8 Places to Visit in Kyoto, Japan

8 Places to Visit in Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto is beautiful. Everything that you’ve read about it, everything that you’ve pictured it to be, it’s all true.

Once the imperial capital of Japan, Kyoto is nicknamed the City of Ten Thousand Shrines, and it’s easy to see why. With so many interesting and picturesque places to visit, it can be a little daunting creating an itinerary, so I’ve come up with this short list to help narrow it down for would be travelers.

Here are eight places you can visit with limited time in this ancient city.

1. Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)

A stunningly beautiful temple covered in gold leaf, Kinkaku-ji is a World Cultural Heritage Site and one of seventeen locations that comprise the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto. Its name derived from the gold leaf that envelopes it, Kinkaku-ji was once burned down by a schizophrenic monk who felt that it was “too beautiful”.

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Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion)

Suggested Length of Visit: 2 hrs / Admission: ¥400

2. Fushimi Inari Shrine

One of Kyoto’s most recognizable landmarks, Fushimi Inari Shrine is a Shinto shrine known for some 10,000 orange torii gates arching over a scenic, two-hour-long walking trail. Be sure to stop and enjoy a bowl of Kitsune Udon and Inari Sushi during your walk, both of which are specialties here.

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Fushimi Inari Shrine

Suggested Length of Visit: 3-4 hrs / Admission: FREE

3. Arashiyama Bamboo Groves

My favorite spot among all the places that we visited in Kyoto. It’s a magical place, like that iconic scene from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Apart from these bamboo groves, the entire Arashiyama area is littered with picturesque temples, gardens, restaurants, and shops. Located on the outskirts of town, be sure to allocate at least half a day here.

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Arashiyama Bamboo Groves

Suggested Length of Visit: At least half a day / Admission: FREE

4. Toei Kyoto Studio Park

Step back in time at this active movie and TV studio where a reported 200 jidaigeki films (period films) are shot every year. Apart from the ninjas and samurais walking about, highlights include the Ninja Mystery House, Optical Illusion Maze, and Haunted House. Fans of the genre will be pleased to find an anime museum here as well.

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Toei Kyoto Studio Park

Suggested Length of Visit: 3-4 hrs / Admission: ¥2,200

5. Kiyomizu-dera

A temple for making wishes, Kiyomizu-dera is one of Kyoto’s most popular attractions and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unattached travelers should try and make their way blindfolded between two stones at Jishu Shrine, a shrine dedicated to the deity of love and matchmaking. According to legend, successfully doing so brings with it the promise of finding true love.

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Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto, Japan

Suggested Length of Visit: 2-3 hrs / Admission: ¥300

6. Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka

A charming shopping district that leads to and from Kiyomizu-dera, there’s no better place to soak up the Kyoto atmosphere than Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka streets. On both sides of these gently sloping roads are traditional wooden shops and teahouses offering many items from incense to fans to matcha cakes. Just be careful not to fall down here.

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Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka

Suggested Length of Visit: 1-2 hrs / Admission: FREE

7. Nijō Castle

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Nijō Castle is home to the Nightingale Floors, an ingenious alarm system designed to ward off ninja attacks. Just try walking on them without alerting the nightingales.

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Nijō Castle

Suggested Length of Visit: 2-3 hrs / Admission: ¥600

8. Kyoto Tower

Conveniently located across the street from Kyoto station, you can get a bird’s eye view of the entire Kyoto area from here. Unlike the previous seven, this is an optional stop in my opinion, one that you should visit only if you have time and money to spare. Otherwise, you can skip it entirely.

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Kyoto Tower

Suggested Length of Visit: 1 hr / Admission: ¥770

With just two full days in Kyoto, we had to breeze through all these sites in just 48 hours. Needless to say, this was hardly enough time to fully appreciate them. If you’re staying in Kyoto long enough and don’t like rushing, then I suggest spreading them out between three to four days. This will give you enough time to completely explore each attraction. To help maximize your time, I suggest planning your trip using the Sygic Travel app.

You’ll be doing a lot of walking in Kyoto so be sure to wear comfortable footwear, preferably something that you can easily slip on and off. Most if not all of the temples will require you to remove your shoes when entering buildings, so it might be a good idea to wear (or bring) socks as well.

We got around the city entirely by bus, so the Kyoto Bus Only Pass was a great investment. Available for just ¥500 at any subway station, each daily pass entitles you to as many bus rides as you like within the city’s limits. Without it, we would have paid up to ¥280 for every ride. Among the places listed above, only Arashiyama fell outside the allocated zone so we had to pay a little extra to go there. For more information on Kyoto special passes, CLICK HERE.

Enjoy your trip!

For more Kyoto travel tips, check out our First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Kyoto, Japan

 The First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Kyoto, Japan

For travel tips to Osaka, check out our First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Osaka, Japan

 The First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Osaka, Japan

JB Macatulad

JB Macatulad

JB is one half of Will Fly for Food and its chief itinerary maker.  He's the one to blame for all the crappy photos and verbal diarrhea on this blog.  Don't listen to him.
JB Macatulad


There is 1 comment for this article
  1. Tina at 2:56 pm

    Great post indeed, It makes me wanna visit Japan right away, those pictures are awesome, thanks a lot…

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