The Best 5 Days in Kyoto Itinerary: What to See & Do

Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or simply seeking tranquility amidst bustling city life, this 5 days in Kyoto itinerary will guide you through the must-see sights and hidden gems of Kyoto. Today, I’m going to spill the beans on my own experience exploring the awe-inspiring city of Kyoto for four whole days. Trust me, I’ve got firsthand knowledge to share, and I’m here to help you plan an unforgettable adventure.

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Welcome to Kyoto, the cultural heart of Japan! With its rich history, stunning temples, beautiful gardens, and traditional geisha districts, Kyoto offers an enchanting experience that will transport you back in time, a must when planning your 2 week Japan itinerary. From exploring ancient shrines to wandering through bamboo forests and indulging in delicious local cuisine, get ready to immerse yourself in the beauty and charm of this captivating city.

When it comes to Japan, Kyoto is like the cool kid on the block. Filled to the brim with rich cultural heritage, ancient temples, scenic gardens, and mouthwatering cuisine, this city has something for everyone. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or a foodie in search of tantalizing treats, Kyoto has everything you need.

Now, you might be wondering, why five days? Well, my friend, five days was just the right amount of time to immerse myself in Kyoto’s magic. Trust me, you might feel that five days is not nearly enough to soak up the traditional charm and explore the hidden gems that make this city so captivating, but let’s face it, not everyone can invest weeks in this trip.

During my time in Kyoto, I made it a point to hit up the city’s iconic landmarks, like the majestic Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) and the serene Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. These spots are the epitome of postcard-perfect beauty and will leave you feeling like you’ve stepped into a fairytale. Of course, I made mistakes, and I have included my learnings in this itinerary, so you won’t have to do the same.

But don’t worry, I didn’t spend all my time playing tourist. I also ventured off the beaten path to discover lesser-known treasures. From stumbling upon quaint tea houses in the narrow streets of Gion to getting lost in the maze-like Fushimi Inari Shrine, my five-day escapade was a mix of cultural experiences and delightful surprises.

Now, here’s the thing: Japan can be overwhelming, especially if you’re a first-time visitor. Kyoto is home to over 2,000 temples, shrines, and gardens, so it’s important to plan your itinerary in advance to make the most of your time there.

During your five days in Kyoto, you can visit iconic landmarks like the Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kinkaku-ji Temple, and the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. You can also explore lesser-known spots like the Okochi-Sanso Villa in Arashiyama, which offers stunning views of the city and a peaceful garden to relax in.

If you’re interested in experiencing traditional Japanese culture, Kyoto is the perfect place to do so. You can participate in a tea ceremony, learn how to make sushi, or try your hand at calligraphy. You can also visit the Gion district to see geisha and maiko walking around in their traditional attire. With so much to see and do, a five-day itinerary in Kyoto is the perfect amount of time to experience all that the city has to offer.

So, if you’re ready to dive headfirst into the wonders of Kyoto, buckle up and join me on this epic five-day adventure. Get ready to experience the best that this captivating city has to offer, all while soaking up the wisdom of a seasoned explorer (that’s me!). Stick around, because this is going to be one heck of a ride!

5 day Kyoto itinerary – The map

I don’t know if you’re familiar with me and my blog, but I love maps! They help me stay organized and allow me to organize very efficient itineraries so that I spend more time exploring and less time moving from one place to another. Bonus: I get to share them with you after I come back. Make a copy of this map and use it on your trip!

Or, better yet, buy my Japan travel guide and have a full map collection to use on your trip! You’ll also have a lot of helpful tips you can use, a recommended list of resources to help you plan, and even a packing list for your convenience. What more can you possibly want? A list of entry fees to estimate your budget? Say no more, it’s included in the travel guide!

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Day 1 in Kyoto: Getting in, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Tenryu-ji temple

Fushimi Inari shrine in Japan - a must-see as part of your 5 days in Kyoto itinerary

Checking into Your Accommodation

Congratulations on arriving in Kyoto! The first step of your 5-day Kyoto itinerary is to check into your accommodation. If you haven’t already, make sure to book your accommodation in advance to ensure a smooth check-in process.

Kyoto offers a variety of accommodation options, from traditional ryokans to modern hotels. Some popular areas to stay in include Gion, Higashiyama, and Arashiyama.

