Unique Things to Do in Kyoto

Kyoto is a city that is steeped in history and culture, and it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan. While there are many things to see and do in Kyoto, there are also some unique experiences that you won’t want to miss. From exploring the temples and shrines to experiencing the cherry blossom season, Kyoto has something for everyone.

If you’re interested in exploring the temples and shrines, Kyoto is the perfect place to do so. There are over 1,600 temples and shrines in Kyoto, each with its own unique history and architecture. Some of the most popular temples and shrines include the Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kiyomizu-dera Temple, and the Golden Pavilion of Kinkaku-ji. These temples and shrines offer a glimpse into Japan’s rich cultural heritage and are a must-visit for anyone interested in history and architecture.

If you’re visiting Kyoto during the cherry blossom season, you’re in for a treat. The cherry blossoms bloom in late March and early April, and the city is transformed into a sea of pink. There are many places to view the cherry blossoms in Kyoto, including Maruyama Park, the Philosopher’s Path, and the Heian Shrine. The cherry blossom season is a unique and unforgettable experience that you won’t want to miss.

Key Takeaways

  • Kyoto is a city with a rich cultural heritage and history.
  • Exploring the temples and shrines is a must-do activity in Kyoto.
  • The cherry blossom season is a unique and unforgettable experience in Kyoto.

Exploring the Temples and Shrines


Kyoto is renowned for its temples and shrines, which are an essential part of Japanese culture and history. Exploring these ancient sites is a unique experience that offers insight into the country’s religious and philosophical beliefs.

Kiyomizu-Dera Temple

Kiyomizu-Dera Temple is one of Kyoto’s most famous and visited temples, and for good reason. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a perfect representation of traditional Japanese architecture and design. The temple’s main hall, which stands on a steep hillside, offers a breathtaking view of Kyoto’s cityscape. The temple also has a beautiful garden and a waterfall that is believed to have healing properties. Don’t forget to drink from the Otowa Waterfall’s three streams, which are said to provide health, longevity, and success.

Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine

Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine is a Shinto shrine that is famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates that lead up to Mount Inari. The shrine is dedicated to Inari, the god of rice and prosperity. The torii gates, which were donated by individuals and businesses, are inscribed with the names of the donors. The hike up to the summit of Mount Inari takes about two hours, but the view from the top is worth it. The shrine is also known for its fox statues, which are believed to be the messengers of Inari.

Golden Pavilion

The Golden Pavilion, or Kinkaku-Ji, is a Zen temple that is famous for its breathtaking golden exterior. The temple was originally built in the 14th century as a retirement villa for a shogun, but it was later converted into a temple. The top two floors of the temple are covered in gold leaf, which shimmers in the sunlight and reflects on the pond below. The temple’s garden is also worth exploring, as it features a variety of trees and plants that change with the seasons.

In conclusion, exploring Kyoto’s temples and shrines is a unique experience that offers insight into Japan’s religious and philosophical beliefs. Kiyomizu-Dera Temple, Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, and Golden Pavilion are just a few of the many temples and shrines that are worth visiting in Kyoto.

Experience the Cherry Blossom Season


If you’re visiting Kyoto during the spring, you’re in for a treat! The city is famous for its stunning cherry blossom season, also known as Sakura or Hanami. Cherry blossoms are a symbol of Japan, and the blooming of these delicate flowers is celebrated throughout the country.

During the cherry blossom season, Kyoto is transformed into a pink wonderland. The city’s parks, temples, and streets are lined with cherry blossom trees, creating a magical atmosphere. The best time to see the cherry blossoms in Kyoto is usually in early April, but the exact timing can vary depending on the weather.

One of the best ways to experience the cherry blossom season in Kyoto is to enjoy a picnic under the trees. Many locals and visitors alike will gather in parks and along the riverbanks to enjoy food, drinks, and the beautiful scenery. Some popular spots for cherry blossom picnics include Maruyama Park, Philosopher’s Path, and the banks of the Kamo River.

If you prefer a more active way of experiencing the cherry blossoms, you can take a stroll or bike ride through the city’s many cherry blossom-lined streets and alleys. Some of the best streets for cherry blossom viewing include the Philosopher’s Path, the Shirakawa Canal, and the Higashiyama District.

