Max Zaharenkov

Top Things to Do in Kyoto, Japan and Where to Stay

Top Things
Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital, is a city where history and modernity harmoniously blend. Known for its stunning temples, beautiful gardens, and rich cultural heritage, Kyoto offers an array of experiences that captivate every visitor. Whether you’re exploring for the first time or revisiting to discover more hidden gems, here are the top things to do in Kyoto and some fantastic places to stay.

1. Visit the Majestic Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)

Have you ever seen a temple that looks like it’s floating on water? Kinkaku-ji, or the Golden Pavilion, is one of Kyoto’s most iconic landmarks. The temple’s top two floors are covered in gold leaf, creating a stunning reflection in the surrounding pond. Walking through its beautiful gardens is a serene experience you won’t want to miss.

2. Explore Fushimi Inari Taisha

Have you ever walked through thousands of vibrant red torii gates? Fushimi Inari Taisha is famous for its long pathways lined with these gates, leading up to the sacred Mount Inari. The hike offers breathtaking views of Kyoto and is a spiritual journey filled with smaller shrines along the way.

3. Stroll Through the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Ever felt like you’ve stepped into another world? The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is a magical place where towering bamboo stalks create a mesmerizing canopy. It’s a perfect spot for a peaceful walk or a bike ride. While you’re in the area, don’t miss the scenic Togetsukyo Bridge and the nearby Tenryu-ji Temple.

4. Discover the Beauty of Kiyomizu-dera

Kiyomizu-dera, perched on a hillside, offers stunning views of Kyoto. Have you ever been to a temple where you could drink sacred water believed to grant wishes? The temple’s famous wooden stage and the Otowa Waterfall are just a couple of the highlights. The surrounding streets are filled with traditional shops and eateries, perfect for a leisurely afternoon.

5. Wander Through Gion District

Are you fascinated by traditional Japanese culture? Gion, Kyoto’s famous geisha district, is the place to experience it. Stroll through the historic streets lined with wooden machiya houses and you might even spot a geisha or maiko heading to an evening appointment. The district is also home to the stunning Yasaka Shrine and Maruyama Park.

6. Visit Nijo Castle

Step back in time at Nijo Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Have you ever walked through a castle with “nightingale floors” that chirp as you step to prevent intruders? The castle’s beautiful gardens and impressive interiors offer a glimpse into the life of the shoguns.

7. Experience the Philosopher’s Path

Looking for a peaceful retreat? The Philosopher’s Path is a scenic walk along a canal lined with cherry trees. Named after the philosopher Nishida Kitaro, who meditated while walking this route, the path is especially beautiful during the cherry blossom season. Along the way, you can visit quaint cafes, shops, and smaller temples like Honen-in.

8. Enjoy a Traditional Tea Ceremony

Kyoto is the perfect place to experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Have you ever wanted to learn the art of tea preparation? Various tea houses in Kyoto offer authentic tea ceremonies where you can learn about the history and techniques of this ancient practice. It’s a serene and cultural experience that’s both educational and enjoyable.

9. Explore Nishiki Market

Are you a food lover? Nishiki Market, also known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen,” is a bustling marketplace where you can sample a variety of local delicacies. From fresh seafood and pickles to sweet treats and unique snacks, it’s a paradise for food enthusiasts. Don’t miss the chance to try Kyoto’s famous yuba (tofu skin) and matcha-flavored sweets.

10. Relax in the Tranquil Ryoan-ji Zen Garden

Have you ever found peace in simplicity? Ryoan-ji Temple is home to Japan’s most famous rock garden, a perfect example of Zen philosophy. The carefully arranged rocks and raked gravel create a calming and meditative environment. It’s a place to sit, reflect, and find inner peace.

Where to Stay in Kyoto

Choosing the right place to stay can enhance your Kyoto experience. Here are some top recommendations:

1. The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto

If you’re looking for luxury, The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto, offers stunning views of the Kamogawa River and Mount Higashiyama. The hotel combines modern amenities with traditional Japanese aesthetics, providing an opulent and serene retreat.

2. Hotel Kanra Kyoto

Hotel Kanra Kyoto offers a blend of modern design and traditional elements, making it a comfortable and stylish choice. Located near Kyoto Station, it’s convenient for exploring the city. The hotel’s minimalist rooms and on-site restaurant provide a relaxing and cultural experience.

3. Kyoto Granbell Hotel

For those seeking a more budget-friendly option without compromising on comfort, Kyoto Granbell Hotel is a great choice. Located in the Gion district, it offers easy access to many of Kyoto’s top attractions. The hotel’s chic design and cozy atmosphere make it a pleasant place to unwind after a day of sightseeing.

4. Ryokan Yachiyo

For a more traditional experience, consider staying at Ryokan Yachiyo. This traditional Japanese inn offers tatami-matted rooms, futon bedding, and a serene garden. It’s an excellent way to immerse yourself in Kyoto’s cultural heritage.

Expert Travel Tips

Planning a trip to Kyoto? Here are some tips to make your stay even more enjoyable:

1. Book Accommodation Early: Kyoto is a popular destination, so booking your stay well in advance is recommended, especially during peak seasons.

2. Use Public Transport: Kyoto’s public transport system is efficient and convenient. Get a day pass for buses and subways to explore the city easily.

3. Visit During Cherry Blossom Season: Late March to early April is a magical time to visit Kyoto, as the city is adorned with beautiful cherry blossoms.

4. Wear Comfortable Shoes: Kyoto involves a lot of walking, especially when exploring temples and gardens, so make sure to wear comfortable footwear.

5. Stay Hydrated: Carry a water bottle, as Kyoto can get quite warm, especially during summer months.

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