25 Best Things to Do in Kyoto Japan for First-Time Visitors

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Top things to do in Kyoto, one of Japan’s most historical cities.

As an avid traveller who has explored destinations across Asia, I was thrilled to recently visit Japan for the first time. Even having seen other fascinating places, I found Kyoto overwhelming in its rich history, dazzling temples, serene gardens and uniquely Japanese experiences waiting around every corner.

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Like many first-timers, I struggled to narrow down what to prioritize from the endless top attractions advertised online about Kyoto.

Should I brave the crowds at Fushimi Inari Shrine? Take a workshop in a craft like calligraphy or temple meditation? Wander off-track in atmospheric neighbourhoods like Higashiyama? So many options, so little time!

After almost a week immersed in Japan’s alluring former capital city, I’ve compiled my 25 ultimate recommendations to experience Kyoto for fellow first-time visitors.

From iconic sites like the Golden Pavilion and Arashiyama Bamboo grove to local dining haunts, these are the cherry-picked highlights from my recent travels that best capture memorable facets of this vibrant destination.

Best things to do in Kyoto Japan

With this Kyoto travel guide curated from my on-the-ground experience, first-timers can cut through the travel fatigue and FOMO, then strategize an itinerary containing Kyoto’s most magnificent attractions. Join me to discover the city’s unmatched magic.

1. Kyoto Walking Tour

Embark on a captivating, guided walking tour through Kyoto’s Gion district, a place steeped in history and tradition. This Gion night walking tour is a must-do for first-time visitors to Kyoto, offering a unique glimpse into the enigmatic world of the Geisha, an iconic symbol of the city’s heritage.

Experience the charm of ancient Kyoto as you stroll along quaint, lantern-lit cobblestone streets, uncover the lives of Geishas and apprentice maiko-san, and delve into the local culture and customs of the entertainment districts.

The journey includes visits to a serene Shinto shrine with a beautifully illuminated pagoda and a peaceful Zen temple under the tranquillity of night, all while learning about the contemporary history of this vibrant district from an expert guide.

This tour blends the mystique of the Geisha with the historic beauty of Gion, offering an immersive cultural experience at the heart of one of Japan’s most iconic cities.

2. Visit Kinkaku-ji (The Golden Pavilion)

The Golden Pavilion, or Kinkakuji, is one of Kyoto’s most iconic sights. The top two floors of this Zen temple are completely covered in brilliant gold leaf. On a sunny day when the gold shine radiates off the lake’s shimmering waters, it’s truly spectacular.

As you wander the temple grounds, soak in the tranquillity and perhaps scribble a wish on an ema plaque to hang in the nearby wooden racks. The surrounding gardens are a testament to Japan’s Zen influences, making it one of the top things to see in Kyoto Japan.

The enviable gold facade belies a turbulent history, as the pavilion was set on fire and destroyed by a crazed monk in 1950. The majestic rebuilding marks Japan’s resilience through adversity.

Pro tip from a local resident: The pavilion draws big crowds, but early mornings and evenings tend to be quieter. If you can, time your visit during these hours or the off-season for a more serene experience.

3. Explore Fushimi Inari Taisha

Fushimi Inari Taisha is one of Japan’s most iconic Shinto shrines and a is a must-see in Kyoto. It’s best known for the thousands of vermillion torii gates that wind through the hills behind the main shrine complex. Trekking through these atmospheric passages is an unforgettable experience. Make your way to the summit of Mt. Inari for stunning city views at sunrise or sunset.

The hike typically takes a few hours, so set aside plenty of time. On the way down, there are plenty of matcha soft serve and taiyaki (fish-shaped cakes filled with sweet azuki bean paste) stands waiting to reward your effort.

It is said that the god Inari, closely associated with the fox and known as the patron of business, has used the area as a homestead since 711 AD. Each torii has been donated by a Japanese business and contains the donator’s name in black characters on the back.

The hike up Inari Mountain through the many torii gates is one of the most popular free activities in Kyoto.

Pro Tip: Give yourself at least half a day to wander the trails behind the shrine.

4. Do Full-Day Bus Tour of the Best UNESCO and Historical Sites in Kyoto

The “Kyoto: Full-Day Best UNESCO and Historical Sites Bus Tour” is a comprehensive and enriching experience ideal for first-time visitors to Kyoto, Japan to explore the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites and historical landmarks.

