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50 Kyoto Sightseeing Spots! First-Time Traveler’s Guide by Area

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Welcome to the charming world of Kyoto, Japan’s timeless treasure. Known for its classical Buddhist temples, serene gardens, imperial palaces, Shinto shrines, and traditional wooden houses, Kyoto is a city that flawlessly balances the old with the new. So, without further ado, let’s explore the top 50 sightseeing spots in Kyoto, perfect for first-time travelers!

Northern Kyoto

* Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion): Marvel at the beauty of this Zen temple, covered in gold leaf and surrounded by scenic gardens and a reflective pond.
* Ryoan-ji Temple: Home to Japan’s most famous rock garden, this Zen temple provides a tranquil experience.
* Daitoku-ji Temple: Explore this large walled temple complex known for its numerous sub-temples and Zen gardens.

Central Kyoto

* Nijo Castle: Discover this UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for its “nightingale floors” that chirp when walked upon.
* Kyoto Imperial Palace and Gardens: Explore the palace grounds and enjoy the beautiful gardens surrounding the imperial residence.
* Nishiki Market: Dubbed ‘Kyoto’s Kitchen’, this bustling market offers a plethora of culinary delights.

Eastern Kyoto (Higashiyama)

* Kiyomizu-dera Temple: Enjoy the stunning panoramic views from this wooden terrace, especially popular in cherry blossom season.
* Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion): Immerse yourself in this Zen temple, surrounded by beautiful moss gardens and a unique dry sand garden.
* Philosopher’s Path: Walk this cherry tree-lined canal path, named after Nishida Kitaro, a famous philosopher who used it for daily meditation.
* Yasaka Shrine: Visit this Shinto shrine, famous for its lantern-covered stage and the Gion Festival.
* Nanzen-ji Temple: Admire the Zen gardens and aqueduct at this important Zen Buddhism temple.

Southern Kyoto

* Fushimi Inari Shrine: Walk through the iconic red torii gates that line the path up the sacred Mount Inari.
* Tofuku-ji Temple: Known for its stunning autumn colors, this temple’s Hojo Garden is a sight to behold.
* Daigo-ji Temple: A UNESCO World Heritage Site with a beautiful five-story pagoda.

Western Kyoto

* Arashiyama Bamboo Grove: Wander through this other-worldly bamboo grove and feel transported to a different realm.
* Tenryu-ji Temple: Explore the temple’s stunning garden and enjoy the beautiful views of the Arashiyama Mountain.
* Sagano Scenic Railway: Enjoy a scenic train ride that offers beautiful views of the Hozugawa River and surrounding nature.

Kyoto Station Area

* Kyoto Tower: Take in the panoramic city views from the tallest structure in Kyoto.
* Higashi Honganji and Nishi Honganji: Visit these two large temple complexes, both important centers for the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism.
The list goes on, as there are countless more temples, shrines, gardens, and sights to see. Kyoto also hosts many festivals throughout the year, so be sure to check the local calendar.

Insider Tips

* The Kyoto City Bus and Kyoto Bus systems are convenient for getting around, particularly with a one-day pass.
* Many temples and shrines close in the late afternoon, so start your sightseeing early.
* If you’re in Kyoto in spring, don’t miss the cherry blossoms. In autumn, the changing leaves are a must-see.
* Consider a guided tour if you want a more informed exploration of Kyoto’s rich history and culture.
Embarking on a journey through Kyoto’s charming streets and landscapes, one can almost feel the ancient spirits whispering stories of a time gone by. So, pack your bags, lace up your walking shoes, and let the city of Kyoto transport you to a world that seamlessly marries history and modernity. Happy travels!

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