Welcome to Kyoto, a city where ancient traditions blend harmoniously with modern wonders. In this comprehensive guide, we present you with an action-packed Kyoto 2-day itinerary, carefully crafted to help you make the most of your time in this captivating destination. Brace yourself for a whirlwind adventure as we take you through Kyoto’s iconic landmarks, hidden gems, and cultural treasures. Get ready to immerse yourself in the beauty and charm of Kyoto!
Where to stay in Kyoto
When visiting Kyoto, choosing the right accommodation can greatly enhance your experience. Given below are a few recommendations for places to stay in Kyoto. All the hotels we’ve listed below are in the Higashiyama Ward. These hotels are ideally situated within walking distance of many attractions and public transportation.
Rinn Gion Yasaka:
Rinn Gion Yasaka hotel in Kyoto is a hidden gem nestled in the heart of the historic Gion district. With its traditional machiya architecture and warm hospitality, it offers guests an authentic and enchanting experience in one of Kyoto’s most iconic neighborhoods. Book this hotel here.
Saka Hotel Kyoto
Nestled in the picturesque Higashiyama ward, Saka Hotel Kyoto offers a serene and luxurious escape. With its elegant design, tranquil ambiance, and proximity to iconic attractions like Kiyomizu-dera, it provides an ideal sanctuary for immersing oneself in Kyoto’s rich cultural heritage. Book this hotel here
The Celestine Kyoto Gion
The Celestine Kyoto Gion is a contemporary boutique hotel located in the heart of Kyoto’s historic Gion district. With its sleek design, exceptional service, and convenient access to traditional teahouses and iconic landmarks, it offers a sophisticated retreat for travelers seeking a blend of modern comfort and cultural immersion.Book this hotel here.
Stay SAKURA Kyoto Kiyomizu Gojo
Stay SAKURA Kyoto Kiyomizu Gojo is a charming guesthouse situated near the iconic Kiyomizu-dera Temple. With its cozy and inviting atmosphere, traditional Japanese-style rooms, and warm hospitality, it provides a delightful haven for travelers looking to experience the essence of Kyoto’s cultural heritage in a tranquil setting. Book this hotel here.
Kyoto 2-Day Itinerary
Day 1 – Kyoto Itinerary
Here is the plan for day 1:
- Morning – Kiyomizu-dera
- Afternoon – Fushimi Inari Taisha
- Evening – Gion
Morning – Kiyomizu-dera
If you have chosen your accommodation from the list of our recommended hotels you’ll be delighted to know that Kiyomizu-dera is conveniently within walking distance from these establishments. This proximity allows you to easily embark on a memorable journey from your hotel to the historic temple, immersing yourself in Kyoto’s rich heritage along the way. View the walking directions from Rinn Yasaka to Kiyomizudera on Google Maps.
Kiyomizu-dera, a UNESCO World Heritage site, stands as a testament to Kyoto’s rich history and spiritual significance. This iconic temple, nestled in the eastern part of the city, not only showcases breathtaking architecture but also provides visitors with unparalleled panoramic views of Kyoto’s scenic landscape. Here are some of the things to do in Kiyomizu-dera:
- Explore the Temple Grounds: Take your time to explore the extensive temple grounds of Kiyomizu-dera. Marvel at the impressive wooden structure of the main hall, which provides panoramic views of Kyoto city from its spacious veranda. Enjoy the peaceful atmosphere as you wander through the surrounding gardens and admire the traditional architecture.
- Visit Otawa Waterfall: Located within the temple complex, Otawa Waterfall is divided into three streams, each believed to have a different benefit when consumed. Join the locals and sip the water from a long-handled ladle to receive blessings of longevity, success in school, or a fortunate love life.
- Experience Jishu Shrine: Dedicated to the deity of love and matchmaking, Jishu Shrine is situated within Kiyomizu-dera. Here, you can partake in a unique tradition by attempting to walk between two stones with your eyes closed. Success in reaching one stone from the other is believed to bring you luck in finding love.