For a unique and unforgettable experience, you can also take a boat ride along the Kamo River to see the cherry blossoms from a different perspective. During the cherry blossom season, many boat operators offer special tours that take you past some of the most beautiful cherry blossom spots in the city.

No matter how you choose to experience the cherry blossom season in Kyoto, it’s sure to be a highlight of your trip. Don’t forget to bring your camera, as the cherry blossoms make for some of the most stunning photos you’ll ever take!

Discovering the Districts


Kyoto is a city of distinct neighbourhoods, each with its own character and charm. Exploring these neighbourhoods is a great way to get a sense of the city’s history and culture. Here are a few of the most interesting districts to check out:

Gion District

Gion is Kyoto’s famous Geisha district, known for its traditional architecture and graceful Geisha and Maiko (apprentice Geisha) who can be seen walking along the streets. Hanami-Koji is the main street in Gion, lined with traditional teahouses and restaurants. If you’re lucky, you might spot a Geisha or Maiko on their way to a performance or appointment.

Higashiyama District

The Higashiyama district is a charming neighbourhood located in the eastern part of Kyoto. It is home to many of the city’s most famous temples and shrines, including the Yasaka Pagoda and Kiyomizu-dera Temple. The Southern Higashiyama area is particularly picturesque, with narrow streets, traditional shops, and beautiful gardens.

Arashiyama Area

The Arashiyama area is located on the outskirts of Kyoto and is known for its natural beauty. The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is a must-visit spot, with towering bamboo stalks creating a peaceful and serene atmosphere. Another popular attraction in the area is the Iwatayama Monkey Park, where you can see wild monkeys up close and even feed them from a safe distance.

Exploring these districts is a great way to experience the unique culture and history of Kyoto. Whether you’re interested in traditional architecture, Geisha culture, or natural beauty, there’s something for everyone in these neighbourhoods.

Unique Cultural Experiences


Kyoto is a city that is steeped in tradition and culture, and there are plenty of unique cultural experiences that you can have here. From traditional tea ceremonies to exploring the world of geishas, Kyoto has something for everyone.

Traditional Tea Ceremony

One of the most unique cultural experiences that you can have in Kyoto is participating in a traditional tea ceremony. This is a great way to experience Japanese culture and to learn about the history and significance of tea in Japan. There are many tea houses in Kyoto where you can participate in a tea ceremony, and you will be served matcha, which is powdered green tea, along with traditional Japanese sweets.

Geisha Culture

Kyoto is also known for its geisha culture, and there are many opportunities to learn about this fascinating world. Geishas are highly skilled entertainers who are trained in various traditional arts, such as dance, music, and conversation. You can visit a geisha district, such as Gion, and see geishas walking around in their traditional kimono. You can also attend a geisha performance, where you can see them perform their various arts.

Samurai and Ninja History

Kyoto was once the capital of Japan and was home to many samurais and ninjas. You can learn about the history of these warriors by visiting places like Nijo Castle or the Kyoto Samurai and Ninja Museum. At the museum, you can see various weapons and tools that were used by samurais and ninjas, and you can even try on a samurai or ninja outfit and take part in a sword-fighting demonstration.

Overall, Kyoto is a city that is rich in tradition and culture, and there are many unique cultural experiences that you can have here. Whether you want to participate in a traditional tea ceremony, learn about geisha culture, or explore the world of samurais and ninjas, Kyoto has something for everyone.

Food and Drink Scene


When it comes to experiencing the unique culture of Kyoto, the food and drink scene is not to be missed. From local markets to traditional restaurants and bars, there are plenty of opportunities to taste the flavours of this historic city.

Local Markets

One of the best ways to experience the local food culture is to visit the Nishiki Market, also known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen”. This bustling covered market is home to over 100 shops and restaurants, selling everything from fresh seafood to traditional sweets. Be sure to try some of the local delicacies such as tsukemono (pickled vegetables) and mochi (sweet rice cakes).

