Things to do in Kyoto
While in Japan, a trip to Kyoto is a must to experience the country’s traditional and cultural side. The city was once known as Japan’s capital and today has a population of around 1.5 million people. During your visit to Kyoto, you will come across beautiful shrines, temples, nature and historical landmarks that make for a worthwhile trip.
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Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
For a taste of nature, the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is a stunning sight to visit in Kyoto. Visitors will find themselves lost in the calming atmosphere as they wander along the forest pathways, which are lined with endless rows of vibrant bamboo. For a peaceful walk through the bamboo forest, it is best to visit early in the morning when there are fewer people around. Remember to look out for the Okochi-sanso Villa located at the end of the forest, which offers a breathtaking view of Kyoto.
To soak in Kyoto’s historical and cultural side, don’t forget to add Gion to your itinerary. While strolling the streets of Gion, you will come across many tea-houses, temples and traditional woodhouses. Gion also has several shops and restaurants, and some of the best places to check out are on Hanami-koji street. This street is lined with a number of restaurants serving kaiseki ryori, which is a Japanese style multi-course dinner.
Higashi Honganji Temple
Located close to the Kyoto station is the Higashi Honganji temple. One of the most prominent features of the temple is the Goei-do Hall (Founder’s Hall), which is considered the largest wooden structure in the world. While exploring the hall, you will also come across features such as handmade roof tiles and Buddhist decorations. Remember to stop by the peaceful Shosei en Garden nearby, where visitors can walk around after visiting the temple.
Iwatayama Monkey Park
To experience Kyoto’s wildlife, a trip to the Iwatayama Monkey Park is a great place to see the Japanese Macaque Monkey in their natural habitat. Home to over 170 macaque monkeys, the park is located on Mt Arashiyama and requires a 30-minute hike to get there. While the walk can be challenging, the surrounding views along the way make it worthwhile. While hiking up the mountain, you’ll spot fully bloomed cherry blossom trees in the springtime and wildlife such as deer. Upon arrival at the park, you’ll have the option to purchase food to feed the monkeys at the designated feeding site. While wandering the park, you’ll also be treated to stunning panoramic views of Kyoto.
Japanese Tea Ceremony
Tea ceremonies became an essential part of Japanese culture after the tea plant was brought to Japan from China. There is a significant meaning behind the Japanese tea ceremony as it represents purity, tranquillity, respect and harmony. The ceremony involves preparing and serving Japanese green tea, also known as matcha, and this ritual is considered an art form in Japan. To experience a traditional tea ceremony, one of the best venues to check out in Kyoto is Maikoya. Visitors can wear the kimono while learning about the tea ceremony’s history and can even participate in the tea making process.
Located outside of Kyoto’s centre in Kibune, the Kifune Shrine is a photogenic spot all year round. Upon arrival, you’ll come across bright red lanterns that line a stone stairway leading up to the shrine. The shrine is dedicated to the god of water and has a fascinating history behind it. Legend says that a goddess arrived in Kibune by boat and the shrine’s location is where she landed. A visit to the shrine makes for a peaceful day trip, as you can also soak in scenic views of the surrounding area along the way.
The kimono is a traditional Japanese garment that comes in many patterns and styles. While the kimono was once a part of everyday wear, today you’re more likely to see them on special occasions like weddings and tea ceremonies. If you’re visiting the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, look out for the Kimono Forest located nearby at Randen Arashiyama Station. The Kimono Forest is an art installation, designed to celebrate the kimono. The forest has a pathway lined with 600 clear cylinders, each one filled with a colourful kimono design. The pillars are also installed with LED lights, and the best time to visit is at night when they are lit up, creating a mesmerising atmosphere.
Known as the Golden Pavilion, Kinkaku-ju Temple is one of the most famous landmarks in Kyoto. Covered in gold foil and surrounded by a glistening pond and towering pine trees, the temple is a picture-perfect attraction. One of the best times to visit the temple is during autumn when the leaves turn red, which creates a beautiful effect against the golden building.
Kyoto Railway Museum
One of the best ways to travel around Japan is via train. A trip to the Kyoto Railway Museum is a great place to learn more about this popular mode of transport. The museum has three floors and displays a range of retired trains, railway uniforms, and train dioramas. There are also many interactive exhibitions within the museum, where visitors get the chance to drive a train simulator.
Nishiki Market first started as a fish market when it opened back in 1310. Today, the market has over 100 shops and restaurants to explore and is also referred to as the ‘Kyoto Kitchen’. Located in central Kyoto, the market is a lively part of the city where many people flock to sample locally produced food such as fresh seafood, produce, sweets and sushi.
Kyoto Travel Tips:
Transport in Kyoto?
Some of the best ways to travel around the city are by walking or taking the bus. You can pick up a one-day bus pass at the tourist information counter located at the bus station. Kyoto is also known as one of the greatest bicycle cities in Asia, so renting a bike is another great option to explore the city.
Best place to stay in Kyoto?
Some of the best places to stay in Kyoto include the Gion area, Kyoto Station and Central Kyoto. Downtown Kawaramachi is another good option as there are many shops and restaurants to check out around the area.
Free attractions in Kyoto?
While some attractions have any entrance fee, you’ll find that many shrines, temples and gardens in Kyoto are free to visit.
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