With roughly one thousand Buddhist temples in Kyoto, visiting temple enthusiasts will definitely not be disappointed. Explore the splendour of these temples to discover the incredibly vast Higashi Honganji and the famous Golden Pavilion of Kinkaku-ji, or wander the exquisite gardens within Ryōan-ji and Saihō-ji.
As Japan’s indigenous faith, Shinto also has its fair share of temples in Kyoto. A must-see for all visitors is Fushimi Inari-Taisha, famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates.
It’s not only temples Kyoto has to offer – there are more than enough castles and palaces to go around too. Check out the former Kyoto residence of the Shogun at Nijo Castle, explore the beautiful gardens at Sento Palace, and discover Kyoto Imperial Palace, the residence of Japan's Imperial Family until 1868.
A visit to Kyoto would not be complete without a trip to Higashiyama, the preserved historic district around Kiyomizudera. Here, visitors can experience traditional Kyoto, with its narrow lanes, wooden buildings and traditional merchant shops, selling local specialities such as Kiyomizu-yaki pottery, sweets, pickles, crafts and other souvenirs.
For those with a liking for sake, the Fushimi Sake District is a must-visit, while Gion is most definitely the place to see geisha. Catch a glimpse of a geiko (Kyoto dialect for geisha) or maiko (geiko apprentices) on their way to or from an engagement at an ochaya (teahouse), or go all-out with the budget and pay for an evening’s entertainment with one of these Japanese icons.
Another ever-popular Japanese icon is the samurai. In Kyoto, visitors can step into the shoes of a samurai, taking lessons to uncover the traditional art of Samurai Kembu – or sword dance – or alternatively, watch a performance at the samurai theatre.
To learn about Kyoto’s past within a more academic setting, head to the Kyoto National Museum.
Opened in 1897, it is one of Japan’s oldest and most distinguished museums, featuring a fascinating collection of archaeological relics, sculptures, ceramics, calligraphy, costumes and paintings.
Or, for an all-encompassing view over Kyoto, check out the Shogunzuka mound. Here, you can find the Shogunzuka Dainichi-do temple and the Shogunzuka observatory, providing exceptional views over the entire city. Take it all in and work out which great Kyoto experience is next on the list!