15 Best Things to Do in Kyoto, Japan

|   Last Updated on April 3, 2020

Kyoto has a population of 1.47 million people and attracts many tourists to the area each year. In the year 794, it was elected as the seat for the imperial court and this remained for hundred of years right up until the 1800’s.

However, in the 15th century, Kyoto was completely destroyed in a war and had to be reconstructed and rebuilt. That being said, the city was pretty much untouched by the action of the second world war and has such retained most of its pre-war culture, one of the few places that can say this.

There are a lot of things to see and do whilst staying in Kyoto and tourists to the area may be wondered what exactly they can expect from taking a short break here. In this article, we are going to share with you some of the greatest things to do whilst visiting this incredible city, which will leave you with memories for many years to come.

1. Arashiyama

This is one of the most popular locations for tourists in the entire Kyoto Prefecture. The forest here is home to many monkeys, and the monkey sanctuary is often the first port of call for visitors to the area.

Not only is there a chance to get up close and personal to the wildlife but the area provides you with many hiking trails which are known for their peace and tranquility. There are a good variety of temples here which are built in the traditional style and are well worth a visit for those wanting to soak up the culture.

2. Nishiki Market

In down town Kyoto visitors will find the Nishiki market, this is a great chance to blend in with the locals and experience the true vibrant culture that this city has to offer.

There is the chance to try samples of various foods from the local area and you can also purchase these to enjoy at a later date (bare in mind customs laws when thinking about taking food in and out of countries). There is a great selection of local goods and you can really get a feel for the city whilst in this area.

3. Kyoto Imperial Palace

This is the former residence of the imperial family of Japan and remained so for many years right through until the late 1800s when the official residence was moved. However, this palace is still kept in immaculate condition as it was ordered to be so by the Japanese government.

There are a selection of public tours which take place here throughout the day and there is also a restaurant in the car park allowing guests to whet their appetite whilst here.

4. Higashiyama Jisho-ji

As we mentioned earlier, Kyoto is famed for its beautiful temples and this zen temple is one of the most stunning in appearance. Viewing buildings such as this one allows visitors to immerse themselves in the culture and spirituality of this amazing country as well as experiencing the peaceful environments that these traditional temples offer.

5. Heian Shrine

The Heian Shrine is a Shinto shrine and is noted as one of Japans most cultural properties. It was built to mark the 1100th anniversary of the city of Kyoto and not only shows off the traditional Japanese architecture that this area of renowned for but also offers some stunning scenery to boot.

6. Kyoto Tower

This is the tallest building in all of Kyoto and stands at an impressive 100 meters, but when the antenna is included, the height towers up to over 130 meters. Inside the tower, you will find a variety of shops and places to eat as well as a hotel.

But one of the most notable things about the Kyoto tower are the views that can be seen from the observation deck at the very top. Here you will find not only panoramic views of the city but also a fully interactive touch screen guide to everything you are seeing. It is for this reason that this one makes a great family outing.

7. Rengeoin Sanjusangendo

This Buddhist temple is just one of many in the area, and one of many on this list. Visitors to Kyoto can expect to soak up the culture here through viewing various temples and this one is a must see. It was built way back in 1164 for the emperor at the time and is known as one of Japans national treasures.

8. Enryakuji

There are many spiritual places in and around this city and one of those that simply has to be seen is this wonderful Buddhist monastery. Sitting at the base of Mount Hiei, this is a place that you certainly won’t be forgetting in a hurry, the tranquil nature of the monastery will give even the most fast paced life a relaxed feel.

The site has been granted protection by the UNESCO world heritage and has stood here since the year 788 making it one of the oldest monasteries in the country.

9. Kyoto International Manga Museum

This museum is actually housed in a former school and is home to an astonishing 300 thousand individual artifacts. The museum opened in 2006 and has since become one of the most visited places in the city by locals and tourists alike.

The museum houses a huge variety of magazines and books and has fast become a place for local people to simply hang out, making it one of the notable areas of the city. Many of the books here are written in English and so tourists will have a lot to look at. There is also an on site gift shop so that you can take home a reminder of your visit.

10. Kyoto Botanical Gardens

Set in the city are the stunning Kyoto botanical gardens where you can take a relaxing walk among the 120 thousand plants that call this place home.

The incredible selection of plant and tree life makes for an ideal afternoon out of the hustle and bustle of the city and has been a loved area since its establishment in 1924. There are also a variety of ponds here which add to the peaceful nature of the gardens.

11. SurfDisco

For those who are looking to experience the night life that Kyoto has to offer, there is no better place to start than the SurfDisco club where you will find a variety of entertainment including music and a Foosball table. This colorful bar offers guests the chance to relax and sip at a cocktail whilst mingling with the local people.

12. Okonomiyaki Katsu

© Zhao ! Wikimedia Commons

When on a city break, one of the first things that people think about is where they are going to eat and when in Kyoto a visit to Okonomiyaki Katsu is a must. The food here has received rave reviews and people always go back for more.

The restaurant is ideal for families and has plenty to offer for younger visitors making it a popular choice for local families. The food is a take on the home cooked meal and they have an excellent selection of noodles.

13. Toei Kyoto Studio Park

This theme park is brilliant for those who have a passion for the movies because it is the set of many of them. The movies filmed here are period pieces from the Edo-period between the 1600s and the 1800s.

The studios are home to a variety of traditional buildings and traditional street sets which have to be seen to be believed. The park has been open to the public since 1975 and has proven time and time again to be a particular place of interest.

14. Kyoto Aquarium

For lovers of the animal kingdom, the Kyoto aquarium has got to be one of the first places on your list. With an excellent variety of marine life here, visitors will be able to get up close and personal with penguins, seals and a whole host of fish and invertebrates as well as being able to catch the dolphin show which runs here. This is a fantastic option for families with young children as there is plenty to keep them entertained.

15. Kyoto Railway Museum

Founded in 1972, the railway museum in Kyoto has proven to be a very popular attraction for both locals and tourists. It was originally a dedicated steam locomotive museum but things were brought bang up to date in 2016 when the museum was fully renovated, modernised and enlarged. There is a restaurant here as well as a gift shop.


Kyoto is a city of culture and beauty and it is one that has a lot to offer anyone who pays a visit. With its rich history and huge amount of stunning, traditional Japanese architecture in the form of its temples and palaces, this is a haven for anyone looking to experience the true Japan.

Last Updated on April 3, 2020


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