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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 historic and ancient Japan. Kyoto is Japan’s cultural capital and has 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 an incredible 17 Unesco World Heritage Sites says it all!

Kyoto is not only about old cultural sites and buildings as it also has excellent 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 where to stay in Kyoto, click here to read our complete guide to our favorite Kyoto areas and hotels.

Chion-in Temple in Kyoto in autumn colorsPin
Kyoto has an impressive number of temples and shrines, like the beautiful Chion-in Temple.

What To Do In Kyoto
– The Ultimate 3 Day Kyoto Itinerary

This Kyoto travel guide gives you the best things to do in Kyoto organized into a detailed step-by-step 3-day Kyoto itinerary. For each day, Kyoto’s top attractions are listed and highlighted on a map. Have a great time exploring Kyoto! ♥


Day 1 – Higashiyama Temple Area

Walking Tour Of Kyoto’s Temples & Shrines

On the first day of this 3-day Kyoto itinerary, you will be exploring the Higashiyama area of Kyoto, where all the action is regarding temples and shrines. Higashiyama is the main sightseeing area of Kyoto and is packed full of colorful temples, shrines, museums, parks, and Zen gardens.

The Higashiyama area is divided into two; The Southern and The Northern part. This walking route will take you through both these areas, but you can, of course, skip some of the temples and shrines if you are short on time.

You can easily spend an entire day exploring these two areas and their magnificent temples.

  • Opening hours:
    Most temples 09:00 (9 am) – 16:30/ 17:00 (4:30/ 5 pm). Some temples have open also in the evenings during the autumn leaves season in November when the gardens are illuminated.
  • Ticket price:
    You have to buy a ticket at each temple, around 300 – 600 Yen = US$ 3-6 per temple for an adult.

1. Southern Higashiyama Walking Tour

In the early morning, start with the Southern Higashiyama. This is the most popular area of Higashiyama and contains the most famous sights in Kyoto.

The walking route we have outlined below is easily walked in less than an hour if you just walk through it. But you will, of course, want to stop exploring the temples along the way, so you will most likely use 3-4 hours on this walking tour of Southern Higashiyama. Maybe even more if you want to have a rest in Maruyama Park, stop at a cafe or restaurant, and do some shopping along the way.

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

Outline of this DIY walking tour of the Southern Higashiyama area in Kyoto that consists of six temples and shrines:

A. Higashiyama Station
B. Shoren-in Temple
C. Chion-in Temple
D. Maruyama Park
E. Yasaka Shrine
F. Kodaiji Temple
G. Ishibe-Koji Alley
H. Nine-Zaka & Sannen-Zaka Street
I. Yakasa Pagoda/ Hokanji Temple
J. Kiyomizu-dera Temple

If you want to shorten this walking route, you can choose to visit just a couple of the temples and shrines and skip the rest. In my opinion, Chion-in (C) and Kiyomizu-dera (J) are must-visit temples and should not be missed.

Guided Tour Of Southern Higashiyama
To get the most out of your visit to the Southern Higashiyama, you should consider joining a guided tour of this fantastic temple area. On this 2,5-hour tour, an enthusiastic and knowledgeable local guide will show you most of the temples outlined in our DIY walking tour, from Yasaka Shrine to Kiyomizu Temple.
Click here to check availability and the latest prices

To get to the start of this walking tour of the temple and shrines in Kyoto, take the Tozai Line to Higashiyama Station (A on the map above).

A. Higashiyama Station

Once you get to Higashiyama Station (with the Tozai Line), walk out of the station at Exit 1 (just follow the signs).

There is an ATM at Higashiyama Station, so withdraw some money if you are low on cash as you need it for the entrance tickets to the temples and shrines. You will also find lockers at the station, both big (600 Yen = US$ 6) and small ones (300 Yen = US$ 3) if you want to store your luggage.

From Higashiyama Station, walk up Sanjo-dori street and take a right up Jingumichi-dori Avenue. Follow this road until you get to Shoren-in Temple (B). Walking time: 6 min.

B. Shoren-in Temple

This is one of the biggest temples in Kyoto and used to be the residence of the chief abbot of one of the biggest Buddhism schools in Japan. The temple served as the temporary imperial residence during the Great Fire in 1788, therefore it is also called “Awata Imperial Palace”.

Shorein-in Temple is designated as a Historic Site by the Japanese government.

Shoren-in temple is a lovely temple with a nice atmosphere and a beautiful garden with a pondPin
The lovely lake Ryushinchi, meaning “Heart of Dragon Pond”, at the Shoren-in Temple

The temple is located at the foot of Mount Awata and is surrounded but a huge spacious garden with tall trees. It is a beautiful place to go for a stroll.

I particularly love the beautiful Zen rock garden (see the photo below) and the lake Ryushinchi, meaning “Heart of Dragon Pond”. There is also a small bamboo forest in the temple garden.

The lovely Zen rock garden at Shoren-in Temple in KyotoPin
The lovely rock garden at the Shoren-in Temple
  • Opening hours Shoren-in Temple: 09:00/ 9 am – 17:00/ 5 pm (last entry 16:30/ 4:40 pm)
  • Ticket price: 500 Yen = US$ 5 adult, 200 Yen = US$ 2 child
  • Shoren-in Temple’s Official Webpage

After you have visited Shoren-in Temple, step out onto Jingu-michi Street again and follow this road south until you get to the majestic Chion-in Temple (C). Chion-in Temple has a huge entrance gate so it’s easy to spot. Walking time: 5 min. 

C. Chion-in Temple

Chion-in is a grand temple with a collection of several beautiful buildings. Here you will find an impressive two-story entrance gate (the biggest in Japan!), a stunning red and white pagoda, several halls, and a giant bell. The bell dates back to 1633, weighs 70 tonnes, and is the largest in Japan! The monks ring the bell 108 times (!!) every year on New Year’s Eve.

The grand entrance gate at Chion-in Temple KyotoPin
The spectacular entrance gate at Chion-in Temple

The temple buildings are located in a spacious courtyard and there are two lovely gardens as well, one with a pond and one dry landscape garden.

Cion-in Temple was established in 1234, where one of the most famous figures in Japanese Buddhism taught and later starved himself to death. Chion-in is the headquarters of the biggest school of Buddhism in Japan. It is the most popular pilgrimage temple in Kyoto.

After Chion-in Temple, head back out to the Jingu-michi Street, and continue south until you get to Maruyama Park (D). Maruyama Park is located just next to Chion-in Temple. Walking time: 2 min.

D. Maruyama Park

Step into the beautiful park Maruyama Park, or Maruyama-kōen as it is called in Japanese (kōen means park). Maruyama is the oldest park in Kyoto and a nationally designated Place of Scenic Beauty.

Maruyama Park in KyotoPin
Go for a stroll through the beautiful Maruyama Park

Maruyama Park is particularly popular during spring, the last week of March, and the first couple of weeks in April, as it is known for its spectacular cherry blossoms. It is the place to head to for cherry blossom viewings in Kyoto. You will find Kyoto’s most famous cherry tree here, the big Gion Shidare Zakura. This tree is lit up in the evenings, making the pinkish flowers sparkle even more.

Expect huge crowds at Maruyama park during cherry blossoms. Maruyama Park is Kyoto’s most popular and most crowded spot for the famous cherry blossom viewing parties, called hanami. The park is packed with drunk and partying people, both locals, and tourists.

The rest of the year, however, the park is a great place to come for a walk to escape the bustle and crowds of Kyoto city.

Maruyama Park is huge, covering an area of 86000 square meters. It contains beautiful gardens, rest houses, public bathrooms, several temples and shrines, and some Japanese restaurants.

