Our most recommended things to do in Kyoto

Kyoto: Uncover the Hidden World of Japanese Maiko

1. Kyoto: Uncover the Hidden World of Japanese Maiko

Explore the Gion district of Kyoto with an expert guide and gain exclusive insight into maiko (apprentice geiko) and geiko culture. Visit a private tea house, see a traditional maiko performance, chat with your host, and enjoy a dinner with unlimited beer and sake. Meet your guide in the heart of Gion and learn about the history of maiko and geiko. Stop at the Yasaka-jinja Shrine and learn about the restaurant where the maiko tradition originated. Bask in the ambiance of Old Japan and stroll through streets lined by machiya townhouses and swaying paper lanterns. After taking in some of the ambiance of the area, step behind the noren curtains of a traditional tea house that hosts private maiko performances. Tuck into a delicious dinner of typical Japanese fare, and help yourself to unlimited beer, sake, or soft drinks before your host arrives. Greet your maiko and then experience an authentic performance, usually reserved for guests with a private invitation. Following the performance, learn a bit more about the art of hosting up close as you listen to some local music and play some fun drinking games. You will also enjoy the rare opportunity to learn firsthand about maiko and geiko history and traditions with a Q&A session with your host. Feel free to ask questions about your hosts' profession, and gain a rare insight into a hidden and oft-misunderstood world.

Kyoto: Practice a Guided Meditation with a Zen Monk

2. Kyoto: Practice a Guided Meditation with a Zen Monk

Visit the serene Jōju-ji temple in Kyoto with an expert guide and gain first-hand insight into Buddhism and meditation. In this off-the-beaten-track location, take part in an authentic Zen meditation session with the resident monk, and enjoy a light lunch of typical Buddhist Shojin cuisine. Meet your expert guide at the entrance to the Jōju-ji temple. Take a short tour of a tranquil temple away from the crowds of the main tourist area. Learn about Buddhism using all 5 senses, and find out about the importance of meditation for its adherents.  Then, meet the resident monk, who will guide you through a Zen meditation session incorporating meditative chanting. Practice essential Zen techniques and feel your tension and stress melt away in the tranquil surroundings. Afterward, enjoy exclusive access to the living quarters of the temple for a Q&A-style chat with the monk. Learn about the core concepts and beliefs of Buddhism with your guide acting as your interpreter, and get a rare opportunity to gain a first-hand insight into the lifestyle of a Buddhist monk.  Your experience will conclude with a light lunch of traditional Buddhist lunch of Shojin food and tea. In accordance with religious custom, the lunch is free from meat or fish, primarily consisting of seasonal vegetables and mountain plants.  After your experience, you can incorporate your newly-learned meditation techniques into your lifestyle. Rest assured in the knowledge that this experience serves to support the temple so that it may serve the surrounding community for generations to come.

Kyoto: Make sweets with an award-winning chef at Ninna-ji

3. Kyoto: Make sweets with an award-winning chef at Ninna-ji

Embark on a once-in-a-lifetime before-hours tour of Kyoto's iconic Ninna-ji Temple and discover the history behind each turn. Craft your own delicious wagashi candies with an award-winning confectioner, enjoy an exclusive visit to the Great Hall, and witness an authentic tea ceremony. Arrive at Ninna-ji Temple in the morning before opening hours and meet your guide and resident monk. Then, unlock the temple's main gates, which date back to the 17th century, and step into this peaceful park, surrounded by colorful trees and lush gardens. Proceed to the Great Hall, which is normally closed to the public. Explore its meticulous interior and marvel at the wealth of traditional Japanese art and woodwork. Learn more about the history that surrounds you with insightful commentary from your guide. Next, learn to make wagashi from one of Japan's finest confectioners — and the official candy purveyor of Ninna-ji. First, sample some delicious wagashi before crafting your own tasty treat with the guidance of your award-winning instructor. Continue to a secluded tea house and meet a tea ceremony master. Take a moment to admire the ornate gardens that surround you, before taking part in a traditional tea ceremony with your wagashi. Discover the meaning behind the gestures and the history rooted in this ritual. Ninna-ji is a UNESCO-listed Buddhist temple located in western Kyoto, recognized for its beautiful gardens, traditional architecture, and broad collection of classic art and woodwork. Enjoy an exclusive opportunity to experience this National Treasure at dawn on a tour for your group alone.

