Kyoto is a fantastic place to travel with children of any age, from infants to teenagers. Best of all, there are plenty of attractions that will please both parents and children. Of course, you’ll need a good itinerary to keep everyone happy.
Children crossing the Kamo-gawa River in Kyoto © kimon
If you’re nervous about traveling in Kyoto with children, just relax: Kyoto is incredibly safe, the food and drinks are hygienic, and it’s easy to move around the city, even with a stroller or a young child in tow. I know what I’m talking about, because I’ve got two young children – so I know all about keeping children safe, entertained and well fed in Kyoto.
Of course, if you only visit temples and shrines, your children will probably be bored out of their wits. Thus, the secret for keeping children happy in Kyoto is to mix “high-culture” attractions (temples, shrines, gardens and museums) with more child-friendly attractions.
To help with planning, I’ve put together three itineraries for travelers with children:
- A One-Day Kyoto Itinerary for Families with Young Children (below the age of six)
- A One-Day Kyoto Itinerary for Families with Older Children (above the age of six)
- A One-Day Kyoto Arashiyama Itinerary for Families with Children (of any age)
If you’ve got two days (or more) in Kyoto, choose either #1 or #2 for your first day and then do #3 on your second day.
If you’re looking for general information on traveling with children in Kyoto, as well as lists of child-friendly attractions, restaurants and hotels in Kyoto, check out our Kyoto With Children page.
Obviously, if you’re traveling with children, you’ll want to stay in child-friendly accommodations. For some recommendations, see the end of this page.
Kyoto 1-Day Itinerary For Families With Young Children
This itinerary can be done with a stroller or with young children walking on their own. It’s not too long and there are plenty of spots along the way where children can play.
Maruyama-koen Park in spring © lucamascaro
9am: Yasaka-jinja Shrine and Maruyama-koen Park
Start your day at this green island in the middle of the Southern Higashiyama Sightseeing District. To get there, just walk east (toward the mountains) from Gion-Shijo Station on the Keihan Line, take a taxi to Yasaka-jinja Shrine or take a Kyoto City Bus to the Gion stop. Walk up through Yasaka-jinja Shrine into Maruyama-koen Park. Once at the park, have a look at the carp and turtles in the pond and stroll up through the greener sections at the uphill end. You can buy snacks and drinks in the park.
10am: Chion-in Temple
Exit Maruyama Park via the north exit (there’s a large gate visible from the open central area of the park). Walk about 50 meters north and you’ll quickly see the imposing San-mon Gate of Chion-in Temple. You can climb the steep steps visible through the gate, but if you’ve got a stroller or young ones in two, you’ll want to take the more gentle route up to the right on the gate/steps. The main hall of the temple is currently being refurbished and construction work will continue until 2019. However, you can explore the rest of the grounds. Nonetheless, you may want to skip this stop and continue along to the next stop, Shoren-in Temple.
11am: Shoren-in Temple
Exit Chion-in the way you came. Take a right out of the temple and walk north along Jingu-michi. After about 150 meters, you’ll see some vast camphor trees on your right. As soon as you pass the last one, take a right. This is Shoren-in Temple. It is one of my favorite temples in Kyoto. After enjoying the view from the main hall, put your shoes back on and explore the garden. Your children will love the carp and the bamboo forest. They might also enjoy ringing the bell, but keep in mind that each person should only ring the bell once – it’s not a toy.
Around Noon: Lunch in the Park
Exit Shoren-in Temple and walk north again on Jingu-michi. Cross Sanjo-dori and continue north in the direction of the giant orange tori (Shinto shrine gate). When you get to the gate, look to your right. The brick building is the Kyoto Metropolitan Museum of Art. This won’t likely interest your children, but that’s not why you’ve come here. Walk to the right, around the back of the museum. Here, you’ll find a nice little pond with grassy banks. It’s perfect for a picnic and to give the kids a run. While one parent stays here with the kids, the other parent can walk over to the large 7-11 convenience store which is at the southwest corner of the Jingu-michi/Niomon-dori intersection. Here, you can buy all kinds of sandwiches, rice balls (onigiri) and pastries for a picnic lunch. If you prefer to eat at a restaurant, you’ll find several restaurants on Sanjo-dori Street, nearby.