Go for a stroll on the paths through the park and take in the fresh air and peaceful atmosphere. Find a bench near the pond, sit down and rest while watching the big orange and white carp fish peacefully glide through the water.

Inside the park, head west past the big Gion cherry tree, and walk to the grand and colorful Yasaka Shrine (E). Walking time: 5 min.

E. Yasaka Shrine

Yasaka Shrine, or Yasaka-jinja as it is called in Japanese (“Jinja” means shrine), is absolutely stunning with its bright red and white colors!

The shrine was established as early as the year 656 and is the guardian shrine of the Gion entertainment district in Kyoto.

Yasaka-jinja Shrine in Kyoto JapanPin
The bright red Yasaka Shrine/ Yasaka-jinja

The shrine is huge and contains several buildings, including several gates and the main hall. In front of the main hall is a dancing stage with hundreds of lanterns bearing the name of local businesses that have donated to the temple. The lanterns get lit in the evenings and are a beautiful sight.

The Gion Matsuri Festival In July

Yasaka Shrine is where the famous Gion Matsuri Festival first started back in 869. The people of Kyoto were suffering from an epidemic plague, and Emperor Seiwa ordered prayers to the god of the Yasaka Shrine to help the people.

Today Gion Festival (or Matsuri) is the most famous and largest festival in Japan, taking place over the entire month of July with different events. Even today, prayers during the Gion Matsuri are for purification and pacification of diseases.

The festival is, however, most known for its huge parade – the Yamaboko Junko. Huge Yamaboko floats are carried through the streets of downtown Kyoto on the 17th and 24th of July. On the 17th of July, the parade is between 09:00 (9 am) and 13:00 (1 pm). On the 24th the parade is held between 09:30 (9:30 am) and 11:50 (11:50 am).

The parade follows a 3 km long route, starting from Shijo-Karasuma on the 17th of July and from Karasuma-Oike on the 24th of July. The parade then continues along the streets Shijo, Kawaramachi, and Oike.

The tickets for the Gion Matsuri Festival usually get sold out, so you should pre-book your tickets here in advance.

The streets are reserved for pedestrians and shut off for cars on the three nights leading up to the big parade (15th, 16th, 22nd, and 23rd of July). These evenings (from 18:00 until 23:00), the streets of Kyoto are lined with food stalls selling delicious Japanese street food, drinks, traditional sweets, and snacks. You can indulge in delicious Yakitori (barbecued chicken skewers) and Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake). The locals are dressed in their Yukata (summer kimono), making this festival beautiful, colorful, and photogenic.

Another cool and unique thing about the Gion Matsuri Festival is that during these evenings leading up to the parade, several private houses in the old kimono merchant district of Kyoto open up their houses to the public. This is the only time you can visit some of these fine and special traditional Japanese residences.

After you have visited the lovely Yasaka Shrine, walk southeast past the Otani cemetery and on to Kodai-ji Temple (F). Walking time: 10 min.

F. Kodaiji Temple

Kodai-ji Temple was founded in 1606 by a woman called Nene to honor her late husband Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of Japan’s greatest historical figures. Its formal name is Kodaiseiju Zenji.

The temple building itself is beautifully made of wood and painted in white color. It is famous for its Makie decorations, a Japanese lacquer technique where gold and silver powder is sprinkled on lacquer while wet.

Kodaiji Temple in Kyoto, JapanPin
The stunning Kodai-ji Temple is surrounded by a lovely garden

Kodaiji Temple is surrounded by lovely Zen gardens designed by famous Japanese landscape architects. We loved going for a walk in these peaceful and atmospheric gardens.

Kodaiji Temple consists of:

  • Rock Garden
    The rock garden consists of a large area of raked gravel representing the ocean.
  • Tsukiyama style garden
    A stunning garden with a pond, a small hill, several decorative rocks, pine trees, and maple trees that turn into beautiful red, orange, and yellow colors during autumn. Here you will also find the memorial hall, Kaizando, where the wife prayed for her husband and now houses wooden images of them both.
  • Mausoleum
    Located on the hillside behind the temple where the wife and husband are buried.
  • Two tea houses
    Further up the hill from the mausoleum. One of the teahouses was designed by the famous tea ceremony master Sen no Rikyu
  • Bamboo Grove
    The return path from the tea houses and back to the temple goes through a bamboo grove.
  • Nene’s Path
    Named after the wife Nene, you will walk on a series of steps after you have exited the temple.
  • Kodaiji Sho Museum
    A small museum located across the road from the temple entrance. Exhibiting things and treasures of the temple and that used to belong to the wife Nene, there among lacquer artwork.
  • Entokuin Temple
    Kodaiji Temple is surrounded by a small sub-temple called Entokuin Temple which also has two Zen gardens
Kimono girl at Kodaiji Temple in Kyoto, JapanPin
A girl posing in her kimono in front of Kodaiji Temple

The gardens of Kodaiji Temple are lit up during spring and autumn in special illumination shows to highlight its colors.

  • Opening hours Kodaiji Temple: 09:00/ 9 am – 17:30/ 5:30 pm (last entry at 17:00/ 5 pm)
  • Ticket price: 600 Yen = US$ 5 adult, 250 Yen = US$ 2 child
  • Kodaiji Temple’s Official Webpage

From Kodaiji Temple, walk west down the long flight of stairs past the parking lot, and into Ishibei-koji Alley (G). Walking time: 5 min.

G. Ishibe-koji Alley

Ishibe-koji is 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.

It is a great place to head for a photo shoot. Or, if you don’t fancy being a photo model yourself, you can always ask if you can photograph one of the kimono-dressed girls which will most likely gladly pose.

Ishibei-koji StreetPin
Lovely Ishibei-koji Street

Turn around and head back up Nene-no-michi Street and cross Ishin-no-michi Street. Follow the street until you get to Ninen-zaka street and Sannen-zaka street (H). Walking time: 5 min. 

H. Ninen-zaka & Sannen-zaka Street

The Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka streets are Kyoto’s most famous and popular streets 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.

This area is also the perfect place to buy gifts and souvenirs to bring back home. I bought most of the Christmas presents for my friends and family on these two streets. 🙂

Sannen-zaka streetPin
Sannen-zaka street is lined with beautiful old wooden buildings housing cozy cafes and shops
Ninen-zaka streetPin
Ninen-zaka street is packed with kimono dressed girls, cozy cafes, and shops

At the end of Ninenzaka Street, take a right and do a detour down Yasaka Street to take the famous photo of Yasaka Pagoda (I), or Hokan-ji Temple as it is also called. Walking time: 2 min. 

I. Yasaka Pagoda/ Hokan-ji Temple

Yasaka Pagoda (Yasaka-no-tou), or Hokanji Temple, is probably the most famous and best photo spot in Kyoto. You have probably seen this pagoda on Instagram and other social media. It has become THE landmark of the historic district of Higashiyama in Kyoto.

Yasaka Pagoda at Hokanji Temple in KyotoPin
We had to take the famous shot of the Yasaka Pagoda/ Hokanji Temple

People come here all day long to photograph the Yasaka Pagoda/ Hokanji Temple surrounded by the old wooden buildings that line Yasaka Street. So don’t expect to be in Yasaka Street photographing the Yasaka Pagoda all by yourself as it can be quite a queue to get the best shot. Head here very early in the morning if you want to get the shot without people.

Yasaka Pagoda was built in 592, making it the oldest pagoda in Kyoto.

The 5-story Yasaka Pagoda/ Hokanji Temple in itself is not that unique or spectacular. You can, however, walk the steps inside the pagoda up to the 2nd floor, from which you will have a great view of the Kyoto skyline. The pagoda is 46 meters tall.