If you haven’t yet booked your stay, check out the options below, nicely picked for you for any budget. I have included both Booking and Agoda options, but I do recommend Agoda for most destinations in Asia. It usually has the best prices, and sometimes there are accommodation options available only on Agoda. Still, if you have Genius status or some wallet credit in Booking, use that instead.

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But let me tell you about my epic stay at Shizutetsu Hotel Prezio Kyoto Shijo. It was a total game-changer, my friend! First things first, the bathroom was like a spa oasis. I mean, seriously, I’ve never seen such a luxurious bathroom in a hotel before. The shower was like a gentle rain falling from heaven, and the bathtub was big enough to throw a party in (not that I did…or maybe I did, who’s counting?).

But wait, it gets better! This hotel room has a secret weapon: an amazing massage chair and a massage stool for your feet. I’m talking next-level relaxation here. It kneaded my back like a pro and melted away all my stress. And guess what? I didn’t have to break the bank to enjoy all this awesomeness.

Nope, thanks to one of the tips from my trusty budget tips ebook, we scored a killer deal. I’m talking a super-duper, can’t-believe-our-luck kind of price. So if you’re in Kyoto, my friend, do yourself a favor and book a stay at Shizutetsu Hotel Prezio Kyoto Shijo. You won’t regret it.

Check out where we stayed in Kyoto!

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

After checking in, head to Arashiyama to relax and unwind at the famous Bamboo Grove. This serene forest is a popular attraction for its towering bamboo trees that create a peaceful atmosphere. Take a leisurely stroll through the grove and breathe in the fresh air.

But please, be organized, don’t be like me! There I was, headed towards the enchanting Arashiyama Bamboo Forest for the first time. But let me tell you, my experience was a bit of a mixed bag. We made the rookie mistake of arriving after dark, and let me tell you, the magic of the place is best experienced in daylight.

As the sun was leaving us, the grove was shrouded in darkness, leaving us yearning for the full glory of those towering bamboo stalks. However, amid the dimly lit paths, we found solace in the eerie peace and quiet. It was just us, the rustling leaves, and the occasional hoot of an owl (or whatever those birds were).

But here’s where the charm started to truly fade. As we ventured deeper into the grove, we noticed something that almost made me cry. People had vandalized these awesome plants by writing their names onto them. It was like witnessing a crime against nature. How could someone deface something so beautiful?

It was a stark reminder that even in the most serene places, there are those who choose to disrespect and destroy. So, while my visit to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove was not as good as it could have been due to my mistakes, the absolute sad part was in fact provided by fellow travelers. So, if you take just one thing from this blog post, make it this one: respect the places you’re traveling to!

If you’d like to visit Arashiyama on a private tour, check out the availability of the tours below:

Tenryu-ji temple

While you’re in Arashiyama, visit Tenryu-ji, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This temple is known for its beautiful gardens and stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Take your time exploring the grounds and admiring the architecture. If you choose to visit during autumn, as I fully advise you to, you’ll have a chance of spotting amazing fall foliage here.

That’s it for day 1 of your Kyoto itinerary! Tomorrow, we’ll be exploring Gion, Nishiki Market and we’ll enjoy the geisha culture in Japan.

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Day 2 in Kyoto: Walking tour, geisha experience, Gion, Nishiki Market, Minamiza Theater

Torii gate in a shinto shrine in Kyoto, Japan - one of the must see things during your 5 day Kyoto itinerary
One of the many torii gates you will see while in Kyoto, Japan

(Free) walking tour

Start your day with a (free) walking tour of Kyoto. Several companies offer these tours, and they are a great way to see the city while learning about its history and culture. We took this one and we loved it! Of course, it’s expected that you pay a tip to the guide, but you get to choose how much based on how cool it was and your budget,

While a free walking tour might sound like a cost-efficient way to see the city, a paid tour can be easier to be part of, and if it includes transportation, it will automatically cover more. Kyoto is a big city and walking around can only get you so far. But with a paid tour, you can see a lot in a short time, or go further away from the city without having to rely on public transportation.

If you’d like to visit Kyoto on a private tour, check out the availability of the tours below:

Tickets to various experiences to enjoy while on a 2 week trip to Japan.
Although expensive, seeing a geisha show is a memory that will follow you forever.

