What is there to see in Kyoto?
Get packing, we’re off to Japan! Today we’re taking a look at Kyoto in this mini-guide to the must-see spots in this amazing city.
Kyoto was the capital of Japan and home to the emperor until 1868. With a population of almost 1.5 million, it is now one of the biggest cities in the land of the rising sun. There is lots to see in Kyoto, including some 800 temples, shrines and historic buildings. These are our favourites:
NIJO CASTLE. Nijo Castle was built in 1603 as the residence of the first shogun. In the middle of the 19th century, it was given over to the city and opened to the public as a historic building. It is one of the best examples of feudal Japanese architecture and is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
KIYOMIZUDERA TEMPLE. This is one of the most famous temples in Japan, with stunning views from its wooden balcony. It was founded in 780 near the Otowa waterfall. It is also a Unesco World Heritage Site.
PONTOCHO STREET. This is one of the liveliest places to eat and drink in Kyoto, with lots of restaurants, many of which boast views over the River Kamogawa. In summer they set up platforms in the river so you can dine over the water.
KINKAKUJI TEMPLE. Also known as the Golden Pavilion, this is a temple you mustn’t miss. It was built in 1397 and its top two floors are covered in pure gold leaf. The effect is spectacular. Alongside there is a lovely Japanese garden, if you want to meditate or simply take it easy for a while.
GION DISTRICT. This is the most famous geisha district in the whole of Japan. It is packed with geisha houses, tea houses and traditional shops where you can buy sweets and typical Japanese products. Strolling through its streets is like going back in time. The nearby Yasaka Jinja Shrine is also well worth a visit.
FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE. This Shinto shrine is famous for its red gates that lead up to the top of the sacred hill, at 200 m above sea level. It takes about an hour to climb to the top, but it’s worth spending a whole morning enjoying the landscape and paths.
NISHIKI MARKET. With hundreds of shops and restaurants, this market is also known as the “the kitchen of Kyoto”. You’ll find sushi and fresh fish alongside knives and cooking utensils. It’s usually a great hit with tourists and locals alike.
MARUYAMA PARK. Maruyama Park really comes into its own in April, when the cherry trees burst into blossom, making it one of the best places in the city for hanami ‘flower viewing’.