They say that a lifetime in Kyoto is not enough to explore the thousands of shrines and temples that it can offer. Since we only had one week in Japan, our time in Kyoto was limited, we spent only one day in Kyoto. If you have more time, check out the best of Kyoto in 2 days. If you can only have one day in Kyoto, you can still enjoy this cultural capital of Japan. If you are planning a trip to Japan, there are also several great Discover Japan tours available.
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 starting early. Our first stop is the famous Fushimi Inari Taisha where you’ll see thousands of vermillion torii gates.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. Kaiseki meal is definitely one of the best things to eat in Japan. Check out what are the other best and worst things to eat in Japan. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you have more than one day in Kyoto, here’s some of the places which you might want to visit.
- Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
- Tenryu-ji Temple
- Kimono Forest
* I wrote a separate post about our trip to Arashiyama, click here to read more: Exploring Arashiyama in Kyoto
- Philosopher’s Path
- Kinkakuji Golden Pavillion
- Ginkakuji (Silver Pavillion)
- Nijo Castle
- Kyoto Tower
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:
- Mt Fuji Shibazakura Festival
- Itinerary for Nagoya: Day Trip from Osaka
- Nabana no Sato: Winter Illumination in Japan
- Hidden Gem in Kobe: Nunobiki Herb Garden