Kyoto is world famous for its wonderful temples and shrines. But that’s only the beginning of the story. There’s also incredible shopping, bicycling, hiking, museums, galleries and green spaces. Here’s a full list of things to do in Kyoto.
Couple at Yasaka-jinja Shrine in Kyoto: Benny Marty / Shutterstock.com
This page is a directory of all the essential things to see and do in Kyoto. On this page, we list the main things to do in Kyoto to give you an overview and we link out to our pages where you can get all the details about each specific activity.
Things to Do in Kyoto List
Visit an Incredible Buddhist Temple
There are more than a thousand Buddhist temples in Kyoto, ranging from world-famous spots that are always crowded to quiet places where you can have the place to yourself. Check out our list of The Best Temples in Kyoto.
Tenryu-ji Temple main hall and garden: Chatchawat Prasertsom / Shutterstock.com
Walk Through a Shinto Shrine
To feel the spiritual energy of Japan, walk through the mystical gates of a Shinto shrine. For a list of the most powerful shrines, check out our list of the Best Shinto Shrines in Kyoto.
Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine: Jay Yuan / Shutterstock.com
Contemplate a Perfect Japanese Garden
Kyoto is home to the most beautiful gardens in Japan, with everything from tiny Zen gardens to expansive stroll gardens. Check out our list of Kyoto’s Best Gardens.
Garden at Ryoan-ji Temple: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
Stroll Through a Soothing Green Space
Had enough of crowds, concrete and neon lights? Why not head to one of Kyoto’s wonderful parks or other green spaces? Check out our list of Kyoto’s Best Green Spaces.
Kyoto Imperial Palace Park: DutchMen / Shutterstock.com
Eat a Fantastic Meal
You’ll have the best Japanese meals of your life in Kyoto. For our top picks, check out our Best Restaurants in Kyoto page. In addition, each of our district pages has a full list of restaurants in that area.
Sushi chefs in action: Benoist / Shutterstock.com
Find a Quiet Secret Spot
If you need some alone time, you’ll have no trouble finding a quiet place in Kyoto. For starters, try one of our Kyoto Off-the-Beaten-Track Itineraries.
Shisen-do Temple garden: Kanisorn Pringthongfoo / Shutterstock.com
Go for a Bike Ride
A bicycle is the perfect way to explore Kyoto. For all the details, check out our Cycling in Kyoto page.
Cycling along the Kamo-gawa River: Tupungato / Shutterstock.com
Go for a Hike
Kyoto is a hiker’s paradise. There are mountains on three sides of the city and they’re latticed with hiking trails. For our top picks, check out our Best Kyoto Hikes page.
The steps up to Kurama-dera Temple: mTaira / Shutterstock.com
Immerse Yourself in Japanese Arts
Kyoto is THE place to experience the wonders of the Japanese arts. For all the details, check out our Kyoto Arts page.
Two Kyoto maiko (apprentice geisha): Jon Chica / Shutterstock.com
Shop for the Perfect Souvenir
Japanese lacquerware: PAUL ATKINSON / Shutterstock.com
Escape the Crowds
With all these great things to see and do, it’s no surprise that Kyoto can get a little crowded, especially in the spring. But, it’s easy to escape the throngs. Check our How to Escape the Crowds in Kyoto.
Honen-in Temple gate: Anthony Shaw Photography / Shutterstock.com
Take a Daytrip Outside the City
Ohara Village: Sanga Park / Shutterstock.com
Take an Overnight Trip Outside the City
Couple strolling at Kinosaki Onsen: Rei Imagine / Shutterstock.com
See the show GEAR!
For something totally different that both kids and adults will enjoy, we strongly recommend checking out the non-verbal multimedia performance called GEAR.
GEAR cast and stage – image © Kishi Takako, courtesy of GEAR
Keep the Kids Happy
Traveling with kids? I know what that’s like. Check out our Kyoto With Children page.
Japanese family cycling in Kyoto: oneinchpunch / Shutterstock.com
If you want some ideas about how to put it all together, check out our Kyoto Itineraries page. And, if you want some help planning your trip, we’d be happy to help you plan things with Japan Travel Consulting.
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
- World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world