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Things to see in Kyoto

Attractions

Ryoanji Temple

The mysterious Zen garden at Ryoanji Temple in northwest Kyoto consists of raked white gravel scattered with 15 abstractly positioned rocks that leave many visitors perplexed as to their esoteric significance. A sense of calm and contemplation pervades its wooded grounds and pond whilst the viewing platform is a popular spot during the cherry blossom season. To accompany the spiritual experience, there are walking trails and a restaurant that serves various dishes based on Yodufu (boiled tofu), a local delicacy.

Address: Ukyo-ku, 13 Ryoanji Goryonoshita-cho, Kyoto, 616 8001
Telephone: +81 75 463 2216.
Opening times:

Daily 0800-1700 (Mar-Nov); daily 0830-1630 (Dec-Feb).

Website: http://www.ryoanji.jp
Admission Fees:

Yes.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: Yes

Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine

This magnificent shrine is devoted to Inari, the Shinto god of rice and business, and is guarded by statues of foxes considered to be Inari's messengers at the base of Inari Mountain. A magical 4km trail lined by thousands of red-painted torii (shrine) gates winds along forested hills behind the central shrine while various smaller shrines can be found hidden up pathways away from the crowds.

Address: Fukakusa Fushimi-ku, 68 Yabunouchi-cho, Kyoto, 612 0882
Telephone: +81 75 641 7331
Opening times:

0700-1830.

Website: http://www.inari.jp
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: No
UNESCO: No

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

One of Japan's most beloved temples, majestic Kiyomizu-dera, meaning “pure water temple”, perches precariously on a steep hillside in eastern Kyoto and is known for its wooden ledge jutting out from a beautifully preserved main hall over sweeping city vistas. The temple was founded in 798 above the sacred waterfall of Otowa-no-taki, believed to bestow health and longevity.

Address: Higashiyama, 294 Kiyomizu 1-chome, Kyoto, 605 0862
Telephone: +81 75 551 1234
Opening times:

Oct-mid Apr daily 0600-1800; mid-Apr-Jul Mon-Fri 0600-1800 and Sat-Sun 0600-1830; Aug-Sep daily 0600-1830.

Website: http://www.kiyomizudera.or.jp
Admission Fees:

Yes.

Disabled Access: No
UNESCO: Yes

Gion

History comes alive in Gion, Kyoto’s famous geisha district, defined by its narrow streets overhung with traditional wooden buildings. Along with an array of teahouses and Japanese restaurants, the area boasts plenty of performing arts venues such as Gion Corner, a theatre staging daily Kyo-mai dance performances, tea ceremonies, puppet plays and flower arranging.

Address: , Gion, Kyoto,
Telephone:
Opening times: Website:
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Nijo-jo Castle

Southwest of the Imperial Palace lies Nijo Castle, completed in 1626 under the reign of Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Edo Bakufu military government. Its distinct layout consists of two concentric rings of impenetrable fortifications, while the ornate interiors boast beautiful decorations. Popular all year round, the castle’s gardens are also a key site during cherry blossom season.

Address: Nakagyō-ku, 541 Nijojo-cho, Nijo-dori, Horikawa-nishi-iru, Kyoto, 604 8301
Telephone: +81 75 841 0096.
Opening times:

Oct-Jun daily 0845-1700; Jul-Aug daily 0800-1800; Sep daily 0800-1700.

Website: http://nijo-jocastle.city.kyoto.lg.jp
Admission Fees:

Yes.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: Yes

Kinkakuji Temple

Located in northwest Kyoto, the iconic Zen Buddhist temple of Kinkakuji is known as the Golden Pavilion due to its gold-foil-covered exterior. The 14th-century original was burnt down in 1950 by a novice monk to be replaced five years later by a beautiful reconstruction set on a shimmering pond amid stunning gardens that draws in daily hordes of wide-eyed, camera-wielding visitors.

Address: Kita-ku, 1 Kinkakuji-chō, Kyoto, 603 8361
Telephone: +81 75 461 0013.
Opening times:

Daily 0900-1700.

Website: http://www.shokoku-ji.jp/kinkakuji
Admission Fees:

Yes.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: Yes

Nishiki Market

Nowhere better displays the diversity of Japanese cuisine than Kyoto’s iconic four-century-old market the stretches along a narrow-covered walkway parallel to the Shijo-dori shopping precinct. Its bustling stalls are crammed with a bewildering array of fresh seafood and pickled vegetables, tofu doughnuts and sticky mocha (rice cakes), that liberate the senses and offer a tantalising insight into local life.

Address: Nakagyo-ku, 609 Nishidaimonjicho, Kyoto, 604 8054
Telephone: +81 75 221 3882.
Opening times:

Mon-Fri 0900-1730; Sat 0900-1630.

Website: http://www.kyoto-nishiki.or.jp
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Kyoto Imperial Palace

See how royalty lived at Kyoto Imperial Palace (Kyoto Gosho) which, until 1868, was the residence of the emperor of Japan. Set in the expansive Imperial Park, the complex preserves an ambience of regality with different architectural styles representing various eras. Visitors must pre-apply for access and tours of the grounds and should take identification.