Experience the geisha culture in Japan

Let’s talk about an experience that is an absolute must-do when you find yourself in Japan: the captivating world of geishas! Trust me, it’s an encounter like no other, and Japan is the only place on Earth where you can immerse yourself in this enchanting tradition.

Now, you might be wondering how to go about experiencing the wonder of a geisha. Well, good news! There are options to suit every budget, from free to a little more on the extravagant side. If you’re on a mid-budget, that’s perfect, as you’ll get to choose the best option to satisfy both your wishes and your bank account. Just check out a few of the options below!

One of the most affordable ways to catch a glimpse of these graceful performers is by wandering through the historic districts of Kyoto, the most known part being called Gion. Keep your eyes peeled, as you might just spot a geisha gracefully gliding through the streets, adorned in their elegant kimonos. It’s like stepping into a real-life fairytale! And believe me, those kimonos shine brighter than anything else you have ever seen! You’ll know for sure if it’s a real geisha or maiko.

If you’re looking for a more immersive experience, consider booking a private geisha performance or attending a tea ceremony. These experiences can range from moderate to slightly higher in price, but they offer a deeper understanding of the geisha culture and its mesmerizing art forms, plus you get to actually interact with them and ask questions. Now, that’s something to look forward to, am I right?

For those seeking the ultimate geisha extravaganza, you can even opt for a private dinner with a geisha. This luxurious experience allows you to savor delicious traditional Japanese cuisine while engaging in conversation with a geisha. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will leave you with memories to cherish forever. Check out the options below!

To dive deeper into the world of geishas and discover all the incredible options available, make sure to check out my dedicated blog post about experiencing the geisha culture. I’ve compiled all the tips, tricks, and recommendations you need to make the most of this unique experience. Trust me, you will want to include this when calculating your budget for Japan!

Oh my gosh, but let me tell you about this incredible experience I was so fortunate to enjoy! So, while I was visiting Kyoto, my husband and I got to see something truly magical: a maiko show! And not just any show, mind you, but the graduation show from one of the top geisha houses in the whole city. Talk about being in the right place at the right time! And by the right time, I’m talking about November, the absolute best time to visit Japan!

Theater scene where a maiko and geiko performance show was about to start - Kyoto, Japan
Taking pictures during the show is forbidden, so this is the only image I have from this place, taken before the show started

Now, here’s the thing: the show was entirely in Japanese, and there are only five of these shows happening each year, one for each geisha house. But let me tell you, language barrier and exclusivity aside, it was an absolutely mind-blowing experience. The maikos, with their beautifully adorned kimonos and intricate hairstyles, captivated us from the very first moment. The way they moved, the grace in their every gesture, it was like stepping into a different era.

I can’t stress this enough, guys: when you’re planning your trip, do whatever it takes to catch a maiko show. It’s a rare opportunity that shouldn’t be missed. Trust me, you’ll walk away feeling like you’ve witnessed something truly special, and it’ll become one of those memories that you’ll cherish forever. So go ahead, add it to your bucket list, and get ready to be blown away by the enchanting world of the geishas.

Japanese garden with a beautiful lake
Japanese garden

Minamiza Theater

Amongst all the temples and shrines, there’s one experience that’s truly unique and utterly captivating – watching a Kabuki piece in a traditional theater. Now, you might be wondering, what on earth is Kabuki? Well, let me fill you in.

Kabuki is a special type of theater where all the actors are men, even if they’re playing female characters. It’s been around for centuries and is an important part of Japanese culture. The performances are known for their elaborate costumes, striking makeup, and exaggerated movements. Trust me, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

The best part? You don’t have to commit to the whole shebang. If you’re short on time or just want to dip your toes into the Kabuki world, you have the freedom to catch just one part of the play. No need to worry about getting bored or restless, you can come and go as you please. It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure theater experience!

How to prepare for a trip to Japan - featured image with Japanese temple

Take a stroll through Gion, Kyoto

As part of your 5-day Kyoto itinerary, you absolutely cannot miss taking a leisurely stroll through the enchanting neighborhood of Gion. Day or night, this place is a feast for the senses, and it’s perfect for budget travelers looking to immerse themselves in Japanese culture.

One of the most exciting things about Gion is the chance to spot geishas or maikos, those mysterious and elegant figures that have captured our imaginations for centuries. As you wander the streets, be aware that you might spot them, adorned in their traditional attire, headed to one appointment or another. Please be respectful though and don’t try to take their pictures if they don’t want to be photographed, and don’t stalk them! That’s just rude and nasty!

