Kyoto is a garden lover’s paradise. It is the best place in all of Japan to immerse yourself in the wonders of the Japanese garden. Here are my favorite gardens in Kyoto, organized by type.
Many of the best Japanese gardens can be found inside temples, and with over 1600 temples, it’s no surprise that Kyoto is chock-a-block with fantastic gardens. Indeed, Kyoto has the thickest concentration of good gardens in all of Japan. Every type of Japanese garden is represented in Kyoto, from austere karesansui (“Zen gardens”) to flamboyant stroll gardens of the Shoguns and Emperors.
Of course, with so many gardens on offer, it can be hard to choose the ones to see during a visit to Kyoto. To help you decide, I’ve put together a very subjective list of the best gardens in Kyoto. Please remember that this should only serve as a starting point. Sample some of these beauties and then dig deeper to find your own favorite garden in one of Kyoto’s myriad temples.
Okochi Sanso villa © mshades
Best Overall Gardens In Kyoto:
- Karesansui (dry landscape or “zen” garden) at Ryoan-ji Temple
- Stroll garden at Ginkaku-ji Temple
- Hojo Garden at Tofuku-ji Temple
- Stroll garden at Okochi-Sanso Villa
- Garden at Taizo-in Subtemple at Myoshin-ji Temple
- All the subtemples of Daitoku-ji Temple (especially Koto-in)
Ryoan-ji temple © eliazar
Best Karesansui Gardens
(dry landscape gardens, often called “Zen gardens”)
Sentō-gosho Garden © djjewell
Best Gardens For Strolling:
If you want to find more places to wander while you’re in Kyoto, see my rundown of the city’s best green spaces.
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)