1 day itinerary for Nara, Japan
Posted on August 18, 2017
Nara is famous for all the deer that roam freely in the city parks and historic temples. It’s a compact and small town which is walkable, about 6-8 KM depending on the attractions you choose to visit. Alternatively, buses connect to all the main sights.
- Most attractions open between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
- Pick up a free map at the tourist information center outside the JR Station
Order of itinerary
- Lunch (opens at 11am)
- Nara Kōen Park (奈良公園)
- Isui-en Garden (依水園) – Y900
- Yoshiki-en Garden (吉城園)
- Todai-ji (東大寺, Eastern Great Temple) – Y500
- Nigatsu-dō & Sangatsu-dō (二月堂・三月堂)
- Mount Wakakusayama (若草山) – Y150
- Kasuga-Taisha Shrine (春日大社) – Free and Y500
- Kofuku-ji Temple (興福寺) – Y300, closes at 5 p.m.
- Naramachi (奈良町, literally “Nara Town”)
Nara Koen Park (奈良公園)
Walk up Nobori-oji Street. You’ll start to encounter Nara’s famous sacred deer as you go. 5 min walk from Kintetsu Nara Station.
In this park, there are 1,200 deer roaming freely and considered the messengers of the gods. The trees and open spaces extends east from Downtown Nara and Naramachi. The park contains Isui-en Garden, Todai-ji Temple and Kasuga-Taisha Shrine.
Isui-en Garden (依水園)
Use the underground crossings to get to the northeast corner of the Nobori-oji/Route 169. Walk from there to Isui-en Garden, one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan. Admission is 900 yen. If you have time, pop into the free and excellent Yoshiki-en next door.
Yoshiki-en Garden (吉城園)
Yoshiki-en Garden is located directly next to (on the south side of) Isui-en Garden. Not only is this a beautiful garden to stroll around, entry is free for foreign visitors! The maple trees here are spectacular in November.
Todai-ji Temple (東大寺, Eastern Great Temple)
Walk along the backstreets to Todai-ji Temple. The crown jewel of Nara and home of the famous Daibutsu (Great Buddha), Todai-ji Temple is a must-see for all visitors to Japan. The enormous temple houses a gigantic bronze Buddha in the largest wooden building in the world. The Daibutsu-den (Hall of the Great Buddha) contains a 500 ton, 16-meter-high Buddha. Admission is 500 yen.
If you visit the Todaji Temple 45 minutes before closing, visitors may have already left. After head east to Wakakusayama hill and you may experience a beautiful sunset over Nara city.
Before entering the Daibutsu-den Hall to see the Great Buddha (Daibutsu), walk a little south to check out the Nandai-mon Gate, with its two huge guardian figures.
Nigatsu-dō & Sangatsu-dō (二月堂・三月堂)
Wander up the hill along the east wall from the Daibutsu-den Hall. Then go up the path that turns up to the right just past the small pond to find these halls with amazing views across Nara.
There’s a small rest area on the north side of Nigatsu-do hall where you can get free tea to drink (be sure to wash your own cup when you are done).
Mount Wakakusayama (若草山)
A grass covered mountain behind Nara Park, located between Todaiji Temple and Kasuga Shrine. The mountain is about 350 meters tall and affords unobstructed views over Nara City. It takes about 15-20 minutes to reach the plateau and many people do not hike farther. An additional 20-30 minutes would get you to the mountain’s peak. Admission is 150 yen.
Kasuga-Taisha Shrine (春日大社)
Follow the narrow pathways through the forest to Kasuga-Taisha Shrine, one of the most important shrines in Japan. It’s also a mysterious world of forest, pathways, lanterns and wandering deer. Outer area is free but it is 500 yen for the inner area and botanical gardens.
Kofuku-ji Temple (興福寺)
Follow the main path from Kasuga-Taisha all the way west until you reach Kofuku-ji Temple. Admission is 300 yen.
Naramachi (奈良町, literally “Nara Town”)
Nara’s preserved historic district. The former merchant district of Nara, where several traditional residential buildings and warehouses are preserved and open to the public. Boutiques, shops, cafes, restaurants and a few museums now line the district’s narrow lanes.
Check out Sarusawa-no-ike Pond, Koshi-no-Ie and the shops and galleries of the area.
Places to eat in Nara
- Edogawa Naramachi – This unagi restaurant is one of the best places to eat in Naramachi. They also serve excellent sashimi and other Japanese dishes.
- Wakasa Curry Honpo – This casual curry joint is located in a shopping arcade on the border between Downtown Nara and Naramachi. It’s a cheap and easy choice.
- Kameya – Great okonomiyaki restaurant on the edge of Naramachi. There’s an English menu and they’re comfortable with foreign travelers.
- Mizutani-chaya – They simply don’t make restaurants more picturesque than this traditional little teahouse, which sits roughly between Nigatsu-do Temple and Kasuga-Taisah Shrine. It’s got a beautiful thatched roof and it sits in a little tree-lined ravine. In addition to tea and Japanese sweets, they also serve simple Japanese meals like noodles. This is one of the few places to eat in this part of Nara, so keep it in mind.
- Le Case – A new casual French restaurant that specializes in quiche. It’s located in Nara-koen Park, en route from Todai-ji to Kasuga-Taisha Shrine, making it a great place to stop for lunch while doing the standard Nara tourist route of Nara-koen (there aren’t many places to eat in this part of Nara).