  • Opening hours Hokan-ji Temple: 10:00/ 10 am – 16:00/ 4 pm
  • Ticket price: 400 Yen = US$ 4

After you have taken the iconic Yasaka Pagoda photo, turn around and head back to the street you just walked down and step into Sannen-zaka Street. At the end of Sannen-zaka street, take a left and continue onto Kiyomizu-michi street. Follow it uphill till you reach the grand and famous Kiyomizu-dera Temple (J). Walking time: 15 min uphill.

J. Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Kiyomizu-dera Temple is Kyoto’s most popular and famous temple, surrounded by a vast forest. It is an ancient temple, first built in 798. It got its name from the Otowa Waterfall that runs through the temple complex as “kiyomizu” means clear or pure water.

Click here to read our ultimate guide to visiting Kiyomizudera Temple

Kiyomizudera TemplePin
You get a fantastic view of Kyoto City from Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Due to its popularity, the temple can get pretty packed and crowded, especially during spring when the cherry blossoms are on and during the autumn leaves season. So head here early in the morning if you want to beat the crowds, or just before it closes.

Kiyomizudera is a huge temple consisting of several buildings scattered on the forest-covered hillside of Mt Otowa.

Kiyomizu-dera TemplePin
Kiyomizu-dera Temple with a great view of Kyoto city
  • Opening hours Kiyomizu-dera Temple:
    06:00/ 6 am – 18:00/ 6 pm, but it has special night viewings during spring, summer, and autumn when it is open until 21:30/ 9:30 pm.
  • Ticket price:
    400 Yen = US$ 4 adult, 200 Yen = US$ 2 child
  • Kiyomizu-dera Temple’s Official Webpage (which is super cool!)

Kiyomizu-dera temple ends the walking tour of the Southern Higashiyama area.

If you still have some energy left and are not all templed out, you can spend the afternoon exploring the Northern Higashiyama Area, see the walking tour of the northern part below. 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.

The easiest way to get from Kiyomizu-dera Temple to the first temple on the Northern Higashiyama Walking Tour (Nanzen-ji Temple) is to take a taxi (15 min taxi ride). 

If you, however, want to take the Subway, walk from Kiyomizu-dera Temple to the nearest subway station which is Kiyomizu-Gojo Station (20 min walk). Take the train from Kiyomizu-Gojo Station to Keage Station (Keihan Main Line + Tozai Line). The train trip takes 15 min.


2. Northern Higashiyama Walking Tour

Northern Higashiyama is packed with beautiful top-rated temples and shrines, as well as lovely Japanese gardens.

The Northern Higashiyama walking tour that we have outlined here (see the map below) can be walked in less than an hour if you just walk through it. You will, however, use about 2-3 hours on this walking tour if you want to visit all the temples outlined here.

Map walking tour of Northern Higashiyama area of KyotoPin
Northern Higashiyama DIY walking tour. Click here to open in Google Maps.

Outline of this DIY walking tour of the Northern Higashiyama area in Kyoto that consists of four temples:

A. Keage Station
B. Nanzen-ji Temple
C. Eikan-do Temple
D. Path Of Philosophy/ Tetsugaku-no-Michi
E. Honen-in Temple
F. Ginkaku-ji Temple/ Silver Pavilion

If you want to shorten this walking route, you can choose to visit just a couple of the temples and shrines and skip the rest. In my opinion, Nanzen-ji (B) and Ginkaku-ji/ Silver Pavilion (F) are must-visit temples and should not be missed.

Guided Tour Of Northern Higashiyama
To get the most out of your visit to Northern Higashiyama, you should consider joining a guided walking tour with a local guide. This 3-hour guided walking tour takes you to Nanzenji Temple, Ginkaku-ji, and the Philosopher’s Path.
Click here to check availability and the latest prices

To start on this DIY Northern Higashiyama walking tour, take the Tozai Line to Keage Station (A), or Kyoto City Bus no. 5 to Eikando-michi bus stop.

A. Keage Station

Exit Keage Station at Exit 1 (follow the signs).

Once outside, walk through a spiral brick tunnel, then downhill for about five minutes. Turn right and walk uphill to Nanzenji Temple (B). Walking time: 10 min.

B. Nanzenji Temple

Nanzen-ji, or Nanzen Temple, is maybe the absolute finest temple in Kyoto, part of the National Treasure of Japan.

The dark old wooden main building, the Hojo, is surrounded by a big park and consists of several beautiful sub-temples. The wall paintings in the temple halls are designated as Important Cultural Assets. The most famous room is the “Room of Tigers” housing a famous painting called “Gunko Zu” – Picture of Gathered Tigers.

Nanzenji Temple in KyotoPin
The majestic two-story entrance gate at Nanzenji Temple

Nanzenji was originally a retirement villa for Emperor Kameyama. When he died in 1291, it became a Zen temple. But the temple buildings you see here today were built in the 17th century as the old ones were destroyed in the civil war.

Tenjyuan Garden
The temple has a beautiful classic rock and sand Zen garden – the Leaping Tiger Garden. It is designed by a famous architect and is most famous for “Tora-no-ko-watashi” – A mother tiger trying to let her cubs cross a river.

The lovely rock and sand Zen garden at Nanzenji Temple in KyotoPin
The lovely sand and rock Zen garden at Nanzen-ji Temple
Tenjyuan Garden at Nanzenji TemplePin
Me going for a stroll through the stunning Tenjyuan Garden at Nanzenji Temple

San-mon Gate
At the entrance of Nanzenji Temple, you will see the huge and majestic 2-story wooden Sanmon gate. Walk up the stairs to the second level of the gate, and you will have an amazing view of Kyoto city and the temple grounds! We were, however, pretty disappointed when we noticed that photos are not allowed on the second floor, there are signs everywhere. So, unfortunately, you cannot take a photo of the stunning view.

Nanzenji Temple in KyotoPin
The huge majestic San-mon entrance gate at Nanzen-ji Temple

Nanzenji Oku-no-in
A beautiful small sub-shrine of Nanzenji hidden up in the forest behind the main temple. The shrine has a waterfall where the pilgrims come to pray standing right under the water stream of the fall! Even during the freezing cold winter, they pray under the waterfall…brrrrr.

Nanzenji Temple in KyotoPin
Nanzenji Temple is surrounded by a huge forest area
  • Opening hours Nanzenji Temple:
    08:45/ 8:45 am – 17:00/ 5 pm (March – November), it closes at 16:30 December – February
  • Ticket price:
    300 Yen = US$ 3 adult, 150 Yen = US$ 1 child
  • Nanzenji Temple’s Official Webpage

When stepping out of Nanzen-ji Temple, walk north to the neighboring Eikan-do Temple (C). Walking time: 5 min. 

C. Eikan-do Temple

Eikando Temple is Kyoto’s most famous and most popular autumn-foliage spot. So if you plan on visiting Kyoto in November, expect huge crowds at Eikan-do.

Eikando Temple is the most famous and popular autumn leaves spot in KyotoPin
Eikan-do Temple is Kyoto’s most famous and popular autumn leaves viewing spot

We visited Eikan-do Temple in November, and I must admit that it was a bit exhausting with all the people. It felt like we walked in a huge queue through the entire temple grounds.

But the autumn leaves on the many maple trees at the temple grounds are stunning! The autumn colors are illuminated in the evenings from the 11th of November to the 5th of December.

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This is what the crowd looked like at Eikan-do Temple when we visited it in November

Eikan-do is a lovely temple with a huge garden containing a lovely lake with a bridge, various buildings, and interesting works of art. You can walk along a walk path/ stone stairs up the hillside to a small shrine where you get panoramic views of Kyoto city.

The temple was founded as early as 855 by the priest Shinsho and was named Zenrin-ji Temple. But its name was changed to Eikan-do in the 11th century to honor the philanthropic priest Eikan.

