Kyoto Itinerary 4 Days: A City of a Million Temples
Kyoto Itinerary 4 Days: A city of a Million Temples
Kyoto doesn’t really have a million temples. But it sure feels like it does.
Even before I set foot in the city, I was overwhelmed trying to plan how to see everything. On top of that, like in Tokyo, Kyoto’s attractions are spread out all over the city, so it was tricky figuring out how and in what order to see the sights. So many choices made me crazy.
So I’ve developed a 4 day Kyoto itinerary that will make seeing all the major attractions so easy for you. By following this itinerary, you can avoid the headaches I had when planning your trip to this city of countless things to do.
This 4-day Kyoto itinerary is part of my 3-week Japan itinerary. Check it out!
You can also add more days to your Kyoto itinerary with a day trip to Nara and a day trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima. Check out my itineraries to all 3 of these Japan destinations:
You can take a train for an overnight stay in Naoshima to see some fabulous art. It’s about 3.5 hours from Kyoto.
BONUS: I've created a FREE PDF version of my Japan itinerary guide. It includes detailed day-to-day itineraries for Tokyo, Kyoto, and 9 other destinations in Japan. You'll also get step-by-step instructions for buying and using your Japan Rail Pass.
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Kyoto Itinerary 4 Days Overview
You can jump to each day of this Kyoto itinerary by clicking on the links below.
How to get around Kyoto?
Before we get into the nitty gritty of this itinerary, let’s talk about how to get around Kyoto.
I got around the city on foot and by public transportation.
Kyoto has 2 subway lines and some additional private train lines. It’s also got an extensive bus system.
Most of the time I used the bus. I stayed in downtown Kyoto and there were so many buses that passed by my hotel that it was just easier to take the bus than the subway.
The best way to navigate Kyoto’s public transportation system is to download the Navitime app onto your phone. This amazing app tells you which bus, subway, or train you need to take to get from point A to point B.
In addition, download Google maps or Maps Me. You can’t use Google Maps offline in Japan, so make sure to get a Japanese SIM card or pocket wifi. To find out how to get these things, read this post on how to prepare for your trip to Japan.
You can also get a map from the Tourism Office at Kyoto station. Make sure to stop there at the beginning of your trip.
If you’re staying in downtown Kyoto, check with your accommodations about a bus stop map. The Hotel Resol, where I stayed, had an awesome bus stop map and bus list of which buses to take to get to which attractions.
LOOKING FOR MORE ITINERARY GUIDES FOR JAPAN
Day 1 of 4-Day Kyoto Itinerary:
Southern Higashiyama and Food Tour
On day 1 of your Kyoto itinerary, explore the southern Higashiyama district walking from temple to temple. You’ll get a chance to do some shopping and stop at some cool cafes. Then you can easily take public transportation back to your accommodations. At night, take a food tour to get a taste of Kyoto’s cuisine. The best way to do day one’s itinerary is by taking it slow and taking in all the beautiful old wooden buildings. You can easily get there by bus.
1. Kiyomizu-dera (Buddhist temple)
COST: ¥400 (US$3.60) | TIME: 6:00 am – 6:00/6:30 pm | OFFICIAL WEBSITE
There are special night viewing events throughout the year when the temple stays open until 9:00 pm. Check out their website for dates.
How to get there:
Kyoto Station: Take buses 100 or 206 and get off at Gojozaka Stop. Then walk 10 minutes to the temple.
Downtown Kyoto: Take bus 207 from the Shijo Kawaramachi bus stop and get off at the Kiyomizu-michi bus stop. Then walk 10 minutes.
Double-check this information with the Navitime App and/or your hotel/hostel as things change.
The first stop on this itinerary is a famous Buddhist temple, Kiyomizu-dera. It’s famous for the photos of its huge wooden main hall with a balcony held up by wooden pillars. When I was there, it was under reconstruction, so it was covered completely in a brown tarp and the balcony was closed, so it wasn’t as impressive as the photos show it to be. The inside was stunning for its statue of Kannon
In addition, to the main hall, there are three other not-to-be-missed sites at Kiyomizu-dera. Number one: There’s a waterfall beneath the main hall.
Number two: check out the Tainai-meguri, a completely dark underground room that represents the womb of the Boddhisatva. After walking down some stairs, you’ll come to a completely dark tunnel that you need to walk along using a rope or the wall to guide you. You really can’t see anything! Then you’ll come to a room where there’s a light over a stone that you need to spin and make a wish. It’s a real trip.
