The centuries-old city of Kyoto, Japan, is teeming with must-see historical landmarks, immersive cultural experiences, enticing shopping areas and an endless supply of places to explore Japanese cuisine. With so many sights to see, it can be difficult to know exactly where to start and what to do in Kyoto. Get a head start on your itinerary with these top 8 attractions in Kyoto.
Travelers looking for Kyoto airport information may be surprised to find out that they cannot fly directly into the city. International visitors to the region will most likely fly into Kansai International Airport in Osaka. Travelers flying from other destinations inside Japan, however, could end up at Osaka International Airport, also known as Itami Airport, or Kobe Airport, which both handle domestic flights to the area. Osaka International Airport is about an hour’s drive from Kyoto, and the journey takes about an hour and thirty minutes from Kobe Airport. Since a majority of travelers arrive at Kansai International Airport, tips on navigating one of Japan’s busiest airports can come in handy.
Kyoto Attractions | Best Places to Visit on a Holiday in Japan
11 February 2020
Kyoto is known for its many historic landmarks, and Kyoto attractions include famous Buddhist temples, stunning gardens, Shinto shrines, imperial palaces, and traditional wooden houses, called machiya. Kyoto is also one of the most popular places for people to visit during the cherry blossom season, as well as during the fall when the autumn leaves change color. This beautiful city was once the capital of Japan and remains one of the most remarkable cities in the country. Located on the island of Honshu and to the north of Osaka, Kyoto is also famous for its traditional Japanese dining, called kaiseki, where multi-course meals are meticulously prepared and served to guests, as well as its geiko (known as geisha in Tokyo) and maiko performers who have been honing their craft in this area for centuries. Rich with food, history, and culture, Kyoto attractions appeal to history lovers, food lovers, and travelers who are looking to experience a piece of the old world in a thoroughly modern city.
Kiyomizu Temple, also known as Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera, is a remarkable Buddhist temple that is located in eastern Kyoto in the historic Higashiyama District. Founded in the 8th century, Kiyomizu Temple is a part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto UNESCO World Heritage site and is one of the most famous temples in Kyoto. Construction has been ongoing in recent years, which means there may be scaffolding covering parts of the temple’s exterior. However, visitors are still able to access the main parts of the temple without issue. Located on top of Mount Otowa, the multi-leveled, wooden Kiyomizu Temple offers stunning views from its veranda, making it a great spot to visit for photography fans or people who are looking for gorgeous social media shots.
Higashiyama District, also known as Higashiyama-ku, is a beautifully preserved historic district that fully captures how feudal Japan looked. This historic district is filled with traditional homes and shops, including tea houses and pottery stores, and is also home to restaurants, historical temples and shrines, and much more. Though many tourists will stop through Higashiyama during springtime when the cherry blossoms bloom, this amazing city is a great stop for any tourist looking to experience the rich culture of the area, while also getting to see what life was like during the feudal era in Japan. Located along the slopes of Kyoto’s Higashiyama, which translates to Eastern mountains, this remarkable area makes for a great visit for tourists who enjoy slowly immersing themselves in history.
A community of Kyoto that is known for its traditional wooden storefronts and rich Geisha culture, Gion is a district that celebrates the past and present of Japan. While in Gion, visitors can dine at award-winning restaurants, visit one of its Ryokans, take in the natural beauty of its wilderness, watch the Geishas perform traditional dance and theatrical moves, and lodge in expertly-designed hotel rooms that allow for a tranquil experience.
Home to 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Kyoto is a modern city that is steeped in history, so things to do in Kyoto are easy to find! In addition to religious sites like Fushimi Inari Shrine and Sanjyusangen-do Temple, visitors to Kyoto will want to make sure to visit some of the many imperial historical sites like Nijo Castle, which was built in 1603. It’s not all about the ancient past, though. Kyoto offers plenty of modern delights like Michelin-starred restaurants, luxury hotels and a cutting-edge rail system that makes it a breeze to get around the city.
Known for its renowned green tea that is superior in quality and taste to many other varieties of the region, Uji is an idyllic village city located in Kyoto Prefecture. A fantastic daytrip from Kyoto, Uji is nestled along the Uji River and presents guests of all ages a plethora of cultural and historical attractions to explore. Not only has Uji been creating high-quality and delicious tea for thousands of years, but it also is one of the oldest cities in all of Japan. Its town and countryside are dotted with ancient shrines and temples as well as beautiful naturescapes that beg to be explored further. For those who wish to see the quieter side of Japan and learn more about its ancient history, head to Kyoto and spend some time in Uji.
Before moving to Tokyo Imperial Palace in 1869, the Emperor of Japan and the Imperial Family lived in Kyoto in what is now one of the city’s most visited tourist attractions. Kyoto Imperial Palace (also known as Kyoto Gosho) consists of four main buildings, plus several smaller halls and residences. While the buildings can only be admired from the outside, visitors can enjoy Kyoto Imperial Palace guided tours to view the gorgeous grounds and learn more about the history of this incredible landmark in Kyoto.
For many foreign visitors, Kyoto encapsulates the essence of Japan, and renting one of the many traditional houses in Kyoto adds an extra touch of authenticity to any holiday in Japan. Traditional houses, or machiya, for rent are scattered throughout the city, and many are located near top Kyoto attractions and things to do. Explore the most traditional machiya for rent in Kyoto, and start planning an itinerary according to where you decide to stay!