Sake Tasting

Kyoto is also famous for its sake, a traditional Japanese rice wine. There are many breweries in the city, including the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum, which offers tours and tastings. You can also try sake at many bars and restaurants throughout the city, where it is often served with small plates of food.

Traditional Restaurants and Bars

For a taste of traditional Kyoto cuisine, head to one of the many restaurants or izakaya (Japanese pubs) in the city. Kaiseki is a multi-course meal that is a must-try for foodies, while sushi lovers will enjoy the fresh seafood at places like Sushisei. For a more casual experience, try a local bar like Tachinomiya, where you can enjoy sake and small plates of food while standing at the counter.

Overall, the food and drink scene in Kyoto is a unique and exciting way to experience the culture of the city. Whether you’re exploring local markets or trying traditional dishes at a restaurant, there’s something for every foodie to enjoy.

Outdoor Activities


Kyoto is a city that is surrounded by nature, and there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy during your visit. From hiking to exploring gardens, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Hiking in Kyoto

If you’re looking for a way to get some exercise and enjoy the beautiful scenery of Kyoto, hiking is the perfect activity for you. There are plenty of hiking trails in and around the city that offer breathtaking views and a chance to connect with nature. One of the most popular hiking trails in Kyoto is the Fushimi Inari Taisha trail, which leads you through a series of torii gates up to the summit of Mount Inari. The hike takes about two to three hours and is a great way to get some exercise while exploring one of Kyoto’s most iconic landmarks.

Another great hiking spot is Maruyama Park, which is located in the heart of the city. The park is home to a beautiful pond and a variety of walking trails that offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains. It’s a great spot to visit if you’re short on time but still want to experience some of Kyoto’s natural beauty.

Exploring the Gardens

Kyoto is known for its beautiful gardens, and there are plenty of them to explore during your visit. One of the most popular gardens in the city is the Kinkaku-ji Temple, which is home to a stunning golden pavilion and a beautiful garden that is perfect for a leisurely stroll. Another great garden to visit is the Ryoan-ji Temple, which is home to a beautiful rock garden that is considered one of the finest examples of Japanese Zen gardens.

If you’re looking for a more unique garden experience, consider visiting the Kyoto Botanical Garden. The garden is home to a wide variety of plants and flowers from all over the world and is a great spot to visit if you’re interested in botany or just want to enjoy some time surrounded by nature.

Overall, Kyoto is a great destination for anyone who loves the outdoors. Whether you’re interested in hiking, exploring gardens, or just enjoying some time in nature, there is plenty to see and do during your visit.

Planning Your Itinerary


You’re excited to visit Kyoto and experience all the unique things this city has to offer. But with so many temples, shrines, gardens, and other attractions to choose from, planning your itinerary can feel overwhelming. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your time in Kyoto.


First, decide how many days you’ll be in Kyoto and what your priorities are. If you only have a day or two, focus on the must-see attractions like Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion), and Gion district. If you have more time, consider exploring some of the lesser-known temples and gardens, or taking a day trip to nearby Nara or Osaka.

To help you plan your itinerary, check out some of the resources available online. Websites like Inside Kyoto and The Broke Backpacker offer sample itineraries ranging from one to five days, as well as tailored itineraries for specific interests like shopping, hiking, and cherry blossom viewing.

Where to Stay

When choosing where to stay in Kyoto, consider the location and type of accommodation that best fits your needs. If you want to be close to the main attractions, look for hotels or guesthouses in the central districts like Higashiyama, Gion, and Downtown Kyoto. If you prefer a quieter, more traditional experience, consider staying in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) in a neighbourhood like Arashiyama or Ohara.

Another option is to stay in a machiya, a traditional wooden townhouse that has been converted into a vacation rental. Machiya are a unique and authentic way to experience Kyoto’s culture and history, and can be found in various parts of the city.

Final Tips

Here are a few final tips to help you plan your itinerary:

  • Consider buying a Kyoto City Bus Pass or a Kyoto Sightseeing Pass to save money on transportation and admission fees.
  • Be prepared for crowds, especially during peak seasons like cherry blossom and autumn foliage season.
  • Take breaks and pace yourself – Kyoto has a lot to see, but it’s important to take time to relax and enjoy the city’s atmosphere.
  • Be respectful of the local customs and traditions, especially when visiting temples and shrines. Dress appropriately and follow the rules and guidelines posted on site.