The Tainai-meguri is located to the left of the main hall. I had a hard time finding it, so I’ve posted a photo above of what to look for. It’s the white building with brown trim.
Number three: the Jizo statues. To the left of Tainai meguri along a pathway, you can find some Jizo statues. These statues can be found all over the temples, shrines, and cemeteries throughout Japan. They often wear a red bib and sometimes a red cap. They are supposed to be the protector of children, women, and travelers.
2. Sannenzaka Street
After you’ve exited Kiyumizudera, you’ll begin walking down a busy shopping street with tons of souvenir shops. On the right hand side, you’ll see a set of stairs going down. The stairs will take you to Sannenzaka Street.
This street is filled with traditional wooden shops, tea houses, restaurants, and houses. This will be one of the many highlights of your day. This street probably had the best souvenirs of any place I’d been to in Kyoto.
CHECK OUT THESE POSTS ON SOME HIDDEN GEMS IN JAPAN:
3. Maccha House
OPEN: 9:00 am – 8:00 pm | ADDRESS: 3-337 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto Prefecture
Drop in at Maccha House to get your matcha fix. You can get matcha coffee, matcha tiramisu and lots of other matcha drinks and sweets. It’s a pleasant and relaxing place to take a rest.
4. Ninenzaka Street
The street will eventually turn left and you’ll make it to Ninenzaka Street. This is another street lined with shops and restaurants.
5. Starbucks @ Matchiya
OPEN: 8:00 am – 8:00 pm | ADDRESS: 高台寺南門通下河原東入桝屋町349番地, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0826, Japan
Your next important stop is a Japanese style Starbucks on Ninenzaka called [email protected]. It’s a traditional style Japanese coffee shop in a 100-year old Japanese teahouse. You order like you normally do at Starbucks and then you pick up the coffee in another room. You can take your coffee and sit on tatami mats Japanese style in these small rooms. It’s quite an experience.
Even though you just had something to eat or drink at the Maccha House, stop here for the atmosphere and get another cup of coffee.
6. Ichibei-koji Street
COST: free | OPEN: 24/7 | ADDRESS: ４６３-29 Shimokawaracho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0825,
Lonely Planet calls Ishibei-koji the most beautiful street in Kyoto. Not sure about that, but it was interesting.
The street curves to the right, eventually becoming a quiet and peaceful alleyway with both pavement and walls made of stone. There was only one other tourist with the same idea as me, making it a great place to escape from the rest of the hordes of tourists.
7. Kodai-ji (Zen Buddhist temple)
COST: ¥600 (US$5) | OPEN: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm | ADDRESS: ５２６ Shimokawaracho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0825, Japan
The next stop of the day is the Zen Buddhist temple of Kodai-ji. This was one of my favorite temples. Some people say that the temple is more feminine than others in Kyoto. It might be because it was founded by a woman, Kita-no-Mandokoro (also called Nene), the wife of one of Japan’s most important historical figures, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. When her husband died, she became a nun here.
There are a few must-see places. There are two buildings, the Founder’s Hall and Sanctuary that contain beautiful lacquer work with gold insets. One of the building’s ceiling is covered with the hull of Hideyoshi’s ship and from Nene’s oxcart. I wish I could do the description justice. Along with a rock garden, make sure not to miss the path leading uphill to the teahouses of Sen-no-Riki, Japan’s most famous tea master, and then take another path downhill through a bamboo grove.
8. Maruyama Park
Ninenzaka Street then cuts through Maruyama Park. I didn’t explore the park. Instead, I headed to the next important site, which is located inside the park, the Yasaka Shrine.
9. Yasaka Jinja (Shinto shrine)
COST: free | OPEN: 24/7 | ADDRESS: 625 Gionmachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0073
This was one of my favorite places in Kyoto, partly for its eye-catching orange (vermillion) temples hung with white lanterns and also because it felt very lively. Perhaps it was because its front entrance attracted people coming from the Gion District and its back attracted tourists coming from the southern Higashiyama walk. Because of its location on the edge of the Gion District, long ago during the shogun and samurai times, it was frequently visited by entertainers like geisha and kabuki actors.
