The Northwest Kyoto Area is a bit of a hike from downtown or the station, but it contains several of Kyoto’s most important sights like Kinkaku-ji Temple (the Golden Pavilion), Ryoan-ji Temple (with its famous rock garden) and Myoshin-ji Temple.
Golden Pavilion at Kinkakuji Temple
Northwest Kyoto Area Description:
The Northwest Kyoto Area encompasses a large swath of the city north of Imadegawa-dori and west of Senbon-dori, bounded on the west by the mountains that rise in the north and west of the city. Buses, taxis or bicycles are the best way to explore this area.
Sights and Activities in Northwest Kyoto
- Kinkaku-ji Temple (the Golden Pavilion)
Kinkaku-ji, the famed ‘Golden Pavilion,’ is Kyoto’s most iconic sight. It’s well with a visit, just try to pick a time when the crowds aren’t there
- Ryoan-ji Temple
Japan’s most famous ‘Zen’ garden consists of 15 carefully placed rocks that float mesmerizingly on sea of gravel – an example of carefully calculated randomness
- Toji Temple
This rarely visited temple in Northwest Kyoto is a hidden gem. The garden is superb, the halls are elegant and the teahouse is sublime.
- Myoshin-ji Temple
Myoshin-ji Temple is a walled-in world of Zen temples that easily merits a half-day or even full day of leisurely exploring
- Ninna-ji Temple
Yet another sprawling temple compound in Northwest Kyoto, Ninna-ji Temple is a rarely visited temple that makes for long contemplative strolls
- Kitano-Tenman-gu Shrine
One of Kyoto’s most beautiful shrines which is popular with students praying for success on exams. It’s also home to one of Kyoto’s best flea markets
- Daitoku-ji Temple
Not just a temple – a world of temples. Daitoku-ji Temple is home to some of my favorite Zen gardens in Kyoto.
- Haradani-en Garden
Kyoto’s most spectacular cherry blossom spot is little-known Haradani-en Garden. Located in northwest Kyoto, it’s a must-see for serious cherry blossom fans.
- Tea Ceremony Camellia Garden
Camellia Garden is the most beautiful easily accessible tea ceremony venue in Kyoto. This is a super place to experience the Japanese tea ceremony.
- Tea Ceremony KOTO
Tea Ceremony KOTO is a great place to try a traditional Japanese tea ceremony when in Northwest Kyoto.
- Robert Mangold Gallery
For serious collectors of Japanese art and antiques, a visit to the Robert Mangold Gallery is a must. The gallery carries a wide range of work, from Jomon to contemporary, with ceramics, tea ware, painting and Japanese armor well represented.
Best Budget Hotels in Northwest Kyoto
- Utano Youth Hostel
Kyoto’s best youth hostel is located way up in the northwest corner of the city – you’ll want a bicycle if you’re staying here
Places To Eat In Northwest Kyoto
Hanamakiya is a brilliant little restaurant that serves handmade soba in pleasant surroundings just a short walk from Kinkaku-ji Temple. It’s the perfect place for lunch after visiting the temple.
Looking for a vegan meal in beautiful surroundings? Try a shojin-ryori lunch at Izusen in Daitoku-ji Temple. Their gorgeous and elaborate meals are sure to be a highlight of your visit to Kyoto.
- Hamazushi Kinkakuji
If you’re looking for a fun and casual sushi lunch near Kinkaku-ji Temple, then look no further than Hamazushi, a great, family-friendly kaiten (conveyor belt) sushi place 15 minutes’ walk from the temple.
- Kinkakuji Itadaki
If you fancy a meaty and filling lunch near Kinkaku-ji Temple, then take the short walk south to Kinkakuji Itadaki. It’s a welcoming place that specializes in “yoshoku” (Japanese versions of Western dishes).
- Kinugasa Zen
For tasty tempura and noodle dishes near Kinkaku-ji Temple, take the short walk south to Kinugasa Zen
Getting to Northwest Kyoto
- By train from Kyoto Station: the JR Sagano/San-in Line stops near Myoshin-ji Temple. The Randen Line stops a short walk from Ninna-ji Temple
- By bicycle from Kyoto Station: Cycle north on Karasuma and through the Kyoto Gosho, then cut west on Imadegawa-dori
- By bus from Kyoto Station: Kyoto City Bus #101 or 205 to Kinkakuji-michi
- By bus from downtown Kyoto: Kyoto City Bus #12 or 59 from Sanjo-Keihan to Kinkakuji-mae
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)