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From visiting ancient temples and lush gardens to eating local cuisine and Geisha-spotting, there are an astounding number of things to do in Kyoto, Japan. The history and beauty of Kyoto is simply fascinating. There is so much to see and do, in fact, that choosing which Kyoto garden to visit or what Kyoto shrine to skip can be challenging when planning a Kyoto Itinerary. In addition, while navigating to Kyoto must-see sights, visitors are faced with a sprawling city and a seemingly incomprehensible language. No need to stress! Our detailed Kyoto Itinerary includes absolutely everything you need for your trip!
The Best Kyoto Itinerary: Top Things To Do in Kyoto, Japan
Kyoto was the first stop on our Japan Itinerary – and we didn’t want to miss a thing! Not only did we want to see the top Kyoto tourist spots, we also wanted to have time to wander the neighborhoods and discover hidden Kyoto gems. There was no way we could fit everything we wanted to see and do into a Kyoto 1-day itinerary. Even 2 days in Kyoto would not have been sufficient time to see everything on our list. In the end, we allotted 3 days in Kyoto to experience the absolute best of the city.
About Our Kyoto Itinerary Blog Post
- To make our Kyoto Three-Day Itinerary as useful as possible, we have included information and/or links to all of the sights listed.
- Our Kyoto travel plan is designed as 3 days of self-guided walking tours along with the use of public transportation. To get to each Kyoto sight, we indicate our preferred method of travel: walk, bus, subway or train (based on the previous sight listed; for the first sight of the day, we use Kyoto Station as our starting point). Other methods of transport are taxis, rickshaws and bicycles. We’ll cover more about getting around Kyoto at the end of the article.
- We include Google Maps links for each Kyoto sight so that you can easily get the best directions from your current location. Note: Having an internet connection is essential in Japan! If you cannot adjust your existing phone data plan to be able to use data in Japan, we strongly advise renting a mobile hotspot or purchasing a SIM card.
- In addition to the links to Google Maps, we have created a helpful Kyoto map of sights, which is at the end of the itinerary. The Kyoto Tourist Information office does have maps, but we did not find them as useful as online maps.
- For each sight, we have indicated the price of admission so that budget travelers can more easily determine which Kyoto sights to visit. Unfortunately, we were unable to find an economical Kyoto Sightseeing Card that would have saved us money and/or time.
- Pay attention to hours of operation. Many of the Kyoto sights’ opening hours vary by day – and most close by 5:00pm. To make our Kyoto itinerary work for you, getting an early start is a must!
- Kyoto and the surrounding region is home to 17 World Heritage Sites, many of which are included in our 3 day Kyoto itinerary.
- Because some travelers will be limited to one day in Kyoto – and others may spend an entire week in the city – we include Kyoto trip planner tips at the end of the article.
- Other essential information – like where to stay in Kyoto, the best day trips from Kyoto and our best Kyoto travel tips – are also listed at the end of the post.
- This is a massive article with everything you need to know for visiting Kyoto. Be sure to bookmark this post, pin it or save it for future reference!
3-Day Kyoto Itinerary
Our Kyoto trip itinerary includes 3 days of sightseeing in the city center and just beyond. This is an ultimate Kyoto itinerary that includes the Kyoto top attractions, links, maps, information and details you need for your trip!
DAY 1 IN KYOTO
On the first day of your Kyoto Travel Itinerary, see the sights in the downtown Kyoto city center, including temples, shrines, gardens, museums and markets.
Rengeoin Sanjusangendo Temple
Kyoto National Museum
The Kyoto National Museum features art and artifacts. Unfortunately, it was closed during our visit due to typhoon damage. The museum is one of the top Kyoto points of interest. Fee: 520 yen | Walk | Map | Info
Toyokuni Jinja Shrine
Shosei-en Garden (Kikoku tei Mansion)
The somewhat-hidden Shoseien Kyoto Japanese garden features a pond, bridges and historic structures. The garden belongs to the Higashi Honganji Temple, where you will be heading to next. Fee: 500 yen | Walk | Map | Info
Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple
Nishi Honganji Buddhist Temple
Just to the west of Higashi Honganji is Nishi Honganji – or West Honganji. Nishi Honganji was built 11 years before Higashi Honganji in the year 1591. The temple, which is the headquarters of Jodo Shinshu, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Fee: Free | Walk | Map | Info
Located 3km north of Nishi Honganji Temple is the Nijo Castle. Built in 1603 as the residence of the first shogun of the Edo period, the Nijo Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Fee: 600 yen | Bus | Map | Info
Nishiki Market, Kyoto
The famous Nishiki Market is one of the best places to go in Kyoto to sample an array of local cuisine. The long, covered walkway features more than 100 food stalls selling everything from seafood on a stick to sweet pastries shaped like animals. Use this Kyoto Food Guide to Nishiki Market to find the best stalls or join one of the popular Nishiki Market Walking Food Tours – like this one on Viator. Fee: Free | Bus | Map | Info
Top Tip: For a contrasting food court option, check out the basement at nearby Daimaru. Throughout Japan, food courts in the basement of malls are a great place to find inexpensive local food on the go, like bento boxes.