This makes a great stop for lunch if you are hungry. I wasn’t so hungry as I spent the morning stopping at cafes, so I kept on going. You can, too. But if you want, I’ve culled a list of restaurants around Ninenzaka. There are more choices if you go into the Gion District.
The Buddhist temple, Chionin, is one place you won’t miss. The front wooden gate is humungous. It’s impressive and as I looked at it across the street while sitting on a bench, I was eager to go in and investigate. Unfortunately, after taking a hundred photos of the gate, I was sorely disappointed. Chionin was under construction when I was there. The temples were completely covered in tarp and scaffolding. I couldn’t see any of it. Chionin’s outside will be covered in scaffolding until March 2019 and the inside of the main hall will be closed until 2020.
11. Shoren Temple
COST: ¥500 (US$4.50) | OPEN: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm | ADDRESS: 69-1 Awataguchi Sanjobocho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0035 | SHOREN-IN WEBSITE
The final destination of your southern Higashiyama walk is Shoren Temple. It’s a wonderful temple that should not be skipped. The temple buildings are connected to each other by wooden walkways. There’s a pond and gardens surrounding the buildings. It felt like a Zen temple to me, but actually it’s not Zen; instead, it’s from the Tendai sect. There were quite a few tourists visiting, but I think you can find a spot on one of the many verandas and sit in silent contemplation while gazing out over a pond and garden. Don’t forget to also take a stroll through the gardens. There’s a bamboo grove and a moss garden.
12. Evening: Food tour of Kyoto
I love food tours, but for some reason, I chose not to do one in Kyoto. But if I could do my trip again, I’d do a food tour. For one thing, you get a chance to learn the history and culture of the country’s food. Food tours are also great especially if you’re traveling solo because it gives you a chance to eat with other people.
Here is a list of food tours and a walking tour. I am not endorsing any of these. You’ll have to do some research to find out which one is the best.
- Kyoto Evening Gion Food Tour – This food tour is organized through Arigato Japan. I haven’t been on this tour, but I went on a tour with Arigato Japan in Tokyo and enjoyed it. This tour is quite pricey I admit, but it’s different from the other food tours in that it’s a 10-course kaiseki dinner. Book your tour here.
- Kyoto: 3-Hour Food and Culture Tour of Gion – Book here for a food tour of Gion and Pontocho.
- Night Walk in Gion – If you’re on a budget, you can skip the food tour and instead go on just a walking tour of Gion at night for just $12 (double-check the price and book tour here).
DAY 2 OF 4-DAY KYOTO ITINERARY
Arashiyama Area and Northwestern Area
In the morning of the second day of your Kyoto itinerary, visit the Arashiyama area where you’ll tour the Bamboo Forest, visit one of the best temple gardens in Kyoto, drink some tea at a villa, and have a kaiseki meal or a Buddhist vegetarian meal at a temple. In the afternoon, visit three of Kyoto’s most unforgettable temples.
How to get to Arashiyama
- Downtown Kyoto (Kawaramachi Sanjo area) – Take bus #11. Get off at Tenryu-Ji bus stop. It took my bus 45 minutes to get there. An alternative is to take the Keifuku Train Line.
- Kyoto Station area – Take the JR Sagano line and get off at Saga-Arashiyama Station.
1. The Bamboo Forest (Sagano Bamboo Grove)
COST: free | OPEN: 24/7
Start the second day of your 4-day Kyoto itinerary at the Bamboo Forest. The Bamboo Forest consists of a gradually sloping path cutting through a forest of bamboo trees. It’s best to be experienced when there aren’t many other tourists around, so you should get there early before 8:00 am, ideally at 7:00 or 7:30 am.
2. Okochi Sanso Villa
COST: ¥1,000 (US$9) | OPEN: 9:00 am-5:00 pm | ADDRESS: 8 Sagaogurayama Tabuchiyamacho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8394
The Bamboo Forest will eventually end at a fork in the road. At that fork, you’ll find Okochi Sanso Villa, which is the former villa of an actor who died long ago. The villa includes the actual villa on top of a hill, a garden, a great view of Kyoto and the surrounding hills around Kyoto, and a teahouse.
When you arrive, you’ll get a ticket for a free cup of matcha tea and a sweet that you can use at the villa’s wonderful teahouse. You can sit down at a table sipping your tea and looking out at the bamboo grove.