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The stunning garden at Eikan-do Temple is illuminated in the evenings in November
  • Opening hours Eikan-do Temple daytime: 09:00/ 9 am – 17:00/ 5 pm (last entry at 16:00/ 4 pm)
  • Opening hours Eikan-do Temple evening (autumn leaves illumination): 17:30/ 5:30 pm – 21:00/ 9 pm (last entry at 20:30/ 8:30 pm)
  • Ticket price daytime: 1000 Yen = US$ 6 adult, 400 Yen = US$ 4 child
  • Ticket price evening: 600 Yen = US$ 5
  • EikandoTemple’s Official Webpage

Eikan-do Temple is located along a walking street named Path of Philosophy (D). When you step out of the Eikando Temple, just follow the Path of Philosophy street north.

D. Path Of Philosophy – Tetsugaku-no-Michi

The Path Of Philosophy, called Tetsugaku-no-Michi in Japanese, is a lovely pedestrian walkway running next to a small canal. The canal is beautifully lined with cherry trees that turn into a sea of pinkish cherry blossoms during spring (early April).

It takes about 30 minutes to walk the entire Path Of Philosophy.

The Philosopher’s Path stretches from Nanzenji Temple and goes north through Eikando Temple, Kumano Nyakuoji Shrine, Reikanji Temple, Anrakuji, Honen-in Temple, and finally ends at Ginkakuji Temple (“Temple of the Silver Pavilion”).

This walkway got its name from the famous 20th-century philosopher Nishida Kitaro who used to wander this street lost in thoughts.

Path Of Philosophy in KyotoPin
Lots of small cozy shops and cafes along the Path of Philosophy

Follow the Path of Philosophy/ Tetsugaku-no-Michi street north until you get to Honen-in Temple (E). Walking time: 15 min.

E. Honen-in Temple

Along the Path of Philosophy is the famous temple Honen-in, established in 1680 to honor Honen who was the founder of the Jodo sect.

Honen-in Temple in Kyoto, JapanPin
Honen-in Temple is peaceful and quiet, with hardly any visitors

Honen-in Temple is beautifully set back in the woods at the foot of Mount Nyoigadake, secluded and peaceful. Honen-in is among the least popular and visited temples in the Higashiyama area and not as crowded as the other temples.

The entrance gate is all moss-covered and the whole temple area looks like taken out of a fairytale.

After you have entered the grounds through the gate, you pass two sand art constructions. These two are quite unique as they have some design on the top that varies from season to season. The moss-covered garden is so atmospheric that you expect to meet Alice in Wonderland around the next rock. There is even a nice little stone bridge crossing over a carp pond, a perfect photo object.

Honen-in Temple in Kyoto, JapanPin
The atmospheric mos-covered entrance gate at Honen-in Temple, with its two sand art constructions at each side of the walking path

The main building of Honenin Temple is only open during spring from 1st to 17th of April, and during autumn from 1st to 7th of November. During this time you have to pay an entrance fee to get into the temple, where you can see the black Amida Buddha figure. The temple grounds can, however, be visited for free the whole year-round.

The temple also has a small gallery with art exhibitions of local and international artists.

Honen-in Temple in Kyoto, JapanPin
Two kimono-dressed girls in the garden at Honen-in Temple in Kyoto.

We found the Honen-in Temple to be a lovely and atmospheric temple and a much-needed refuge from the crowds. It was great to have a little Zen moment among the tall trees and the beautiful moss-covered garden.

We visited Honen-in in November and could enjoy the beautiful autumn colors of red, yellow, and orange on the maple trees inside the temple garden. April is also a nice time to visit Honen-in when the cherry trees are in full bloom. There is also a small camellia garden at the temple.

Honen-in Temple in Kyoto, JapanPin
The garden surrounding Honen-in Temple is stunning in November with its fall colors

Head back out into the Path of Philosophy, and walk over to the Silver Pavilion/ Ginkaku-ji Temple (F). Walking time: 5 min.

F. Ginkaku-ji Temple – Silver Pavilion

For me, the highlight of Ginkakuji Temple is its garden which is one of Kyoto’s finest. Follow the walkway through the garden containing raked cones of white sand that symbolize mountains, tall pines, a moss garden, and a small lake in front of the temple.

Silver Pavilion/ Ginkakuji TemplePin
Silver Pavilion with its beautiful garden

The dry sand garden, known as the “Sea of Silver Sand”, is stunning with a massive sand cone named “Moon Viewing Platform”.

The stunning sand garden at Silver Pavilion/ Ginkakuji TemplePin
The fantastic dry sand garden the “Sea of Silver Sand” in front of Silver Pavilion

Ginkaku-ji Temple was built in 1482 as a retirement villa for shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa so that he could have a peaceful retreat from the civil war. His plan was to cover the building with silver, therefore its name Ginkaku-ji which means “Silver Pavilion”.

But the silver decoration never happened so the temple building that you see here today is of wood with white painting. The temple building is not open to the public. When the shogun died in 1490, the building was turned into a Buddhist temple.

The walking path leads you up a small hill behind the temple buildings from where you have a fantastic view of the temple grounds and Kyoto city.

Stunning view from Silver Pavilion/ Ginkakuji TemplePin
Panoramic view of Kyoto from the hill behind the Silver Pavilion

Ginkaku-ji is a very popular site to visit, both among locals and tourists, so it is pretty crowded especially during cherry blossom season in March/ April and autumn leaves season in November. We visited this temple in November, but just before it closed at 17:00 so the crowds were not that bad.

  • Opening hours Ginkaku-ji Temple: 08:30/ 8:30 am – 17:00/ 5 pm (March – November) and 9:00/ 9 am – 16:30/ 4:30 pm (December – February)
  • Ticket prices: 500 Yen = US$ 4 adult, 300 Yen = US$ 3 child
  • Ginkaku-ji Temple’s Official Webpage

Silver Pavilion concludes day 1 of our recommended Kyoto Itinerary and Higashiyama area. Guess you are pretty templed out by now and that your feet hurt after all the walking. 🙂

Dinner At Omen Noodles

Time to head back to your hotel for dinner and well-deserved rest. Or you can have dinner in the Higashiyama area, like the Omen Noodles, just a five-minute walk from Silver Pavilion/ Ginkaku-ji Temple.

We had some of the best noodles ever here! It is a fantastic and elegant restaurant established in 1967. Their thick white noodles served in a broth with fresh vegetables are super delicious! You can choose between hot or cold noodles. It is considered to be one of the best Udon noodles in Kyoto.

They also have an a la carte menu with tasty salads, and a lovely Tori Sansho Yaki – chicken clocked together with Japanese mountain spice. The house itself is so cozy with a lovely atmosphere. Well worth a visit!


Day 2 – Golden Pavilion & Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Golden Pavilion & Boat/ Walking Tour Of Arashimaya Area

Map day 2 Kyoto itineraryPin
Day 2 of this 3-day Kyoto Itinerary. Click here to open in Google Maps.

Outline of day 2 of this 3-day Kyoto itinerary:

  1. Golden Pavilion/ Kinaku-ji Temple
  2. Hozugawa River Boat Trip
  3. Arashiyama Area – Bamboo Forest

The boat trip down the Hozugawa River ends up in the Arashiyama area, just next to the famous bamboo forest. However, if a riverboat trip is not your thing, or the weather is really bad, you can head directly from Golden Pavilion to the Arashiyama area by train (Hankyu Subway Line to Arashiyama Station), bus, or taxi.

After a good breakfast either at your hotel or a cafe/ restaurant, head Northwest in Kyoto and visit the famous Golden Pavilion (1), whose Japanese name is Kinkaku-ji Temple. The temple opens at 9 am, and in order to try to beat the crowds, be there when it opens.

