Kyoto is often referred to as a “timeless city” due to its rich history, well-preserved cultural heritage, and enduring traditions. As the former capital of Japan for over a thousand years, Kyoto has maintained a unique blend of ancient and modern elements, making it feel as if time has stood still. The city boasts numerous historic temples, shrines, and traditional wooden buildings, which offer a glimpse into Japan’s past. At the same time, Kyoto is home to a vibrant contemporary scene, featuring modern architecture, cutting-edge technology, and innovative art. The term “timeless city” captures this fascinating duality and the enduring appeal of Kyoto as a travel destination.
Kiyomizu-dera: A Temple with a View
Kiyomizu-dera is one of Kyoto’s most iconic temples and a UNESCO World Heritage site. This impressive temple boasts a large wooden terrace that offers panoramic views of Kyoto, making it the perfect spot for memorable photos. Surrounded by lush greenery, Kiyomizu-dera is especially breathtaking during the cherry blossom and autumn foliage seasons. Don’t forget to pay a visit to the Jishu Shrine, dedicated to the god of love and matchmaking.
How to go to Kiyomizu-dera
- From Kyoto Station, take bus number 100 or 206 and get off at the Kiyomizu-michi or Gojo-zaka bus stop. From there, it’s a 10-15 minute walk uphill to Kiyomizu-dera Temple.
- Alternatively, take the Keihan Railway Line to Kiyomizu-Gojo Station and walk for about 20 minutes to reach the temple.
Fushimi Inari Taisha: The Path of Thousands Torii
Fushimi Inari Taisha is one of Kyoto’s most famous shrines and a must-see destination for any visitor. Known for its mesmerizing path of thousands of torii gates, the shrine is dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice and prosperity. Hike up the picturesque trail to explore the various smaller shrines and take in the city views from the top of the mountain.
How to go to Fushimi Inari Taisha
- From Kyoto Station, take the JR Nara Line to JR Inari Station. The journey takes about 5 minutes, and the shrine is just a 3-minute walk from the station.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove: A Walk Through Nature’s Majesty
The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is a serene and enchanting place where you can take a leisurely stroll surrounded by towering bamboo stalks. This enchanting grove has a calming atmosphere that transports you to a different world. While in Arashiyama, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the nearby Tenryu-ji Temple and the scenic Togetsukyo Bridge.
How to go to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
- From Kyoto Station, take the JR Sagano Line (also known as the JR San-in Line) to JR Saga-Arashiyama Station. The ride takes about 15 minutes. From the station, it’s a 10-15 minute walk to the Bamboo Grove.
- Alternatively, you can take the Hankyu Line from central Kyoto to Hankyu Arashiyama Station, which is a 15-minute walk to the Bamboo Grove.
Nishiki Market: The Kitchen of Kyoto
Nishiki Market is a lively and bustling market where you can find a wide array of Japanese delicacies, souvenirs, and local products. Known as the “Kitchen of Kyoto,” the market spans five blocks and is the perfect place to sample traditional foods, such as sushi, pickles, and matcha-flavored sweets. This is a great spot to experience the flavors of Kyoto and mingle with locals.
How to go to Nishiki Market
- From Kyoto Station, take the Karasuma Subway Line to Shijo Station, which takes about 4 minutes. Then, walk about 5 minutes west along Shijo Street, and you’ll find Nishiki Market.
Gion District: The Heart of Geisha Culture
The Gion District is Kyoto’s most famous geisha district and an essential part of any Kyoto experience. As you wander the charming, narrow streets lined with traditional wooden buildings, you might catch a glimpse of geisha and maiko (apprentice geisha) on their way to evening engagements. Be sure to visit the Gion Corner for a showcase of traditional Japanese performing arts, such as tea ceremonies, flower arranging, and puppet theater.
How to go to Gion District
- From Kyoto Station, take bus number 100 or 206 to Gion Bus Stop, which takes about 20 minutes. You can also take the Keihan Railway Line to Gion-Shijo Station, located in the heart of the Gion District.
These 5 must-visit places in Kyoto will give you a glimpse of the city’s rich history, vibrant culture, and enchanting beauty. From serene temples to bustling markets, Kyoto offers a diverse array of experiences that are sure to make your trip unforgettable. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore these hidden gems and immerse yourself in the captivating charm of Japan’s ancient capital.
Kyoto is a city filled with ancient temples, shrines, and traditional Japanese gardens, and exploring these sites is best done with the help of public transportation.
If you’re planning a trip to Kyoto, it’s recommended to purchase a Kyoto City Bus & Subway Pass. This pass allows you to use the city buses and subway lines within Kyoto City for a set period of time, making it a convenient and cost-effective option for getting around.