With over a thousand years of history, Kyoto is a city that you could easily spend weeks exploring. But what if you only have one day? Here is a proposed itinerary that will help you experience some of the best that Kyoto has to offer.
Morning: Northern Kyoto
Start: Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)
Start your day at the iconic Kinkaku-ji, also known as the Golden Pavilion. Its two top floors are completely covered in gold leaf and the structure is beautifully reflected in the surrounding pond.
From Kinkaku-ji, it’s a short bus ride to Ryoan-ji, home to Japan’s most famous rock garden. The simplicity and tranquility of the garden is a wonderful introduction to Zen Buddhism.
Midday: Central Kyoto
Next, take the bus to central Kyoto and visit Nijo Castle, known for its ornate interiors, “nightingale floors”, and beautifully landscaped gardens.
Lunch at Nishiki Market
From Nijo Castle, it’s a short walk to Nishiki Market, where you can enjoy a variety of local foods for lunch.
Afternoon: Eastern Kyoto
After lunch, head to the Higashiyama District and visit Kiyomizu-dera. Enjoy the view over Kyoto from the temple’s famous wooden terrace.
Spend the rest of your afternoon exploring the picturesque streets of the Higashiyama District. The historic lanes are filled with small shops, cafes, and traditional tea houses.
As evening approaches, head to Yasaka Shrine, which is beautifully illuminated after dark.
Finally, end your day in Gion, Kyoto’s famous geisha district. Enjoy a traditional Kyoto-style dinner at one of the many local restaurants.
This model course covers a lot of ground, so expect a full day. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes, carry water, and don’t forget your camera! Kyoto is filled with captivating sights, and this itinerary will give you a taste of the city’s rich culture and history in just one day.