Japan, the nation with the third-largest economy and technical advancement, is an island nation in East Asia is an archipelago 6,852 island. Four by fifth of these islands are mountains and many are volcanic. Japan has a market economy, meaning that privately owned business competitors unrestrictedly determine the prices. It is a beautiful blend between modern society and cultural heritage. The Korean peninsula acted as the only bridge between Japan and the neighboring countries. But what Japan is famous for most is Kyoto among the travelers. Therefore, you will find a lot of travelers here with a bucket list of Kyoto top things to do.
Kyoto City is in the Kyoto prefecture, located in the Kansai Region considered as the cultural capital of Japan and one of the most visited tourist spots. Due to it being Japan’s imperial court in the early history of Japan, it was many times in wars but was spared with the catastrophic bombings in the World War II by USA. The healthy cultural heritage of the city includes temples, shrines and gardens which are listed collectively by UNESCO and World Heritage Site.
If you want to rove through Japan then Kyoto is the best place to start. You can visit Kyoto throughout the year but it’s better to avoid merciless weather and relentless crowds in spring or fall. Tourists can easily learn about culture, food, and Buddhism all with the backdrop of eye-catching cherry blossom trees. Get ready to be amazed by all the scenic views, palaces, temples and shrines in this magnificent city whenever you decide to visit.
Let’s explore the best places to visit in Kyoto:
1. Visit the Kyoto Railway Museum
Covering three floors on a massive 30,000 square meter site, Kyoto Railway Museum is one of the best places to visit in Kyoto. It is one of the three great railway stations in Japan with a count of 53 locomotive steam trains to current electric trains and Shinkansen. Moreover, the three floored museum has its own restaurant on the second floor to enjoy food while looking at the trains passing by. The most attractive feature of this museum is that it lets its visitors perform the duties of train conductor or drive a train simulator in interactive exhibits.
2. Lift a Giboshi Ornament at Fushimi Inari Shrine
Popular for its thousands of scarlet traditional torii gates bestriding the passageways behind its main building, Fushimi Inari Shrine is an important Shinto shrine located in the southern Kyoto. However, before you stride up the Mount Inari’s trial, stop at its entrance to make a wish by lifting one of the two heavy Giboshi ornaments. If you lift the Giboshi and its light in weight then it accepts your wish but if it’s heavy then it’s said to bring hardships and trials for you.
3. Have a meal at a restaurant in Pontocho
Wherever you go in the world the one thing you repeatedly do is to eat and what better place to dine at than the famous Pontocho alley filled up with restaurants on each side. Diverse in its local food culture, Pontocho is a healthy blend in traditional cuisine and a fusion of traditional techniques as well as different cooking styles adapted from different countries. There are many restaurants offering fine dining to affordable delicious yakitori. But don’t forget to try out the all-time favorite sushi served at its birthplace.
4. Have a walk down the Philosopher’s Path
As the name suggest, Philosopher’s path is a must visit and making its spot in the Kyoto things to see list. The starting of this trail is from Silver Pavilion (Ginkakuji) and ending in Nanzenji. This path is for meditation and peace aligned with some smaller shrines, cafes and restaurants as well.
5. Visit the Kinkakuji Zen Temple
Kinkakuji located in the northern Kyoto, became a Zen temple according to the will of shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu which at his time was his retirement villa. Another spot in the Kyoto top things to do, the specialty of this Zen temple is that the top two floors contain gold leaves. With it being destroyed many times in the past and burnt down in 1950 by a fanatic monk, it was reconstructed in 1995 with its one floor structured in Shinden style used in palace making in the Heian period and the second floor made in Bukke style used in Samurai residences.
6. Treat yourself with an Uji matcha parfait at Honke Nishio Yatsuhashi Gion
Covering up the sweet tooth craving, this dessert is made from the very finest green tea leaves from the Uji city and finely ground matcha powder, enjoy the decadent, sweet Uji matcha parfait ice cream topped with macarons, freshly whipped cream and more, at cafes throughout the city.
7. Have a fusion drink at Kyoto’s greatest cocktail bar, L’Escamoteur
Although a French magician owns and laid the foundation of this bar, the interior is based on a 20th century herbal pharmacy giving it an old atmospheric look to not look the odd man out in the historical Kyoto. L’Escamoteur means “magic” in old French making it a must-see place in Kyoto.
8. Visit Gion Masturi festival
Gion Masturi is the most famous festival of Yasaka Shrine held in Japan. This festival is held over the whole month of July. The highlight of the festival, consisting of many events, is the spectacular floats procession (Yamaboko Junko) on July 17 is very enjoyable.
9. Kiyomizudera Temple
Kiyomizudera derived its name from Otowa’s pure waterfall. This temple is in the wooded hills east of the city on the site of Otowa Waterfall. It is famous for its wooden stage that sticks out from its main hall. In spring and fall, the hillside below erupts in a sea of captivating color from the numerous cherry and maple trees making it a picturesque view for its visitors.
10. Visit the Nijo castle (Nijojo)
Nijo castle served as the Kyoto residence of the shogun in Edo period (1603-1867). There was further expanding of this castle to a five-story castle keep. The demise of the shogun’s era in 1867 forced the castle to be donated to the public as a historic site in comparison to use it as an imperial palace for a while. The castle made its spot in the UNESCO world heritage site in 1994 because of the palace’s impeccable castle architecture of Japan’s feudal era.