1pm: Kyoto City Zoo
After lunch, walk east (toward the mountains) from the park behind the museum to reach the Kyoto City Zoo. This excellent zoo is sure to delight the young ones and adults will find it a pleasant place to stroll around. If there’s a particularly good exhibit going on at the Kyoto Metropolitan Museum of Art, parents can take turns minding the children while the other goes to the museum. Another nearby sight is Nanzen-ji Temple.
2pm: Heian-jingu Shrine
Return to the front of the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art and you’ll find yourself standing under the giant vermillion torii (Shinto shrine gate). Take a right and walk north on Jingu-michi. You’ll see the bright orange entry gate of Heian-jingu Shrine. This is the last stop on this itinerary. Enter the main grounds (free) and explore the area. If you wish, buy a few fortunes for Y100 (kids usually love this). The large open area in front of the main hall is a good place for kids to run around in. From here, it’s a 10-minute walk north to Higashiyama Station on the Tozai subway line (on Sanjo-dori Street). You can follow Jingu-michi all the way to Sanjo, or follow the more scenic path along the Shirakawa Canal.
Kyoto 1-Day Itinerary For Those With Older Children
This itinerary is better for older children. It involves more walking and takes you into some crowded and bustling shopping arcades in downtown Kyoto. Of course, you could do this with young children as well, but the steps on Sannen and Ninen hills (near the beginning of the itinerary) would be difficult with a stroller.
Ninen-zaka District in Kyoto © sergejf
9am: Kiyomizu-dera Temple
Start the day at Kiyomizu-dera Temple, the most entertaining temple for children (and for many adults) in Kyoto. It’s easy to get here: A taxi won’t cost much from Downtown Kyoto, Kyoto Station Area or other parts of Southern Higashiyama. You can also take a Kyoto City Bus to the Gojozaka stop. You can also reach it by walking for 20 minutes from Kiyomizu-Gojo Station on the Keihan Line. Once at the temple, be sure to visit the Tainai-Meguri (if the kids aren’t claustrophobic or afraid of the dark), Jishu-jinja and Otowa-no-taki Spring.
10am: Sannen-Zaka/Ninen-Zaka Preserved Neighborhoods
Exit the temple via the main gate and then make your way downhill to Sannen-zaka and Ninen-zaka slopes. These scenic lanes are lined with restaurants, teahouses and souvenir stores, many of which will be of some interest to children, particularly older ones.
11am: Maruyama-koen Park
At the bottom of Ninen-zaka, go left and then right and turn into Nene-no-Michi. This scenic lane is popular with Kyoto’s rickshaw pullers. Just looking at them will likely entertain the kids, and if you really want to make them happy, consider paying one to take everyone to the next stop: Maruyama-koen Park (most rickshaw pullers speak enough English to understand what you’re asking). Otherwise, just walk north along Nene-no-Michi for about 10 minutes. Once at the park, have a look at the carp and turtles in the pond and stroll up through the greener sections at the uphill end. You can buy snacks and drinks in the park.
Around Noon: Shoren-in Temple
Exit Maruyama Park via the north exit (there’s a large gate visible from the open central area of the park). Walk about 50 meters north and you’ll quickly see the imposing San-mon Gate of Chion-in Temple. The main hall of the temple is currently being refurbished and construction work will continue until 2019. So, you’ll probably just want to continue past to reach the next stop: Shoren-in Temple. This is one of my favorite temples in Kyoto. After enjoying the view from the main hall, put your shoes back on and explore the garden. Your children will love the carp and the bamboo forest. They might also enjoy ringing the bell, but keep in mind that each person should only ring the bell once – it’s not a toy.
