Two days in Kyoto allows you to see a lot, but you still have to work efficiently. This itinerary is the way to make the most of two days in Kyoto.
Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine © 66321334@N00
First: A Few Things to Keep in Mind
This two-day route takes you through Kyoto’s main sightseeing districts: Southern Higashiyama and Arashiyama. This is a good route to do in the off-season (summer or winter). In high-season (spring and fall), it will be too crowded for comfort. If you will be in Kyoto in high-season, or simply like quieter spots, check out our Off the Beaten Track Itineraries. If you’ll be in town during cherry blossom season, check out our Kyoto Cherry Blossom Itinerary.
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Day 1: Southern Higashiyama, Downtown and Fushimi-Inari
The front gate of Kiyomizu-dera Temple © osakajock
8:30am: Kiyomizu-dera Temple
Take a bus or taxi to the Gojo-Kawaramachi intersection. The closest bus stop is Gojozaka. Walk up Gojo-zaka, which is the main street that leads east, up the hill, to Kiyomizu-dera Temple. Most likely, you can just follow the people. Halfway up, you can bear right up Chawan-zaka, which gets you away from most of the cars and buses. Enter the temple and fully explore the temple. Don’t forget to visit the wonderful Tainai-Meguri.
Sannen-zaka Hill © hslo
9:30am: Sannen-zaka and Ninnen-zaka, then Maruyama-koen Park
After exploring Kiyomizu-dera, exit via the front of the temple and walk down Matsubara-dori Street (lined with shops) to reach the lovely preserved district of Sannen-zaka Hill. Continue down the street to where it flattens out and then go a bit further and take a right down into Ninnen-zaka, another lovely preserved district. You will come to a larger cross street with cars. Go left down the hill then quickly turn right into Nene-no-Michi, which is mostly free from cars. Follow this north, with one quick right-left jog to reach Maruyama-koen Park.
Chion-in Temple Main Hall © lucamascaro
10:30am: Chion-in Temple
Exit the north side of Maruyama-koen and follow the street north to the impressive main gate of Chion-in Temple. Climb the steep steps and enter the wide courtyard of Chion-in. The main hall is under construction how and will be for several years, so you don’t have to linger here. Return down the steps and continue north.
Shoren-in Temple Garden © kimon
11:00am: Shoren-in Temple
You’ll soon pass the enormous camphor trees in front of Shoren-in Temple. Enter the temple and enjoy a nice cup of green tea and a sweet while looking out over the garden.
11:45: Travel to Downtown Kyoto
Exit Shoren-in and walk north (downhill) to reach Sanjo-dori Street. Walk a short distance west (left) on Sanjo-dori to reach Higashiyama Station on the Tozai subway line. Take it two stops west and get off at Kyoto Shiyakushomae (downtown).
Nishiki Market © izzonme
1pm: Nishiki Market
After eating lunch, make your way to the east end of Nishiki Market (where it joins the Teramachi Shopping Arcade). It’s usually crowded here, even during the off-season. Hint: If you get tired of the crowds, you can bail by walking one block south and continuing along Shijo-dori Street.
2pm: Daimaru Basement Food Floor
After you emerge from the west end of Nishiki, continue straight for a block and you’ll see Daimaru Department Store on your left. Go down the stairs in front of the entrance and enter the food floor. Explore the food floor and be sure to check out the Japanese sweets and tea section.
2:30pm: Take the Keihan Line to Fushimi-Inari Station
Exit Daimaru via the main entrance onto Shijo-dori Street. Walk east on Shijo-dori, across the Kamo-gawa River, and walk downstairs into Keihan Gion-Shijo Station. Take the Keihan Line south to Fushimi-Inari Station (all trains EXCEPT the limited express stop at Fushimi-Inari).
Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine © 66321334@N00
3pm: Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine
The way is clearly marked from the station. Walk out of the station, take a left and walk up the hill, crossing the JR tracks. After crossing one relatively major street, you will see the first torii (gate) of the shrine. Walk up through this and you’ll shortly get to the main precinct of the shrine. Our Fushimi-Inari Hike gives a detailed route description. We don’t suggest doing the whole route on this day, but going up as far as Shin-ike Pond is a good idea.
Late Afternoon: Return to Hotel for Rest
By this point, you’ll definitely be in need of a rest. Take either the Keihan Line or the JR Line back from Fushimi-Inari to central Kyoto, depending upon where in town you are staying.
7pm: Dinner Downtown
Downtown Kyoto has the best selection of restaurants in town. For some picks, check out our Downtown Kyoto District page.
Gion Shimbashi in the evening © wakanmuri
After Dinner: Gion Shimbashi
After dinner, if you still have energy, a walk through Gion is a great idea. Start from Shijo-Ohashi Bridge (the big bridge on Shijo-dori over the Kamo-gawa River). At the east end of the bridge, cross Kawabata-dori and walk north on the east side of Kawabata for about 100 meters. You will soon see a tree-lined pedestrian lane. This is the end of Shirakawa-dori. Follow it east and you’ll get to the Shimbashi District (also known as Shirakawa), which is the most beautiful street in Kyoto. In busy seasons, it will be crowded with people. After checking it out, make your way through the alleys south to Shijo-dori and walk east to Shijo and cross over into Hanami-koji, another picturesque lane. This is geisha territory, so keep your eyes peeled.
Day 2: Arashiyama, Kinkaku-ji and Daitoku-ji
8:30am: Head west to Arashiyama by taxi, train or bus
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).
The garden and pond at Tenryu-ji Temple © neekohfi
9:00am: 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.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove © freakland
10:00am: 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.
Garden at Okochi-Sanso Villa © 29237715@N05
10:30am: 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. 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.
11:30am: 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.
12:30pm: 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.
Kinkaku-ji Temple © 43423301@N07
1:00pm: Kinkaku-ji Temple
Take your time strolling through the grounds of Kinkaku-ji. Yes, it will most likely be crowded at this time, but it almost always is.
2:00pm: Taxi to Daitoku-ji Temple
Again, there’s really no good way to go by public transport, so jump in a taxi to Daitoku-ji Temple. It will cost around Y2,000 from Kinkaku-ji. Note that if you’re starting to feel templed out by this point, consider cutting out Daitoku-ji and just head back to downtown Kyoto. Buses run for the Kinkakuji-michi stop to downtown and Kyoto Station.
Zuiho-in Subtemple at Daitoku-ji Temple © lejade
3:00pm: Karasuma Subway Line to Shijo Station
From Daitoku-ji, it’s about a 20-minute walk east on Kitaoji-dori Street to reach Kitaoji Station on the Karasuma subway line. This subway will get you downtown or to Kyoto Station in a few minutes.
Late Afternoon: Rest at your hotel
By this point, you’ll certainly be in need of some down time.
Pontocho by night © aussieassault
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
- A prepaid Icoca card makes travelling around Kyoto easy - here's how.
- Get travel insurance for Japan - we recommend World Nomads (and here's why)