One of the fun things to do in Kyoto is going to the bars – and there are a few nearby bars that we highly recommend visiting! For craft beer, check out Bungalow or for a standing bar experience, go to Premium Hyaku.
Also read our Kyoto travel blog post 10 Must-See Kyoto Temples and Shrines for more information!
DAY 2 IN KYOTO
On Day Two of your Kyoto tour itinerary, discover three of the best places in Kyoto: the Arashiyama district, Kinkakuji Temple and the Imperial Palace.
Arashiyama Kyoto District
One of the top things to do in Kyoto, Japan is to explore the northwest district of Arashiyama. Home to many Kyoto top sights, like the Bamboo Forest, Okochi-Sanso Villa Gardens and quaint temples, Arashiyama is a must-see. There are enough sights in the district to create a full day tour to Arashiyama, but because we are trying to fit as much as possible into three days in Kyoto, we only recommend visiting the highlights, as outlined below.
To Get To Arashiyama: The district is easily reached by train. From Kyoto Station, take the JR Sagano Line to the Saga-Arashiyama Station. Once in Arashiyama, all of the sights are within walking distance. Train Fare: 240 yen | Map | Info
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
Walking through the Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama is one of the most popular Kyoto activities. The paved path through the towering bamboo is just a short walk from the train station. The trail gets crowded later in the day, so make a point to visit the Arashiyama bamboo grove early in the morning. Fee: Free | Walk | Map | Info
Okochi-Sanso Villa Gardens
Near the west end of the Bamboo Forest is the opulent Okochi-Sanso Villa Gardens. Often touted as one of the city’s top attractions, the luxurious residential estate was once owned by a famous film actor, Okochi Denjiro, but is now open to the public. Key features of the grounds include the lush gardens, a viewpoint overlooking the city and teahouse (where guests are treated to complimentary matcha tea and a sweet). Fee: 1,000 yen | Walk | Map | Info
To the south of the villa gardens is a hilltop park, Kameyama-Koen Park, that overlooks the river. Paths weave through the park to an incredible viewpoint – and while many tourists don’t visit the park, monkeys often do! Fee: Free | Walk | Map | Info
Walk north – and pass by Jokakkoji Temple, Rakushisha and Nisonin Temple (more on those sights in a minute) – to Gioji Temple. The small temple sits in a moss-covered forest and looks absolutely magical. Fee: 300 yen | Walk | Map | Info
Saga Toriimoto Preserved Street
The historic Saga Toriimoto lane dates to the Meiji Period and is lined with traditional Machiya houses, now occupied by shops and restaurants. Fee: Free | Walk | Map
Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple
From Saga Toriimoto, veer to the left at the Y-intersection to Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple. The temple commemorates the souls of those who have died without family or kin. At the center of the temple grounds is a field of 8,000 stone statues for the nearly-forgotten deceased. Fee: 500 yen | Walk | Map | Info
More Things To Do in Arashiyama
From Adashino-Nenbutsuji Temple, you will need to backtrack and retrace your steps toward the center of Arashiyama. Before you continue with your Arashiyama-Kinkakuji itinerary, check the time. If you got a really early start, you might be able to squeeze in a few more things to do on your Arashiyama day trip before leaving the area. If it is already nearing noon, you need to keep moving; skip down to Arishiyama Station below.
Choose from the following sights to add to your Arashiyama itinerary.
