We’ve prepared a fast paced itinerary to help you cover all the highlights plus a few surprises along the way. As with all our published guides, this Kyoto two day itinerary has been refined from the trip we took and optimized for timing and travel times based on our experience.
In this guide we continue give you instructions for Day 2.
08:00 KIYOMIZU-DERA SHRINE
Another early start to beat the crowds at Kiyomizu-dera Shrine. The grounds open at 06:00am so it is perfect if you are an early riser. Meaning “pure water” Kiyomizu-dera derives its name from the site of the Otowa Waterfall on which it is built.
Visit the main hall and its huge wooden veranda that juts out over the valley below for stunning panoramic views of Kyoto. Then take the short path around the temple complex to discover the Jishu Shrine dedicated to love and matchmaking and Koyasu Pagoda said to bring a safe and easy childbirth to women who visit.
At the waterfall you can drink some of the fresh, pure water from a cup on a long pole that gathers water from one of three streams. Each source of water is said to bestow a different benefit – a wonderful love life, success in your studies or longevity.
Kiyomizu-dera Shrine information
Hours: Open daily 06:00am – 18:00pm with extended opening hours in summer
Address: 1-chōme-294 Kiyomizu
Transport: 20 minute walk from Kiyomizu-Gojo Station on the Keihan line. We took a taxi to the bottom of the hill from our accommodation as we had a long day ahead and it is a steep walk to the temple entrance
09:00 OPTIONAL KIMONO OR YAKATA RENTAL
ne of the most popular activities for visitors to Kyoto is dressing up in traditional dress – a kimono or yakata for the day. We didn’t do this but I wish we had for a bit of fun and to appreciate the cultural intricacies of dressing in such beautiful garments.
There is a kimono rental shop just 5 minutes walk from Kiyomizu-dera temple where you can choose your favorite design, be dressed correctly and even have your hair done. Don’t worry about sizes, they have many options to suit western frames.
09:30 – 11:00 WALK THROUGH THE HIGASHIYAMA DISTRICT
After visiting Kiyomizu-dera, take a walk through lovely Higashiyama. One of Kyoto’s best preserved historic districts, Higashiyama is quaint and characterful and the perfect place to take photos. If you rented a kimono the backdrop of the area is stunning.
You can easily spend half a day wandering the small streets, ducking into boutiques to admire crafts and stopping for a coffee and to try local sweets. Ceramics, bamboo ware and washi (paperie) are popular souvenirs and you’ll find these in abundance on Sanneizaka, the pedetrianized main street leading down towards Gion from Kiyomizu-dera.
There are also noteworthy temples and shrines along the way.
Hōkanji Temple – the Yasaka Pagoda
This stunning 5 storey pagoda towers over the Higashiyama district and is an iconic sight of Kyoto. There’s a small fee to enter if you want to climb to the higher floors for views of Kyoto and the pretty streets below.
Hours: 10:00am – 16:00pm
Address: 388 Yasaka Kami-machi
Kongoji (Yasaka Kōshindō) Temple
Decorated with bright colored balls, Kongoji temple is a fun place to duck into for a few minutes and a great place to take photos.
Tip – a few steps from Kongoji, %Arabica Kyoto Higashiyama [87-5 Hoshinochō] is a great stop to have coffee and admire the minimalist Japanese design aesthetic in the store.
Kyoto’s oldest Zen temple is a peaceful place to visit away from the hustle and bustle of the streets beyond. Visit Kennin-ji to admire the white karesansui or dry gravel Zen” garden and Hodo hall with two magnificent dragons painted on the roof.
Hours: 10:00am – 16:30pm – Closed Dec 28-31
Address: Komatsu-cho, Yamatooji-dori, Shijo sagaru
Around 11:00am make your way across the Kamo river to the Kawaramachi subway station where you take the Hankyu-Kyoto line 5 stops to Katsura station. Here you change to the Arashiyama line and travel 3 stops until you reach your next stop. The journey takes around half an hour and it is a bit quicker by taxi and will cost around Y2000
Arashiyama is in the west of Kyoto and it is where you find the famed Bamboo Groves. A very popular (and busy) tourist attraction, it is worth visiting to admire the soaring green shoots overhead, gently rustling in the breeze.
There are many other activities to fill your time in Arashiyama including temples, gardens, some delightful cafes and restaurants and souvenir boutiques.
As it will be around lunch time here are some recommendations.
- Yoshida-ya [20-24 Sagatenryuji Tsukurimichicho] – cute set meal restaurant with dishes from Y600
- Arashiyama Yoshimura [Togetsu-kyō kita] – delicious soba noodles. Sets from Y1000
There are also many street food stalls selling interesting snacks along the main road – Sagatenryūji Tsukurimichichō – if you just want a quick bite
Arashiyama Bamboo Groves
You’ll find the bamboo groves as you walk towards Kenru-ji temple. The way is not well signposted but you’ll find it by following the crowds. Yes, it is a very busy place and while still beautiful, you will not be able to take photos like the one above unless you arrive at 06:30am.
But, enjoy the 1 kilometer walk beneath the swaying branches regardless. The bamboo groves are popular for a reason and it’s because the light streaming through the bamboo is almost ethereal.
The parts of the trail away from the temple are the most quiet and beautiful.
Cost: Free to enter
Hours: open all day
Address: Arashiyama, Ukyo-ku
Tenryu-ji Temple Gardens
The stunning gardens of UNESCO listed Tenru-ji temple can be visited before or after walking through the bamboo grove as they are right next door to each other.
There are not too many notable buildings in the Zen temple compound as many have been lost to fires over the centuries. However Tenryu-ji’s gardens, designed by monk and master gardener Muso Soseki in the 14th century, are spectacular and the main reason to visit. In fall/autumn the grounds explode with color and contrast with Arashiyama mountains in the background.
Cost: Y500 plus Y300 to enter the temple buildings
Hours: 08:00 – 17:00
Your next stop is the Golden temple Kinkaku-ji. The fastest way to get there from Arashiyama is by taxi at around 25 minutes – cost Y2000. You could also take a combination of train and bus from Saga-Arashiyama station however the journey will take much longer.
16:00 KINKAKU-JI GOLDEN PAVILION
The last stop on your Kyoto itinerary is at the golden pavilion Kinkaku-ji. This magnificent structure with top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf overlooking a pretty pond is an enduring symbol of the city.
Originally built as a retirement villa for a prominent shogun, Kinkaku-ji is opulent in design both inside and out. Unfortunately you are not able to enter the pavilion but can admire it and take photos as you walk through the grounds and along the shores of the pond.
Continue through the pretty garden until you reach the Edo era Sekkatei Teahouse. This is also just for viewing but there is a tea garden close by where you can try matcha tea and Japanese sweets.
Hours: 09:00 to 17:00
Address: 1 Kinkakujichō, Kita-ku
For your last night in Kyoto, have some fun and visit an izakaya (Japanase pub). If you’re not feeling confident about ordering food or want to learn a bit about Japanese drinking culture.
therwise we recommend:
- Sumibi-Torito [website] – delicious yakitori (grilled meat on skewers) and great sake
- Yoshikawa Inn [website] – amazing tempura and sushi within a beautifully renovated hotel
- Gyoza Chao Chao Sanjo-Kiyamachi [Kiyamachi-dōri, Sanjō-sagaru, Nakagyō-ku] – the place to go for crispy gyoza (dumplings)
Hope with our suggestion, you will have a great trip in Kyoto with 2 days!