- Enjoy the Surrounding Streets: Take a stroll along the charming streets leading to Kiyomizu-dera. The Higashiyama District offers a blend of traditional shops, cafes, and souvenir stores where you can experience the nostalgic atmosphere of old Kyoto. Don’t miss the opportunity to sample local snacks and traditional sweets.
- Attend Seasonal Festivals: Kiyomizu-dera hosts various festivals throughout the year. One notable event is the Kiyomizu-dera Temple Autumn Special Night Illumination, where the temple and its surroundings are beautifully illuminated, creating a magical atmosphere. Check the temple’s event calendar to see if there are any festivals or special events happening during your visit.
- Visit Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka: These historic preserved streets are located near Kiyomizu-dera and offer a step back in time. Wander through the narrow lanes lined with traditional machiya houses, souvenir shops, and cafes. The atmospheric streetscapes make for excellent photo opportunities.
- Explore Nearby Temples: Take the opportunity to explore other nearby temples, such as Kodai-ji Temple or Yasaka Pagoda. These temples offer further insights into Kyoto’s rich cultural heritage and provide additional architectural wonders and serene gardens to enjoy.
Kiyomizu-dera is a place of beauty, history, and spirituality. By immersing yourself in its surroundings and engaging in its traditions, you can create lasting memories and gain a deeper understanding of Kyoto’s cultural heritage.
Afternoon – Fushimi Inari Taisha
After a visit to Kiyomizudera, head to Fushimi Inari Taisha, one of Kyoto’s most iconic and breathtaking sights. To reach this awe-inspiring shrine, hop on the Keihan line from Kiyomizu-Gojo station and enjoy a scenic ride to Ryukokudai-mae-fukakusa Station (View on Google Maps). As you step out, you’ll find yourself immersed in a world of vibrant vermillion torii gates that stretch as far as the eye can see.Fushimi Inari Taisha is dedicated to the Shinto god of rice and agriculture, and the entire complex is nestled on the wooded slopes of Mount Inari. Here are a few things to do in Fushimi Inari Taisha
- Explore the Torii Gate Path: Embark on a memorable journey along the famous torii gate path that leads up the slopes of Mount Inari. Follow the winding trails as you pass through thousands of vibrant vermilion torii gates. Each gate is inscribed with the name of the individual or business that donated it. The path is surrounded by lush greenery, creating a peaceful and enchanting atmosphere.
- Visit the Main Shrine: Pay your respects at the main shrine of Fushimi Inari Taisha located at the base of the mountain. Observe the traditional rituals, make an offering, and experience the spiritual essence of the shrine.
- Discover Subsidiary Shrines and Statues: As you ascend the mountain, you’ll encounter several subsidiary shrines and statues dedicated to various deities and spirits. Take your time to explore these hidden gems and appreciate the intricate details of the sacred art and architecture.
- Hike to the Summit: For those seeking a more adventurous experience, consider hiking to the summit of Mount Inari. The trails offer a mix of easy to moderate difficulty levels and provide breathtaking views of Kyoto city and the surrounding landscape.
- Enjoy Nature and Picnic Areas: Fushimi Inari Taisha is not just about the torii gates; it also features beautiful natural surroundings. Take a moment to relax in the peaceful picnic areas, enjoy a serene walk through the forested trails, and immerse yourself in the tranquility of nature.
- Capture Memorable Photos: Fushimi Inari Taisha is a photographer’s paradise. Capture the stunning beauty of the torii gates, the interplay of light and shadows, and the serene atmosphere of the shrine. Whether you’re an amateur or a professional, you’ll find plenty of opportunities for striking and memorable shots.
- Try Local Street Food: After exploring the shrine, don’t miss the chance to sample local street food in the nearby area. Indulge in delicious treats such as inari sushi (sushi rice wrapped in fried tofu), yakitori (grilled skewered chicken), and matcha-flavored snacks.
Fushimi Inari Taisha offers a unique and captivating experience that combines nature, spirituality, and cultural heritage. By immersing yourself in its surroundings and embarking on the torii gate path, you’ll create lasting memories and gain a deeper appreciation for Japanese traditions and beliefs.
