Nara Travel Guide
Japanese purists maintain that Kyoto is for tourists and Nara is for the real explorers and admires of traditional Japanese history and culture. Founded on this is the fact that Nara was the capital of Japan before Kyoto and that Nara has indeed some very ancient and impressive temples and features.
Nara is also less ‘touristy’ than Kyoto, and offers a no frills, raw look into ancient Japan. Key sites to see include Toudaiji and Heijyou Kyou.
Nara Restaurants & Food [VIEW ALL]
Experience Local dining
59-11 Noborioji-cho | Nara-kōen, Nara, Nara Prefecture, Japan
For a bit of local fare, stroll on down to Shizuka (located next to the Nara National Museum, near by Koufuku-ji Temple), for a local dish called Kamameshi (Rice cooked in an iron put with various meats, seafood, and veggies of your selection).
Prices start at around 1000 yen and go as high as 2000 yen. The Shizuka's tremendous reputation always keeps it busy, so expect a 30-60 minute wait before you can be seated.
43, Shimomikadocho, Nara-shi, Nara, Nara Prefecture, Japan
If you've never had Unagi before (fresh water eel) then its time you've given it a whirl. Edogawa's Ungai is a favorite of locals in Nara prefecture which means its usually busy but don’t let that keep you from having this potentially life-changing experience.
Eel isn't the only thing the serve however, you can find sashimi sets, bentos, etc etc. Be prepared to spend a good $25 USD for eel. Or $40 if you're feeling wild and want to partake in the Eel Indulgence Set, which includes: grilled eel, eel hot pot, eel cucumber salad, Japanese Omelet & Eel, eel bone crackers, braised eel-livers, eel-liver soup... you get the idea.
Nara Sightseeing & Attractions [VIEW ALL]
Our top picks of things to see and do
The pride of Nara, Todaiji Temple (East Great Temple), stands as not only the most important temple in Japan but the largest wooden structure in the world. And in the spirit of all things big, it also houses one of Japan's largest Buddha statues, this one made of bronze and stands 49 feet high.
Ironically the Todaiji we see today is only 2/3 the size of the original Todaiji that was built in 752. The temple was destroyed in 1567 and rebuilt shortly after in 1692. However it was not rebuilt exactly to scale of the original for financial reasons.
Aside from the enormous main hall and Buddha there are many other things to see, including the massive wooden gate that leads up to the hall and the two giant statue guardians that stand on the left and right (26 feet high)
Isuien Garden and Yoshikien Garden
Compared to Tokyo and Kyoto, Nara’s complement of traditional Japanese gardens is surprisingly lacking. The only garden worthy of mention is the Iseien, sandwiched between Todaiji and the Neiraku Art Museum. While modest in size the Isuien is beautifully designed and landscaped. It is ideally viewed during the Autumn, early Spring or mid Summer.
Across a small river on the South side you can find the Yoshikien Garden which is very nice in its own right and should be explored also if you are already at the Isuien.
Nara Hotels & Accommodations [VIEW ALL]
Cheapest and best places to stay
1096 Takabatake-cho, Nara, Nara Prefecture 630-8301, Japan
Nara Hotels' location is perfect in regards to proximity to the many cultural riches and sightseeing in Nara, however it is definitely not walkable from the Nara Kintetsu Station. So travelers will need to take a taxi to and from the station should they want to do any traveling.
The rooms are clean and designed in an old classic/traditional Japanese fashion, as is the entire hotel, with old timber, fixtures, paintings abound. Overall it is a very enjoyable atmosphere.
It doesn't come without a price tag though, due to its location in the lake and park, prices start at around $190.
Single Occupant: $190
Double Occupant: $190
Super Hotel Lohas JR Nara-eki
1-2, Sanjo-honmachi, Nara Shi, Nara
While the name itself may conjur suspcions and horrors of a cheap Motel 6, fear not! The Super is as super as it gets for Nara. Let us expound.
The Super Hotel is located 1 minute by foot from JR Nara station. Which puts it directly in the center of the action. With Toudaiji Temple 15 minutes West and Heijyo Kyou Temple 15 East, and train lines in all directions for your convenience.
The rooms at the super are modern, new and clean, albeit slightly tacky however you can't complain for a price tag of $85 for a single traveler! Given the location and decency of quarters the Super is well, a super choice.
Single Occupant: $85
Double Occupant: $110
Train from Tokyo to Nara
Depart from Tokyo Station, via the Shinkansen NOZOMI 233, bound for Kyoto.
Arrive at Kyoto Station, transfer to the Kintetsu Limited Express, bound for Kintetsu Nara Station
Total time: 199min
Cost: 14,630 yen
Train from Osaka to Nara
Depart from Osaka Station, via the JR Yamatoji Rapid Service line, bound for Nara Station
Time: 50 min
Cost: 780 yen