1 day itinerary for Kyoto, Japan

Posted on August 18, 2017

Here’s an outline of all the things to do and see in Kyoto! Two different itineraries for a 1 day trip that hits all the major spots. 

Order of itinerary #1

This itinerary is if you want to see all the main templates. Meals are not factored in so you’ll need to find food along the way when you get hungry.

  1. Tenryu-ji Temple
  2. Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
  3. Iwatayama Monkey Park
  4. Ryoanji Temple
  5. Kinkaku-ji Temple
  6. Ginkaku-ji Temple
  7. Path of Philosophy
  8. Nanzen-ji Temple
  9. Shoren-in Monzeki Temple
  10. Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka
  11. Gion
  12. Nishiki Market
  13. Kyomizu-dera
  14. Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine


Order of itinerary #2

This second itinerary is shortened for my favourite sights and optimized to eat meals at the best places but less efficient in commuting around the city.

  1. Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine
  2. Breakfast: Eat udon along the path
  3. Kiyomizu-dera
  4. Snack: Nishiki Market
  5. Iwatayama Monkey Park
  6. Tenryu-ji Temple
  7. Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
  8. Lunch
  9. Temples until you get hungry for dinner
    • Shoren-in Monzeki Temple
    • Nanzen-ji Temple
    • Path of Philosophy
    • Ginkaku-ji Temple
  10. Dinner: Gion (and geisha hunting)


Tenryu-ji Temple


From Shin-Osaka Station, it will take 1 hour to get to Tenryu-ji Temple. This is one of main attractions in Arashiyama, a Zen temple with beautiful garden and wonderful mountain views.

The name, Tenryuji  translates to dragon of the sky. It is ranked 1st out of 5 Zen temples and is also a World Heritage Site. The gardens of Tenryuji was designed by Muso Soseki who also designed Koke-dera ( moss garden). he was also the head priest of Tenryuji. 8:30 – 17:30 ( until 17:00 October to March) From Kinkaku-ji-Street, take Kyoto city bus 59 to the Ryoan-ji-mae or Omuro Ninnaji bus stop. Transfer to Keifuku Electric Railroad and get off at the Arashiyama terminal station. From Kinkaku-ji, it would take at least 40 minutes to make you way to Tenryu-ji. You need to travel by bus and train till you reach Arashiyama station . It’s a 1 minute walk to Tenryu-ji from the station. Once inside Tenryu-ji, you can spend at least an hour exploring.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove


The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is adjoining to Tenryu-ji Temple so come here next. Leaving Tenryu-ji Temple, exit the north gate, take a left and you’ll be in the grove in no time.

This is one of Kyoto’s top sights which you see all over Instagram. It’s one of the most photographed sights in the city. There’s just one main path through the grove, which leads slowly uphill. Once you get to the top of the hill, the entrance to the sublime Okochi-Sanso Villa is right in front of you – be sure to check it out.

As the name suggests, it’s a forest of bamboo. A path cuts right across the forest so you get to walk with bamboo on both sides. Always open. Exit the north gate of Tenryuji temple and take a left. Walk for less than 5 minutes. The bamboo forest is quite close to Tenryu-ji, within walking distance. Once inside the forest, you can walk for a bit and you’ll come across a shrine. You can finish looking around the forest and the shrine in an hour and a half.

Togetsukyo Bridge -Togetsu means “moon crossing”. This bridge is famous for it’s autumn leaves and cherry blossoms. The river underneath it has a different name on either side – on the West, Hozu River and on the east, Katsura river. Always open. Walk back towards Tenryu-ji and head towards Arashiyama station. Go past the station and keep walking straight till you reach the bridge. It will take you about 8 minutes.


You can also go Iwatayama Monkey Park on the slopes of Arashiyama. Over 170 monkeys live at the park. While the monkeys are wild, they have become accustomed to humans. The park is on a small mountain not far from the Saga-Arashiyama rail station. Visitors can approach and photograph the monkeys. At the summit is a fenced enclosure where visitors can feed the monkeys.

Kinkaku-ji Temple (Golden Pavillion – 金閣寺)


Before you go Kinkaku-ji Temple, you can experience some Zen at the Zen gardens of Ryoanji Temple.

From here, you’ll head northwest to visit Kinkaku-ji Temple (“Golden Pavilion”). A taxi from Arashiyama to Kinkaku-ji will take 20 minutes and cost around Y1900. Transit is not recommended because it takes 2-3 transfers and 40-50 minutes.

