One of the largest cities in the country and the former capital of Japan, Kyoto is a great tourist destination that has plenty of historic landmarks including temples and shrines, as well as a fabulous geisha district and centuries-old gardens. Most of the architecture in the city is influenced by Buddhism.
- Visit the Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine
Dedicated to Ukanomitama-no-Mikoto, the goddess of rice-growing, Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine is one of the most famous shrines in Japan that is visited frequently by many locals and tourists. The main building features a 4 km long avenue and dates back to 1449. Visitors will have a chance to see several sculptures of foxes and purchase Japanese fortune cookies from a number of stands at the entrance.
- See the Kiyomizu Temple
Located on Otowa Mountain in the east part of Kyoto, Kiyomizu Temple is a popular sightseeing spot that offers panoramic views of the surrounding forest. Visitors can drink water from the Otowa Waterfall which is divided into three streams. Keep in mind that according to the locals, drinking from all three streams can cause bad luck. Also, when you walk between two stones that are located outside the shrine, you should make a wish. There is also a souvenir shop close to the entrance.
- Have a Cup of Tea at Gion District
Situated on the banks of Kamo River, Gion District has always been an iconic place that has not changed much throughout the history. Today, it is one of the few remaining places in the country where you can take part in traditional teahouse rituals and see geishas. Of course, reservations for a full traditional tea service are mandatory. The best thing about this neighborhood is that there is so much to see here, from historic tea houses and wooden ryokan to Japanese kaiseki restaurants and stalls where locals sell local antiques and crafts.
- Go to the Sanjusangendo Temple
Constructed in the 12th century, Sanjusangendo Temple was originally a place for archery tournaments and is divided into 33 niches. This amazing temple houses over 1,000 statues from which some are 3 meters tall. Make sure to check out the statue of Sanjusangendo Temple also known as the Kannon with a Thousand Hands, which dates back to the 13th century.
- Try Authentic Japanese Food at Nishiki Market
Nishiki Market has barely any English signage for directions and reference, but at the same time, it is paradise for foodies from all over the world. This bustling market has over 120 stalls, each one preparing traditional Japanese specialties that you probably won’t find anywhere else in the world. Start off with rice balls also known as nigiri and try the authentic Japanese green tea. Some of the signature dishes at the Nishiki Market include tofu-milk skin, roe squid, and dried kelp. Of course, there are several trendier shops where you can get ice cream and doughnuts, but it all comes down to the fact that you’ll never leave this place hungry. Most of the stalls are open from 9 AM TO 6 PM, although some shops don’t work on Wednesdays and Sundays.
- Explore the Ginkakuji Temple
Known as the Silver Pavilion, Ginkakuji Temple was originally designed to be a villa, but after the owner passed away it became a temple. This magnificent temple features two stories, but they are not actually silver. Converted into a Zen shrine, the main pavilion overlooks a glassy pond and is surrounded by many trees. The bad news is that none of the buildings are open to the public, but you can still admire their beauty from the outside. There is a lovely lush garden with The Sea of Silver Sand zen which is perfect for short walks and meditation.
- Visit the Kinkakuji Temple
Kinkakuji Temple, also known as the Golden Pavilion is one of the best-known sights in all of Japan. The main hall of this bustling temple is covered in gold leaf that shines above its pond. The temple was originally built in the 14th century as a villa for Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, but his son converted the place to a Buddhist temple. Visitors are advised to visit the Kinkakuji Temple early in the day, due to large crowds of visitors.
- Check out the Nijo Castle
Built from wood in the 17th century when all of the lords in Japan needed to fund its construction, Nijo Castle is dotted with gold mosaics and includes towers, walls, and a moat. It has a few buildings that contain several works of art. Some of the highlights at the Nijo Castle include the East Gate, the Inner Gate, Ninomaru Palace, Hall of the Imperial Emissary, and Audience Hall. Don’t leave before visiting the Kuro-Shoin building where you can see amazing animal paintings from the famous painted Kano Naonobu.
- Walk through Sagano Bamboo Groves in Arashiyama
The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is the most beautiful bamboo forest in Japan and is one of top breathtaking sights in Kyoto, Japan. You can rent a bike or take a walk on the path through a bamboo forest trail and enjoy the bamboo grove. The groove is especially attractive when the wind blow through the bamboos creating tranquil sounds. The best time to visit the Bamboo Forest is early morning and late on weekdays as you will be able to avoid the rush and to be able to take good pictures.
- Visit Monkey Park Iwatayama
Monkey Park Iwatayama is a popular park located on the left bank of Oi River in Kyoto, Japan. The park is open from 09:00 AM – 04:30 PM and to 5:30 in the spring and summer. The entrance fee is for adults is 550 JPY and 250 JPY for a child above 4 years. The park is known for their charming Japanese macaque also known as snow monkey that can be found on the top where visitors can have a great view of Kyoto and enjoy their time feeding monkeys. Few tips, do not touch or stare into the monkeys’ eyes as they consider it a sign of threat. Besides monkeys, you will be able to find wild deer’s and many species of birds on your hike upon the trail to the top.