Things to do in Kyoto

Traditional teahouses, Shinto shrines, and Buddhist temples await in the cultural capital of Japan.

Our most recommended things to do in Kyoto

Kyoto: Hop-on Hop-off Sightseeing Bus Ticket

1. Kyoto: Hop-on Hop-off Sightseeing Bus Ticket

Discover the highlights of Kyoto with a same-day or 2-day ticket on this convenient hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus. Admire the panoramic views from onboard the open-top double-decker bus, and hop on or off at any of the stops along the route. Enjoy informative audio commentary on board the bus, available in 7 languages. Choose this efficient way of exploring the must-see places and attractions in Kyoto. The bus takes you past many of the city's top attractions, including UNESCO World Heritage sites such as Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji, and Kiyomizu-Dera Temple. You can enjoy unlimited rides for the duration of your ticket's validity. Bus stops along the route:  • Kyoto Station • Nishihonganji ( Kyoto Tokyu Hotel) • Shijo Karasuma / Nishiki-ichiba Market • Nijo-jo Castle • Kitano-tenmangu Shrine / Kamishichiken • Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion) • Daitokuji Temple • Kyoto Imperial Palace (Doshisha University) • Ginkakuji Temple (Silver Pavilion) • Heian-jingu Shrine / Okazaki Park • Gion (Kotowa-Kyoto Yasaka) • Gojozaka (Kiyomizu-dera Temple / Gion) • Sanjusangendo / Kyoto National Museum (Hyatt Regency Kyoto)

Kyoto and Nara 1 Day Bus Tour from Osaka/Kyoto

2. Kyoto and Nara 1 Day Bus Tour from Osaka/Kyoto

Depart from the exclusive VIP waiting rooms of Osaka or Kyoto, heading to Fushimi Inari Taisha. Designated as an Important Cultural Property, the main shrine building contains five shrines together, these five pillars of Fushimi Inari Taisha are named for the great virtues of Inari Okami that they embody. Inari Okami is known as a deity of business prosperity, the prosperity of industries, the safety of households, safety in traffic and improvement in the performing arts. The 'Senbon Torii' or 1000 torii gates are donations by individuals and companies, and you will find the donator's name and the date of the donation inscribed on the back of each gate. Then you will head to Arashiyama, which changes with the seasons and you can enjoy the scenery any time of year, with cherry blossoms in the spring, boat festivals in the Summer, red leaves in Autumn and snow white mountains in the winter. Arashiyama is also filled with temples and shrines including the match-making Shrine you can visit, during your walk through the famed Bamboo grove. There are a variety of restaurants to choose right near the Togetsukyo bridge, including vegan and Halal. Proceed to the symbol of Kyoto, Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion, also named Rakuon-ji: one of the most popular buildings in Japan. Finally, move on to Japan’s old capital, Nara: you will have the time to explore its park, cuddle the worldwide famous deer and enter the biggest wooden building of the planet, Todai-ji Temple, another UNESCO world heritage site. Here you will find yourself in front of Japan’s biggest Buddha statue, 15 meters tall.

Kyoto: All-Inclusive 3-Hour Food and Culture Tour in Gion

3. Kyoto: All-Inclusive 3-Hour Food and Culture Tour in Gion

Explore the Gion district by night with an experienced English, German, French, or Spanish-speaking tour guide who knows everything there is to know about the area. The tour starts near Kamo river, where you’ll learn about how the tradition of Geishas came to be. After a short stroll along a busy commercial street, you’ll slip into a calm, quiet area to visit the Yasaka Jinja shrine. After that touch of education, it’s off to the Gion.   The Gion has secrets and history scattered across its narrow streets, but this is also a modern entertainment district—so it’s time for a deep dive into what goes on here. Your guide will keep it light and fun, and explain some of the more interesting cultural mores of these parts. Step into a restaurant and graze from a multitude of small plates at a sort of Japanese-style tapas experience. Enjoy a drink as well before continuing on.   Between restaurant stops, there will be an exploration of Kiyamachi, Ponto-cho, and some other commercial and nightlife streets. Your guide will show you both modern and historical Kyoto, painting a well-rounded picture that gives you a real sense of the place. This tour keeps the groups small and includes your food and drinks, so that you can have a carefree night like you’re simply hanging out with someone who knows the neighborhood. A delicious Kobe (or nearby sourced) Beef option is available on top of the usual food and drink. This option is for bookings at least 10 hours in advance.

