Kyoto is home to 1.5 million people, with 1600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto temples. The city is located in a valley, the Yamashiro Basin and surrounded by three mountains, the Higashiyama, Kitayama, and Nishiyama. Originally the city was laid out according to Chinese Feng-shui principles, and what remains as evidence today is the grid formation of all the streets. For the traveller this makes the city incredibly easy to navigate through- especially on public transportation.
Unique Things to See and Do in Kyoto
- Pontocho Alley – A postcard image of traditional Japanese shops and restaurants.
- Gion and Miyagawa-cho, where traditional Geishas entertain
- Hanatoro Festival, Illumination festival with lanterns lining the streets
- Eikando Temple – famous for its autumn leaves
- Philosopher’s path- hundreds of cherry trees. A must-see in the spring
Places to Visit in Kyoto
- Nishiki Market
- Nijo-jo castle
- Kyoto Gosho – an Imperial Palace
- Ginkaku-ji temple
- Heian-jingu shrine
- Higashiyama – historical district
- Kinkakuji – temple covered in gold!
- Fushimi Inari Shrine – thousands of torii gates
Kyoto’s cuisine most famous cuisine is known as Kyo-ryori – dishes that were originally for Zen Buddhist priests and pilgrims. Kyoto cuisine or Kyo-royi is more of an experience than just a meal. During the Emperor’s days artisan chefs would try to impress him with the presentation of the dishes. There are four types of Kyo-royi
- Yusoku Ryori – was eaten by the Emperor
- Kaiseki Ryori – the meal before a tea cermony
- Shojin Ryori – vegetarian and served in temples
- Obanzai – home style and causal
The dishes of Shojin Tyori are meals of Yudofu (tofu simmered in broth), served with vegetables, and Yuba (soy milk curd). Kyo-kaiseki, was traditionally a meal served before the traditional tea ceremony, but nowadays is more commonplace and you can find this meal in restaurants. It is multi-course dinner, which could be as high as 10-12 courses. The art behind the meal is in the presentation, and how the order of tastes and textures. The meal serves as a compliment to the bitterness of the tea. Kyo-ryori cuisine is definite must for anyone travelling to Kyoto. There is also a causal Kaiseki, in which several small portions are presented all at the same time- commonly known as the Bento box! The Bento boxes are not that expensive, however the traditional Kyo-kaiseki can range from $100 to $500 depending on where you go.
Other dishes to try:
- Izakaya- Bar food. Small dishes accompanying beer or sake. Like sashimi and yakatori.
- Shokudo- Great for lunches. Meat with rice, served with cabbage, miso soup, and tsukemono (pickles).
- Udon- Noodle soups, however the noodles and the broths vary from region to region
- Sukiyakion- Thinly sliced beef cooked in broth at the table. Served with vegetable, tofu, and noodles.
- Shabu Shabu- Thinly sliced beef with vegetable and tofu. The meat is cooked in boiling water and then dipped in sauce
Did you know…?
Fushimi Inari Shrine has thousands of torii gates.
Did you ALSO know…?
Ryokans are Japanese style inns where you sleep on futons with tatami mat floors
Getting around Kyoto
Travelling to Kyoto
There is the JR Haruka Super Express Train that travels between the Kansai International Airport, just outside of Osaka, and the Kyoto Station. The trip is little over an hour long. The other train service is JR Kanku Kaisoku, which is slower and bit cheaper. The whole trip takes about an hour and 40 minutes.
If you are travelling from Tokyo, you can take a bus with JR Highway Buses. The travel time is approximately 8 hours long and will drop you off at the Kyoto station. If you prefer to travel a night, JR Drewam Highway buses over overnight service and arrive super early the following day.
Travelling Around Kyoto
As with most metropolitan areas in Japan, taking public transportation is fairly easy in Kyoto. If you are using a combination of the bus and the subway system, you can reach most parts of the city.
The subway system is not as extensive as Osaka, so if you are restricted by time you may want to grab a cab or two. If, however, you have the time the subway has two lines. The stop announcements are in English too!The Karasuma Line runs north-south, and the Tozai Line runs east-west.
Taking the bus to all major attractions is easy and accessible. You can pick up a map from the Bus and Subway Information counter, which will direct to which buses leave from Kyoto’s Station Central and head to all the attractions. We recommend that if you are staying for a couple of days invest in a transit pass. Passes come in either 1 day or 2 day passes, and they give you access to both the bus routes and subway systems. you pick them up at the Bus and Subway counter.
Best time of year to travel to Kyoto
If you are planning a trip to Kyoto then chances are you are visiting other cities in Japan at the same time, so it might be best to consult our Japan page for a few more details. The shoulder months are the easiest for most travellers as they slightly cooler temperatures but still have warm sunny days. During the summer months, Kyoto can get quite hot and humid, reaching staggering highs of 39.8C! By contrast, the winters are cold and the temperature often drops to below freezing. The rainy season is from June to July and Typoons can occur between September and October. They only last a few days.
Weather in Kyoto
In Kyoto you can experience all four seasons. In the winter time the temperatures can drop to below freezing and be quite chilly, lows of -11°C, but it does not usually snow. In the spring time the cherry blossom turn the city into a beautiful pink with moderate temperatures. The summer months, July, August, and September are hot and humid. The temperature ranges from 23°C to 39°C with about 70% humidity.
Ready to plan your visit to Kyoto? Check out these popular guides and trips.