Kyoto is filled with green spaces that provide welcome relief from the concrete boxes and drab houses that fill much of the city. In addition to parks, you’ll find greenery and open space in most temples and shrines. And don’t miss the Kyoto Gyoen – it’s Kyoto’s Central Park.
image © Jeffrey Friedl
Kyoto is one of the greenest cities in Japan. It’s a far cry from the concrete jungles of Tokyo and Osaka. In addition to its myriad temples, shrine and parks, there’s the vast expanse of the Kyoto Gyoen (Imperial Palace Park) smack dab in the middle of the city. And if those aren’t enough, Kyoto is surrounded by mountains on three sides. So, if you or your children need a break from concrete and neon, simply duck into one of the places I’ve listed below:
- Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine
Sprawling across a tree-covered mountainside in the southeast of the city, you can really feel the power of nature at this Shinto shrine. I consider this one of Kyoto’s must-see attractions.
- Maruyama-koen Park
In the middle of the Southern Higashiyama sightseeing district, this island of green is the perfect place to refresh yourself or give the kids a run.
- Nanzen-ji Temple
Most temples have a bit of greenery, but Nanzen-ji really stands out as a green oasis. In addition to the spacious central precinct, which has some lovely moss and maple trees, there is a lovely shrine and subtemple in the forest uphill from the temple.
- Kyoto Gyoen (Kyoto Imperial Palace Park)
Kyoto’s very own Central Park, this huge park, which surrounds the Kyoto Gosho (Imperial Palace), serves as a vast playground and escape for Kyoto’s residents. This is a great place to bring the kids and have a picnic. It’s also good for jogging (if you don’t mind jogging on gravel).
- Kyoto Botanical Gardens
These wonderful and spacious gardens are a fantastic place for a picnic or a stroll. And don’t miss the greenhouse.
- Kamo-gawa Riverside
The Kamo-gawa riverbanks are really just one long park. The riverbanks are the city’s most popular jogging path. And there’s nothing like grabbing a book, some food and drinks and just sprawling out here on a sunny day. Note that the further north you go, the wider and greener the banks get, especially on the west bank.
- Yoshida-yama Hill and Yoshida-jinja Shrine
This hill, which is located just south of Imadegawa-dori and east of the Kyoto University Campus, is one of the least visited but most rewarding green space in the city. And Yoshida-jinja Shrine, located on the west side of the hill, is magical. You can really feel the soul of Shinto here.
image © Jeffrey Friedl
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)