Beginning at 8 am from Kyoto, you’ll travel in comfort on an air-conditioned coach. The tour includes stops at Kyoto’s iconic sites: Kiyomizu-dera Temple, with its panoramic city views and deep historical roots; Sanju-san-gen-do Temple, famous for its thousand and one statues of Kannon and its impressive long wooden structure; and the tranquil Sagano Arashiyama area, where you’ll enjoy a Japanese buffet lunch with views of the Togetsukyo Bridge.

The journey continues through the serene Sagano Bamboo Forest and the World Heritage Site of Tenryu-ji Temple, known for its picturesque Japanese garden.

The tour’s highlight includes a visit to Kinkaku-ji, the illustrious Golden Pavilion, and concludes at the Fushimi Inari Shrine, famed for its thousands of vermilion torii gates. Throughout the tour, enjoy commentary from a friendly guide and a multilingual audio guide available in several languages.

5. Explore Gion Geisha District

For an authentic taste of historic Kyoto, spend an afternoon wandering the narrow lanes of Gion, Kyoto’s famous geisha district. This area is filled with exclusive restaurants, tea houses, and ochaya (geisha houses) many of which have been operating for centuries.

The district’s architecture, with its wooden machiya houses, adds to its historical charm. At night, Gion transforms, offering a glimpse into the best things to do at night in Kyoto.

For a chance to spot geiko ((Kyoto dialect for geisha) or maiko (geisha apprentices) as they scurry to their engagements in the early evenings, head to the refined streets of Gion. Wander and hope luck strikes – you may spot a trailing obi (kimono sash) disappearing around a corner.

In addition to geisha spotting, Gion has many shops specializing in artisanal Kyoto crafts like fans, pottery, and sweets. Stop at Gion Tsujiri for a green tea parfait made with premium matcha and fresh sweet beans. As you eat the dessert, take in views of Shirakawa Canal outside.

Pro Tip: Be considerate by not chasing them or obstructing their path – a polite distance allows them to preserve their mystery while you briefly glimpse a sliver of a bygone world.

6. Walk at Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

If you are looking for unique things to do in Kyoto, escape the city to the Sagano/Arashiyama district on Kyoto’s rural northwest side where lush bamboo groves sway gently in the wind. The most popular bamboo pathway is located just behind Tenryuji temple.

As you wander between thick green stalks shooting skywards, listen to the cacophony of creaking wood echoing off the bamboo.

Dappled sunlight filters through the leaves above, creating a soothing glow. Make sure to look down the narrow alleys breaking off from the main walkway – here you can capture photos framed by the tall bamboo.

After exploring Tenryuji’s bamboo forest, cross over the Hozu river and hike into the lesser-visited bamboo groves sprawling over the Arashiyama mountains. Expect more solitude in the deeper parts allowing you to fully appreciate the majesty of the fast growing plants.

Exploring the trails and forests of the Arashiyama district is undoubtedly one of the top things to do in Kyoto.

Pro Tip: Early on weekday mornings is the best time to visit, before the selfie stick-wielding tour groups arrive. Afterwards, peruse artsy souvenirs on atmospheric Saga-Toriimoto Street or hire a boat for a calming paddle down the Hozu River for scenic views.

7. Take Part in a Traditional Tea Ceremony

Engage in one of the most relaxing things to do in Kyoto—participate in a traditional.  To dive deeper into Kyoto’s rich cultural heritage, attending a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, known as “sado” or “chanoyu” is highly recommended.

Ceremonies are performed in peaceful teahouses by expert hosts wearing kimonos. Guests can observe the intricate steps taken to prepare and serve “matcha,” powdered green tea. Ceremonies provide insight into the philosophy of wabi-sabi – finding beauty in imperfection and simplicity.

Many temples, hotels, and organizations in Kyoto hold tea ceremony experiences with English explanation, making it one of the most unique things to do in Kyoto Japan.

8. Explore Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market near downtown Kyoto is a narrow five block long corridor locally known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen”. For over 300 years (and likely much longer), the covered shopping street has provided locals with fresh and processed foods ranging from tofu to tea to dried fish to spices and sauces.

Part of the charm is observing some shops that specialize in a single ingredient like tofu or Japanese sweets using techniques passed down through 20 or more generations.

As you walk down the bustling market, duck into stores offering free samples like yakitori skewers at chicken stalls or mochi rice cakes at some of the sweet shops. It’s a feast for the senses and a must-do in Kyoto for food lovers.

