When to travel?

Kyoto is a city which is relatively cold in weather, as the prefecture is facing to the Japan Sea side.  The city is surrounded by mountains which would keep the city hot during summer and cold in winter.

Best season: Mar-Nov
Cherry blossoms: end of Mar-Apr
Foliage: Nov

Events / Festivals

Jan: First Tenjin festival (初天神), Kitano Tenmangu (北天満宮)
Mar: Nagashi Bina doll festival (流し雛), Shimogamo shrine (下賀茂神社)
May: Kawadoko (川床), Kamogawa (鴨川)
Jun: Kifune festival (貴船祭り), Kifune shrine (貴船神社)
Jul: Gion festival (祇園祭), Yasaka shrine (八坂神社)
Oct: Jidai festival (時代まつり), Heian shrine (平安神宮)
Dec: Hana toro (花灯路), Arashiyama (嵐山)

Touristic spots

Capital city: Kyoto (京都)

The city has been the central of Japan for more than 1000 years.  Even after Edo Shogunate has opened their government in Tokyo, Kyoto remained its influence until 19th century.  When Tokyo came to full power was only after 1868, when Emperor has moved to Tokyo.

Kyoto has different faces, depending on the season; Do research before visiting, and you will find so many seasonal events.  In this article, we are going to divide the city into 5 sections and see what is available in each area.

Kawaramachi (河原町) and Eastern area.

It is the city center of Kyoto.  It is more like shopping and café street, with full of shops.  But if you just step out of the main street, you may find some of the must-see sites in Kyoto.

Kiyomizu temple (清水寺), the most iconic image of Kyoto.
Ginkakuji temple (銀閣寺), they first had a plan to make it silver-plated as a contrary to Kinkakuji temple (金閣寺).
Philosopher’s walk (哲学の道), it is a 1.6 km path where you can just walk and think like a philosopher.
Eikando (永観堂), this place is too famous for its foliage.
Daigoji (醍醐寺) in spring with cherry blossoms.
Nineizaka (二寧坂)old street in winter.

Arashiyama (嵐山) and Western area

Arashiyama is a mountain in Kyoto city, which is surrounded by so many touristic sites.  Also, the access is so easy as there are direct trains from other prefectures.

The place is also known for being the best place to enjoy nature in all seasons, so that royals and even Emperor had enjoyed having a tea ceremony around this area.

Kinkakuji temple (金閣寺), it snows only few days in Kyoto, so if you can see the temple with snow, you are very lucky.
Togetsukyo bridge (渡月橋), the symbol of Arashiyama.
Ryoanji temple and garden (龍安寺石庭), Queen Elizabeth the 2nd has visited the garden and evaluated highly. 
Path of Bamboo (竹林の小径), 600 meters narrow street of bamboo forest.

Shijo (四条) and city center.

City center which has played an important role in governing the whole country.  There is Nijo castle (二条城) and Kyoto Imperial Palace (京都御所) where Emperors lived.  There are also many restaurants and canteen available, especially in the area called Ponto cho (先斗町).

There is also JR Kyoto station in this area.

Nijo castle (二条城), where Meiji Emperor came back to power in 1867.
Kyoto Imperial palace (京都御所), which was used from 1331 until 1869.
Ponto cho (先斗町) and full of small restaurants and canteens.

Kurama (鞍馬) and Northern area

This is the area full of serene and tranquil temples.  As the area is located on the way to mountains, it is highly recommended that you wear comfortable shoes and clothes when walking around this area.

Steps to Kifune shrine (貴船神社).
Kuramadera temple (鞍馬寺), the temple has Tengu (天狗) , a kind of god or monster legend.  

Uji (宇治) and Southern area

The area is actually not in Kyoto city, but it is in Uji city.  The area is also known for its famous green tea brand.  Matcha green tea is also known as Uji Matcha (宇治抹茶), because their tea leaves have been used in many occasions, the name Uji is known to so many people in Japan.

Byodoin Hououdo (平等院鳳凰堂) and Fushimi Inari (伏見稲荷) represent this area, too.  When you look at 10 yen coin, Byodoin Hououdo is engraved.  Fushimi Inari, which actually is in Kyoto city, has been the top visited place by foreign tourists within Kyoto.

Tea production in Uji.
Byodoin Houhoudo (平等院鳳凰堂).  Houou (鳳凰) is a legendary bird that never dies.
Fushimi Inari (伏見稲荷) and thousand Torii gates.  It is a shrine of fox.

Kyotango area (京丹後地方)

Kyotango is the upper northern part of Kyoto and has abundant places to see.

The most famous view is Ama no Hashidate (天橋立), which is chosen as one of the 3 best views of Japan.  There is another spot where there are a lot of traditional buildings called Ine no Funaya (伊根の舟屋), which is the under the protection by Japanese government.  There are around 230 houses built over the ocean and has a ship garage just under their houses, which depicts the life of the fisherman in old times.

Ama no Hashidate (天橋立).
Fishermans’ houses in Ine (伊根).