Visitors to Kyoto will find themselves awed by the quiet temples, beautiful gardens and colorful shrines of this ancient city, once the capital of Japan and the seat of the Emperor. Kyoto is home to more than 1,000 Buddhist temples, perfectly preserved through the centuries and offset with lush landscaped gardens, bursting with Japan’s famed cherry blossoms. Any visit to Kyoto should include a stop to marvel at the golden splendor of Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion, as well as the cavernous Higashi Hongan-ji. Kyoto’s splendid religious architecture extends to its Shintō shrines, including the famous Fushimi-Inari-taisha with its bright vermillion torii (gates), which preserve the nation’s indigenous faith. But the culture of Kyoto extends beyond religious architecture and artifacts. When you travel to Kyoto, you’ll also sample some of the world’s best cuisine, from the artistic multi-course feast that is kaiseki to more common fare like ramen noodles and expertly prepared tempura. Our Kyoto travel guide will point you to some of the most popular destinations in this ancient and history-rich city.
Things Not To Miss in Kyoto
• The Kyoto Imperial Palace
• The Gion District, known as the entertainment and geisha quarter
• Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
• Nishiki Market, where you can find some of the best (and strangest) Japanese street food
• Kinkaku-ji, the famous Zen temple also known as the Golden Pavilion
• Nanzen-ji, a Zen temple with several sub temples
• The Fushimi-Inari-taisha shrine, with its vermillion torii spread across a mountainside
When to Go to Kyoto
Kyotoites take the changing seasons very seriously. The city’s geisha are known to change their hair ornaments once a month to celebrate the subtle changes through the seasons, and local confectioners create seasonal goodies to reflect the changing flora. In February, the first of Kyoto’s blossoms begin to open, and through the spring, a bounty of plums, daphnes, cherries, camellias, azaleas and wisteria bloom.
Travel to Kyoto in July to experience the Gion Matsuri festival, which includes a spectacular pageant that passes along the main streets of Kyoto. If you make your Kyoto travel plans for the winter, be sure to pack warm clothing and prepare for rainy weather. The climate is relatively mild, but rains can be frequent in winter, as well as during the summer months. You may also want to visit Kyoto in the fall for the spectacular foliage.