Kyoto has become a must-see and must-explore destination in its own right. From incredible landscapes to beautiful architecture, come and check out our top 5 things to do in Kyoto that are unique to the area.

1. Check out the Golden Pavilion

things to do in Kyoto Golden Pavilion

The Golden Pavilion and its surrounding grounds should be top of your list of things to do in Kyoto. Meticulously maintained and sprinkled with spots of silvery snow in the early months of the year, the Golden Pavilion is gorgeous and belongs to the local branch of the Zen Buddhist school of Myōshin-ji.

things to do in kyoto golden pavilion japan

When the lake is still, the reflections are postcard-worthy. Plus, the Ryōan-ji Rock Garden is super peaceful and the perfect place to collect your thoughts after a whirlwind few days exploring the bustling city and travelling on the bullet train.

2. Visit the Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine

things to do in kyoto Fushimi Inari Shrine

The walk up the mountain which is home to the Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine has got to be next on your list of things to do in Kyoto. There are over 1,000 torii gates on the walk up to the other-worldly forest, and each one has a specific dedication or benefactor that belongs to it.

things to do in kyoto Fushimi Inari Shrine

The walkway up to the lookout over Kyoto is one of the most visited and recognizable sights in Kyoto.

Top tip: Arrive here during the late afternoon. This way, most people are heading down, not up. The walk is about an hour and a half, with some spectacular views to take in en route.

3. Hop on a train to Nara

things to do in kyoto japan nara

Cue some alt-J, you’re heading to Nara.

things to do in kyoto nara japan

Home to precious and intelligent deer, this animal-laden utopia is a short 40-minute regional train ride from Kyoto. It’s the perfect spot to get some kawaii Insta pics with Bambi and all his mates. Awwww.

4. Feast on some Japanese food

things to do in kyoto Japan food

If Japan’s major cities had a competition for amazing food, Kyoto would have it wrapped up in a perfectly steamed gyoza.

Your visit to Kyoto wouldn’t be complete without some fire ramen. The name says it all really: flaming oil, poured all over your ramen right in front of you. It might singe off your eyebrows but it’s worth it for the intense miso flavour!

5. Explore the Bamboo Forest

things to do in kyoto japan bamboo forest

Kyoto’s Sagano Bamboo Forest should be high on your list for a day of relaxation and mindfulness. It’s often busy with tourists and photographers but when you find a quiet trail to yourself, it really is bliss.

things to do in kyoto japan bamboo forest

The Arashiyama district is probably your best bet for quieter, less touristy explorations and it’s only a quick 30-minute train ride away from Kyoto. It’s an experience and a place you won’t want to miss.

Want to come and explore Kyoto with Topdeck? Check out our Japan Highlights and Japan Express trips.

Therese Murdoch
Therese is one of the Customer Service Team Leaders for Topdeck. Therese is originally from New Zealand and has lived in London for three years. She has previously lived in Italy, New Zealand and Mexico. You can usually find her at a decent pub planning her next move.