Kyoto, the former capital of Japan, offers as many worthy sites to visit as Tokyo. Thanks to Kyoto’s remarkable historic value, the city was spared from the target cities for the atomic bomb during World War II.
If you’re looking to dive into the environmental and historical prowess of Japan, there’s no other perfect place like Kyoto.
From natural landscapes to shrines and temples, here’s a list of tourist attractions in Kyoto that you shouldn’t miss. They’re all worth including in your Kyoto itinerary.
1. Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Also known as Sagano Bamboo Forest or simply Bamboo Forest, this site is one of the most iconic tourist attractions in Kyoto and one of the most attractive natural environments in entire Japan. In fact, it is now one of the most photographed tourist attractions in Kyoto. But beyond its picturesque beauty, there is more to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Passing through the towering stalks of bamboo, you will experience the wind making extraordinary soothing sounds as it blows through the thick grove. The meditative natural noise is so exceptional that the government officially made the site a part of the country’s “100 Soundscapes of Japan,” an initiative designed to combat noise pollution and promote the environment.
On your way to the bamboo forest are shops selling souvenirs and local delicacies of Japan. And just a kilometer away right across the Oi River is the Iwatayama Monkey Park where over 170 Japanese macaque monkeys are living. If you’re looking for visual and aural pleasures, you must include Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in your Kyoto itinerary. You can reach the bamboo forest by train from central Kyoto within 30 minutes.
2. Fushimi Inari Taisha
Fushimi Inari Taisha is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Kyoto that it has become the face of the city by some means. It’s a Shinto shrine dedicated to head of the god Inari, seated at the base of a 233-meter high mountain. The site has trails leading up to several smaller shrines within 4 kilometers. For the most part, you’ll pass through arcades of vermillion Shinto shrine torii or gates. This hike can take up to 2 hours of easy hike. And somewhere along the way, you’ll be able to see downtown Kyoto on a mesmerizingly different perspective.
If you want to explore the hills of Kyoto without exerting too much energy, Fushimi Inari Taisha is the perfect tourist place to visit. The hike involves a few flights of steps, so be sure to take note of that. The site, especially the main hall and the lower trails, can get really crowded most of the time. It’s best to visit Fushimi Inari Taisha early on a weekday morning if you’re trying to avoid the influx of tourists. But despite the crowds, Fushimi Inari Taisha remains to be a calm and peaceful place for everyone.
3. Toei Kyoto Studio Park
Toei Kyoto Studio Park is a theme park inspired by a small town from the Edo period (1603-1868). From the streets to the buildings to what’s inside the buildings, this theme park will bring you back to the time of the first military dictatorship in the country. More than a theme park, Toei Kyoto Studio Park is actually a film set of Toei Company, a film and TV production company. Even more interesting, Toei Kyoto Studio Park allows tourists to observe the filming of jidaigeki movies.
Families who are interested in samurai culture or Japanese film history, Toei Kyoto Studio Park should be on your list of must-visit tourist attractions in Kyoto. There you’ll get to don samurai costume and practice the historic sword. You can also try ninja costumes, Power Rangers and so much more in various games.
4. Kyoto Imperial Palace
Kyoto Imperial Palace, which is called Gosho, was the official residence of the ruling emperor of Japan it was transferred to Tokyo. The Kyoto Imperial Palace is a walled site sitting smack dab in the middle of Kyoto Imperial Palace Park. The palace itself has a few opulent classic Japanese style buildings, which are so distinctively East Asian for its low rooflines and wooden construction. If you’re a true-blue Japanese history fan, the Kyoto Imperial Palace is defo worthy to be on your Kyoto itinerary.
The Kyoto Imperial Palace is one of the four imperial properties in the city. However, the buildings look fairly new; this is because the site went through a couple of reconstruction over time. If you want the complete imperial history experience, we highly recommend visiting Katsura Rikyu, Sento Gosho, and Shugaku-in Rikyu as well.
5. Yasaka Shrine
Yasaka Shrine is not only one of the most popular tourist attractions in Kyoto, but also one of the most visited shrines in the whole of Japan. It’s located between the districts of Gion and Higashiyama. Also known as Gion Shrine, Yasaka Shrine has stood the test of time as it has been around for over 1,350 years. Food stalls and souvenir shops abound along the way to the shrine. The site can get really crowded most of the time, although it’s spacious to accommodate hundreds of tourists at once. During sakura season, it’s a totally different experience to visit Yasaka Shrine at night. The site becomes even more heavenly.
Right in front of the inner sanctuary-cum-hall is a dance stage mounted with hundreds of lanterns, if lit, makes the building at night out of this world. Each lantern represents a local business donor. The Gion Matsuri is a widely popular summer festival in Yasaka Shrine that’s celebrated every July. As one of the most popular and oldest festivals in Japan, Gion Matsuri is in part one of the main reasons why people flock to the site. Gion Matsuri has been around for more than a millennium, fondly observed with a parade of gigantic floats and thousands of participants marching with them.
Free Walking Tours in Kyoto
Kyoto Localized offers free walking tours in Kyoto. If you happen to be visiting the city soon, you can take advantage of our free walking tours in Kyoto for a smooth, glitch-free travel experience. We’ll take you through the top tourist attractions in Kyoto, including Yasaka Shrine, Gion District, and a lot more.
Ready to get localized? Book your spot now on our free walking tours in Kyoto!
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.