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Top 3 Free Things to Do in Kyoto

Free Walking Tour in Kyoto
Photo: Kyoto | Image Courtesy of Sorasak / Unsplash

How could a small country like Japan offer so many tourist destinations that make it hard for travelers to decide which are the must-sees? That’s the beauty of Japan. You can find plenty of interesting things in tiny places. To make your holiday planning easier, here’s a simple fact that you will find in almost all travel blogs ---- Kyoto is a must-see regardless of the season.

Kyoto is Japan in a nutshell. It carries so much and heritage history being the country’s capital for centuries. Every corner, street and infrastructure tell the story of what and how Japan used to be. It’s a fascinating place to relive the old Japan that is rich with culture and tradition.

However, just like with every Japan trip, Kyoto also is known as an expensive city to visit in. But there are many activities in Kyoto that will not cost you a cent. Below are the free things to do in Kyoto to help you planning your Kyoto trip:

1. Temples and Shrines

Kyoto Walking Tour
Photo: Fushimi Inari Taisha | Image Courtesy of Dil / Unsplash

Kyoto is the center of power when Emperors and Shogun were still the reigning leaders of Japan. They are greatly influenced by two religions – Shintoism and Buddhism. While some of the temples charge entrance fees like one of the most photographed temple in Japan, Kinkaku-ji – The Golden Pavilion, you can easily find temples that you can visit for free.

Imperial Palace

If you are interested to see the headquarter of Emperors, head to northwest of Kyoto station. Before the 19th century, Kyoto houses the Imperial Palace of Japan. It is open 24 hours and offer English guide every 10AM and 2PM every day.

Nijo Castle

Walk for more than one kilometre, and you will enter a different era of Japan. Nijo castle, with its intricate and impressive castle buildings used to be the home of Shoguns, the leaders of samurai. It is open from 9-4pm and closed every Monday and during special ceremonies.

Fushimi-Inari Temple

One of the must-visits in Kyoto is the famous temple for one of the deities of Shintoism, Inari. Inari is considered as patron of fertility, rice, tea and sake which represent prosperity and worldly success. As messengers of Inari, you can find kitsune, fox statues guarding the Inari temple. But the highlight of this temple is the red torii gates that cover the walkway leading to the shrine stations. You can visit Fushimi-Inari both in the morning and at night as it is open 24 hours.

2. Nature and streets

Kyoto Free Walking Tour
Photo: Arashiyama Bamboo Forest | Image Courtesy of Walter Mario Stein / Unsplash

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Spending time with nature is one of the common activities among the locals. The preservation of many natural sites and presence of parks even in cities affirms the desire of Japanese to connect with nature. Nature sceneries provide serenity just by looking at them.

A pathway of large bamboo grove, Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is a famous Kyoto destination. Walking between tall bamboos that almost reach the sky, breathing fresh air and hearing nature’s sound is an experience unique to Kyoto. Just be sure to head to Arashiyama before the crowd arrives to enjoy a zen experience and have a good picture against the bamboo trees.

Gion District

Free Walking Tour Kyoto
Photo: Kyoto Geisha | Image Courtesy of Han Min T / Unsplash

Also known as the area where you can spot geishas. With the worldwide attraction gained from the movie and book about geisha, tourists flock this area hoping to have a glimpse of a geisha. Since this area houses high-end ochaya (teahouse) and restaurants, geisha are expected to go out of their houses at around 5:45pm to attend to their engagements and do some errands. As a form of respect to the thousand-year old culture of Japan, tourists are act properly while spotting a geisha.

They have their own lives and duties to perform. A geisha hosting experience would cost money. But you can head to the cultural show every 6pm at Gion corner to see geisha perform famous Japanese traditions and arts such as tea ceremonies, kabuki and flower arrangement.

3. Free walking tours

Walking Tour Kyoto Free
Photo: Kyoto Tourists | Image Courtesy of CK Yeo/ Unsplash

As travelers, you are used to doing things on our own with the help of fellow travelers through online sources. However, the information you get from locals especially in a complex country like Japan and in a city where the destinations are quite apart from each other like Kyoto are valuable in both trip planning and actual experience. You can check the map below with Kyoto Shinkansen train station as the origin to help you in your Kyoto navigation:

Kyoto Map

Luckily, Kyoto Localize offer free walking tours that cover culture, religion, food, and history of Japan as told by the sights of Kyoto. Depending on your preference, through knowledge as told by locals in free walking tours of Kyoto Localized, you can modify your planned Kyoto itinerary. Joining a free walking tour gives you an overview on where you like to spend your limited time, energy and budget around Kyoto!

There are many things to do in Kyoto, but you should make sure you get the most out of your Japan trip through joining free walking tour in Kyoto — you’ll get the most interesting tips and secrets as told by a local!

About the writer

Rocel is a believer of living life to the fullest through creating memories with her loved ones – family, friends and self. One of the things she enjoys doing with them is travelling where they get to experience new cultures, new cuisines, new stories to share and memories to look back. In 2018 alone, she travelled to 6 continents which exposed her to the world’s wonders. After all those trips, Japan is still one of her favorite countries because of its unique and rich culture and natural resources. She lived and studied in Tokyo, Japan for one year where she developed deeper love and appreciation towards the country.


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.


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