Kyoto Travel Guide

Tradition. Culture. Festivals. These are among the first words that come to my mind when I think about Kyoto (京都). Believe me when I say that I am totally in love with this city.

A long long time ago, from 794 to 1868, Kyoto was the emperor’s residence and capital of Japan (日本). Consequently it grew to immense importance and was the target for destruction in many wars.

Due to its great historical value however, it was not targeted in World War II, hence many temples (寺) and shrines (神社) can be appreciated in all their beauty even today.

In 1868, Kyoto ceased to be the capital as the emperor moved to then Edo, which is known as Tokyo (東京) today.

Now, Kyoto is one of the ten largest cities of Japan with a population of about 1.5 million people. While it does of course present a wide spectrum of historical and traditional sights, modern features can also be enjoyed in this city.

Arriving in Kyoto

In my first trip to Japan, I started in Tokyo. After a few days, I took the Shinkansen (新幹線) with my Japan Rail Pass and arrived in Kyoto after only about 2.5 hours.

It was amazing. The first big difference: The main method of public transport is not trains or the subway, but busses. Kyoto is easily accessible by those and also very affordable! You can buy an all-day pass for only 500 Yen (3,85€/$4.55) (Exchange rates for this article as of June 2018). If you ride the bus at least 3 times, it already pays off!

Also, You can use your IC-Cards like Suica or Pasmo on these busses!

The overall atmosphere is just drastically different from Tokyo. While Tokyo also offers a few temples and similar sights, Kyoto has a lot more and they are more impressive!

By now you should definitely be interested! Kyoto is second only to Tokyo when it comes to yearly visitors.

To give you an idea of what you can expect coming here, I will give you an overview of the main things to visit, similar to what I did in my article about Tokyo!


Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
Philosopher's Path
Maruyama Park
Imperial Palace Park


Kinkakuji - The Golden Pavilion
Ginkakuji - The Silver Pavilion
Fushimi Inari - 1000 torii gates leading up a mountain
Kiyomizudera - famous temple with amazing view over Kyoto
To-ji - temple in the Higashiyama area
Ryoanji - beautiful dry sand garden
Tenryuji - important temple around Arashiyama


Kyoto Tower - directly besides Kyoto Station
Kyoto Station - offering lots of cool places such as the Ramen Street
Kyoto Aquarium
Gion - famous district with an annual festival
Pontocho - famous dining and shopping alley
Nishiki Market - spacious shopping and dining area
Nijo Castle - Residence of the well-known shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu
Higashiyama - Eastern area of Kyoto with attractions like Kiyomizudera, Ginkakuji and more

Nearby areas/cities

Osaka - very close and big city, often called "little Tokyo"
Nara - famous deer park and wooden temple
Himeji - well-known castle
Kobe - home to the famous kobe beef
Mount Koya - mountain south of Osaka, temple-lodging possible

Kyoto is located in the middle of the Kansai Region (関西). All the places mentioned above, with the exception of Mount Koya (高野山), lie within 1 hour of Kyoto. That means if you come to the city, you should surely check out these other cities as well!

As with Tokyo and all the other cities, I will create an individual post for every one of these points including access and anything that you need to know! (this is going to take forever)



And that shall be it for the main part! I hope you liked my little fanfiction of Kyoto. Already been to Kyoto or plan on going? Drop a comment down below and tell me your story!

The bottom line: I’m in love with Kyoto and I know you will love it too so you should totally go!

Don’t leave just yet, I will provide you with some valuable information about getting to Kyoto right after this paragraph!

Thank you for reading up until now, I really appreciate it!
Stay tuned for my next article which is going to be about one of the nicest elements of Japanese culture: Onsen! (温泉) (hot spring bath).

How to get to Kyoto

You will very likely get to Kyoto from either Tokyo or Osaka (大阪).   There are a few options from which you can choose:

By Train (電車)

As already mentioned above, I took the Shinkansen Hikari (what the different types of Shinkansen mean and which you should look out for will be covered in the article about the Japan Rail Pass) from Tokyo Station (東京駅) to Kyoto station (京都駅) which takes about 2.5-3 hours and costs around 13,500 Yen (103€/$122) one way. HyperDia is a great resource to check train schedules and prices.

If you have a Japan Rail Pass and already activated it, going with the Shinkansen is the obvious choice. But even if you do not, the travel is quite fast and a ride on a Shinkansen is also quite exciting in my opinion.

By Bus (バス)

Want to go with a cheaper option? Take the highway bus. You can either ride one that drives throughout the day or you can book a ride on a night-bus, which would also save you one night of accommodation.

These busses usually start at Tokyo or Shinjuku Station (新宿駅)   and take about 7-8 hours to get to Kyoto. Ticket prices start at around 3,500 Yen (27€/$32), but can get up to 10,000 Yen (77€/$91) if you are looking for more comfort and services on the ride. 

By Airplane (飛行機)

You can also take a plane from Tokyo to Kyoto. However, Kyoto does not have an own airport which means you would have to land at the nearest one to it which is Osaka’s Itami Airport.

It takes about one hour per bus to get to Central Kyoto from Itami Airport.

Flight connections are available from Haneda (羽田) or Narita Airport (成田空港) in Tokyo. The flight takes around one hour. The cheapest airline is Jetstar starting at around 7,000 Yen (54€/$64).

Keep in mind that big luggage can and in most cases will cost an extra fee, as these flights are mainly designed for short trips without such luggage throughout the country.

From Osaka

Chances are, that you start your Japan trip here and not in Tokyo. In that case, you will very likely land in Kansai International Airport (関西国際空港).

From there you can take either train or bus. Taxi is of course also an option but that would be way more expensive so I do not recommend it.

The train ride will take about 70-80 minutes and cost 2,850 Yen (22€/$26) for a non-reserved seat and 3,500 Yen (27€/$32) for a reserved seat.

Riding the bus takes around 100 minutes and will set you back around 1,900 Yen (14,50€/$17).

It is all a question of whether you prefer time or money. A nice bonus for the bus ride is of course, that you can enjoy more of the scenery on the way compared to the train ride.

Fees and fares are subject to change. Exchange rates as of June 2018.

See you next time!

Please share if you liked it! 🙂

Adventurous-Japan Author

Hi! I'm Daniel and I live in Germany. Passionate lover of everything Japanese. Thank you for reading!

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