The best places to visit in Kyoto can vary from personal preference and choice; you may be interested in visiting historical landmarks, or the precious outdoors with fantastic scenery of Kyoto sightseeing at your mercy. Perhaps, you’re the kind of traveller who prefers to stick to the city and go shopping or divulge in local food instead, and there is nothing wrong with that.
The good news is that Kyoto has every traveller visiting the beautiful region covered in many ways, whether it’s visiting the best temples in Kyoto, exploring the great outdoors or walking the streets of the vibrant Kyoto City Centre.
Often the lure for visitors will be to the popular Kyoto attractions that get thousands of tourists daily to the stunning attractions and helps bring a little magic that will forever stay with you long after you’ve left Japan.
Let’s check it out, five of the best places to visit in Kyoto to make your trip to the former capital city of Japan, even more, distinctive than it already promises to be, because this city, is truly one of the best you’ll ever visit.
The Five Best Places to Visit in Kyoto
Arashiyama is an all-time favourite for most tourist going on a Kyoto trip, and little wonder too, with the popular district, offering stunning attractions, mainly in the picturesque outdoors, that brings real value to your holiday in Japan.
Arashiyama is tucked away in the picturesque outdoors and is known for its mesmerising temples, a unique township with quint Japanese-style housing, a monkey forest that comes with awesome Kyoto views and the stunning Katsura River that has plenty of action going on in and out of the water.
It’s all part of the amazing set up of Arashiyama that can take up to a few hours or a couple of days to explore, depending on how much time on your vacation that you have to spare. One thing is for sure, you must put Arashiyama on your to-do list when visiting Kyoto because you’ll fall in love with the culture and the serenity.
Best Attractions in Arashiyama
- Bamboo Forest
- Okochi Sanso Garden
- Arashiyama Monkey Park
- Tenryu-Ji Temple
The highlight of Arashiyama: The Bamboo Forest walk is heard of most when visiting Arashiyama and no doubt you’ll check it out upon your visit to the region. The towering bamboo trees that reach sky high and creates darkness within the daylight, is quite a spectacular sight to behold.
2. Fushimi Irani Shrine
The Fushimi Irani Shrine is captivated by many tourists daily who are visiting the head shine of god Irani. In the lead up to the shrine proper, you wander through a busy market place that produces a range of Japanese food that you can grab and eat on the run and there is also a variety of souvenirs on sale, which mostly consist of products to do with the Shrine or Kyoto.
Following the street market, you reach the temple proper and it’s a spectacular sight upon viewing the structures of the buildings and its vivid colours that is on full display. Inside the shrine, there is plenty of holy water and Bonsho, which is hanging bells that were used to summon the monks to prayer time.
The further into Fushimi you go, the more you realise it has become a hike. It begins at the time you reach the famous Orange Torii Gates and wander through a large forest, bypassing many bonshos and unique graveyards on the way.
Highlights of Fushimi Irani Shrine: Previously mentioned, the Orange Torii Gates, seen in the hit movie “Memoirs of a Geisha,” is what brings most people to the spiritual attraction and is undoubtedly the highlight of Fushimi. There are over 10 000 gates all up and it can take over an hour to wander through each gate, that will come with some nice views of Kyoto City.
3. Kodai-Ji Temple
When it comes to temples to visit in Kyoto, it can be a matter of personal choice to determine which is the best; there are many stunning temples in the area and you are spoilt for choice. For this article, Kodai-Ji temple in the city’s west is the winner (albeit narrowly), although many tourists may lean towards Kinkaku-Ji temple and its magnificent golden structure, Kodai-ji is just as superb.
Kodai-ji temple is of the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism and is situated in the Higashiyama-Ku part of Kyoto Japan, and the scenery is simply breathtaking everywhere you look. The lavishly designed buildings blend in perfectly in the outdoor landscapes of Kyoto and is a peaceful location to quiet walk through the gardens and another bamboo grove, that does not quite have the same hype of the Arashiyama version.
The highlight of Kodai-Ji temple: Is it the lovely designed buildings? Or the scenery that surrounds the temple? A visit to Kodai-ji is one big highlight and is located between the Yasaka Shrine and Kiyomizudera, which makes for a great day out exploring a few more of the best places to visit in Kyoto.
4. Nijo Castle
Nijo Castle in the heart of the city is a must-see attraction with plenty of tradition on show on the grounds of the centuries-old castle with stunning building designs, a surrounding moat, the lookout towers on the corners of the castle and the beautifully landscaped gardens that cover a large amount of the castle grounds.
The castle comes with an entrance fee of 600-yen and is filled a lot of proud history from the moment you walk inside the large boundary walls of the Nijo Castle.
When you are finished the outside area of the castle, it’s time to go inside and view various artwork with fine paintings of tigers and over captivating figures that were used not only as decorations but to intimidate guest from Korean and China who find tigers a sacred animal. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed to be taken inside.
Highlights of Nijo Castle: Grab a headset from the entrance gate and listen to the audio of the details and history of Nijo Castle as you wander from area to area, there is a lot of information to digest.
5. Heian Shrine
the magnificent Heian Jingu Shrine was built in 1895 to house the emperors who reigned in Kyoto at that time and the Shrine itself has many decorated Japanese buildings with fantastic texture and colour.
To the entrance of Heian Shrine, it starts off with large Torii gates and along walk-way all the to shrine when you finally reach the main buildings that are visible from a distance. The four main buildings of Heian are separated with large spacious areas and is covered with white limestone flooring that makes quite a shuffling noise as you walk through the Heian Shrine.
The highlight of the Heian Shrine: Around the back of the eye-catching buildings is the Heian Shrine gardens. There is a small entrance fee of 600-yen where you can wander through beautifully landscaped gardens, lakes and well-designed Japanese structures that are worth the admission price alone.
It’s the best five places to visit in Kyoto, perhaps you agree and maybe you don’t. Whatever the scenario, these five attractions certainly warrant your attention when visiting this great city.
Have you visited Kyoto? What are your top five attractions, please mention your favourites in the comments below.
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