Discover the Top Things to See and Do in Kyoto, from Golden Temples to Geisha Culture and More
Kyoto, the former imperial capital of Japan, is a city that boasts an abundance of history, culture, and natural beauty. This city is filled with stunning temples and shrines, beautiful gardens, and traditional architecture that reflects its rich past.
Whether you’re interested in exploring the city’s historic sites, strolling through its scenic parks, or immersing yourself in its unique culture, Kyoto is the place to visit.
In this list, we’ll explore some of the top things to see and do in Kyoto, from visiting famous temples and shrines to experiencing its traditional tea culture.
Here are some things to see and do in Kyoto:
- Visit Kinkaku-ji Temple (Golden Pavilion): A UNESCO World Heritage Site with a stunning golden temple set in a beautiful garden.
- Explore Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine: A famous Shinto shrine known for its thousands of torii gates.
- Walk through the bamboo groves in Arashiyama: This picturesque area is known for its beautiful bamboo forest and scenic river.
- Visit Kiyomizu-dera Temple: A historical temple with a stunning wooden stage that offers panoramic city views.
- Stroll through Gion: This historic district is known for its traditional architecture and geisha culture.
- Explore Nijo Castle: A historic castle with beautiful gardens, traditional Japanese architecture, and intricate artwork.
- Take a tour of the Kyoto Imperial Palace: This former residence of the Imperial Family is now a museum that offers a glimpse into Japan’s history and culture.
- Visit the Philosopher’s Walk: A scenic path alongside a canal lined with cherry blossom trees.
- Take a traditional tea ceremony: Kyoto is known for its tea culture, and there are many opportunities to participate in a traditional tea ceremony.
- Explore the Kyoto National Museum: This museum features many traditional Japanese art and artifacts, including paintings, sculptures, and ceramics.
- Visit Nishiki Market: This lively market is known for its fresh produce, traditional Japanese foods, and local handicrafts.
- Take a day trip to the nearby city of Nara: Nara is home to many historic temples and shrines, including Todai-ji Temple, which houses the famous Great Buddha statue.
Did you know?
Kyoto was spared from being bombed during World War II due to its historical and cultural significance. At the time, the United States Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson, had visited Kyoto and appreciated its beauty and history, so he removed it from the list of potential targets for the atomic bomb.
Kyoto is one of Japan’s few cities with many historic buildings and landmarks from before the war, making it a fascinating destination for anyone interested in Japanese culture and history.
A little history:
Kyoto was the capital of Japan from 794 to 1868, known as the Heian period. It flourished as a center of art, culture, and religion during this time. Many of the city’s most famous temples and shrines, including Kiyomizu-dera and Fushimi Inari Taisha, were built during this time.
Kyoto was also home to the imperial court and aristocracy, and the city’s aristocratic culture and traditions are still evident today.
In 1868, the capital of Japan was moved to Tokyo during the Meiji Restoration, a period of modernization and industrialization in Japan. Despite losing its status as the capital, it remained an important center of culture and education, and many of its traditional crafts and practices were preserved.
During World War II, the city was spared from bombing due to its historical and cultural significance, making it one of the few cities in Japan with many well-preserved historical buildings.
These days, the city is a popular tourist destination exploring its many temples, shrines, and other cultural attractions. It is known for its traditional architecture, gardens, and festivals and is recognized as a center of Japanese culture and history.