3. Tenryu-ji (Zen Buddhist temple)
COST: ¥800 (US$7.20) | OPEN: 8:30 am – 5:00 pm | ADDRESS: ６８ Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8385
To go to the next stop on your Kyoto itinerary, you’ll need to go back through the Bamboo Forest. You can enter Tenryu-ji through the back gate. It’s a beautiful Zen Buddhist temple with one of the most beautiful gardens in Kyoto. Don’t miss the rock garden and the wooden walkways between buildings.
You can read more about it in this post: The Best of Kyoto: Tenryu-ji Temple.
You’ve got a bunch of options here. This area seemed to have a lot of kaiseki restaurants, so it’s probably a great opportunity for you to try it here. In addition, it’s cheaper to eat kaiseki at lunch than at dinner. I ate at an unmemorable udon restaurant. If I had to do it over again, I would have splurged on a kaiseki meal or the Buddhist meal at Tenryu-ji restaurant. It would have been pricey, but at least I would have a chance to try Kyoto’s kaiseki.
These are the restaurants that repeatedly turned up on lists of recommended restaurants in Arashiyama:
- Shigetsu – They serve Kyoto temple food (vegetarian). The restaurant is inside the grounds of Tenryu-Ji Temple. It’s a bit hard to find. A set meal is between 3,000 and 7,000 yen.
- Yudofu Sagano – They serve tofu kaiseki for ¥3800 (US$35). Check out a review here.
- Shoraian – a kaiseki restaurant; lunch is between ¥3,800 and ¥5,800 (US$35-$53); dinner is ¥6,300 and ¥10,000 (US$57-$91). Here are some Yelp reviews of Shoraian.
- Otsuka – Kobe beef; Here are some reviews of Otuska.
- Unagiya Hirokawa – unagi (eel) – I love eel, so I might choose this one if I returned to Kyoto.
- Arashiyama Yoshimura – Reviews say that they serve really good soba noodles.
- Arashiyama Udon Ozuru – This is where I ate. They serve udon noodles. I had a set meal for ¥1430. Nothing special.
- Here is a review from a local Japanese woman about the top 5 restaurants in Arashiyama
4. Ryoan-ji (Zen Buddhist temple)
COST: ¥500 (US$4.50)| OPEN: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm | ADDRESS: 13 Ryoanji Goryonoshitacho, Ukyō-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 616-8001, Ryoan-ji Website
To get to Ryoan-ji from Arashiyama, you can take bus #11 and then transfer to bus #59. It’s really easier than it sounds. When bus #11 gets to the end of the line, you’ll be at a bus terminal. Follow all of the other tourists as they wait for bus #59. Super easy.
Ryoan-ji is a Zen Buddhist temple famous for its enigmatic rock garden. The temple is worth its hype. Don’t forget to look out for a really cool stone water basin.
5. Kinkaku-ji / The Golden Pavilion (Zen Buddhist temple)
COST: ¥400 ($3.60) | OPEN: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm | ADDRESS: 1 Kinkakujicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, 603-8361
To get to Kinkakuji, take bus #59 from Ryoanji.
One of the highlights of your four days in Kyoto is the Golden Pavilion. There’s not a lot to see here, so it’s a quick trip. Basically, you go to take some photos of the pavilion across from a large pond. There’s a not very memorable garden that I walked through and a teahouse that I didn’t go to.
6. Daitoku-ji (Zen Buddhist temple)
COST: 400 yen (US$3.60) | OPEN: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm | ADDRESS: 53 Murasakino Daitokujicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, 603-8231
To get to Daitoku-ji, you can take bus #205 from Kinkaku-ji or walk there in 25 minutes.
If you still have the energy and/or time for one more temple on this day’s Kyoto itinerary, then visit Daitoku-ji. I didn’t make it to this Zen Buddhist temple, but I wish I had. The pictures of Diatoku-ji are gorgeous. There are a few beautiful rock gardens, several green gardens, and sub-temples. If you can’t visit it on this day, smush it into the fourth day of your Kyoto itinerary.
For your second evening in Kyoto, take it easy. If you’re staying in downtown Kyoto, try out one of the many restaurants in the area. If you splurged on a kaiseki lunch, eat a simpler meal tonight.
- Musashi Sushi: There’s a reasonably priced conveyor-belt sushi restaurant called X. There are also some good ramen restaurants around as well. I got six dishes for a total of ¥1,000 (US$9.00).
