The Places of Interest in Kyoto: A Guide to Japan's Cultural Capital
Kyoto is one of the most popular destinations in Japan, and for good reasons. It is a city that combines ancient history, rich culture, and modern innovation, offering something for everyone. Whether you are looking for temples, gardens, geisha, food, or art, Kyoto has it all. In this guide, we will introduce the famous places of interest to visit in Kyoto to experience the unique history and culture of this beautiful country, and give you some tips on how to make the most of your trip.
The Places of Interest in Kyoto: A Guide to the best places to visit in Japan's Cultural Capital
- Kinkakuji: The Golden Pavilion
- Gion: The Geisha District
- Fushimi Inari: The Thousand Torii Gates
- Arashiyama: The Bamboo Forest
- Kiyomizudera: The Pure Water Temple
- Sanjusangendo: The Temple of a Thousand Buddhas
- Nishiki Market: The Kitchen of Kyoto
- Nijo Castle: The Shogun's Residence
Kinkakuji is one of the most iconic landmarks in Kyoto, and a must-see attraction for any visitor. It is a Zen Buddhist temple that features a stunning golden pavilion that shines on a serene pond. The temple was originally built in 1397 as a retirement villa for a shogun, but was later converted into a temple after his death. The pavilion represents three different styles of architecture: shinden (aristocratic), samurai (warrior), and zen (meditative).
►What to do: Take a stroll through the Kinkakuji to experience its historical and cultural charm. The temple also has a beautiful garden that changes with the seasons, and a tea house where you can enjoy a cup of matcha.
►Tips: Kinkakuji is open from 9 am to 5 pm every day, and the admission fee is 400 yen. To avoid the crowds, try to visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
Gion is Kyoto's most famous geisha district, where you can experience the elegant and mysterious world of these traditional entertainers. Geisha are highly skilled artists who perform various forms of music, dance, and conversation for their guests. Gion is composed of several narrow streets lined with wooden buildings that house teahouses, restaurants, shops, and geisha houses.
►Best Time to Visit: The best time to see geisha is in the evening, when they walk from their houses to their appointments. You can also book a geisha experience through a reputable agency or hotel, where you can enjoy an exclusive performance and interaction with a geisha.
►What to Do during the Day: Gion is also a great place to explore during the day, as it offers many attractions such as Yasaka Shrine, Kenninji Temple, Maruyama Park, and Hanamikoji Street.
Fushimi Inari is one of the most impressive and photogenic places in Kyoto. It is a Shinto shrine dedicated to Inari, the god of rice and prosperity. The shrine is famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates that form a tunnel-like path up the sacred mountain. Each gate is donated by an individual or a business who wishes to receive blessings from Inari.
►How to Enjoy: The hike to the top of the mountain takes about two hours, but you can also stop at any point along the way to enjoy the views and visit the smaller shrines and statues.
►Tips: Fushimi Inari is open 24 hours a day and has no admission fee. The best time to visit is early in the morning or late at night, when there are fewer people and more atmosphere.
Arashiyama is a scenic area on the western outskirts of Kyoto, where you can enjoy nature and culture. The main attraction is the bamboo forest, a mesmerizing grove of tall bamboo stalks that sway with the wind and create a soothing sound. Walking through the forest is like entering another world, where you can feel calm and relaxed.
►What to See: Besides the forest also leads to other attractions such as Tenryuji Temple, one of the most important Zen temples in Japan; Okochi Sanso Villa, a former residence of a famous actor with a lovely garden; and Togetsukyo Bridge, a picturesque bridge over the Katsura River.
►Tips: Arashiyama can be reached by train from Kyoto Station in about 15 minutes. The bamboo forest is open all day and has no admission fee.
Kiyomizudera is one of the oldest and most beloved temples in Kyoto. It was founded in 780 on the site of a waterfall that was said to have healing powers. The temple's main hall is famous for its wooden stage that juts out over the cliff edge, offering a panoramic view of Kyoto city. The stage was built without using any nails or metal fittings, demonstrating the remarkable craftsmanship of the time.
►What to Do and See: The temple also has other attractions such as Jishu Shrine, dedicated to love and matchmaking; Otowa Waterfall, where you can drink from three streams that represent wisdom, health, and longevity; and Koyasu Pagoda, where you can pray for a safe childbirth. The temple is especially popular during the cherry blossom and autumn foliage seasons, when it is illuminated at night.
►Tips: Kiyomizudera is open from 6 am. to 6 pm. every day, and the admission fee is 400 yen.
Sanjusangendo is a temple that will awe you with its scale and splendor. It is a temple that houses 1,001 statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, arranged in 10 rows and 50 columns. The statues are made of wood and covered with gold leaf, and each one has a different expression and posture. The temple also has a giant statue of Kannon in the center, as well as 28 guardian deities that protect her. The temple was built in 1164 and rebuilt in 1266 after a fire.
The main gate of Sanjusangendo
►Highlight of Sanjusangendo: Besides the numerous and giant statue, it is the longest wooden structure in Japan, measuring 120 meters in length. The temple also has a garden that features a pond and cherry trees.
►Tips: Sanjusangendo is open from 8 am to 5 pm every day, and the admission fee is 600 yen.
Nishiki Market is a lively and colorful market that showcases the culinary culture of Kyoto. It is a narrow street that stretches for five blocks, lined with over 100 shops and stalls that sell various kinds of food and ingredients.
►What to Do: You can find fresh seafood, vegetables, fruits, pickles, tofu, sweets, tea, sake, and more. You can also sample some of the local specialties, such as sushi, tempura, yakitori, mochi, and ice cream. Nishiki Market is a great place to experience the flavors and atmosphere of Kyoto, as well as to buy some souvenirs for yourself or your friends.
►Tips: Unlike other markets, the Nishiki Market does not open early in the morning. However, it is best to head to the Nishiki Market around 11 a.m., as it becomes crowded with people.
Nijo Castle is a magnificent castle that was built in 1603 as the residence and headquarters of the shogun, the military ruler of Japan. The castle consists of two concentric rings of fortifications, each with its own moat, gate, and wall. The inner ring contains the main buildings, such as the Ninomaru Palace and the Honmaru Palace.
►Highlight of Nijo Castle: The Ninomaru Palace is the highlight of the castle, as it showcases the lavish lifestyle and power of the shogun. The palace has six connected buildings with 33 rooms, decorated with exquisite paintings, carvings, and gold leaf. The palace also has a unique feature: the nightingale floors, which squeak when stepped on to alert the guards of intruders.
►Tips: Nijo Castle is open from 8:45 am to 5 pm every day except Tuesdays, and the admission fee is 600 yen.
►Note: The Honmaru Palace was originally the residence of the emperor, but was moved to Nijo Castle after a fire. It is not open to the public, but you can see it from outside. The castle also has beautiful gardens that surround the buildings and moats.
These are some of the best places to visit in Kyoto that you should not miss when you visit this amazing city. Kyoto has so much more to offer than what we have covered in this guide, so make sure to explore as much as you can and discover your own favorites. Contact us to help you to create a unforgettable Kyoto tour in your style.