Explore Higashiyama district
Higashiyama district is a beautiful historic district with narrow walking streets lined with traditional merchant shops and wooden buildings centered around Yasaka Pagoda. Stop for pictures on Ishibei-kojr and Ninenzaka street for the best photo opportunities.
Visit Kiyomizu-dera Temple
Unfortunately, Kiyomizu-dera was under construction during our visit and the front of the temple was covered in scaffolding. However, this did not take away from the view beautiful view of Kyoto! Close to sunset, we walked up Matsubara-dori in the Higashiyama district towards the temple. We were greeted by the colorful gate and pagoda at the entrance of the temple complex. Continue on to the main temple and the sweeping views of the city.
A great spot for lunch, think of Nishiki market as a large tapas restaurant and snack your way from end to end. Hungry for duck on a stick? Check. Fresh sushi rolls? Check. Mini powdered donuts? Check. Octopus stuffed with aquail egg? Check. Matcha ice cream? Check.
Visit a traditional tea house and try everything Matcha
Matcha ice cream, Matcha frozen ice, Matcha hot tea, Matcha latte. We opted for Matcha frozen ice. But be warned, red beans are typically served on top. Kindly ask them to be excluded from your order if this does not sound appetizing!
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Dedicated to Inari, Shinto god of rice, each gate is an individual donation to the shrine. Thousands of torri gates wind peacefully up Mount Inari through the forest. Expect the 2.5 mile hike to take several hours to complete and make sure to wear comfortable shoes.
Visit Gion, Kyoto’s most famous geisha district
A geisha is a professional hostess trained in traditional Japanese arts, dance and music hired to entertain guests during meals. Your best chance to spot a geisha is early evening when they are on their way to an engagement. Remember to be respectful as tourists have turned into paparazzi trying to capture the perfect geisha photo. Shijo Avenue runs through the heart of the district from Yasaka Shrine to Hanami-koji Street and the Kamo River. The district is also filled with restaurants and shops in machiya (traditional wooden architecture) houses.
Visit Kinkakuji (Golden) Temple
A beautiful temple covered in gold leaf. We did not spend too much time here as we were splitting our time that day between the temple and the Bamboo Forest. But wow is the temple gorgeous! The reflection of the temple of the lake made for some of my favorite images in Japan.
Walk though Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
Expect the bamboo forest to be crowded. I did not find it overwhelmingly crowded but it is a popular tourist spot. Continue on the paved path and explore the park behind the bamboo forest. If you are lucky, you may spot one of the local monkeys. If not, enjoy a walk along the beautiful river banks.
Teppan Tavern and Kobe beef
Make a reservation at Teppan Tavern for an unbelievable meal and a great place to try delicious Kobe beef. This mom and pop restaurant is run by the sweetest couple and the meals are cooked right in front of you. THE FOOD WAS DELICIOUS! The restaurant is small and reservations are necessary. It is warm in the restaurant so dress accordingly.
Tour Nijo Castle
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the castle was completed in 1626 as the residence of the Tokugawa shoguns but later turned over to the Imperial Court in 1867. In 1939, the castle was donated to the city to be open to the public. Japan has a very interesting history from feudal society to skyrocketing into the industrial era in a matter of several decades. In all honestly, The Last Samurai was a great crash course history lesson on Japanese culture and society.
Indulge in ramen noodle bowls
The Kyoto train station was a gold mine for shopping and eating. Located on the 10th floor of the Iecha Department store, ramen bars represented each region of Japan and the different regional style of ramen. Order from the vending machine and enjoy your noodles in the quaint restaurants. Try Masutani, our personal favorite.