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Kyoto travel guide

Places to visit in Kyoto
with your Japan Rail Pass

Pagoda building

Welcome to Kyoto

Part of southern Japan and next door to Osaka, Kobe, and Nara. Old capital and popular with tourists for its nice environment and all its temples & shrines. If you plan to travel around Japan and live in Tokyo for part of the trip, most people recommend staying in Kyoto instead of Osaka as Osaka is too similar to Tokyo with its big city while Kyoto is anything but a big city.

Secret philosophers path


The philosopher’s path in Kyoto – a quiet hike with the opportunity to enjoy.

The path starts at Ginkaku-ji and runs along a canal in a pleasant environment – surrounded by shrines, temples, small local shops, and cherry trees. Those who visit the trail in April can expect a unique experience when hundreds of cherry trees bloom.

The walk is 2 kilometers long, takes about 30 minutes to walk, and takes you to a beautiful temple called Eikando. Once in Eikando, you will find buses back to central Kyoto for those who feel ready. For the rest, there are more temples to visit, as Higashiyama is teeming with shrines and temples.

fushimi inari torii gates


233 meters above sea level you will find Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine. A must on your trip! The shrine is popular because of its “Senbon Torii”, rather it’s nearly 5,000 Senbon Torii. This shrine is one of Japan’s most popular destinations for influencers and those looking for a unique holiday image.

Each post is coated with the name along with a message in honor of the company that donated the post to the shrine.

Unfortunately, there are usually a lot of people in and around the shrine. The secret is simple though, it just takes you to be a little hurtful. The higher up the mountain you go, the fewer people and better photo opportunities. A couple of minutes’ walk is enough to escape the crowd.

nishiki market


Nishiki Market is a narrow market that runs through 5 blocks with over 100 shops, stalls, and restaurants. The area is known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen” with its lively environment and unique food. Here you will find all of Kyoto’s specialties.

On the market, you will also find a knife shop where the knives are engraved with the desired text in connection with the purchase. The store is run by a family and has been in the family for over 400 years. Finer knives than these can not be found at home.

The market runs along Shijo Avenue and you will find the market one street inside the main street. It is easy to find here as the market is only a couple of minute’s walk from Shijo Station (Karasuma Subway Line). There is no charge to walk around and the market is usually open between 09:00 – 18:00.

Pagoda women kimono


Yasaka Street is Kyoto’s best photo location, but be on time as the area attracts a lot of tourists. As mentioned earlier, the area attracts a lot of tourists due to its well-preserved and charming streets. The main street moves from Ninen-zaka to Sannen-zaka.

In addition to its fine streets, the area also consists of Yasaka-no-to Pagoda, also known as Hokanji Temple. The pagoda was built in 592 and is the oldest in Kyoto. Tourists are welcome to enter the building, but only to the second floor. Open 10:00 – 16:00 and costs about 400 JPY in admission.

The area is 10 minutes per foot from Kiyomizu-Gojo Station and Gion-Shijo Station but can be easily reached by bus number 100 and 206 for those who can’t be bothered to walk.

Kyoto river restaurants


Also called the Kamogawa River is an iconic river in central Kyoto. Along the river, you will find several restaurants on pillars overlooking the river. During the summer, you have the opportunity to enjoy your food on the terraces, which is called Kawadoko – a tradition in the area.

The nicest and most densely populated is the one just south of Nishiki market. For a more accurate position and where we recommend you to start, see the map under the tab “Map & more info”.

Overview kyoto


Kiyomizu-dera Temple was completed in 780 and was classified as a World Heritage Site in 1994. Expect a world-class view. The name means Pure Water Temple and attracts crowds of tourists daily to all its sights. Behind Kiyomizudera main hall you will find Jishu Shrine.

If you walk further you will find Otowa Waterfall at the bottom of Kiyomizudera’s main hall. The waterfall’s waters are divided into three separate pillars and allow tourists with the help of longer ladles to drink its water. The water from the three pillars shall have different characteristics. happiness in love, progress in school, as well as longer lives. Unfortunately, it is considered greedy to drink from all three. Don’t expect a real waterfall as the water from the waterfall splits into its three pillars out of sight.

The temple also offers a bell tower, a three-story pagoda, popular Butai, and much more. An amazing temple to visit up in the mountains.

The temple can be reached by bus 100 and 206 from Kyoto Station. Hop off at either Gojo-zaka or Kiyomizu-michi then continue 10 minutes per foot. Options include hopping off at Kiyomizu-Gojo Station along the Keihan Railway Line and walking 20 minutes up to the temple.

Shinkansen museum train


A 20-minute walk from Kyoto Station takes you to the Kyoto Railway Museum, in the old premises of the Umekoji Train and Locomotive Museum. The museum opened its doors to the public in April 2016 and has since attracted train fans from all over the world to its enjoyable exhibition.

The hall houses 53 trains of various types, old and new on its entire 30,000 square meters of exhibition space.

bamboo forest


Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is one of the city’s most visited places. Here you walk around among thousands of bamboo trees and cozy little loops.

Note, however, that it is teeming with people at certain times, which can make the park feel a little overrated. Try to be out in good time for the perfect holiday picture before all the tourists arrive!

temple and castle area


Kyōto Gosho was home to the royal family until 1868 when the country moved its capital from Kyoto to Tokyo. The palace is located in the beautiful Kyoto Imperial Park, Kyōto Gyoen.

