    Reply
    • Hi Frank,

      Thank you! Cool, we really love Kyoto too! We also went to Nara, just haven`t written a post about it yet. I think we were suffering from a bit of “temple burnout” when we reached Nara as our final destination in Japan, but loved the deer in Nara! They ate our map, hehe 🙂

      Happy travels!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  11. Hi ,
    Thanks for writing blog on this topic i really liked it.
    So many useful information i got.
    Whenever i will go there i will remember these thing.
    Thanks for sharing this with us.

    Reply
  12. Hi maria,

    I really like your blog and i’m planning to follow your kyoto itinerary. How long did it take you to do the northern and Southern Higashiyama walk? I’m thinking of doing both walk on the same day or just the southern part if there’s not enough time.

    Thanks!!

    Reply
    • Hi Jeffrey,

      Thanks! Glad to hear that our Kyoto itinerary could be of inspiration to your Kyoto trip! We did both the northern and southern Higashiyama walk in one day, from early morning until it got dark. You can start with the southern and see how it goes. If you have the time and energy, you can do the northern in the afternoon.

      Have a great trip to Kyoto!!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  13. Hey Maria!
    Very detailed! Enjoyed reading it as it took me back to my trip to Kyoto last year. Absolutely my top 5 favorite destinations I’ve ever been to – something about the vibe of this city that is so magical. I wanna go back!

    PS … I also have the same pic of the statue of the dog and the boy at the Issen Yoshoku restaurant!
    Mick

    Reply
    • Hi Mick!

      Thanks a million!! Hehe, great to hear that you too have been to that crazy Issen Yoshoku restaurant! 🙂 I totally agree, Kyoto is awesome and I can`t wait to go back.

      Happy travels!!! 🙂

      -Maria-

      Reply
  14. Hi,

    Thank you for this article and the tips that you gave us!
    I’ll be in Tokyo between 28th December – 10th of January and I plan to visit Kyoto and maybe another cities.
    I have to visit them after the 4th of January, because most of the attractions are closed. In Tokyo I will be with some friends, but when visiting another cities, I will be by my own. I am a little bit scared as it is my first ever solo trip. Is is safe for a woman to travel by herself in these cities?
    Is it a bad idea to visit Kyoto only in one day?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Anairda,

      Thank you so much! Glad that our articles could be of help to you when planning your Japan trip!

      I would say that Japan is one of the safest places on earth to travel solo as a woman. Japan has a very low crime rate and the Japanese people are extremely polite and respectful, so you will be totally safe travelling alone. You should not worry at all!

      Hmmm, as there are lots to see and do in Kyoto, one day is a little short but of course better than 0 days. 🙂

      Have a great trip to Japan and enjoy the New Year celebration in Tokyo! I`m sure it will be awesome! 🙂

      -Maria-

      Reply
  15. Thanks so much for your wonderful blog. It is so informative and I like all your suggestions.
    If you’d have to choose between Southern and Northern Higashiyama, which one would you choose?
    Also, did you visit Shugakuin or Katsura imperial villas or the Sento palace? I visited Shugakuin Villa long time ago and remember it was so beautiful. I wonder if we should add one or two more days to our trip to fit them in our itinerary. I think we have to submit the application three months in advance.

    Reply
    • Hi Mandana,

      Thank you so much! Glad to be of help to you when planning your Japan trip!

      You should choose the Southern Higashiyama. This is the most popular area and contains the most famous sights.

      No sorry, we did not visit Shugakuin or Katsura imperial villas or the Sento palace. All of them looks really nice, though, so will consider going there on our next Kyoto visit.

      Have a great trip to Japan and enjoy your time in Kyoto!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  16. Maria,
    This is a great article on how to get around Kyoto. Is there a similar article for Tokyo you can share with me? I plan to be in Japan in June and would like to spend two days in Tokyo, 2 or 3 days in Kyoto and 1 day in Osaka and rather to pay for so many tours I would like to buy a few tours but also take advantage of the wonderful bus and train system in Japan. However, I will get the JR Pass before I fly to Japan.

    Reply
    • Hi Hector,

      Thank you so much! Yes, we have a Tokyo itinerary which you can find here: https://nerdnomads.com/what-to-do-in-tokyo. It is for five days itinerary, but you can easily cut it down to two days.

      To divide your time between Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka sound like a great idea! The train and bus system in Japan is amazing, so you will have no problem getting between these big cities. You can save some money with the JR Pass.

      Have a great trip to Japan in June!!

