During my trip to Japan I visited spectacular places: Beppu, Miyajima, Mount Fuji and Tokyo. On this post we sum up our favorite things to do in Kyoto.
To get to Kyoto, we took the Shinkansen Bullet Train. It's a great way to travel (and the fastest) and is an experience in itself. We recommend you buy the JR Pass in advance (before you travel to Japan) so you can take as many trains as you want during your stay in the country. We arrived in Tokyo and visited Mount Fuji before taking the bullet train to Kyoto, from Kyoto you can then visit Nara. This small city is rich in ancient Japanese culture thanks to its eight Unesco World Heritage Sites.
Ever heard of a Ryokan? It is a traditional Japanese Inn where guests sleep in tatami-matted rooms. It makes for a more authentic experience. If you prefer a big bed with a less traditional style, check other boutique hotels at Wander and we’ll give back to the social cause you care about.
Top things to do in Kyoto
There are heaps of temples, torii gates and shrines in Kyoto. Just to make sure you don't miss out on any of the highlites, here's a list of our favourites:
Fushimi Inari Taisha (Fushimi Inari Shrine)
Thousands of vermilion tore gates are placed one after the other creating a tunnel that climbs a hill to reward the two hour hike (4 kilometers) with one of the best experiences in the country. Along the way, there are small fox statues (kitsune) and sub-shrines. It’s easy to get lost, but Japanse kindness will always put you in the right path. We started our walk in the afternoon to appreciate the thoughtful lighting, however it was hot and there were a lot of mosquitoes, so if you are also visiting during summer take your mosquito repellent with you! To get there take the Keihan Electric Railway, the Fushimi Inari station is close to the shrine.
From the Fushimi Inari you can visit the Tofukuji Temple, a peaceful zen temple, where you can relax by observing the stone garden. To access the temple, cross a huge gate that. There is also a moss garden inside. If you are traveling in fall you’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful colors the gardens take.
Take a tour of the sake breweries in the area. A sake tasting tour will teach you everything you need to know about this traditional drink.
Kinkaku-Ji (Golden Temple)
This is our favorite temple of all of Japan, no doubt about it! The main building is gorgeous and the surrounding gardens are really beautiful. It’s a really popular temple, and has many many visitors including locals, but if you are in no rush, you can find just the right moment to take the perfect picture and admire schoolchildren in their cute outfits.
Ginkaku-ji (Silver Temple)
Get to the Ginkaku-ji by walking on a beautiful street with plenty of shops. It is a pleasant walk before you arrive at this temple. Original plans for the temple were meant for it to follow the same style as the golden temple. Instead of gold laminates, builders were supposed to use silver laminates. Unfortunately, it was never was finished because of a lack of resources and now although it is not silver it’s still known as the silver temple. The best part of visiting the Ginkaku-ji is that it has buildings with several floors and you can have an overview of the main building and the city from their balconies.
One of the quieter spots in Kyoto, this temple with its zen garden is also one of our favorites. Spend some time staring at the lines perfectly made in the white sand. The stones also perfectly placed in strategic positions are designed to bring you a unique piece of mind. This experience extremely soothing.
This neighborhood is really pretty and is a traditional location for tea houses. It's a good spot to find Geishas wearing their spectacular costumes. The steep streets give an overview of the quaint, low-rise wooden houses. In these streets you’ll find several shops to buy souvenirs, food or special things you didn’t know you needed until you saw them. If you are traveling to Kyoto in April, you’ll have the chance to experience in the Kaburenjo Theater the Miyako Odori, a dance festival where dozens of Geikos and Maikos perform a delicate spectacle.
In this neighborhood you’ll find the Shinmonzen-dōri and Furumonzen-dōri , running east–west, a couple of streets where you can get lost and admire the old houses, visit some art galleries and spot a treasure in the antique shops.
In our guidebook, they recommended a visit the most beautiful street of Asia in the evening (it was not cherry blossom season when it’s supposed to be at its best). We don’t have pictures of Shimbashi (Shirakawa Minami-dōri), because we were too absorbed by the beauty of this small spot in the city. To get there, walk from Shijō-dōri along the northern section of Hanami-kōji and take your third left.
Finish a visit to this area with dinner at Kappo Sakamoto, one of the best restaurants in Kyoto.
This is another traditional and beautiful area that seems to be untouched by time. It is just a few streets, but they feel like they're full of magic, especially if you visit them in the evening. As it happens in Gion, it’s easy to spot Geishas in the narrow streets. To get to Poncho, take the tube to Shijo-Kawaramachi station and walk towards the river, the alleys on your right will take you to this remarkable area. If you cross the river you’ll find the Gion neighborhood.
This is a short walk along a canal lined by cherry-trees, of course as anything else in this garden oriented city is better in cherry blossom season. Even though the cherry trees were at their peak during our visit, the walk is a beautiful experience.
The path starts very close to the Eikan-do Temple and finishes near the Ginkaku-ji temple.
To find out where to stay in Kyoto visit wander.io, you can choose the best hotels at the best rates and Wander will support the social cause you care about at no extra cost.