[JAPAN] KYOTO TRAVEL GUIDE – Things to Do & Places to Go

Kyoto is filled with charm that anyone can easily fall in love with. In this post, AnakJajan are going to show you some recommendation on what to do, where to go, and where to eat in Kyoto, Japan.


We always love the city vibes in Kyoto, the scenery, the well-preserved area, the traditional houses, temples, shrines, palaces, garden, or even the dessert, everything is just lovely, no wonder it has become one of the top destinations in Japan.

NOTE: in this post, we mainly use the pictures from our recent visit to Kyoto which was February 2018, but we also added a few of pictures from our previous visit (Jan Winter 2015, July Summer 2015, October Fall 2016) in order to share a complete recommendation for you.

Starbucks in traditional house

We categorize the destinations based on the area so hopefully it can help you to plan your itinerary to Kyoto.


Kinkaku-ji 金閣寺
Known as Temple of the Golden Pavilion, the historic monument is listed as one of World Heritage Sites. The tranquil temple, the beautiful landscape with calm reflecting pond, you’ll get the zen vibes immediately.


Fushimi Inari Shrine 伏見稲荷大社
Famous for its iconic red-orange torii gates, Fushimi Inari Shrine or Fushimi Inari Taisha is an important Shinto shrine. If you have time and energy, you can enter the torii gates and hike the mountain trails for around 30 mins – 1 hour to the top and you’ll be rewarded by great views from above.

Nezameya 祢ざめ家
You simply have to eat Inari sushi there, because duhhhhh, you have visited Fushimi INARI, hahaha joking. But seriously if you are looking for local food around Fushimi Inari, these simple humble yet tasty Inari Sushi from Nezameya is just perfect to fill the tummies and it’s tasty as well.


Nishiki Market 錦市場
Nishiki Market is the place to find all fresh ingredients including cookware. But our main reason to visit Nishiki Market would be the food, the narrow long shopping street is filled with many exciting local Kyoto specialties such as sashimi, sushi, sweets, ice cream, etc.

Kyoto Gogyo Ramen
Gogyo serves unique ramen like no other places, their signature item is called Burnt Ramen, you’ll get nice smooth rich broth with literally burnt aroma but still in an enjoyable level, it gives the ramen broth extra dimension. Soooo good, we highly recommend it! The restaurant is located near Nishiki Market within walking distance.

Kyoto Ramen Koji – Kyoto Station
Kyoto Ramen Koji was remodeled and reopened in 2016 and it’s home to 9 popular ramen shops from around Japan: Shirakaba Sansou (Sapporo), Touyoko (Niigata), Taishoken (Tokyo), Bannai Shokudo (Kitakata Fukushima), Men-ya Iroha (Toyama), Masutani (Kyoto), Hakata Ikkousha (Hakata), Araumadou (Osaka), Ramen Todai (Tokushima). During our visit, we chose Ramen Todai from Tokushima, the tonkotsu broth was super rich and thick, and the restaurant provides free flow egg for customers to add into the broth.

Kyoto Tower 京都タワー
Standing 131 meters tall across Kyoto Station, Kyoto Tower 京都タワー is a rare modern landmark between all the traditional and ancient buildings in Kyoto. On top of the tower, there’s an observatory where visitors can enjoy 360 degree city view.

Kamogawa River 鴨川
Strolling around the river is a nice relaxing idea. If you visit Kyoto early April, you might be able to see row of cherry blossom trees blooming.

Pontocho 先斗町
Right behind Kamogawa River, there’s an alley filled with many exciting dining options offering wide range cuisines, from modern to traditional.

Bamboo Groves 竹林の小径 – Arashiyama
A visit to Kyoto and Arashiyama wouldn’t be complete without visiting the picturesque Bamboo Groves. It’s a nice experience walking through the groves not to mention it makes a great photo spot.

Katsura River & Togetsu-kyo Bridge – Arashiyama
Another iconic landmark of Arashiyama. Take a walk around the bridge, listen to the sound of the river, feel the breeze, we guarantee you a therapeutic experience. You can find many shops, cafes and restaurants nearby too.

