Kyoto

Remarkable temples, shrines, palaces and gardens in the former capital.

Explore Kyoto's rich history through its 1600+ temples, vibrant geisha district Gion, unique shopping experiences, and exquisite local cuisine.

4.4
out of 5

Kyoto, once the imperial capital of Japan, is a city steeped in history and tradition. Known for its classical Buddhist temples, as well as gardens, imperial palaces, Shinto shrines, and traditional wooden houses, it encapsulates the essence of old Japan. Its well-known districts, such as Gion, the famous geisha district, add to its historic charm. Visitors also flock to Kyoto for its matcha tea and kaiseki dining, which highlight the city's culinary expertise. With seventeen UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Kinkaku-ji and Fushimi Inari-taisha, Kyoto is a living museum that seamlessly blends its ancient past with modern innovation.

Kinkaku-ji (The Golden Pavilion)

One of Kyoto's iconic images is the glittering Kinkaku-ji, or Golden Pavilion. Set against a pond that reflects its shimmering facade, this Zen temple's top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. Visitors can walk around the pond for different views of the temple, which was originally the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu.

Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine

For those with a keen interest in Shinto traditions, the Fushimi Inari-taisha should be a priority. This shrine is famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates that create pathway tunnels stretching into the wooded forest of Mount Inari. Walking through these rows of gates is a special experience, leading to various smaller shrines scattered along pathways that offer peaceful observations.

Gion District and Cultural Events

The Gion District is a window into the living culture of Kyoto. As the city's most famous geisha district, the atmosphere here has a distinctive air, where you might catch a glimpse of geisha (in Kyoto called geiko) and maiko (apprentice geiko) dressed in elaborate kimonos. For a deeper cultural immersion, plan your visit to coincide with local festivals such as Gion Matsuri in July, one of Japan’s most famous festivals featuring massive floats and beautiful traditional clothing.

Kyoto Cuisine: Kaiseki Dining and Matcha Tea

Kyoto takes pride in its culinary delights, especially its kaiseki dining – a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. Restaurants like Kikunoi and Tsuruya offer diners a chance to savor this elaborate, seasonal culinary art form. For those who prefer something less formal, tasting matcha tea in one of the many tea houses, such as those found in the Higashiyama district, is not to be missed. Tea ceremonies offer insight into a ritual that is integral to Kyoto's heritage.

The Harmony of Kyoto's Gardens

Kyoto's gardens exemplify Japan's expertise in landscape design. The Zen garden of Ryoan-ji, with its meticulously raked gravel and thoughtfully placed stones, encourages contemplation and tranquility. Similarly, the strolling gardens of Heian Shrine offer visitors the chance to relax amidst weeping cherry trees and reflecting ponds.

Navigating Kyoto

Moving around Kyoto is relatively simple thanks to an efficient network of buses and trains. Kyoto Station acts as the main hub for accessing both local and regional destinations. To explore the city, you can rely on the comprehensive bus system or rent a bicycle for more personal mobility and an opportunity to engage with the city on a more intimate level.

Affordability and Accommodations

Kyoto provides a range of accommodations fitting various budgets. From ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) to budget-friendly guesthouses and hostels, travelers have options. To balance your travel budget, take advantage of convenience store meals and free attractions like walking through Gion or exploring the paths at Fushimi Inari-taisha. Many temples also have low entrance fees, allowing for an affordable cultural experience.

Average temperatures during the day in Kyoto.

What people say about Kyoto

4.4
People
5
Food
4
Spaces
4
Value
4
Safety
5

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