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Top 10 Kyoto Tourist Spots Everyone Should Visit

If you want to veer away from Tokyo’s neon lights, huge crowds, and noise, Kyoto would be your best bet. With traditional and wooden shops, restaurants and cafes lining up several of the city’s streets, it isn’t hard for one to enjoy the old school vibe that Kyoto emits.

With that being said, here are the top 10 Kyoto tourist spots that everyone should visit:

 

 

1. Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle
Editorial credit: cowardlion / Shutterstock.com

Designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994, Nijo Castle was built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence the shoguns of the Edo Period.

The castle is divided into three areas: the Honmaru (main circle of defense), the Ninomaru (secondary circle of defense) and some gardens that encircle the Honmaru and Ninomaru.

The main attraction of the castle is The Ninomaru Palace which served as the residence and office of the shogun during his visits to Kyoto.

The palace is made up of multiple buildings that are connected by corridors with “nightingale floors” (floors that squeak when you walk on it, this was a security measure against intruders).

  • Location:  541 Nijojocho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 604-8301
  • Operation Hours: 8:45 AM to 5 PM daily – closed on Tuesdays in January, July, August and December
  • Fees:  600 Yen
  • What You Need to Know:  Starting April 2019, guests will be charged an additional 400 Yen for admission to Ninomaru Palace.

2. Sento Palace

Sento Palace

Also built in 1630, the Sento Imperial Palace was built as the residence for retired Emperor Go-mizunoo. Throughout the years, the palace was burnt down and rebuilt over and over again, but currently, only the gardens and its tea-houses stand.

Nowadays, visitors are given tours of the palace though they can’t actually enter the building themselves and can only see them from the outside.

  • Location:  Kyotogyoen, Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 602-0881
  • Operation Hours: 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM daily (except Monday)
  • Fees: NA
  • What You Need to Know: Guests may join the free tours which last for an hour and are only given in Japanese, there are, however, audio guides that have several languages. To book a tour, you may fill out and submit the necessary forms here.

3. Fushimi Inari Shrine

Fushimi Inari Shrine
Editorial credit: Krzysztof Mankowski / Shutterstock.com

Located in Southern Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Shrine was dedicated to the Shinto god of rice and sake by the Hata Clan during the 8th century.

Made famous by the movie adaptation of Memoirs of a Geisha, the tunnels of torii gates are not only widely photographed by tourists, but also lead guests to several trails that opened-up to the forest of sacred Mount Inari.

  • Location:  68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 612-0882
  • Operation Hours: Open 24 hours
  • Fees: Free
  • What You Need to Know: The hike to the summit of Mount Intari may last two to three hours, though visitors can walk as far as they want and can turn back whenever they want.

4. Kinkakuji

Kinkakuji

Overlooking a calming pond, this Zen temple was originally a retirement villa for shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu.

The structure has three floors: the first floor was built in the Shinden style (wood pillars and white plaster walls) and the second and third floor exteriors are completely covered in gold leaf.

  • Location:  1 Kinkakujicho, Kita, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 603-8361
  • Operation Hours: 9 AM to 5 PM daily
  • Fees: 400 Yen (Adults) and 300 Yen (Students in Grades 1 to 9)
  • What You Need to Know: Outside the temple area are souvenir shops and a small tea garden where you can have matcha tea and sweets for 500 Yen.

5. Ninnaji Temple

Ninnaji Temple

Founded in 888, this World Heritage Site is the head temple of the Omuro School of the Shingon sect of Buddhism.

Due to the many several fires and natural disasters Kyoto’s gone through, none of the buildings built during the ninth century have unfortunately made it. Currently, the oldest buildings on the temple’s grounds date back to the sixteenth century.

  • Location:  33 Omuroouchi, Ukyō-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 616-8092
  • Operation Hours: 9 AM to 5 PM daily
  • Fees: For free unless you want to check out the Goten Palace Buildings (500 Yen)
  • What You Need to Know: The best time to visit is around mid-April when its grove of locally cultivated cherry blossoms (Omuro Cherries) comes into full bloom.