Tenryuji Temple 天龍寺
Tenryuji is the most important temple in Kyoto’s Arashiyama district. Inside the temple area, there’s a beautifully designed garden features a central pond, it’s such a pleasing view for the eyes.

Kyonishiki Obansai Buffet Hinataya ぎゃあてい
For lunch in Arashiyama area, you can try AYCE buffet spread in Kyonishiki Obansai Buffet Hinataya. The restaurant offers wide variety of Kyoto’s seasonal dishes with around 60 menu available which are pleasantly enjoyable, it costs ¥1,800/ person for 60min. The best part of this restaurant would be the huge window facing Katsura River and Togetsu Bridge.


Kiyomizu-dera Temple 清水寺
Listed as one of UNESCO world heritage sites, Kiyomizu-dera is one of the most celebrated temples of Japan. The wooden stage inside from main hall is 13 meters above the hillside with nice view of Kyoto in the distance.

entrance of Kiyomizudera

Walking up to Kiyomizu-dera is a fun and exciting process itself since you will pass so many shops selling local sweets, souvenir shops, cafes, etc.

% Arabica Kyoto Higashiyama
Any coffee lovers shouldn’t miss % Arabica Kyoto since the coffee is undoubtedly one of the best (for us personally).

Yasaka Pagoda
Yasaka Pagoda from Hokanji Temple is the most recognizable landmarks in the Higashiyama District.

On our way from Kiyomizu to Yasaka Pagoda, we found a small shop selling Gold soft-serve ice cream so we decided to give it a try. It was yummy, smooth and creamy just the way I like, and shiny as well.

Gion 祇園
If you’re looking to see traditional wooden houses, Gion is the place to go, it’s a famous district filled with shops, restaurants and teahouses.

For best experience, we would recommend you exploring the area wearing kimono, it will make you feel like you travel back to the past.

El Inn Kyoto エルイン京都
From our recent trip, we stayed at El Inn Kyoto. The room is typical normal business hotel but it has an amazing location right in front of Kyoto Station with so many shops and restaurants nearby making it super convenient to get around.

hotel breakfast

dinner at hotel restaurant

Machiya Tondaya
Aside from sightseeing. You can book a house tour in Tondaya to have a closer look at traditional Japanese house while learning about the history.

Experience Tea Ceremony Koto
Tea and Kyoto are two inseparable things. When you think about Kyoto, high chances you might think about tea. It would be nice to join a tea ceremony and learn about the tea culture.

Thank you for reading, we hope you can get pretty much every thing you need to know for your Kyoto itinerary planning from this post.

The trip is sponsored by Japan National Tourism Organization.

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8 thoughts on “[JAPAN] KYOTO TRAVEL GUIDE – Things to Do & Places to Go”

  1. Hi Mrs. Jajan. I actually planned a 9 days trip from Boston to Tokyo and Kyoto. Your posts are really informative and useful.

    1. Would you recommend that I spend 4 days in Tokyo and 5 days in Kyoto?
    2. Should I buy the train ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto online in advance or at the station after I arrived?

    Thanks much!

    1. Hello, sorry for the late reply.
      1. I think 5 days in Kyoto is too long, around 3-4days would be great.
      2. We usually buy the one-way shinkansen ticket on the spot so we don’t know much about booking it in advance
      Have a wonderful trip 🙂

  2. Hi Mr. and Mrs. Jajan,

    Me and my partner will go to Osaka(4 days) then Kobe(only for 1 way trip) then Kyoto(3 days) and last stop is Tokyo(5 days), do we need to buy JR Pass? from what I Know I will need tokyo pass to strolling around in Tokyo, but for the other trip (Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto) I afraid that if we buy JR Pass it will not use well,

    is there any information from your blog or from your experience that could possibly help us? since you have visited Japan a few times 🙂

    Thank you so much, really appreciate your help
    *and please have a Blast in Hokaido as your recent location 🙂

    1. Hello, unfortunately we haven’t used JR Pass yet so we don’t know the comparison. Usually for Tokyo we use pasmo/suica, and then purchase single ticket for Shinkansen ride.

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