Looking for things to do in Kyoto? Here are seven things you won’t find anywhere else.

Kyoto, the cultural capital of Japan, is filled with many historical attractions ranging from peaceful temples to old shrines.

In fact, the historical significance is so immense that there are a total of 17 UNESCO heritage sites in Kyoto.

With such an overwhelming number of things to do in Kyoto, any tourist should have a proper Kyoto itinerary when visiting – especially if you’re staying in Osaka and visiting on a day trip.

To save you the headache of planning your Kyoto trip, here are seven of the best attractions in Kyoto below.

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The 7 BEST Things to Do in Kyoto

#1 Kinkakuji 

Kinkakuji is arguably the most famous temple in Kyoto.

Kinkakuji translates to the “Golden Pavilion” in English and that is because the top two floors of the temple are covered by golden flakes.

Originally a retirement villa for the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, it has now become a Zen temple that attracts thousands of visitors per day.

Overlooking a big pond, visitors who come to Kinkakuji can stroll along its peaceful gardens as well the temple halls.

To get to Kinkakuji, you must take bus number 101 or 205. They are rather unreliable compared to the subway system so allow extra time when visiting Kinkakuji.

Opening hours: Kinkakuji is open from 9 AM to 5 PM daily.

Admission price: The cost of admission is 400 yen.

Address: 1 Kinkakujicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, 603-8361, Japan.


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Kinakuji temple with a lake in front
Kinkakuji is a zen Buddhist temple.

#2 Fushi Inari Taisha

Fushi Inari Taisha is a famous Shinto shrine located in the southern part of Kyoto.

Lined with thousands of vibrantly-painted vermilion torii gates, not only is Fushi Inari Taisha’s importance unquestionable. It is also a beautiful Instagram spot in Kyoto. 

Many visitors prior to visiting Fushi Inari Taisha think that it is a shrine that you visit and then go. However, that’s simply not true.

The thousands of torii gates line up to form a trail up Mount Inari. It takes a good 1.5 to 2 hours to get to the top of the mountain.

With little variety as you reach the top, I would advise not hiking all the way up. Just get to a point where you can admire the torii gates in peace.

Fushi Inari Taisha is easily accessible via the JR Nara line, which is free to travel with the Japan Rail Pass.

Travel Tip

The Japan Rail Pass will save you lots of money if you plan on visiting other placed in Japan – especially Hokkaido!

It’s cheaper if you order from your home country and you can order your Japan Rail Pass to be delivered up to 48 hours before you depart, so get it before you go.

Click here to order your Japan Rail Pass for the best price and get free delivery.

Opening hours: Fushi Inari Taisha is open 24 hours, making it a good activity to do in Kyoto at night.

Admission price: Admission is free. 

Address: 68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, 612-0882, Japan.

RELATED READ: What to do in Tokyo at night.

A path through countless orange torii gates at Fushi Inari Taisha in Kyoto Japan

#3 Arashiyama Bamboo Forrest

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is one of the top things to do in Kyoto.

Located in an area of the western outskirts of Kyoto known as Arashiyma, visitors can enjoy the scenic beauty of Kyoto there. Arashyiama Bamboo Grove is the perfect example of that.

A countless number of bamboo trees soar into the sky, creating a feeling that you are walking on another planet.

I highly recommend visiting when there are no other tourist because Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is best enjoyed in peace and solitude. The experience is not the same when you are being smacked by selfie sticks in the face.

If you can wake up early, I recommend arriving at sunrise. It is by far the best time to visit the bamboo groves.

If you can’t make it for sunrise, sunset is also a good time to visit because the tourists are starting to leave.

Adjacent to the bamboo forest is a UNESCO Heritage Site known as the Tenryu-ji temple. If you are planning to visit Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, stop by Tenryu-ji and learn about its historical importance!

To get to Arashiymama Bamboo Forest, I recommend taking the JR Nagano line from Kyoto Station (free with the Japan Rail Pass) to Saga-Arashiyama Station.

Opening hours: 24 hours a day – but you won’t see much in the dark!

Admission price: Arashiyama is free to enter.

Address: Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-0000, Japan.

A woman in traditional Japanese dress walks through a forest of bamboo
You’ll be amazed by the tall bamboo in Arashiyama Forest!