Kyoto: Private Tour with Local Licensed Guide

4. Kyoto: Private Tour with Local Licensed Guide

Discover Kyoto’s historical sites, favorite local spots, and hidden gems on a private walking tour with a nationally licensed guide. Choose from a 6 or 4-hour tour, whose itinerary can be customized to fit your interests. See both the modern and traditional sides of this dynamic and ancient city as well as some of the best sightseeing areas, restaurants, and shops. Visit places like the Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for the Torii Gate Corridor. Explore the filming location for the film “Memoirs of a Geisha”, displaying a colorful crimson scenery with a mysterious atmosphere. Walk through the shrine’s corridors that were erected as a symbolic continuing gate from the current world to the world of the dead inhabited by the gods. Go to the Kinkaku-ji Temple (Temple of the Golden Pavilion), which was given its name from the golden color of its reliquary hall. Admire its simple yet bold structure that features beautiful mountain views in the background. Enter the ancient Kiyomizu-dera temple to get panoramic city views from its large veranda. Walk from the path from the temple to Gion, to find many Kyoto-esque shops filled with unique souvenirs. Grab a snack or enjoy a delicious dinner at one of the many fine restaurants in the Gion district. Your guide will give you dining recommendations that are sure to delight your palate.

Kyoto: 45-Minute Tea Ceremony Experience

5. Kyoto: 45-Minute Tea Ceremony Experience

You will take you place on the tatami, the traditional Japanese floor mat and be met by your English-speaking host, who is a licensed tea master from Urasenke, the biggest school of tea ceremony in Japan. Watch as the host carries out the ceremonial preparation of matcha, powdered green tea. Then, you will have the chance to make tea yourself, while the host informs you about the history and spiritual role of the tea ceremony and the effects each tea-making method has on its flavor. Afterwards, savor some traditional Japanese sweets Once the ceremony has come to a close, you will have the chance to take photos and see examples of kimonos and beautiful woven textiles made in the Nishijin district of Kyoto. If you'd like to wear a kimono during the experience, you can select it as an add-on during booking and take photos to remember the experience.

Night Walk in Gion: Kyoto's Geisha District

6. Night Walk in Gion: Kyoto's Geisha District

Experience one of the most popular walking tours in Kyoto, joined by nearly 5,000 guests annually. This 100-minute guided walk is led by a licensed English-speaking guide and takes you through nighttime Gion. The tour begins at Gion Omoide Museum, connected to a traditional pastry shop. Walk down the classic cobblestoned streets next to the Shirakawa River, and admire the scenery that was featured in the book and film, Memoirs of a Geisha. As you walk beside this beautiful stream, the guide will tell you about the history of geisha and give you a detailed explanation in regards to their kimono, hairstyle, traditional rules, and what their daily life is like. Although it is not guaranteed, during the walking tour guests often encounter geisha walking along the street.

Kyoto: Tea Ceremony Ju-An at Jotokuji Temple

7. Kyoto: Tea Ceremony Ju-An at Jotokuji Temple

Start your tea ceremony experience by entering through the main gates of the Jotoku-ji Temple. You will pass the entrance to the Grand Tearoom on your left and a shop next to it and meet at the nearby red benches where your guide awaits. Whilst walking through the temple you are free to admire the architecture and stand by the purification fountain. Weather permitting, you are free to sit at the red benches and for a break. In the event of rain you can stand outside under the gable of the shop or wait in the Grand Tearoom. Once you have finished perusing the temple or sitting on the red benches taking in the atmosphere you are able to enter the Grand Tearoom where your instructor waits for you.  Start your tour of the Temple with a traditional purification ritual, a completely unique and insightful experience for Western visitors. Afterwards you will remove your shoes at the entrance of the Grand Tearoom and in your group, proceed inside to take your seat. Get the chance to sample matcha tea at its best. The Tea Master will guide you throughout, showing and explaining every step of the way. Throughout the ceremony you will be taught the fine art of drinking matcha tea and learn about the importance of the ceremony.

