Travel Guides

24 Hours in Kyoto, Japan

July 30, 2017

Shrines and Temples in Kyoto | 24 Hour Guide to Kyoto, Japan | 1 Day Guide Kyoto | Kyoto City Guide | Kyoto Travel Itinerary Kyoto is a beautiful mix of old and new. It’s one of those cities you can walk for hours and stumble upon something straight out of a magazine when you turn a corner. On one end of the spectrum, there are centuries-old temples in the midst of the city.On the other, trendy cafés that look like they could be displaced from Venice, California! If you’re a fan of matcha (green tea), you’re in the right place — matcha originated in Kyoto. During our recent trip to Japan we fell in love with the unique old school feel of Kyoto, and I think you might too…

Backstreets of Shijo Dori in Kyoto, Japan | 24 Hour Guide to Kyoto, Japan | 1 Day Guide Kyoto | Kyoto City Guide | Kyoto Travel Itinerary

Wandering the alleyways behind Shijo Dori street

7:00am — Coffee

Fight the jet lag with a morning latte. Coffee shop % Arabica Kyoto Higashiyama is a trendy coffee boutique serving coffee from a variety of different origins. It’s located on a great walking street with lots to see — even if stores aren’t open yet, this is a great way to get a feel of the city before your day has even begun.

8:00am — Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine

I’d recommend heading over early to Fushimi Inari-taisha, one of Japan’s most famous shrines. It consists of over 5,000 tori gates (the orange arches below) and winding through the walking paths will take you higher up the mountain for incredible views. If you want to do the full hike, it’s about 2-3 hours round trip. Otherwise, you can stroll to your heart’s content (and don’t be afraid to get off the main path!).

Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine in Kyoto, Japan | 24 Hour Guide to Kyoto, Japan | 1 Day Guide Kyoto | Kyoto City Guide | Kyoto Travel Itinerary

Walking through the torii paths at Fushimi-Inari Taisha

10:00am — Breakfast

Need a place to relax after lots of walking? Unwind with a homemade green tea matcha cake or freshly-baked muffin at Vermillion Cafe, a local coffee house just below Fushimi Inari. Their outdoor deck is so relaxing.

Vermillion Cafe for coffee and cake near Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine in Kyoto, Japan | 24 Hour Guide to Kyoto, Japan | 1 Day Guide Kyoto | Kyoto City Guide | Kyoto Travel Itinerary

The interior of Vermillion Cafe

11:00am Matsubara Dori & Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Matsubara Dori is a walking street lined with traditional wooden shops selling gifts and green tea goodies. It’s located just below the grounds of the iconic Kiyomizu-dera Temple, so you can easily meander your way up towards the top. I loved how this street made me feel like I was stepping back in time in Kyoto.

Matsubara Dori walking street below Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto, Japan | 24 Hour Guide to Kyoto, Japan | 1 Day Guide Kyoto | Kyoto City Guide | Kyoto Travel Itinerary

Matsubara Dori walking street, located just below Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto, Japan | 24 Hour Guide to Kyoto, Japan | 1 Day Guide Kyoto | Kyoto City Guide | Kyoto Travel Itinerary

The entrance of Kiyomizu-dera Temple

12:00pm — Lunch

There are plenty of spots to grab lunch around Matsubara Dori whether you’re looking for a traditional Japanese meal, dim sum, or a local tofu house. Craving sushi? Head towards the Gion district for the popular rotating sushi belt restaurant CHOJIRO Shijo Kiyamachi, or grab some some fresh sashimi at Tsukiji Sushisay Kyoto Daimaru.

Sushi in Kyoto, Japan | 24 Hour Guide to Kyoto, Japan | 1 Day Guide Kyoto | Kyoto City Guide | Kyoto Travel Itinerary

One of our many sushi lunches in Kyoto

2:00pm — Tenryu-ji Temple

After lunch, hop on a bus and make your way over to Tenryu-ji Temple, which is known for its beautiful gardens. This is the perfect place to just sit and enjoy your surroundings.

Tenryu-ji Japanese Temple in Kyoto, Japan | 24 Hour Guide to Kyoto, Japan | 1 Day Guide Kyoto | Kyoto City Guide | Kyoto Travel Itinerary

Nature views from inside Tenryu-ji Temple

3:00pm — Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

When you exit Tenryu-ji Temple, follow the walking path towards the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove (exit the north gate and turn left). The towering bamboo stalks are an amazing sight. Bamboo can grow 3 feet within a 24-hour period!

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in Kyoto, Japan | 24 Hour Guide to Kyoto, Japan | 1 Day Guide Kyoto | Kyoto City Guide | Kyoto Travel Itinerary

Inside the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

4:30pm — Hanami-koji Street & Gion

Gion is Kyoto’s most famous geisha district. Geishas here undergo rigorous training to become skilled entertainers who appear at parties and high-end events at ochaya (teahouses) and ryōtei (traditional Japanese restaurants). It’s rare to see a geisha, so as a result geisha-spotting has become a real hobby. If you want to spot a geisha, you’ll have the best luck being on Hanami-koji Street by 4:30pm to wind through the back streets between until 5:00pm as geisha there are heading out to host local events.