From Kyoto Station, take Kyoto City Bus 205 to Kinkakuji-michi Bus Stop, or Kyoto City Bus 59 from Sanjo-Keihan to the Kinkakuji-mae Bus Stop and walk over to the Golden Pavilion. Or just grab a taxi as we did.

1. Golden Pavilion – Kinkaku-ji Temple

Seeing the shiny Golden Pavilion “floating” on a small lake in the middle of a beautiful garden is spectacular! It is one of Japan’s most popular and best-known sights.

But I’m afraid that you will probably not be admiring the gold pavilion all by yourself, as it is quite packed with people the whole year round. Head here early in the morning (it opens at 9 am), or just before closing time (it closes at 17:00/ 5 pm) to beat the crowds. Avoid the weekends and public holidays if you can.

Golden Pavilion KyotoPin
The famous Golden Pavilion Kyoto

The gold-covered building dates back to 1397 and was once the retirement villa for a famous Japanese Shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. His son later converted the house into a temple.

The temple, however, sadly was burnt down in 1950, set on fire 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.

I must admit that this is one of my least favorite temples in Kyoto, as it was unpleasantly packed with people when we visited it. We had to stand in a long queue wherever we walked, and people we fighting over getting the best spots to take their selfies. So it was really no fun at all.

Expect to spend about an hour exploring the temple and its garden. You can, however, not step inside the golden pavilion as it is closed to the public.

Guided Tour Of Golden Pavilion/ Kinkakuji Temple
To get the most out of your visit to the Golden Pavilion, you should consider joining this 1-hour Kinkaku-ji Temple Guided Walking Tour. On this tour, a knowledgeable English-speaking local guide will give you a detailed historical context of the temple and show you all the temple highlights. This guided tour takes one hour, and you can choose to start at 10:00, 11:30, or 13:00.
Click here to check availability and the latest prices

  • How to get to the Golden Pavilion:
    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 just take a taxi to the temple, as we did.
  • Opening hours:
    09:00/ 9 am – 17:00/ 5 pm
  • Ticket prices:
    400 Yen = US$ 4 adult, 300 Yen = US$ 3 child
  • Golden Pavilion’s Official Webpage

After your morning visit to the Golden Pavilion, it is time to head to another of Kyoto’s most famous tourist attractions – the bamboo forest in Arashiyama. There are two ways to get to the Arashiyama area of Kyoto. You can either do a riverboat tour which ends up in Arashiyama (see number 2 below), or you can go straight to Arashiyama by train, taxi, or bus.

If a riverboat trip is not your thing; from the Golden Pavilion/ Kinkaku-ji Temple, take a taxi to Tenryu-ji Temple in Arashiyama (the easiest option), a 15-20 min taxi ride. For public transport, see the “How to get there” section below Tenryu-ji Temple further down. If you want to skip the riverboat, just jump to number 3 – Arashiyama Walking Route.

2. Hozugawa River Boat Trip

Arashiyama is a green and lush area in western Kyoto with steep forest-covered mountains and the big river Hozugawa running through it.

If you want to get a unique and fun experience of the pristine and stunning nature in this area of Kyoto, you should consider taking the riverboat tour on the Hozugawa River. It is stunning!

Hozugawa River Boat Tour, KyotoPin
Hozugawa Riverboat Tour is a great way to enjoy the beauty of Kyoto’s nature

The boat tour departs just next to Kameoka Station (take the JR Sagano Line here) and takes you through steep, forested mountain canyons. You end up in Arashiyama and can continue on with the Arashiyama Walking Tour described below.

Click here to read our ultimate guide on doing the Hozugawa Riverboat Trip

  • How to get to the Hozugawa Riverboat:
    From Kyoto Station, take the JR Sagano/ San-in Line to Kameoka Station, a 27-minute train ride. You can use your JR Railway Pass if you have one, or pay for a single ticket which is 420 Yen = US$ 4. The train departs about every 20 minutes.
  • Opening hours/ Boarding Times: Approximately every hour, from 09:00 until around 15:00. Check their webpage for more info.
  • Ticket prices: 4100 Yen = US$ 39 adult, 2700 Yen = US$ 25 child (4-12 years old).
  • Hozu-gawa River Boat Ride’s Official Webpage

3. Arashiyama Area – Bamboo Forest

Arashiyama area is on the west side of Kyoto, and most of this area’s sights lie on the north bank of the Hozugawa/ Katsura River.

Its main highlight is the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Grove which is one of the top sights of Kyoto. This area is extremely popular so it is usually packed with people, both locals and tourists. If you can, avoid this area on weekends and public holidays.

The Arashiyama walking tour that we have outlined here (see the map below) can be walked in about an hour or so. But you will probably use 3-4 hours on this walking tour if you want to visit the temples and sights outlined here.

Walking tour Arashiyama area of KyotoPin
Arashiyama DIY walking tour. Click here to open in Google Maps.

Outline of this DIY walking tour through the Arashiyama area:

A. Tenryu-ji Temple
B. Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
C. Okochi Sanso Villa
D. Iwatayama Monkey Park
E. Giou-ji Temple

Guided Tour Of Arashiyama
If you want to do this Arashiyama Walking Tour with a local guide, you should consider joining this Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and Temple Tour (6 hours). This tour takes you to the highlights of Arashiyama, and you will learn all its secrets from an enthusiastic local guide.
Click here to check availability and the latest prices

If a 6-hours tour is a bit too much, then this 3,5-hour Arashiyama Bamboo Forest Walking Food Tour is a great alternative. This tour takes you to the three main sights of Arashiyama – the bamboo grove, the Togetsukyo Bridge, and the world heritage Tenryuji temple’s garden. On this tour, you will also get to try various types of local food.
Click here to check availability and the latest prices

To start on this DIY walking tour of Arashiyama, take the Hankyu Subway Line to Arashiyama Station. Or take a taxi directly to Tenryu-ji Temple (A).

A. Tenryu-ji Temple

The real star of Tenryu-ji Temple is its stunning and peaceful garden which is one of Kyoto’s absolute finest Zen gardens. I love the symmetrical raked white sand and rock garden in front of the big calm carp pond with the Arashiyama mountains at the backdrop. It doesn’t get more Zen than that.

The garden is especially impressive and beautiful during the Cherry blossom season in spring (March/ April), and during autumn (November) with the fall foliage season.

It is one of my favorite Kyoto temples due to its lovely garden and peaceful atmosphere. We visited Tenryu-ji in November and it was breathtakingly beautiful with its red, orange, and yellow maple trees. Well worth a visit, even though it was pretty crowded. Visit this temple on a weekday if you can.

Tenryu-ji Temple was founded in 1339, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the Kyoto-gozan – the five major temples of Kyoto.

Tenryu-ji TemplePin
Tenryu-ji Temple

History says that the Tenryu-ji Temple was built on the former site of an Emperor`s villa. 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 its name Tenryu which means “Heavenly Dragon”.

There is also no coincidence that Tenryu-ji temple was built close to the bamboo forest, as bamboo is a symbol of strength and is believed to ward off evil.

The temple building you see here today was built in 1900 and its stunning Zen garden dates back to the 14th-century.

Tenryu-ji Temple Zen GardenPin
The beautiful Zen garden at Tenryu-ji Temple
  • How to get to Tenryu-ji Temple:
    From the Golden Pavilion, head back to Kyoto Station by bus 205 from the Kinkakuji-michi Stop. From Kyoto Station, take Kyoto City Bus 28 to ArashiyamaTenryuji-mae Stop, or take the Hankyu Subway Line to Arashiyama Station. Or just take a taxi from Kinkaku-ji Temple to Tenryu-ji Temple as we did.
  • Opening hours: 08:30 – 17:30 (summertime), the north gate closes at 17:00. 08:30 – 17:00 (wintertime from 21st of October to 20th of March), the north gate closes at 16:30.
  • Ticket prices: 800 Yen = US$ 7 adult, 600 Yen = 5 child
  • Tenryu-ji Temple’s Official Webpage

From the Tenryu-ji Temple, you can easily enter the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Grove (B) by its north entrance. The bamboo forest is only a 5-minutes walk from Tenryu-ji Temple.

B. Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

The Kyoto Bamboo Forest located in the Arashiyama area is one of the absolute highlights of Kyoto and well worth a visit!

Walking between the bamboo stalks while listening to the sound of the leaves shivering in the breeze is atmospheric and somewhat magical. Make sure to pause and look up towards the sky and admire the fantastic greenish light of the sunbeams barely peeking through the bamboos.

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

Although you have probably seen some stunning pictures on Instagram of Kyoto Bamboo Forest, no picture can capture the feeling of standing in the midst of the sprawling green bamboo grove listening to the wind rustle in the leaves. You have to feel and hear it yourself!

Ministry of Environment has even put the Sagano Bamboo Forest on its list of “100 Soundscapes of Japan”. This is a list of everyday noises/sounds intended to encourage locals to stop and enjoy nature’s music. Such a brilliant idea if you ask me!


The Bamboo Forest is, however, the number one tourist attraction of Kyoto so expect plenty of people. It is particularly popular for the locals to pose for selfies in the bamboo forest in kimonos.

Read more: Stepping Into The Magic Forest – Bamboo Grove Kyoto

  • How to get to Bamboo Forest:
    From Kyoto Station, take the Hankyu Subway Line to Arashiyama Station, or take Kyoto City Bus 28 to ArashiyamaTenryuji-mae Stop. Or just take a taxi.
  • Opening hours: 24h
  • Ticket prices: Free

Start at the north gate of Tenryu-ji Temple, and walk all the way through the Bamboo Forest and up to the Okochi Sanso Villa (C). It is a short walk that you can do in about 10 minutes if you walk fast. It takes about half an hour at a slow pace and with a few photography pit stops along the way.

C. Okochi Sanso Villa

This used to be the beautiful home of the famous samurai actor Okochi Denjiro. When he died in 1962, his lovely estate was opened up to the public.

Okochi Sanso in the movie Sanshiro Sugata from 1943Pin
Okochi Sanso in the movie Sanshiro Sugata from 1943

The villa and teahouse are nice, but the most beautiful part of the estate is a fantastic and spacious garden. From the garden, you have lovely views eastwards across Kyoto city.


The entire estate is open to the public, although the entrance ticket (1000 Yen = 9 USD) is a bit expensive. However, you get a cup of matcha tea and a small sweet included in the price so it is not that bad. Make sure to hold on to the tea ticket that you were given upon entry.

  • How to get to Okochi Sanso Villa:
    From Kyoto Station, take the Hankyu Subway Line to Arashiyama Station, or take Kyoto City Bus 28 to ArashiyamaTenryuji-mae Stop. Or just take a taxi.
  • Opening hours: 09:00/ 9 am – 17:00/ 5 pm
  • Ticket prices: 1000 Yen = US$ 9 adult, 500 Yen = US$ 4,5 child

From Okochi Sanso Villa, walk back to Arashiyama Station, over the famous and pictures Togetsu-kyo Bridge. Climb up the steps near the orange torii of Ichitani-jinja, and up to Iwatayama Monkey Park (D). The climb up the hill to where the monkeys are is a bit steep. Expect to be a bit sweaty, especially if it is a hot day, but it`s totally worth it!

D. Iwatayama Monkey Park
Bamboo Grove KyotoPin
This area of Kyoto is so green and lush.

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! 🙂

It is the perfect place to capture those funny and cute photos of the playful fluffy creatures frolic about.


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

  • How to get to Iwatayama Monkey Park:
    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. Or take the train JR Sagano/ San-in Line to Saga-Arashiyama Station or Hankyu Line to Arashiyama Station (change at Katsura).
  • 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 adult and 250 Yen = 2 USD 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.
  • Iwatayama Monkey Park’s Official Webpage

If monkeys are not your thing, and you fancy seeing some more temples instead, then you should head up to the tiny and atmospheric Giou-ji Temple (E). Or maybe you are able to fit in both the monkey park and Gio-ji Temple.

Giouji Temple is located near the north end of the main Arashiyama sightseeing route. The walk from Okochi Sanso Villa to Giou-ji Temple takes about 15 min.

E. Giou-ji Temple

Gio-ji Temple is a cute and tiny temple that not that many people visit. So here you can mostly walk on your own and enjoy some peace and quiet.

The main attraction of the Gio-ji Temple is it’s mystical moss garden outside the thatch-roofed temple hall building. Giou-ji Temple is also famous for its beautiful autumn-foliage displays.

The temple got its name after Gio, a traditional dancer who became a nun here when she was 21 years old. The reason for her to commit herself to be a nun was that her love affair with the commander of the Heike clan ended.

The main hall is open to the public, and inside you can see five wooden statues – Gio herself, her mother and sister, who also were nuns at the temple, a fellow entertainer, and Gio’s previous lover, the commander.

  • How to get to Giou-ji Temple:
    From the Bamboo Grove, walk north through a cozy residential area. Just follow the signs. The walk takes about 15 min.
  • Opening hours:
    9:00/ 9 am – 17:00/ 5 pm (last entry at 16:30)
  • Ticket price:
    300 Yen = US$ 3 adult and 100 Yen = US$ 1 child.
  • Giou-ji Temple’s Official Webpage

That’s it for day 2 of our Kyoto Itinerary. During these two days, you have seen the highlights and main sights of the outskirt of Kyoto. On day 3 it is time to get to know downtown Kyoto.


Day 3 – Downtown Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Shrine & Gion Geisha District

Market, Castles & The Historic Geisha Area

Day 3 of this 3-day Kyoto itinerary takes you to the downtown area of the city. Here you will visit Nishiki Market, Kyoto Manga Museum, Nijo Castle, and Kyoto Imperial Palace.

Then you will head out of town to see the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine with its thousand red torii gates. In the afternoon you will explore Kyoto’s Geisha district Gion and Pontocho.

Map day 3 Kyoto itineraryPin
Day 3 of this 3-day Kyoto itinerary. Click here to open in Google Maps.

Outline of day 3 of this 3-day Kyoto itinerary:

  1. Downtown Kyoto – Nishiki Market, Manga Museum, Nijo Castle, and Kyoto Imperial Palace
  2. Fushimi Inari Shrine
  3. Geisha districts Gion & Pontocho

1. Downtown Kyoto Walking Tour

The downtown area of Kyoto located just west of the river Kamo-gawa. This is a great area for shopping and dining, and you will find lots of nice hotels here as well. This area houses two of the top attractions of Kyoto – the Nijo-jo Castle, and the Imperial Palace.

The downtown Kyoto walking tour that we have outlined here (see the map below) can be walked in about an hour or so. But you will probably use 2-3 hours on this walking tour depending on how much shopping you want to do at Nishiki Market, and how much time you will spend at the manga museum, Nijo Castle, and the Imperial Palace garden.

Map walking tour of Kyoto downtownPin
Downtown Kyoto DIY walking tour. Click here to open in Google Maps.

Outline of this DIY walking tour of downtown Kyoto:

A. Nishiki Market
B. Kyoto Manga Museum
C. Nijo Castle
D. Kyoto Imperial Palace & Garden

To start on this DIY walking tour of downtown Kyoto, take the Karasuma Subway Line to Shijo Station, or the Hankyu Line to Karasuma or Kawaramachi Station. Walk over to the Nishiki Market (A).

