This beautiful former Japanese capital is world famous for timeless beauty, and there’s no wonder this is the home to seventeen amazing UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Visit Kyoto for a taste of authentic, traditional Japan.
Let’s Visit Kyoto
This culturally rich city and heart of traditional Japan is full of temples, shrines, and World Heritage sites. When visiting Kyoto, there is never a shortage of things to see and do. Everywhere you go and everywhere you look, you’re sure to be impressed by this amazing city.
Visit Kyoto: What To See First?
With so many World Heritage sites and over 2000 shrines and temples, you might wonder where one should start. Here are a few of the must see attractions for any visit to Kyoto.
Located in eastern Kyoto this UNESCO Buddhist temple sits halfway up Mt. Otowa. The main hall of Kiyomizu was constructed without a single nail and hosts 4.5 million visitors a year. While you’re on the grounds, get away from the crowds and take a walk just south towards the massive hillside graveyard. The serene winding pathways are truly unforgettable.
Located in western Kyoto on the banks of the Katsura River, this area of town is full of temples and shrines including the UNESCO temple, Tenryu-ji. The real gem of Arashiyama is a walk through the world-famous Bamboo Grove. Take a slow stroll through the 200-meter pathway under towering green stalks. Other highlights in Arashiyama include the Iwatayama Monkey Park(home to 170 macaque monkeys) and the picturesque Togetsukyo Bridge.
Located in southern Kyoto, the pathway to this shrine is covered with over 10,000 bright orange Torii gates (shrine gates). Follow the steps for 2.5 miles to the top of Inari mountain. Along the way, you’ll pass several mini shrines and many fox statues said to be messengers from the god of grain foods.
Kyoto is not only the traditional center of Japan but is widely regarded as Japan’s best foodie city. And with an incredible supply of incredible local produce and seafood, there is no wonder Kyoto claims fame to over 100 Michelin stars. Check out the five block, 400-year-old Nishiki market that is the center of Kyoto’s food movement. And with over 100 food stalls to choose from, this is THE place to taste the local flavors and culture. If you haven’t already, check out our always entertaining Weird Food Challenge, Nishiki Market edition on YouTube.
Getting to Kyoto
Getting to Kyoto: FLY
The closest international airport to Kyoto is Kansai International. Flights from Tokyo can be found for under $50, from Seoul for $63, and from Hong Kong for $80 with our favorite flight search site, Skyscanner.
Kyoto Flight Deals
Getting to Kyoto: BUS
Buses are not our favorite mode of travel.. The seats are generally cramped, the ride is bumpy, and departure/arrival times can be unpredictable. Generally, bus travel is less expensive, but the bus from Tokyo costs more and takes quite a bit longer: A daytime bus ride from Tokyo is a whopping $104 and takes 13 hours while the night bus is $59 and takes 8 hours.
Getting to Kyoto: TRAIN
Trains throughout Japan are a great option; you’ll avoid lines at the airport, enjoy beautiful scenery, and can be very comfortable. If you plan on doing a lot of traveling through Japan it is a good idea to look into the Japan Rail Pass. Just make sure to buy passes online before arriving, as you can’t buy them in Japan!
Kansai Airport to Kyoto City Center
Fly into Kansai International Airport(KIX) and head towards Kyoto’s city center, about 58 miles away. How will you get there?
The Limited Express Haruka is operated by Japan Rail and is the only train servicing Kyoto. The Limited Express is also the quickest way from Kansai Airport to Kyoto. Purchase tickets from the blue and yellow JR Ticket Office for 2850JPY(about $26) or online. The Limited Express departs from Platform 4 and takes about 75 minutes to get to the Kyoto city center.
Another option is hopping on the Limousine Bus to Kyoto. Tickets are slightly cheaper than the Limited Express(2550JPY) but the trip is slightly longer(90 minutes). You can find the Limousine Bus at stop #8 on the first floor of Terminal 1 or bus stop #1 at Terminal 2. To purchase a ticket, look for the ticket windows nearby each bus stop.
Getting around in Kyoto
Kyoto subway mainly operates in the city center and consist of the north-south Karasuma line and the east-west Tozai line. Tickets can be purchased from station vending machines and range from 210-340JPY, depending on destinations. You can also purchase discount passes from any information center and many convenience stores for just 600JPY.
In Kyoto’s city center, you’ll enter the bus in the back and pay the ticket machine a typical fare of 230JPY before exiting. Look for the Raku Buses #100, #101, and #102, which connect Kyoto’s famous World Heritage sites. One-day discount passes can be purchased from any information center and many convenience stores for just 500JPY.
With over 9000 taxis operating in Kyoto and several well-placed taxi stands located throughout the city, it is generally very easy to find a taxi in Kyoto. Fares can vary slightly from one company to another, but a typical fare is 650JPY for 2km plus 80JPY for each additional 339 meters or each additional 2 minutes. UBER is not currently operating in Kyoto.
Night or day, Kyoto is a wonderfully beautiful city to explore by foot. Walkscore.com gives Kyoto a score of 100, calling it a “Walker’s Paradise”.
Where To Stay in Kyoto:
Where To Stay in Kyoto: NEIGHBORHOODS
Choosing a neighborhood is an important part of trip planning that should not be overlooked! Here are some neighborhoods worth considering when deciding where to stay in Kyoto.
Nakagyo-ku and Shimogyo-ku
The central Kyoto commercial and shopping district. You’ll find banks, financial institutions, the famous Nashiki Market, Nijo Castle, and Kyoto Tower.
This eastern mountain area is one of Kyoto’s best preserved historic districts. Home to the amazing Kiyomizudera Temple and many shrines.
Just north of central Kyoto is this prestigious neighborhood that’s home to the Kyoto Imperial Palace.
Where To Stay in Kyoto: HOTELS
Kyoto offers a wide range of hotels. Options include high-end hotels like Show-an Machiya Inn or Hyatt Regency Kyoto for $450 a night, as well as reasonably priced hotels like Urban Hotel Kyoto or Hotel Gimmond Kyoto for just $85 a night. When it comes to hotels, we recommend shopping Agoda.com, far and away the most competitive resource when searching for hotels in Kyoto.
Kyoto Hotel Deals
Where To Stay in Kyoto: HOSTELS
Kyoto has roughly 60 hostels to choose from, and they’re located throughout the city. Prices range from $25-$35 a night for a dorm room, while private rooms run higher at $60-$70 per night. Hostelworld is our recommended resource when searching for hostels in Kyoto.
Kyoto Hostel Deals
Where To Stay in Kyoto: AIRBNB
We love Airbnb! From private rooms to entire homes, there are plenty of choices when visiting Kyoto. If you’re a first-timer with Airbnb, use this coupon and enjoy $35 off of your stay.
Kyoto Travel Tips
Kyoto travel tips: Tipping
Tipping in Japan is not expected, and some might even consider it rude. If you insist on tipping, leave only Yen in an envelope.
Kyoto travel tips: Money
Japan’s national currency is the Yen and is currently exchanging at 110JPY to $1USD. Credit cards are widely accepted and ATM machines are readily available.
Kyoto travel tips: Insurance
Traveling through Kyoto is exciting and safe, but you never know when some good travel insurance could come in handy. World Nomads offers the best coverage in the business, is affordable, and is quick to act should something go wrong. For more info, check out our recent World Nomads blog post.