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Things to do in Kyoto

Traditional teahouses, Shinto shrines, and Buddhist temples await in the cultural capital of Japan.

Our most recommended things to do in Kyoto

Kyoto: Top Highlights Full Day Trip

1. Kyoto: Top Highlights Full Day Trip

Visit some of Kyoto's most famous sites on this culture-focused day trip. Hop on board an air-conditioned coach and explore Japan's ancient capital to see the brilliant Torii Gates of the Fushimi Inari Shrine, the UNESCO-listed Kiyomizu-Dera temple, and the golden pavilion of Kinkaku-Ji. Start your tour by discovering some of Kyoto's ancient historic sites, dating back to the 6th century. Get dropped off at the Fushimi Inari Shrine, a Shinto shrine famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates. Spend time wandering the paths before heading to a restaurant for lunch to taste a standard or deluxe traditional tofu set-course menu with Japanese tea. After lunch, head off to Kiyomizu-Dera, one of the most iconic temples in Japan. Spend ample time strolling through the temple. Walk across the impressive wooden stage, which juts out from the hillside and was constructed without the use of a single nail. Later, make a final stop at Kinkaku-Ji, also known as the Golden Pavilion because it's covered in gold leaves. Wander through the gardens surrounding the temple, admiring the original Japanese designs that have been preserved since Ashikaga's time. In the late afternoon, get dropped off at Kyoto Station where your tour ends.

Kyoto: Tea Ceremony Ju-An at Jotokuji Temple

2. Kyoto: Tea Ceremony Ju-An at Jotokuji Temple

Start your tea ceremony experience by entering through the main gates of the Jotoku-ji Temple. You will pass the entrance to the Grand Tearoom on your left and a shop next to it and meet at the nearby red benches where your guide awaits. Whilst walking through the temple you are free to admire the architecture and stand by the purification fountain. Weather permitting, you are free to sit at the red benches and for a break. In the event of rain you can stand outside under the gable of the shop or wait in the Grand Tearoom. Once you have finished perusing the temple or sitting on the red benches taking in the atmosphere you are able to enter the Grand Tearoom where your instructor waits for you.  Start your tour of the Temple with a traditional purification ritual, a completely unique and insightful experience for Western visitors. Afterwards you will remove your shoes at the entrance of the Grand Tearoom and in your group, proceed inside to take your seat. Get the chance to sample matcha tea at its best. The Tea Master will guide you throughout, showing and explaining every step of the way. Throughout the ceremony you will be taught the fine art of drinking matcha tea and learn about the importance of the ceremony.

Kyoto: Private Tour with Local Licensed Guide

3. Kyoto: Private Tour with Local Licensed Guide

Discover Kyoto’s historical sites, favorite local spots, and hidden gems on a private walking tour with a nationally licensed guide. Choose from a 6 or 4-hour tour, whose itinerary can be customized to fit your interests. See both the modern and traditional sides of this dynamic and ancient city as well as some of the best sightseeing areas, restaurants, and shops. Visit places like the Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for the Torii Gate Corridor. Explore the filming location for the film “Memoirs of a Geisha”, displaying a colorful crimson scenery with a mysterious atmosphere. Walk through the shrine’s corridors that were erected as a symbolic continuing gate from the current world to the world of the dead inhabited by the gods. Go to the Kinkaku-ji Temple (Temple of the Golden Pavilion), which was given its name from the golden color of its reliquary hall. Admire its simple yet bold structure that features beautiful mountain views in the background. Enter the ancient Kiyomizu-dera temple to get panoramic city views from its large veranda. Walk from the path from the temple to Gion, to find many Kyoto-esque shops filled with unique souvenirs. Grab a snack or enjoy a delicious dinner at one of the many fine restaurants in the Gion district. Your guide will give you dining recommendations that are sure to delight your palate.

