Things to Do in Kyoto – Japan Holidays

Thinking of planning a trip to Kyoto? This Honshu, Japan city and former capital city of Japan is waiting for you with literally dozens of museums, many festivals, extraordinary shopping places and outdoor activities. They also don’t call Kyoto the City of Ten Thousand Shrines for nothing! Kyoto boasts thousands of impressive and unbelievably beautiful shrines and temples! So pack your bags, grab your camera and get ready, very few holiday destinations in the world got to offer what Kyoto does!


The Best Temples to visit in Kyoto


Kyoto is home to so many impressive green spaces, galleries and attractions that it would take weeks just to scratch the surface of this amazing city. World renowned for its beautiful temples and shrines, Kyoto has so many of them that trying to choose just a few to visit can seem impossibly daunting! Here are a list of some temples that are widely considered to be some of the most worthwhile attractions of all the temples in Kyoto, just to narrow it down and make the decisions a little easier!


  • Kinkaku-ji Temple
    1 Kinkakujicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 603-8361, Japan
    Kinkaku-ji is known as the famed “Golden Pavilion,” and is Kyoto’s most iconic temple. It’s a magnificent sight to see, just try to get to the temple at a time when the crowds aren’t so busy!


  • Chion-in Temple
    Chion-in Temple

    Chion-in Temple

    400 Rinkacho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-8686, Japan
    The head temple of the Jodo sect of Japanese Buddhism, this impressive temple is one of the most popular temples in the city. It’s spacious and features the Hojo Garden, which is located behind the Miedo Hall and is constructed alongside the priest’s living quarters. Hojo Garden is a traditional Japanese garden, which was designed by a monk in the middle of the 1600s. The Yuzen Garden, which was designed more recently, is located just beside the Chion-in Temple’s Sanmon Gate. It features breathtaking rock and pond gardens, and is laid out along a slight incline.


  • Nanzen-ji Temple
    Nanzenji-Fukuchi-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-city
    One of the most beautiful temples in the Northern Higashiyama district of Kyoto, Nanzen-ji Temple is a sprawling Zen paradise located at the base of Kyoto’s lush forested Higashiyama mountains.The Nanzen-ji Temple is considered one of the most important Zen temples in the entire country. Visitors to this massive temple are greeted by Nanzen-ji’s massive Sanmon entrance gate, which towers up over the treetops. Nanzen-ji’s central temple grounds are free of charge for the public to enter, however separate fees apply for entering each of the temple buildings and sub-temples on the grounds. It’s well worth a visit to see the large brick aqueduct that runs through the temple grounds, constructed during the Meiji Period of 1868 to 1912. This aqueduct is a portion of a canal system that was built to bring water and goods between Kyoto and the neighbouring Shiga Prefecture’s Lake Biwa. Take a walk along the paths that run alongside the canal, leading through the surrounding trees.


  • Tofuku-ji Temple
    15-778 Hommachi, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto605-0981, Kyoto Prefecture
    One of the most attractive temples in Kyoto, Tofuku-ji Temple is a large Zen temple in southeastern Kyoto which has the advantage of not being particularly crowded except for during the fall season, when the leaves change colours and the entire location becomes extremely picturesque. Many parts of Tofuku-ji Temple’s grounds are free for the public to enter, including the areas around most of the buildings. The Sanmon Gate towers at twenty-two meters high and is the oldest Zen gate of its kind, constructed in 1425. Passing through the gate you will reach the Hondo, the main hall, which is even greater.


  • Honen-in Temple
    30 Goshonodan-cho, Shishigatani, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan
    Honen-in is one of the most favorite temples in all of Kyoto – which is saying alot considering Kyoto is a city with over 1600 beautiful temples! The entrance is impressively scenic, including a very attractive moss covered gate and stone walkways. Once you are beyond the gate, you must pass through two mounds that are said to “purify” anyone entering the temple grounds. A beautifully crafted stone bridge carries you over a pond and through a mossy garden, into a stunning secret grotto behind the main hall. The entire effect is very ancient and magical, and the atmosphere is serene.


  • Ginkaku-ji Temple
    Ginkaku-ji Temple

    Ginkaku-ji Temple

    2 Ginkakujicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 606-8402, Japan
    Ginkaku-ji temple, the famed “Silver Pavilion”, has impressive halls and gardens – in fact, the Ginkaku-ji Temple gardens are just as impressive as the halls themselves! This temple is a very popular destination, so it’s best visited in off-peak times when the crowds aren’t as bustling. During the autumn season the land becomes alive with colours, making for wonderful photo opportunities.


  • Daitoku-ji Temple
    53 Murasakino Daitokujicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 603-8231, Japan
    Not just a temple but a complex of stunning temples, Daitoku-ji Temple is home to some of the most impressive Zen gardens in Kyoto. This temple complex consists of almost two dozen sub-temples, and is a wonderful place to experience Zen culture. This temple complex was founded in 1319 and reconstructed after the Onin war in 1467 to 1477. Following the war and subsequent reconstruction of the temple grounds, the Daitoku-ji Temple became a center of the tea ceremony, in connection with tea masters Sen no Rikyu as well as warlords Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, all of whom were tea ceremony practitioners. The grave of Oda Nobunaga is located in one of Daitoku-ji’s subtemples, Sokenin, which isn’t regularly open to the public but may be available for viewings during certain events. Certainly the most impressive and celebrated of all the subtemples is Daisenin, which exists as the head of the North School of Daitoku-ji and available to be viewed by the public year round. This sub-temple was founded in 1509, and showcases the oldest intact example of an alcove or tokonoma – which is an important architectural feature still used in modern tatami rooms – as well as prestigious fusuma sliding doors. Daisenin also displays various stunning rock gardens, which encompass the temple and are regarded as being some of the best examples of their type of garden. One of the many rock gardens is created to mirror a Chinese landscape painting, complete with vertical stones resembling the large mountains, and white sand waterfalls dividing up the islands by streams which seem to look as though they are flowing through to the other gardens of the temple.


