Kyoto Recommended Attractions: Firsthand Review & Guide

KyotoAttractionsGuideNijo Castle

Explore Kyoto through my firsthand experiences and discover why these destinations are worth your time. Here are my candid recommendations and tips to help you make the most of your visit, ranked from top to bottom.

Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine (伏見稲荷大社)

Recommendation: ★★★★★

Fushimi Inari Taisha feels like entering a mystical world. The Senbon Torii (Thousand Torii Gates, 千本鳥居) is the most iconic photo spot. If you're short on time or energy, you don't have to hike all the way up as the scenery becomes repetitive and strenuous. However, to really experience it or get great photos, I suggest going all the way to the top where there are fewer crowds for better shots.

📍 68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, 612-0882, Japan

Recommended places to visit in Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Taisha

Recommended places to visit in Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Taisha

Kiyomizu-dera Temple (清水寺) & Sannenzaka Ninenzaka (産寧坂, 二寧坂)

Recommendation: ★★★★★

Since Kiyomizu-dera and the Sannenzaka/Ninenzaka pedestrian streets are adjacent, I'll cover them together. At Kiyomizu-dera, renting a kimono is a nice option (though it may not be ideal for hiking at Fushimi Inari). There are many kimono rental shops with various styles. To avoid crowds for photos, you can go to Byodoin Temple, which has similarly beautiful scenery. Sannenzaka/Ninenzaka is filled with quaint shops and food for an authentic Japanese experience straight out of a drama. Note that wearing a kimono may draw attention from tourists wanting photos or compliments, so be prepared!

📍 1 Chome-294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0862, Japan

Recommended places to visit in Kyoto, Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Yasaka Shrine (八坂神社) & Hanamikoji Street (花見小路)

Recommendation: ★★★★★

Yasaka Shrine and the Hanamikoji geisha district are connected, so I'll discuss them jointly. I recommend visiting Yasaka Shrine at night when it has a special atmosphere, but be aware sitting or lying down is prohibited to avoid obstructing pathways if you're tired. Just one street over is the Hanamikoji geisha district with its tranquil streets, though photography is not allowed here.

📍 625 Gionmachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0073, Japan

Recommended places to visit in Kyoto, Yasaka Shrine

Nijo Castle (元離宮二条城)

Recommendation: ★★★★★

Nijo Castle has striking architecture and exquisite indoor wall paintings; however, photography is prohibited inside, so be prepared. The traditional Japanese gardens outside the castle are also worth exploring. Try the unique gold leaf ice cream sold at shops nearby.

📍 541 Nijojocho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8301, Japan

Recommended places to visit in Kyoto, Nijo Castle

Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion, 金閣寺)

Recommendation: ★★★★☆

Though smaller in scale, Kinkakuji's architecture is beautiful and can be visited in about half an hour. It's a great photo spot, and there are also many cute omamori (charms) to buy as souvenirs.

📍 1 Kinkakujicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, 603-8361, Japan

Recommended places to visit in Kyoto, Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)

Pontocho Alley (先斗町通) & Kamo River (鴨川)

Recommendation: ★★★☆☆

Pontocho is a foodie district made up of alleys lined with restaurants, but be aware many require advanced reservations and walk-ins may not be accepted at the better places. There are some so-so walk-in options, but I don't recommend them. The Kamo River has nice scenery and is popular with locals for strolling.

📍 Shimokorikicho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8012, Japan

Recommended places to visit in Kyoto, Pontocho Alley

Sanjo Meiten-gai Shopping Arcade (三条名店街)

Recommendation: ★★★☆☆

Sanjo Shopping Arcade has many drug stores and secondhand shops, making it great for bargain hunting. One of my favorite secondhand stores is located here.

📍 Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8036, Japan

Recommended places to visit in Kyoto, Sanjo Shotengai Shopping Arcade