How to Itinerary for the Perfect Day in Kyoto

Last updated on August 18, 2023 by Sophie Nadeau

Kyoto is a historic city, rich in history and culture, which means there’s no shortage of great sights to explore.But if you only have 24 hours to explore, here’s how to spend the perfect time Kyoto Day Itinerary.

cherry blossom kyoto

Kyoto is one of those destinations that has something for everyone.from Mouthwatering Food (even vegan and vegan) With more than 1,600 Buddhist temples and 400 shrines, not to mention several palaces and castles, there’s simply no way to see them all!

For many, Kyoto ends up being a highlight of their time in Japan, and it was easily my husband’s favorite destination during our two weeks exploring the country.

The most popular times to visit are the cherry blossom season (the viewing of the cherry blossoms is called “hanami”) and autumn (the viewing of the fallen leaves is called “momiji”). If you are visiting Japan for the first time, be sure to check out my Japan travel tips.

cherry blossoms in kyoto
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Is one day in Kyoto enough?

To be honest, one day in Kyoto is definitely not enough. However, if you have limited time, then you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to explore Japan’s ancient capital. To see more of Kyoto, I recommend spending at least three days in the city, preferably four to five days.

Yasaka Tower sunset
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Suggested itinerary for a day in Kyoto

Fushimi Inari Shrine

If you want to be really ambitious in your itinerary, start your day at Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine. With 10,000 torii gates lining the slopes of Mount Inari, it is one of the most famous tourist attractions in all of Japan.

The shrine is dedicated to Inari, the goddess of rice, who is also the goddess of trade, commerce and harvest. People believe that foxes are God’s messengers in the world, so there are more than 100 fox statues on the mountain.

The shrine is completely free to visit and is open 24/7, which means you can start your day in Kyoto as early as 7am if you want. While the entire loop takes two to three hours, you can hike halfway up the mountain and back in about an hour and a half.

Torii entrance Fushimi Inari
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Take the train to Kyoto Station

Luckily, the train from JR Inari Station to Kyoto Chuo Station takes only six minutes and is fairly regular. Once you arrive at Kyoto Station, take a moment to look around, as the modern buildings are quite spacious and impressive.

kyoto train station

Murmur Coffee Breakfast

If you’re looking for a coffee and a short break, then I highly recommend visiting Murmur Coffee, which is located on the banks of the gently flowing Takase River, which is full of cherry blossoms in spring.

Along with a selection of hot beverages such as tea and coffee, there is also a selection of toast and other desserts on the menu. If the weather is nice, you can sit outside with a drink and watch the world go by.

Return to Kyoto Station

After drinking coffee, return to Kyoto Station and take a bus to Nijo Castle. The trip takes about half an hour, including the walk from the cafe back to the station.

Nijo Castle

If you want to enjoy a little culture in Kyoto (trust me, there is so much to explore!), then you should definitely visit Nijo Castle. This is actually a vast complex consisting of fortifications, the Ninomaru Palace, the ruins of the Honmaru Palace, gardens, and other buildings.

As with most palaces and castles, please note that you must take off your shoes to enter the palace, so make sure to wear socks! You’ll need about an hour and a half to see all the sights on this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Book your guided tour here in advance.

Nijo Castle
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Lunch at Nishiki Market

After exploring Nijo Castle, you’ll need to take a bus back, which takes about 10 minutes to reach the next food stop on your Kyoto day trip. Located in the Nakagyo Ward, this market is over 400 years old and consists of several covered passages and walkways, making it a great place to visit on a rainy day.

Inside you can find various stalls selling local food and drinks.If you’d like to learn more about the market with a local guide, consider booking a tour like this.

Silver Palace

Of course, you can’t miss the temples in Kyoto, and the Silver Temple is one of the most beautiful and impressive. Built in the 16th century, the temple is famous for its sand garden. It is near the Philosopher’s Way, a 2km road lined with cherry blossom trees.

Kyoto Silver Temple
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starbucks coffee

Now I don’t usually recommend going to Starbucks on vacation, but we totally fell in love with the one in Higashiyama (Kyoto Kusaka Yasaka Tea House).

After all, this Starbucks is set in a traditional wooden building, and even has tatami mats where you can sit and enjoy a drink (be sure to take off your shoes before entering these areas) and a garden inspired by Japanese tea ceremony culture.

Starbucks Kyoto
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Stroll through Dongshan

Southern Higashiyama is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful spots in Kyoto, with many traditional wooden houses dotted along the historic streets. Allow an hour or so to wander around, shop for souvenirs and try some street food.

Gion area
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Yasaka Tower

A must-see in southern Higashiyama is the Yasaka Pagoda. This five-story pagoda is all that remains of the 6th-century temple Hokanji. Now a popular tourist attraction, the pagoda can be seen from across the region and is best viewed during golden hours.

Gion Pagoda
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Kamogawa sunset

After exploring the Gion area, you’ll want to stroll back down to the river. The sunset walk along the banks of the Kamogawa River was one of my favorite highlights of our stay in Kyoto and it completely changed everything we had ever seen.

If you are visiting during cherry blossom season, this is one of the best places to go as there are plenty of cherry blossom trees on both sides of the river. There are also many places to see traditional wooden houses synonymous with Kyoto.

sunset by the river
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Dinner at Gion Soy Milk Ramen

Once you reach the river, you will need to walk north along the river bank, heading back towards Gion, where you will have dinner. We really enjoyed the vegan meal of the Gion Soy Milk Ramen, everything from the presentation to the taste was perfect!

Ramen in Kyoto
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Where to Stay in Kyoto

Due to its popularity, there are plenty of places to stay in Kyoto to suit every need and budget. I personally recommend staying in the center of Kyoto as this will give you the best base from which to explore other parts of Kyoto as well as for day trips.

Hotel Tabinos Kyoto: We stayed at this hotel during our stay in Kyoto and found it clean and comfortable. The room was a bit small but since we were out exploring most of the time it didn’t really affect our stay. Check prices and availability here.

Infinity Hotel: IIf you want to have an unforgettable time in Kyoto, you will definitely want to book this traditional ryokan. Hotel facilities include an on-site bar and a courtyard with rock garden. Some rooms feature tatami mats. Check prices and availability here.

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Highlights of Kyoto, Japan / How to spend a perfect day in Kyoto Itinerary

Sophie Nadeau Loves dogs, books, travel, pizza and history. She’s a fan of all things France-related, and when she’s not chasing the next sunset shot or eating a sweet tooth, she runs solosophie.com. She lives in London but travels as much as possible. Subscribe to Sophie’s YouTube channel.

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