Not a must-see temple, but Jokakkoji can offer a moment of peace if you are finding too many crowds elsewhere. Fee: 400 yen | Map
Rakushisha Poet Hut
Rakushisha is a quaint thatched-roof hut that was once visited by famous poet Matsuo Basho. Fee: 200 yen | Map
The Nisonin Temple is tucked into the forest and features paths that are lined with maple and cherry trees. Fee: 500 yen | Map
Considered one of the city’s five great Zen temples, Tenryuji is also designated a World Heritage Site. Fee: 500 yen to enter the garden, additional fees for other on-site attractions | Map
The first bridge crossing the Katsura River at this site was built in the year 836; however, the current Togetsukyo Bridge dates to 1934. Because of the historic style of the bridge, it is often featured in Japanese period films. Fee: Free | Map
Monkey Park Kyoto
On the south end of Togetsukyo Bridge is a hillside monkey park, Iwatayama. Visitors can hike to the top to see wild monkeys in their natural habitat. Guests are also invited to feed the monkeys (which makes us wonder just how wild they are). Fee: 550 yen | Info
Sagano Scenic Railway
The Sagano Sightseeing Railway (also called the Sagano Romantic Train) departs from Arashiyama and travels west through the lush nature in Hozukyo Ravine. Fee: 620 yen, one way | Info
Make your way to the Arashiyama Station (which is different from the Saga Arashiyama Station that you arrived at in the morning) and hop aboard the classic Keifuku tram for a ride through the suburbs to our recommended lunch spot, Okonomiyaki Katsu. Top Tip: Before leaving the Arashiyama Station, walk through the Kimono Forest of Fabric. Each pillar displays a patterned, traditional fabric used to make traditional clothing. Fee: Free | Walk | Map
Keifuku Tram Info: From Arashiyama ride 5 stops to Katabiranotsuji, then transfer to the Kitano Hakubaicho Line and ride to Ryoanji Station. The fare is 210 yen (pay on your final exit at Ryoanji Station) and can be paid with cash or transportation card (but not JR Passes). Info
Okonomiyaki Katsu for Lunch
For lunch, wander through the neighborhood from the tram station to find Okonomiyaki Katsu. Still somewhat of a hidden gem (even though it ranks #1 for Cheap Eats on TripAdvisor), the small, family-run restaurant is a must for visitors who like unique experiences. Order what they make best: Okonomiyaki – a Japanese savory pancake filled with meat or vegetables. If you are lucky enough to get a seat at the grill, you can watch them cook your meal right in front of you. Fee: Inexpensive | Walk | Map | Info
This neighborhood Zen temple is well-known for its rock garden, which is said to lead visitors into deep meditation. A lush garden and pond are also on-site at the UNESCO World Heritage Site temple. Fee: 500 yen | Walk | Map | Info
Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion)
One of the top Kyoto things to see, Kinkakuji Temple is incredibly picturesque. The Golden Pavilion, which is actually covered in gold leaf, sits on a lake creating beautiful reflections on the water. (Read more about Kinkakuji in our Kyoto Temples blog post.) Fee: 400 yen | Walk or Bus | Map | Info
Kyoto Imperial Palace and Park
Head back to the Kyoto center to one of the iconic Kyoto, Japan tourist spots: The Imperial Palace of Kyoto. The palace, which dates to the 8th century, served as the residence of the Imperial Family until 1869 when the emperor moved the capital to Tokyo. Top Tip: Pick up a useful brochure from the information center before exploring. Fee: Free | Bus | Map | Info
Go’o Shinto Shrine
Just west of the Kyoto Imperial Palace is the Go’o Shinto Shrine. Probably not making most lists of ‘what to visit in Kyoto,’ the Go’o Shrine is simply fun to visit because of its quirkiness. Featuring numerous pig statues (and even stuffed pigs), the shrine is dedicated to Wake no Kiyomaro, who is said to have had his leg wounds healed by the help of swine. Fee: Free | Walk | Map | Info
Most visitors pass through Kyoto Train Station multiple times when traveling around Kyoto, but we recommend actually stopping to tour the station. Be sure to check out the top floor view – and read this Kyoto blog on what to see at the station. Fee: Free | Subway | Map
Mushashi Sushi at Kyoto Station
Although it may seem unlikely, some of the best restaurants in Kyoto are in the train station. The 10th floor features top ramen restaurants, but we recommend eating at Musashi Sushi Train – it’s one of the top Kyoto places to go for conveyor belt sushi. There will most likely be a line, but it moves fast…and it’s worth the wait! Fee: Inexpensive for sushi | Walk | Map | Info
