Kyoto is the ancient capital of Japan and there is a lot of history and tradition for you to explore. But don’t let that fool you; Kyoto is not some medieval town straight out of something like Lord of the Rings! It’s is a large, modern city that has managed to retain significant pockets of its political, religious, and cultural heritage. To get you well on your way to making the most our of your Kyoto travel experience, here are 5 things to do in Kyoto, right from the mouths of our locals.
5. Temples and Shrines
Kyoto is famous for its temples and shrines and you can either see a lot or just a few – but the key ones that you won’t want to miss are the Golden Pavilion, the Silver Pavilion, Fushimi Inari, and Kiyomizu-dera. You’re sure to find some peace and serenity among any of these shrines, but even if you don’t they’re just simply stunning to look at.
4. Look our for Geisha of Gion
‘Geisha’ is the term given to the female entertainers synonymous with tea ceremonies, kimonos, and the traditional arts of Japan. Locally, the entertainers are either Geiko (fully trained) or Maiko (trainee) and they mostly live and work in the neighbourhood of Gion. It takes a bit of skill and local knowledge to know where they’ll be and how to spot them, but if you hang around here long enough you’ll no doubt spot one. They move surprisingly fast, though!
3. Cycle Kyoto
Everyone in Kyoto cycles. It’s a flat city (surrounded by mountains) and cycling is the best way to get around town. Everyone rides on the pavement, though, so you need to keep your wits about you. You could navigate the city yourself, or join a bike tour to see Kyoto with a guide.
Nara is an easy day trip from Kyoto, and well worth the trek as one of Japan’s ancient cities. Some of the temples and shrines here are among the oldest in the country, and there is also a huge park full of wild deer.
Easily reached by train from Kyoto, this is a great way to connect with a piece of Japan’s countryside. Visit Arashiyama to walk through the bamboo forest, stroll along the river, or just enjoy the cherry blossom and the sunshine. This spot will really make you feel like you’re in Japan!
Inspired to visit Kyoto and want to see it with a local? Check out our Kyoto tours!