In addition to snacks, keep an eye out for unique Kyoto-specific gifts like cooking utensils, ornate chopsticks, packaging tape with floral prints, Japanese linens in modern prints, and incense imported from across Asia.

Prices here are lower than many stores in the city catering specifically to tourists, making it a key spot in where to eat in Kyoto Japan.

9. See Pagodas and Shrines at Shimogamo Shrine

Escape the crowds of downtown at Shimogamo Shrine, a tranquil forested sanctuary dating back to the 8th century. This important Shinto shrine pays homage to the god of storms and is said to be the site where Kyoto was founded over 1200 years ago.

Located at the junction of the Takano and Kamo rivers, it has long been an extremely sacred location.

Enter the shrine along the tree-lined sandō avenue through towering vermillion orange torii gates covered in green moss. Admire the architectural details on the buildings’ elaborately curved rooflines and shiny copper fixtures.

As you continue into the forest, you’ll find dozens of small shrines and pagodas honouring lesser-known gods scattered throughout the grounds.

Shimogamo’s most picturesque sight is the small riverside Mitarashi shrine reached by crossing a red-lacquered bridge. Verdant mountains ring the sacred site offering beautiful scenery in harmony with nature.

10. Visit Cultural Sites like Nijo Castle

This impressive castle was built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence of shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa. The sprawling Ninomaru Palace is renowned for its “nightingale” floors –intruders would step on the boards and trigger chirping squeaks to alert guards.

Lavish woodcarvings and wall paintings adorn the interiors, providing a glimpse into the luxuries of courtly life. Don’t miss wandering the stunning castle gardens too, with 400 cherry trees offering spring magic, making it one of the must visit places in Kyoto.

As the well-preserved historical seat of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Nijo Castle lets visitors discover key contexts around Japanese unified rule after centuries of civil war. Parts of it are also a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For some contrast, also visit the ruined Fushimi Castle remains in the south, with partial walls and a restored watchtower hinting at its previous medieval glory after destruction in the late 1800s, making it one of the best things to see in Kyoto Japan.

11. See Kyoto from Above at Kyoto Tower

While overshadowed by Tokyo Skytree, Kyoto Tower still offers excellent 360-degree views of Japan’s old imperial capital from its 100-meter-high observation deck. On clear days, sightlines stretch to mountains nearly 60 miles away!

Peer straight down through a section of glass flooring for thrilling views directly below the tower’s golden tiled exterior. Use coin-operated high-powered telescopes to zoom in on Kyoto’s landmarks like Kiyomizu-dera Temple in the eastern hills and Fushimi Inari Shrine’s orange gates south of the city centre.

Visit during cherry blossom season for gorgeous vistas of pink fluffy canopies topped by ancient pagodas or in November when crimson maple leaves blanket the city below in vibrant red hues.

By day you can sometimes glimpse as far as Nara; at night, see Kyoto glittering in the darkness. Don’t skip the digital elevated walkway in the sky for vertigo-inducing thrills! Don’t forget to sample Japanese sweet treats at the cafe on the 8th floor.

12. Bike the Philosopher’s Path

Escape the crowds as you meander along the peaceful Philosopher’s Path. Lined by hundreds of cherry trees, the canal route takes its name from 20th-century Kyoto University philosophy professor Nishida Kitaro, who reportedly used it for his daily meditation.

In spring, the blossoming pink cherry boulevards attract picnicking locals and tourists alike. Come August, the lush trees form a cool green canopy from the summer heat. Just be sure to rent a bicycle to cover the full 2 km path for maximum enjoyment.

13. Experience Golden Pavilion at Night

Most visitors flock to Kinkakuji during daylight hours to see the sun gleaming off the Golden Pavilion’s shiny facade. However, consider coming back to this zen Buddhist temple one evening to see its golden reflection shimmering in the darkness of the night.

The temple stays open until 9 pm in the summer and earlier during other seasons – be sure to verify hours before visiting. As dusk falls, subtle lighting illuminates the temple grounds creating a magical atmosphere.

Have your camera ready to capture iconic night-time photos of the golden top floors seemingly floating atop the still lake waters.

The evening ambiance is much more peaceful than during the day. Take your time strolling the quiet grounds, grabbing a warm tea from a nearby vending machine, and finding a seat on a bench to soak in views of the illuminated pavilion.