Standing at 131-meters-tall, the Kyoto Tower offers a viewing platform with incredible views of the city. Going to the top after dark is one of the cool things to do in Kyoto at night (the viewing platform is open until 9:00pm). Fee: 770 yen | Walk | Map | Info
DAY 3 IN KYOTO
On the last day of your 3 perfect days in Kyoto, walk two famous routes – the gate-lined Fushimi Inari Shrine trail and the Philosopher’s Path – then end the day in one of the best places to go in Kyoto: Southern Higashiyama and the Gion District.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
The Fushimi Inari Shrine is one of the top Kyoto places to see. However, it’s not the shrine itself that garners so much attention. What visitors go to see is the thousands of red torii gates that straddle the path through the Mount Inari forest. The trail is about 2.5 miles long and takes about 2 hours to complete. Note: The walk from the Fushimi Inari Station to the shrine is lined with vendors and shops, which are great for a morning snack. Fee: Free | Train | Map | Info
Ginkakuji Temple (Silver Pavilion)
Built in 1482 as a retirement residence for shogun Ashikaga Yosimasa, the villa was converted into the Zen Ginkakuji Temple in 1490. Yosimasa, the grandson of shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, modeled the Silver Pavilion off his grandfather’s retirement villa, Kinkakuji Temple. Fee: 500 yen | Train and Bus | Map | Info
Following the canal south from Ginkakuji Temple is a 2km stone path, better known as Philosopher’s Path. Lined with cherry trees, the path presents the opportunity to take a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood or visit some of the nearby sights. Fee: Free | Walk | Map | Info
Top Tourist Attractions in Kyoto near Philosopher’s Path
Along the route are some of the best attractions in Kyoto. However, with only 3 days in Kyoto, it won’t be possible to visit all of these attractions. Choose the destinations that interest you most to add to your Kyoto sightseeing tour, then skip down to Yasaka Shrine.
Considered to be one of Kyoto’s new shrines, Heian Shrine was built in 1895. There is a large torii gate at the entrance and the grounds are comprised of museums, gardens and traditional buildings. Fee: Free | Map
National Museum of Modern Art of Kyoto (MOMAK)
There are numerous exhibits at MOMAK, including paintings, sculptures, ceramics, bamboo works and photography. Modern Japanese art, as well as European and American contemporary art, are featured at MOMAK. Fee: 1,500 yen | Map | Info
Kyoto City Zoo
Opened in 1903, the Kyoto City Zoo is the second-oldest zoo in the country. The zoo was recently renovated (2015) and its collection of animals include elephants, gorillas, lions, tigers and bears. Fee: 600 yen | Map | Info
Zenrinji (Eikando) Temple
Set among lush nature, Eikando Temple is popular in the autumn when the colors change. Many visitors head for the Tahoto Pagoda, which is open for visitors to climb for views of the grounds. Fee: 600 yen | Map
Visitors to Nanzenji Temple are greeted by an enormous entrance gate, Sanmon Gate – which was built in 1628. The Zen temple complex, which is nestled at the base of the Higashiyama mountains, is comprised of buildings that date to the 14th century. Fee: 500 yen | Map
City center Maruyama Park is popular for the numerous cherry trees that are found throughout it. At the center is the Weeping Cherry Tree (shidarezakura). Note: The Cherry Blossom Season is usually from late March through the first two weeks of April. Fee: Free | Map
Yasaka Shrine (Gion Shrine)
Founded more than 1,350 years ago, Yasaka Shrine is one of the best sights in Kyoto. The highlight for many tourists is the stage with giant hanging lanterns. The annual Gion Matsuri Festival takes place at the shrine complex in July. Fee: Free | Walk or Bus | Map | Info
Kiyomizu dera Temple
Founded in the year 778 on the site of a waterfall, the Kiyomizu-dera Temple complex sprawls over a hillside and into a valley. The temple, which ranks as one of the top places in Kyoto to visit, has many on-site attractions. In addition to the viewpoint balconies, visitors can drink water from the falls in hopes their wishes will be granted. Fee: 400 yen | Walk | Map | Info
Gion Kyoto District
Visiting the historic Gion District is one of the top Kyoto, Japan things to do. Famous for the geishas that entertain in the area, Gion is host to numerous restaurants and tea houses. The district is located between Yasaka Shrine and the river. Not-to-miss streets, where Kyoto geishas are often spotted, are Shinjo Avenue, Hanami-Koji Street and Shirakawa Canal.
