Top 5 Places You Should Visit in Kyoto in 2024

March 18, 2024
Top 5 Places You Should Visit in Kyoto in 2024

Kyoto is consistently ranked as one of the top tourist attractions in Japan. It's a great place to go, especially if you enjoy doing and seeing a lot of different things. In this article, we will talk about the top 5 places that you should visit in Kyoto, Japan. But before that, let’s briefly discuss the history of this wonderful city.

As with many other Japanese cities, Kyoto's economy has experienced fast growth. Because of this, the city is home to a variety of breathtaking tourist attractions.

Kyoto, Japan

Did you know that Kyoto served as Japan's first capital? Yes! One of Japan's oldest cities is Kyoto. It was home to the emperor and the nation's capital for more than a millennium, from 794 to 1868.

The city has been ravaged by numerous wars and fires over the years. Kyoto, however, was largely spared from World War II bombardment because of its historical significance. As a result, much of its pre-war cultural history has been maintained, and numerous historic sites and cultural landmarks are still accessible.

Let’s now move on to the five (5) places that you should visit in Kyoto!

1. Fushimi Inari-Taisha

Fushimi Inari-Taisha gates
A path that runs through a tunnel of torii gates

First, you can go to Fushimi Inari-Taisha, also known as the Fushimi Inari Shrine. It is situated in Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan, and is at the foot of the Inari mountain, which rises to a height of more than 233 meters. It is a significant Shinto shrine in Kyoto's south. You can explore the area's renowned tens of thousands of vermilion torii gates. Behind its main structures, these torii gates cross a maze of paths.

The majority of foreign tourists visit Fushimi Inari Shrine mostly to hike the mountain routes. However, the shrine buildings themselves are also attractive. The Romon Gate, which is located at the shrine's entry, is followed by the shrine's main hall (honden), where you are encouraged to honor the local deity by giving a small offering.

Hiking to the mountain's peak is one enjoyable activity here. It takes two to three hours to hike to and from the summit. You may, however, go as far as you like before turning around. You can also dine at the few local restaurants that you pass along the way, such as Inari Sushi and Kitsune Odon (Fox Udon).

Fushimi Inari-Taisha
A tiny river next to the torii gates

You will arrive at the Yotsutsuji intersection halfway up the mountain after a 30- to 45-minute ascent and a steady decrease in the density of torii gates. Here, you can take in some lovely views of Kyoto. Most hikers only get as far as this. It's because, at this point, the trails don't really change much.

2. Kinkakuji Temple

Kinkakuji temple in summer
The Kinkakuji temple during summer

Second, you can visit the Kinkakuji Temple, also known as the Golden Pavilion. It is one of the numerous well-known tourist destinations that represent Kyoto. Its brilliant structure, which reflects sunlight, will astound you.

One of Kyoto City's 17 World Heritage Sites is the Kinkakuji Temple. This is a beautiful location that you must visit if you want to snap lots of photos for your memories. You can visit the well-known Kinkakuji Temple whenever you wish because it is beautiful in every season.

You can view the golden structure covered in pink cherry blossoms in the spring. Fresh foliage is visible in the summer, fiery leaves are visible in the fall, and snow is completely white in the winter. Its golden hue will stand out even more in the winter when you visit because of the thick layer of snow that covers it.

Kinkakuji temple in winter
The Kinkakuji temple during winter

In the winter, when there aren't many people visiting, you can visit this place early in the morning on a weekday. Except for the sound of snow falling, the snow appears to absorb all noise. Your soul seems to be calmed by the sight of this golden temple standing in the middle of a wintery environment.

3. Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Kiyomizu-dera temple during autumn at night time
Kiyomizu-dera temple during autumn at night time

Additionally, you can go to the Buddhist temple Kiyomizu-dera Temple, commonly known as the "Pure Water Temple," which is situated in eastern Kyoto. The Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto UNESCO World Heritage site includes this temple. On the location of the Otowa Waterfall in the forested hills east of Kyoto, this temple was established around the year 780. It gets its name from the pure waters of the fall.

