10 Kyoto Areas
Kyoto sightseeing isn’t the same without visiting Takao, you can go to Kozanji Temple which dates back to 774 and is recognized as a World Heritage Site.
In the Mt Hiei area you can visit Enryakuji Temple, one of the most important monasteries in Japan. Shugakuin Imperial Villa is also located here, but as it is managed by the Imperial Household Agency you will need to book a visit in advance.
In Ohara you can find the beautiful Sanzen-in and Jakko-in temples.
Kurama and Kibune are two quiet villages, you can enjoy kurama onsen, and go to the Yuki-jinja and Kibune-jinja Shrines.
In Uji you can visit Ujigami Shrine and see the amazing Phoenix Hall at Byodo-in temple.
Kyoto Gosho, the former Imperial Palace, can be found in central Kyoto, and surrounding it you can enjoy the Kyoto Gyoen National Garden. Nijo Castle can also be discovered in central Kyoto.
The famous district of Nishijin is a very traditional area, here you can learn how kimonos are made at Nishijin Textile Center, or learn about the history of textiles in Kyoto at Orinasu-kan.
At Arashiyama you can cross the Togetsukyo (moon crossing) Bridge which will give you a beautiful view of the surrounding area.
You don’t need to travel far for some great places to see, in the Kyoto station area you can have a look around the National Museum or check out the famous icon of the station area, Kyoto Tower.
Higashiyama is perhaps the centre of all that you should visit in Kyoto, including Kiyomizu-dera Temple, the Philosopher’s Path (2km long) and Maruyama Park which is extremely popular during the cherry blossom season.
10 Kyoto Temples, and Other Sites
The Kiyomizu-dera temple has stood here for twelve hundred years and is a world heritage site. Walking around here is truly like walking in history and the view from its main hall which is halfway up a steep cliff is breathtaking.
The Ginkakuji temple is nearly six hundred years old, it is also known as the silver pavilion – but don’t be fooled it isn’t covered in silver. It is believed that a thick layer of lacquer used to give the building a silvery gleam in moonlight.
The Fushimi Inari-Taisha is a must-visit for its thousands of torii (gates) which are stunning to look at and a marvellous photo opportunity.
While Ginkakuji is not covered in silver, Kinkakuji temple will definitely add the wow factor to your trip, as it is actually covered in gold leaf.
Kokedera is one temple which is best to seen in the summer around June because it’s nickname is the moss temple! It really blends in with nature.
The Nijo Castle is a Historic Monument of Ancient Kyoto and has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It is one of the few remaining examples of fortifications from feudal Japan.
Nanzenji is one for art lovers, check out the screen paintings on gold backgrounds at this temple, including one which has been designated a National Treasure.
The Ninnaji temple has been at this site for over a thousand years; however the current buildings are no older than six hundred years. Visit in April to see a special variety of late blooming cherry trees.
The Sanjusangendo temple is simply amazing for the view of the thousand Kannon statues.
The Phoenix Hall which can be found at Byodo-in temple is a National Treasure, and is absolutely beautiful standing above the waters surrounding it.
10 Kyoto Restaurants – Great Places to Eat At!
Any list of top Kyoto restaurants has to include at least one Michelin star restaurant, or in the case of Kikunoi Honten a restaurant with three Michelin stars!
For ramen, Ramen Sen No Kaze claims to be the best in the world, I am not sure about that but it is really good.
I don’t know where they get their tuna from but this is one dish that has to be tried at this sushi joint, Kikyo Sushi.
Gorge yourself with the sushi delights of Sushi Naritaya!
For a fun choice try Kaiten Sushi CHOJIRO Shijyokiyamachi where you can order anything you want using an IPad! Just don’t order too much!
Kibuneso Kawadoko is a place to escape the heat, kawadoko is to cool off and at this restaurant even when Kyoto is at its hottest you can feel refreshed in a more naturally cooled environment.
There is much to be said about beef in Japan, and in particular at STEAK Otsuka, but the real experience at this location is to eat wagyu steak. Be warned though, after this any other steak just won’t taste the same again.
With only seats for twenty people, Premium Pound Sanjo Kiyamachi is a little restaurant that punches above its weight with delicious steak and Japanese hamburgers.
Tendan New Style Buffet Saiin is an all-you-can-eat yakiniku buffet, see how much delicious meat you can cook in front of you!
Located in the famous geisha district of Gion Teppanya Tavern Tenamonya offers a variety of different dishes, but in particular it is great for okonomiyaki and teppanyaki.
10 Kyoto Places Recommended for Shopping
Kyoto Station – Isetan Department Store is full of souvenir ideas.
Kawaramachi – check out Fukudashokado for kimonos and accessories.
Shijo-dori – Try Sweets Paradise in Koto Cross for some delicious Kyoto desserts.
Nishiki Market – Get some amazing tea cups from Kitchen Yuzen.
Higashiyama – This shopping district is worth going to even if you just want to window browse. Each shop and street is beautiful.
Kitano Tenmangu Shrine – A big flea market takes place on the 25th of each month.
Kyoto Handicraft Center – Recommended for visitors to Kyoto who love crafts.
Yojiya – This store is famous for their Aburatori-gami (facial oil blotting paper).
Aiba – Sells Kyo-uchiwa (Kyoto fan).
Kakefuda – An old Furoshiki (wrapping cloth) shop.
10 Other Fun Things to Do in Kyoto
Toei Kyoto Studio Park is the only theme park in Japan where you can see the actual filming of period dramas. A fun thing to do is to dress up as a samurai or geisha with the help of make-up artists!
The Sagano Romantic Train is a 25 minute journey through beautiful scenery, and it doesn’t matter which season you go, it is always gorgeous.
The Kyoto Railway Museum has 53 trains ranging from those in service in the 1930s to the very first shinkansen (bullet train) in the 1960s.
The Hozugawa Cruise is a traditional style boat that is guided through the water by boatmen using a mixture of oars and bamboo poles.
The International Manga Museum has a collection of over 300,000 books, magazines and woodblock prints that cover over 400 years of manga.
Walking along the Kamo River combines beautiful views of cherry blossoms in the spring with the delight of eating on restaurant balconies overlooking the river in the summer.
At the Gion Hatanaka Ryokan you can sit down and eat some local cuisine in a real geisha experience, starting with a maiko (trainee geishas) dance.
In establishments like the 100-year-old Minokou restaurant you can try a special Kyo-ryori (Kyoto cuisine) experience. More than 130 Michelin stars have been awarded to restaurants in Kyoto.
A must-try is a traditional tea ceremony like those offered by the Zen dedicated Chashitsu (tea room) called Ju-An which is right by Kyoto station.
Last but not least, the best time to visit is during the Gion Festival, an annual event that lasts for the whole month of July, and includes massive parades.