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Top 10 Things to Do in Kyoto

9 mins. read

Known for its rich history and unique culture, Kyoto is a place that paints a perfect picture of real, traditional Japan. This beautiful city served as the national capital for more than a thousand years before the honour was transferred to Tokyo in 1868. This is also the reason why Kyoto is home to a number of iconic landmarks, offering a sneak peek into the glorious past of the country. However, this doesn’t mean that this place is all about history and has nothing else to offer. From beautiful natural wonders and awe-inspiring architectural marvels to old traditional markets and ultra-luxurious malls; there are so many things to see in Kyoto.

In short, this city offers a magical experience that no other place can. So, if you are looking for a place to plan a fun-filled holiday with some exciting stuff to do, Kyoto in Japan is the best option you have.

Top 10 Things to Do in Kyoto

While planning a trip to a place as fascinating as Kyoto, you may find yourself lost in a sea of options when it comes to deciding how to spend your time here. For your convenience, here is a list of the 10 best things to do in Kyoto, Japan, that you can use to make your vacation a memorable affair:

1. Explore Temples and Shrines

Fondly called the Temple Capital of Japan, Kyoto is home to over 1600 Buddhist temples. In addition to this, you can also find approximately 400 Shinto shrines here. So, if you are someone who loves visiting spiritual places like these on a trip, you’ll have plenty of options here. Some of them are centuries old, while others were built recently and serve as a great example of modern Japanese Buddhist architecture. Here are a few must-visit temples and shrines to cover on a Kyoto tour:

  • Kiyomizu Temple
  • Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavilion)
  • Ginkakuji (the Silver Pavilion)
  • Fushimi Inari Shrine
  • Yasaka Shrine
  • Toji Temple
  • Heian-jingu

2. Visit the Imperial Palace

Serving as the Japanese capital, Kyoto also used to be the primary residence of the emperor. The Kyoto Imperial Palace housed the royal family for more than 1,100 years, until 1868. Even after all these years, the current structure still preserves the look and ambience the way they were during that era. In today’s time, you can visit this palace for free, but tourists cannot enter any of the buildings. For people with a deep interest in history, visiting the iconic landmark is a must-do in Kyoto. To get some detailed information about the palace and the Japanese royal family, you can also book a guided tour.

3. Take a Walk on the Philosopher’s Path

Also known as Tetsugaku no Michi, the Philosopher’s Path is a scenic, stone-paved walking trail. This path got its name from Nishida Kitaro, a famous Japanese philosopher. It is believed that he used to take this route on his daily commute to Kyoto University. Located in the northern part of Kyoto's Higashiyama district, it covers a long stretch of 2 kilometres. Because of the serenity this place offers, taking an early morning or late night stroll here is one of the must-do things in Kyoto. This pedestrian route runs along the Lake Biwa Canal and is lined by hundreds of cherry trees. During the spring, when cherry blossoms are in full bloom, these trees start exploding with colour. So, if you’re planning a trip around this time, it is one of the best things to see in Kyoto.

4. Visit the Kyoto International Manga Museum

Being the largest manga museum in Japan, it is among the most popular tourist attractions in Kyoto. Here, you can find a large collection of over 300,000 manga-related exhibits, ranging from caricature woodblock prints of the Edo period to magazines of the Meiji, Taisho, and early Showa periods. Housed in a former elementary school, this awe-inspiring museum is the best place to learn about the history of manga and manga publishing in the country. In addition to this, the Kyoto International Manga Museum also hosts regular drawing exhibitions, live shows for manga making, cosplay events, etc. So, if you are looking for some unique and fun things to do and see in Kyoto, this is a great option you can consider.

5. Spend an Afternoon in Tranquil Zen Gardens

Being the spiritual centre of Zen Buddhism in Japan, Kyoto is home to a number of beautiful Zen gardens. You can find them in every corner of the city, as almost every Zen temple has a garden on its premises or in close proximity. If you want to spend a peaceful afternoon, nothing can be better than these meticulously landscaped grounds with greenery all around.

6. Visit Nijo Castle

Kyoto is known for being home to a number of historic samurai castles, and Nijo Castle is undoubtedly the most fascinating one. Built in 1603, this iconic structure served as the official Kyoto residence of Tokugawa Leyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Period. Years later, his grandson, Iemitsu, further expanded this castle. Being one of the best-surviving examples of castle palace architecture from Japan's feudal era, this beautiful castle was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. Designed to show off the prestige and wealth of those rulers, it is among the major tourist attractions in the city.

7. Plan a Visit to Arashiyama

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Any list of things to do in Kyoto City is always incomplete without the mention of Arashiyama. Located in the western part of the city, there is a small district at the base of the Arashiyama Mountain with the same name. Apart from being home to a number of temples and shrines, Arshiyama has several other tourist attractions. One of them is Iwatayama Monkey Park, where you can find a large number of wild monkeys. This park has been designed to replicate their natural habitat so that they can roam around freely. Other than this, Arashiyama is also home to a spectacular green bamboo forest. Exuding a different kind of natural serenity, the Bamboo Forest, Kyoto is visited by a large number of tourists throughout the year. If you’re looking for some fun things to do in Kyoto, spending a day in the Arashiyama district is one of your options.

8. Try Some Traditional Japanese Dishes

If you are a food lover and want to try authentic Japanese cuisine, there is no place better than Kyoto. There are a number of restaurants in the city that serve delicious traditional dishes. From Herring Soba to Obanzai, Saba Sushi to Ramen, there are a number of options that you can choose from. You can also try Kaiseki dining, which is a multi-course meal with some unique, flavorful dishes. Since Kyoto has a great Buddhist influence, you can also find plenty of vegetarian and vegan choices here.

9. Explore the Nishiki Market

Another must-visit place for food lovers is the Nishiki Market in Kyoto. Stretching for five blocks, this market is a narrow street where you can find everything related to food. From small food joints to kitchen stores and market stalls, there is a lot to explore. You can find hundreds of regional specialities here, including pickles, sweets, and sushi. So, if you want to get an insight into Kyoto’s gastronomic culture, come here with an empty stomach and explore as much as you can.

10. Try Different Matcha Products

Kyoto is the uncontested matcha capital of Japan, where you can find a wide range of drinks and desserts made with matcha. So, from enjoying a steaming cup of authentic matcha tea to trying heavenly-tasting matcha cookies, you have plenty of options here.

With this comprehensive list of things to do in Kyoto, you can easily plan a trip and enjoy it to the fullest. To make sure that no important activity or place gets missed, you can also book a guided Kyoto tour with Veena World.

February 17, 2024


Veena World
Veena World

We are an Indian travel company founded in 2013 and excel at domestic and international tour packages including guided group tours, specialty tours, customized holidays, corporate MICE travel, inbound travel and destination weddings.

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