Geisha in Kyoto
In Kyoto, geishas are called geiko (a woman of art) and assistants, or geisha-in-training, are called maiko. In Kyoto culture, geiko entertain – by singing, dancing, playing games and making conversation – in traditional tea houses (called ochaya) and old-style houses (called machiya). The number of geishas in Kyoto are declining, but in Gion there are two geiko communities. Geiko in Gion are most likely to be seen in the streets in the evening as they walk to events. Spotting Geisha in the streets is obviously free (but it is severely frowned up to approach, chase or aggressively photograph them), but attending an event is very expensive and exclusive. To attend a dinner performance, book this Geisha Tour Kyoto on Viator.
One of the best Kyoto things to do at night is to stroll along Pontocho Street. The picturesque lane, which runs parallel the river, is packed with upscale restaurants and bars – some of which offer riverside seating. Find a place to eat on Pontocho Street and, afterwards, try local craft beer at Beer Bar Miyama 162. Use this Kyoto restaurant guide for where to eat on Pontocho Street.
Kyoto Sightseeing Map
This Kyoto Map includes our recommended sights for our 3-Day Kyoto Itinerary. The additional sights listed on Days 2 and 3 in our Kyoto travel guide are not on this map; use the link provided on the sight listing for location. Use this Google Map for an online map of the map displayed below.
More Things To See in Kyoto, Japan
If you need more ideas of what to do in Kyoto in 3 days, use the following suggestions to add to your best Kyoto itinerary!
There is an abundance of natural hot springs in Japan. Thermal baths where guests can soak in the thermal waters are called onsen. There are not many onsen in Kyoto (as compared to other parts of the country), but two nearby Kyoto onsen are Kurama and Tenzan-no-yu.
For other spa experiences, Kyoto has wellness centers where they specialize in massage. You can find a list of the top Kyoto spas on TripAdvisor.
For visitors who want to dress in the traditional Japanese kimono, there are several shops that rent outfits for the day. Wearing the traditional garb while sightseeing historic Kyoto castles and temples creates great photo opportunities! Book this experience in advance on Viator.
Kyoto Food Tour
The food in Kyoto – and, let’s be honest, all of Japan – is incredible. While some classic eats, like ramen and sushi, are popular throughout the country, there are many dishes that are unique to Kyoto cuisine. Read more about popular meals in Kyoto or use fellow traveler’s recommendations on TripAdvisor as a Kyoto Restaurant Guide.
Kyoto Guided Tour
There are many benefits to joining a Kyoto tour guide for city exploration. With guided tours in Kyoto, you will get first-hand knowledge from someone actually living in Kyoto; someone who knows all the best places to see in Kyoto and has no trouble getting from Point A to Point B. If you are looking for the best Kyoto tours, search on Viator – or check out the highly-rated tours listed below.
Gion Kyoto Walking Tour by Night
Learn about the geisha culture as you navigate the historic lanes of Gion after dark, where you just might spot a geiko in the streets. Find out more!
Arashiyama Kyoto Walks and Food Tour
Let a guide lead the way through Arashiyama to the top sights…and taste-test local cuisine along the way! Get the details!
Kyoto City Tour
Rated as one of the best tours in Kyoto, this half-day Kyoto local tour visits top Kyoto sights like Gion and Fushimi Inari Shrine. Check availability!
Kyoto Bus Tour
If you are trying to see the highlights of the city in a single day, a Kyoto sightseeing bus tour is a great way to do it! Read more about this bus tour!
Kyoto Cycling Tour
Join this popular small-group bike tour, which is limited to just 9 people. Visit some of the top temples on two wheels! Find out more!
Unique Japan Tours In Koyto
There are many unique Kyoto tours for guests to experience Japanese culture. Below are a few of the unique day tours in Kyoto:
- Tea Ceremony with a Tea Master – Book it!
- Calligraphy or Origami Class – Book it!
- Learn to be a Samuri – Book it!
Kyoto Private Tour
Take a custom tour with a professional, private tour guide of Kyoto. Tell your Kyoto private tour guide what you are interested in seeing and they will create a 1-day tour of Kyoto just for you! Find out more!