A. Nishiki Market

Start your day at the famous Nishiki Market in downtown Kyoto and indulge in lots of delicious snacks. I hope you have not had a huge breakfast at your hotel as it is a lot of delicious food to try out at the Nishiki Market.

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

Nishiki Market KyotoPin
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.

Guided Tour Of Nishiki Market
To get the most out of your visit to Nishiki Market, you should consider joining a Nishiki Market Tour which includes a delicious seven-course Japanese lunch. This 3-hour guided tour is a great way to learn about Japanese food and snack, and what makes Kyoto cuisine so special. Included in this tour is a 7-course lunch.
Click here to check availability and the latest prices

If three hours at the Nishiki Market does not fit with your Kyoto itinerary, this 1,5-hour food tasting tour of Nishiki Market is a great option. A local English-speaking guide will show you around the market and you get to taste different Kyoto specialties like Yuba (tofu skin).
Click here to check availability and the latest prices

Why not combine your visit to Nishiki Market with a walk through Kyoto’s famous Geisha district Gion. On this Nishiki Market and Gion Cultural Walking Food Tour (3 hours), an enthusiastic English-speaking local guide will take you to Nishiki Market as well as Gion Geisha district, where you along the way will taste and learn about Japanese food and culture. In Gion, you will enjoy some Matcha green tea and Japanese sweets at one of the old teahouses.
Click here to check availability and the latest prices

  • How to get to Nishiki Market:
    Take the Karasuma Line to Shijo Station, or the Hankyu Line to Karasuma Station or Kawaramachi Station.
  • Opening hours: 09:00/ 9 am – 17:00/ 5 pm. Some stalls are closed on Wednesdays.
  • Ticket price: FREE!

After you are all full of snacks and delights at Nishiki Market, walk over to Kyoto International Manga Museum (B). Walking time: 15-20 min.

B. Kyoto International Manga Museum

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 MuseumPin
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 MuseumPin
Us as manga. Aren`t we cute?! 😉
  • How to get to Kyoto International Manga Museum:
    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: 10:00/ 10 am – 18:00/ 6 pm (last entry at 17:30). Closed on Wednesdays.
  • Ticket prices: 800 Yen = US$ 7,5 for an adult, 300 Yen = US$ 2,8 for a child
  • Kyoto International Manga Museum’s Official Webpage

After the Manga Museum, walk north along Karasuma-dori Street to Nijo Castle (C). Walking time: 10 min. 

C. Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle, or Nijo-jo as it is called in Japanese, is one of the absolute highlights of Kyoto in my opinion. It is an impressive castle from the early Edo period, constructed in 1603 functioning as the residence of Shogun Tokugawa (1603 – 1867).

Nijo Castle WatchtowerPin
The beautiful watchtower at Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle is not like the other more “classic” Japanese castles like Himeji and Osaka with their towerlike structures. Instead, Nijo Castle is a flatland castle covering a big area consisting of several palaces, gates, moats, gardens, lakes, and tea houses. The castle ground is surrounded by a big moat.

I love the atmosphere at Nijo Castle, and the Japanese wall paintings inside the palaces are stunning! Make sure to stop by the tea house for a Matcha Green Tea and some cute and delicious Japanese sweets.

Read moreGuide to Nijo Castle and our recommended walking route of the castle ground

  • How to get to Nijo Castle:
    Take the Tozai Line to Nijo-jo-mae Station, or the JR line to Nijo Station. It is just a 10-min walk from Nijo-jo-mae or Nijo Station to the castle.
  • Opening hours: 08:45 am – 17:00/ 5 pm (last entry at 16:00/ 4 pm). Closed on Tuesdays in the winter months December and January, and the summer months July and August.
  • Ticket prices: 1030 Yen = US$ 10 for an adult, 200 Yen = US$ 2,5 for a child
  • Nijo Castle’s Official Webpage

After the Nijo Castle, walk back to Karasuma-dori Street, turn left and follow it north until you get to Kyoto Imperial Palace (D). Walking time: 10-15 min.

D. Kyoto Imperial Palace & Park

The Kyoto Imperial Palace, called Gosho in Japanese, is surrounded by the huge Kyoto Imperial Palace Park. The palace used to be the official residence of the Japanese Emperor until the capital of Japan was moved from Kyoto to Tokyo in 1868.

Entrance gate Kyoto Imperial PalacePin
The magnificent entrance gate at Kyoto Imperial Palace Kyoto.

The palace that you see here today was rebuilt in 1855. The huge and lush palace park, Kyoto Gyoen, and grounds contain several buildings of different architectural styles from various periods. The complex is enclosed by huge walls and has several gates, halls, and gardens.

The palace is grand but not one of the biggest attractions in Kyoto.

The palace grounds used to only be accessible on guided tours that required advance reservations but are now open to the public. You don’t have to book a tour anymore. You enter via the main Seishomon Gate and will be given a map at the gate. Wander around the palace grounds on the marked route with English signs that explain the history of buildings and things you see along the route.

The Imperial Household Agency has public tours of the grounds several times a day. Visitors get to see the palace buildings and gardens but none of the buildings can be entered.

Kyoto Imperial Park – Kyoto Gyoen
New York has Central Park, London has Hyde Park, and Kyoto has the Kyoto Gyoen, or Kyoto Imperial Palace Park. It is the green lung of Kyoto, with wide green open lawns, trees, and a criss-cross of walking paths. The perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Another plus is that it is free of charge.

Kyoto Gyoen is a great park to go running, walking, do different kinds of sports, or bring some food and have a picnic. The park is most beautiful during spring (February – April) when the plum trees and cherry trees are in bloom. You find a plum arbor on the west side of the park, which blooms in early March. The cherry trees grove bloom in late March/ early April, and the line of pink trees are spectacular and not that crowded as this is not one of the most famous places to see the cherry blossoms.

There is a nice pond filled with colorful carps on the south end of the park.

Sento Imperial Palace
South-east of the Imperial Palace itself, is Sento Imperial Palace, or Sento Gosho. The building is not that grand, but it has a lovely garden dating back to 1630, designed by a renowned landscape designer.

Sento Imperial Palace at Kyoto Imperial Palace gardenPin
Sento Imperial Palace has a fantastic garden, designed in 1630.

You can only visit Sento Imperial Palace by joining a one-hour tour (check their webpage). You must be over 18 years old and bring your passport.

  • How to get to Kyoto Imperial Palace:
    From Nijo Castle, you can easily walk (10-15 min). If you want to head directly here, take the Karasuma Line to Marutamachi or Imadegawa Station.
  • Opening hours: 09:00 am – 16:30/ 4:30 pm Tuesday – Sunday from March to September. It closes at 16:00/ 4 pm from October to February. The last entry is 40 min before closing time.
  • Ticket prices: Free
  • Kyoto Imperial Palace’s Official Webpage

From Kyoto Imperial Palace and Park, walk to the nearby Karasuma Imadegawa Station (3 min walk). Take the Keihan Main Line to Fushimi Inari Station (2). You might have to change the train along the way, there are several options (check Google Maps). The train ride takes about 20-30 min altogether.

2. Fushimi Inari Shrine

Fushimi Inari ShrinePin
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.

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Hundreds of Torii gates lead 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.

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The is one path going up and one path going down
Fushimi Inari FoxPin
Fox is 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.