1pm: Travel to Downtown Kyoto
Exit Shoren-in Temple and go down the hill to Sanjo-dori Street. Cross Sanjo-dori and take a left on the other side of the street (walking west on Sanjo). About 150 meters brings you to the entrance to Higashiyama Station on the Tozai Subway Line. Go down into the station and board a train heading west (in the direction of Uzumasa-Tenjingawa or one of the stations in that direction). Get off the subway at Sanjo-Keihan Station and exit the station so that you come up on Sanjo-Ohashi Bridge (take exit 6 or 7 from the station). Cross the bridge and walk west on Sanjo for about 200 meters.
1:30pm: Lunch Downtown
Once you are downtown, you’ll be surrounded by restaurants where you can eat lunch. For some recommended restaurants, check out our Downtown Kyoto District page.
2pm: Shinkyogoku Shopping Arcade
After lunch, get yourself to the Sanjo-Kawaramachi intersection and walk east through Sanjo Shopping Arcade for about a block and take a left into the covered Shinkyogoku Shopping Arcade (you’ll know it because it slopes slightly downhill from Sanjo). This is a tunnel of tat and tacky, punctuated by the odd Buddhist temple. Most adults will find the offerings puerile and forgettable, but kids will likely find the stuff interesting. Note that the next shopping arcade to the west (connected to Shinkyogoku by a dozen or so narrow alleys), Teramachi Shopping Arcade, has shops that are more likely to appeal to adults. Walk south on either arcade until you come to Nishiki Market, a covered food market that runs to the west of Teramachi and Shinkyogoku. It’s marked with a small sign above eye level on Teramachi, but the easiest way to find it is to look out for the Shinto shrine on your left shortly before Shijo-dori. Turn right when you have the shrine on your left.
3pm: Nishiki Market
Enter Nishiki Market from either Shinkyogoku or Teramachi shopping arcades. Nishiki is Kyoto’s best food market and it’s fun to check out all the mysterious items on offer. I particularly like the tsukemono (Japanese pickles), tea, and fish shops. During shopping hours, it can get quite crowded here – so be prepared to take your time and try to stick together.
4pm: Daimaru Food Floor
Walk to the west end of Nishiki and continue on in the same direction, crossing one street. After about 100 meters, you’ll see the imposing bulk of Daimaru Department Store on your left. Go down the steps to the basement food floor and spend some time checking out the incredible display of food on offer. This is the end of this itinerary. From Daimaru, it’s a very short walk to Shijo Station on the Karasuma Subway Line.
One-Day Kyoto Arashiyama Itinerary for Families with Children
This itinerary can be done with children of any age. If you’re traveling with a stroller, you might find it a bit tricky to negotiate the pathways of Okochi-Sanso Villa. However, it would be easy enough for one parent to wait at the teahouse here while the other explores the garden.
Girls strolling in Arashiyama Bamboo Grove © myneur
9am: Head west to Arashiyama by taxi, train or bus
Today, you’ll head to the west side of town to visit Arashiyama. Your choice of transport out to Arashiyama will depend on where you are staying and your willingness to take taxis. See our Arashiyama District page for transport information to Arashiyama (scroll to near the end of the page).
9:30am: Tenryu-ji Temple
First, explore the superb Tenryu-ji Temple, being sure to check out both the inside of the main hall and the expansive stroll garden. There’s enough space here so that children can wander around and explore without getting bored.
10:30am: Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Leave Tenryu-ji by the north gate (accessible through the garden), and take a left, which will bring you into the famed Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Take your time savoring the magical atmosphere here, while working slowly uphill through the magical bamboo.
11:30am: Okochi-Sanso Villa
At the top of the hill in the Bamboo Grove, you will see a small hut and a road leading up the hill into the forest. This is the entrance to the superb Okochi-Sanso Villa, the former home of a wealthy Japanese actor. The garden here is sure to delight adults and children will enjoy exploring the many secret paths. Enter the villa and take your time exploring the garden. Be sure to hold onto the ticket they give you, because it will get you a nice cup of green tea and a sweet after the garden tour.
