I heard nothing but amazing reviews of Kyoto both from people in Australia and travellers in Japan who had been so I spent a full 8 days in Kyoto and I loved every single one of them. It really does have a unique feel to it and it’s beauty can be seen on every street corner. If you go to Japan you must visit Kyoto. To miss out on this beautiful city would be a real shame. I was never bored because this place has so much to throw at you, make sure to get your mitt ready because here is my list of recommendations.
I stayed in K’s House while in Kyoto and it was fantastic. It was second only to the Emblem Hostel in Tokyo in my opinion and I enjoyed my stay there immensely. The staff are lovely, the common room is spacious, and very sociable, there is ample seating, a beautiful rooftop area, the rooms are spacious, there’s quite a nice bar downstairs and the entire thing is kept in immaculate condition. The best thing was how central it was and getting around was made very easy by the hostel’s location. If you’re interested you can find them here.
Getting there: Finding K’s House is quite simple especially if you didn’t bring the kitchen sink with you. From Kyoto Station its a two block walk, you head right and turn left up the next major street, take a right when you get to the end of it and 300 metres later you are there.
Cost: I stayed in a 6 person mixed dorm throughout my time in K’s House and it came to around 2400 yen or $21 USD a night. Translation: Extremely affordable!
Nijo Castle: One of the major attractions in central Kyoto. It’s a nice place to explore and stroll through, but it was quite a popular destination so expect noise and people. The castle grounds are nice, but the castle aspect isn’t that impressive.
Getting there: From Kyoto Station it’s a 10-15 minute walk straight as you exit. If you don’t feel like walking you can hire a bike and i’m sure that cuts the time down dramatically. I spent most of my time walking around Kyoto, but there are ample busses available, especially out the front of Kyoto Station and the 101 will take you there for 230 yen.
Cost: It is a 600 yen entry fee, which was the steepest I encountered in Kyoto. If you took the bus from Kyoto Station add another 230 yen on top of that.
The Imperial Palace is the logical next step especially if you’ve just visited Nijo Castle. It is barely two blogs to the East of the castle and well worth the visit. The grounds are magnificent and it was here I first fell in love with Kyoto’s beauty. They are spacious, colourful and extremely relaxing. I unfortunately missed out on entering the Palace part of it all by a matter of minutes, but I can’t imagine it detracts from the experience!
Getting there: From Nijo Castle – walk two blocks East. From Kyoto Station take the Karasuma Line towards Kokusaikaikan, it will cost you 260 yen
Cost: Free entry, if you took the train then 260 yen for the visit
The Gion district is a must see, especially at night. I truly loved wandering around and seeing people, both Japanese and Gaikokujin (foreigners) alike dressed up in traditional garb. It is extremely busy, and you will be engulfed by people, but the atmosphere is amazing. There are several temples in the district, and the biggest of these was the Yakasa Shrine which is another must visit while in the area.
Getting there: Gion is very accessible, I walked there from the Imperial Palace and it was lovely, but if you want to take the bus from Kyoto Station you can catch the 100, or 206. This will set you back 230 yen. Alternatively, you can take the train to Gion-Shijo station, which will cost you 270 yen.
Cost: As is the case with most district/area costings the window shopping is free, and the experience will cost you nothing, but to dine, take in a show, shop etc will all vary depending on where and what you decide. The temples are free, and are definitely a must do.
This is probably the most famous site in all of Kyoto. Known for the thousands of beautiful orange pillars stretching up into the mountainside it really is worthy of such fame. You can visit in the day time and hike up to the top of the mountain and you can return at night to enjoy it by lantern and experience the spooky atmosphere that follows. It can be quite crowded down the bottom, and hard to take a decent photo without people streaming through, but the higher you go the thinner the crowds get until eventually you can spend whole minutes admiring the gates without another person bothering you. It’s a truly beautiful area!
Getting there: It’s quite simple, you hop on the JR Nara Line at Kyoto Station and two stops later you’re at the JR Inari Station. Alternatively it’s a short walk from the Fushimi Inari Station via the Keihan Main Line. Shouldn’t cost you anything more than 150 yen either way.
Cost: It’s Free!
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
There are very few places that have such a magical atmosphere as Arashiyama. Standing beneath those towering bamboo trees as the breeze makes them almost come alive and the sunlight makes them dance. It’s truly beautiful there, and just like Fushimi Inari you can see it by day and by night. Each has it’s own beauty to it, but my main tip is to get up early to really experience the serenity it brings, otherwise the crowd will take some of that away for you.
Getting there: The easiest and only recommended way to reach it is by train. Take the JR Sagano line from Kyoto Station and hop off at SAGA-Arashiyama Station. Should cost you around 250 yen. From there it’s a pleasant 5-10 minute walk, I’d say closer to 10.
Cost: Just like the other best things in life this one is free!
What would a trip to Kyoto be like if you didn’t visit the fabled land of Nara? It’d be empty that’s what. There is a reason this place is famous and that’s for it’s beautiful scenery and temples. Oh and deer, lots and lots of cute deer. They roam the streets as if they own the place, which they practically do. It’s a gorgeous place to spend the day, or longer if you so choose, either way you’re in for a treat!
Getting there: From Kyoto it is as simple as hopping on the JR Nara line and getting off at the final stop. As I said, simple. Totally free if you have a JR Pass, if you don’t it’ll cost you around 850 yen.
Cost: Depends on what you do of course. Feeding the deer is extremely cheap, a few hundred yen will last you the day and then some. Todaiji Temple will set you back 500 yen, but it’s worth it!
Ginkaku-ji is also known as the Silver Pavilion, and it is a Unesco World Heritage area in Kyoto. It’s not as famous as Kinkaku-Ji (The Golden Pavilion) but it is extremely beautiful, and from what I could tell far less busy. It’s a small area, and you can cover it in a matter of 15 minutes, but it’s truly gorgeous. You can also take in the Philosopher’s path while you’re there which is a famous cherry blossom viewing sight in Spring.
Getting there: Very simple -> Kyoto Station Bus 100 -> Get off at Higayashiyama Jisho-Ji stop -> Walk 500 metres and you’re there.
Cost: 500 yen, but worth it! Philosopher’s path is free.
This is one of the more famous sight seeing temples, and look outs in Kyoto. It’s famous for it’s view of the city, and offers a beautifully different view depending on which season you visit in. I wasn’t a huge fan of this place as it was overcrowded and overpriced for what it was, but I also didn’t get to experience it at night which is meant to be a sight to see.
Getting there: Just take bus number 206 or 100 (same as Silver Pavilion) from Kyoto Station and get off at Kiyomizu-michi stop.
Cost: The initial part of the temple is free but if you want to get to the famous view spots and inspect the remainder of the temple it will cost you 400 yen.
There we have my break down of most of the major attractions of Kyoto! I did not visit the Golden Temple while there, so unfortunately I can’t offer my view on it. I hope this helps some people out!
Before you travel to Kyoto have a look at the map and you’ll notice that a lot of these places link up quite nicely and if you’re pressed for time you can get a lot done in a day.
As always you can find me at @mistakesandadventures