The Northern Higashiyama Area is one of Kyoto’s most important sightseeing districts. It’s less crowded than Southern Higashiyama but it contains at least as many first-rate sights, including fantastic temples, shrines and lots of greenery.
Higashiyama Zoo © emrank
Northern Higashiyama Area Description:
The Northern Higashiyama Area runs along the base of the Higashiyama (Northern Mountains) from Sanjo-dori in the south to Shugakuin in the north. The western boundary of the district is the Kamo-gawa River. The area at the base of the mountains is basically one long strip of temples, while the central area, known as Okazaki-koen, is the city’s museum district.
Things To Do And See In Northern Higashiyama
- Nanzen-ji Temple
One of the best temples in the Northern Higashiyama district, Nanzen-ji Temple is a sprawling Zen paradise surrounded by lush green hills
- The Kyoto International Community House
The Kyoto International Community House has a lot to offer the short-term visitor, including a library with international papers and magazines, free internet and wifi
- Murin-an Villa
This perfect walled in garden just down the hill from Nanzen-ji Temple is a brilliant place to escape the crowds that plague the big-name spots of Higashiyama
- Heian-jingu Shrine
Heian-jungu Shrine is one of the most important and visually impressive Shinto shrines in Kyoto. It’s worth a visit, particularly on Shinto festival days
- Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art
The Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art is the best museum in Kyoto (it’s only eclipsed by the Kyoto National Museum when the National is holding a special exhibition)
- National Museum of Modern Art
Kyoto’s National Museum of Modern Art is a reasonably interesting museum that occasionally holds worthwhile special exhibits
- Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts
The Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts is a small free museum that showcases the main traditional crafts of Kyoto. It’s a great rainy day activity.
- Kyoto City Zoo
If your kids are strangely unimpressed by the subtleties of Buddhist temples, the Kyoto City Zoo can be a godsend
- Eikan-do Temple
One of Kyoto’s most famous fall foliage spots, Eikan-do Temple is a sprawling complex of gardens and halls that’s worth a visit outside of the fall foliage season
- Konchi-in Temple
Konchi-in Temple is one of the finer small temples in the Northern Higashiyama Sightseeing district. The garden alone is worth the price of admission
- The Path of Philosophy
The Path of Philosophy is easily one of the most attractive sights in Kyoto – a streamside path lined with blossoming trees and shrubs of every description
- Reikan-ji Temple
Only open for two brief periods a year, Reikan-ji Temple is a must-see attraction if you’re lucky enough to be in town when the gates are open
- Anraku-ji Temple
Another tiny charmer of a temple off of the Path of Philosophy, Anraku-ji is highly recommended if you’re in town when it’s open
- Honen-in Temple
Honen-in is our favorite temple in all of Kyoto, and that’s saying a lot in a city with over 1600 temples
- Ginkaku-ji Temple
Ginkaku-ji temple, the famed “Silver Pavilion”, has magnificient halls and gardens. It’s predicably popular so best visited in off-peak time
- Mt Daimonji-yama Hike from Ginkaku-ji Temple
The one-hour roundtrip hike from Ginkaku-ji Temple up to the viewpoint on Mt. Daimonji-yama is the best short hike in Kyoto. The view of the city from here in incredible! Here is everything you need to do this hike.
- Shinyo-do Temple
Shinyo-do Temple is a beautiful temple located atop Yoshida-yama Hill. The main hall here is sublime and the ground is dotted with cherry and maple trees.
- Konkaikomyo-ji Temple (Kurodani)
Konkaikomyo-ji Temple, better known as Kurodani, is a superb and rarely visited (by tourists) temple on Yoshida-yama Hill.
- Enko-ji Temple
This small temple in far Northern Higashiyama packs a huge punch: It’s got two incredible gardens, some fine Buddhist artwork and even a small bamboo forest reminiscent of the famous one in Arashiyama.
