Kyoto is one of the most popular destinations in Japan, and for good reasons. It is a city that combines ancient history, cultural heritage, natural beauty, and modern amenities.
Whether you are interested in temples, gardens, museums, cuisine, or shopping, Kyoto has something for everyone.
In this blog post, I will share some tips on how to make the most of your trip to Kyoto.
Kyoto Travel Tips
When to visit
Kyoto has four distinct seasons, each with its own charm and attractions. Spring (March to May) is the best time to see the cherry blossoms, which are celebrated with festivals and picnics. Summer (June to August) is hot and humid, but also offers many events such as the Gion Matsuri, one of the largest festivals in Japan.
Autumn (September to November) is the peak season for viewing the colorful foliage, especially in the mountains and hills around Kyoto.
Winter (December to February) is cold and dry, but also has its own beauty with snow-covered landscapes and illuminations.
How to get around
Kyoto is a large city with many attractions spread across different areas.
The easiest way to get around is by public transportation, which includes buses, subways, trains, and taxis.
You can buy a one-day or two-day bus pass for unlimited rides on the city buses, which cover most of the tourist spots.
You can also use the subway or the JR trains for faster and more convenient access to some places.
Taxis are relatively expensive, but can be useful for short distances or late-night rides.
What to see
Kyoto has over 2,000 temples and shrines, as well as many other historical and cultural sites. It is impossible to see them all in one trip, so you need to prioritize according to your interests and preferences.
Here are some of the most famous and recommended places to visit:
- Kinkaku-ji: The Golden Pavilion is a stunning temple that is covered with gold leaf and reflects on a pond. It is one of the most iconic symbols of Kyoto and a must-see for any visitor.
- Kiyomizu-dera: This temple is famous for its wooden stage that juts out over a cliff and offers a panoramic view of the city. It is also known for its pure water spring that is said to grant wishes.
- Fushimi Inari Taisha: This shrine is dedicated to the god of rice and prosperity, and features thousands of red torii gates that form a tunnel-like path up the mountain. It is one of the most photogenic places in Kyoto and a popular spot for hiking.
- Arashiyama: This area is located on the western outskirts of Kyoto and offers a variety of attractions such as the bamboo forest, the monkey park, the Togetsukyo bridge, and the Tenryu-ji temple.
- Gion: This is the geisha district of Kyoto, where you can see traditional wooden houses, tea houses, and shops. You may also spot a geisha or a maiko (apprentice geisha) walking along the streets or performing at an ochaya (geisha house).
What to eat
Kyoto is known for its refined and elegant cuisine, which reflects its history as the former capital of Japan. There are many types of dishes and specialties that you can try in Kyoto, such as:
- Kaiseki: This is a multi-course meal that consists of seasonal ingredients and delicacies prepared in various ways. It is often served at ryokan (Japanese inns) or high-end restaurants, and requires a reservation in advance.
- Sushi: Kyoto has its own style of sushi, which is called kyozushi or saba-zushi. It is made with mackerel or other fish that are cured with vinegar and salt, and then pressed with rice in a wooden box.
- Tofu: Kyoto is famous for its tofu, which is made with high-quality water from the surrounding mountains. You can find many dishes that feature tofu, such as yudofu (tofu boiled in broth), tofu skin (yuba), and tofu ice cream.
- Ramen: Kyoto has a variety of ramen shops that offer different flavors and toppings. Some of the local specialties are shoyu ramen (soy sauce-based broth), tonkotsu ramen (pork bone-based broth), and shio ramen (salt-based broth).
- Matcha: This is powdered green tea that is whisked with hot water in a bowl. It has a bitter and refreshing taste, and is often served with sweets such as mochi (rice cakes) or wagashi (traditional Japanese confections). You can also find matcha flavored products such as ice cream, cake, and latte.
What to buy
Kyoto is a great place to shop for souvenirs and gifts, as it has many shops that sell traditional and modern items. Some of the things that you can buy in Kyoto are:
- Kimono: This is the Japanese traditional dress that consists of a long robe with a sash. You can find many shops that sell new or used kimono, as well as accessories such as obi (sash), zori (sandals), and kanzashi (hair ornaments).
- Yatsuhashi: This is a popular snack that is made of thin sheets of mochi (rice dough) filled with sweet bean paste or other flavors. It is often shaped like a triangle or a crescent, and has a soft and chewy texture.
- Noren: This is a fabric divider that is hung at the entrance of a shop or a house. It usually has a logo or a design that represents the name or the specialty of the place. It is a common sight in Kyoto, and can be used as a curtain or a wall decoration.
- Fans: Kyoto has a long history of fan making, and you can find many types of fans such as uchiwa (flat fan), sensu (folding fan), and kyo-sensu (Kyoto-style fan). They come in various colors, patterns, and materials, and can be used as a cooling device or an accessory.
- Pottery: Kyoto has many pottery studios and shops that produce and sell ceramic ware such as cups, plates, bowls, and vases. You can find different styles and techniques such as kiyomizu-yaki, raku-yaki, and kyo-yaki.
I hope these tips will help you enjoy your trip to Kyoto. It is a wonderful city that has so much to offer, and I’m sure you will have an unforgettable experience. Have fun!