Top 10 Things to do in Kyoto – Explore the captivating city !

File:Kyoto, Kinkaku-ji, Golden Temple (6172337393).jpg – Wikimedia …

The historical city of Kyoto is a symbol of quintessential Japanese culture and tradition. A perfect amalgamation of everything that is beautiful in Japan and its culture. There are so many historically priceless monuments and elements in Kyoto that makes it an eminent place on the cultural map of the world. Kyoto has one of the world’s largest collections of UNESCO World Heritage Sites; total 17 of it. Kyoto is a city of history and heritage.

Peaceful temples, colorful shrines, picturesque-elegant gardens, exquisite food, alluring nature…and that’s Kyoto!
Everything here is so refined and beautiful; the whole city is a feast for the eyes. Kyoto is a true epitome of Japanese sophistication. Every nook and cranny of Kyoto has its own grace.

Kyoto has a lot to offer art, temples, gardens, delicacies, customs, and traditions. It has something for everyone. It is really difficult to fit anything about Kyoto in a small list.

But here goes our list of top 10 things that will surely give you a taste of it all.


Admire the Temples and Shrines –

Fushimi Inari-taisha, Kyoto | Flickr – Photo Sharing!

Kyoto is heart and soul of traditional Japan. Buddhism and japans indigenous religion Shinto, harmoniously co-exists in Japan. Kyoto is world famous for its historic architecture and it has over 1600 temples and 400 Shinto shrines. Choosing the best to visit is a daunting task but these 3 are my personal favorites and among the must-must visit places in Kyoto. ‘Kinkaku-Ji’ – this beautifully set temple of three storeys Golden Pavilion is an iconic symbol of Kyoto. It is also one of Japan’s best-known sights. ‘Kiomizu Dera’ – This huge ‘Pure water Temple’ is Kyoto’s most rewarded UNESCO world heritage site and one of the most celebrated temples of Japan. This is a temple of Goddess of mercy. It stands strong as is a religious symbol for almost 1,200 year. ‘Fushima Inari Taisha Shrine’ – with its absolutely endless, inviting walkway of vermilion torii or shrine gates, this is the best shrine in Kyoto. Inari is the Shinto god of rice and commerce, and foxes are thought to be his messengers hence many fox statues can be found in this shrine.


Immerse in the alluring nature-

File:Bamboo forest 01.jpg – Wikimedia Commons

With its historical monuments and changing seasonal beauty Kyoto is like a perfectly beautiful post card all year around. In spring all the city turns in a subtle pink paradise. Visiting the philosopher’s path in spring is a blissful experience. And Momiji or fall foliage in Kyoto is perhaps even more beautiful. Kyoto is full of beautiful foliage spots. Visiting ‘Tofukuji Temple’ in autumn will be a memorable experience. ‘Arashiyama’ is particularly popular during the cherry blossom and fall color seasons. A trip to Arashiyama is also worth it for its star attraction, the famed Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.


Indulge in Souvenir Shopping –

Kiyomizu-Zaka Street | Flickr – Photo Sharing!

Kyoto is shopper’s paradise. Being Japan’s cultural capital; it is a great place to buy traditional Japanese goods. It has best collection of Japanese art and craft goods. It is undoubtedly the best place to buy the souvenirs. Kimono, Yukata, Kyoto dolls, Green tea, Japanese paper (washi), chopsticks are some of the interesting options. The Kyoto Handicraft Center is one of the best places to see and to do shopping for art, souvenirs and handicrafts. The street going down from the Kiyomizu-dera Temple into the Kiyomizu historic district is also an interesting place for this kind of shopping.


Relish the Appetizing Food –

Assorted vegetable dish | Flickr – Photo Sharing!

Kyoto is famous for its Kaiseki Ryori. It is the most sophisticated form of Japanese food. Precise detailing, subtle favors and seasonal tones are the key features of this cuisine. Savoring quintessential Kaiseki Ryori is an experience in itself. ‘Pontocho’ the centuries-old atmospheric alley is a good place to enjoy some Kyoto delicacies in a magical traditional atmosphere. It is considered as the most beautiful street in the city and is lined with restaurants and tea houses.


Experience Zen –

zen garden | Flickr – Photo Sharing!

