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  • Writer's pictureRobynne Trueman

Top 10 Things To Do In Kyoto, Japan

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

Kyoto is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited. Once the ancient capital of Japan, this historic city is full of enchanting buildings, shops, natural attractions and exceptionally friendly people. If you're visiting Japan, it's simply a place you cannot miss, and I would say I preferred my time in Kyoto to the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.

The serenity associated with a Japanese tea ceremony is precisely the atmosphere you experience while strolling down the streets of Kyoto. From Gion to Arashiyama, here are the top 10 things you need to do and see if you find yourself in this magical place.

1. Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is one of the famous spots to visit near Kyoto. It takes approximately 20 minutes to get there from Kyoto Station. Take the JR train to Saga-Arashiyama Station and from the station, it's an easy walk to the forest. It's a good idea to arrive early because it gets extremely crowded by 10 AM.

2. Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market is a fun indoor market in Kyoto that spans five blocks. There are tons of vendors selling everything from fresh seafood to matcha treats, and bubble tea. The market is open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM. Remember, it's considered rude to eat while walking in Japan, so stand still or find a seat before consuming any food you purchase!

3. Fushimi Inari Taisha

Fushimi Inari Taisha is a Shinto shrine in Kyoto that is dedicated to Inari, the God of Rice. There are 10,000 of the iconic orange Torii gates that weave their way up mount Inari (32,000 gates counting sub-gates) which makes for a beautiful hike. When visiting during the summer as we did, be sure to start early in the morning before it gets too warm out. It takes about 2-3 hours to complete the entire hike.

4. Explore Gion Historic District

Gion is Kyoto's historic district with traditional Japanese architecture and charming tiled streets. This is where you might be lucky enough to get a glimpse of a Geisha. There are also tons of shops to enjoy and a variety of restaurants.

5. Take Part In A Traditional Tea Ceremony

A traditional Japanese tea ceremony is a must-do experience while in Japan and we thought Kyoto was the perfect place to try it. We booked ours at Maikoya Kyoto and loved the experience. We were able to try on the traditional Kimono for the ceremony and then learn about the methods for making the tea. It's almost like a meditation and was a soothing and interesting demonstration that took a couple of hours from start to finish.

6. Watch The Sunset At Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Kiyomizu-dera Temple is a gorgeous Buddhist temple in Kyoto. It's part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto UNESCO World Heritage Site and overlooks the city from the hill it's perched upon. To get to the temple, you can walk through Gion and the historic city streets which lead up to the historic monuments that Kiyomizu-dera Temple is part of.

7. Kinkaku-ji Temple

Kinkaku-ji Temple was one of my favourite temples in Japan, probably due to its serene location. It's easy to get to Kinkaku-ji from JR Kyoto Station. Simply take the Kyoto City Bus 101 or 205. Arriving at the temple, which is surrounded by nature, is peaceful despite the crowds of visitors. The top two floors of this Zen temple are covered in gold leaf, making it even more beautiful.

8. Eat Dinner At Kichi Kichi Omurice

For a meal you're not likely to forget in your lifetime, have dinner at Kichi Kichi Omurice while in Kyoto. The restaurant is extremely popular (for good reason) so make a reservation in advance. We got lucky and were able to get in on the same day, but if you want a seat at the bar with a great view of chef Motokichi Yukimura working his magic, you'll need to reserve ahead. The signature dish is the omurice which is a special type of omelette and sauce over top of rice.

9. See The Monkeys At Iwatayama

Photo By: Ivan Ramin Radnik

On the same day that you make the trek out to Arashiyama from Kyoto, you can also visit the Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama. It's a short walk away from the Bamboo Forest and requires a hike up to reach the spot where the monkeys live. You can view them from inside a caged area (humans in the caged area, not the monkeys) so that there is a barrier between you and the monkeys when feeding them. Always be sure to follow safety guidelines for walking past and being near wild animals. Signs are posted on the trail up to the monkeys with this information.

10. Eat Souffle Pancakes At ELK

Japanese souffle pancakes are a must-try breakfast meal while in Japan and I recommend the restaurant ELK in Kyoto. We loved our experience there. The interior of the restaurant is very cozy and beautifully decorated and the food was exceptional. I got the orange and caramel pancakes and Ramin go the banana chocolate. Both were delicious!

For more information about exploring Kyoto, Japan, check out my YouTube video documenting our time there.


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