The primary attraction at Kiyomizu-dera Temple is a wooden stage that protrudes 13 meters over the hillside from the temple's main hall. You can descend to this level, where you'll get some lovely views of the many cherry and maple trees below, which explode with color in the spring and fall. Additionally, you can take in the far view of Kyoto!

The surroundings of the Kiyomizu-dera temple
The surroundings of the Kiyomizu-dera temple

Jishu Shrine is located behind the main hall of Kiyomizu-dera. It is a shrine to the deity of love and matchmaking. There are two stones in front of it that are spaced 18 meters apart. It is thought that if you can navigate from one to the other while keeping your eyes closed, it will bring you luck in your search for love.

The Otowa Waterfall is located at the foot of the main hall of Kiyomizu-dera. Three distinct streams are created from its waters. Long poles with cups on them are used by visitors to drink from them.

The water from each stream is thought to offer significant benefits. These benefits are intended to promote long life, academic success, and a happy love life. But remember, it's deemed greedy to drink from all three streams.

4. Tea Ceremony

Japanese woman during a tea ceremony
Japanese woman during a tea ceremony

One of the most memorable experiences you can have in your lifetime is a tea ceremony in Kyoto. The Japanese tea ceremony is a formal way of preparing and consuming green tea, usually in an old-fashioned tea house with tatami flooring. One of the main goals of the tea ceremony is to provide a setting where guests can experience the host's hospitality away from the hectic pace of daily life.

The traditional tea ceremony is also available in some locations. Many groups throughout Japan organize tea rituals with varying levels of formality and authenticity. Hotels, cultural centers, and some traditional gardens are included.

An elaborate, traditional tea ceremony lasts for several hours and begins with a kaiseki course meal. A bowl of thick tea comes next, and a bowl of thin tea comes last. But nowadays, the majority of tea rituals only include drinking a bowl of thin tea.

5. Gion District

Gion district during a sunny summer day
Gion district during a sunny summer day

Gion District, Kyoto's most well-known geisha district, is another place you can wander. Between the Kamo River in the west and Yasaka Shrine in the east, it is situated in the area bordered by Shijo Avenue. This district is crowded with stores, restaurants, and ochaya (teahouses), where geiko (known as geisha in Kyoto) and maiko (geiko apprentices) provide entertainment.

Hanami-koji Street is the most frequented area in Gion. The street and its side alleyways are lined with preserved machiya houses, many of which are being used as restaurants, making it a lovely and expensive place to eat. In addition to other local and international cuisines, these restaurants serve Kyoto-style kaiseki ryori (Japanese haute cuisine).

A small street in the Gion district
A small street in the Gion district

The Shirakawa Area is another beautiful area of Gion that you can visit. High-class restaurants, ochaya, and willow trees flank the canal, which you can enjoy. Compared to Hanami-koji Street, the Shirakawa Area is often a little calmer.

The ideal itinerary for a trip to Gion includes a stroll in the nearby Higashiyama District. More historically significant streets and boutiques can be found here. These stores offer a wide variety of local delicacies, crafts, and souvenirs.

Final Comments

Kyoto does indeed have a lot of beautiful sites to explore throughout the year. You may pass several weeks here without becoming bored. Therefore, for the finest experience, if you're intending to visit Kyoto soon, be sure to go to the locations listed above! Kyōto de aimashō!

Also, if you feel quite interested about Japanese culture and would like to enjoy your trip to Kyōto more than the average tourist, we would recommend you to take some basic Japanese lessons to learn basic words and sentences that will definitely help you communicate with locals.

Start learning Japanese. Join the June 2024 intake for our Japanese 10-weeks Online Course while seats available. Don't wait more!
Kanami Iwasaki, Japademy Founder

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