Kyoto’s most iconic sight, rising above its reflecting pond like an apparition,

Golden Pavillion. The top 2 storeys are covered with pure gold leaf. The pond surrounding the temple also has Koi carp. 9:00 a.m – 5:00 p.m. From Kyoto station, board Kyoto City Bus number 101 or 205. It’ll take 40 minutes to get to Kinkaku-ji.

Ginkakuji Temple (Silver Pavillion 銀閣寺)


After visiting Kinkaku-ji, catch Kyoto City bus no 204 all the way east (make sure to take it east rather than south) to the Ginkakuji-michi Stop. Walk from the bus stop to Ginkaku-ji Temple and visit the temple. This temple is a 24 minute taxi ride away or 47 minutes on the 204 bus.

Ginkaku-ji temple, the “Silver Pavilion”, has magnificient halls and famous for its gardens, with a tremendous viewpoint over the entire temple compound.

Path of Philosophy


After visiting Ginkaku-ji, exit the temple and walk south along the Path of Philosophy

Shoren-in Monzeki Temple

Enter Shoren-in Temple and enjoy a cup of tea overlooking the garden.



Head over to Shimbashi in Gion and keep your eyes peeled for geisha – they’re only out in the evenings. Tip: Geishas are locally referred to as geikos (mature Geishas) and maikos (Geishas under 20).

Gion is the heart of Kyoto’s Geisha culture with tea houses and authentic souvenir shopping. It’s a nice stop before traveling to Nishiki Market. The atmosphere is pleasant and busy, many small stands sell all kinds of delicacies and cook wares. Walk around the Shijō Kawaramachi area if there’s time.

If you’re here for dinner, try kaiseki dinner (懐石), a multi-coursed menu that puts a huge emphasis on regional and seasonal ingredients. Kyoto’s sushi specialty is called Sabazuchi. Saba (mackerel) is fermented in vinegar and wrapped around the rice with pickled seeweed. Ramen is also a specialty here.

Gion is a 10 minute walk to Nishiki Market, or a 20 minute walk if you want to skip to Kiyomizu-dera.

Nishiki Market


Explore and eat lunch at Nishiki Market and the food floor at nearby Daimaru Department Store.

Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺)


Kyomizu-dera is built on the side of a mountain overlooking Kyoto, there’s a wonderful view over the Kyoto skyline.

Just below Kyomizu-dera are the small streets of the Higashiyama district. Higashiyama is historically well preserved and the it’s the place where old Kyoto comes to life. There there are many small shops selling small crafts such as pottery.

Sannen-zaka & Ninen-zaka


The names mean three year hill and two year hill respectively and they refer to the ancient imperial years when they were first laid out. It tends to open around 10:00 and close around 17:00 or 18:00. The hours may depend on the shops and even the seasons. The streets are a few steps from Kiyomizu-dera. You can spend quite some time here. There are some amazing shops selling souvenirs and all the other kinds of snacks that you have got to try.

Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine (伏見稲荷大社)


Board any Keihan train except a tokkyu (limited express) and take it to Fushimi-Inari Station. From here, it’s a short walk to Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine, the most important shrine in the entire city!

Getting home from Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine is easy: You can take the Keihan Line from Fushimi-Inari Station to Shihijo, Shijo or Sanjo stations, or the JR Line from Inari Station to Kyoto Station.

This is always open so go early to avoid the crowds. You can also walk all the way up if you want a photo with less people in it and eat some udon along the way!

Access from Fushimi Inari station (Keihan Line) or JR Inari station from Kyoto station. You can climb all the way to the top and come down another way. You can look around for 2 to 3 hours if you go there by 9 a.m. 

Things to note

In Japan, most places close by 5 p.m. If it’s nearing that time, you can make your way back to Arashiyama station. If you find that you’re early, you can either spend time at the kimono forest, which is right next to Arashiyama station. If you are travelling to Osaka the same day, we’d suggest making your way to Kyoto station. You can have your dinner in Osaka.


For lunch/dinner, we recommend the Yuba lunch Set. Yuba is basically Tofu skin and is a food often associated with Kyoto.

A must try dessert in Kyoto is the famous “Matcha Parfait”

Kimono Rentals –  If you want to walk around Kyoto in a Kimono, make advance reservations online to get a lower Kimono rental rate. Prices vary a lot so do your research before you reserve one.

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