- Rai Rai Tei: – ramen restaurant; this restaurant was recommended by my hotel as a place that serves really good local ramen. It was delicious and the staff was friendly.
If you’re in the downtown area, make sure to check out the area by the river. Sitting by the river and eating in the restaurants along the river seem to be popular with locals.
DAY 3 OF 4-DAY KYOTO ITINERARY
Fushimi Inari, Nishiki Market, and Gion
On day 3 of your Kyoto itinerary of 4 days, you’ll get a chance to see what I think is the best site in Kyoto, the gates of Fushimi Inari temple. You’ll also get the opportunity to go hiking, visit a market, and hopefully get to see a geisha or two.
1. Fushimi Inari Taisha (Shinto shrine)
COST: free | OPEN: dawn to dusk | ADDRESS: 68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, 612-0882
To get to the shrine by train, you have two choices: If you’re staying in downtown Kyoto, take the Keihan train line and get off at Fushimi Inari Station. If you’re staying near Kyoto Station, take the local JR Nara Line (if you stay on the line, you’ll get to Nara) and get off at Kyoto Station.
My favorite place in Kyoto was Fushimi Inari Shrine. It’s such a unique and unforgettable place where you can get some stunning photos of the torii gates if you’re willing to get up really early and get there before 8:00 am. The torii gates go up to Mount Inari so that along with seeing the gates, you can get a chance to do some hiking.
2. Nishiki Market
COST: free | OPEN: 9:00 am – 6:00 pm but many shops are closed on Wednesdays and Sundays | ADDRESS: 609 Nishidaimonji-cho, Shijo-Noboru, Tomikoji Tori, Nakagyo-ku,
To get to the Nishiki Market from Fushimi Inari, take the Keihan line and then walk a few blocks for 15 to 20 minutes.
Nishiki Market is a popular market for both tourists and locals. It’s been around for 400 years. It’s a narrow street going on for five blocks of shops specializing in local foods and restaurants.
Take your time strolling through the market munching on the different snacks and meat skewers. Take in the sites, sounds, and especially the smells of the market. You can also buy kitchen utensils like knives.
Lunch: You can easily fill up on the snacks and skewers that you eat while wandering through the market. Another option is to stop at one of the restaurants in the market for lunch. For the best information about what to see, what snacks to eat, and what restaurants to eat at, check out this post on the Nishiki Market.
Another way to see Nishiki Market is to take a tour. Most of them start at 9:00 am or 11:00 am. Here are a few tours: I’m not endorsing any of these tours.
3. Gion Neighborhood
COST: free to walk around BEST TIMES: late afternoon and early evening ADDRESS: from Yasaka Shrine to Kinnen-ji temple
You can walk from Nishiki Market to the Gion neighborhood. Coming from Nishiki market, you can first check out the area around Shirakawa river called Gion Shirakawa and then head to Hanami-koji. The street is bisected by Koji-dori Street into south Hanami and north Hanami-koji. The southern part is the more interesting part.
Gion was the pleasure quarter of Kyoto starting in the early 1600s when the Shogun designated a specific area of Kyoto for female entertainers. Thus, Gion became a place where you could find any form of entertainment. Today it still has tearooms, but it also has tons of shops, restaurants, and a different kind of pleasure seeker: tourists.
You can also see geishas (called geikos in Kyoto) and maikos (geisha apprentices). Contrary to popular American literature and movies, geishas are not prostitutes. They are entertainers. In fact, the word “geisha” is a Japanese word that can be directly translated as “artist” or “person of the arts” and the Kyoto word “geiko” is “woman of the arts.”
If you want to see geikos and maikos, I heard that you should go to Pontocho Alley and Hanami-koji.
Supposedly, the best time to see Geishas walking around is early evening on the weekends or holidays when they are on their way to work.
The other reason to visit Gion is for its heritage architecture. You can see some beautiful old wooden merchant houses (machiya) and tea houses (ochiya) where the geikos and meikos perform(ed).
My suggestion is to walk around the Gion district during the day. I only saw it during the evening and it was pretty dead at that time.
DAY 4 OF 4-DAY KYOTO ITINERARY
Cooking Class, Northern Higashiyama, and Geisha Performance
Day four of your itinerary includes a cooking class and a visit to the Northern Higashiyama neighborhood. It includes more temples and a pleasant walk along the Path of Philosophy. It should take half a day to finish the route.
