Prior to (and sometimes during) my trip to Japan, I did some research on what to see and where to eat in the cities I visited during my short time in that gorgeous country, and given how much the internet has helped me plan my solo trip, I figured it’s just fair to return the favor (especially to those friends who’ve asked for it). So below is a list of the places I’ve visited and the food that I’ve eaten in Kyoto which I would highly recommend. Similar lists will soon follow for Osaka and Tokyo!
What to see in Kyoto
1. Fushimi Inari-taisha
The Fushimi Inari-taisha has become pretty popular all over Instagram. It’s that gorgeous temple with all the orange columns. Entry to the temple is free, but I would definitely recommend you show up as early as possible to avoid the crowds. My friends and I showed up at 7AM and were almost alone there with the exception of a couple other people. An hour later on our way down, you bumped into someone every two seconds.
2. Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
This Bamboo Forrest was one of my favorite things I got to see in Kyoto. However, I woke up especially early to make my way there and avoid the crowds. And believe me, the crowds came sooner than I thought. I only had 5-10 minutes on my own there before the tours came marching in.
Entry: ~400 YEN
The Kiyomizu-dera temple is currently under construction; however, I would still encourage you to go there. The temple grounds offer gorgeous views of the city and on a clear sunny day, I am sure it’s worth the small entrance fee.
Entry: ~400 YEN
This temple is also known as the Golden temple because the two upper floors of the main building are coated in Gold. I ended up coming here later in the day (around 10AM) and had to find my way around all the selfie sticks to capture a couple of pictures. Still recommended to see though.
Entry: ~500 YEN
I happened to stumble across this temple during one of my walks around town. Arrived there at 8.55AM and saw a group of people waiting. Once I read the sign I realized the temple opens at 9AM, so I decided to give it a try and I was honestly pleasantly surprised. The entire temple won’t take more than 20-30 minutes to walk around, and I would also recommend for you to come early!
5. Random Temples across the way
Kyoto is known to be the city of temples in Japan, so it’s only fair that I advise you to walk around town like I did and just take in the random temples that you find on your way. Some are tiny and barely visible. Others are bigger and free to walk into, and some will require a small entrance fee.
6. Philosopher’s Path
I visited Kyoto in February and sadly most trees didn’t have any leaves; however, I can only imagine how pretty this spot would be during the rest of the year. Plus, if you’re already visiting the Gingakuji temple (nr 4), you will find yourself here anyways. Or vice versa.
7. Nishiki Market
I was in Kyoto for a total of 4 days and I ended up in Nishiki market on most of those days. This market consists of a long alley full of food stands. More on that in the next section.
What to eat in Kyoto
1. Kyoto Gogyo
I came to Kyoto Gogyo with a couple friends and this was the only meal that I didn’t eat solo while in Kyoto. We came on a Sunday evening and had to write our name on the sheet by the door and wait a while to get a table. However, the burnt miso soup was so worth it!
Address: 452 Jumonjicho Yanaginobamba-dori Takoyakushi Sagaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-8121 , Kyoto Prefecture
2. Ramen Sen No Kaze
Probably my favorite ramen I had throughout my trip. I heard the lines get crazy, so if you’re here during the week and can come during a low time (say 2-3pm) I would advise you to do so. You will still have to wait, but the wait won’t be as crazy. Friendly staff and delicious soup!
Address: 580 Nakanomachi, Sinkyogoku Shijo-dori Agaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-8042, Kyoto Prefecture
3. Sushi no Musashi
This place is in the Kyoto train station building, so it might be a little tricky to find (even with Google Maps). Cheap sushi train with plenty of options and free green tea (as all other sushi train places as well). Customers include Japanese people as well so you know the place is legit and the food is pretty good!
Address: 8-3 Higashishiokojitakakuracho, Shimogyoku | Kyoto Omotenashi Komichi, Kyoto Station 8joEntrance, Kyoto 600-8214, Kyoto Prefecture
4. Chojiro Shijo-kiyamachi
Came here for one of my first dinners. While the sushi was good, it was a tad more expensive than the other places I tried throughout my trip and the customers were mostly foreigners. Ordering from the Ipad is also available if you don’t see what you want on the train.
Address: 103-2 Hashimotocho, Shimogyo-ku | B1F, Kyoto 600-8011, Kyoto Prefecture
5. Street Food infront of Temples
Infront of most of the bigger temples you’ll find a lot of vendors selling all kinds of street food. I recommend you stop by some of these and try some delicious snacks. This custard filled mochi was one of my favorites infront of the Fushimi Inari-taisha temple.
6. Street Food from Nishiki Market
So back to Nishiki market! Soo many options. I’d say my favorites were the grilled squid and the warabi mochi! TRY THEM!!!
7. Snacks from 7-11 or any other grocery store!
And of course if you get hungry between all the food you’ll eat, the 7-11’s in Japan are MY FAVORITE. Literally everywhere with delicious snacks and clean bathrooms!
8. Coffee Break at Cafe Bibliotec
If you enjoy the sights of books, then this place is for you too 🙂
Address: 650 Seimei-cho, Yanaginobanba-higashi-iru, Nijo-dori, Nakagyo-ku
Where to run in Kyoto
Granted having run a marathon on my second day in the city, walking around 10 miles a day was plenty of exercise for me, so I did not get to run where I would have run. However, if you’re in the city and are craving a run, I would advise you to head somewhere by the river and just run on the trail on the lower level.
Where to stay in Kyoto
Probably not the best person to offer suggestions in this category since I only stayed in one hotel in the city. I wanted to recover nicely from the marathon and so I decided to opt for a hotel room instead of a hostel. The Westin did not disappoint and I had a gorgeous view from my room. Even though it’s not necessarily in the middle of all the action, the hotel offers free shuttle service downtown and I easily walked back and forth from the main shopping area in 20-25 mins.
Hope this helped! Enjoy your trip to Kyoto if you’re going and stuff your face with all the delicious foods!