Kyoto Travel Guide: The Ultimate

Free video on Kyoto

Kyoto travel guide gives a general view before your visit to Kyoto. Kyoto is one of the most favorite cities in Japan. No other place than Kyoto will result in your amazing trip to temples and shrines, geishas and gardens, tradition and history. A visit to Kyoto will make you feel immersed in Japan’s culture and tradition. 

However, your journey is overwhelmed by Kyoto as it offers so many choices to view that it’s difficult to decide where to start. This is the reason why you read this Kyoto travel guide to walk from scratch to the full satisfaction at the end of the trip. I wanted to share the best tips with you. 


As Kyoto inherits stunning historical and cultural relics across the city, you have a chance to experience and see a Kyoto of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, of scenic gardens and geisha. Or you discover a Kyoto of atmosphere, culture, tradition, history and gastronomy. 


Your passport decides whether you need a visa or not. Navigate the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan for more information.


Completely opposite to the state-of-art cities like Tokyo and Osaka, Kyoto is home to ancient temples and holy shrines. It retains long-standing characteristics of an over-a-thousand-year tradition (794-1868) - before Japan’s ruling shifted from the Shogun to the Emperor.


Hence, they are very well-known all over the world and one of the must-visits. You expect crowded groups of visitors at the tourist attractions at any time of the day. Thus, prepare yourself for such a situation to avoid ending up frustrated or disappointed. 

Best time to visit

The good times for Kyoto are Spring (Mar-May) and Fall (Oct-Nov) when the landscape come to the most striking level and the weather is perfect. In these seasons, you will find a compelling change in color

Spring offers you an eye-catching panorama of pink, white cherry blossom and Autumn brings to you a bright range of reds, oranges, and yellows. 

Travelling in Kyoto

There are many transportation means from the international airport to Kyoto as follows:


You have the only rail service, the Limited Express Haruka Train, which takes roughly 80 minutes. You pay for a non-reserved seat at JPY 2,900. You get a discount when purchasing them in advance.   


The Limousine bus service runs 24 hours a day. It’s a better choice for an off-hour ride. The trip costs JPY 2,600 and is 100 minutes long. 


A door-to-door shuttle bus service serves you at the cost of JPY 4,300. You take at most 2.5 hours to a hotel. 


It’s the best option if you have children and a lot of luggage, You expect no less than JPY 30,000 per way. 


A private transfer is available for you in Kyoto. 

Hotels for Kyoto

Before deciding where to stay in a visit to Kyoto, you compare Kyoto’s main areas for accommodations, attractions, foodies, and shopping to see whether it’s suitable for your need. Check out the list of hotels.

Main tourist attractions

As I mentioned above, you will have a feeling of the abundance of the local and foreign tourists pouring into temples and sightseeing places. Don’t be scared or disappointed. Thanks to it, you feel safe because you aren’t alone. 

I give you a glimpse at the top five highlights that combine classic must-visits and attractions before you come there in person. Use Google Maps or the iPhone Maps app to locate all the sights I list below, which helps you have a general view of your itinerary. 

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

The Kiyomizu-dera temple, a popular place, perches on a hill, gives a stunning panorama from here. Like other temples, the temple includes a number of buildings, thus you have a chance to discover much more than the main building. The temple closes at 6 pm sharp. Around 15 minutes before closing gates, the staff kindly ask you to leave.

Also, the temple offers characteristic landscapes in each season that provides a wide view of cherry blossoms in spring, green panorama in summer, beautiful leaves in fall, and snow scenery in winter. And mountains that surround the temple provide various views from sunrise to sunset.    

Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine

It’s probably the most well-known Shinto shrine. Few leave Kyoto without paying a visit to the shrine. But the highlight doesn’t center around the shrine but the Torii. A path which is paved by thousands of red torii walk you up to the top of the mountain. There, you will enjoy a panoramic view. 

You will witness the rush of crowds at the foot of the mountain, which probably makes you turn back to leave. But grin and bear it, the more you come up, the calmer it is. It takes you about two to three hours on this trip. You will have an exciting view when arriving at the Yotsutsuji junction.  

The best time to travel is sunrise when you find a few crowds. Or you can go at sunset. At the viewing platform at the intersection, you have a glimpse to the west towards the sunset. About 8 am, the shrine opens for the public and a number of crowded groups already exists in front of the gate. 

