Kyoto is a world-renowned city that preserves the essence of traditional Japanese culture. In that sense, visiting Kyoto is a truly magical experience. Considering it is one of the most relevant Japanese cities historically and culturally, it pays to plan your trip carefully. There is so much to see in this vibrant city, and for your convenience, we have selected top spots in Kyoto, Japan you cannot miss.
Kyoto is the perfect melange of traditional and modern
Kyoto is famous for being the imperial capital of Japan until 1968. Over 1000 years, this city developed into a mesmerizing place brimful with golden temples, gardens, and shrines. What makes it especially interesting is the opportunity to spot geisha in traditional silk kimonos and white makeup.
Kyoto is one of the last places where you can still do this, and if you are fascinated by this element of Japanese culture, then Kyoto is the place to be. Likewise, over 2000 Buddhist temples that grace this city are still active places of worship where you can see monks living and chanting in their flowing orange robes. The coexistence of traditional garments and modern city landscapes makes Kyoto a truly unique place.
However, Kyoto is far from being just temples and shrines. It is a vibrant, modern city characterized by glass and concrete high-rises, many restaurants, vending machines, and bars. What makes Kyoto stand out is that it exudes an urban flair mixed with natural wonders as it has a lot of green spaces and hills in and outside the city.
Furthermore, it is a lot smaller than Tokyo and Osaka, making sightseeing a lot more of an enjoyable experience. Yet, with as many as 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites, there are many top spots in Kyoto, Japan you cannot miss, whether you are traveling alone or with a baby. Read on to find out more about the Kyoto tours you shouldn’t miss out on.
1. Take a hike through Torii Gates
The glorious Torii Gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine are incredibly impressive as thousands of these orange gates are in a forest leading up to the shrine. This makes the visit to the shrine unique as you get to relish in the fantastic nature as you climb up the tortuous mountain road.
On the way up, you will see many smaller shrines. Notice the stone fox statues and miniature torii gates. The fox is a symbol of Inari, a Shinto god of rice to whom the shrine is dedicated.
The hike to Fushimi Inari Shrine lasts about an hour and a half, but if you have the time, you can easily spend at least 2-3 hours enjoying the view over the city.
Note that tourist crowds might spoil this site’s solitary, spiritual vibe, so be sure to visit the temple before 7 am or after 8 pm as it is open 24 hours. You can keep it in the list of Kyoto tours.
2. For old city vibes, go for a walk around Southern Higashiyama
If you like to feel the pulse of the city rather than crawl around surrounding forests and shrines, then Southern Higashiyama is the way to go. This area is one of the top spots in Kyoto, Japan, because its streets are one of the most well-preserved.
So, if you want to feel the spirit of Kyoto and its rich history, you can observe old wooden houses while walking on paved streets underneath the colorful paper lanterns.
Kyoto is an all-around enchanting city, but Southern Higashiyama is one of the areas that you should not miss out on. This area is perfect for a more relaxed way of sightseeing. You have plenty of lovely old shrines, such as Yasaka Pagoda, but the magic of this place is not contained in specific sights.
It is the old-timey vibe of the area that makes it unforgettable. So, if you plan to move to Kyoto in the near future, head down to Gion to get to know what this city is in its essence. Of course, organizing an international relocation is complicated, and you need to know how to avoid stress when moving to Japan, so it’s best to find reliable help when moving to Kyoto.
By hiring professionals, you can start your Japanese adventure as soon as possible.
3. Geisha Tour Kyoto
Visit Gion. It is the main geisha district in Kyoto. Gion is the famous geisha teahouse district we have already mentioned. If you want to lay eyes on a geisha, go there around 5.30 pm.
These spottings have attracted much attention in the last few years, so expect many tourists there. However, you should keep your distance and treat the geisha with respect. Other essential landmarks and streets here include the Shirakawa Canal and Yasaka Shrine.
For the best photos, go there at night and learn more about geisha culture under the glowing lanterns. The best walking tours happen precisely after nightfall because that is when you are most likely to spot a real geisha.
However, if you spend more than a few days in Kyoto, you can expect to see geisha in other Kyoto districts such as Kamischiken or Miyagawa-Cho.
4. Participate in a traditional tea ceremony
Tea ceremonies are known as chado or sado and are part and parcel of Japan’s daily traditions. If you want to take a rest from the busy streets and tourist sites, you should participate in a tea ceremony in Kyoto.
Kyoto’s tea ceremonies are particularly mindful because of the city’s Zen Buddhist history and culture. So, make sure you find the time to drink Japanese tea in a traditional Kyoto tea ceremony setting. It may add enjoyable value in your Kyoto tours.
5. Take a stroll in the Iwatayama Monkey Park
If you want to step just a little bit away from the beaten Kyoto paths, head down to Iwatayama Monkey Park. This tourist attraction is particularly entertaining if you are traveling with kids because you get the opportunity to see and even interact with monkeys by feeding them apples and nuts.
Just be warned – the park is sprawling with monkeys, so this experience might just be out of some people’s comfort zone.
6. Kiyomizu-dera Temple
Kiyomizu-dera is a famous Kyoto sight as it was built around 800 AD. It also offers a splendid view of the city since it is located in the Southern Higashiyama hillside area. The spacious wooden main hall is unique because it was built without nails. It is also famous for the striking statue representing Kannon; an eleven-faced, thousand-armed god.
However, Kiyomizu-dera temple is quite a large area with a couple of impressive sights to behold. Starting from the monumental entrance gate, you can continue up to the red pagoda or check out the odd Tainai-meguri, a spot where you are supposed to make a wish in total darkness. This is one of the strangest things you can do in Kyoto, but it is quite memorable and striking.
In Kyoto tours, this temple is a part of the must-see attractions; So, if you are looking for a peculiar, bizarre thrill amid quiet shrines and forest paths, this temple complex is one of the top spots in Kyoto, Japan you cannot miss.
7. Kyoto Bike Tours
If you are in Kyoto, then don’t miss the opportunity of bike tours. To get an overview of the city, a bicycle is a great mode of transport. Kyoto is famous for its bike tours. You can view more sights of Kyoto than a walking tour. Travelers can get a more intimate experience than a bus tour.
Kyoto has a lot to show. There are some tour operators who offer fantastic bike tours with their knowledgeable guides. Kyoto bike tours are crafted on culture, leisure, and scenery.