With a little bit of planning, you can create an itinerary that allows you to experience the unique beauty and culture of Kyoto.

Off the Beaten Track


If you’re looking for unique things to do in Kyoto, then you should definitely explore off the beaten track. Kyoto has a lot to offer beyond the typical tourist attractions. Here are some non-touristy things you can do in Kyoto:

  • Visit Yokai Street: Yokai are supernatural creatures from Japanese folklore. Yokai Street is a small alley in Kyoto’s historic district that’s decorated with statues of yokai. It’s a fun place to explore if you’re interested in Japanese mythology.
  • Take a trip to Kurama: Kurama is a small mountain town just outside of Kyoto. It’s a great place to escape the city and enjoy some nature. You can take a cable car to the top of the mountain and enjoy the views, or hike through the forest to Kurama-dera, a beautiful temple that’s over 1,000 years old.

Kyoto also has many hidden gems that are off the beaten path. Here are some of our favourites:

  • Admire the beauty of Murin-an: Murin-an is a traditional Japanese garden that’s tucked away in a quiet residential area of Kyoto. It’s a peaceful oasis that’s perfect for escaping the crowds. The garden is especially beautiful in autumn when the leaves change colour.
  • Explore the neighbourhood of Kiyamachi: Kiyamachi is a historic neighbourhood that’s located along the Kamo River. It’s a great place to wander around and explore the narrow alleyways. You’ll find many traditional shops and restaurants in this area.
  • Visit the Kyoto Railway Museum: The Kyoto Railway Museum is a great place to learn about the history of trains in Japan. It’s located near Kyoto Station and has many interactive exhibits that are fun for all ages.

These are just a few of the many unique things to do in Kyoto. By exploring off the beaten track, you’ll discover a side of Kyoto that most tourists never get to see.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some off-the-beaten-path activities to do in Kyoto?

Kyoto is full of hidden gems, and there are many off-the-beaten-path activities to explore. One unique experience is visiting the Fushimi Inari Shrine at night, when the crowds have gone home and the torii gates are illuminated. Another option is to take a stroll through the picturesque Higashiyama district, where you can find traditional tea houses and shops selling handmade crafts.

What are some unique cultural experiences to have in Kyoto?

Kyoto is steeped in history and culture, and there are many ways to experience it firsthand. One option is to participate in a traditional tea ceremony, where you can learn about the art of making and serving matcha tea. Another unique experience is to attend a performance of Noh theatre, a traditional Japanese form of theatre that dates back to the 14th century.

What are the top outdoor activities to do in and around Kyoto?

Kyoto is surrounded by beautiful natural scenery, and there are many outdoor activities to enjoy. One popular option is hiking in the nearby mountains, where you can take in breathtaking views of the city and countryside. Another option is to rent a bike and explore the city’s many temples and gardens at your own pace.

What are some fun and unusual things to do in Kyoto at night?

Kyoto comes alive at night, and there are many fun and unusual things to do after dark. One option is to visit the Pontocho alley, where you can find traditional restaurants and bars serving local cuisine and drinks. Another option is to take a stroll through the Gion district, where you might catch a glimpse of a geisha or maiko walking between appointments.

What are the must-see attractions in Kyoto that are often overlooked?

While Kyoto is famous for its temples and shrines, there are many hidden gems that are often overlooked by tourists. One such attraction is the Adashino Nenbutsu-ji Temple, which features thousands of small stone statues representing the souls of the dead. Another option is the Kyoto Railway Museum, where you can learn about the history of Japan’s railways and see vintage trains up close.

What are some lesser-known events or festivals to attend in Kyoto?

Kyoto is home to many festivals and events throughout the year, and there are many lesser-known options to explore. One such event is the Kurama Fire Festival, held in October, where participants carry torches through the streets to ward off evil spirits. Another option is the Higashiyama Hanatoro, held in March, where the streets of the Higashiyama district are illuminated with lanterns and flowers.

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