Kyoto: Sagano Train and Sightseeing Day Trip with Lunch

8. Kyoto: Sagano Train and Sightseeing Day Trip with Lunch

See some of Kyoto's highlights on this guided tour. Meet your expert guide and visit Arashiyama, where you can enjoy a delicious buffet style lunch with soft drinks to prepare you for an afternoon of sightseeing. After lunch, visit the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Kiyomizudera Temple, one of the most celebrated temples in Japan, founded in 780 on the site of the Otowa Waterfall. The tour continues onto Fushimi Inari, world-famous for the thousands of Torii gates that line the entrance to the Shinto Shrine. Spend some free time exploring the mountain trails and the shrine buildings themselves, and learn about the fascinating culture of Japan. Beat the traffic and take the train with your professional guide from JR Kyoto Station to Arashiyama or Fushimi Inari Taisha (depending on the train schedule of that day). During the  journey, feel immersed in nature as you admire the beautiful blossom trees and breathtaking mountain views. The tour ends after your visit to Fushimi Inari. If the first sightseeing place is Fushimi Inari Taisha, the bus will drop you off at JR Kyoto Station. Otherwise, your expert guide will give you the train ticket at Fushimi Inari Taisha to get back to JR Kyoto Station. The meeting point is at near JR Ticket office 1F, JR central exit.

Kyoto: Top Highlights Full Day Trip

9. Kyoto: Top Highlights Full Day Trip

Visit some of Kyoto's most famous sites on this culture-focused day trip. Hop on board a comfortable coach and drive through Japan's ancient capital to see the brilliant Torii Gates of the Fushimi Inari Shrine, the UNESCO-listed Kiyomizu-Dera temple, and the golden pavilion of Kinkaku-Ji. Start the tour by discovering some of Kyoto's ancient historic sites which date back to the 6th-century. Get dropped off at the Fushimi Inari Shrine, a Shinto shrine famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates. Spend time wandering the brilliant paths before heading to a restaurant for lunch. Here enjoy the chance to taste a  traditional Tofu set-course menu with Japanese tea. After lunch, head off to Kiyomizu-Dera, one of the most iconic temples in Japan. Spend ample time strolling through the temple. Walk across the impressive wooden stage, which juts out from the hillside and was constructed without the use of a single nail. Then, make a final stop at Kinkaku-Ji, also known as the Golden Pavilion due to the fact that it's covered in gold leaf. Wander through the immaculate gardens surrounding the temple, admiring the original Japanese designs that have been preserved since Ashikaga's time. In the late afternoon, get dropped off at Kyoto Station where your tour will end. The meeting point is at near JR Ticket office 1F, JR central exit.

Kyoto Nishiki Market Food Tour

10. Kyoto Nishiki Market Food Tour

Your experience will include stops at family owned stalls and shops which have stood the test of time. At a few of the stops sample specialty products like tsukemono (vegetables from the surrounding mountains preserved in vinegar), yuuba (the world’s smoothest sashimi tofu made from the world famous Kyoto mountain water), Kamaboko (seafood preserved in fish paste), Tako (Octopus with quail egg) and Macha Warabi Mochi (a special traditional sweet covered in ground tea leaves). During the tour learn detailed information about the ingredients of different Japanese dishes, how their food is prepared and what is used to eat it. Your experience will do more than just give you a chance to taste Kyoto’s delicious food but will also give you a sense the history and atmosphere of the Nishiki Market experienced by the Japanese for generations. You will be consumed with physical and visual stimuli every step of the way and enjoy stories from the past told directly from shopkeepers and families you will spend time with. After your market exploration walk to a nearby restaurant and have a course lunch featuring beautiful and delicious local dishes.

Frequently asked questions about Kyoto

What top attractions are a must-see in Kyoto?

The must-see attractions in Kyoto are:

What are the best day trips and excursions from Kyoto?

The best day trips and excursions from Kyoto are:

Arashiyama

Other Sightseeing Options in Kyoto

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What people are saying about Kyoto

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 2,462 reviews

I was lucky enough to have an entire advanced workshop to myself, with just the instructor, Mr Matsuda and the translator, Akari, who were both lovely! I loved asking Mr Matsuda about how he got into bookmaking and he was very charming and friendly. So much detail and care goes into every book he makes that at the end of the workshop I was honored to own something he helped me create! An amazing and unique experience.

So fun. Do it! Our guide was very good, nice and knowledgeable. We had two other super nice people in our group which made it more fun. The food and sights were amazing. Go for the wagu beef option. Bring layers for warmth, and good walking shoes, of course.

We had an awesome time. First our tea-master introduced us to some traditions of the temple. After she showed us how to prepare matcha tea everyone of us tried it themselves. I can highly recommend that! We are very happy and had a very good time!

Such an excellent cooking class! We had to best time - the food was delicious! The class was very relaxed, yet very informative. A must activity whilst in Kyoto!!

Really enjoyed it. Mie was a great guide and we learnt more about Kyoto and Geisha (or Geiko) in one evening then we have in the 4 days we’ve been in Kyoto