Not only is Gion famous for its geishas, but it also boasts the most traditional-looking streets in all of Kyoto. Picture this: narrow cobblestone alleyways lined with wooden machiya townhouses, softly lit by lanterns. It’s like stepping back in time to a Japan of a bygone era. You’ll find yourself lost in the charm and tranquility of this quaint neighborhood.

And let’s not forget about the food! Gion is a treasure trove of hidden culinary gems, especially if you’re into small, cozy restaurants. Mostly serving traditional Japanese cuisine but offering small snacks in teahouses as well, there’s something for every foodie here. So don’t be afraid to venture into those unassuming alleys and discover some of the best-kept secrets of the local food scene.

Whether you decide to explore Gion during the day or soak up its magical atmosphere at night, you’re in for a treat. So grab your camera (but be aware of the streets where you’re not allowed to take any pictures), put on your walking shoes, and get ready to be captivated by the beauty and charm of this traditional neighborhood.

Let me tell you about my experience in Gion though. One evening, as we were taking a walk through the historic district, we had the most serendipitous encounter. A maiko, gracefully gliding along the cobblestone path, caught my eye. It would have been hard not to, considering how different they look to any other people.

But here’s the kicker. As she made her way toward an appointment, a swarm of people trailed behind her, their cameras practically smacking her in the face. Seriously, let’s have a little etiquette, shall we? Respect and admiration should never come at the expense of invading someone’s personal space.

But let me tell you how we knew from a very long distance that she was a maiko. Her kimono, a work of art for sure, was like a shimmering masterpiece, sparkling like it was crafted from diamonds. And guess what? That kind of design comes with a hefty price tag – we’re talking about a cool 100K for that one-of-a-kind garment. And they own tens of them!

Japanese market in Hiroshima

So, if you ever find yourself strolling through Gion, be sure to keep your cameras in check and respect the personal space of these magical maikos. Trust me, the experience is worth it, and you’ll be thankful for the memories you create without crossing any boundaries.

Nishiki Market

If you’re going to Japan mostly for the food (I’m not judging here!) let me introduce you to one of everyone’s absolute favorite spots: the vibrant Nishiki Market. This place is a must-visit if you want to immerse yourself in the local culture and get a taste of traditional Japanese delicacies.

Picture this (or look at the picture above): a narrow, bustling street lined with vibrant stalls that seem to stretch on forever. As you start your stroll through Nishiki Market, your senses will be overwhelmed by the tantalizing aromas wafting from the food stands. From savory bites like grilled yakitori skewers and steaming bowls of ramen to sweet treats like freshly made mochi and matcha-flavored goodies, this place is a foodie paradise.

But hold on, there’s more! Nishiki Market is not just about satisfying your taste buds; it’s also a haven for shopping enthusiasts. As you meander through the market, you’ll find a treasure trove of traditional Japanese items, from beautiful ceramics and elegant kimonos to unique souvenirs and local crafts. Whether you’re looking for a memento to take home or simply want to immerse yourself in the local shopping scene, Nishiki Market has got you covered.

And if you want some guidance and local advice, check out the tours below to get the best experience.

Day 3 in Kyoto: Fushimi Inari Shrine, Tofukuji Temple, Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Fushimi Inari Shrine

On day three of your 5-day Kyoto itinerary, you’ll be exploring some of the most iconic sites in the city. Start your day by visiting Fushimi Inari Shrine, one of the most famous shrines in Kyoto. This shrine is dedicated to Inari, the god of rice and prosperity, and features thousands of bright orange torii gates that form a stunning path up the mountain.

The hike to the top of the mountain takes about 2-3 hours, but you can turn back at any point if you need to. Don’t forget to bring your camera, as the views from the top are breathtaking.

Pro tip: If you want to be sure to have almost to yourself, go as early as possible, with the first train in the morning. When you arrive, don’t stop at the first ten Torii gates, just continue to go up until you notice you’re alone. Here, stop for a moment, turn around, and check out the amazing view of the gates behind you. You’re welcome!

Now, do you want to know what I think about it? It’s absolutely gorgeous! I mean, words simply won’t do justice to the beauty of this place. Picture yourself surrounded by thousands of vibrant orange torii gates, forming a mesmerizing pathway up the mountain. It’s like stepping into a scene from a fairytale and getting ready for new adventures at the same time!

