Things to Do in Kyoto

Japan is a vibrant and culturally rich country and in order to get a taste of this ancient and unique culture, you can opt for several interesting things to do in Kyoto – the cultural capital of Japan. The city is full of ancient temples and shrines and one of the most essential aspects of touring Kyoto is visiting these temples such as the Kinkakuji Temple and the Kiyomizu-dera Temple.

These are especially beautiful during autumn and spring when the adjacent gardens are filled with auburn leaves and cherry blossom trees. Kyoto is also home to the Gion District, which is an area in the city where several activities take place at a time. You can spot Geishas and even dine with them, indulge in tea ceremonies, walk through the many food and commodities shops selling local goods and enjoy traditional dances and cultural performances.

Visiting places like the Samurai and Ninja Museum and Sanjusangen-do is some of the best things to do in Kyoto with kids. The city also comes alive at night, when you can walk through the peaceful streets, watch the temples light up with lanterns and go on a memorable food tour to some of the oldest markets and food districts in Kyoto.

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Kinkaku-ji Temple

Famously known as the Golden Pavilion, Kinkaku-ji Temple is one of Kyoto’s most iconic landmarks, which was originally built in 1397. This Buddhist temple was officially named Rokuon-ji and is known for its stunning architecture and scenic beauty. Originally, the temple was constructed as a retirement villa; however, shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu converted it into a zen temple. Visiting Kinkaku-ji Temple is a must on any Japan trip.


Gion is situated in the eastern part of Kyoto and is renowned for its charming streets, traditional architecture, and the preservation of the ancient Japanese culture. The district is particularly famous for its role in the development and continuation of the geisha tradition.

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Kyoto Things To Do FAQs

What are the best things to do in Kyoto?

1. Kinkakuji Temple: One of the most quintessential things to do in Kyoto involves paying a visit to the magnificent Kinkakuji Temple. It is one of the most well-known and recognizable structures in the city, famous for its long history, its beautiful architecture and cultural and religious significance. It is especially recommended that you visit the temple during the month of autumn when the trees in the temple complex are filled with burnt orange leaves which makes the Buddhist temple appear even more magical.

- Location:1 Kinkakujicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, 603-8361, Japan
- Entry fee:400 yen for adults, 300 yen for children

2. Go for a Tea Ceremony: Tea-drinking is an integral part of Japanese culture and one of the most intriguing things to do in Kyoto includes participating in their famous tea ceremonies. The city is the cultural epicentre of this traditional practice, where you can have tea served to you with elaborate rituals by masters of the art. You can also participate in a tea ceremony conducted by a geisha in some of the centres. One of the best places where you can enjoy a tea ceremony is in Camellia, which is run by a bilingual expert who creates the perfect balance of formality and informality for her guests to enjoy the ceremony of drinking tea.

- Location: Camellia, 349 Masuya-Cho, Higashiyama-Ku, Kyoto City
- Price:2000 yen for adults, 1000 for children

3. Visit the Kiyomizu-dera Temple: The Kiyomizu-dera is an ancient Buddhist temple located on the eastern side of the city. Visiting the temple, which used to be known as Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera and is currently a UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most culturally invigorating things to do in Kyoto. It is also known as the “Temple of the Pure Water Spring.” One of the most attractive features of this temple is the view of the surrounding countryside you can get from its three-storey ramparts, as well as the supposed medicinal properties of the Otowa Spring that is located close to the temple.

- Location:294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0862, Japan
- Entry fee:300 yen for adults, 200 yen for children

4. Enjoy a panoramic view of the city from the Kyoto Tower: The tallest structure in Kyoto city is the famous Kyoto Tower, which is located on the top of a 9-storey building. If you are in the city, then one of the most fascinating things to do in Kyoto with kids includes catching a view of the city from the Observation Deck of the Kyoto Tower. The building is also home to luxury boutiques, a 5-star restaurant, a lounge bar, a spa and souvenir shops. There are also several telescopes installed in the glass enclosure, from where you can see the entire city as well as the surrounding landscape.