Kyoto Day Tour From Tokyo or Osaka
Although we don’t think a Kyoto one-day tour is long enough to really see the city, you can at least get a peek at it! Japan visitors who want to see as much of the country as possible may decide not to stay in Kyoto, but instead opt for a one-day tour Kyoto.
A Kyoto day trip itinerary will be an extremely condensed version of our outlined list of things to do in Kyoto. On the other hand, when you book a Kyoto tour package, the tour company will sort of the details of exploring the city – you just have to sit back and enjoy! A Kyoto 1-day trip is possible from various cities around the country – many day-trippers come from Osaka, Nara or Kobe – but there are day tours to Kyoto from cities further away, even from Tokyo!
Kyoto Day Trip From Tokyo
Visitors can choose from 1-day or multi-day trips from Tokyo to Kyoto. It is a possible to plan your own trip, but being so short on time, we recommend joining a Kyoto tour from Tokyo. Read more about these Tokyo-Kyoto trips on Viator.
Kyoto Day Trip From Osaka
Many travelers to the region decide to base themselves in Osaka rather than Kyoto. From Osaka, it is an easy day trip to the city. There are many choices when it comes to tours from Osaka, including multi-destination day trips (for example, an Osaka-Kyoto-Nara-Kobe itinerary). Find out more about the Osaka day trip itinerary options on Viator.
Day Trips From Kyoto, Japan
Because of the proximity to nearby destinations, day tours from Kyoto are a popular option for sightseeing in the region. Visitors who only have 3 days in the city can re-arrange our above Kyoto sample itinerary to fit in a desired day trip. For travelers staying longer than 3 days, there are plenty of options for side trips from Kyoto.
Kyoto Day Trip To Osaka
The cities of Osaka and Kyoto are just located just 55km (34 miles) apart from each other, but they are very different. Osaka is a much more modern city with heaps of malls and a popular theater district. Some of the top things to do in Osaka include shopping and visiting top sights like Universal Studios and the Osaka Aquarium. There are numerous ways to fill an Osaka tour itinerary.
Travel from Kyoto to Osaka: If you are planning an Osaka day trip from Kyoto on your own, you will have to sort your own transportation. Travel from Kyoto to Osaka is best done by train. Kyoto to Osaka train information can be found here. Otherwise, join a tour where the company will arrange all the details of your trip and Osaka itinerary. Staying in Osaka? Book a Kyoto day tour from Osaka here.
Day Trip From Kyoto To Nara
A Nara day trip from Kyoto is one of the most popular day tours from the city. Visitors can easily plan their own Kyoto to Nara day trip or join one of the highly-rated 5-hour bus tours from the city (like this Kyoto-Nara Tour on Viator). The top sights to include on your Nara Itinerary are the Deer Park (where hundreds of deer roam free), the Todaiji Temple and Kasuga Shrine. Use the Nara Travel Guide from the official city website.
Travel from Kyoto to Nara: If you are creating your own Nara one-day itinerary tour, you will need to plan your own travel between the two cities. Kyoto and Nara are just 45km (28 miles) apart and easy to get to by train. The Kyoto to Nara train lines are JR Nara Line and Kintetsu Kyoto Line. Kyoto-Nara train information can be found here.
Travelers who want to see all three cities can do so by planning their own trip or joining a private chartered tour. Guests staying in Osaka can book a day trip bus to Kyoto, Nara and Kobe. Find more info here.
Kyoto To Kobe Day Trip
Kobe is a port town famous for their wagyu beef brand, Kobe Beef. Spending time at the harbor, shopping, tasting sake and taking the ropeway to the mountaintop are all popular Kobe itinerary activities. Find out more information about booking a Kobe-Kyoto tour here.
Kyoto To Hiroshima Day Trip
Spend a day visiting the Hiroshima and Miyajima Island from Kyoto. Guests will visit the Peace Museum and Itsukushima Shrine, among other sights. Find out more here!
Kyoto Suggested Itinerary Ideas
When determining how long to stay in Kyoto, there are several factors to consider – such as interest, sightseeing pace and money. Once you know how many days in Kyoto, you can start your itinerary planning. Below we outline sample itineraries – from a half day in the city to a full week – that include top Kyoto attractions.