14. See Temples of Higashiyama District

Many of Kyoto’s most impressive and important temples are clustered together in the Higashiyama District along the lower slopes of the eastern mountains.

Some of the temples not to miss in Higashiyama include Kiyomizu-dera, one of the city’s most celebrated temples that has a wooden stage offering impressive views, Sanjusangen-do temple with its 1,001 statues of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy, and Chion-in and Shoren-in temples.

Wandering between the temples hidden amidst small lanes and traditional shops and restaurants makes for a magical day exploring eastern Kyoto and is a must see in Kyoto.

15. Escape to Arashiyama Monkey Park

This animal sanctuary rests in Arashiyama’s pine forests, home to over 120 free-roaming monkeys that are wild but no longer wary of humans. Hike uphill and buy some specially made fruit crackers sold on-site to feed the curious monkeys.

Watch toddlers clinging to their mothers’ backs and cheeky youngsters playing in trees – all with fantastic mountain views in the background for photography fans.

Feeding times tend to be most active, as they clamour excitedly for snacks. But come earlier when crowds are sparser and be respectful by keeping a distance and avoiding eye contact or aggressive posturing.

The monkeys are generally calm unless protecting babies or food. If you bow as a polite greeting instead, they may even bow back.

16. Feel Tranquility at Tenryuji Temple

Escape from the hustle and bustle of central Kyoto and visit the quiet Tenryuji temple in Arashiyama for a soothing nature experience. As you enter through the main gate, you are greeted by towering pine trees, immaculate bonsai gardens, and a modest zen garden of raked white pebbles representing the flow of water.

Follow the winding paths through the lush temple grounds to arrive at the impressive main hall with its giant wooden pillars and extravagant gold leaf ceiling. Don’t miss the detailed dragon artwork above the temple doors.

After admiring Tenryuji’s architecture and zen gardens, enjoy a cup of bitter matcha looking out over the Oigawa river valley while breathing in the fresh mountain air.

The trails behind the temple wind through bamboo groves and maple forests. Hike to the Oku-no-in cemetery where mossy gravestones is nestled amongst the trees – it feels worlds away from the city.

17. Explore Ancient Toji Temple

Many visitors flock to Kinkakuji’s golden temple, but lesser known Toji temple has its own set of unique buildings that shouldn’t be missed. Toji’s 54.8 meter tall pagoda is the tallest wooden tower in Japan and the centrepiece of this historic Buddhist complex dating back to 794 AD.

Compare the five-story pagoda’s traditional architectural style with the other buildings which have been repeatedly damaged and rebuilt over the centuries resulting in varied designs.

Must see are the Tanaka Family Tombs and Minamoto Family Shrine with intricate metalwork and the Hall of Dreams housing a rare wooden statue of Kannon Bosatsu wearing ceremonial crowns and robes.

The monthly flea market on the 21st draws antique dealers from across the region. Wander through the stalls browsing ceramics, textiles, art, and knicknacks. End your visit with green matcha tea and traditional sweets in Toji’s tranquil garden.

18. Take a Day Trip to Nara

Just over an hour by train from Kyoto, Japan’s first permanent capital Nara is an easy day trip letting you see iconic sights like Todaiji Temple’s Great Buddha Hall – home to the world’s largest bronze buddha statue – and Nara Park where over 1,000 local (and exceedingly friendly) deer roam freely.

Other highlights include Nara’s historic stone and wood architecture concentrated around two peaceful temples Kofukuji and Kasuga Taisha set amongst primeval forests on the city’s outskirts showcasing preservation in practice.

As you wander Nara’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, contemplate the rich artistic heritage as the starting point for Japanese Buddhist sculpture, painting, and architecture.

Don’t miss the daily wand ceremonies held five times per day by the chief priest at Kasuga Taisha as well as annual events like the Lantern Festival in early February and the Nara Toka-e Festival each spring showcasing 10th century costumes and dances.

19. Relax at Shirakawa Canal near Gion

Just a short walk from charming Gion, picturesque Shirakawa Canal offers a calming reprieve with its flowing waters, weeping cherry trees, and traditional Machiya-style houses built right over the waterway.

Find any open bench or patch of grass to sit along the tranquil Shirakawa, glimpsing maiko run between entertainment engagements as they cross the stone bridges traversing the canal. Delight in the cracked plaster walls and faded wood pillars of the surrounding buildings, some housing tiny bars perfect for a late afternoon sake break.