      -Maria-

      Reply
      • Hi Maria,
        This is a great article. We (2 adults) will be in Japan from 8-14 June and would like to spend 2 day sin Tokyo, 2 days in Kyoto and 2 days in Osaka. We will get the JR Pass before I fly to Japan.
        Is NARA too should be included? How many days?
        How is the weather in June? I read it rains.
        Please can you give us an itinerary of MUST see places. We want to skip Museums, temples & shrines.

        Reply
        • Hi Linda,

          Thank you so much! Nara is nice, but if you are not interested in temples and shrines, you should skip Nara as temples and shrines are what Nara is all about.

          June and July is rainy season in Japan, although it does not rain every day. The humidity is high in June, however. We visited Japan in July, and it rained some days, mostly in the afternoon and evenings. But we also had sun.

          You can find our recommended Japan itinerary (14 days) here: https://nerdnomads.com/japan-two-week-itinerary

          Since you only have six days, I think you should keep it down to the three places you have already picked out: Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. There is plenty to see and do in these cities.

          Here is what you should see in Tokyo: https://nerdnomads.com/what-to-do-in-tokyo

          Have a great week in Japan in June!

          -Maria-

          Reply
  17. Maria,
    Thank you very much for the information for a Tokyo tour and the tips that you gave us in your article. You have a wonderful blog and It is very informative. I will follow all your suggestions for Kyoto and will share with other after my trip.

    Thanks,

    Hector

    Reply
    • Hi Hector,

      Thank you soooooo much for your nice words about our blog!!! You made my day! 🙂

      Have a great time in Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  18. Hey Maria,

    Thank you for putting the blog together. Lots of great info and thanks so much for sharing.

    My gf and I (2 adults) will be in Japan from 1-18 June and would like to spend our time in Tokyo (2-3 days), Kyoto, Osaka, Mt. Fuji (1-day trip?), etc. We plan on getting the JR Pass before flying to Narita. I also heard it’s raining season in June. True?

    Will you kindly provide us an itinerary of MUST see places. I like the Bamboo forest, Togetsu-kyo Bridge, and the Fushimi Inari Shrine from Memoirs of A Geisha. We are not interested in museums, temples, or shrines (just that one I listed above) and we enjoy the countryside, OSEN, more than being in the city.

    We plan on staying in hotels/capsules near the train stations for easy commute. But we also would not about the business hotels mentioned in your blog. Would like some recommendations from that as well.

    Think I have asked too much. Look forward to your reply.

    Thanks so much in advance,

    DB

    Reply
    • Hi Denise,

      Thank you so much! Great to hear that our articles about Japan could be of help to you when planning your Japan trip!

      Yes, June and July is rainy season in Japan. We visited in July/August, and it did not rain every day and mostly just for a short time in the afternoon. But bring an umbrella/ raincoat.

      Here are our recommended places to visit in Japan and our recommended itinerary – The Best of Japan In Two Weeks We have also added some recommended hotels in this itinerary.

      Since you don`t like temples and shrines, you should skip Nikko and Nara, and instead, add more time in Hakone (do some hikes), Takayama, Kanazawa, and Hiroshima/Miyajima Island.

      As for Kyoto, since you don`t want to see temples, shrines, and museums, the highlights would be:

      – Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Okochi Sanso Villa and Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama (they are located in the same area)
      – Ninen-zaka street and Sannen-zaka street. These are lined with beautiful old traditional wooden houses with many cozy cafes and teahouses.
      – Nishiki Market in downtown Kyoto
      – Fushimi Inari Shrine (go through the whole gate system up to the top of the mountain, it is a 4 km path). It’s best visited in the afternoon when the light renders the gates at their most beautiful and the temperature is a bit cooler.
      – Kyoto’s geisha district Gion. Have dinner or lunch at one of the nice and cozy restaurants and cafes in this area. Don`t miss the Shimbashi street in Gion, which is a beautiful street in the evening (start at the intersection between Shijo-dori and Hanami-koji, and walk north, take the third left).
      – Kyoto Imperial Palace Park – Located in Central Kyoto the Imperial Palace and especially the garden surrounding it is a lovely place to relax and have a picnic.
      – Nijo-jo Castle – An impressive castle from the Edo period that shows off the power and influence of the Shogun Warlords.
      – Shopping in Shijo – Along Shijo-dori there are modern shopping malls that can rival Tokyo. The two largest are Takashimaya and Daimaru department stores.
      – Ponto Cho – A traditional nightlife area and Geisha district. Ponto Cho has many old wooden buildings that are lit by Japanese lanterns in the evening making it a lovely place to go for a drink and an evening walk.
      – Toei Kyoto Studio Park – A combination of theme park and working television/ film studio. Here you can dress up as Samurais and wander around a replica Edo period Samurai town where many movies and tv series have been shot. It’s all a bit crazy but a lot of fun too.
      – The Kyoto Station is also well worth a visit for its famous modern architecture made of steel-and-glass, it’s hundreds of shops and varied selection of restaurants. The station has many levels, make sure to go up to the 15th floor where there is an observation deck with a nice view of Kyoto.
      – Or you can explore other areas of Kyoto, like the Kurama and Kibune area. It is a beautiful and scenic area just below the peak of Kurama-yama. Here you can go for walks and enjoy the nature and scenery. You can walk or take the tram up a small hill to a temple Kurama-dera. You can also relax at the nearby hot spring Kurama Onsen, which has an indoor bath and a sauna.

