Kyoto City An Exploration Guide

Kyoto City is one of Japan’s ten largest cities (population 1.5 million), full of temples and shrines like Fushimi Inari Shrine or the Nijo Castle. These shrines and temples hold significant historical and spiritual value to Japan’s deities who are said to watch over them. Although Kyoto has long since been removed as Japan’s capital it remains an incredible city to explore.

Emperor Meiji desired to relocate the Japanese capital from Kyoto to Edo in order to have more control over commerce and access to western nations. Edo was renamed Tokyo, which means “eastern capital” in Japanese.Once the capital city was transferred, the royal family moved from Kyoto to Tokyo.

Sunset over Kyoto City, view from Kyoto Tower

From 1868 until 1912, the Meiji period was in effect.

Whether viewing them from afar or participating in a hands-on tea ceremony at one of its many tea houses, seeing these shrines can be a magical experience while exploring Kyoto City.

Kyoto is Japan’s cultural center and was the country’s capital for 1000 years (794-1868), currently a popular tourist attraction. It is home to a multitude of Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, restored castles, and gardens, 17 of Kyotos sites have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Sightseeing is a glorious part of exploring Kyoto. Even walking down its ancient streets, you will notice many fascinating structures that capture your eye. The city of Kyoto is full of shrines, thousands of years old.

Kyoto city view at night with Kyoto tower

The historical value of these cherished locations adds authentic value to the experience. Many shrines are found in forests, requiring short hikes.

When visiting Kyoto City, plan ahead for the type of trip you want to have. For anyone who wants a laid-back adventure, sightseeing might be the best option.

Anyone who wants a memorable adventure may want to look at the thrilling activities available in many parts of Kyoto City. 

The Best Views in Kyoto City 

Kyoto City is a place of culture. Many of the views in this historical city involve the ancient architecture that dates back to over two thousand years ago. 

Temple roof at Kiyomizu-dera and Kyoto City view

The best views in Japan come from its natural landscape, and Kyoto City is no exception. With the many gardens and shrines, Kyoto City has beauty and historical value. 

Mount Koya

Mount Koya is a foggy and mysterious mountain that surrounds the active Koyasan Temple. This mountain, apart from others, is the temple lodging, available for a low price of 9,000 to 15,000 yen per person a night. These traditional temple lodges allow you to stay overnight in the temples, which offer a glimpse of the traditional Buddhist lifestyle. 

All rooms are traditional, Japanese-style rooms with tatami floors and fusuma (sliding) doors. Staying in the lodges is entirely optional, but it can make a major difference in your experience.

Maruyama Park

Kyoto’s most public park is a popular spot for sakura (cherry) flower viewing in early April. During Springtime, many vendors set up food stands around the massive weeping tree in the center of Maruyama Park. Surrounding the beautiful flower blossoms, Maruyama Park has become one of the most popular picnic locations in Kyoto. 

Maruyama Park is within walking distance of the world-famous Yasaka Shrine. Visiting this glorious shrine is the perfect way to finish the day for anyone interested in Japanese culture. 

Togetsukyo Bridge

One of the most popular tourist destinations in the Arashiyama regions is Togetsukyo Bridge. This scenic bridge is gorgeous no matter the season, and it is only 20 minutes away from Kyoto Station by bus. 

Every December, Togetsukyo Bridge is the location of a popular ten-day winter festival called the Hanatouro Festival! During the festival, the Togetsukyo Bridge is lit up with lights every night to celebrate love and winter!

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, more affectionately known as the Bamboo Forest, is a natural bamboo garden located in Arashiyama, Kyoto, Japan. The Bamboo Forest is one of the most magical sights to behold. It is also considered a natural soundscape of Japan by the Ministry of the Environment. 

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove or Sagano Bamboo Forest

There is no entry fee to the Bamboo Forrest, which makes it great bargain. Concessions are also offered, with street food, drinks, and souvenirs for low prices. 

The Best Attractions in Kyoto City 

There are many enjoyable attractions in Kyoto City year-round. Whether you want to explore a shrine or shop in the local market, there is something for everyone. 

Kyoto City offers many seasonal attractions where visitors of Kyoto City can soak in the rich history of Japan while enjoying the great outdoors. 

Katsura Imperial Villa

The Katsura Imperial Villa is a beautiful garden that allows visitors to join tours and enjoy its beautiful architecture. Each tour costs 1000 yen with limited same-day passes.

Tatami floors and sliding doors are a traditional symbol of Japan. These gardens are rich in Japanese history. With the many tours, you can learn the historical facts surrounding this gorgeous garden.

Kokedera Sutra Chanting 

At the Kokedera (Saihoji) temple, visitors can participate in monk-led sutra chanting for 3000 yen. In addition, monks will also lead visitors in sutra printing, where they practice the art of Japanese calligraphy.

Kokedera (Saihoji) temple

Pay an entrance fee and visitors can partake in sutra practices. After sutra copying, enjoy a long stroll in the moss garden, where you can observe over one hundred types of mosses.

Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market is one of the most enjoyable shopping experiences in Kyoto City. The laid-back atmosphere of the five-block market allows you to casually stroll as you shop. People shopping in Nishiki Market are in no rush, so feel free to take your time and observe the many goods only offered in Kyoto.