Geisha spotting in Kyoto, Japan | 24 Hour Guide to Kyoto, Japan | 1 Day Guide Kyoto | Kyoto City Guide | Kyoto Travel Itinerary

A geisha on her way to an event on Hanami-koji Street

Gion geisha district in Kyoto, Japan | 24 Hour Guide to Kyoto, Japan | 1 Day Guide Kyoto | Kyoto City Guide | Kyoto Travel Itinerary

Old school Japanese facades in Gion

5:30pm — Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market is a short walk from Gion. I suggest walking down Shijo-Dori street to get there (if you’re anything like me, you’ll also want to grab a matcha ice cream at Saryo Tsujiri on the way!). Nishiki Market is a 400-year-old iconic market featuring lots of Japanese goodies, food, and plenty to see.

Matcha ice cream in Kyoto, Japan | 1 Day Guide Kyoto | Kyoto City Guide | Kyoto Travel Itinerary

Matcha ice cream in Kyoto — my favorite

7:00pm — Dinner

The burnt ramen at Kyoto Gogyo, a cozy noodle bar around the corner from Nishiki Market, was a unique find during our Japan trip. I absolutely loved the smoky flavor of the broth and it’s a great spot for dinner. For a cheap late night meal try Ichiran Ramen — there you’ll buy meal tickets from a vending machine, and then enter your own individual stall so you can enjoy your noodles without distractions. It’s open 24 hours!

Ichiran Ramen in Kyoto, Japan | 1 Day Guide Kyoto | Kyoto City Guide | Kyoto Travel Itinerary

A traditional ramen bowl at Ichiran Ramen

Other Sights

There’s a lot to see in and around Kyoto, so I’d highly recommend spending multiple days there! Here are some of our other favorite sights to consider adding to your list:

  • Tenjuan Garden – this garden is located on the grounds of the Nanzen-Ji Temple. We had this peaceful walking path all to ourselves when we visited. It’s not as popular with tourists unless you’re visiting in autumn, and still worth exploring in the off season.
Tenjuan Gardens in Kyoto, Japan | 24 Hour Guide to Kyoto, Japan | 1 Day Guide Kyoto | Kyoto City Guide | Kyoto Travel Itinerary

Stepping stones over the water in Tenjuan Gardens

  • Kinkakuji Temple – this temple was one of my favorites in Japan. It’s painted gold and set overlooking the most picturesque lake. The grounds close at 5pm, so I’d recommend planning accordingly (we went right before closing and took our time wandering pre-sunset).
Kinkakuji Golden Temple in Kyoto, Japan | 24 Hour Guide to Kyoto, Japan | 1 Day Guide Kyoto | Kyoto City Guide | Kyoto Travel Itinerary

The beautiful Kinkakuji Golden Temple

  • Honen-In Temple – I’ve heard great things about this lesser-known, peaceful temple located just off of the Philosopher’s Walk. We didn’t make it here but I wish we had!
  • Philosopher’s Walk – this is a must if you’re visiting in Spring, as this riverside path is lined with Cherry Blossom trees. There is still plenty to explore if you’re visiting in the off seasons — charming boutiques are located steps from the path and there are a number of temples to visit as you’re walking.
Philosopher's Path in Kyoto, Japan | 24 Hour Guide to Kyoto, Japan | 1 Day Guide Kyoto | Kyoto City Guide | Kyoto Travel Itinerary

The entrance of the Philosopher’s Path

  • Nara Deer Park (Day Trip) – I adored this day trip from Kyoto. You’ll find hundreds of nodding deer in Nara, and there are stalls where you can purchase wafers to feed them. Bring a camera and don’t miss the park’s Giant Buddha in Todai-ji Temple while you’re there. I also recommend grabbing a tuna sashimi bowl for lunch at Maguro Koya nearby — it was one of our favorite quick meals in Japan!
Nara Deer Park, day trip from Kyoto, Japan | 24 Hour Guide to Kyoto, Japan | 1 Day Guide Kyoto | Kyoto City Guide | Kyoto Travel Itinerary

Feeding the nodding deer in Nara

If you’re planning a trip to Japan, I suggest combining your visit to Kyoto with another city. Check out our complete travel guide to Tokyo for a breakdown of must-see spots by neighborhood there.

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I absolutely loved Kyoto. What cities in Japan are on your list to visit?

Local spots, must-see streets, temples and more in Kyoto, Japan | 1 Day Guide Kyoto | Kyoto City Guide | Kyoto Travel Itinerary

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8 Comments

  • Reply Moni July 30, 2017 at 7:43 pm

    Thank you for this amazing guide! Can’t wait to explore Kyoto this week! Love🌟♥

    • Reply - Selena August 6, 2017 at 10:43 am

      Enjoy Moni! Thanks for reading. 🙂

  • Reply Michael @ Mile in My Glasses July 30, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    What a brilliant guide! I hope life will take me to Kyoto soon enough!

    I hope you have a wonderful Sunday!
    Michael
    https://www.mileinmyglasses.co.uk

    • Reply - Selena August 6, 2017 at 10:44 am

      Thanks Michael, you too! xx

  • Reply Daisy July 31, 2017 at 1:58 am

    Do you have recommendations as to where to stay in kyoto?

    • Reply - Selena August 8, 2017 at 2:14 pm

      Hi Daisy — we attended a conference at the Hyatt Regency in Kyoto and it it was at the perfect location to explore the city!

  • Reply Joelle August 2, 2017 at 6:03 pm

    I’m about to go to Japan next week for the third time and I can’t express how much I love the country! I still really want to go to the island of hokkaido (famous for the monkey hot springs) and Nara too, this post was so insightful so thank you!x

    • Reply - Selena August 8, 2017 at 2:15 pm

      We want to go back with you! 😉 Have an amazing time. We also heard about Hokkaido and it’s definitely somewhere we’d want to see as well. Dreaming of matcha tea now…

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