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10 best things to see and do in Kyoto

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Kyoto is a must-see city on any trip to Japan. It was probably the city that I liked most about the trip because it represented everything I had imagined about Japanese culture. Kyoto is a traditional city and the cultural center of Japan. And also the city of a thousand temples! At each step you take you have a temple, several of them a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Not to end up with so many temples and so much beauty in this post I tell you all the plans to see and do in Kyoto that you cannot miss for anything in the world.

do in kyoto

To give you an idea Kyoto has more than 1600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines. Seeing them all is really impossible. To all this it is necessary to add that the city is very extensive, but be calm with this guide everything is solved.

1. Visit the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine at the very first hour of the morning

Fushimi Inari is the most amazing Shinto shrine in Japan. Surely it sounds to you because it comes out in the movie “Memoirs of a Geisha”.

The sanctuary is located on top of Inari Mountain and is dedicated to the gods of rice and sake. To get to the top you will have to cross almost 4 kilometers of torii (the red doors typical of the temples of Japan) and climb 1,200 steps.

I assure you that the road to the top is a fascinating path. Full of spirituality and where the goal is not the final goal. The best is the path surrounded by red torii. At each step a torii. I promise that it is unforgettable.

Fushimi Inari has a problem and is almost always overloaded people. Being always open, even at night, I recommend you go to there at the very first hour of the morning to enjoy it alone.

2. Visit Kiyomizu-dera temple

Kiyomizu-dera is the temple of pure water. It is formed by a set of several Buddhist temples that are located in the hills of the east of Kyoto.

It was built in the year 798, but the current buildings were rebuilt in 1633. To this day they still have to continue in reconstructions because when we visited Kiyomizu-dera the main temple was under construction.

The best thing about Kiyomizu-dera is the gardens that surround them. In short, it is an essential temple to see in Kyoto and one of the most famous.

3. Visit Kinkakuji or Golden Pavilion Temple

The Golden Pavilion temple is another must see of Kyoto and is one of the many places in the city declared a World Heritage Site.

The temple dates back to 1397 and is famous for being covered with sheets of gold leaf. The main building cannot be visited inside, but seeing it outside with the gardens is incredible. It is usually quite crowded and taking a good picture of it can be an impossible mission, so I recommend trying to visit it first hour of the morning or just before closing.

arashiyama bamboo forest

4. Take a picture in the Arashiyama bamboo forest

Seeing the bamboo forest of Arashiyama is another task that you have to do in Kyoto. I do not want to disappoint you, but I warn you that the forest, as mystical as it may seem, may disappoint a little, especially if you see it crowded with people. The forest is only a few meters and it is from those places that the photo looks more than it really is.

5. Visit Nijo Castle, another top place to see in Kyoto

Nijo Castle was built in 1603 by the first shogun of Japan. What struck me most about the castle, besides the gardens and the building itself; it was how the wooden floor creaked with each step. Do not think it’s a defect, no. It was built like this so that, in the case of being attacked, they would realize when they heard the noise of the ground.

6. Relax in the Kyoto Imperial Palace Park

Very close to Nijo Castle is the Imperial Palace of Kyoto, the former residence of the emperor. Today the building is still used for official events. We only saw it from the outside, and the best thing about this palace is its gardens. Especially if you go in the cherry blossom season.

7. Try to see geishas at sunset in Gion Corner

Gion Corner is the geishas neighborhood. I encourage you to go to this area at sunset. It is the time when you are most likely to see geishas on the street from which they come to their clubs to work. They do not really show much. Although you obviously get their attention, they usually try to go unnoticed and move very fast.

It is also highly recommended to see a maiko show at the Gion Corner Theater.

8. Take a walk around Pontocho

Pontocho is one of the most beautiful and lively areas of Kyoto. We went in the cherry blossom season and fell in love with this area on the banks of the Kamogawa River. I recommend going at night as a continuation of the walk through Gion Corner. And then go to dinner at Nigiri Chojiro. Here the sushi is tremendous.

9. Rent a kimono and walk around the temples of Kyoto like a Japanese girl

Renting a kimono or renting a samurai suit is one of the most curious things to do in Kyoto. You are going to be the envy of all Kyoto. And if you believe that it is too ridiculous, do not worry because many people do it.

10. Or dress up with geisha and take professional pictures

If you wish, you can also wear geisha or maiko for a few hours and be immortalized by a photographer. To me this option was the one that caught my attention, rather than dress in the kimono and walk with those uncomfortable sandals of death in the street.