Kyoto is a place worthy of visiting over and over again. For first-time visitors, a classical itinerary of four to five days is suggested. Take it slow and use all your five senses to capture the charm of this ancient city.
Today’s itinerary involves exploring the most traditional areas of Kyoto. In the early morning, you can go to Kiyomizu Temple and walk on the stone path near Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka. Then you can go to Yasaka Shrine along Neinei Road and also visit Kodai-ji Temple and Ishibe-koji. Have a delicious lunch near Hanami-koji Street, where you can choose from scrumptious dishes such as grilled eel over rice and buckwheat noodles. In the afternoon, stroll around Gion, rest in a Wagashi or Japanese dessert store, then walk along Kamogawa River. In the evening, dine in any of the well-loved Japanese restaurants in Pontocho and Kiyachou.
The second day focuses on temples and shrines. In the morning, take the bus to Higashiyama to visit Heian Shrine and see the grand Ootorii. Have lunch in Yamamoto Menzou near Okazaki Park, which is the most popular udon noodle restaurant in Kyoto. In the afternoon, visit the Nanzen-ji Temple, entering through the great front gate and walking by the Roma-styled aqueduct. Head to the north via Philosopher’s Path and drop by Eikando, Honen-in Temple, and Ginkaku-ji. Afterwards, you can opt to take the bus or continue walking. You can check out Kyoto University or see Shimogamo Shrine. Before returning to Shijo for dinner, watch the sunset by Kamogawa Delta.
The third day involves visiting Ichijouji in the northwest of Kyoto. You can visit Shugakuin Imperial Villa for roughly an hour, though booking online ahead of time is recommended. There are not too many visitors here, and so you can enjoy the Villa’s tranquility. The next stop is the nearby Shisendo Temple, where you can also enjoy Karesansui or Japanese rock garden. View the portraits of 36 poets drawn by the famous Kano Tan'yu found in this temple, and also check out the neighboring Hachidai Shrine that is home to the famous Ichijoji Sagari-matsu. You can stop for lunch at any of the many cafes in the area and choose from a wide variety of dishes. In the afternoon, be sure to check out Keibunsha Ichijoji, which is labelled as one of the top 10 bookstores in the world.
In the morning, take the train to the Fushimi Inari Shrine located in the south of Kyoto. If you can only visit one shrine in Kyoto, visit this shrine known for its Torii gates. It is located on a bustling street and is close to the famous RyuKoku University. Afterwards, take the train to the small city of Uji in the south. It is famous for its matcha, so be sure to try a bowl of matcha buckwheat noodles and the numerous matcha desserts! If you have time to spare, take a tour of the historical ruins depicted in The Tale of Genji.
The best way to travel around Kyoto is via bike so I decided to go on a guided bike tour with Cycle Kyoto for the day! In a small group of only 5 people, we traveled to various shrines, temples, and historical areas. I participated in the full tour which was 6-7 hours long and about 30km. Shorter tours of just the North and South areas of Kyoto are also popular through Cycle Kyoto. Check out all the spots I hit up on my tour below!