Kyoto and Nara 1 Day Bus Tour from Osaka/Kyoto

4. Kyoto and Nara 1 Day Bus Tour from Osaka/Kyoto

Depart from the exclusive VIP waiting rooms of Osaka or Kyoto, heading to Fushimi Inari Taisha. Designated as an Important Cultural Property, the main shrine building contains five shrines together, these five pillars of Fushimi Inari Taisha are named for the great virtues of Inari Okami that they embody. Inari Okami is known as a deity of business prosperity, the prosperity of industries, the safety of households, safety in traffic and improvement in the performing arts. The 'Senbon Torii' or 1000 torii gates are donations by individuals and companies, and you will find the donator's name and the date of the donation inscribed on the back of each gate. Then you will head to Arashiyama, which changes with the seasons and you can enjoy the scenery any time of year, with cherry blossoms in the spring, boat festivals in the Summer, red leaves in Autumn and snow white mountains in the winter. Arashiyama is also filled with temples and shrines including the match-making Shrine you can visit, during your walk through the famed Bamboo grove. There are a variety of restaurants to choose right near the Togetsukyo bridge, including vegan and Halal. Proceed to the symbol of Kyoto, Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion, also named Rakuon-ji: one of the most popular buildings in Japan. Finally, move on to Japan’s old capital, Nara: you will have the time to explore its park, cuddle the worldwide famous deer and enter the biggest wooden building of the planet, Todai-ji Temple, another UNESCO world heritage site. Here you will find yourself in front of Japan’s biggest Buddha statue, 15 meters tall.

Kyoto: 45-Minute Tea Ceremony Experience

5. Kyoto: 45-Minute Tea Ceremony Experience

You will take you place on the tatami, the traditional Japanese floor mat and be met by your English-speaking host, who is a licensed tea master from Urasenke, the biggest school of tea ceremony in Japan. Watch as the host carries out the ceremonial preparation of matcha, powdered green tea. Then, you will have the chance to make tea yourself, while the host informs you about the history and spiritual role of the tea ceremony and the effects each tea-making method has on its flavor. Afterwards, savor some traditional Japanese sweets Once the ceremony has come to a close, you will have the chance to take photos and see examples of kimonos and beautiful woven textiles made in the Nishijin district of Kyoto. If you'd like to wear a kimono during the experience, you can select it as an add-on during booking and take photos to remember the experience.

Kyoto: All-Inclusive 3-Hour Food and Culture Tour in Gion

6. Kyoto: All-Inclusive 3-Hour Food and Culture Tour in Gion

Explore the Gion district by night with an experienced English, German, French, or Spanish-speaking tour guide who knows everything there is to know about the area. The tour starts near Kamo river, where you’ll learn about how the tradition of Geishas came to be. After a short stroll along a busy commercial street, you’ll slip into a calm, quiet area to visit the Yasaka Jinja shrine. After that touch of education, it’s off to the Gion.   The Gion has secrets and history scattered across its narrow streets, but this is also a modern entertainment district—so it’s time for a deep dive into what goes on here. Your guide will keep it light and fun, and explain some of the more interesting cultural mores of these parts. Step into a restaurant and graze from a multitude of small plates at a sort of Japanese-style tapas experience. Enjoy a drink as well before continuing on.   Between restaurant stops, there will be an exploration of Kiyamachi, Ponto-cho, and some other commercial and nightlife streets. Your guide will show you both modern and historical Kyoto, painting a well-rounded picture that gives you a real sense of the place. This tour keeps the groups small and includes your food and drinks, so that you can have a carefree night like you’re simply hanging out with someone who knows the neighborhood. A delicious Kobe (or nearby sourced) Beef option is available on top of the usual food and drink. This option is for bookings at least 10 hours in advance.

Night Walk in Gion: Kyoto's Geisha District

7. Night Walk in Gion: Kyoto's Geisha District

Experience one of the most popular walking tours in Kyoto, joined by nearly 5,000 guests annually. This 100-minute guided walk is led by a licensed English-speaking guide and takes you through nighttime Gion. The tour begins at Gion Omoide Museum, connected to a traditional pastry shop. Walk down the classic cobblestoned streets next to the Shirakawa River, and admire the scenery that was featured in the book and film, Memoirs of a Geisha. As you walk beside this beautiful stream, the guide will tell you about the history of geisha and give you a detailed explanation in regards to their kimono, hairstyle, traditional rules, and what their daily life is like. Although it is not guaranteed, during the walking tour guests often encounter geisha walking along the street.

