Region
Kansai
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Kyoto
Population
2,644,331

Kyoto

The best place to discover Japan's rich and unique heritage.

Japan’s capital for more than 1000 years, the story of an ancient nation is written all over Kyoto’s cobbled streets, endless temples and gardens, and in the traditional way of life preserved by tea merchants and geisha houses. This is the Japan you’ve seen in the movies; only now you’ll hope the credits won’t roll.

Kyoto's Kinkaku-ji or Golden Pavillion.

Kyoto’s Kinkaku-ji or Golden Pavillion.

The main access point is Kyoto station, a major transport hub for the Kansai region and the second-largest station in the country. Arriving in the building’s futuristic hall with its steel-beamed roof (known as the Matrix), most tourists wonder if they’ve got off at the right stop but it’s a well equipped, if surprising, introduction to the city.

10 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do in Kyoto

A geisha at the bar of Mosaic Hostel Kyoto
Built in a grid pattern and surrounded by mountains on three sides, Kyoto’s religious and historical sights are quite spread out and it’s not possible to walk between major points of interest – the breathtaking golden temple of Kinkaku-ji is one and a half hours away by foot from the mystical bamboo groves at Arashiyama, while the famous zen rock garden at Ryoan-ji is 30 minutes drive from the 1001 life-size gold Kannon statues hidden inside Sanjusangendo.

Divide the city into sections, and take a half-day or day to explore each area. It’s easy to get around by city bus with the sightseeing pass, or if there’s a group of you, use taxis and split the cost. Bicycle rental is also popular, Kyoto being one of the most bike-friendly cities in Japan.

Walk among the mystical bamboo groves at Arashiyama

Walk among the mystical bamboo groves at Arashiyama

If you’re feeling templed out (or even if you’re not) head to Gion, Kyoto’s famous geisha district, for a chance to spot a maiko (apprentice geisha) and to try traditional Japanese ryotei (multi-course cuisine) in a restaurant overlooking the canals. In the evening, Gion’s lantern-lit wooden townhouses and willow-lined streets are perfectly timeless.

Go geisha hunting in Gion.

Great shopping is on offer in the covered arcades along Shijo street. For nightlife, head to the area between Shijo and Sanjo-dori. Those looking for a break from all those scenic backdrops can head to the surrounding hills for some hiking which, sorry, also brings with it some rewarding views.

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Trivia

A geisha at the bar of Mosaic Hostel Kyoto

10 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do in Kyoto

Mosaic Hostel give us their insider tips for getting off the beaten track in Japan’s cultural capital. Includes castles, sewage plants and craft beer. Curious? Read on.

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How To Get There

Address

Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan

By train

The JR Tokaido bullet train connects Tokyo to Kyoto and takes between 2 and 4 hours depending on the type of train. Trains will arrive at Kyoto station in the center of the city from where you can take a train, subway, bus or taxi to your destination.

Kyoto is within striking distance of Osaka, Kobe and Nara, and frequent and accessible train services run between these popular destinations.

By bus

Highway buses operate between major cities and Kyoto. From Tokyo, it takes about 7 to 8 hours and you can opt to take the overnight bus. The condition of buses varies from basic, upright seats to hi-tech cocoons with built-in game stations, but its generally cheaper than the bullet train.

By car

Getting to and from the airport by minibus or taxi is convenient. There are dedicated services from both Kansai International and Osaka-Itami airports. Rent-a-car services are also available from both airports.

Where To Stay

Hosta Gojo-Karasuma Ei
  • Shimogyo-ku, Tokumancho 202-7 Kyoto-Shi, Kyoto 600-8437
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Kyoto Hotel Okura
  • Nakagyo-ku Kawaramachi-Oike 604-8558
  • 8.8/10
  • 0.1 km
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Hotel Resol Trinity Kyoto Oikefuyacho
  • Nakagyo-ku Fuyachodori Oikeagaru Kamihakusancho 249 Kyoto-Shi, Kyoto 604-0943
  • 8.9/10
  • 0.2 km
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Apartment in Kyoto 9475
  • Nakagyo-ku, Tachibanacho (Oshikojidori), 613 Kyoto-Shi, Kyoto 604-0944
  • 0.2 km
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