Kyoto is a must when travelling Japan. Being the former capital I was looking forward to seeing all the temples and shrines that are steeped in history. The temples are beautiful but definitely go early to beat the crowds. Some of the best sites we came across were found just wondering around the place on foot but the local buses are easy to navigate between temples.
Explore off the beaten track to find hidden gems, quaint coffee shops in quiet neighbourhoods, quirky architecture and local eats. Our Air BnB provided bikes and it’s safe to cycle around on side streets and on the footpaths.
Air BnB – Best location, in the middle of Kyoto with two free bikes to tour around the city.
Monk – a small restaurant located just along the Philosopher’s Walk.
A menu of simple food prepared by the primitive way of cooking around live “Fire”. The feature dish is Sourdough Pizza cooked inside a wood fired oven. The Head Chef / Owner, Yoshihiro Imai, every morning visits farms tucked in the mountains of Ohara and visit markets around Kyoto to collect and gather fresh ingredients. @yoshihiroimai
The top floor is called Studio Monk and runs yoga sessions.
Location – 147 Jodoji Shimominamidacho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8404
Nishiki Market – Often called “Kyoto’s Kitchen,” is the best traditional food market in the city. Popular with both locals and tourists, it offers you a glimpse into a traditional Japanese shotengai (shopping street). There are also street food stalls selling yakitori or sashimi, and many restaurants to enjoy.
Ramen Sen No Kaze – The best Ramen in Kyoto! You may have to wait 2 hours for a table by putting your name on the waiting list but it is completely worth it! Fun counter top bar dining where you can watch the action in the kitchen and a handful of tables. Eat the Gyoza & Yamato no Miso.
Location – 580 Nakanocho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8042
Whilst you wait, spend time trawling through the well stocked rails of vintage clothing opposite at Three Star Kyoto, see below in Shop section.
Clamp Coffee Sarasa – Coffee shop located down a back alley in a residential area of Kyoto. Serving roasted in house coffee blends and delicious food. Eat the French toast with vanilla ice cream, banana, berries, honey, cinnamon and the French toast with blue cheese, raw ham and honey. The small shop in the entrance sells coffee, snacks, books, records, CDs, local crafts and own brand merchandise such as local graphic designed T-shirts. @clampcoffeesarasa
Location: 67-38 Shokushi-cho, Nishinokyo, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto.
% Arabica – a stone’s throw away from Hokanji Temple, Gion District. Custom made Slayer espresso machines are being operated by latte-art world champion/instagram sensation Junichi Yamaguchi (@junichi_yamaguchi). @arabica.coffee
Location – 87-5 Hoshino-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, 605-0853
Tea House Assam Kyoto – Built by Korean architects and the owner still lives in the building. A relaxed haven to enjoy Japanese sweets and tea and listen to his favourite piano music.
Location – 53 Shishigatani Kamimiyanomaecho Sakyo-ku Kyoto
Vermillion Cafe – As you exit the Fushimi Inari on the northern side of the temple you will come across Vermillion Cafe. Eat the Matcha Ganache homemade exclusively for Vermillion. Enjoy some time away from the hustle and bustle on the terrace overlooking a lake and garden. The shop sells local arts and crafts including ceramics. See Fushimi Inari Torri in ‘See’ section below. @vermillion_cafe
Location – 85 Onmaecho Inari Fukakusa, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto 612-0881
‘The Face House’ Kao no ie – by architect Kazumasa Yamashita – Having seen a picture of The Face House at the Japanese House Exhibition at the Barbican in London, I had to find it in person. The architect designed the building for a graphic designer who still lives on the second floor. Ground floor is a creative studio and shop called OOO. Wandering around a non-touristy part of Kyoto is beautiful. We used our bikes provided from our Airbnb and found cycling around Kyoto straight forward and convenient.
Location: 740-1 Tatedaionjichō, Nakagyō-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 604-0012
There are around 1600 Buddhist temples and more than 400 Shinto shrines in Kyoto. Wandering around on foot you are bound to stumble upon many beautiful examples.
Kyoto UKIYOE Museum – Art Gallery showcasing paintings depicting the lives of common people in Kyoto in late 16th century. The museum exhibits works by artists from the Edo period in Japan.
Location – 600-8004, Kirihata Building 2nd floor, 365 Naramono-cho, Shijo Teramachi Nishiiri, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto
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.
Hokanji Temple also known as Yasaka-no-To Pagoda, Gion District
Gion District – Kyoto’s most famous geisha district. Gion attracts tourists with its high concentration of traditional wooden machiya merchant houses.
Kiyomizu-dera Pagoda – composed of several Buddhist temples from the Edo Period and was used by visiting samurai. As well as being a World Heritage Site, Kiyomizu was recently submitted as a candidate as a New Seven Wonders of the World.
Philosophers Path – In early June it is Hydrangeas season in Japan and these beautiful flowers bloom along the Philosophers Path. During Cherry Blossom season this is one of the most popular routes to come and view the trees.
Ginkaku-ji temple, the famed “Silver Pavilion”, has magnificient halls and gardens. It’s predictably popular so best visited in off-peak times
Chion-in Temple – Sometimes called the Vatican of Pure Land Buddhism, this vast temple is one of the most and popular temples in the city. It’s highly recommended. Home to Japan’s largest temple bell, which was commissioned in 1633 and weighs 74 tons. It requires a twenty-five man team to sound it.
Fushimi Inari Torii gates – Touristy until you get to the top. If you walk the whole of the circular route it’s quiet and beautiful with the gates more spaced out.
Ryozen-kannon -Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, a war memorial commemorating the War dead of the Pacific located in Eastern Kyoto.
Three Star Kyoto – Whilst you wait at Ramen se no Kaze, spend time trawling through the well stocked rails of antiques, vintage clothing and gallery space with local designers.