As the sun sets, admire the canal’s reflections of Gion’s lanterns flickering on while listening to the gentle babble of water against the canal walls.

20. Admire Moss Garden at Saihoji Temple

Nicknamed Kokedera or “Moss Temple,” a visit to the World Heritage Site Saihoji Temple feels like entering a living art installation. Countless varieties of moss cover every visible surface – trees, stones, bridges, even the tea house – making this peaceful paradise a photographer’s dream.

Getting into Saihoji requires applying via fax at least one week before your visit. Approved visitors participate in a short writing ceremony using traditional ink and brushes to transcribe sutra scripture onto scrolls before exploring the temple’s moss labyrinth at their own pace.

Wander through the dim forest catching small glimpses of the lush green carpets covering the ground as speckles of light filter between the trees. Find hidden stone Buddhas and animals peering between vibrant blankets of velvety moss.

Saihoji’s meditative landscape stays cool and calm regardless of Japan’s hot humid summers – a welcome escape. Don’t forget to enjoy freshly whisked matcha in the tea pavilion. This location is a perfect representation of Kyoto top places to visit.

21. Eat All the Things on Teramachi Street

Lining the approach to Kyoto’s largest temple complex, Teramachi shopping street hums with locals savouring street snacks to go or stepping into cozy cafes. From chestnut manju sweets to grilled mochi, crepes to taiyaki, warabimochi jelly to tamagoyaki rolled omelettes – be adventurous and graze!

Don’t miss out slurping hearty handmade udon noodles too, paired perfectly with hot sake on cooler days. On both sides of the bustling pedestrian avenue, traditional shops sell city souvenirs like folding fans, incense varieties and pretty washi paper at reasonable prices.

22. Marvel at Kiyomizu-dera Temple

The popular hillside temple Kiyomizu-dera translates as “pure water temple”. Built in 778 AD without the use of nails, its grand wooden structure juts out 13 meters above Otowayama hill. The main hall’s lofty viewing veranda offers superb Kyoto city vistas framed by Mt Hiei and Mt Wakakusa’s peaks.

Pay to drink from the Otowa waterfall, where three separate streams promise wisdom, longevity and success. Just pick one and sip using the long-handled cups provided (no touching the streams due to contamination).

The crowded pilgrimage route also passes small shrines devoted to good matches, scholarly achievement and the Falls’ origin story – a tale intertwining faith and early Kyoto water infrastructure and one of the best things to do in Kyoto Japan.

23. People Watch in Pontocho Alley

One of Kyoto best preserved historic dining and entertainment quarters, narrow Pontocho Alley parallels the western canal across from Gion.

Stroll beneath red paper lanterns dangling above as you window shop the various establishments from soba noodle restaurants to intimate bars to ochaya teahouses, it’s a great place to experience the top things to do at night in Kyoto Japan.

Watch as kimono-clad locals scurry to secret upper floor dining hideaways accessible only via steep staircases along the small street. Listen for the shuffle of wooden clogs and lyrical strains of the shamisen (a banjo-like instrument played in geisha bars).

Come back after dark when Pontocho’s signature lanterns cast atmospheric scenes reflected in the canal’s still waters.

Duck into any of the standing-only hole in the wall izakaya pubs under the railroad tracks for tasty yakitori chicken skewers and cold drinks consumed while observing life unfold along Pontocho’s atmospheric alleyways.

24. Visit Manga Museum

Japanese pop culture is world famous. At this quirky institution, learn about Japan’s pioneering graphic novel artists spanning the early 19th century onwards. See rare comics depicting samurai legends, early satirical political cartoons and propaganda manga from World Wars I and II.

Don’t miss artists who defined the art form too – Osamu Tezuka (creator of Astro Boy), Machiko Hasegawa (Sazae-san) and Shotaro Ishinomori (Cyborg 009).

Interactive displays let you dub anime voices or envision characters using digital avatars. The special exhibition hall also hosts retrospective shows by living icons. Downstairs, read manga to heart’s content in the extensive library filled with Japanese comics.