- Location:721-1 Higashi Shiokoji Cho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, 600-8216, Japan
- Price:770 yen

5. Seek blessings at the Eikando Zenrinji Temple: Nestled amidst the wilderness of Kyoto is the picturesque Eikando Zenrinji Temple. It is one of the most beautiful temples in the city, which dates back to the 9th century AD. It is the head temple for the J?do-sh? Buddhists whose Seizan branch can be found in Japan. One of the most peaceful and memorable things to do in Kyoto includes walking around the serene temple complex and observing the autumnal leaves that decorate the many gardens that can be found on the complex.

- Location:??, Eikandocho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8445, Japan
- Entry fee: 1000 yen for a day visit, 600 yen for a night visit

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6. Explore the Philosopher’s Path: What is Japan without its magnificent cherry blossom trees? One of the best places where you can explore the breathtaking beauty of Japanese nature is in the Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto, which is a pedestrian walkway, lined with flowering cherry blossom trees lining a serene canal alongside the walkway. It is believed that the philosopher Nishida Kitaro used this pathway for meditation, which is why the path is called so. It is one of the most memorable things to do in Kyoto, due to the sheer natural beauty of the experience.

- Location:Japan, 606-8406 Kyoto, Sakyo Ward, Jodoji Ishibashicho, ??
- Price:500 yen

7. Relax in the hot springs of Mt. Kurama: Kurama is a small town located in the northern mountains outside of Kyoto city. One of the best things to do in Kyoto is travelling to Kurama to visit the local temple there called Kurama-dera and soaking in the hot springs on the temple complex. You can also stay in the accommodations that are provided to guests there in which case your access to the relaxing hot springs is absolutely free. You can also explore the beautiful forests of this picturesque mountain town.

- Location:1074, Kuramahonmachi, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 601-1111, Japan
- Price:2500 yen for access to all the baths, 1000 yen for access to the rotenburo (outdoor bath)

8. Kyoto International Manga Museum: One of the most recommended things to do in Kyoto with kids includes exploring the Kyoto International Manga Museum where you can discover over three floors of shelves filled with Japanese manga. Manga is an integral part of Japanese culture and going through some of the oldest and most famous Manga is an activity that is going to keep kids occupied for a long time.

- Location:452 Kabukicho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-0846, Japan
- Entry fee:900 yen

9. Explore Maruyama Park: Located in the heart of the Gion District is the Maruyama Park which is one of the most beautiful places to watch the cherry blossom trees that this country is known for. If you are looking for entertaining and memorable things to do in Kyoto with kids, then a trip to Maruyama Park should definitely be a part of your agenda. Apart from admiring the cherry blossom trees, you can also enjoy picnics, relaxing walks and festivals that take place here during the New Year.

- Location:Maruyamacho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto 605-0071, Japan

10. Gion District: The famous Gion district is one of the most exciting neighbourhoods in Kyoto. It is the geisha district in the city, with several upscale restaurants in the area, along with temples, shrines, gardens and teahouses (ochaya). It is also one of the most interesting things to do in Kyoto for kids, who can watch performances of the traditional Kyomo dance, have picnics in the Zen garden, walk through the lantern-it courtyard in the Yasaka Shrine and much more.

- Location:Shijo Avenue, between Yasaka Shrine and Kamo River, Kyoto, Japan.
- Price:Free entry

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How to reach Kyoto?

- By Flight:The airport closest to Kyoto is the Osaka International Airport with flights going in and out of several important cities throughout the world. From there you can take a 50-min ride to the city-centre in Kyoto by bus or car.

- By Train:Nozomi trains travel to Kyoto from Tokyo on a daily basis, which is the easiest way to access the city from the capital of Japan.

- By Road: There is a highway bus that plies from Tokyo twice a day. It takes approximately 7-8 hours to reach Kyoto via the main Highway.

What is the best time to visit Kyoto?

Spring and autumn seasons are the best time of the year to visit the beautiful city of Kyoto. You can watch the famous cherry blossom trees bloom to their full potential between March to May, which is the spring season. During autumn which occurs between September to November, you can see the autumnal foliage in the gardens and temple complexes and the vibrant colours is a big attraction for tourists.

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What is Kyoto popular for?