      Hope this gave you some ideas of what to see and do in Kyoto. We stayed at the Century Hotel Kyoto, it has the perfect location right on the Kyoto train station. Really recommend it!

      Have a great trip to Japan in June! I`m sure you will love this beautiful country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  19. Maria,
    Thank you for this great post! It is extremely useful as I plan an upcoming trip to Japan in May. Question – if we were up early, with the goal to arrive at Shoren-in at 8am when they open, do you think the Southern Higashiyama tour could be completed in 3-3.5 hours? I am planning on a bike tour which leaves Kyoto station at 1:30 and would like to leave time to grab lunch and rest. Thanks in advance for your advice!

    Reply
    • Actually, let me rephrase that question – I expect to have approximately 4 hours to explore my first afternoon in Kyoto, and then approximately 3 hours in the morning on my second day before a bike tour. (I see that the temples actually open at 9am, not 8am.) Which day would make more sense to do North Higashiyama vs. South? I was originally thinking North on my first afternoon and South on my second morning but it sounds like South might actually be the longer/more intensive trek, so maybe I should switch them? Thanks 🙂

      Reply
      • Hi Katie,

        The Southern Higashiyama has more temples and things to see compared to the Northern one. So I agree that you should have more time on the Southern one and should do this walking tour on your first afternoon in Kyoto. The Southern Higashiyama walking tour can be done in an hour, but you do want to go into the temples, at least some of them.

        Have a great time in Kyoto!!

        -Maria-

        Reply
  20. Hey,

    I am going to Japan on 17th May 2018.

    Very excited to visit 🙂 🙂

    Thanks a ton for your inputs 🙂

    Cheers,
    Nitin

    Reply
    • Hi Nitin,

      Wow, so cool! You are probably in Japan right now then?! Hope you are having an awesome time!!

      All the best,
      Maria

      Reply
  21. Hi Maria,

    This itinerary is wonderful and I’m planning to use it for my 3 days in Kyoto. In terms of timing, how long do you think each day takes? I’m trying to plan for dinners and other activities, like massages.

    Thanks again,
    Victoria

    Reply
    • Hi Victoria,

      Thank you so much! Great to hear that our recommended 3-day itinerary for Kyoto could be of inspiration to you when planning your Kyoto trip!

      It really depends on how much time you want to spend at each place, what kind of transportation you choose to get between the different areas and so on. But each day ends after sunset, as most of the attractions and temples close around 17:00/ 18:00, so you can easily plan for dinner and massages in the evenings after dark.

      For Day 1 – a walking trip in the Higashiyama area, it depends on how fast you walk, if you want to go inside all the temples or not. The Higashiyama area is also divided into two parts, the south, and the north, so you can skip one of the areas to have more time to do massages and other stuff. If you want to skip one part of the Higashiyama area, you should skip the north and only do the south (it is the best part). The south walking tour can be done in one hour if you don`t go inside all of the temples and just walk through the area.

      As for Day 2, the transportation time between the Golden Temple and the Bamboo Forest can take some time if you want to do it by bus. We took a taxi to save time. The temple in the forest close around 17:00, as do the Monkey Park. The Bamboo forest itself close after dark (around 18/19:00).

      On Day 3, the market close at 17:00 and Manga Museum at 18:00, while the Fushimi Inari Shrine never closes but you will not see that much of the surrounding nature if you get there after dark. So also for day 3, I would say it ends around sunset.

      Have an awesome time in Kyoto!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  22. Hi!

    thank you so much for all the posts you’ve done for visiting japan, its really useful for me (especially the booking of accommodation) but i just have a few questions :))

    I’ve been reading around in forums and a lot of them suggest to visit the temples when they are just opening as they are really crowded… would you recommend that? also from the pictures you took it didnt really seem crowded? is it because you went during off peak? (i’m fearful of the crowds ive seen in other pictures… is the crowd really that bad?)

    i’m planning to visit japan from 24 march – 5 april and originally i planned to go to kyoto during the weekend… but i realised it is the spring term break for japanese students plus cherry blosson season (so most probably super crowded?) so i was wondering what you would recommend? is it smarter to spend the weekend in tokyo rather than kyoto? also do you think it will get more crowded because of the spring term break?

    thank you so much!
    kiri

    Reply
    • Hi Kiri,

      Thank you so much!