Pro Tip: Consider using Travel Planning Printables to get your vacation to Japan organized!
Half Day in Kyoto
To create a Kyoto Half-Day Itinerary, you need to pick your two to three top sights…and still plan to be rushed. Two Kyoto tourist attractions, which are close together, that we would include on a half-day Kyoto to-do list are the Fushimi Inari Shrine and Kiyomizu-dera Temple. If you would rather simply feel the vibe of Kyoto, we recommend wandering around the historic Gion District.
1 Day In Kyoto: What To See in Kyoto In A Day
You will be very limited in what you can see in Kyoto in a day, but if a Kyoto one-day trip is all you can squeeze into your itinerary, we think it’s worth the effort! We would include the following sights in a Kyoto One-Day Itinerary: Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Nishiki Market and Gion District. We think these sights would provide the best overall experience on a Kyoto 1-day tour.
Kyoto Itinerary 2 Days: What To See in Kyoto In 2 Days
Wondering what to do in Kyoto in 2 days? No need to worry – there are numerous ways to spend your time in the city. While 2 days in Kyoto isn’t that long, there is a lot you can squeeze into a Kyoto 2-Day Itinerary. The days will be long and packed with sightseeing, but you can cover a lot of ground by succinctly organizing your days. On a Kyoto 2-day trip, we recommend following the advice of what to do in Kyoto in one day (directly above) and then follow Day 2 in our detailed Kyoto 3-day Itinerary.
A second option for a Kyoto two-day itinerary would be to follow our advice for things to do in Kyoto in one day (directly above) and then spend your second day going further afield to Osaka, Nara or Kobe. All three cities are great options for a one-day trip from Kyoto.
Kyoto Itinerary 4 Days
With 4 days in Kyoto, we recommend following our detailed itinerary of what to see in Kyoto in 3 days and, on the final day, take a tour outside of the city. Choose from the list of best Kyoto day trips above to create your ideal Kyoto 4-day itinerary.
Kyoto Itinerary 5 Days
With 5 days in Kyoto, we recommend re-arranging our 3-day Itinerary just slightly to create this Kyoto sample itinerary:
- Day 1: Follow Day 1 of our detailed 3-Day Itinerary
- Day 2: Spend the entire day in Arashiyama. Create a full day by adding activities from our list of suggested things to do in Arashiyama (listed under Day 2 of our detailed itinerary).
- Day 3: Follow Day 3 of our detailed 3-Day Kyoto Itinerary.
- Day 4: Spend the morning seeing the sights skipped on our detailed itinerary for Day 2 (Kinkakuji and Imperial Palace), then in the afternoon go to the MOMAK Museum or one of the other popular sights that you skipped on day 3.
- Day 5: Take a day trip out of the city to Nara, Osaka or Kobe.
Kyoto 7-Day Itinerary
A week in Kyoto is ample time to experience the city sights and explore the regions surrounding the city. With one week in Kyoto, we recommend following our Kyoto 5-Day Itinerary (directly above) and adding more things to do around Kyoto. Some things to do might be going to the city zoo, visit other temples or getting a spa treatment. On the last day, add a second day trip – and consider going as far as Mount Fuji.
Looking for a complete Japan Itinerary? Our 2-Week Japan Itinerary is for you then!
How To Get to Kyoto, Japan
Getting to Kyoto is fairly easy, regardless if you are coming from another city in Japan or from overseas. The city is well-connected by buses, trains and a nearby airport.
If you are flying to Kyoto from another country, the closest Kyoto, Japan airport is the Kansai International Airport in Osaka (KIX). If you are arriving in Kyoto from another city in Japan, the Osaka Itami Airport (ITM) is actually closer to Kyoto. Search for the best airplane fares on Skyscanner. Flying means you will have to arrange transport from Osaka to Kyoto. The best way to travel from Osaka to Kyoto is by train. The Limited Express Haruka (operated by JR West) is the rail service to use between the airport and Kyoto Station. The ride takes an hour and 15 minutes.
Train to Kyoto Station
Whether you are flying or taking a train, your first stop in Kyoto will most likely be at Kyoto Station. The station is well-connected to other cities throughout the region and country. If you are traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto, the best option is probably to fly to Osaka and then take the train to Kyoto. However, you can also take the Tokyo to Kyoto Bullet Train. The ride will most likely cost the same, if not more, than flying. You can find fares, schedules and more information about the Tokyo-Kyoto train here.
