10 Free Things to Do in Kyoto Away From the Crowd
Updated: May 6, 2019
10 Free Things to Do in Kyoto Away From the Crowd
When you Google ‘free things to do in Kyoto,’ what usually come up are lists of top tourist spots in Kyoto that -- although free of charge -- are almost always jam-packed any time of the day. Fushimi Inari Shrine, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Kyoto Imperial Palace, Gion, Maruyama Park, Pontocho, Philosopher’s Path; you name it, we’ve seen those recommendations over and over again.
Don’t get us wrong. These popular tourist spots in Kyoto aren’t recommended for anything. They are popular and a crowd favorite for a reason.
But, if you’re looking for free things to do in Kyoto that won’t have you dealing with droves of tourists going to the same tourist spots in Kyoto, we’ve got you covered.
Here’s a list of 10 free things to do in Kyoto away from the crowds:
1. Kimono Forest
Just a 7-minute walk away from the more crowded Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Kimono Forest is the less popular spot. Instead of towering bamboo stalks, Kimono Forest is lined up with transparent pillars of fabrics normally used for kimonos. Kimono Forest is best visited at 9 p.m. onwards as the kimono pillars get illuminated. ALSO READ: THE 5 BEST DAY TOURS IN KYOTO
2. Kamo Shrines
Collectively known as the Kamo Shrines, Shimogami Shrine and Kamigamo Shrine are two of the most important and oldest shrines in Kyoto. Both shrines are now recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Located at the junction of the Takano and Kamo rivers, Shimogamo Shrine is surrounded by a preserved forest with 600-year-old trees. Kamigamo Shrine, meanwhile, is located 3.5 kilometers away from Shimogamo Shrine and is known for two sacred sand cones. ALSO READ: THE 5 BEST NIGHT TOURS IN KYOTO
3. Shinbashi Street
Located at the heart of Kyoto in Gion district, Shinbashi Street is dubbed as the most attractive street in all of Asia. This is due to the fact that it still looks the same as it was in ancient Kyoto. The canal in Shinbashi, known as a dating spot at night, is particularly popular during the cherry blossom season when the trees are in full bloom. ALSO READ: TOP 5 SAKURA SPOTS IN KYOTO
4. Nishijin Textile Center
Kimono and yukata are some of the most striking dresses in the entire world. If you want to know more about kimono and yukata up close and personal, the Nishijin Textile Center holds a kimono fashion parade a few times a day as well as a weaving demonstration and a live display of silkworms producing silk. ALSO READ: TOP 5 MUST-VISIT TOURIST ATTRACTIONS IN KYOTO
5. Honganji Temples
Nishi Honganji and Higashi Honganji are Buddhist temples of the Jodo-Shin sect. Nishi Honganji is the head temple of the Honganji faction of the sect with more than 10,000 sub-temples in Japan and 200 temples abroad. Nishi Honganji is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Higashi Honganji, meanwhile, is the head temple of the Otani faction of the sect. It has a beautiful Japanese garden called Shoseien located just a few blocks east of Higashi Honganji Temple. ALSO READ: 5 MUST-VISIT MUSEUMS IN KYOTO
6. Kamo River
Kamo River stretches 31 km, running through entire Kyoto. The riverside pathways and riverbanks have parks where residents and tourists can relax, exercise, or meditate. In summer, the restaurants open their balconies to give access to the river view. Kamo River has some of the best sakura spots in Kyoto as well. ALSO READ: 7 COOLEST SPOTS TO SEE ON FREE WALKING TOURS IN KYOTO
7. Kitano Tenmangu Shrine
Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is dedicated to Sugawara Michizane who is associated with Tenjin, the Shinto god of education. The area can get crowded during exams and school trip seasons because students come here to pray. Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is also now one of Kyoto’s autumn color spots best viewed from November until mid-December. ALSO READ: TOP 5 PLACES TO SEE ON FREE WALKING TOURS IN KYOTO
8. Chionin Sanmon
Chionin Sanmon is the main entrance gate of Chionin Temple, which has been around since the 1600s. The gate is the largest wooden gate in the whole of Japan standing 24 meters tall. Going inside the temple requires an admission fee. ALSO READ: TOP 7 THINGS YOU SHOULDN’T MISS ON DAY TOURS IN KYOTO
9. Togetsukyo Bridge
The Togetskuyo Bridge is the central landmark of Arashiyama/Sagano, where Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and Monkey Park Iwatayama are located. The Togetsukyo Bridge is particularly striking due to the forest mountainside backdrop at any season of the year. ALSO READ: 4 FREE WALKING TOURS YOU SHOULDN’T MISS
10. Porta Underground Shopping Mall
Rounding out our free things to do in Kyoto list is Porta, an underground shopping mall located beneath Kyoto Bus Station. Porta is a great place to window shop for just about anything, from souvenirs to clothes to even food. ALSO READ: TOP 5 MUST-TRY FOOD IN KYOTO
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