Evening – Gion
After Fushimi Inari Taisha, take the Keihan line from Fushimi Inari Station and make your way to Gion Shijo Station (View directions on Google Maps), the gateway to the captivating district of Gion in Kyoto. Known for its traditional wooden machiya houses, atmospheric streets, and geisha culture, Gion offers a glimpse into the city’s rich history and traditional arts. Here are some of the things to do in Gion:
- Spot Geisha and Maiko: Gion is renowned for its geisha culture. Keep an eye out for elegantly dressed geisha and maiko (apprentice geisha) as they make their way through the district. You might catch a glimpse of them entering teahouses or gracefully walking along the streets.
- Explore Hanamikoji Street: This picturesque street is lined with traditional wooden machiya houses and is a perfect place for a leisurely stroll. Admire the beautifully preserved architecture, browse art galleries, and perhaps even discover charming cafes and shops along the way.
- Stroll along Shinbashi Dori: Take a leisurely walk along Shinbashi Dori, a charming street that runs parallel to the Shirakawa River. Enjoy the ambiance as you pass by traditional shops, teahouses, and restaurants. The street is particularly enchanting during the cherry blossom season in spring and when the autumn leaves paint the surroundings in vibrant colors.
- Visit Yasaka Shrine: Located at the eastern end of Gion, Yasaka Shrine is a significant Shinto shrine that dates back over a thousand years. Explore its stunning grounds, participate in a prayer ritual, and experience the serene atmosphere of this sacred place.
- Enjoy a Show at Gion Corner: Immerse yourself in the world of traditional Japanese performing arts by attending a show at Gion Corner. Witness tea ceremonies, ikebana (flower arrangement), traditional music, dance performances, and the art of puppetry in one captivating evening.
- Indulge in Kyoto Cuisine: Gion is home to numerous restaurants and teahouses where you can savor authentic Kyoto cuisine. Try kaiseki (multi-course haute cuisine), which showcases the region’s seasonal ingredients and refined culinary techniques. Don’t miss the opportunity to taste matcha (powdered green tea) and wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets).
- Visit Kodai-ji Temple: Explore the serene beauty of Kodai-ji Temple, a Zen Buddhist temple known for its exquisite gardens, elegant tea houses, and stunning architecture. Enjoy a peaceful stroll through its meticulously landscaped grounds and experience a tea ceremony in a traditional setting.
- Attend Gion Matsuri: If you happen to visit Kyoto in July, don’t miss the renowned Gion Matsuri festival. It is one of Japan’s most famous festivals, featuring vibrant processions, traditional music, and stunning floats parading through the streets of Gion.
These are just a few highlights of what Gion has to offer. As you explore its streets, immerse yourself in its timeless ambiance, and discover the unique experiences it holds, you’ll find that Gion is a truly captivating destination.
Day 2 – Kyoto Itinerary
Here is the plan for day 2:
- Morning – Arashiyama
- Afternoon – Nishiki Market/li>
- Evening – Kinkakuji
Morning – Arashiyama
On day 2, make your way from your hotel in Higashiyama ward to Kyoto Station (View directions on Google Maps). From Kyoto Station take the San-In Line to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove (View directions on Google Maps).
A visit to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is a must when exploring Kyoto’s natural wonders. Located on the outskirts of the city, this enchanting bamboo forest offers a serene and otherworldly experience. As you step into the grove, you’ll find yourself surrounded by towering bamboo stalks that create a surreal atmosphere. Here are some of things you can do in Arashiyama
Arashiyama, a scenic district in Kyoto, offers a variety of activities and attractions for visitors. Here are some things to do in Arashiyama:
- Explore the Bamboo Grove: Begin your Arashiyama adventure with a stroll through the enchanting Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Walk along the paths surrounded by towering bamboo stalks that create a serene and otherworldly atmosphere. The filtered sunlight and gentle rustling of the leaves make it a magical experience.
