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The Best of Kyoto in One Day

Want to know how to spend one day in Kyoto?  Great! I’m here to help having spent a week exploring the city.

This is what I recommend doing with one day to see as many of the best things in one day. Kyoto was the imperial capital of Japan for over one thousand years and has a lot of history to show.

It seems like everywhere you turn is a temple or a shrine to see, some of them buried away amongst the busy modern city, and others peacefully in the suburbs up in the hills.

Kyoto is the cultural capital of the country and all of its temples and shrines are intact and saved from not being bombed during WW2.

Find places to stay in Kyoto here

Japan travel tip: get a Japan Rail Pass (get one with that link) before visiting to save money on train travel.

Japan rail pass

One Day In Kyoto


(1 day Kyoto Itinerary)

one day in Kyoto Japan

Start the day by walking to the Nishiki market.

This is a seafood lovers’ paradise, with all types of food to try, many of which you would most likely have never seen before.

It stretches for a few hundred metres and many of the small shops have free samples to taste as you walk around.

A good place for breakfast.

nishiki market kyoto
nishiki market in kyoto

Walking from there still in the centre of the city you can find Nijo castle. Inside is the Ninomaru palace, once the Kyoto residence of the mighty shoguns.

It’s a great example of shogun power and further, around the complex, there are several peaceful gardens to relax in and Fushimi castle.

Those interested in shogun and samurai history should definitely take a look.

ninomaru palace kyoto

You can then leave the centre and go to the suburban area of Arashiyama, wonderfully located near the hills and filled with temples and gardens.

Tenryuji Temple is one of the most impressive to see and is ranked as one of the great Zen temples of Kyoto.

Tenryuji Temple kyoto

Arishiyama is a very tranquil place where you will find a bamboo grove and further on up one of the finest examples of a Japanese garden.

You could spend a few hours there to escape the busy city below while taking in more temples and enjoying the river views.

bamboo forest in kyoto
Bamboo forest

Nearby is one of the most famous temples in all of Japan, and one of its most photographed.

It is the Golden Pavilion temple and sits perched peacefully by a pond filled with koi fish and Japanese Gardens.

golden pavilion temple kyoto

Scattered all around the modern city are more temples and shrines hidden away down side streets, and others more boldly sticking out.

One of the largest wooden structures in the world is situated just a few hundred metres from the large central Kyoto train station. While smaller more obscure places can be hard to find.

In the east and south-east are more well-known temples and shrines.

The Kiyomizu-Dera Temple sits up in the hills held up by massive wooden stilts and is one of the most famous temples in Asia to visit. Walking to it you go through small side streets filled with food shops.

Many of the food shops hand out free samples for you to try!

This is one of the most popular temples to visit and can get very busy.


South of Kiyomizu-dera is the Fushimi Inari Shrine.

This is a lovely place as its orange shrine gateway rows head up into the hills and you can walk for several kilometres around it all getting lost.

Fushimi Inari kyoto

There are many, many more temples and shrines to see apart from the ones shown here so far but there’s absolutely no way to see them all in one day in Kyoto.

These ones are the most popular for visitors to see and for good reason and should be the ones you concentrate on.

By night back in the city you can find the old geisha district of Gion (recommended geisha tour here) and can still see geishas wandering around the neighbourhood in its old streets if you’re lucky.

geisha gion kyoto

You can find street food stalls scattered around the place selling all kinds of stuff.

One of the favourites is fried octopus on a stick and other such gems. Tasty!

All big cities in Japan are filled with massive shopping malls and food courts. Kyoto train station itself is a massive mall with a rooftop several stories high where you can get good views.

 Getting lost in the bustling malls and seeing all the shoppers rush by is a good part of a visit to Kyoto to experience the modern city, if for a short time.

You can squeeze everything mentioned here into a very long day starting early and finishing late and you’ll see the best of Kyoto.

I would recommend spending at least two days so you can take it easier and soak it all in more.

But for those short on time you can get all this done. Or if you don’t want to rush it just choose one area out of this and concentrate your time there.

You can see a traditional tea ceremony in Kyoto here.

kimonos kyoto
Tea in Kyoto

Visit Kyoto For At Least One Day

Depending on the time of year you could get the cherry blossoms in spring, or the falling colourful leaves of autumn.

You could also feel the extreme heat of summer and the cool of winter.

Women walking around in traditional kimonos while others shop for fashion in the huge malls is just one example of how the old mixes with the new.

Visit Kyoto.

You won’t regret it.

Find places to stay in Kyoto here

I used Osaka as a base in Kansai to explore Kyoto, Nara, and many other places.

This is why I recommend Osaka over Kyoto as a base for exploring the region if you have the time.

I wrote a guide on the best day trips from Osaka which can also be used as a guide for day trips from Kyoto as they are close together.

Definitely take travel insurance before going to Japan as it’s an expensive country for medical treatment if you get sick on your trip. I recommend using SafetyWing Travel Insurance for your trip, just in case, it’s best to be prepared.

More info on Kyoto here.

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14 thoughts on “The Best of Kyoto in One Day”

  1. Japan seems to be one of those countries you will have to keep coming back to time and time again. Amazing place.

  2. Thanks Stephen! Yes loving Japan. I will come back again sometime after my last few weeks here are done.

  3. You should Michael! I always wanted to come here and so happy I finally made it. After visiting over 70 countries I can easily say Japan is in the top 5.

  4. Hello ! do you had been go to Hitachinaka flower park? Or Ibaraki? Just wondering how to backpacking from Narita Airport to there. And cheap hotel maybe~ 😀 Thank You !

  5. Hey, no I didn’t go to those places sadly 🙁 I can’t remember the name of the guesthouse I stayed in but it was a cheap traditionl one that I found through Hostelworld.

  6. Really nice guide on Kyoto! I plan to spend five days there in October, would you say that it’s too much time there? My focus is to do a lot of photography 🙂

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