Quick Kyoto Travel Guide.
The former capital of Japan Kyoto is a key destination for nature lovers and those wanting to experience the religious cultural sites. Here you will stumble upon stunning and ornately decorated temples and shrines, hidden backstreets, traditional wooden housing, or see a beautifully dressed Geisha. With so much to see and do Kyoto will keep you thoroughly entertained!! This guide- Quick Kyoto Travel Guide– was the ideal way to share my knowledge of this stunning city and to help you plan the most unforgettable experience.
Currency- Japanese Yen
From within Japan Kyoto is easily accessible by train. The shinkansen bullet train will take 3 hours from Tokyo, whilst only taking 30min from Osaka on local regional trains. I’d strongly advise looking into a Japan Rail pass if you plan on taking multiple train trips. The one way fare for a reserved seat would cost you approximately Y13500.
Most visitors who visit Kyoto have at some stage visited/plan to visit Tokyo. A SUICA prepaid transport card is the simplest way to get around, and will cover your transport options in both cities. The only services in Kyoto that do not expect the Suica are the City Bus and Eizan Railway.
Hiring a bicycle is another great way to explore, as Kyoto is generally flat and easy to navigate. Many accommodations will have bikes for hire.
Where to stay: (To read full review click on the hotel name)
* Citadines Karasuma-Gojo
Things to do/see:
- Fushmini Irari shrine is one of the most popular sites to visit in the country. Iconic for its thousand red tori gates this makes a perfect destination for those searching for a picture perfect site, or those happy to hike in beautiful surroundings.
- Arashimya bamboo groves. The ideal spot if you are wanting to walk through the lush groves that expand for miles, stumble upon shrines and temples, hire a bicycle and ride through the groves or find unexpected food options/coffee shops. This is my favourite site in all of Kyoto.
Ryōan-ji is the oldest surviving and most esteemed zen garden in Japan. Built in 1450 this is a perfect example of kare-sansui (“dry landscape”) styled gardens. Many come here to quietly contemplate whilst observing the fifteen stones and manicured gravel. Legend is that regardless of where you sit or stand you cannot see all of the rocks at the same time.
- Explore the Downtown shopping/entertainment/eating district. The area comes alive with markets, department stores and food retailers making it a lively part of the city to check out.
For a more religious sights to see in Kyoto have a read of one of my previous posts- Finding temples in Kyoto.
Things to eat:
- The Downtown area of Kyoto is filled with a huge range of eateries, ranging from home style cooking to popular chains.
* The Pontocho is a well known area in Kyoto for great eating. This busy alleyway runs parallel to the river and is jammed packed with restaurants ranging from high end to budget friendly. Restaurants on the east side of the alley are blessed with river front views, which they take advantage of in the warmer months by building temporary structures for outside dining.
- Nishiki Market – otherwise known as ‘Kyoto’s pantry’ is the largest traditional styled markets here you can find delicious snacks as well as popular ingredients- watch out for fresh seafood, sashimi and pickled goodies!
Places to drink:
Truthfully I don’t have many options to share on this point. I always found myself at the hotel bar or in the heat of the summer months hanging out on the banks of the river Kamo in the early evening. Buy a few cans of beer (or drink of your choice) and sit watching the sun set against the view of the river
When I return to Kyoto I will be checking out these drinking options:
- Yoramu- a small traditional sake bar, where not only is excellent sake served but you also have the opportunity to learn about its cultural significance and making.
- Sayura Vins Fins- for glasses of French wine in a former Geisha house in Gion.
Best daytrip from:
Osaka Himeji caste. An hours trip via the Hikari shinkansen will take you to this UNESCO World Heritage site. The stunning white facaded castle has been standing since 1609, surviving wartime bombings and earthquakes in the region. Entry cost Y1000.
Kyoto is the centre for religious sites, and the city covers a larger distance than expected. there are too many sites to physically see everything. The tip would be to pick a key site that you would like to visit the most then look at options close by. For example the Zen garden is very close to both the Golden Pavillion and the Bamboo groves.
As you can see there is so much to see and do in Kyoto- one trip is sometimes not enough. I’ve been there twice and still feel that there is still much to discover about this beautiful city! Happy exploring!!