Kyoto: Discover the Ancient Art of Noh Theatre

4. Kyoto: Discover the Ancient Art of Noh Theatre

Discover the ancient art of noh on a once-in-a-lifetime tour just outside Kyoto. Stroll through the mountain village of Ohara, experience noh chant and dance, and sip tea with a local delicacy in the noh Master's garden. Meet your guide, Julia, at the bus stop in the picturesque mountain village of Ohara. Embark on a short guided walk through the Ohara countryside to learn about the history of noh while you marvel at the lush mountain scenery, sloping landscapes, and traditional wooden architecture. Arrive at the private home of a noh master and step into his studio. Slip on a pair of "tabi" socks and take a seat on the floor. Then, witness a private performance of this traditional art, complete with authentic clothing and masks dating back hundreds of years. Learn more about this precious art from the master and discover how it has evolved and adapted over the centuries. Admire the workmanship of the masks and costumes up close before trying out some of the methodical and rhythmic movements of noh with the master. Then, make your way into the garden and refresh your senses with some tea and Japanese sweets ("wagashi"). Unwind in the stillness and fresh air before bidding farewell to your guide. At the end of your experience, be sure to explore the picturesque town of Ohara before returning to the station. Noh is a classical theatrical-dance art that was first performed in the 14th century and is recognized on the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. On this exclusive experience curated by GetYourGuide, immerse yourself in the world of traditional arts and Japanese heritage.

Kyoto and Nara 1 Day Bus Tour from Osaka/Kyoto

5. 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: 45-Minute Tea Ceremony Experience

6. 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.

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

7. 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: Hop-on Hop-off Sightseeing Bus Ticket

8. 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: Insider Sake Brewery Tour with Sake and Food Pairing

9. Kyoto: Insider Sake Brewery Tour with Sake and Food Pairing

Insider Sake Brewery Tour + Sake Tasting and food pairing with an expert/ If you love Sake but don't know what to select or want to enjoy it with Japanese food, join us and let's dive deep into the world of sake! Meet your guide and set off on your three hour tour exploring the Fushimi Sake District of Kyoto, one of Japan’s most famous sake producing areas, and home to about 30 breweries. ・Insider Sake Brewery Tour Visit Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum the largest sake brewery in Fushimi with a sake expert, where you’ll deepen your knowledge of sake and witness traditional brewing processes which have been passed down from generation to generation. At the end of your brewery tour you’ll have the chance to taste a few of the flavours produced there, and friendly staff from the brewery will be on hand to answer any questions you may have. After finishing up with your first sampling, you’ll move on to the full tasting session. ・Sake Tasting with an Expert Enjoy tasting flavours of sake you may never have experienced before – as we’ll introduce you to bottles which have never been exported. Your expert guide will explain the differences in taste – dry, fruity, sweet – and how each of these are produced. ・Food Pairing Experience the food pairing with sake - you’ll also be served various otsumami – Japanese snacks which traditionally accompany alcohol – so you can see which types of food and flavour best accompany the different sake types. This is a fun and educational sake tasting in Kyoto. Recommended to join this experience at the beginning of your trip in Japan!

Kyoto: Tea Ceremony Ju-An at Jotokuji Temple

10. 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.

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

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The best day trips and excursions from Kyoto are:

Arashiyama

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What people are saying about Kyoto

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 2,956 reviews

The trip took us to beautiful and impressive places. We were highly impressed by our first guide Satoshi - he spoke advanced English and was quite knowledgeable and kind. The second guide Kan was very friendly and caring. The activity provider was also extremely kind and thoughtful in preparing a small surprise for my boyfriend who had a birthday on the day of our trip. The trip can be booked with a starting point Kyoto or Osaka, I think Osaka is the better option, discuss it with the activity provider.

Anna was a great tour guide. She took us to many picturesque spots and gave us information on the history of the area. The food offered on the tour was very diverse, we had a great time! Highly recommend especially as soon as possible on your arrival to Kyoto.

Is a must if you are interested in geisha culture. We learned a lot and managed to see a beautiful Geiko and a Maiko during our walk.

Amazing and it was my memoriable trip and day in Japan. Thank you Mike (our tour guide) for making my day wonderful.

The staff was great. My wife absolutely loved the experience- one of her favorite in Japan.