12:30am: Lunch in Arashiyama
Leave Okochi-Sanso Villa and return to central Arashiyama. Eat a simple lunch of noodles or rice in one of the shokudo (noodle and rice restaurants) on the main strip. For some picks, see our Arashiyama District page. Another option, if all the restaurants are packed, is to buy some food at a convenience store on the main street and then walk to Kameyama-koen Park or the Hozu-gawa riverbank to eat outside.
After Lunch: Time to Decide
After eating lunch, it’s time to decide what to do in the afternoon. Here, I’m providing two options: Kinkaku-ji Temple (the Golden Pavilion) or Kyoto Railway Museum. Kinkaku-ji, one of Kyoto’s most beautiful Buddhist temples, is a good choice for older children and is a good option if you don’t mind taking a taxi and then doing some more walking. The Railway Museum is a good choice for younger children and is good if you’re tired (you can sit down while the children explore) and is also a good rainy day option.
Afternoon Option A: Kinkaku-ji Temple (the Golden Pavilion)
1:30pm: Taxi to Kinkaku-ji Temple
There really isn’t a good way by public transport, so from Arashiyama, take a taxi over to Kinkaku-ji Temple, the famed “Golden Pavilion” in Northwest Kyoto. A taxi from Arashiyama to Kinkaku-ji will cost around Y2,000.
3pm: Return to Your Hotel for a Well-Deserved Rest
After exploring Kinkaku-ji, you’ll surely be in need of a break back at the hotel. You can walk out to the main street (Nishioji-dori) and catch buses to all parts of Kyoto. Alternatively, a taxi to downtown will cost between Y2500 and Y3000.
Afternoon Option B: Kyoto Railway Museum
1:30pm: Travel to the Kyoto Railway Museum
From Arashiyama, the best way to get close to the Kyoto Railway Museum is a train from JR Saga-Arashiyama Station down to Tambaguchi Station and then walk south to the museum. Alternatively, you could take the train all the way to Kyoto Station and walk west from there. From either station, it’s around a 20-minute walk to the Railway Museum. Finally, you could take a taxi from Arashiyama to the museum and that would cost around Y2500.
2:30pm: Kyoto Railway Museum
Allow at least an hour to explore the Kyoto Railway Museum. Younger children will probably want to ride on the old SL steamtrain. Adults can have a seat and rest while the kids clamber all over the steam engines and other displays.
Around 4pm: Return to Your Hotel for a Well-Deserved Rest
After enjoying the museum, you’ll surely be in need of a break back at your hotel. You’ll probably have to return to Kyoto Station to catch a bus or subway from there.
Best Places To Stay In Kyoto For Families With Children
Here are some of the best family-friendly accommodations in Kyoto:
- Hyatt Regency Kyoto
With large rooms, a super-efficient staff and restaurants that will please finicky kids, this fine hotel is a great choice for families.
- Westin Miyako Kyoto
Sprawling grounds, a swimming pool, large common areas and its own private hiking trail make this a natural choice for families.
- Citadines Kyoto Karasuma Gojo
This apartment-style hotel on Gojo-dori is a great choice for families.
- Aoi Machiya Stay (best for older children)
This collection of superb Kyoto machiya is a superb choice for those who want a traditional Japanese experience.
- Iori Machiya Stay (best for older children)
Another collection of Kyoto machiya, a few nights in one of these traditional Kyoto houses would be an unforgettable memory.
- Seikoro Ryokan (best for older children)
If you’re looking to try the ryokan experience, this elegant inn in Southern Higashiyama would be a good choice.
- Palace Side Hotel
For families traveling on a tight budget, this hotel would be an excellent choice. The Kyoto Gyoen (Imperial Palace Park) is right across the street, so the kids will have a place to play.
- Sakara Kyoto
This family-friendly apartment-style Kyoto hotel/guesthouse is well located in Southern Higashiyama. It would be a comfortable and convenient base for exploring Kyoto.
- Budget Inn
For families on a tight budget, this apartment-style hotel is a great choice.
There are more suggestions on our Best Kyoto Hotels For Families page.
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
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings on CheapOAir.com
- If you're visiting more than one city, get your Japan Rail Pass
- Get travel insurance for your Japan trip - book online with World Nomads