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Travel Guide

Heian Shrine showing heritage architecture, religious elements and a temple or place of worship

Experience the sheer tranquillity of the beautiful temples, and discover some of the greatest ancient treasures in Japan.

Kyoto was the capital city of Japan for more than a thousand years – and its unique beauty still remains today. The city was renowned as a leader in Japanese (indeed, Asian) economic, industrial and cultural development, and even today, Kyoto consists of enough steel, glass and concrete buildings to show it remains an economic success. However, it is the meditative temples and sprawling parks spread across the urban space that are the real, picturesque reminders of the city's rich cultural heritage.

Because of the many centuries of priceless architectural heritage in Kyoto, this city was dropped from the list of targets for the atomic bomb and was spared from World War II air raids. This means visitors today can still enjoy the abundance of ancient shrines and temples still standing throughout the city.

A great way to begin your discovery of Kyoto is to venture out on the Philosopher’s Walk. This walking trail follows the path that famous 20th century Japanese philosopher Nishida Kitaro used to walk every day, while meditating over the deep meaning of life. The walk will take you past three of the major landmark temples of Kyoto and the cherry-tree lined canal, which is at its most spectacular during April, when you can see an abundance of beautiful pink blooms.

During your trip to Kyoto, you can also visit the Arashiyama Monkey Park, where you can see wild monkeys playing, interacting, swinging through the trees and even eating out of your hand. The Eikando Temple is another interesting attraction, especially in the autumn when the gardens are decorated with sparkling lights. This is a wonderfully peaceful place to stroll or sit in the quiet and meditative atmosphere of the ponds and moss gardens.

Another truly impressive architectural spectacle is the Katsura Imperial Villa, which was built by Prince Toshihito in order to recreate the setting described in his favourite book – the famous 11th century novel The Tale of Genji. Then, of course, there the famous attraction of The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, with its glittering gold leaf surface which can be seen sparkling in the sunlight.

Indeed, Kyoto encapsulates the romantic Japanese image in our imagination of peaceful temples, quiet bamboo forests and contemplative rock gardens. There are 17 different UNESCO World Heritage Sites in this historic city, as well as over 400 Shinto shrines and 1,600 Buddhist temples. The best time of the year to enjoy the city's divine gardens and tree-lined pathways is in the spring or the autumn, when these ancient attractions are set against a backdrop of lush pink floral blossoms or vibrant orange leaves.

Kyoto Travel Guide Video

Where to stay in Kyoto

3.5 out of 5
The price is NZ$122 per night from 16 May to 16 May
Located in Minami, this hotel is within 1 mi (2 km) of Kyoto Tower, Kyoto Aquarium and Kyoto Railway Museum. Fushimi Inari Shrine and Nishiki Market are also ...
4.7/5Exceptional! (51 reviews)
"I had a wonderful experience staying at Rihga Gran Kyoto!"

Reviewed on 5 Apr. 2021

The OneFive Kyoto Shijo
The OneFive Kyoto Shijo
3 out of 5
The price is NZ$32 per night from 16 May to 16 May
Located in Central Kyoto, this hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Mibu-dera, Shinsenen and Nijō Castle. Kyoto International Manga Museum and Nishihonganji Temple ...
4.6/5Exceptional! (308 reviews)

Reviewed on 13 Mar. 2021

The OneFive Kyoto Shijo
Hotel Granvia Kyoto
Hotel Granvia Kyoto
4.5 out of 5
The price is NZ$213 per night from 14 Jun. to 14 Jun.
Located in Central Kyoto, this luxury hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Kyoto Tower and Higashi Honganji Temple. Sanjusangendo Temple and Kyoto Aquarium are ...
4.6/5Wonderful! (1,180 reviews)
"I picked this hotel last minute due to Covid but we really enjoyed our stay. It is right outside the Kyoto train station so getting around was super easy and there are so many places to shop and eat. The only downside was the hotel is not a good fit if you are traveling with young children. The pool ..."

Reviewed on 10 Apr. 2021

Hotel Granvia Kyoto
Lowest nightly price found within the past 24 hours based on a 1 night stay for 2 adults. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.

Popular places to visit in Kyoto

Top activities in Kyoto

Reviews of Kyoto


Top Destination

5 - Excellent
5 - Excellent 70.08797653958945%
4 - Good
4 - Good 25.073313782991203%
3 - Okay
3 - Okay 3.812316715542522%
2 - Disappointing
2 - Disappointing 0.5865102639296188%
1 - Terrible
1 - Terrible 0.4398826979472141%

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveller

5 Apr. 2020

Incredible city with beaitiful maintained culture :)

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveller

17 Mar. 2020

Definitely if you are able walk between your choice locations, you see so much much when you're flexible with travel and time - all the small businesses and tiny local shrines really made the trip.

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveller

2 Mar. 2020

Kyoto is great for culture and history, live music and great food! A week in Kyoto would be recommended, any less and I wouldn’t have been able to fit everything in! If you like temples and traditions then at least a week would be my suggestion

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveller

21 Feb. 2020

Love Kyoto it’s such a lovely part of Japan a must to visit.

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveller

12 Feb. 2020

Great city, lots to see and do.

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveller

9 Feb. 2020

Major city with more culture

Cities near Kyoto