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Visiting Kyoto’s Top Attractions

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After spending a week in Tokyo and three days in Osaka, we had three days to spend in Kyoto. I’ll admit I got a bit overwhelmed when planning what to do because there is SO MUCH to do in Kyoto. You could easily spend a week or two there and not run out of places to visit. Many of the sights are quite spread out as well, which means that we had to take buses and trains across town. In the end we were very happy with how much we managed to squeeze in; we saw everything that I was dying to see and we didn’t have to rush! To help you plan your trip, here are the top sights that I think you just have to see if you’re visiting Kyoto.

Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji)kinkakuji kyoto golden paviliongolden pavilion kinkakuji kyoto

The famous Golden Pavilion looks beautiful in photos and it’s even better in person. I could barely believe my eyes, it seemed almost unreal! Definitely worth visiting, despite being further away from the other sights and being very crowded during peak tourist season.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grovebamboo arashiyama kyoto, japankyoto arashiyama bamboo grove

There’s something very tranquil and peaceful about walking through the bamboo forest, even when there is a crowd of tourists around you. If you’re going during peak season like we did I would suggest going early in the morning before the big groups get there. Make sure you also visit the beautiful gardens of Okochi-Sanso Villa and Tenryu-ji Temple while you’re in the neighbourhood.

Fushimi-Inari Taishakyoto_fushimi inari taisha kyoto toriiFushimi-Inari Taishared torii gates japan

Probably one of the most iconic sights in Kyoto, the red torii gates at Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine are a pleasure to walk through. Inari is the god of rice and the patron of business and merchants. Each gate is donated by a Japanese business and you’ll find many stone foxes here which are Inari’s messengers. If the path through the gates seems crowded, just make sure you keep walking after most of the tourists have moved on to their next selfie destination! It gets very peaceful after around 15mins of walking up steps, and you get to see a nice view of Kyoto as well.

Kiyomizu-dera Templekyoto kiyomizudera blossoms kiyomizudera kyoto attractionskiyomizudera temple kyoto attraction

This huge temple is one of Kyoto’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It’s a beautiful place to see cherry blossoms, autumn leaves, and sunsets over the city. In addition to the main wooden hall, you can explore a few other buildings, waterfalls and shrines on site. The temple even has its own stunning Instagram account which you should check out!

Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zakakyoto sannenzaka cherry blossomkyoto cherry blossomskyoto attractions sannenzaka blog

These streets are so charming, they will make you fall in love with Kyoto. Lined with pretty old houses and nice little boutiques, it’s just a shame they are were crowded with tourists when we were there (like much of Kyoto during the cherry blossom season).

Gion Districtgeisha gion district kyototea house gion kyoto blog

The Gion district is famous for its geishas; head to the southern end of Hanamikoji Dori street in the evening to soak up the charming atmosphere and you might just spot one! It’s also the perfect place for afternoon tea, Japanese style – we loved Gion Mitoko.

Shimbashi Streetkyoto shimbashi street cherry blossomsjapanese weddingskyoto shimbashi street kimonos

According to Lonely Planet, this is probably the most beautiful street in Asia. When cherry trees are in full bloom it’s incredibly pretty. It’s also full of young couples taking wedding pictures and girls taking graduation pictures in kimonos, which makes it even more fun to walk up and down. It’s lovely at night as well – we had a wonderful dinner in one of the restaurants facing the canal (Kanikakuni).

Philosopher’s Path (Tetsugaku-no-Michi)philosopher's path kyoto path of philosophy kyoto philosophers path cherry blossoms kyoto

I’m not sure what the Philosopher’s Path is like the rest of the year, but during cherry blossom season it is the most amazing, magical place. It’s really just a canal lined with cherry trees, but it’s spectacular when everything is in bloom. Make sure you stop for a cherry blossom flavoured ice cream!

Silver Pavilion (Gingaku-ji)ginkaku-ji kyoto Silver PavilionGinkakuji Kyoto Silver Pavilion

This Zen temple was modelled after the Golden Pavilion, and although it has never been silver most people know it as the Silver Pavilion. It’s surrounded by a peaceful Japanese garden with ponds and moss-covered trees.


These are Kyoto's top attractions, from the bamboo grove to the most important temples and shrines.

Kyoto canalside houseskyoto attractions

After spending just a few hours in Kyoto, I fell totally in love with the place. It felt like another world, filled with pink cherry blossoms, Japanese gardens and beautiful geishas. I honestly thought Tokyo would be my favourite place in Japan (if not the world!) but Kyoto stole my heart!

What’s your favourite thing about Kyoto?

5 Tips for Planning a Trip to Japan

By Posted on 3 min read 5067 views


Travelling to Japan takes more preparation than your average holiday – at least that’s what I found. Some things I wish I’d looked into earlier than I did, others I was glad I had researched long in advance! Here are the five things I think everyone should do before getting on a plane to Japan:

Book hotels

So this may seem obvious to you, but I made the mistake of booking my flights long in advance then waiting several months before bothering to look into hotels. Hotels are expensive in Japan, especially during cherry blossom season! Don’t leave it to the last minute. For Tokyo, we ended up splurging on the wonderful Grand Hyatt Hotel for a few days, then being very disappointed by an APA Hotel in Shinjuku. Kyoto hotels seemed so busy at the weekends that we went to Osaka for a couple of nights before going there. If you want a more authentic experience, book a ryokan well in advance, preferably one that will serve food. If you’re thinking about trying a capsule hotel have a look at my tips or those of Travel Outlandish before you book!

Buy a Japan Rail Pass

If you are going to be taking a few trains while you’re in Japan, you need to buy a JR Pass before you get there. This will be a lot cheaper than buying tickets in Japan and will save you the hassle of buying a ticket for every journey.  We found that our pass was really convenient for travelling between Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Arashiyama and Nara. You can even use it for the JR lines within Tokyo. Have a look at how Justine did the math if you’re not sure whether the pass is worth it.

Order a sim card or portable wifi

You can have a sim card or a portable wifi device sent to your hotel so that it’s there when you arrive. I used Japan Wireless, although there are a few other companies offering the same service. I found having a SIM card with data to be incredibly useful for using Google Maps and looking up where to go next when we were out and about. No worrying about the phone bill when you get back home and no desperately trying to catch some public wifi!

Learn a few words of Japanese

I found that locals actually speak more English than I expected, but knowing a few words of Japanese was still really useful. I loved memorising things from the Lonely Planet Phrasebook, and it was small enough to carry in my pocket. I also used a few apps to practice listening and pronunciation, like Mirai Japanese or Memrise.

Find out if you need to book things in advance

By the time I found out that you needed to make a reservation by mail for the magnificent Kokudera moss temple in Kyoto, it was too late! If you want to do go-karting around Tokyo, you need to apply for an international driving license before you go. To visit an owl cafe, it’s best to email a few days in advance. If you’re into your food, you might want to reserve some of the top restaurants before you fly out to Japan.

Some things you don’t need to book in advance include your Pasmo (which can be used for public transport in different cities), the famous robot restaurant in Shinjuku, and seats on trains which can be reserved on the day you are travelling.


Also useful to know is how much money you’re going to need. Creative Travel Guide have put together a great little guide that tells you how much you can expect to spend on food, transport and different types of accommodation in Tokyo.


Have a look at my other posts for more tips:


If you’re going to Japan, is there anything more you would like to know about?

If you’ve been there before, do you have any other tips?


How to prepare your trip to Japan, from buying a Japan Rail Pass to booking a trip to an owl cafe!