Kyoto used to be the capital of Japan; it has survived fires, wars, and other potential disasters that could’ve devastated it. The bustling city has an eclectic mix of old and new, interspersed with centuries-old temples, districts, castles, houses and neon-lit shopping centers, commercial buildings, fusion restaurants, and massive train stations that connect it to other cities in the country. You’ll have plenty to see, experience, and eat during your stay.
Best Time to Visit
The best times to visit are during sakura season and autumn. These are the seasons where the colors are diverse and the weather just right. The fall foliage and the pinkish hue of the sakura blooms blend well with the ancient structures and landscape.
Get In and Out
You have the option to go straight to Kyoto upon arriving at Kansai International Airport in Osaka. The airport is around 40km away and is possible to get to by either train or bus.
If you want to get to Kyoto the fastest way possible, you can board the Limited Express Haruka. This train takes about an hour and 15 minutes to get to Kyoto Station from the airport; it has stops at Tennoji and Shin-Osaka Stations in between. The earliest train that departs Kansai is at 6:30 AM and the last one is around 10:16 PM. The earliest train that leaves Kyoto to Kansai Airport is around 5:46 AM and the last one is around 8:15 PM. You can buy the ticket at the counter or you can use your JR Pass.
Thinking of getting JR Pass? Check your itinerary first if you really need it and if it will help you save money. Is Japan Rail Pass worth it?
Other than the train, you can ride a limousine bus to get to Kyoto Station from the airport.
- From Kansai Airport, look for Bus Stop 1 for Terminal 2 and Bus Stop 8 for Terminal 1.
- From Kyoto Station to Kansai, look for the bus stop in front of a building called Avanti.
Fare: ¥2,550 adult; ¥1,280 children (one-way ticket)
Going Around the City
Kyoto is a fascinating city that will quickly fill your itinerary for a handful of days. It is also easy to get from point A to point B because of the transport system, whether you go to places by taxi or public transportation.
- Subway. One option to get around the city is by subway. The ticket per way costs ¥210 to ¥350 for adults and ¥110 to ¥180 for kids. The price varies depending on where you want to go.
- Bus. The bus is also an efficient and fast way to get to places within the city and certain zones. Get the all-day pass to save money; this costs ¥500 for adults and ¥250 for kids. You can use it for an unlimited number of times while you explore the attractions.
- Day Passes. You can also get one or two day passes for combined use of the subway and buses. A day pass costs ¥1,200 and ¥600 for adults and children respectively. The two-day pass costs ¥2,000 and ¥1,000 for adults and kids respectively.
- Taxi. Taxis are easy to find and are plentiful; they may cost more, but they can get you to places directly, especially for attractions that don’t have public transport access or are too far from the stop.
Places of Interest
Kyoto is a cultural and historical hub with plenty to offer tourists. The city has may UNESCO-listed sites, quaint old districts and shopping centers.
- Temple Hopping and UNESCO Sites. You’ll have a number of options if you want to visit temples, castles, and other similar sites. Ginkakuji, Kinkakuji, Kiyomizu-dera, Ryoanji, and Byodoin are some temples of note. These display distinct architectures of their epoch and are cultural gems. Nijo Castle is a notable destination because of its past and well-preserved structures. There are several other similar and interesting attractions in and just outside the city.
- Fushimi Inari. Fushimi Inari is probably the most recognizable attraction when visiting Kyoto. This destination is famous because of the rows and rows of torii gates and its atmospheric location. Depending on which time of day you visit, you can have a quiet time exploring.
- Arashiyama. This destination is a pleasant place to visit for those who want to get away from the urban sprawl. Its natural location provides scenic views; it is also a good place to see the colors of autumn and the cherry blossoms. One of Arashiyama’s most distinct attractions is the bamboo grove. There are also temples and old districts of note.
- Others. Kyoto has many other noteworthy attractions such as Gion and Philosopher’s Walk (just to name two more). You’ll have plenty to do during your stay.
Where to Stay
There are several accommodation types for all budgets, whether you are willing to splurge or traveling on a budget. Some of the best areas to stay in are Gion, Kyoto Station, and downtown. These places are near public transport, some attractions, restaurants, bars, and shops. A bed in a dorm may cost up to USD20 a night.
What to Eat
Foodies will enjoy Kyoto; you’ll get to eat Japanese staples such as ramen, tempura, sushi, and soba and local delicacies like yudofu, yuba, tofu, and kaiseki.