You can easily get to the Imperial Palace from Kyoto Station via the Karasuma Subway. Hop off at either Marutamachi or Imadegawa Station. Note that Imadegawa is closer to the main entrance than Marutamachi, but only with a couple of minutes difference.

Old shrine entrance


‘Nijōjō’ was built in 1603 and was home to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo period. The area is divided into 3 areas, Honmaru, Nnomaru, and the large garden.

The entrance is only a few minutes walk from Nijojo-mae Station via the Tozai Subway Line. You can easily get here from Kyoto Station. Take the Karasuma Subway Line to Karasuma-Oike Station and change to the Tozai Line. Then hop off at Nijojo-mae Station. The entire tour takes no more than 15 minutes and costs around 260 yen.

‘Nijōjō’ was built in 1603 and was home to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo period. The area is divided into 3 areas, Honmaru, Nnomaru, and the large garden.

The entrance is only a few minutes walk from Nijojo-mae Station via the Tozai Subway Line. You can easily get here from Kyoto Station. Take the Karasuma Subway Line to Karasuma-Oike Station and change to the Tozai Line. Then hop off at Nijojo-mae Station. The entire tour takes no more than 15 minutes and costs around 260 yen.

Steep bpath with sakure tree


Higashiyama District is the perfect destination for those who want to take part in older Japanese environments and buildings. A traditional and historic area, especially between Kiyomizudera and Yasaka Shrine. More about these can be found higher up on the page.

The area is teeming with small cozy shops, restaurants, and cafes. Here you will find, among other things, Kiyomizudera Temple, Kodaiji Temple, Yasaka Pagoda, Yasaka Shrine, and beautiful Maruyama Park.

Buses go all the way to the top but for the hurtful, a walk from the bottom up to Kiyomizudera Temple is recommended.

Colorful garden pond


Ginkaku-ji, also called The Silver Pavilion is a Zen temple in Higashiyama. The area consists of a beautiful moss garden, lots of older buildings and temples as well as a unique sand garden.

Ginkakuji can be reached by bus numbers 6, 17, and 100 from Kyoto Station. The journey takes about 35 minutes and costs no more than 230 yen. Ginkakuji can also be reached by foot through the Philosopher’s Path from Nanzenji.

Puring sake


The traditional and charming Sake district is located along the Horikawa River in southern Kyoto. The area is home to more than 40 breweries and many offer tastings of different types.

Take the opportunity to take a trip along the canal in one of the small wooden boats for a full sake experience.

Kyoto golden tempel


Kinkakuji, also called the Golden Pavilion, is a Zen temple in northern Kyoto similar to Ginkakuji, but on the other side of town. A beautiful park and a large temple area that is recommended to visit. Don’t miss the beautiful Sekkatei Teahouse, a small tea garden in the park.

Read more: Best rooftop bars in Japan

River restaurang tables


Known from social media and a very unique experience that is highly recommended. Dine at Kibune waterfall and Kibune Shrine with the one you love and take part in a real Kawadoko dining experience. Perfect for couples and those who want to be able to show off a picture from the restaurant and brag when they get home. Guaranteed something that not everyone has experienced!

Note that the restaurant only serves Kawadoko between June and September. In addition to its unique restaurant, the area consists of a lot of attractions, ryokan, and temples.

Japanese garden


Saihoji, also called Kokedera and Saihōji is one of Kyoto’s World Heritage Sites. A reservation in good time is required to even enter the park. Make sure to book well in advance.

The park consists of over 120 different types of moss along all the park’s resting places and paths.

Anything else to know before arrival?

Don’t worry, we got you covered with the most important information below.

Kyoto does not have its own airport. The closest are Kansai International Airport (KIX) and Osaka International Airport (Itami, ITM). As as international traveler, the chances are very high that you will land on Kansai. ITM handles mostly domestic flights and is the airport you visit if you plan to go on to, for example, Okinawa.

From here there are several trains to Kyoto, Kobe, Osaka and Shin-Osaka. If you travel with a JR pass, visit the airport’s JR counter and book a train ticket Osaka. Once in Osaka, it is easy to get around the city by metro and railway.

Double-check with the staff at JR’s information desk regarding which train suits your final destination best.

When visiting Kyoto, staying in central Kyoto or the downtown area is a great option, especially for first-time visitors. This area is bustling with activity and conveniently close to major tourist attractions, shops, and restaurants. It offers a mix of traditional guesthouses and modern hotels, making it easy to find something that fits your budget and style.

Exploring Kyoto offers a blend of historical and cultural experiences. Start by visiting the iconic Fushimi Inari Shrine with its famous torii gate pathway. Don’t miss the beautiful Kinkaku-ji, also known as the Golden Pavilion. Wander through the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove for a serene walk and explore the historic streets of Gion, where you might spot a geisha. Each of these spots captures the essence of Kyoto’s rich heritage and stunning natural beauty.

Kyoto is about 450 kilometers (280 miles) from Tokyo, a journey that is best experienced by train. For convenience and savings, consider ordering a Japan Rail Pass before your trip. Using the Shinkansen, or bullet train, the trip between these two cities takes approximately 2 to 2.5 hours, offering a fast, efficient, and scenic travel experience.

Looking for another city?

Visit our other Japanese travel guides and explore the fantastic country of Japan. We add new destinations weekly and please, feel free to suggest new destinations to the travel guide if you’ve been in Japan before. We appreciate all the suggestions!

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