top of page


  • Writer's pictureKyoto Localized

5 Must-Visit Museums in Kyoto

Free Walking Tour in Kyoto
(Yayoi Kusama Artwork | Image Courtesy of Susanne Nilsson / Flickr)

Museums are always a great go-to place especially when you're traveling and would want to know about the history of the place while you’re there.

Museums in Kyoto are abundant so you won't have any problems in looking for one.

There are also free walking tours in Kyoto that you can join and sometimes if you're lucky, they have a museum included in their itinerary.

Museums, with their rich natural history, are considered to be a must-see tourist attraction in Kyoto. If you're planning on visiting museums, here are the 5 must-visit museums in Kyoto.

1. Kyoto Railway Museum

Free Walking Tour in Kyoto
(Kyoto Railway Museum Image Courtesy of Toshinori Baba Wikimedia Commons)

The Kyoto Railway Museum first opened to the public in April 2016. It's relatively new compared to the other museums in Kyoto but the fact that it specializes in everything locomotive and trains makes it special. It's actually considered as one of Japan's three great railway museums. Included in the list are the Railway Museum in Saitama and SCMAGLEV and Railway Park in Nagoya. Kyoto Railway Museum is a sight in itself with its three-story structure covering almost 30,000 square meters. Inside the museum there are about 53 retired trains your eyes can feast upon. It's not only the old steam engine trains, but they also have more recent electric trains. The cool thing about this place is that guests can walk underneath the train so they can observe the inner workings of the locomotive.

Aside from trains, the museum also displays various artifacts like railway uniforms and tools that were used on board the trains when they were still functioning. Of course, a train museum wouldn't be complete without a restaurant that's conveniently placed on the second floor of the building while overlooking nice views of other "passing" trains. The Kyoto Railway Museum also houses Japan's largest collection of well-preserved steam locomotives. Not only that this museum is interesting up to its core, but it's interactive as well. Guests can observe them through the windows how the trains are treated when they're under maintenance and it's exclusively built for steam locomotives. If you want some added fun and action, for an additional cost, you can ride a one-kilometer journey on a train that's powered by a steam locomotive.

2. Kyoto National Museum

Free Walking Tour in Kyoto
(Kyoto National Museum | Image Courtesy of Lisa Pinehill / Flickr)

If you're looking forward to seeing the national treasures of Kyoto, the Kyoto National Museum is the place to go. Not only that it's the most distinguished museum in Japan, but it's also the oldest one in the country. It's also one of the four top-level national museums in the country. The other famous three museums are Tokyo National Museum, Nara National Museum, and Kyushu National Museum.

The Kyoto National Museum houses a permanent collection that's presented in a rotating exhibition. And we must say that the collection is extensive! It has a wide range of archaeological relics, sculptures, ceramics, calligraphy, costumes, and paintings. There are other special temporary exhibitions which are altered every now and then. Overall, the Kyoto National Museum houses the best and most historic national treasures of the city, may it be from the old times up until to the present times.

3. Forever Museum of Contemporary Art

Free Walking Tour in Kyoto
(Yayoi Kusama Artwork | Image Courtesy of Susanne Nilsson / Flickr)

The Forever Museum of Contemporary Art is located in the heart of Kyoto's Gion district, a place in all of Japan that's famous for travelers and pilgrims alike. Kyoto, by far, would probably be the most ancient and tradition-filled place in Japan. From its geisha streets to the cherry blossoms, now it houses one of the country's most visited museums. The museum overlooks the traditional Zen gardens of Japan but still managed to incorporate the evolution of time by adding a cafe that's perfect for taking pictures.

From the name itself, you won't see anything ancient or traditional in this museum. All it has are contemporary art, which isn't a bad thing. The times are changing and there are dedicated national museums for the national treasures, so might as well see how the art in Japan has evolved through this museum of contemporary art. The interior of the place gives an additional contrast to the artwork that's being displayed. Clashing and contrasting, but the whole place doesn't fail to leave you that comfortable and relaxing vibe. The majority of the artwork you can see in the museum is done by Yayoi Kusama. Her art and the interior of the museum speak volumes on how curated and intricate the work was done in this place.

4. Kyoto International Manga Museum

Free Walking Tour in Kyoto
(Kyoto International Manga Museum | Image Courtesy of Peat Bakke / Flickr)

Japan is home to manga. What better way for you to explore manga than to visit the home and origin of it. The Kyoto International Manga Museum houses a massive collection of manga and is one of the museum's main attractions. There's a section specifically dedicated to the foreign and translated manga but other than that, the majority is in Japanese. Aside from that, the museum also contains how Japanese manga has spread internationally and features even Japanese manga creators who have made their way up to the international spotlight. Surely, this is a go-to place for those die-hard manga fanatics.

5. Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts

Free Walking Tour in Kyoto
(Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts | Image Courtesy of Kento Ikeda / Flickr)

If you don't want to spend a hefty amount of money just to go inside a museum then you might want to consider going to the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts. It's small but it's free; nevertheless, it still manages to showcase the main traditional crafts of Kyoto.

Also known as Freaikan, the museum also houses the traditional crafts of Japanese people. This includes lacquerware, textiles, woodworking, metal work, basketry, and many more. This is actually a great place for you to visit especially if you don't want to get too overwhelmed by the things inside the museum.

Basically, there is a museum intended for you whether you would want to explore the traditional and historic side of Japan, or you're more inclined towards contemporary and modern art.


Kyoto is the heart of Japan and has rich history and culture. Our walking tours will show you why. On our Walking Tours you will learn about the Old and New Kyoto, tradition, religion, history, food, and culture. Free Walking Tours in Kyoto | Kyoto Walking Tours. Book your free walking tour of Kyoto today.


651 views0 comments


bottom of page