Kyoto Samurai Class: Become a Samurai Warrior

8. Kyoto Samurai Class: Become a Samurai Warrior

Study the art of the samurai warrior class that ruled ancient Japan for centuries. Practice the stylized movements that make up the samurai technique as you handle a sword and uncover the discipline of Kenbu. Watch a 4-minute film about the basics of the samurai. Then, suit up and take hold of your samurai sword. Learn how to bow before your sword training begins. Discover how to draw it and replace it in its protective scabbard. Get a short photo shoot in your samurai suit, and then discover how to show respect to your opponent with the sword. And with a respectful bow to your instructor, grab your souvenir photos and certificate of achievement before leaving.

Kyoto : 3-Hour Bar Hopping Tour in Pontocho Alley at Night

9. Kyoto : 3-Hour Bar Hopping Tour in Pontocho Alley at Night

Meet your guide at the Izumo no Okuni statue at Gion Shijo Station, then set off for an exciting bar crawl through some of Kyoto’s best venues and hidden gems. The tour focuses on the vibrant Pontocho Alley, famous for its exhilarating nightlife and bursting with local bars offering specialty drinks and tasty dishes. Throughout the tour your local guide will ensure you have the most exciting and authentic experience. All tour guides have either grown up in Kyoto or spent extensive time living here, meaning they know everything there is to know about the area and its nightlife. The first stop is at a local tavern known as an ‘izakaya’ bar where you can try unique drinks such as matcha/green tea beer, matcha sake, and a Kyoto style tempura. Next, head onto the second and third spots of the night which you will decide upon as a group depending on your interests and your guide’s knowledgeable recommendations. At the bars, taste more traditional Kyoto beverages and delicacies, as well as soaking up the unique atmosphere of Pontocho Alley and mingling with the locals.

From Osaka: Day Trip by Bus to Kyoto and Nara

10. From Osaka: Day Trip by Bus to Kyoto and Nara

Leave Osaka in the morning aboard a bus, heading inland toward Kyoto. Before arriving in the city itself, stop in the beautiful district of Arashiyama, which has been a popular nature-viewing destination since the Heian Period. Take a stroll through the cool Sagano Bamboo Forest and listen to the distinct rustle of bamboo leaves as you walk. Later, drive through Kyoto proper and arrive at Kinkaku-ji, or the Golden Pavilion. Admire postcard-perfect views of the illustrious temple reflected in the mirror-like pond it overlooks, and then wander through the sprawling garden that retains its original design from the 14th century. After Kinkaku-ji, board your bus again and head south to Nara. Take a short walk through Nara Park, famous for the 1,200 or so wild deer that live freely within the park. Within Nara Park you will find the Todai-ji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Following your time in the historic temple, hop aboard your bus again and make the trip back to Osaka-Namba OCAT.

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  • Exploring Kyoto
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  • Temples, shrines, & more
  • Japanese customs & culture
  • Day trips from Kyoto
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Frequently asked questions about Kyoto

What top attractions are a must-see in Kyoto?

The must-see attractions in Kyoto are:

What are the best day trips and excursions from Kyoto?

The best day trips and excursions from Kyoto are:

Arashiyama

Other Sightseeing Options in Kyoto

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What people are saying about Kyoto

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 2,569 reviews

we loved this whole experience, it made many aspects of Japan much more clear to us. Our guide she was wonderful, her voice was loud and clear, she created a great ambiance. I could say I will recommend this event. thanks you so much !!

Amazing tour, organized and with a good pace. Beautiful spots to see in Kyoto. Mike is an amazing guide, recommended.

Amazing experience if you want to really want to comprehend the japanese culture. Recommend 100%

This tour deserves more than 5 stars! A must-do activity especially for visitors of Kyoto.

We had a wonderful experience learning about the history of tea ceremonies!