Speaking of adventures, let me share a little mishap that happened to yours truly. As I was making my way through the torii gates, I managed to have a not-so-graceful encounter with the ground. Ouch! Lesson learned, folks: always keep your first aid kit handy in your backpack, not tucked away in your hotel suitcase, like the absolutely delightful person writing this. Believe me, nursing a bruised knee while hopping around a stunning shrine is not the ideal way to experience Fushimi Inari. Learn from my clumsiness and be prepared!

Do you want to be a bit lazy that day and have everything done for you? Or maybe you’d like to have someone knowledgeable show you around? Check out the following tours that can help you enjoy this place even more!

Fushimi Inari shrine in Japan

Tofukuji Temple

I hope you’re ready to be blown away by the mesmerizing Tofukuji Temple! Trust me, this place is an absolute stunner, especially during autumn. The vibrant foliage paints a breathtaking picture, the Japanese maple trees making it a dream destination for nature lovers and Instagram addicts alike. Seriously, your eyes won’t believe the explosion of colors that await you here.

Now, here’s a little secret for you: Tofukuji Temple is not just a feast for the eyes, but also a haven of tranquility. Just take a moment and imagine you’re strolling through the temple grounds, the sound of your footsteps barely breaking the serene silence. It’s like stepping into a different world, away from the hustle and bustle of city life. It’s the perfect spot to relax, unwind, and forget about all your worries.

But wait, there’s more! The temple also boasts an incredible garden that will leave you in awe. Immaculately landscaped and meticulously maintained, as everything else in Japan, it’s a slice of heaven on earth. From picturesque ponds to meticulously raked gravel patterns, every element is carefully curated to create a harmonious and peaceful atmosphere. It’s the kind of place where you can lose track of time, simply immersing yourself in the beauty that surrounds you.

Visit the Kiyomizu-dera Temple

End your day by visiting the Kiyomizu-dera Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most famous temples in Kyoto. Believe me, you’ll know it just by the look of any stock photo online.

This temple is known for its stunning wooden stage that juts out over a cliff, offering breathtaking views of the city. The temple is also famous for its Otowa waterfall, where visitors can drink from one of three streams of water, each of which is said to have a different benefit. Take your time exploring the temple complex and admiring the views before heading back to your hotel for the night.

What you need to know though is that the crowds here can be more than expected. More than once have I heard people complain about this, and I don’t know if going the first thing in the morning will help in any way. Plus, you cannot go to both Fushimi Inari and Kiyomizu-dera on the same morning, so choose wisely…

That’s it for day three of your 5-day Kyoto itinerary. Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water and snacks for your day of exploring.

Day 4 in Kyoto: Eikan-do Temple, Explore the Philosopher’s Path, Higashiyama Jisho-ji

On the fourth day of your Kyoto itinerary, you will explore some of the most scenic and serene spots in the city. Here are some of the must-visit places:

  • Eikan-do Temple (Zenrin-ji Temple)
  • Explore the Philosopher’s Path
  • Higashiyama Jisho-ji – Ginkaku-ji Temple

Eikan-do Temple (Zenrin-ji Temple)

Start your day by visiting the Eikan-do Temple, also known as the Zenrin-ji Temple. This temple is famous for its stunning autumn foliage and serene atmosphere, as it’s located right next to a mountain, in a quiet area.

Take a stroll through the temple’s gardens and admire the beautiful colors of the leaves. You can also visit the Amida Hall, which houses a statue of Buddha, and please keep in mind that this beautiful place was founded by an 11-year-old priest around the year 1000. Of course, like most other things in Japan, it was destroyed and rebuilt, but you’ll still be impressed by the amazing corridors and staircases of the place.

Explore the Philosopher’s Path

If you feel the need to relax a bit, take a leisurely walk along the Philosopher’s Path. This picturesque path runs alongside a canal and is lined with cherry trees, making it a popular spot for Sakura in the spring. The path takes you past several temples and shrines, including the Ginkaku-ji Temple (the Silver Pavilion) and the Honen-in Temple.

While you’re here, you can either take your time and relax your mind for a while, or you can take advantage of the numerous cafes and restaurants around, or you can enter any of the smallest temples and shrines that can be found around. We visited one small temple in Osaka and it was truly amazing since there was really no one there except for us.