Japanese culture has a strong Zen influence on it and with its various Zen temples, Zen gardens and Zen cuisine; Kyoto is the best place to experience the Zen style quiet contemplation. Ryoan-ji is one of the finest examples of Zen landscaping in the country and provides a very unique meditative experience with its rock garden. There are many zen temples in Kyoto which offers guided zen meditation sessions. Shunko-in Temple is one of them and offers Zen meditation classes and temple tours in English. It is also amazing idea to experience the Zen culinary way to enlightenment by relishing the delicately flavored, miraculously delicious Zen vegetarian cuisine (known as Shojin Ryori) . You can indulge in Zen cuisine in ‘Shigetsu’ near Tenryu-ji Temple in Arashiyama. Places like Temple of Mt.Koya provide over night temple lodging experience.


Relax in a Ryokan –

Our room | Flickr – Photo Sharing!

Ryokan are traditional Japanese inns mostly with attached hot spring (onsen). Ryokan are the places where you can experience authentic Japanese lifestyle. Traditional things like tatami mats, futon and communal baths are typical features of a Ryokan. Ryokan is a best place to experience Japanese hospitality and simply unwind. Kyoto has many exquisite Ryokans. Staying in one will surely enhance the overall Kyoto experience.


Explore Gion –

Gion, Kyoto | Flickr – Photo Sharing!

Geisha is an inevitable part of Japanese culture and ‘Gion’ is Japans most famous Geisha district or entertainment district. Old wooden buildings, teahouses and exclusive Japanese restaurants create a magical ambience. This place will warp you back in time. Gion is at its best in the evening. A short walk in gion will surely give glimpse of traditional Japan and if you are lucky you may get a glimpse of a graceful geisha or maiko. Some guided tours in Gion are also available.


Stoll through Nishiki Market –

File:Nishiki Ichiba by Hidehiro Komatsu in Kyoto.jpg – Wikimedia …

Nishiki market is Kyoto’s very own food treasury. Since the 14th century locals are shopping here. It is the largest traditional food market in Kyoto and a great place to find seasonal food and Kyoto specialties. It gives the feel of traditional Japanese shopping street with more than hundred shops. Nishiki market is a wonderland for food enthusiasts. Pickled vegetables, fish, Japanese sweets, fresh tofu, tea, cookware and many more things are available here. Few food stalls are also there. It is said that there is nothing that you can’t get at Nishiki. Nishiki market is perfect place to explore Kyoto’s culinary delight.


Visit the Toei Kyoto Studio Park –

File:Samurai actors.jpg – Wikimedia Commons

If you want to do something fun and different in Kyoto then this is the place. This theme park is the one place where Japan’s characteristic historic ways of life still continues. You can see Samurai, Ninja, and Geisha all at once in traditional atmosphere. You can find many Edo period samurai movie sets and other attractions like swordfight shows. You can take photos with a samurai or ninja as a memorabilia. “Historical Costume Disguise Corner” and “Disguise Photo Corner” are the most popular attractions; Where you can wear a period drama costume of a samurai, ninja or geisha and become a period drama star yourself. Interesting isn’t it?


Glance at Modern Kyoto-

File:Kyoto Station interior roof architecture.jpeg – Wikimedia Commons

The old and new exists side by side in Kyoto.Kyoto has Japan’s second-largest railway station building in Japan. Kyoto railway stations futuristic design and atmosphere is simply amazing. The 15 story building consist of shopping mall, hotel, Movie Theater, Isetan department store, and several local government facilities. The building gives its best to convey Kyoto’s heritage through its modern architecture. One more aspect of modern Japanese life is ‘Manga’. Japanese Manga(Japanese comic books) has its fans all over the universe. And visiting Kyoto International Manga Museum will be an incredible idea if you are a Manga fan, or if you are a newbie in the Manga world; this museum is the perfect introduction to the art of manga. It has a collection of some 300,000 comic books. The museum also hosts some special exhibits.


Truly the beautiful city of Kyoto has something for everyone.

The place is full of treasures and everyone is welcome to cherish it!!

When are you visiting Kyoto?



Freelance blogger. Japanese language and culture enthusiast. Studied Japanese Language and culture from Kanazawa University, Japan. Worked as Japanese-English bilingual in Multinational companies.