- Manshu-in Temple
A small gem of a temple well to the north of the “beaten path,” Manshu-in rewards the visitor with a fine garden, brilliant architecture and superb decorations
- Shisen-do Temple
Another northern temple far from the beaten track, Shisen-do Temple is the perfect choice for visitors who want to escape the crowds that plague better known spots
- Shugakuin Rikyu Imperial Villa
Shugakuin Rikyu Imperial Villa is the most spacious and, in some ways, the most pleasing of Kyoto’s four imperial properties
- Bishamon-do Temple
Bishamon-do Temple is a beautiful temple just over the Higashiyama Mountains from Kyoto in the suburb of Yamashina. It can be reached by train and subway, or by hiking trails from Nanzen-ji Temple.
- Robert Yellin Gallery
Located a short walk from Ginkaku-ji Temple, the Robert Yellin Gallery is a carefully curated gallery of Japanese pottery in a lovely traditional Kyoto house.
Places to Eat in Northern Higashiyama
Just down the hill from Ginkaku-ji Temple, Omen is one of our favorite restaurants in Kyoto. They serve some of Kyoto’s best udon noodles
- Daigin Shokudo
Daigin Shokudo is a great shokudo near Ginkaku-ji Temple. It serves the standard noodle and rice favorites. It’s a good choice for a meal when exploring Northern Higashiyama.
- Kyoto Soh-an Café is a great place for a cup of coffee or tea or a light meal when exploring Northern Higashiyama. You can usually get a seat here when the places closer to the temples are packed.
A great place to eat near Ginkaku-ji Temple, Goya is an Okinawan-themed restaurant with excellent food, cool music and comfortable seating
- Falafel Garden
A great vegetarian restaurant in northern Kyoto, Falafel Garden specializes in the eponymous falafel, but there’s plenty more on the menu to keep things interesting
One of Kyoto’s Michelin three-star restaurants, Hyotei is one of the most attractive restaurants in Kyoto. It’s a kaiseki restaurant that makes few concessions to foreign palates
- Hinode Udon
Hinode Udon is a fine lunch restaurant near Nanzen-ji Temple and the Path of Philosophy. As the name suggests, udon noodles are the specialty of the house
For a hearty bowl of ramen noodles in the Kyoto museum district (Okazaki-koen Park and Heian-jingu area), Karako is the obvious choice
- Au Temps Perdu
A perfect little French café on the edge of Kyoto’s museum district (Okazaki-koen Park), there are few better places in Kyoto to sip tea and watch the world go by
Choice restaurant is a great place to enjoy Japanese-style vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free food. It’s at Sanjo-Keihan, very close to Downtown Kyoto.
Ryokan in Northern Higashiyama
- Kyoto Garden Ryokan Yachiyo Hotel
The Garden Ryokan Yachiyo is a large ryokan near Nanzen-ji Temple, very used to foreign guests
Vacation Rentals in Northern Higashiyama
- Koto Inn
One of the finest vacation rentals in Kyoto, Koto Inn is a lovingly restored Japanese machiya with all the comforts that Western travelers have come to expect
Shopping in Northern Higashiyama
- Kyoto Handicraft Center
For one-stop souvenir shopping, the Kyoto Handicraft Center should be at the top of your list
For wanna-be samurai and other fans of Japanese swords and knifes, Tozando should be high on your itinerary
Nightlife in Northern Higashiyama
The only club we’ve ever seen inside a train station, the aptly named Metro is located in one of the entrance tunnels to the Keihan Line’s Marutamachi Station
- Kick Up
A cozy bar in Keage, just across the street from the Westin Miyako Hotel, Kick Up is an excellent place for a sociable drink in eastern Kyoto
Getting to Northern Higashiyama
- By subway from Kyoto Station: Take the Karasuma Subway Line to Karasuma-Oike Station and change to the Tozai Subway line heading east. Get off at Higashiyama Station and walk north to get to Okazaki-koen. Or, get off at Keage Station and walk north to get to Nanzen-ji Temple and the Path of Philosophy.
- By bicycle from Kyoto Station: Cycle east to the Kamo-gawa River and then cycle north (upstream) until you hit Sanjo-dori or Marutamachi-dori.
- By Hankyu Line (from Osaka etc): Get off at Kawaramachi Station.
- By Keihan Line (from Osaka etc): Get off at Sanjo Keihan Stations
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)