The delicious food from Nishiki Market is fresh and unique to Kyoto City. Stop by the myriad of shops and sample the delicious, freshly prepared food. Kyoto City’s Nishiki Market was founded over one thousand years ago as a fish market.

Today, the delicious fish continues to make it one of the most popular destinations in Japan for fresh food. Nishiki Market is one of the top providers of Kyoto pickled foods and several other unique stores. 

Nishiki Market fresh seafood

Nishiki Market has been called the “Kitchen of Kyoto” for generations. Food lovers must take a visit to this scrumptious market to indulge in the many delicious flavors that Kyoto has to offer.

Yasaka Jinja “Gion-sha” 

The Yasaka Jinji (八坂神社) is a glorious shrine located in the Gion area of Kyoto City. The bright red, orange, and green Yasaka shrine is known for its 

Yasaka Shrine is a colorful shrine known for love and vanity. According to Japanese mythology, the Yasaka Shrine is dedicated to Susano’o no Mikoto, his wife Kushiinada-hime, and their eight children.

Yasaka shrine is located near Shijo-dori shopping district, Kyoto City’s most famous shopping district. 

Wazuka Tea Plantation

No trip to Kyoto is complete without participating in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. So, why not go above and beyond when doing it? Visiting Wazuka Tea Plantation lets visitors experience Japan’s horticulture to its fullest.

As one of the largest Matcha and green tea producers, Wazuka Tea Farm has become a popular tourist destination. Day trips to this location let visitors partake in activities, tours, and tea ceremonies.

Top 10 Visited Sites And Attractions Of Kyoto

Kinkakuji (金閣寺, Golden Pavilion) is a Zen temple in northern Kyoto

Kinkaku-ji is a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan, formally known as Rokuon-ji. It is one of Kyoto’s most visited structures, with thousands of tourists each year.

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Ryoanji Temple (龍安寺, Ryōanji) is the site of Japan’s most well known dry rock garden

Ryoan-ji is a Zen temple in Kyoto’s northwest district. It belongs to the Rinzai branch of Zen Buddhism’s Myshin-ji school.

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Nijo Castle (条城, Nijōjō)

Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Period, constructed his Kyoto primary residence in 1603.

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Kiyomizudera Temple (清水寺)

Built-in 780 on the location of the Otowa Waterfall in the forested hills east of Kyoto, and takes its name from the pristine waters of the waterfall. The Hosso sect, one of Japan’s oldest Buddhist schools, was once affiliated with the temple.

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Kyoto Railway Museum

JR West inaugurated the Kyoto Railway Museum in April 2016 on the site of the original Umekoji Train and Locomotive Museum, about a 20-minute walk west of Kyoto Rail Station.

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Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社)

Recognized for the thousands of vermilion torii gates that line a series of pathways behind its major structures. The pathways go into the sacred Mount Inari’s forested woodland.

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Ginkakuji (銀閣寺, Silver Pavilion)

The Silver Pavilion complex consists of a half-dozen additional temple structures, a magnificent moss garden, and a one-of-a-kind dry sand landscape It may be appreciated by strolling around the grounds in a circular pathway.

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The Kyoto Imperial Palace (京都御所, Kyōto Gosho)

The Imperial Family of Japan resided here until 1868 when the Emperor and the capital were relocated from Kyoto to Tokyo.

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The Higashiyama District (東山) 

Small stores, cafés, and restaurants fill the streets of Higashiyama, which have been serving guests and travelers for generations. Although many have been refurbished over the years, many shops preserve their traditional style and continue to serve tourists today.

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Nishiki Market (錦市場, Nishiki Ichiba)

There are over a hundred businesses and cafes in this area. This bustling retail market, also known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen,” specializes in all things food-related, such as fresh seafood, fruit, cutlery, and cookware, and is a wonderful location to discover seasonal delicacies and Kyoto staples like Japanese sweets, pickles, dried fish, and of as always fresh sushi.

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Final Thoughts On Visiting Kyoto

Kyoto is known for many things, including its gardens, museums, ramen, pickled foods, sushi and much more. With the many shrines, Kyoto City is a valuable part of Japan’s history.

Arashiyama in autumn season along the river in Kyoto

As the Emporer’s previous residence between 794-1868, the architecture is full of rich history. Anyone interested in enriching their knowledge of Japanese culture should definitely visit this here. 

Geisha Looking at a Japanese Garden at Kenninji Temple in Kyoto

Kyoto City has some of the most flavorful foods, locations such as the “Kitchen of Kyoto,” the fresh Nishiki Market. This market has been open for thousands of years, dating back to its original foundation in 1310.

Ever since Kyoto has continued to grow with a mix of new flavors and innovative culinary techniques each year.

Kyotos famous bamboo grove

There is something for everyone in Kyoto. Whether you are a nature lover or an adventure-seeker, there is something for everyone to enjoy in Kyoto. Since Kyoto is surrounded by such rich culture, experiencing the shrines can be a very valuable experience.

A virtual visit to Kyoto

MT Lee
My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.