Kinkaku-ji: the Golden Pavilion

The Kinkaku-ji offers you a large number of famous photo chances in Kyoto. Its upper floors are filled with gold leaves that give the name of Golden Pavilion. The silhouette of the temple reflects on a nearby pond. The natural beauty has drawn a huge crowd that you may want to flee right away. Furthermore, it’s not worth coming early as you are not permitted to come in. 

The Kinkaku-ji probably takes you a short time to explore. Making a clockwise journey around the quiet pond, you will discover Mt Kinugasa in the background, then exit through the rear gate. A temple dedicated to a wrathful Buddhist deity stands in the Upper Garden.

Geisha in the Gion and the Higashiyama District

Here, you have a chance to learn about a geisha life, view a house adjoining another. Thus, Gion is the geisha district where you have a high probability of meeting a geisha. It’s normal if you ask them to take a photo or out of respect we don’t do.

Hostesses of geishas in brightly colourful kimonos used to appear on the Tatsumi Bridge, at high-end Japanese restaurants, and at boutiques along Hanamikoji Street. Gion Corner holds traditional dances.   

Kennin-ji Temple

The temple represents the ancient Zen temple in Japan. Only a stone’s throw away from here is the famous Hanamikoji-dori. To enjoy the Zen atmosphere in serenity, stay away from the hustle and bustle of visitors, you should come in the late afternoon before the closing hour.



The long corridors and typical windows offer you time to do selfies. A stunning image of a dragon decorates the ceiling of the Dharma Hall which deserves seeing.  

Where to eat and drink

In your visit to Kyoto, this is a very attractive part.

Affordable sushi

  • Sushisei (Downtown Kyoto; mid-range)
    Sushisei is an affordable sushi restaurant downtown and a comfortable place with you.
  • Azuma Sushi (Southern Higashiyama; mid-range)
    Eating sushi here won’t break the bank.
  • Den Shichi (Central Kyoto; mid-range)
    As a good and approachable bars, Den Shichi offers you delectable sushi in a classic sushi-bar.
Best Cafes in Kyoto
  • Café Bibliotic Hello! (Central Kyoto; budget to mid-range)
    It’s a lovely uber-hip café shop. 
  • % Arabica Higashiyama (Southern Higashiyama; budget)
    The stylish coffee bar occupies an attractive position, leading to Yasaka-no-To Pagoda.
  • Kurasu Kyoto (Kyoto Station area; budget)
    Just a stone throw away from Kyoto Station, Kurasu Kyoto is a cozy cafe that serves gourmet coffee. As a bonus, they can speak Englisht. 
Best Vegan/Vegetarian restaurants
  • AIN SOPH. Journey Kyoto (Downtown Kyoto; budget to mid-range)
    If you are a vegan, AIN SOPH Journey is your place. Try to savour mouth-watering pancakes and irresistible chocolate gateau.
  • Izusen (Central Kyoto; mid-range)
    It brings to you a vegan meal in peaceful  surroundings.
  • Sujata (Northern Higashiyama; budget)
    Lunch sets cost aound JPY1000 a pop.

Best Shops in Kyoto

Kyoto is not only well-known for temples, shrines, and serene atmospheres but also a shopping paradise with high-end departments of stories. Below is a glimpse of traditional and modern stores. Kyoto downtown is compact and within a walking distance from the subway stations. 

Department Stores

  • Daimaru Department Store: A large department store with a plentiful food floor.
  • Takashimaya Department Store: Another department store with a super food floor and a restaurant floor.
  • Isetan Department Store: Inside the gorgeous Station building exists a all-round department store with two food floors.

Arts & Crafts Emporiums

  • The Kyoto Handicraft Center: If you want to buy some souvenirs for your family members and buddies, art and craft outlets and souvenir centers are right addresses you put in your mind. 

Best Kyoto Markets

You will find some best markets as follows:

  • Nishiki Market: a marketplace in downtown Kyoto.
  • Kobo-san Flea Market: open at To-ji Temple on the 21st per month.
  • Tenjin-san Flea Market: organised at Kitano-Tenmangu Shrine on the 25th per month.

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