Ginkaku-ji Temple – The Silver Pavilion

End your day at the Higashiyama Jisho-ji, also known as the “Silver Pavilion”. This temple is famous for its beautiful garden and stunning architecture. Unlike the Golden Pavilion, the building is not actually made of silver, so don’t get your hopes up only to get there and be disappointed.

Take a stroll through the garden and admire the pond, which is filled with koi fish. Don’t forget to visit the temple’s main hall, which houses a statue of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy.

Most people enjoy it more than the Golden Pavilion as it’s more quiet and discreet, not so flashy, and … let’s just say it, kitsch. Be sure to check it out if you’re looking for a more distinguished experience.

Day 5 in Kyoto: Kinkaku-ji, Nijo Castle, The Imperial Palace

On the last day of your Kyoto itinerary, you will explore some of the most interesting places in the city. Here are some of the must-visit places:

  • Kinkaku-ji – The Golden Pavilion
  • Nijo Castle
  • The Imperial Palace

Kinkaku-ji – The Golden Pavilion

Kinkaku-ji, also known as the Golden Pavilion, is a Zen Buddhist temple that is covered in gold leaf. Yes, actual gold. Because apparently the Gods like gold sometimes.

The temple is situated in a beautiful garden, and the reflection of the pavilion in the pond is a sight to behold. The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is one of Kyoto’s most popular tourist destinations.

Plenty of people love to see it at sunset, as the colors of the sky reflect nicely on the golden surface of the temple. To be honest, it didn’t impress me as much as I saw others being impressed, but hey, maybe I’m just weird. The gardens are beautiful though, but that’s literally all there is to see here. You cannot go inside, you can only stroll around and look at the same building from multiple angles.

Explore Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site that was built in the 17th century as the residence of the Tokugawa shoguns. The castle is famous for its “nightingale floors,” which squeak to alert the residents of any intruders. The castle is surrounded by beautiful gardens, and the interiors are decorated with intricate paintings and carvings.

What you need to remember is that this place is not only a building but a castle complex, with all the defense mechanisms a shogun would want for himself and his loved ones. While the castle is of course not complete anymore, plenty of the old buildings can still be seen here.

Visit the Imperial Palace

The Kyoto Imperial Palace was the residence of the emperor until the capital was moved to Tokyo in the late 19th century. The palace is surrounded by beautiful gardens and is a great place to learn about Japan’s imperial history. You can take a guided tour of the palace, but you need to make a reservation in advance on the official website.

Golden temple near Kyoto in Japan

Best Time to Visit Kyoto

Kyoto is a beautiful city that can be visited all year round. However, the best time to visit Kyoto depends on your preferences and what you want to see and experience.

Spring (March to May)

Spring is one of the most popular times to visit Kyoto. This is when the cherry blossoms bloom, creating a beautiful pink-and-white landscape. The cherry blossoms usually bloom in late March to early April, but the exact timing can vary depending on the weather. If you want to see the cherry blossoms, plan your trip carefully and book your accommodation in advance, as this is a busy time for tourism.

Summer (June to August)

Summer in Kyoto can be hot and humid, but it’s also a great time to experience the city’s festivals and events. One of the most famous festivals is the Gion Matsuri, which takes place in July and features giant floats and parades. The Daimonji Gozan Okuribi, held in August, is another popular event where large bonfires are lit in the mountains surrounding Kyoto.

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Fall (September to November)

Fall is another popular time to visit Kyoto, as the leaves change color and the city is bathed in shades of red, orange, and yellow. The peak season for fall foliage is usually in mid to late November, but it can vary depending on the weather. The Arashiyama district is a popular spot for viewing the fall colors.

Winter (December to February)

Winter is the least popular time to visit Kyoto, but it can still be a beautiful time to see the city. The temperatures are usually mild, with occasional snowfall in January and February. If you visit in December, you can see the stunning illumination displays at temples and shrines throughout the city.

Overall, the best time to visit Kyoto depends on what you want to see and experience. Each season has its own unique charm, so choose the time that suits you best.

Getting Around Kyoto

The secret sauce to navigating this vibrant city lies in its top-notch public transportation system, one of the myths about Japan that is absolutely true. Hop on the metro or catch a bus, and you’ll be whisked away to all the must-see sights in no time. Trust me, it’s like having your own personal magic carpet ride!