1. Cooking Class
A big part of my travels is devoted to food. I like to take a cooking class because you get to learn about the history and culture of the country’s cuisine. Kyoto has a few classes that you can choose from. Some classes are in the morning and some in the afternoon. Here’s a list of some cooking classes. Again I’m not endorsing any of these.
- Roujiya Cooking Class
- Uzuki Cooking Class
- Haru Cooking Class
- Cooking Sun Cooking Class
- Kyoto Daidocoro
Alternatives to a cooking class:
- Imperial Palace
- Kyoto National Museum
You can start out on either end of the Path of Philosophy. You can start your tour with Gingaku-ji (the Silver Pavilion) or start your tour at Nanzen-ji Temple. I think it will depend on which one your cooking class is closest to.
I started with Nanzen-ji, so I’ll go in that direction.
2. Nanzen-ji (Zen Buddhist temple)
COST: ¥500 (US$4.70) | OPEN: 8:30 am – 4:30/5:00 pm
Another of my favorite places to see in Kyoto was Nanzen-ji. It’s a very expansive temple with lots to see. Make sure to check out the huge wooden Main Gate. You can climb to the top and get a view of Kyoto. Second, don’t skip over the rock garden. Third, make sure to walk around the Zen garden (not the rock kind). Finally, check out the aqueduct. Lonely Planet says that there is a waterfall in the woods in back of the temple. I tried finding it but was unable to.
3. Eikan-do (Buddhist temple)
COST: 600 yen (US$5.44) | OPEN: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm | ADDRESS: ４８ Eikandocho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8445, Japan | WEBSITE
Eiken-do is a short walk from Nanzen-ji and it’s on the way to the rest of the sites on this day’s itinerary. I didn’t stop here thinking it’s just another temple, but after looking at the photos, I wish I had. You can check out some photos of Eiken-do here and make your decision. It’s supposedly really beautiful in the fall. The temple is also all lit up in the evenings in the fall.
4. Path of Philosophy
You can walk from Eikan-do to Ginkaku-ji along the Path of Philosophy. The Path is a treelined pedestrian pathway along a canal. I’m sure that in the fall when the leaves turn color and the spring when the cherry blossoms come out that the walk is beautiful. The path is named after a philosopher who often took strolls along the path.
5. Honen-in (Pure Land Buddhist temple)
COST: free for the grounds; spring opening ¥500 (US$4.55) and fall opening ¥800 (US$7.28) | OPEN: 6:00 am – 4:00 pm | ADDRESS: 京都市左京区鹿ヶ谷御所ノ段町30番地 | WEBSITE
Lonely Planet raves about this temple, but since I didn’t see a sign for it and my phone wasn’t working, I couldn’t find it. I was also miserably hot. If I were in Kyoto again, I’d definitely stop by this temple. There are some stunning photos of Honen-in’s thatched-roof main gate and two mounds of sand art. Not many people visit this temple so it’s supposed to be very peaceful. The main hall is only open from April 1-7 and November 1-7 (double-check their website), but from the photos, just walking around the grounds looks to be worth it.
6. Ginkaku-ji / The Silver Pavilion (Zen Buddhist temple)
COST: ¥500 (US$4.70) | OPEN: 8:30 am – 5:00 pm (Dec-Feb: 9:00-4:30) | ADDRESS: 2 Ginkakujicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8402
The last temple of the itinerary is a stop at the Silver Pavilion. Surprisingly, the pavilion is not covered in silver like the Golden Pavilion is covered in gold. Still, though, it’s beautiful in its simplicity and its ability to blend with its surroundings. There’s also a cool rock garden and moss garden. The only downside is that it’ll be packed with tourists.
7. Geisha Performance
Because I didn’t plan my trip very well, I didn’t think about seeing a geisha performance. But if I could do my trip all over again, I’d definitely see one. There are a few ways that you can do this. One is affordable, one is affordable but infrequent, one is expensive, and one is exorbitantly expensive.
Yasaka Hall Gion Corner
COST: ¥3,150 (US$28.50), but from July 1 to February 28, foreign tourists can get tickets for ¥2,500 (US$22.60) | TIME: 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm for 50 minutes | ADDRESS: 605-0074 Yasaka Hall, 570-2 Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama-ku, | GION CORNER WEBSITE
Attending a performance at Gion Corner is the least expensive option. According to their website, the geiko does a dance performance along with a tea and flower arranging ceremony.
