There are so many things to do in Kyoto that it would take a month even to scratch the surface. Here’s a list of the best temples, shrines, museums, activities, shopping, hikes and green spaces.
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.
This page is a directory of all the essential things to see and do in Kyoto. There’s also my recommended Kyoto itineraries listed below the activities.
- Kyoto’s Best Temples
There are over 1000 temples in Kyoto, so choosing a few to see on a short visit to the city can be a daunting task. That’s why I’ve put together this list of the best temples in Kyoto, divided into different categories.
- Kyoto’s Best Shrines
With over 400 Shinto shrines in Kyoto, choosing the best shrine to visit in Kyoto can be a daunting task. I’ve made a list of the best shrines in Kyoto to help you make the most of your time.
- The Best Restaurants In Kyoto
No visit to Kyoto would be complete without feasting on the city’s gastronomic treats, from gourmet restaurants to hole in the wall street stalls. And Kyoto has a whole array of its own local culinary delicacies if you want to really get a flavour of Japan
Ryoan-ji temple © eliazar
- Kyoto’s Best Gardens
Kyoto is a garden lover’s paradise. It is the best place in all of Japan to immerse yourself in the wonders of the Japanese garden. Here are my favorite gardens in Kyoto, organized by type.
Maiko at Kyoto Gion Corner © Michael Elleray
- Kyoto Arts: Where To See Them
Discover Kyoto’s best museums and where to see geisha, noh, kabuki and tea ceremony performances
- Kyoto Shopping – The Best Shops And Gifts
Kyoto is famous for temples, but it’s also a shopper’s paradise. Here’s some Kyoto shopping tips and a list of the best shops in Kyoto, both traditional and modern.
washi paper © apium
- Kyoto Souvenirs – What To Buy
Kyoto is the best place in Japan to buy authentic Japanese goods. Here’s a handy list of some great Kyoto souvenirs and the best place to buy them.
- Kyoto’s Secret Spots
One of the great joys of sightseeing in Kyoto is finding a quiet temple or shrine and having it all to yourself for an hour or two. Here’s my pick of Kyoto’s secret spots
image © Damien Douxchamps
- Off The Beaten Track Kyoto
Want to wander through Kyoto rarely seen by tourists and really get off the beaten track? Here are two half-day long Hidden Kyoto itineraries to show you some of the other faces of the city
- The Best Kyoto Hikes
Surrounded by mountains on three sides, Kyoto has some brilliant hiking. There are good hikes right in the city and others just a short train or bus trip away. Here are my five favorite hikes in and near Kyoto
Cycling around Kyoto © Gavin Anderson
- Best Bicycle Rides In Kyoto
Kyoto is regularly voted one of the best bicycle cities in Asia, and for good reason: The city is largely flat, roads are well maintained, drivers are sane and Kyoto looks fabulous from the vantage point of a bike!
- Kyoto’s Best Green Spaces
Kyoto is filled with green spaces – 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.
GEAR cast and stage – image © Kishi Takako, courtesy of GEAR
- GEAR Kyoto
If you’re looking for a performance that everyone in the family will like, regardless of age, you’ll love GEAR. It’s in the direction of Blue Man, but quite different and uniquely Japanese. It’s non-verbal, so no Japanese language ability is required. Highly recommended.
If you want to bring your kids to Kyoto, be sure to check out my Kyoto With Children page.
For more information about activities in Kyoto, visit our Kyoto Activities page.
And if you want to find out the best way to cover these sights and activities efficiently, see my Kyoto itinerary pages:
Browse All Kyoto Itineraries
- Must See Kyoto - 1 Day Itinerary
- Kyoto Itineraries For Families With Children
- Kyoto Off The Beaten Track Itineraries
- Kyoto Walking Itineraries
- Kyoto Itineraries - How To Spend 1 to 5 Days In Kyoto
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)