Kyoto Travel Guide

Kyoto is like a vast museum, housing a whopping 1,600 Buddhist temples, 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, countless traditional shrines, and the best Zen gardens in Japan. Although the city can't compete with glittering Tokyo when it comes to nightlife and shopping, it is the ideal destination for culture lovers and the best place to do some historical sightseeing. Although it may appear to be a concrete jungle at first glance, the city has myriad hidden beauties and is a cultural treasure trove. For geishas, kabuki, and Zen, Kyoto is unbeatable.

Best time to visit Kyoto

The best time to visit Kyoto is in the mild shoulder seasons of spring (March, April) and autumn (October, November). In spring the city is festooned with the famous cherry blossoms and enjoys pleasant sunny weather, and in late autumn, once the typhoon season has passed, it is warm and boasts the vivid colours of the season. Summer can be uncomfortably hot in the city.

What to see in Kyoto

-Seek out traditional geisha in the historic neighbourhood of Gion.

-See the 1,000 golden statues of the Sanjusangen-do temple.

-Watch traditional Japanese dance-drama at the Minamiza Kabuki Theatre.

-Marvel at the famous Golden Pavilion just north of the city.

What to do in Kyoto

-Visit Kiyomuzu-dera, one of Japan's most celebrated temples.

-Take a guided tour of the Kyoto Imperial Palace and its lovely grounds.

-Explore the temple complex of To-ji, which houses the tallest pagoda in Japan.

-Wander through the beautiful gardens of the Katsura Imperial Villa.

Beyond Kyoto

Japan is not a big country and Kyoto is a great base for excursions and daytrips further afield. It is a short train ride from the cities of Hiroshima and Osaka, both popular with tourists, and is even conveniently close to the capital, Tokyo. The historic city of Nara is practically on Kyoto's doorstep and boasts many ancient attractions.

Getting there

Although the city doesn't have its own airport, Kyoto's proximity to a number of other Japanese cities ensures that many airports service the area. International visitors most commonly land at Osaka Kansai International Airport.

Did you know?

-Kyoto was the capital of Japan for more than 1,000 years.

-The fortune cookie is thought to have originated in Kyoto.

-Kyoto's famous Silver Pavilion has never had a trace of silver on it.