Guide to Exploring Kyoto, Japan

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Advisor - Cindy Rhee
Curated By

Cindy Rhee

  • Japan

  • Kyoto

  • Arts & Culture

  • City Travel

  • Food & Wine

  • International Travel

  • Luxury Travel

  • Local Culture

  • Local Cuisine

  • Foodie

street lined with buildings with temple in the background
Curator’s statement

Rich in history, Kyoto is the cultural capital of Japan and is home to thousands of Shinto Shrines and Buddhist Temples. Walk through bamboo forests, find some “zen” moments at the shrines, temples and gardens of Kyoto. Experience the festivals, exquisite keiseki meals and Japanese traditions in this ancient and beautiful city.

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Where to stay in Kyoto, Japan

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Things to do in Kyoto, Japan

temple with mountains in the background during daytime

There is so much to do in and around Kyoto!

Take a local train directly to the base of the Fushimi Inari Taisha (Shrine) where you will pass under thousands of vermillion (orange) Torii gates going up Mount Inari. Stop at tiny tea houses on the way for rest and refreshments.

Visit some famous temples and shrines:
Nanzen-ji temple - Zen buddhist temple from the 1200’s.
Kyomizu dera - Temple on side of a mountain with magnificent views of Kyoto.
Tofuku-ji - Zen Temple that is known for views of a valley of maple trees with stunning autumn leaves.
Heian-Jingu - Shinto Shrine with a Massive Torii gate.

Visit the elegant Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) and Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion).

Shop for snacks, crafts and souvenirs at 400 year old Nishiki Market.

Walk around Gion and spot maiko (geisha apprentices) and their escorts and take in the traditional Machiya architecture found in Kyoto. The Hyatt Regency has a geisha dance on some evenings in the lobby, and if you have a chance to see this, the beauty of the geisha's skill and movements are absolutely breathtaking to watch.

Arashiyama is a short train or taxi ride from Kyoto and I recommend exploring this charming little town. There is a main street from which you can walk up to the Bamboo forest (go early to get the best Instagram shots) and lots of little shops and sweet cafes and restaurants.

Places to eat & drink in Kyoto, Japan

tables and chairs in a dimly lit room

The Hyatt Regency, like many of the luxury hotels in Kyoto, serves a beautiful and very filling traditional Japanese breakfast. I highly recommend trying this at least once during your stay in Kyoto before heading out to explore.

Soba-no-Mi Yoshimura - Handmade soba (buckwheat) noodles and tempura and the soba ice cream is sooo good!

Gyoza Hohei - Traditional gyoza restaurant is a small hole in the wall of a restaurant that is popular with locals and can have some long lines. Bring cash as they don’t take credit cards and order the gyoza (pan-fried Japanese dumplings with chives, ginger and garlic, served with pickled cucumbers and potato salad) and beer.

Treat yourself to a traditional Kaiseki meal at a fine-dining restaurant: Kyoyamato at the Park Hyatt (Michelin Star), Gion Karyo (Gion is the traditional area, nice to walk around and see the beautiful traditional architecture) or Kyoto Kitcho Arashiyama (3 Michelin Stars). Advanced reservations are a must.

For high-quality Wagyu from Murasawa Beef, head to Steak Otsuka (open for lunch only 11-2:30pm, closed Thursdays); They do take limited reservations but you can also put your name on the list at 9am, walk around Arashiyama and the Bamboo Forest and come back just before 11am.

Pizzeria Mama (connected to Mama Hotel Arashiyama) - A great vibe in Arashiyama for pizzas and Italian dishes made with local and seasonal ingredients

Need to Know

Kyoto may indeed be the most beautiful city in Japan. The hills are gorgeous and dotted with incredible shrines, pavilions and temples. The food is delectable and the presentation is exquisite. Traditional art is everywhere, including on display in geisha performances and services. This is a city you will not soon forget.

For more travel tips, check out my guide to Tokyo: Best Hotels, Restaurants & Things to Do in Tokyo, Japan.

Advisor - Cindy Rhee

Travel Advisor

Cindy Rhee

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