Kyoto has some of the most picturesque lanes and streets in all of Asia. The best way to enjoy them with someone special is to follow these three walking routes.
Gion Shirakawa in the evening: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
The three routes described here are best in the early evening. However, you can enjoy them at any time of the day or night. Just keep in mind that they will be pretty busy during cherry blossom season, since they go through some of Kyoto’s most popular sightseeing districts.
Pontocho Alley in the evening: Mihai-Bogdan Lazar / Shutterstock.com
You could easily link these routes to form longer walks. Routes 1 and 2 work very well together (consider skipping the last leg of Route 1 and crossing Shijo Bridge to get to the start of Route 2). Another option would be Route 3 followed by Route 2. And, if you’re a keen walker and the weather is nice, you could do all three walks in one long-ish evening.
Ishibei-kojo Lane in the evening: 7maru / Shutterstock.com
All three of these routes are shown on the Kyoto’s Most Romantic Walks map at the end of this page.
Note: The word “dori” means “street.” In the following descriptions we use the word “dori” for all streets, or we drop “dori” and just use the street name by itself. It should be clear from the context.
Route 1: Kiyamachi and Pontocho
Pontocho Alley in the evening: structuresxx / Shutterstock.com
- Starting Point: Nijo-Kiyamachi intersection (near Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae subway station)
- End Point: Gojo-Kiyamachi intersection (near Kiyomizu-Gojo Keihan Station)
- Distance: about 1km (about 1 hour)
- Highlights: cherry blossoms (in season); picturesque canal; traditional buildings; geisha sightings possible
This walk starts with a lovely and relatively quiet section of Kiyamachi, which runs along a cherry-tree-lined canal. You then enter Pontocho Alley, one of Kyoto’s traditional geisha districts. Finally, you walk down the quiet and atmospheric stretch of Kiyamachi between Shijo and Gojo.
Takasebune Canal next to Kiyamachi: Stray Toki / Shutterstock.com
- Get yourself to the intersection of Nijo and Kiyamachi.
- Walk south on Kiyamachi.
- Cross the Oike-dori, a wide boulevard.
- Continue down Kiyamachi to Sanjo-dori. You’re now in the Kiyamachi entertainment district.
- Cross Sanjo and continue south on Kiyamachi.
- Walk south on Kiyamachi for about 75 meters, past a ramen place and a gyoza place and take your first left.
- Walk about 50 meters and take a right into Pontocho Alley (a pedestrian-only lane).
- Walk all the way through Pontocho until you reach Shijo-dori.
- Take a right on Shijo and walk about 50 meters, which brings you back to Kiyamachi.
- Cross Shijo at Kiyamachi.
- Continue walking south down Kiyamachi (following the canal downstream), until you reach Gojo-dori.
- From here, you can walk across the river to Kiyomizu-Gojo Station on the Keihan Line or you can walk west on Gojo to reach Gojo Station on the Karasuma subway line.
Route 2: Gion Shirakawa
View from Tatsumi Bridge in Gion Shirakawa area: ESB Professional / Shutterstock.com
- Starting Point: Shijo-Kawabata (near Gion-Shijo Keihan Station)
- End Point: Shijo-Kawabata (near Gion-Shijo Keihan Station)
- Distance: about 1km (about 1 hour)
- Highlights: cherry blossoms (in season); beautiful preserved district; possible geisha sightings; Gion entertainment district
This short walk takes you through the most picturesque and traditional section of Gion, which is known as Gion-Shirakawa (also known Shimbashi). It’s very popular in cherry blossom season. You’ll then walk through a modern part of Gion and down the bustling Shijo-dori.
Gion Shirakawa Canal in evening in cherry blossom season: Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock.com
- Get yourself to the northeast corner of the Shijo-Kawabata intersection.
- Walk north on Kawabata for 150 meters, until you reach a canal.
- Walk east through the wide plaza next to the canal.
- Cross Yamatooji-dori and enter the preserved Gion-Shirakawa district.
- Keep following the canal along the flagstone street.
- After 150 meters, you will see Tatsumi-jinja Shrine on your left and a small bridge (Tatsumi Bridge) on your right.
- Cross Tatsumi Bridge and walk about 200 meters through Gion to Shijo-dori (a wide street).
- Take a right on Shijo and walk back to the Shijo-Kawabata intersection.
Route 3: Yasaka-jinja, Maruyama-koen and Nene-no-Michi
Nene-no-michi in the daytime: twoKim images / Shutterstock.com
- Starting Point: main gate of Yasaka-jinja Shrine, overlooking the Shijo-Higashioji intersection (not far from the Gion bus stop)
- End Point: main gate of Yasaka-jinja Shrine
- Distance: about 1.5km (about 1.5 hours)
- Highlights: Shinto shrine; beautiful park; cherry blossoms (in season); beautiful preserved district; atmospheric lanes
While this area is very crowded in the daytime, it is much quieter in the evening. In fact, we much prefer this area after dark. The lack of crowds and the subtle lighting really makes the whole area magical. For a really romantic stroll, this route can’t be beat.
Ishibei-koji in the evening: 7maru / Shutterstock.com
- Get yourself to the main gate of Yasaka-jinja Shrine. You can’t miss the stunning vermillion gate that looks over the busy Shijo-Higashioji intersection (and all of Gion).
- Walk up through the gate and follow the paths uphill to the right.
- You’ll soon find yourself in the wide plaza in front of the main hall of Yasaka-jinja.
- After checking out the shrine, continue uphill (toward the mountains) and enter Maruyama-koen Park.
- After checking out the park, take a right just before the pond and walk uphill (past Chorakukan Hotel). This is the start of Nene-no-Michi.
- Keep going straight on Nene-no-Michi for about 100 meters until the T-junction.
- Take a right at the junction and walk downhill for 50 meters and take a left. This is the main section of Nene-no-Michi, which is lined with temples and ryokan.
- Walk about 200 meters on Nene-no-Michi until you see a narrow flagstone alley on your right. This is Ishibei-koji Lane.
- Walk through Ishibei-koji. Take a left after Uemura Ryokan, then your first right. Walk straight until the T-junction then turn left.
- Take a right out of Ishibei-koji and walk straight until you reach the south entrance to Yasaka-jinja
- Walk through Yasaka-jinja and down to the main gate of Yasaka-jinja, where you started this walk. From here, it’s an easy walk to the Gion bus stop or down Shijo to downtown.
Yasaka-jinja in the evening: jukurae / Shutterstock.com
Kyoto’s Most Romantic Walks Map
These three routes, and the major sites and train/subway stations along them, are shown on the following map:
View the full size version of our Romantic Walks map which has each of the places discussed above marked on it
Other Useful Information
For some romantic places to stay, check out The Most Romantic Hotels and Ryokan in Kyoto page.
The Old Modern Garden Suite
If you’re here on honeymoon, check out our Honeymoon in Kyoto page.
For more itineraries, check out our Kyoto Itineraries page.
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 - World Nomads is well-regarded (and here's why)