Where to dine in Kyoto – the best restaurants in the city!


Ganko Sushi
101 Nakajima-cho, Sanjo-dori, Kawaramachi Higashi iru, Nakagyo-ku
Nearest Transport: A 2 minute walk from Sanjo Station, Keihan line
A downtown Kyoto sushi joint, Ganko Sushi is one of the most reasonably priced and approachable sushi places in Kyoto. Ganko Sushi takes a very upfront approach. The restaurant windows are adorned with shelves of food models and the whole place is designed to catch your eye, almost in a tourist trap kind of manner! Nevertheless, upon closer inspection you’ll see that locals make up the majority of this sushi restaurant’s customers, for Ganko Sushi is well known for serving up terrific food at affordable prices. Take a seat at the counter and order sushi a la carte, or find yourself a table and order from the menu – available in English too. Ganko Sushi offers more than just sushi, there are a variety of Japanese dishes and even children’s meals. Choose from smoking or non-smoking rooms, and enjoy your meal in one of the most family friendly restaurants in town.



2F Goshoame Building, 98 Nakajima-cho, Kawaramachi-Higashi-iru, Sanjo-dori, Nakagyo-ku
Nearest Transport: A 2 minute walk from Sanjo Station, Keihan line or Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae Station, Tozai subway line
The Ootoya chain is a great new addition to the Kyoto restaurant scene. With a sleek modern atmosphere and convenient fast meals, Ootoya is a number one stop for lunch and a terrific place for any meal, serving most meals you would expect from any Japanese eatery. Clean and well lit, Ootoya is inviting and popular with students and local workers. The English menu and picture menus make ordering meals very easy for tourists, and the prices are fair!





144 Nishi-machi, Jingumichi-nishi-iru, Sanjo-dori, Higashiyama-ku
Nearest Transport: A 2 minute walk from Higashiyama Station Exit 1, Tozai subway line
Asuka is a popular shokudo Japanese diner along the main Higashiyama tourist trail, offering an English menu when necessary, and tended to by very friendly staff. It’s been serving up a variety of soba and udon noodle dishes, donburi rice bowls – it’s definitely worth a visit.


Visit some of the interesting museums Kyoto has to offer!


  • Kyoto National Museum
    527 Chaya-machi, Higashiyama-ku
    Nearest Transport: In front of the Sanjusangendo-mae Bus Stop, Kyoto City Bus 100 or 206 from Kyoto Station, a 10 minute walk from Shichijo Station, Keihan line
    The Kyoto National Museum is regarded as being the best museum in Kyoto, particularly during a special exhibit so save your visit to this museum for a time when a special exhibit is being displayed! Being that Kyoto is a city of art lovers, it’s no wonder the Kyoto National Museum would be the greatest place to seek out the most highlighted artists in all of Japan.
  • Kyoto International Manga Museum
    Karasuma-dori, Oike agaru, Nakagyo-ku
    Nearest Transport: A 3 minute walk from Karasuma Oike Station, Karasuma & Tozai subway line
    Definitely at the top of the list for any fans of Japanese manga! This museum located in a former school building houses a collection of over three hundred thousand Japanese comics or manga. These comics line every wall, and you’re welcome to peruse the collection. The museum features displays on the evolution of manga, demonstrations about the art of manga and other events.
  • Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art
    124 Enshoji-cho, Okazaki, Sakyo-ku
    Nearest Transport: In front of the Kyoto Kaikan Bijutsukan-mae Bus Stop, Kyoto City Bus 5 from Kyoto Station, a 10 minute walk from Higashiyama Station, Tozai subway line
    The special exhibits at the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art are exceptional – the ones held on the first floor are open to the public free of charge. These free displays are usually of impressive quality! If you’re in Kyoto from late May to Early June, don’t miss the Kyo-ten exhibit! It’s a fantastic display, featuring selected artists living and working within Kyoto and showcasing their works. These works range from oil paintings to textiles, to traditional lacquerware.
  • National Museum of Modern Art
    Enshoji-cho, Okazaki, Sakyo-ku
    Nearest Transport: In front of the Kyoto Kaikan Bijutsukan-mae Bus Stop, Kyoto City Bus 5 from Kyoto Station, a 10 minute walk from Higashiyama Station, Tozai subway line
    The permanent exhibit at the National Museum of Modern Art is small but worthwhile, and focuses mainly on Japanese artists. The National Museum of Modern Art obviously competes with the nearby Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art which is bigger, but the National Museum of Modern Art is always worth checking out when a special exhibit is on. The special exhibits hosted at this museum are interesting, and make sure you grab a coffee from the coffee shop on the south side of the museum lobby overlooking the canal!


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