Kyoto has hundreds of fascinating sights to explore, scattered over several distinct districts, each with their own atmosphere and ambience. Here’s our overview of Kyoto Districts to help you plan your visit.
image © Jeffrey Friedl
This list of Kyoto districts is in very rough order of importance – follow the links to find out more about the temples, tourist attractions, shops, restaurants and bars located in each area.
Southern Higashiyama is the most important sightseeing district in Kyoto. It contains everything from dazzling temples, to preserved lanes, to the city’s main geisha district. Don’t miss it! Read More
The Northern Higashiyama Area is one of Kyoto’s most important sightseeing districts. It’s less crowded than Southern Higashiyama but it contains at least as many first-rate sights, including fantastic temples, shrines and lots of greenery. Read More
Downtown Kyoto is loaded with hotels, shops, restaurants, bars and clubs. It’s not a main sightseeing destination, but there are some good sights scattered about. Read More
Central Kyoto contains two of the most important tourist sites in the city: the Kyoto Gosho (Imperial Palace) and Nijo Castle, as well as a few smaller sights and attractions. Read More
Nishijin, Kyoto’s famed weaving district, in the northwest part of central Kyoto, is one of the most traditional areas – it’s a great place to see machiya (old Kyoto townhouses). Read More
The Northwest Kyoto Area is a bit of a hike from downtown or the station, but it contains several of Kyoto’s most important sights like Kinkaku-ji Temple (the Golden Pavilion), Ryoan-ji Temple (with its famous rock garden) and Myoshin-ji Temple. Read More
Arashiyama is the second-most important sightseeing district in Kyoto. It’s filled with temples and shrines, but the star attraction is the famed Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Read More
Kyoto’s main entry point, the Kyoto Station Area is a major transport hub and shopping district. Read More
Southeast Kyoto, at the far southern end of the Higashiyama Mountains, is home to two of Kyoto’s greatest sights: the Shinto wonderland of Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine and the Zen world of Tofuku-ji Temple and all the subtemples that surround it. Read More
Kurama and Kibune are a pair of tranquil rural villages and easy and scenic 30-minute train north of Kyoto on Eizan Line. They form the best half-day trip out of Kyoto. Read More
Ohara is a tranquil rural village in the mountains north of Kyoto, about an hour (20 kilometers) from Kyoto Station by bus. In addition to several fine temples, the village is perfect for leisurely strolling. Read More
Takao is a lovely village in the Kitayama Mountains about 15 kilometers northwest of Kyoto. It rivals Kurama & Kibune as the single best daytrip out of Kyoto for nature lovers. Read More
About 15 kms southwest of Kyoto, and easily accessed by both the Keihan Line and the JR Line, Uji is famous for the lovely Byodo-in Temple (the temple on the back of the Y10 coin). It’s also famous as a tea growing area. Read More
Kyoto Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Kyoto guide
- 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.
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Kyoto
- 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. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router.
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings to find the best deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass - here's my explanation of why it's worth it
- Get travel insurance for Japan - we recommend World Nomads (and here's why)