Address: Kamigyo-ku, 3 Kyoto-gyoen, Kyoto, 602 0881
Telephone: +81 75 211 1215.
Opening times:

Apr-Aug daily 0900-1700; Sep-Mar daily 0900-1630; Oct-Feb 0900-1600.

Website: http://sankan.kunaicho.go.jp/english/guide/kyoto.html
Admission Fees:

No (but entry only by application)

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Ginkakuji Temple

Built in the 1480s, Ginkakuji Temple – or the Silver Pavilion – is a masterpiece of minimalist elegance complete with manicured gardens and a reflective pond that creates a vision of natural harmony. From the temple, it’s a picturesque walk along the Philosopher’s Path that hugs a cherry-tree-lined canal passing a number of shrines and temples to reach the neighbouring Nanzen-ji Temple.

Address: Sakyo-ku, 2 Ginkakuji-cho, Kyoto, 606 8402
Telephone: +81 75 771 5725
Opening times:

Daily 0830-1700 (0900-1630 Dec-Feb).

Website: http://www.shokoku-ji.jp/ginkakuji
Admission Fees:

Yes.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: Yes

Maruyama–Koen Park

Located just behind Yasaka Shrine, Maruyama-Koen is a resplendent green oasis complete with gurgling streams, well-tended gardens and leafy pathways that meander between restaurants, souvenir shops and cafes. Come April its serenity is broken by excitable hordes of tourists and locals who gather for spring-welcoming hanami - the viewing of the city’s majestic cherry trees in bloom.

Address: Higashiyama-ku, 473 Maruyama-chō, Kyoto, 605 0071
Telephone: +81 75 561 1350.
Opening times:

Daily 24 hrs.

Website: https://kyoto-maruyama-park.jp
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Tourist Offices

Kyoto City Tourist Information

Address: Shimogyo-ku, 2/F, JR Kyoto Station Building, Kyoto, 600 8216
Telephone: +81 75 343 0548.
Opening times:

Daily 0830-1900.

Website: http://www.kyoto.travel

The Kansai Tourist Information Centre (known as Kyo-Navi) is jointly operated by the Kyoto Prefecture and Kyoto City. It’s located on the second floor of the Kyoto Station Building where multilingual staff are stationed to assist visitors with sightseeing and transport information, advice on accommodation, restaurants and hands-on cultural activities as well as the purchase of tickets for various tourist attractions. The office also provides free maps, city guides and shopping brochures.

Tourist passes

The Kansai Thru Pass (www.surutto.com) is a two- or three-day transport pass which allows you to ride on buses, trains and subways across the Kansai region which includes Kyoto, Osaka and Nara. The ticket also offers various discounts to key attractions.

The one-day Keihan Kyoto Sightseeing Pass (www.keihan.co.jp) can be used for unlimited train travel of Keihan lines within a designated area that covers many of the city’s temple stops and tourist districts.

A digital image at https://illuminoto.com

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Featured Hotels

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Hotel Mume Kyoto

Set in a sleek four-story building in Gion, this warm and welcoming boutique stay has seven rooms decorated around the nature-inspired concept of 'ka-cho-fu-getsu' (flower, butterfly, wind, moon). In Flower, guests gaze up at cherry blossom karakami ceiling panels, Butterfly is defined by sumptuous red antique furniture, Wind is bright and breezy and Moon plays on a lunar theme with monochrome tiling.

Hotel Granvia Kyoto

A well-designed hotel for both business and leisure, Hotel Granvia Kyoto is conveniently located in the JR Kyoto Station building. The hotel is spread across 15 floors with 545 tastefully decorated rooms, an indoor pool, sauna, and fitness room as well as 12 different restaurants and bars. Local artwork is on display in the lobby and guest rooms.

Kyoto Royal Hotel & Spa

Snap up an early-bird discount for a great value stay at this large modern hotel found within walking distance of an array of historic landmarks restaurants and nightlife spots. Its 355 well-equipped rooms appeal to both business and leisure guests with high-speed Wi-Fi tea stations and comfortable beds. The restaurant has buffet-style lunch and dinner and a Western and Japanese breakfast spread.

Capsule Ryokan Kyoto

A seven-minute walk from JR Kyoto Station, these ryokan-style capsules offer traditional tatami beds inside compact rooms to create something both unique and quintessentially Japanese. Space is cleverly used in the private rooms, which have air-conditioning, televisions and en-suite shower facilities, while free Wi-Fi and refreshments are available in a communal lounge area.

Iori Kyoto Townhouse Stays

A machiya (a traditional merchant townhouse) is an excellent hotel alternative, especially for group rental. Try one of the eleven Iori residences found dotted across central Kyoto, each one luxuriously restored and decked in Asian art. Varying in size, the houses combine traditional architecture, such as beam-work and tokonoma alcoves, with modern conveniences, to give a taste of traditional Japanese living in lavish style.

Nishiyama Ryokan

Adding a modern twist to the traditional ryokan (Japanese inn), Nishiyama offers affordability, comfort and welcoming staff. The Japanese and Western-style rooms are spacious and relaxing and there are shared baths (separate men and women), a dining room and a comfortable lounge with laptop ports. The ryokan is conveniently located downtown close to shopping, sightseeing and nightlife.