The Kyoto City Zoo is a surprisingly good little zoo conveniently located in the Northern Higashiyama sightseeing district. It’s the perfect way to give the kids a break from temples and shrines.
Kyoto City Zoo © Chris Rowthorn
Reopened in 2015 after an extensive renovation, the Kyoto City Zoo is a great way to keep the kids entertained for a few hours. It’s on the east side of the Okazaki Museum District, in Northern Higashiyama. It’s not far from sights like Nanzen-ji Temple, Heian-jingu Shrine and the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, so you can easily combine it with a visit to these places or one parent can check them out while the other takes the kids to the zoo.
The zoo’s collection contains all the “biggies” like lions, tigers, gorillas, chimpanzees, elephants, hippos and giraffes. Japanese species include Japanese macaques and bears. There’s also a small but interesting reptile house. There’s even a small petting zoo and regularly scheduled events where kids can handle animals like guinea pigs.
The animal enclosures are well laid out and the entire zoo is pleasantly spacious and easy to explore. In addition to the animals on display, there’s also a fun little amusement park with rides that kids love (buy tokens for the rides from the vending machines in the middle of the amusement park). The Ferris wheel here gives you a great view over the Northern Higashiyama area.
Finally, there’s a proper sit-down restaurant above the main entrance, as well as a snack bar and a rest area with a huge collection of Japanese-language animal books. And on the opposite side of the zoo, there’s a small snack bar with an outdoor seating area where you can enjoy ice creams on a hot summer day.
Hoshoji-cho, Okazaki, Sakyo-ku
9am-5pm, last entry 4:30pm March- November
9am-4:30pm, last entry 4pm December-Februrary
Closed Monday and New Year holiday
Junior high school students and younger: Free
Non-smoking area: Yes
3min walk from Kyoto Kaikan Bijutsukan-mae Bus Stop, Kyoto City Bus 5 from Kyoto Station
10min walk from Higashiyama Station, Tozai subway line
See my complete list of hand-picked recommendations for Northern Higashiyama, including things to do, places to eat and places to stay.
Kyoto Vacation Checklist
- Check Kyoto accommodation availability on Booking.com - usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too.
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Buy a data-only SIM card online for collection when you arrive at Kansai International Airport (for Osaka and Kyoto) or Tokyo's Narita Airport
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings to find the best deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, get your Japan Rail Pass
- Get travel insurance for Japan - we recommend World Nomads (and here's why)