And hey, if you’re hungry for more juicy details on how to make the most of Kyoto’s public transportation, I’ve got you covered with a few dedicated posts that will help you navigate the whole Japanese public transportation system. Don’t forget this one about getting internet in Japan as a tourist, as it’s such an important part when trying to find your way around.

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To make your train rides easier and cheaper, check out if the JR Pass is a good investment here.
Hiroshima dome in November

Day trips from Kyoto

While Kyoto is already a great place to visit, and 5 days don’t feel like being enough, you should also think about doing some day trips. Most people either choose Kyoto or Osaka as their “center”, and do day trips back and forth. We decided on Kyoto as our point as it had more to see for us compared to Osaka. If you’re a foodie though, people are warmly recommending Osaka for the food scene in Dotonbori.

To make this easier to handle in terms of physical load, try to alternate one day in Kyoto and one day trip, as day trips can take a long day to handle. Especially if you have a JR Pass and can move around very easily, day trips are a great way to see more of Japan without the hassle of moving your luggage every day. Check out the ideas below!

  • Visit Hiroshima to learn more about the world peace and what we can do for it
  • Go check out Nara for half a day to see yet another former Capital of Japan
  • Visit Osaka to see traditional and modernism in a single place
  • Go to a hot spring city and enjoy a traditional Japanese onsen

If you would like a more convenient experience on your day trips, check out the guided tours below. You won’t only have an easier time getting around, but you’ll also have a guide to share their knowledge with you.

FAQs about visiting Kyoto

How many days is best to spend in Kyoto?

Kyoto is ready to keep you busy for as long as you can stay. While it can provide you with things to do for weeks, at least 3-4 days are needed just to see the highlights.

How much money do I need for 5 days in Kyoto?

This will mostly depend on your spending habits. You can find accommodation for as little as $50 per night, eat for as little as $10 per meal, and pay just a few bucks for each entry fee for the visited landmarks.

When is the best time to visit Kyoto?

Kyoto is beautiful year-round, but the best times to visit are during spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November). Spring brings cherry blossoms, while autumn showcases stunning foliage. However, if you prefer fewer crowds, consider visiting in winter or early summer.

What are some must-visit attractions in Kyoto?

Don’t miss the iconic Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion), Fushimi Inari Taisha with its thousands of torii gates, the serene Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and monkey park, and the historic Gion district known for geisha sightings. Also, make sure to explore the beautiful Kiyomizu-dera temple and the tranquil Philosopher’s Path.

Are there any off-the-beaten-path attractions worth exploring?

Absolutely! While the popular attractions are a must, Kyoto is also home to some hidden gems. Consider visiting the Tofuku-ji temple for its stunning autumn foliage, exploring the lesser-known Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka streets for a taste of old Kyoto, or taking a boat ride along the Hozu River for a unique perspective of the city’s natural beauty.

What is the best way to get around Kyoto?

Kyoto has an excellent public transportation system, including buses and trains, which are convenient and easy to use. I recommend getting a rechargeable IC card like the ICOCA or Pasmo, which allows for seamless travel across various modes of transportation.

Can you recommend any local food experiences in Kyoto?

Kyoto is a foodie paradise! Don’t miss trying kaiseki (traditional multi-course meal), Kyoto-style sushi, yudofu (tofu hot pot), matcha-based sweets, and the famous Kyoto-style ramen. For a unique experience, visit Nishiki Market, known as Kyoto’s Kitchen, to sample various local delicacies and pick up some food souvenirs.

Are there any etiquette tips I should be aware of in Kyoto?

While Kyoto is a welcoming city, it’s always good to be mindful of local customs. When visiting temples and shrines, remember to dress modestly and remove your shoes before entering certain areas. Also, be respectful of others and avoid making loud noises in public spaces. Learning a few basic Japanese phrases like arigatou (thank you) and sumimasen (excuse me) can go a long way in showing your appreciation and politeness.

Inside view of a tea house, in a traditional Japanese garden. A perfect place for a tea ceremony performed by a geisha or maiko
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5 days in Kyoto itinerary – The takeaway

And there you have it, my friend! A whirlwind adventure through the enchanting city of Kyoto. From stunning temples to gorgeous geishas, this 5-day itinerary has got you covered.

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