      We visited Japan offseason (rainy season) in July/ August, so it was not crowded. Yes, I highly recommend that you visit the temples and sights early in the morning when they open, or in the afternoon/ evening before they close. We are unfortunately no morning persons, so we usually opt for the afternoon. And we also avoid the top sights during weekends.

      OMG, if it is the spring term break + cherry blossom it will be super packed in Kyoto and you should definitely stay in Tokyo that weekend instead of Kyoto. Kyoto is extremely popular among young Japanese people. They love to take selfies and photos at the ancient temples and streets in the old part of Kyoto wearing their kimonos. So it will be crazy kimono-selfie-overload in Kyoto during spring term break for sure! 🙂

      You should also book accommodation well ahead as it will most likely be fully booked.

      Have a great trip to Japan! Enjoy the cherry blossom!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  23. Hello!
    I am traveling to Japan in November with my husband and 14 year old nephew.
    The JR pass, we are totally on board to buy it as our entire trip depends on it (way of getting from one city to the other). Is there a website you recommend that has a clear and easy itinerary for the train?

    Reply
    • Hi Maggie,

      Glad to hear that you will buy JR Pass. This will save you a lot of money and is very convenient as you don´t have to buy train tickets for each trip.

      Google Maps is actually the best way to find out what train to take between places and cities, when they depart, at what platform, and when the train arrives at your destination. It is excellent and we use it all the time when we are in Japan. It also gives you the walking path and walking time from where you are (for instance your hotel) and to the train station. Love it! 🙂

      Have a great trip to Japan with your husband and nephew! I`m sure it will be awesome!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  24. I love your itinerary idea for three days and will bookmark it for my upcoming trip in July. I decided to budget enough for a taxi between the Golden Pavilion to the bamboo forest to save time. Was the cab fare alot? I think it’s still worth it regardless. Can’t wait!

    Reply
    • Hi Carolyn,

      Thank you so much! Awesome that you are visiting Kyoto next month! You will love Kyoto, it is such a fun and beautiful city with plenty to see and do.

      Taxis are pretty expensive in Kyoto, but as you say it is totally worth it to save time. We took a taxi from the bamboo forest to the Golden Pavilion and we did not regret it as it saved us a lot of time and hassle. The drive from Golden Pavilion to the Bamboo Forest normally takes about 25 min depending on the traffic. This taxi ride will cost you approximately 1900 Yen = US$ 18.

      Have a great trip to Kyoto next month!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  25. Thanks Maria! We just used this itinerary for our 3 day stay in Kyoto and it was perfect. Thank goodness for it coming up in a google search!

    Reply
    • Hi Jane & Cal,

      Thank you so much for your awesome comment! ❤️???? So happy to hear that you used our 3-day Kyoto itinerary and that it worked great for you! Really appreciate your feedback!

      Happy travels!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  26. Hi, great itinerary. I am a vegetarian planning a 2 week holiday to Japan. Can you please guide me on the availability of vegetarian food in Japan?

    Thanks,

    Reply
    • Hi Manisha,

      Thank you so much!

      Sorry, I am not vegetarian so I am not an expert in this field. But I think you will have no problem finding vegetarian options in Japan. We are actually in Japan right now.

      As for specific vegetarian food in Japan, you will, for instance, find: vegetarian noodle dishes (ramen, udon, and soba) and vegetarian tempura (vegetables that have been battered and deep-fried). And if you eat fish and seafood, you will have tons and tons of food and dishes to choose from as the Japanese are crazy about seafood. Sushi restaurants are for instance everywhere here in Japan.

      We ate Ramen (Chinese wheat noodles) at Ramen Street yesterday, and a couple of the restaurants there only serve vegetarian ramen dishes. Ramen Street is located in the basement of Tokyo Station.

      Have a great trip to Japan!!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  27. Thanks for the amazing explanation and detailed itinerary. I have just left Kyoto after a tree and a half days visit and I followed most of your suggestions, that made me easier to know and explore this amazing city.

    Reply
    • Hi David,

      Thank you so much! So happy to hear that our Kyoto Itinerary is useful for you when planning your Kyoto trip.

      Have a fantastic trip to Japan and a great time in Kyoto!

      All the best,
      Maria

      Reply

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