Reverse Trip: Travel From Kyoto to Tokyo
If you are traveling from Kyoto to Narita Airport by train, the Kyoto to Tokyo train does not go to the airport. You will need to switch trains – and possibly modes of transport in Tokyo. Click here for the Kyoto to Tokyo bullet train schedule and other Kyoto transport information.
How To Get Around Kyoto, Japan
Once in Kyoto, there are multiple options for Kyoto transportation. In addition to taxis, there are buses, trains, trams and subways. And, even though Kyoto is sprawling, it is possible to cover quite a bit of ground by simply walking between destinations.
Using buses in Kyoto is a great way to get around the city – as most areas are serviced by buses. Within the city, buses charge a flat fee of 230 yen per ride. Beyond the flat-fare zone, you need to pay by distance. Fares are paid at the front of the bus with cash (exact change required, change machine on board) or pre-loaded transport cards (like SUICA or ICOCA), which require a simple tap when you exit. There is an All-Day Bus Pass that costs 600 yen and is good for unlimited rides.
There are only two subway lines in Kyoto: Karasuma, which runs north-south and Tozai, which runs east-west. Rides cost 210-350 yen and are paid for using a transport card.
Kyoto Train And Trams
Trains are a good option for going outside of the city center – for instance, when traveling to Arashiyama and south to Fushimi Inari Shrine. Prices vary by destination and fees are paid with a transport card.
Kyoto Rail Pass And Japan Transport Cards
There are two popular options for transport cards: the JR Pass (Japan Rail Pass), which is regional and can be used on some local transport, and a card like the ICOCA card, which is used on local transport.
Find more Kyoto Transportation Information.
Kyoto Tourist Map
Google Maps are great for getting around Kyoto, until your battery dies or you can’t find a signal. We highly recommend getting a Kyoto tourist map – either from the Kyoto Information Center or purchasing one in advance of your trip. A phone battery portable charger is also highly recommended!
Where To Stay in Kyoto, Japan
There are plenty of hotel options when it comes to Kyoto accommodation! There is a range of Kyoto lodging that fits every budget. During our visit to the city, we stayed in a Kyoto apartment hotel, Japaning Hotel Kyoto Station East, that far surpassed our expectations for the cost (we paid about $85 USD per night). An easy walk from Kyoto Station, the hotel was clean and spacious. Our room was equipped with a kitchen and washer, plus we had a balcony. One minor downside was that it was next to the train tracks, which was a little noisy, but most trains don’t run overnight.
Tourists who want to stay in traditional Japanese accommodations should search for Ryokan lodging. Although often lacking modern conveniences, staying at a Ryokan offers a more authentic experience and the opportunity to experience Japanese hospitality. Staying in Ryokan lodging is usually more expensive than staying in western-style hotels.
Capsule Hotel Kyoto
Kyoto backpackers and other budget travelers might want to stay in a capsule hotel in Kyoto. The rooms – or capsules – are basic and cheap, but offer few conveniences.
Not sure what Kyoto neighborhood to stay in during your trip? Check out this Kyoto lodging guide!
Whether looking for top hotels in Kyoto (like the Kyoto Century Hotel) or a basic room, we recommend starting your search for Kyoto places to stay on Booking.com – like we do!
Kyoto Trip Essentials
- Our 3-Day Kyoto Itinerary covers some ground! Make sure you pack the right travel shoes for trekking around the city. We recommend wearing a pair of lightweight and comfortable walking shoes for your trip. I (Sarah) have traveled with these shoes by Columbia and Skechers. Kris prefers wearing these shoes by Merrell.
- We’re certain you’ll be snapping tons of photos during your trip. Rather than relying on your mobile phone to capture the sights, upgrade to an actual camera for higher quality photos. We travel with a Canon Rebel (which takes amazing photos, but can be a bit clunky) and a Canon PowerShot ELPH (which takes beautiful pictures and is a slim and lightweight budget camera option).
- It’s easy to get turned around in any foreign city…and especially Kyoto! Make sure to have a good city map and/or guidebook – we recommend a Lonely Planet Kyoto book – before arriving. Whether you travel with a suitcase or backpack, you will also want a great day pack to organize all of your essential travel items.
- If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip to Japan, consider traveling protected with World Nomads.
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