24 hours in Kyoto

Brimming with ancient history and culture, Kyoto, the former capital of Japan is a real jewel in the crown for visitors. With 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and over 2000 temples and shrines there is a lot to explore. This is our top pick of attractions.

1. Visit the Imperial Palace

Since Tokyo became the capital city in 1869, the former ruling palace of the Emperor of Japan in Kyoto has been become a testament to Japanese heritage. The wonderful grounds are now open for viewing, with walking tours held several times a day. Make sure you book before you go.

2. Take a walk up to Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine

This beautiful shrine is one of the most popular in Japan and includes a winding pathway of more than 5,000 iconic orange and black torii gates forming a tunnel through the hills. Fushimi Inari dates back to the beginning of the Japanese monarchy and was dedicated to Inari, the patron of business and the god of rice. 

3. Visit the Ryōan-ji garden

Ryōan-ji (Peaceful Dragon Temple) is most famous for its exquisite zen garden and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temple dates back to the 11th Century and has magnificent historical significance within Japan. The zen garden is famous for its simple rock and gravel composition.

4. Visit Gion – the geisha district

One of the last remaining geisha districts within Japan, although the geisha within Gion refer to themselves as geiko (meaning child of the arts). See beautiful girls in breathtaking kimonos walking around the district. Gion has a selection of teahouses, restaurants and shops to explore. For anyone with a fascination with geisha culture, this is a must-see for you. Read more about geishas in our recent story here.

5. Attend a tea ceremony

Kyoto is the ideal place to experience a Japanese tea ceremony and there are many teahouses, which offer this experience to visitors. Known as chado or sada, there are distinct and elaborate rituals within 'the way of tea' and is a fascinating insight into this unique culture.

6. Kinkaku-ji (The Golden Pavilion)

This world famous temple is definitely worth seeing with your own eyes, even if you have to brave the huge crowds to do so. It is made out of gold leaf so must be one of the most extravagant temples and one of the most beautiful in Japan. 

7. Go to Nishiki Market

If you want to see the exotic foods on offer in Kyoto, there is no better place than taking a stroll through Nishiki Market. It is in the centre of the town close to Kyoto’s famed Shiro-Dori shopping district and is a great place to stop off and soak up the local atmosphere.

You could also be interested in

Find your perfect destination