Japan,  Travel

One day in Kyoto: How to Maximize your day trip

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They say that a lifetime in Kyoto is not enough to explore the thousands of shrines and temples that it can offer. If you can only have one day in Kyoto, you can still enjoy this culture capital of Japan.

First and foremost, you need to start your day early. Since you only have one day in Kyoto, you need to make most of your time by stating early. Our first stop is the famous Fushimi Inari Taisha where you’ll see thousands of vermillion torii gates.

Fushimi Inari Shrine
Fushimi Inari Shrine

I did a separate post about Fushimi Inari Shrine. Click here to read more:
Classic Kyoto: The Famous Fushimi Inari Shrine

We arrived there at around 8 A.M and there were not much crowds. After exploring the torii gates, we then took a cab outside the shrine so we can head to our second stop, which is the Kiyomizu dera Temple.

One Day in Kyoto
starting point of hike to the temple

Don’t be confused even if you cannot see any temple when the taxi drops you off since you still need to do a small hike. There are shops selling souvenirs and snacks as you hike to the temple.

In addition, you are actually doing a hundred year old tradition when you shop while hiking to the temple. I personally think that Kiyomizu dera is the best place to buy souvenirs.

Kiyomizu dera Temple
entrance of the temple

We arrived at the temple at around 10:30 A.M and there are already a huge crowd, so you must come earlier. Obviously, this place is always busy and full of tourists, even so it’s still a must visit.. Entrance fee of the temple is very affordable at 300 yen (2 USD or 150 PHP) per person.

One Day in Kyoto
Kiyomizu dera Temple

Furthermore, you can also enjoy a panoramic view of Kyoto from the balcony of the temple. This temple is so beautiful especially during spring or autumn season where you’ll see this temple with cherry blossoms and fall foliage. Unfortunately for us, the cherry blossoms were just starting to bloom when we visited even so it was still a great experience.

Kiyomizu Butai
Kiyomizu dera temple

The wooden stage also known as the Kiyomizu Butai is what this temple is most known for. However, they were under renovation when we visited so we cannot walk at the stage.

If you turn right after a few blocks from the entrance of the temple, you’ll see another famous spot in Kyoto. This place is called Sannenzaka which translates to three year slope. They say that if you fall in this slope, something will happen to you within three years, good or bad.

One Day in Kyoto
Sannenzaka slope
One Day in Kyoto
cherry blossom tree at Sannenzaka slope
Sannenzaka Kyoto
Three Year Slope

This slope is an iconic part of Kyoto which brings you back to Japan’s good old days. In addition to this. if you want a nostalgic and dreamy scene, come early since there will be no crowds. In addition to this, the slope is lined with traditional Japanese shops where you can buy Kyoto candies, handicrafts and traditional snacks.

Booking.com

Once you reach Ninnenzaka, there are several unique shops here including traditional Starbucks that has tatami mats. Another unique shop is a Studio Ghibli shop perfect for fans of the Ghibli movies.

Ninnenzaka Starbucks
traditional starbucks at Ninnenzaka
Studio Ghibli Shop in Kyoto
Studio Ghibli shop at Ninnenzaka

Once we have finished exploring Sannenzaka and Ninnenzaka, we then head to Gion District for lunch. It was almost 2pm when we arrive at Gion. We decided to have a Kaiseki Lunch Course, an authentic Kyoto cuisine. There’s no better place to have Kaiseki in Kyoto than Gion. We ate at Gion Hanasaki, which you can also book a reservation. We went at 1:30pm, near closing time, and for this reason, we did not wait long before we were seated.

Gion Hanasaki
entrance of Gion Hanasaki

We ordered the Set A, which is an eight course meal. This restaurant is one of the places where you can get affordable Kaiseki meal with great quality. It’s a good value for money.

One Day in Kyoto
traditional restaurant with tatami mats

Don’t forget to have Matcha Desserts when in Kyoto. We went to Gion Tsujiri. There was a long line outside the shop but you can buy take out with only limited menu. You can also buy some souvenir items such as matcha tea and sweets.

One Day in Kyoto
Matcha soft serve ice cream
Booking.com

The rest of the afternoon, we explored Shirakawa Canal, it’s a popular cherry blossom spot. Unfortunately, they were only starting to bloom when we visited.

Shirakawa Canal
Shirakawa Canal
One Day in Kyoto
Shirakawa Canal
One Day in Kyoto
Park near Shirakawa Canal

We crossed the Shijo Bridge and took a stroll along the Kamogawa River. It’s really a peaceful place and the atmosphere of this place is really great.

Kamogawa River
Kamogawa River

During summer time, the restaurant will set up temporary platforms for guests to enjoy open air dining while overlooking the river.

Our last stop is to visit the famous Ponto-cho Alley.

Ponto cho Alley
Ponto-cho Alley

This narrow alley is full of traditional shops and restaurants. This alley can get really crowded, especially at night time. Stroll further down the alley and you’ll find a peaceful park.

One day in Kyoto
cherry blossom at the park near Ponto-cho alley

If you have more than one day in Kyoto, here’s some of the places which you might want to visit.