Guided Tour Of Fushimi Inari Shrine
To get the most out of your visit to Fushimi Inari Shrine, you should consider joining a guided tour. This 3-hour Fushimi Inari Tour takes you on a hike through the Fushimi Inari Shrine and an enthusiastic local guide will show you all the shrine’s highlights and secrets.
Click here to check availability and the latest prices

If you are into photography, this photo tour of Fushimi Inari Shrine after dusk is a great opportunity to learn and get professional help on taking the best photos of the Fushimi Inari Shrine and its thousands of red torii gates.
Click here to check availability and the latest prices

Read more: Journey Through a Thousand Gates – Fushimi Inari Shrine

  • How to get to Fushimi Inari Shrine: Take the Keihan Line to Fushimi Inari Station.
  • Opening hours: 24h. From Dawn to Dusk for the shops, although the temple never really closes.
  • Ticket prices: Free
  • The Fushimi Inari Shrine’s Official Webpage

After you have walked the steps of Fushimi Inari Shrine, you are probably starving! At dusk, head back to downtown Kyoto for dinner, and go for an evening stroll through Kyoto’s famous entertainment and geisha districts Gion and Pontocho (3).

Take the Keihan Main Line from Fushimi Inari Station to Gion-Shijo Station, a 10-min train ride.

3. Explore The Old Historic Geisha Districts Of Kyoto

Gion
Gion is the famous entertainment and Geisha area of Kyoto. The Gion quarter is a cozy labyrinth of narrow brick-covered alleys and streets, lined with old and beautiful wooden buildings lit up by lanterns housing cozy traditional restaurants, teahouses, and bars. Some of the restaurants and teahouses have been here since the 17th-century.

Gion lays on the eastern bank of the river Kamo-gawa and is a lovely place to go for a walk in the evening. Maybe you are lucky and get to see a real geisha with stunning colorful dresses and special make-up?

Read more: Our guide to Gion & Pontocho, including our recommended walking route to the area.

Hanamokoji Geisha Street, Gion, KyotoPin
Don`t miss Hanamikoji Street in Gion, which is lined with old cozy buildings housing restaurants and cafes

There are a lot of great dining options in Gion. From upscale restaurants serving traditional Kyoto cuisine to weird and wonderful restaurants.

Pontocho
Ponto-Cho is a narrow pedestrian-only street on the west side of the Kamo-gawa River, at the riverbank just opposite the Gion area.

Pontocho, KyotoPin
Pontocho is a narrow pedestrian-only alley lined with cozy restaurants, cafes, and bars

Nothing beats the cozy atmosphere in this street after dark. The street is pretty dead during the day, but it comes alive just after dark when all its small and cozy bars and restaurants open. Here you will find some of the best restaurants and bars in Kyoto, many of which have been here for decades.

Come here for a nice little evening stroll through this atmospheric street lined with lanterns and traditional wooden buildings.


Puh, there you have it. These are the highlights of things to do in Kyoto in our opinion, packed into three pretty intense days. If you have more than three days in Kyoto, you should spread out these Kyoto attractions over more days. Or check out the “Other things to do in Kyoto” chapter below.

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.


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:

  • Shopping in Shijo
    Along Shijo-dori there are modern shopping malls that can rival Tokyo. The two largest are Takashimaya and Daimaru department stores.
  • Toei Kyoto Studio Park
    Toei Kyoto Studio Park is a combination of a theme park and a 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
    The huge and grand Kyoto Station well worth a visit. It is famous for its modern architecture made of steel-and-glass, its hundreds of shops, and varied selection of restaurants and cafes. The station has many floors. Make sure to go up to the 15th floor where there is an observation deck with a nice view of Kyoto.
Kyoto StationPin
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.
  • Take-no-Michi Bamboo Forest
    A 1,8 km long path through a beautiful bamboo forest located in Muko City, the western part of Kyoto. This is a hidden gem and an excellent alternative to the more famous and crowded Arashiyama Bamboo Forest.

  • Kyoto’s Markets
    Visit one of Kyoto’s markets to buy second-hand kimonos, pottery, tools, ceramics, antiques, and food stalls selling street food. Kobo-san Market is held on the 21st of each month at To-ji. Tanjin-san Market is held on the 25th of each month at Kitano Tenman-gu.


How To Get To Kyoto

Train

Traveling to Kyoto by train is a breeze. You will arrive at Kyoto Station which is served by the lines Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen (bullet train). These lines are connected to Nagoya and Tokyo in the east, and Osaka (Shin-Osaka Station), Kobe (Shin-Kobe Station), and Himeji to the west.

I highly recommend that you buy a JR pass which gives you unlimed rides on the train around Japan. This will save you a lot of money.

Limited express trains on private lines connect Kyoto Station with Nagoya, Osaka, Kobe, and many other destinations like Nara.

If you don’t have a JR Pass, you should consider buying a 5-day JR West Kansai-Hiroshima Area Pass. This will save you a lot of money if you plan on visiting other places around Kyoto. With this pass, you can enjoy unlimited travel for 5 days on all JR West railways and buses throughout the Kansai region. This includes all the places listed above: Kyoto, Nara, Himeji, Osaka, Kobe, Ise, and all the way down to Hiroshima.

If five days is not enough, you can opt for a 7-day JR West Railway Pass.

Air

You can take a plane to Kyoto and will be arriving at the Kansai Internatila Airport (KIX). They have both international and domestic flights.

Bus

Overnight JR buses run between Tokyo (Tokyo Station and Shinjuku Station) and Kyoto Station Bus Terminal, a 7-hour bus ride.  There are also JR buses between Kyoto and Kanazawa and Hiroshima.

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 StationPin
Kyoto Station, which is also a huge shopping mall, is the transportation hub in Kyoto for all buses, subways, and trains.

The best 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
    The 1-day Kyoto City Bus Pass gives you unlimited use on all buses inside Kyoto city. You can take the bus to all the highlights and sights of Kyoto, like the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Fushimi Inari Shrine, and Kiyomizu Temple.
  • 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 an adult, 1000 Yen for a child. Unlimited use on all buses and subways for one or two days.
    You can, for instance, buy this 1-day Unlimited Subway Pass which also includes the only tram in Kyoto, the Kyoto Randen Tram. Taking the tram is a great way to get to the sights of Kyoto.
  • 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.

Day Trips From Kyoto

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

Osaka

Osaka (1 hour by train from Kyoto one way) is a popular place to visit as a day-trip from Kyoto. The 16th-century Osaka Castle is one of the city’s famous highlights. Osaka has great nightlife and delicious street food.

Read more: What To Do In Osaka – A 2 Day Osaka Itinerary

Shinsekai area of Osaka, JapanPin
Osaka is a foodie’s dream destination.

Himeji

The main reason for visiting Himeji is its stunning Himeji Castle. It is Japan’s most beautiful castle in my opinion. Himeji is a 1,5-hour train trip from Kyoto one way.

Read more: Japan’s Famous White Castle – Himeji Castle Travel Guide

Himeji CastlePin
Himeji Castle is one of Japan’s finest castles

Nara

Nara (1 hour by train from Kyoto one way) used to be Japan’s 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 the highlight.

NaraPin
The grand and beautiful Tōdai-ji Temple in Nara

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.

Kobe

One of Japan’s most attractive and cosmopolitan cities. It used to be the gateway for trade with China and housed the first foreign European settlements after Japan reopened to the world in the mid-19th century. Kobe is, of course, also famous for Kobe Beef. It takes 50 min by train to get to Kobe (one way) from Kyoto.


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):



PIN IT FOR LATER!
Hover over the pictures below and press the red “Save” button that pops up: 

Kyoto ItineraryPin      Kyoto ItineraryPin

Kyoto ItineraryPin      Kyoto ItineraryPin

Have you been to Kyoto? Have we missed something on 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 it on social media. Thanks! 🙂 

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, and we will earn a small percentage of the sale if you purchase through them at absolutely no extra cost to you! This helps us keep the content up to date, create new travel guides, and keep the website going. Thank you! ♥ For more information, see our disclosure here.

Photo of author

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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