If you don’t know the things to do in Kyoto, we hope to help you in the following lines. We started our 14-days trip around Japan here. We stayed a total of 3 nights and we think it’s just enough to see the essentials. Moreover, we had time to visit Nara in one afternoon. However, we didn’t visit all the temples in the city. Also, one of the days we rented a bicycle to move around, so we could visit a lot. With regard to where to eat in Kyoto, we must say that the city surprised us pleasantly. There are very good restaurants. We tell you everything below!
Things to do in Kyoto and Nara
Our list of essentials to visit in Kyoto are:
- Fushimi Inari shrine
- Gion neighborhood
- Kamo river and Pontocho street
- Temple’s slope (above Gion)
- Golden Pavilion
- Nishiki Market
- Nara excursion
Below we show you our itinerary in Kyoto and Nara.
DAY 1, things to do in Kyoto: Nishiki market, Kamo river and Pontocho diner
We arrived in Kyoto from Tokyo in the afternoon and with a loooooot of jet lag. Therefore, the first day we only had a walk through the center. We went through Nishiki Market where we tried the famous takoyakis (fried balls stuffed with dough and octopus). Although it closed at 5:00 p.m., there were still some open food stalls.
We also had some beers next to the Kamo River and ended up having dinner in Pontocho Street. Pontocho street is parallel to the river. Here are all restaurants with terrace and river views. When the weather is good there is a great atmosphere. Highly recommended to book in advance. Below you will find our gastronomic experiences in Kyoto.
DAY 2, things to do in Kyoto: Golden pavilion, Gion, temple’s slope & Fushimi Inari
As soon as we arrived in Kyoto and saw everyone riding a bike, we decided to rent one. We love bikes and we knew that in this way we could see more things in less time. The shop where we rented the bikes was called Kyoto Rental Cycle. Each bike cost about € 10 for the entire day. You had the option of taking them with or without gears. We recommend you take it with gears, since we gave it a lot of use on the slopes. However, in this place had to return the bikes at 17:30 at the latest. Anyway, we took them from 10:00 in the morning, so we had a lot of time.
Tour by bike around Kyoto
We started the route heading the Golden Pavilion. The bad thing was that we arrived at the worst hour, that is, when it was crowded. About 11:00 you could hardly walk. However, we liked the visit. You should know that in Kyoto you can not leave the bike where you want, you always have to look for a bike parking. In tourist sites it is usually free.
From the Golden Pavilion we went to Gion. Here we get off the bike and carry it in our hands, since it is forbidden to ride a bicycle in this neighborhood. Once we left Gion, we rode the whole slope of temples by bike. It is a very beautiful area, but we did not stop at any temple until we reached the Fushimi Inari shrine. Here we left our bikes in the free parking, to the right of the great Tori of the main entrance. You can also get here with the JR Pass. One thing that we skipped and that you should include in the places to see in Kyoto is the Kiyomizu-dera temple.
After visiting Fushimi Inari we went to return the bikes and took a walk through the shopping streets of Kyoto: Shinkyogoku and Teramachi.
DAY 3, things to do in Kyoto: Arashiyama + Nara
We dedicated our third day to visit Arashiyama. In this village you can visit the famous bamboo forest, the Katsura river and the Monkey park. To get to Arashiyama we used the JR Pass to the Sagano-Arashiyama stop. From here we walked about 10 minutes to the Bamboo Forest. Apparently it’s usually crowded. We went on a rainy day, so maybe we got lucky. After strolling through the forest, we headed to the promenade that ran along the Katsura River.
Along the Katsura River you can do boat tours. After the walk, we went to the Monkey park, since we did not have much time.
From the top of the park of monkeys or Japanese macaques you have a panoramic view of Kyoto. You have to pay entrance (550 yen), they only accept cash. If you do not like monkeys, the views from above are very nice. Also the trail is worth it, although on the way there are about 20 minutes up the hill.
Things to do in Nara
From Arashiyama we took our JR Pass and we headed Nara. Here we enjoyed one of our best dining experiences in Japan. We will tell you about it at the end of the post. We also visited the famous Todai-ji temple. It is the largest wooden building in the world, a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. You have to pay to enter, only in cash.
Inside there is a giant Buddha that will impress you when you see it live. In the photos its size is not appreciated.
After visiting the temple we went to greet the deer that inhabit the park of Nara. On the other hand, something that you can not miss from Nara are its mochis. We found a store that made them at the moment in front of you. It was on the main street that runs from Nara Park to JR station. The best mochi we ate on the whole trip through Japan.
In these 3 days, as you can see, we visited the essentials of Kyoto and added the visit to Nara.
Hotels in Kyoto
In Kyoto we stayed in the same center, in Kawaramachi. It was a quite nice apartment with a fridge and washing machine. It was great for us to do the first wash of the trip, as we were hardly carrying luggage so we could move more comfortably around Japan. The hotel was called Koiyama, it was recommended to us by friends who go almost every year to Japan. It’s about 30 minutes on foot from Kyoto station, but you’re one step away from everything there is to see 🙂 Anyway, you can do your hotels in Kyoto search here .
Where to eat in Kyoto and typical dishes
Here we list our experiences in Kyoto restaurants. We counted them all because all the sites were spectacular:
1. Kyosakaba Hakoya, Pontocho road
It’s on Pontocho Street. We tried a tasting menu each with tempura and sashimi, plus a tasting of Japanese appetizers such as potato salad or edamame. The place was so nice, although it was € 30 per person with beer, which is quite expensive in Japan. We would also recommend it. In the photo the second courses are missing 🙂
2. Tiger Gyoza Hall
Here we tried gyozas of different flavors, a tuna sashimi with avocado that was spectacular and a yakisoba (noodles with vegetables and pork). We also loved it. Here we payed € 17 per person with beer included.
3. Nishiki Market
It is a good option to start to know the gastronomic offer of Japan, but many times you will have to eat standing, next to the food stand. It’s quite cheap. You can get some takoyakis like the ones we show you for 500 yen, about 4 €.
4. Ippudo Ramen Kyoto, Kawaramachi
It is a ramen franchise that is all over Japan. There is usually a line, since they are delicious and cheap. This day we ate for less than € 15 per person and we even included extras to the ramen, we ordered gyozas and beer.
5. Egg’s & Things, Kawaramachi
If you are looking for where to have breakfast in Kyoto, a western alternative is the Egg’s & Things restaurant. Here you can eat some good eggs benedict. The breakfast or brunch will cost about € 15 per person.
6. Ujicha Gion Tsujiri, Gion.
You can not miss the desserts and ice cream matcha tea from this place in the neighborhood of Gion. The best we tried in the whole trip through Japan.
Where to eat in Nara
-Terakawa, Nara. If you are going to visit Nara, book lunchtime to go to the Terakawa restaurant. This site fascinated us. For € 25 per person we could taste the wagyu meat and millions of delicacies such as green tea of the area, a good homemade tofu, soup, soba (noodle) and much more. You can choose one of the different tasting menu, it was what we did.
We hope this post about what to see in Kyoto has been useful for you. If you have any questions, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave us a comment below.