  1. Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
  2. Tenryu-ji Temple
  3. Kimono Forest
    * I wrote a separate post about our trip to Arashiyama, click here to read more: Exploring Arashiyama in Kyoto
  4. Philosopher’s Path
  5. Kinkakuji Golden Pavillion
  6. Ginkakuji (Silver Pavillion)
  7. Nijo Castle
  8. Kyoto Tower
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I hope you enjoyed reading my guide on how to maximize your day trip if you only have one day in Kyoto. If you are planning a trip to Japan soon, check out Japan Travel Tips

Check out my other Japan blog posts:

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Ever since starting her travel blog on April 2019, Fae has loved taking photographs of new places and sharing them online. Now, in her 20s, take a peek in her life as she pulls you into a world of travel, food and lifestyle.

59 Comments

  • Emma

    Wow, it really looks magical with the Cherry Blossoms hanging over the walkways. I had a bit of a chuckle seeing a wooden Starbucks sign in this ancient area. Your post was very informative with what to see, find and expect.
    Thank you.

  • APRIL KEY RODE

    Hello Fae, another Pinay here… I enjoyed reading your tip in Kyoto it’s good to know where to eat and how to maximize our time visiting Kyoto in one day. I love your pics seating under the cherry blossoms. May I know what month and week of the month you visited here?

    • Fae Celine

      Hi April, nice to meet you ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m glad you enjoyed reading my Kyoto trip. I went during the last week of March, (26-31). The cherry blossoms were only starting to bloom in Kyoto. Some other parts of Japan have already full bloom though like when we went to Nagoya, you can see sakura everywhere.

    • Fae Celine

      It is very busy and crowded during daytime but if you want to take a photo of this slope without the crowds, it’s much better to go there early mornings around 6-7am.

  • Evan Petzer

    Early mornings are my favorite thing when traveling purely because you get to experience a full day, all those temples and cherry blossoms will defiantly get me to stop at the StarBucks just to refuel on caffeine. No day is ever complete without some good coffee… I bet the food is quite something out of this world and all the souvenirs, better start making a list of people for who I would have to bring something back to.

    • Fae Celine

      Me too, nothing is better than starting your day early when traveling. The Starbucks in Japan also have limited menu that you can’t find anywhere else so that is another great thing about it. The food and souvenirs in Kyoto are the best too, you’ll love it.

    • Sarah

      So many unique sights! You can almost smell the cherry blossoms and that ice cream, love that color! My cousin did the exchange student program years back and went to Japan, hearing her experience and all the neat things she brought back were amazing!

    • Fae Celine

      I went during the cherry blossom season that’s why it was so crowded. The best time to visit is around September where weather is pleasant and it’s not peak season. Traveling during winter is great too since there are not much crowds although the weather can be very cold.

  • Danik

    Looks like one day is not enough,… honestly on your experience how long would you say a decent stay in the city would be for? I am hoping to be in Japan soon and Koyto is on my list.

    • Fae Celine

      One day is definitely not enough. I recommend 3 days for Kyoto. You can explore a lot of the main shrines and temples and discover more hidden gems too.

  • The Holidaymaker

    Your post is very informative and interesting. Is there a time of year that is best? It looks very crowded at the temple.

    • Fae Celine

      We went during cherry blossom season and since it was peak season, there was a lot of crowds. I recommend visiting Japan during September since weather is very pleasant and there are not much crowds.

  • Sheila

    Those cherry blossoms are beautiful. I can only imagine what it would have looked like if all of the trees in your photos were in full bloom. Some great tips here, thanks for sharing so many details on how to spend the day in Kyoto.

    • Fae Celine

      I agree, it would have been magical if all the cherry trees were in full bloom but at least there were some trees that have already bloomed.

  • Wander Women Abroad

    Wow what a beautiful place! I have always wanted to visit Japan and especially Kyoto. You captured the essence of the town beautifully and I felt like I was right there with you. I most definitely want to visit the Studio Ghibli shop.I grew up on their films, they were a big part of my childhood

    • Fae Celine

      the studio ghibli shop is so beautiful, they also have a dessert cafe inside but it was too crowded, we decided to just skip it.

  • Clyde

    It is really hard to have only a day to explore such place but with good organization and planning, it is possible. Cherry Blossoms always look so lovely, you have taken beautiful photos of them and the place.

  • Lia

    Wow, looks like you had a busy day! Loved all the different pictures, really got a feel for it. And planning seems necessary for this. Thanks for the informative breakdown.

    • Fae Celine

      it looked like we have a full packed day but it was actually really chill since all of these places are just walking distance within each other, it wasn’t really rushed which made the experience more enjoyable.

  • Gervin Khan

    I have never been there but I always find Japan as one of the beautiful places to visit. I am glad that you’ve had a great time at Kyoto and I am hoping to visit that place someday!

  • Lyosha

    Kyoto is my favorite in Japan. No wonder but still! One day is definitely not enough but it is definitely better than nothing. Your plan sounds nice!

  • Lavern Moore

    I would love to experience the day in Kyoto. Armed with the great information that you present here, it would be so great!

  • Catherine Santiago Jose

    Japan is one of my dream place to visit and hope to visit and explore the beauty of this place someday! You really had a wonderful one day trip at Kyoto.

  • alexandra cook

    what a fun looking adventure, I will make sure to visit this place soon when we have time, thank u for sharing!!

  • twinspirational

    Oh you really did make the most out your day.. ๐Ÿ˜ŠThe places are so pretty..! If I were there I would do the same things and eat most of the time.

  • Fran Jorgensen

    I am dreaming of visiting Japan! Kyoto looks like an incredible place to visit to discover this amazing culture!

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