Kyoto Sightseeing & Attractions
Our top picks of things to see and do
16 Renge, Uji, Uji City, Kyoto Prefecture
Originally built as a luxury pavilion back in the days of extravagance, the Byodo-in Temple was converted into a temple in the year 1053.
The temple's design is a one of a kind, and further distinguishes itself from others with its garden and pond in front of the main hall (the Pheonix Hall, which is an original wood structure, making it one of the few in Japan still standing, as most of them have been rebuilt due to fires and earthquakes.
In the complex you can also find the Treasure House where you can admire the many artifacts and learn of the temple's history.
1 Kinkakuji-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto City
Like the Byodo-in, the Kinkakuji (Golden Pavillion) was also a former residence from the age of extravagance which was then converted into a temple. However as you may already know, the Kinkakuji has the unique feature of having the exterior of its two upper floors completely covered in gold leaf, and with the very top floor's interior completely gilded as well.
Unfortunately visitors are not allowed to enter nor even get close to the temple, you must stand far off at a considerable distance. This is due to tightened security.
The admission is 400 yen and there is a tea house where you can enjoy some macha (green tea) and a snack to add to the experience.
Nothing beats a stroll through a busy Japanese market, dodging the crowds and hecklers, taking in the aromas, to get one immersed in the local culture. This particular market specializes in food, with stalls selling anything from meats, produce, snacks, seafood, etc etc. The majority of the stalls sell food stuffs straight up, while some sell prepared food.
It goes without saying that if you truly want the most local and authentic dinning experience then Nishiki is where you need to be.
Kyoto Imperial Palace
Kyoto Gyoen 3, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto City
While not nearly the scale of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Kyoto's does not disappoint and offers much sightseeing and exploring, with a garden, two palaces, a museum and other goodies to see.
The palace itself is located within the Kyoto Gyoen park, a lovely traditional Japanese garden which must be viewed in the spring for its cherry blossoms.
Travelers rejoice! The Palace is one of the few places where there are tours given in English! Come Monday-Friday between 10am-2pm and take advantage of this rarity. The tour is a little over an hour long.
1-chome, Kiyomizu, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City
Built way back in the day circa 778 before Kyoto was the Capital of Japan, Kiyomizu-dera (Clearwater Temple) remains a one of a kind temple in the structure of its main hall. Nestled high in the Otowa Mountain the main hall juts out on an a slope with heavy wooden scaffolding supporting it. This 'balcony' if you will presents a brilliant view of Kyoto and environs and is referred to as ‘the wooden stage’ of the temple.
However, there is more than just the hall to enjoy. The entire complex is filled with goodies:
Starting at Kiyomizu-dera, and taking the Sannenzaka Stairs down you begin your journey on the most picture-esque and quintessential 'Japanese' walk you can imagine (especially if it is in the spring time and the cherry blossoms are abloom)
This walk starts in the Mountain of Otowa and takes you through winding streets all the way down to the city at Maruyama Park.
You'll find the street (although it is for pedestrians only) lined with shops and restaurants, all of the traditional character. If you think of Takayama's Old Town but more intimate and on winding descending streets you'll get the idea.
After you’ve descended Mt Otowa’s Kiyomizu-dera, through the winding streets of Higashiyama and finally to Maruyama park.... continue West just a little more and you’ll run straight into ‘Gion’, Kyoto’s living and breathing Geisha District, where on any given moment you are likely to see a pair of Geisha or Maiko shuffling across the street. In this area you can visit the ‘chaya’ (tea house) where you will be entertained by a Geisha, however be warned it can be expensive.