Home to over 1600 temples and shrines, Kyoto boasts deep history and tradition. It’s no wonder tourists flock to the area. It’s the second largest city after Tokyo, and was actual the capital for thousands of years. You’ll notice a contrast from Tokyo when you visit Kyoto, it’s a much more relaxed place, locals are frequently seen in traditional Japanese clothing. There is much more culture here, ditching the whackiness of Japanese pop culture. You may even see a geisha girl out and about!
With so many temples, you would have a hard time visiting all the attractions in Kyoto! But Kyoto does not have the best of everything and a common mistake is to stay in Kyoto too long and not experience other parts of Japan. To help you spend your time wisely, we’ve picked out our top picks:
Arishiyama monkey park:
A must if you like animals, and even if you don’t the view from the monkey park across Kyoto is worth it alone. There’s over 140 snow monkeys living here and they don’t seem at all bothered by the peering eyes of us tourists. You can watch as they play fight, swing between trees and generally monkey about. You’re free to feed them if you wish to do so and can spend as long as you please at the top of the mountain where they reside, they really are fascinating to watch.
This is also in Arishiyama and as it’s only 10 minutes from the monkey park it’s worth doing on the same day. To the locals, walking through so much bamboo is nothing special. However, to us westerners, who have only ever seen bamboo in the gardening section in B&Q, it’s quite a surreal experience. When you look up you can barely see the sky between the swaying cannopy, the bamboo towers above you in every direction, it’s a sight you won’t soon forget.
Plated in golden leaf, this temple is one of a kind. It stands afoot a Japanese styled garden and on the very edge of a large pond. The pond really adds to the scene as it beautifully reflects the temple when the suns shining. This is one of the most unique and jaw dropping temples you’ll see in the whole of Japan so when you’re picking from the 1600 options, make sure this is on your list.
Fushimi Inari Taisha temple:
This isn’t voted no.1 on TripAdvisor for no reason. Yes, parts of it look like every other temple in Japan but the sheer size of this place make it a must see. You could spend all day here, there’s a walk up the mountain whereby the whole route is enclosed by torii after torii, it’s amazing, there must be thousands of them. Unlike most temples of this size, there is no cost for entry, which was a surprise to us considering how much there is to see here.
We found accommodation in Kyoto a little more expensive than the likes of Osaka and Tokyo. A typical hotel room costs in the region of £40 upwards, but if you want to stay centrally in the popular Gion district you’re more likely to pay over £60 per night. Budget capsule hotels and hostels seemed hard to find there but if you don’t mind staying a little further out and getting the train in, there are bargains to be found.
You’ll find a number of luxurious looking restaurants overlooking the canal that runs through Gion. But if you’re on a budget, you can always sample the local delicacies in the Japanese restaurants that line many of the popular streets. Po.choto alley in Gion is worth a visit, it’s a tight space full of tiny authentic restaurants and bars, often only big enough for a few guests. Don’t forget to take your shoes off when you enter though!
There is a subway in Kyoto but we wouldn’t recommend relying on it to get around. It only has a few lines so plan well and use the bus or hire bikes. Kyoto is a very flat city so bike use is really popular amongst the locals, you can use the main roads too so it’s a great option and you’re likely to stumble on number of things you would probably miss on a bus, what an adventure.