#4 Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market is a must visit in Kyoto if you love food and want a local experience.

Known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen”, this 5-block long street is lined with hundreds of vendors selling anything from fresh seafood to kitchenware.

Come to the Nishiki market to check out some of the local produce, including procured vegetables, unique seafood, and kitchenware. Nishiki Market is also one of the top places to buy kitchenware in Kyoto.

For visitors who love seafood, you cannot miss Nishiki Market when visiting Kyoto. You can buy fresh raw oysters in the market and eat it right there, very similar to Tsukiji Market in Tokyo!

Just be aware to not eat while you are walking because that is very disrespectful in Japanese culture.

Opening hours: Nishiki Market is open daily from 9:30AM to 6:00PM.

Admission price: Free.

Address: 609番地 Nishidaimonjicho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8054, Japan.

Barrels of food in Nishiki Market in Kyoto Japan

#5 Gion District

Gion is the most famous Geisha district, and also one of the best places to stay in Kyoto.

For those unfamiliar with the geishas, they are Japanese women whose sole purpose is to entertain the guests through arts, singing, and dancing.

Once upon a time, there were over 80,000 geishas in Japan. Nowadays, the number is much lower – somewhere between 1000-2000 geishas.

A majority of the geishas are located in Gion, the most popular district for geishas. If you are lucky, you can spot one walking down the historical streets in the Gion district. Marked by their kimonos and Oshiroi makeup, it is impossible not to notice them.

However, please don’t approach them and disturb their daily lives. Chances are they are on the way to work or going home from a tiresome day!

A geisha walking down the street in the Gion district of Kyoto

#6 Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama

Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama is a monkey park in Kyoto where you can find wild Japanese macaque monkeys.

If you have seen any photos of monkeys in a Japanese onsen (natural hot springs), the monkeys at the monkey park are the same type. However, instead of bathing in the hot springs, you will find them jumping from one tree to another and running wild.

The entrance of the monkey park is located at the bottom of the mountain and visitors have to take a scenic but steep path to reach the top of the park.

At the top is a small hut where monkeys are cared for but they are never caged or mistreated. Not only can you feed the monkeys at the top, but you can also get sweeping views of Kyoto down below. 

Since it is located in Arashiyama, you can easily pair a visit to the monkey park with a visit to the Arashiyama bamboo forest and Tenryu-ji temple.

Opening times: The park is open from 9 AM to 4:30 PM in the summer and 9 AM to 4 PM in the other seasons.

Admission price: The admission cost is 550 yen.

Address: Japan, 〒616-0004 Kyoto, Nishikyo Ward, Arashiyama Nakaoshitacho,

A monkey sitting on a tree trunk in Arahiyama Monkey Park

#7 Ginkakuji 

Ginkakuji is a name that you are probably familiar with because it sounds a lot like Kinkakuji (The Golden Pavilion).

I know what you are already thinking: if Kinakuji is the Golden Pavilion, then Ginkakuji must be the Silver Pavilion. Well, you are exactly correct! 

Gikakuji is kind of like the annoying brother you grow up with, always trying to copy you and everything you do.

The Ginkakuji is a zen temple located in the eastern part of Kyoto. Built by the grandson of the builder of the Kinkakuji, Ashikaga Yoshimasa modelled the Silver Pavilion after the Golden Pavilion.

However, unlike the name suggests, there is no silver on the Silver Pavilion. Unlike the aristocratic times in which the Golden Pavilion was built, Ginkakji was built during an art-focused era.

Contrary to how it appears, a visit to the Silver Pavilion is very different to a visit to the Golden Pavilion. 

Ginkakuji contains many unique attractions such as an immaculate sand garden and a moss garden. Visitors can stroll along the walking path around its grounds. With fewer visitors in Ginkakuji than Kinkakuji, you can feel more “zen” here, too.

Opening times: Ginkakuji opens daily from 8:30 AM to 5 PM. From December to February, it opens from 9 AM to 4:30 PM.

Admission price: The admission fee to Ginkakuji is 500 yen. For just a little more, you can book a tour with a nationally licensed guide.

Address: 2 Ginkakujicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8402, Japan. 

Ginkakuji Temple

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