- Visit Tenryu-ji Temple: Discover the beauty of Tenryu-ji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Explore the temple’s exquisite Zen gardens, which offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains and a peaceful setting for contemplation. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Sogenchi Teien Garden, a traditional stroll garden renowned for its picturesque scenery.
- Cross Togetsukyo Bridge: Take a leisurely stroll across Togetsukyo Bridge, which spans the Katsura River. Enjoy the scenic views of Arashiyama’s natural beauty, including the lush mountains and flowing water. The bridge is particularly beautiful during cherry blossom season and the autumn foliage season.
- Visit the Monkey Park: Take a short hike up to the Iwatayama Monkey Park, located on Mt. Arashiyama. Interact with Japanese macaques (snow monkeys) in their natural habitat and enjoy panoramic views of Kyoto from the observation deck.
- Explore Arashiyama Park: Take a break in Arashiyama Park, located at the base of the Arashiyama mountains. Enjoy a leisurely walk, have a picnic, or simply relax and soak in the tranquil surroundings. The park is especially beautiful during cherry blossom season and offers a great vantage point to admire the scenery.
- Experience Sagano Scenic Railway: Embark on a scenic train ride on the Sagano Scenic Railway, also known as the “Romantic Train.” Enjoy the picturesque views of the Hozu River and the scenic countryside as the train winds its way through tunnels and along the riverbank.
- Discover Arashiyama’s Temples: Explore other temples in the area, such as Gio-ji Temple with its moss garden, or Jojakko-ji Temple with its stunning autumn foliage. These temples offer peaceful retreats and beautiful architecture.
- Indulge in Local Cuisine: Don’t miss the opportunity to try Kyoto’s famous cuisine in Arashiyama. Sample traditional dishes like yudofu (tofu hot pot) or matcha-flavored treats at local teahouses and restaurants.
Arashiyama offers a harmonious blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and culinary delights. Whether you’re strolling through the bamboo grove, visiting temples, or enjoying the scenic views, Arashiyama promises a memorable experience in Kyoto.
Afternoon – Kyoto Station and Nishiki Market
On your return journey from Arashiyama, stop to admire Kyoto Station and Kyoto Tower. Kyoto Station stands as a modern architectural marvel amidst the historical cityscape. With its futuristic design and impressive scale, it serves as a gateway to Kyoto’s rich cultural heritage. From here, you can plan your next stop: Nishiki Market. Located just a short distance from Kyoto Station (View directions on Google Maps), Nishiki Market is a food lover’s paradise. Often referred to as “Kyoto’s Kitchen,” the narrow street is lined with countless stalls and shops selling an array of local delicacies and fresh produce. Stroll along and savor the sights, sounds, and aromas of the market as you sample everything from fresh seafood and traditional sweets to pickled vegetables and matcha-flavored treats.
Here are somethings to do at Kyoto Station and Nishiki market:
Kyoto Station and Nishiki Market offer unique experiences that showcase the vibrancy and cultural richness of Kyoto. Here are some things to do at Kyoto Station and Nishiki Market:
At Kyoto Station:
- Marvel at the Architecture: Start by admiring the striking modern architecture of Kyoto Station itself. The futuristic design and expansive glass facade make it a sight to behold. Take a moment to appreciate the innovative design elements and the bustling atmosphere.
- Explore the Shopping Complex: Kyoto Station boasts an extensive shopping complex, featuring a wide range of shops, boutiques, and department stores. Indulge in some retail therapy and browse through a variety of stores offering fashion, accessories, cosmetics, and more.
- Visit the Observation Deck: Take an elevator ride to the top floor of Kyoto Station’s Sky Garden. From the observation deck, you can enjoy panoramic views of the cityscape, including iconic landmarks like Kyoto Tower and the Higashiyama Mountains. It’s an excellent spot for photography and to get a sense of the city’
- Dine at the Ramen Street: Head to “Ramen Koji” on the 10th floor of Kyoto Station to satisfy your noodle cravings. This dedicated ramen street features a variety of ramen shops, each offering unique flavors and styles. Try different bowls of ramen and discover your favorite.
