For some readers, the name Kyoto will mainly illuminate a treaty, a climate agreement that was signed by many countries at the time with the aim of reducing CO2. Yet this city with over one and a half million inhabitants is a very nice city to visit. The fact that Kyoto has been the capital of the Japanese Empire for more than 1000 years has ensured that many special sights can be seen that have been built here over the years. It is not for nothing that it is said that if you want to understand the soul of Japan, you absolutely must visit Kyoto. The big advantage that Kyoto has over other cities in the country is that the historic buildings were largely spared during the bombing that took place here during World War II. As a result, we can now enjoy a nice mix of pre-war and modern architecture in Kyoto.
On this page we will introduce you to a dozen of those places that are definitely worth a visit when you are in Kyoto. Be surprised by this beautiful and varied Japanese city and its surroundings.
Top 10 sights of Kyoto
#1. Fushimi Inara taisha
According to 800ZIPCODES, the Jinja Shrine Fushimi Inara-taisha is a shrine dedicated to the god Inari. It is one of the oldest and most famous Inari shrines that can still be found in Japan today. When visiting this temple, don’t forget to go through one of the Torii galleries. A combination of sunlight and the colors black and orange give a very special experience. Actually, these closely spaced ports are scarlet. The galleries take you to the top of a hill where the most sacred object can be found.
Gion is a very authentic neighborhood in Kyoto. The district was once created to meet the needs and requirements of travelers and visitors to the city. Ultimately, the district developed into one of the most famous Geisha districts in Japan. Although geisha can be found here, they prefer to call themselves ‘geiko’, the local name, which means ‘woman of art’. In total, the district is home to two hanamachie. A hanamachie is a geiko community. These are the Gion Kobu and the Gion Higashi. The greatest community is formed by the Kobu. In addition to the presence of geishas, the beautiful architecture of the district also catches the eye.
#3. Nishiki Market
A well-known market in Kyoto is Nishiki Market. It is the many foodstuffs that are traded here that make this market known. Fresh fish and other products are sold here and are of exceptional quality. It is a true experience to walk around this busy market. It is also nice that many locals do their shopping here. This makes the market look very authentic. Also pay attention to the typical shops that you will not easily encounter outside Japan. For example, there are traders who only sell pickled vegetables. It is also possible to taste the many delicacies that are offered here. There are many merchants offering freshly prepared food.
The Rokuonji Temple, as Kinkaku-ji is also known, which is known as the Golden Pavilion Temple, is one of the most famous tourist attractions of Kyoto and Japan. The golden temple is situated on the water and from the other side it looks like the temple is floating on the water. You can find the temple northwest of Kyoto in a place surrounded by mountains. This makes the whole look very fairytale and heavenly. Although the gardens are already breathtaking, it is the golden temple in particular that attracts many visitors. The temple serves as a storage place for the relics of the Buddha and is covered entirely with gold leaf. The temple has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1994.
#5. Shijo Dori
Kyoto’s main street is Shijo-Dori. This street connects the Yasaka Shrine in the east with the western Matsunoo Shrine. Many of Kyoto’s major attractions are on or in close proximity to this street. This way you can reach the Geisha district fairly quickly and there are also numerous shrines within walking distance. The street owes its name to the art school Shijō. At this school, the students learned to paint according to the typical Japanese tradition.
In addition to the famous golden pavilion, there is also one made of silver in Kyoto; well, that was the intention anyway. This is the Ginkaku-ji which was built in 1474 by shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa. He did this to build a more impressive temple than that of his grandfather. Originally, the entire temple was planned to be covered in silver, but due to the fierce Onin War, the construction of the temple was never completed as it was originally intended. Nevertheless, the temple and its surroundings are still very worthwhile with the result that has ultimately been achieved.
#7. Kyoto Imperial Palace Park
The Imperial Palace Park is a well-known park in Kyoto for the many tree species that can be found here. Especially in the spring when most of the trees here are in blossom, this park has a fairytale-like feel. The park is an excellent place to escape the bustle of the city and, for example, enjoy a picnic on a beautiful spring or summer day. This park is highly recommended, especially when you are in Kyoto between the end of February and the beginning of March. Then you have a chance that many plum and cherry trees are in bloom. An unforgettable experience!
#8. Philosopher’s Path
Walking can have a very meditative effect on you, especially when you walk the paths of the philosopher’s path. The name of this path comes from Nishida Kitaro, a renowned Japanese professor of philosophy. He walked this path daily with the aim of being able to meditate. Besides the fact that a walk on the path ensures that you come more to your inner core, the environment around the path is also of great beauty. Note the beautiful sights along the two-kilometer route and take your time to absorb all the beauty.
Just west of Kyoto’s suburbs, you’ll find the Arashiyama district. Literally translated, Arashiyama means ‘storm mountain’. This name refers to the mountain just across the river ‘ōi’. Arashiyama is a beautiful natural area where you can take excellent walks and enjoy all the beauty that nature has to offer here. There are a number of attractions in this area such as ‘Iwatyama Monkey park’ and ‘Arashyama Bamboo Grove’. From the Moon Crossing Bridge you have a beautiful view of the flowering cherry trees during the blooming of the blossoms. In addition, there are a number of sanctuaries and other interesting sights to admire.
Although Nara is not located in Kyoto itself, this city can be visited in a day trip when you stay in Kyoto. As far as we are concerned, that is very worthwhile, because the city is home to a number of beautiful Buddhist shrines and temples. The temple complex of Todai-ji is especially famous. Here you will find the largest wooden building in the world. In addition to the many temples, there is also an imperial palace and a number of shrines to admire in Nara. If you have enough time when you are in or around Kyoto, a visit to Nara is highly recommended.