6. Arashiyama

Arashiyama

Located along the outskirts of western Kyoto, this popular tourist destination is home to several small shops, restaurants, temples and more.

Tourists flock here particularly during fall or cherry blossom seasons for the gorgeous colors – but more importantly for the Togetsukyo Bridge and the bamboo groves.

  • Location:  Ukyō-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture
  • Operation Hours: NA
  • Fees: Depends on the establishment or activity that you partake in.
  • What You Need to Know: Arashiyama is gorgeous during the fall, but tourists also visit during December for the Hanatoro illumination when the streets, temples and bamboo groves are lit up with thousands of lanterns.

7. Higashiyama

Higashiyama

The Higashiyama district is the best place to experience old Kyoto with narrow lanes lined with traditional wooden shops and restaurants.

Guests can spend half a day or more walking through the district, enjoying Kiyomizudera Temple, Kodaiji Temple, Yasaka Pagoda, and more along the way.

  • Location: Between Kamo River and the Higashiyama mountain range
  • Operation Hours: Depends on store or temple visiting
  • Fees:  Depends on store or temple visiting
  • What You Need to Know: Most of the stores close at around five or six in the evening, however, they tend to extend their hours during the 10-day Hanatoro in March.

8. Kyoto Manga Museum

Kyoto Manga Museum
Editorial credit: cowardlion / Shutterstock.com

Kyoto City in partnership with Kyoto Seika University founded this museum to collect, preserve and exhibit manga materials. The highlight of the museum is the “Wall of Manga” which houses around 50,000 publications from the 1970s.

Spread across three floors, guests can find shonen (boys) manga on the first floor, shojo (girls) manga on the second and seinen (young adults) on the third.

  • Location:  Japan, 〒604-0846 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, 御池上ル (元龍池小学校 Karasuma Dori
  • Operation Hours: 10 AM to 6 PM daily (except Wednesdays)
  • Fees: 800 Yen (Adults), 300 Yen (HS and Junior High students) and 100 Yen (Elementary students)
  • What You Need to Know: Head over to the Manga expo and enjoy publications from around the world.

9. Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market
Editorial credit: Phanu D Pongvanit / Shutterstock.com

Known as Kyoto’s Kitchen, this five-block shopping street is lined with shops and stalls that sell everything from fresh seafood, produce, Japanese pickles, sushi and other Kyoto specialties.

The owners of the shops are usually families that have spanned several generations. The market first opened-up around 1310 as a wholesale fish market, and along the way has transformed to what it is today.

  • Location:  Japan, 〒604-8054 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto
  • Operation Hours: 9:30 AM to 6 PM
  • Fees: NA
  • What You Need to Know: Some shops give out samples or sell their specialty dishes that are meant to be consumed right then and there, don’t expect a full restaurants set-up though. There aren’t any more than a couple of stools at a time.

10. Kyoto National Museum

Kyoto National Museum
Editorial credit: twoKim images / Shutterstock.com

Considered one of Japan’s oldest and most distinguished museums, Kyoto National Museum was opened in 1897 and is currently home to rotating permanent exhibits and temporary special exhibitions.

The permanent exhibits include relics, sculptures, calligraphy, costumes and more.

  • Location:  527 Chayacho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0931
  • Operation Hours: 9:30 AM to 5 PM (weekdays) and 9:30 AM to 8 PM (weekends)
  • Fees:  520 Yen (Permanent exhibits)
  • What You Need to Know: The museum has a souvenir shop called Benrido which sells art reproductions and souvenirs such as post cards, books, trinkets and more. There are even places where you can eat, specifically Café Maeda-Coffee and The Muses.

 
Check out the best of what Kyoto has to offer. Book your Osaka flight here!
 

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