At Nishiki Market:
- Sample Local Delicacies: Nishiki Market is often referred to as “Kyoto’s Kitchen,” and for good reason. Explore the narrow food stalls and shops that line the bustling market street. Sample a wide array of local delicacies, such as fresh seafood, pickled vegetables, Japanese sweets, and street food like takoyaki (octopus balls) and yakitori (grilled skewered chicken).
- Shop for Souvenirs: Nishiki Market is an excellent place to shop for Kyoto’s traditional crafts and souvenirs. Browse through shops offering Kyoto pottery, traditional textiles, lacquerware, and more. Take home a piece of Kyoto’s craftsmanship as a memento of your visit.
- Learn about Japanese Ingredients: Discover the rich culinary culture of Japan by exploring the stalls that sell fresh produce, spices, and unique ingredients. Engage with the vendors, learn about local ingredients used in Japanese cuisine, and gain insights into the flavors that make Kyoto’s food so distinctive.
- Participate in a Cooking Class: Some vendors at Nishiki Market offer cooking classes where you can learn to prepare traditional Kyoto dishes. Join a class to learn cooking techniques, try your hand at making sushi or traditional sweets, and deepen your understanding of Japanese cuisine.
Both Kyoto Station and Nishiki Market provide an immersive experience in Kyoto’s culture, from the modern and bustling atmosphere of the station to the vibrant and flavorsome world of Nishiki Market. Immerse yourself in the sights, tastes, and traditions of Kyoto at these two dynamic locations.
Evening – Kinkakuji Temple
From Nishiki Market, make your way to the enchanting Kinkakuji Temple, also known as the Golden Pavilion (View directions on Google Maps). Please note that the temple closes at 5PM. So, make your plans accordingly.
Located just a short distance from Nishiki Market, this iconic Zen Buddhist temple is a sight to behold. As you approach the temple grounds, you’ll be greeted by the shimmering reflection of the Golden Pavilion in the tranquil pond that surrounds it. The temple’s top two floors are covered in gold leaf, creating a stunning and awe-inspiring spectacle.
Here are some of the things to do at Kinkakuji temple.
- Admire the Golden Pavilion: Marvel at the stunning sight of the Golden Pavilion, a three-story building covered in gold leaf that stands majestically by a tranquil pond. Take in the intricate details of its design and the reflective beauty of its surroundings. It’s a perfect spot for photography and capturing the iconic image of Kinkakuji.
- Explore the Gardens: Take a leisurely stroll through the meticulously maintained gardens surrounding the Golden Pavilion. Enjoy the serene atmosphere and the beauty of the landscaped trees, manicured lawns, and vibrant flora. Pause at the various viewpoints to appreciate the different perspectives of the temple and its surroundings.
- Visit Anmintaku Pond Garden: Located adjacent to the Golden Pavilion, the Anmintaku Pond Garden offers a picturesque landscape to explore. Walk along the stone pathways that wind around the pond, cross the charming arched bridges, and immerse yourself in the tranquility of this traditional Japanese garden.
- Experience the Tea Ceremony: Inside Kinkakuji Temple, you have the opportunity to participate in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Learn about the rituals and etiquette associated with tea preparation and savor a cup of matcha (powdered green tea) while enjoying the serene ambiance of the tea house.
- Discover Sekkatei Teahouse: Adjacent to the temple grounds is the Sekkatei Teahouse, which offers a relaxing environment to enjoy a cup of tea while overlooking a small waterfall. Take a break, appreciate the natural beauty, and experience a moment of calm in this serene setting.
- Explore the surrounding area: After visiting Kinkakuji Temple, take the opportunity to explore the surrounding neighborhood. Wander through the quaint streets, browse local shops for souvenirs and traditional crafts, and perhaps enjoy a meal at one of the nearby restaurants serving Kyoto’s culinary delights.