Kyoto is the cultural epicentre of Japan, where people travel from far and wide to get a taste of the Japanese lifestyle and culture. You can indulge in several offbeat things to do in Kyoto such as engage in tea ceremonies, visit ancient Buddhist temples and shrines, enjoy traditional Japanese dances and sample some of the most authentic local food when you are here, essentially showing you Japan in a nutshell.

How many days should I spend in Kyoto?

Five days is the perfect amount of time you need to explore all the beautiful sights and attractions this city has to offer. You can visit the many temples and shrines. Take day trips to nearby places like Nara and Kurama and absorb the natural beauty of the city and its cherry blossom trees, without having to hurry through your itinerary.

Is Osaka better than Kyoto?

Both cities are unique in their own way and give you a unique insight into Japanese culture. While Kyoto is known as the cultural capital, Osaka is a more budget-friendly place for travellers who want to explore Japan. However, for an authentic, traditional and thorough Japanese experience, you should visit Kyoto.

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Is Kyoto safe at night?

Yes, Kyoto is the safest city in Japan, where many people venture out at night without worrying about crime or safety. In fact, you can explore many different cultural aspects from a unique perspective when you explore the city, with innumerable exciting things to do in Kyoto at night.

Is Kyoto expensive to visit?

No, compared to some of the other major cultural cities in the world, and in comparison with the capital city of Tokyo, Kyoto is comparatively cheaper to visit. However, due to the presence of ancient shrines and temples and other cultural aspects, it is more expensive than places like Osaka.

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What are the best offbeat things to do in Kyoto?

1. Visit the Sanjusangen-do: One of the most exciting offbeat things to do in Kyoto includes visiting the Sanjusangen-do which is a massive hall consisting of 1001 carved statues, each with a unique face, but all of them are representations of the Buddhist God of Mercy.

2. Explore Sagano Bamboo Forest: The Sagano Forest is not only known for its incredible natural beauty, but also because of the magical sound that is created by the wind passing through the towering bamboo stalks.

3. Visit the 700 year old Nishiki Market: If you are looking for offbeat things to do in Kyoto, visiting one of the oldest markets that have existed for over 700 years is a must. You can find some of the oldest, most traditional and delicious local delicacies in the city here.

What are the best things to do in Kyoto with kids?

1. Visiting the Monkey Park Iwatayama: This beautiful natural reserve is home to several monkeys that kids can see thriving in their natural habitat.

2. Walking around the Gion District: The famous Gion District is a concentration of Japanese culture where there are constantly games, ceremonies, festivals and events taking place, making it the perfect place to travel with children.

3. Visit Arashiyama: The magical bamboo forest, the many food shops and the flora of the place are ideal for children to absorb some of Kyoto’s natural beauty.

4. Samurai and Ninja Museum: You can take kids to this museum where actual ninja and samurai uniforms are on display, along with present-day professionals who put up demonstrations and shows.

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What are the best things to do in Kyoto at night?

1. See the lights in the Toji Temple: Watching the 5-storey Toji Temple light up at night is one of the most fascinating things to do in Kyoto at night. It is a beautiful sight that can be enjoyed only at the end of March and the beginning of April.

2. People-watching at the Kamogawa River: If you are in Kyoto in the summer, then at night you can simply walk to the main river in the city and sit on the banks to watch the people strolling by and the peaceful waters of the river going from the north to the south.

3. Take a night food tour: Several excellent food shops such as sake bars, tempura eateries and izakayas are open at night for you to properly explore the food scene.

4. Walk around the Gion District: The famous Gion District comes alive at night, with cultural shows, geishas who venture out and shops and shrines that are lit up with lanterns.

Kyoto Things To Do Reviews

Swarnalata Iyengar
Reviewed: 10 Feb 2020
The bullet train was on time and the ride was actually very comfortable. The seats were clean too and my family got surprised to reach the destination in no time as we were running out of time. Indeed the best way to explore places in Kyoto
Chandini Banerjee
Reviewed: 10 Feb 2020
The Shinkansen bullet train ticket was the best thing that I opted for during my trip to Kyoto. The journey was so enjoyable and it is really the best and fastest way to reach a spot. Saved our time. Thankful to Thrillophilia.

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