25. Take a Day Trip to Osaka

No trip to the Kansai region is complete without visiting Osaka, Kyoto’s lively neighbour city to the west. Highlights include Osaka Castle, energetic Dotonbori food street, the neon lit Shinsekai area, and the humming streets of Amerikamura. Osaka is also Japan’s top city for visiting interactive museums like the National Museum of Art. Riding the regular bullet trains between Kyoto and Osaka takes just 30 minutes, making it easy to add Osaka into your itinerary.

26. Savor Kaiseki-Ryori Cuisine

Kaiseki-ryori is Kyoto’s exquisite traditional multicourse dining style originating from tea ceremony meals. A kaiseki dinner consists of around 12 small dishes highlighting local seasonal ingredients and artistic presentation.

Restaurants like Hyotei and Kitcho Arashiyama serve these refined meals in elegant surroundings. From the attentive service to the tableware and impeccable food, the whole experience encapsulates Japanese omotenashi hospitality. Trying kaiseki in Kyoto is a must for food lovers.

27. Relax at a Sento Public Bathhouse

Sento public bathhouses provide the classic Japanese bathing experience – relaxing in communal hot baths heated by natural hot springs.

Sentos let you unwind just like locals by soaking away your tiredness in mineral-rich waters. After enjoying the main tub, head to the sauna and cold baths to stimulate circulation. Then rejuvenate even further with post-bath oxygen therapy. Kyoto has around 130 sento to visit, like Ichiban-Yu with its picturesque pagoda roof architecture.

28. Experience Meditation at Shunkoin Temple

For an intimate zen experience, visit the modest Shunkoin temple nestled in a quiet northeast Kyoto neighbourhood. Originally constructed in 1590 for the abbot of nearby Myoshinji temple, Shunkoin holds small meditation sessions twice daily led by monks.

Participate in the brief twice-daily sitting meditations open to visitors. Listen to the calming tones of damaged bells tuned perfectly through an intricate faulty repair symbolizing the Buddhist teaching of embracing imperfection. Admire the simple altar decorations of a lone flower or fruits offering singular beauty.

After meditating, sip freshly brewed matcha powdered green tea served by the monks. Spend time gazing at the small moss-covered rock garden visible from every room designed to aid meditation through its simplicity.

Shunkoin’s rustic buildings covered in ivory-coloured clay walls radiate tranquillity and provide a retreat from Kyoto’s bustling tourist sites.

29. Explore Kyoto Imperial Palace

The Kyoto Imperial Palace used to be the residence of Japan’s Imperial Family until 1868 when the capital was moved from Kyoto to Tokyo.

The palace is located in the spacious Kyoto Imperial Park, which provides a scenic backdrop to the palace, making it one of the best places to visit in Kyoto Japan.

Strolling through the park and gazing at the palace’s exquisite design is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon in Kyoto. Visitors can explore the palace’s gates, gardens, and partial inner complex. Visitors must apply at the Imperial Household Agency to join a free guided tour of the palace (in Japanese). Entrance to the Kyoto Imperial Palace Park is free.

Q&A for first-time travelers to Kyoto:

When is the best time of year to visit Kyoto?

Most visitors flock to Kyoto in spring for cherry blossom season or autumn for the fall foliage. While beautiful, these seasons mean hordes more tourists. For smaller crowds with pleasant weather, late March-early April or late October-early November are great options.

How many days do I need in Kyoto?

Three full days allows you to see the top highlights while 5-7 days lets you take a slower pace to dive deeper into Kyoto’s culture. With under 3 days, focus only on your top interests.

What is there to do in Kyoto at night?

After-dark alternatives to temples and shrines include karaoke singing, geisha shows, craft sake tastings, summer firework displays over the river, night zoo visits and video game arcades open 24/7.

Should I get a JR Pass?

The Japan Rail Pass can save money if doing a wider Kansai/Kanto loop trip involving Shinkansen bullet train rides. For just Kyoto, pay-as-you-go transport is often cheaper.

What is the best neighbourhood to stay in Kyoto?

Central districts like Downtown, Gion and Higashiyama put you walking distance from key sites. Check what subway lines or bus routes major attractions are on when booking accommodations.

Any etiquette I should know about temples and shrines?

Bowing when entering sacred spaces, removing shoes at temple entrances, speaking softly and not eating on premises show respect. Some places forbid entrance if you have tattoos.

What traditional souvenir is best?

Popular edible treats are matcha kit kats, sakura mochi rice cakes or sake infusions. Well-crafted fans, folding umbrellas, yukata robes or handmade washi paper gifts make wonderful keepsakes too.

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