Kinkakuji Temple is a place of beauty and serenity, offering visitors a glimpse into Japan’s rich cultural heritage. With its striking architecture, captivating gardens, and opportunities for cultural experiences, Kinkakuji Temple is a must-visit destination in Kyoto.
Day Trips from Kyoto
After visiting Kyoto, if you have still have time left in Japan, you may consider these two day trips from Kyoto.
Nara, with its close proximity to Kyoto, makes for an easy and rewarding day trip from the ancient capital. Just a short train ride away, Nara offers a wealth of historical and cultural treasures to explore. Begin your day by visiting Nara Park, a sprawling green space where friendly deer roam freely. You can feed and interact with these gentle creatures, making for a memorable experience. Within the park, you’ll find Todaiji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to the colossal Great Buddha statue. Marvel at the sheer size of the statue and admire the intricate architecture of the temple. Another must-visit attraction is Kasuga Taisha, a beautiful Shinto shrine renowned for its stunning vermilion torii gates and stone lanterns. Take a leisurely stroll through the vibrant Naramachi district, filled with well-preserved traditional buildings and charming shops selling local crafts and souvenirs. Nara is also known for its delicious street food, so be sure to try some regional specialties like kakinoha sushi (sushi wrapped in persimmon leaves) or deer-shaped pastries. With its rich historical sites, natural beauty, and friendly deer, Nara offers a captivating day trip that will transport you to another era and leave you with lasting memories of Japan’s cultural heritage.
Osaka, a bustling metropolis just a short train ride away from Kyoto, is an ideal destination for an exciting day trip. With its dynamic energy and modern attractions, Osaka offers a stark contrast to the traditional charm of Kyoto. Start your day by visiting Osaka Castle, a magnificent structure that dates back to the 16th century. Explore its impressive grounds, learn about its historical significance, and enjoy panoramic views of the city from the castle tower. Next, make your way to Dotonbori, Osaka’s lively entertainment district. This bustling area is famous for its vibrant neon lights, extravagant signage, and a wide array of local street food. Indulge in some takoyaki (octopus balls), okonomiyaki (savory pancakes), or try the famous Osaka-style sushi. Don’t miss the chance to take a leisurely boat ride along the Dotonbori River, allowing you to take in the sights and sounds from a unique perspective. If you’re interested in shopping, head to Shinsaibashi, a bustling shopping arcade filled with trendy boutiques, department stores, and souvenir shops. Here, you can find everything from fashion and cosmetics to traditional crafts. End your day by exploring the serene grounds of Sumiyoshi Taisha, one of Japan’s oldest Shinto shrines. This peaceful oasis offers a glimpse into ancient Japanese religious practices and is a perfect spot for relaxation and reflection. With its lively atmosphere, delicious cuisine, and modern attractions, Osaka offers an easy day trip that will immerse you in the vibrant spirit of Japan’s third-largest city.
Kyoto is a city that seamlessly blends tradition and modernity, offering a myriad of captivating experiences for travelers. From the awe-inspiring Fushimi Inari Taisha to the historic district of Gion, there is no shortage of cultural wonders to explore. The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove provides a tranquil escape into nature, while Kyoto Station stands as a testament to the city’s dynamic spirit. Nishiki Market and Kinkakuji Market offer delightful culinary and shopping experiences, where you can immerse yourself in the local flavors and craftsmanship. Kyoto is a city that leaves a lasting impression, weaving together ancient traditions, breathtaking landscapes, and a vibrant contemporary atmosphere. Whether you’re seeking spiritual tranquility, cultural immersion, or simply a feast for the senses, Kyoto is a destination that promises to captivate and inspire all who visit. Embrace the allure of this historic city and embark on a journey that will leave you with memories to cherish for a lifetime.
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Please note that the information provided in this article is based on our knowledge and research at the time of writing. While we strive to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information, please be aware that travel conditions, policies, and attractions may change over time. We recommend double-checking the details and availability before making any travel plans. Additionally, please be aware of any potential risks and exercise caution while visiting attractions or participating in activities mentioned in this article.