Gion Hatanaka Ryokan – Kyoto Dining with Maiko
The second option is a bit pricey, and I’m not sure I could afford it, but it’s something to consider as I think it’s gotten pretty good reviews.
At the Gion Hatanaka Ryokan, you can have dinner with other guests (up to 40) and be entertained by maiko. According to their website, the maiko will perform a dance, greet the guests, and serve them sake. Their website also says that there’s an English interpreter available.
Private Geisha Dinner
You can also have a private dinner or party with your own geiko or maiko. It’s exorbitantly expensive, though. Some prices I’ve seen are ¥47,700 (US$433) per guest for 2 guests and ¥17,700 (US$161) per guest with 9 to 10 guests. If you want the geiko or maiko to dance, you’ll need to pay more for a shamisen player. The more you pay, the more you get. Also, ask whether you are getting a geiko or a maiko.
You can book through one of the online tour marketplaces. Here are a few options, but you’ll need to check out their reviews yourself. This isn’t an endorsement of any of them.
Special Geisha Dance Performances
COST: see below TIME: March, April, or May
You can also see special geisha dance performances in March, April, or May. You can buy tickets on the day of the performance or from the Tourist Information Center at Kyoto Station. You can learn more about these two websites:
- DATES: April 1 – 27, 2019
- COST: ¥5,500 (US$50) premium seats and ¥4,000 (US$37) regular seats
- LOCATION: Minamiza Theater
- WEBSITE: http://miyako-odori.jp/english/
- You can buy tickets on their website.
- DATES: March 25 – April 7, 2019
- COST: ¥4,300 yen (US$39), ¥4,800 yen (US$44) with tea
- LOCATION: Kamishichiken Kaburenjō Theater
- WEBSITE: http://www.maiko3.com/kitano-odori.html
Pontocho Kamogawa Odori –
- DATES: May 1 – May 24, 2019
- COST: Special Seats w/Tea Ticket: ¥4,800 (US$44), Special Seats: ¥4,200 (US$39), Regular Seats: ¥2,300, (US$21)
- WEBSITE: https://en.kamogawa-odori.com/
- DATES: April 1 – April 16
- COST: First class seat with tea ceremony: ¥4500 (US$41); First class seat only: ¥4000 (US$37); Second class seat with tea ceremony: ¥2500 (US$23); Second class seat only: ¥2000 (US$19)
- WEBSITE: http://www.miyagawacho.jp/
Where to stay in Kyoto
Most tourists stay in downtown Kyoto or near the train station. I highly recommend staying in the downtown area as it’s close to the Gion neighborhood and Nishiki Market.
I stayed in downtown Kyoto at the
Excellent location, especially at night. It was close to soooooo many cool neighborhoods and streets–Gion, Pontocho Alley, etc. Bars, restaurants, shops.
Because there were so many people around at night, as a female solo traveler, it felt very safe.
When I made my reservations at the
I highly recommend it.
Where to get more information
- Click here for information about which temples and shrines are under construction.
- Go to this website for recommendations about where to eat in Kyoto.
- Official Kyoto Prefecture Tourism Office
- Official Kyoto City Tourism Office
- Hyperdia– Information about train schedules
- Navitime App – app for subway, train, and bus schedules
I hope you have found this Kyoto itinerary of 4 days useful.
If you want to have a really unforgettable cultural experience in Kyoto, you need at least stay for four days. There’s way too much to see and do and the sites are too spread out to see in any less time. If you try to do too much in such a short time, you can also get sick of temples.
You can extend your stay in Kyoto and use it as a base to explore Nara, Himeji Castle, Osaka, and even Hiroshima and Miyajima.
Looking for more on Japan? Check out these posts:
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- Kyoto Itinerary 4 Weeks: A City of a Million Temples
- Nara Itinerary: The Perfect Day Trip from Kyoto
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- Shirakawago Itinerary: Enter a Japanese Fairytale
- The Ultimate Day Trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima
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- Takayama Itinerary: Travel Back in Time to Old Japan
- The Best Ever Guide to Japan's Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
- Top 10 Must-See Places to Visit in Kyoto
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- The 20 Best Novels to Read Before Visiting Japan