Places to visit in Kyoto in 2 days: our Kyoto itinerary
After two days in Osaka and one day in Nara, our last city in our Kansai tour was Kyoto. Called the “cultural capital” of Japan, Kyoto is often cited as the favorite city by tourists. And it’s obvious why once you visit it. This old imperial capital (until 1868) is the definition of a traditional city. It is a wonder how Kyoto managed to keep tradition in its value and still inspires authenticity. You do not feel any “fakeness” in the traditional ways of Kyoto, and that’s why people love it.
After two days in Kyoto we regretted not taking a longer vacation to extend the experience in this city. We would recommend taking 1 or 2 more days to stroll around the little temples and beautiful disctricts of this city. But if like us, you do not have the choice but stay 2 days, follow our Kyoto itinerary! We tried to cover as much ground as we could and to experience as much as possible.
- 1 Day 1 in Kyoto
- 2 Day 2 in Kyoto
- 3 End of the Itinerary
Day 1 in Kyoto
One of the joys of Kyoto is to experience the Japanese traditional clothing! Kimonos and Yukata rental shops are everywhere in Kyoto, so you really have the choice to get the Kimono that fits your taste. On our part, as we arrived at Kyoto station, we decided to not lose any time and got in the nearest rental Shop.
We found one on the 3rd floor of the Kyoto Tower, named Kyoto Kimono Rental Wargo. Honestly, it’s the one where all the tourist go, because it’s easily accessible. I am sure you can find better ones with a little bit of research, the service here was not excellent. However, the kimonos were satisfying!
Nishiki Market and lunch
As we arrived quite late, we headed directly to the Nishiki market. The Nishiki market is known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen”, and you will know why when you arrive there. They sell all kind of food in this narrow narrow street, and a lot of shops give free samples! So walk around, taste things and enjoy!
But don’t get too full as you have to go to lunch! Oh, and try to eat your lunch early, you have a big day ahead (and the temples can close quite early). We highly recommend a sushi restaurant located within the street, Sushi Shin. It’s a traditional sushi restaurant, with a bar and a chef serving you directly from behind the bar. You will enjoy watching the skills of the sushi master, and getting delivered live the freshly made sushi. And they are delicious! We highly recommend you try this restaurant.
Yasaka Shrine, Maruyama Park and Chion-in
From Nishiki market, head east towards Kawaramachi station. Go past the station, you will see a bridge. Cross the bridge, continue a bit and you will see a beautiful temple! The walk is in total aroun 15-20 minutes long, but it helps digesting the sushis!
That beautiful temple you will be seeing is called the Yasaka Shrine. It’s a Shinto Shrines, and was constructed around 1350 years ago. Also called the Gion Shrine, it’s the most famous temple in Kyoto, mostly for its accessibility and it’s close location to the Maruyama park.
If you are finished admiring the Yasaka Shrine, head to the Maruyama Park. If you are lucky (or you planned it, good job!), cherry blossoms will be filling the park. Of course, we were not lucky (and we didn’t plan it :p), so the park was mostly green.
But as you can see, still extremely beautiful. It’s really surprising how Japanese cities manage to keep splendid parks so clean and breath taking.
While you are there, you will see the famous weeping cherry tree. We really hope you will see it with cherry blossoms because it looks absolutely gorgeous!
Chion-in temple is very near the Maruyama park, so make sure to go check it out! Unlike the Yakasa Shrine, Chion-in temple is a Buddhist temple. It is amazing to see how different cultures and beliefs are coexisting in Kyoto (and Japan in general)!
Fushimi Inari Temple
Now it’s time to head to the famous Fushimi Inari temple. This temple is a Shinto temple (like the Yakasa Shrine), dedicated to the fox god Inari. Inari is the kami (god) of rice, commerce and the guardian of homes. The temple is famous for the thousands of vermillion gates which make the way to the peak of the mountain.
The path of thousands gates is truly beautiful, and walking in it is a memorable experience. The hike itself can take 2-3 hours, but you are free to come down whenever you want! We didn’t stay more than 1 hour in the hike! However, there were a LOT of people at the beginning, so maybe we would have enjoyed more quiet places if we had continued hiking. So it’s up to you to decide!
Now it’s time to head back to the subway to go to Gion, the famous traditional nightlife street! Just get back in the same subway line on the opposite side and get down in Gion-Shijo station.
Gion is a historic street at the heart of Kyoto, it’s highly appreciated by visitors because you can spot some Geishas and Maikos if you are lucky. Unfortunately, we were not luck (as always!), but we hope you will be :). Another good way to experience Kyoto’s traditional side would be to watch a Maiko performance, in the Gion-Corner for example (we didn’t try so we cannot recommend or not!).
Gion district has 3 main streets:
- Hanami – Koji: Most well known street, with a lot of high end restaurants
- Shirakawa: Gorgeous street longing the canal. A lot of restaurant with teraces with a canal view.
- Pontocho: Small but famous street for authenthic restaurants.
So go get lost now! Walk around, spot geishas, look at the restaurants, take a drink!
Dinner – Shabu Shabu at Yamafuku
We wandered around to find a restaurant for the dinner, and we found one amazing! We always wanted to try Japanese Shabu Shabu, a very good one. And Yamafuku is the BEST one we tried so far. It’s hands down the best restaurant we’ve been during this trip, so don’t miss it. We didn’t have to book, but we did wait for 15 minutes.
We recommend you to try the tempuras, the beef, the pork and the ramen at the end! That’s almost everything actually… Oh and don’t forget to take a bottle of Sake (or a Japanese beer, up to you. But we think the atmosphere is better for a sake).
The prices were:
- Beef set: 5000yen
- Pork set: 1680 yen
- Tempura: 980 yen
- Ramen: 500 yen
- Add 1 pork: 950 yen
- Add 1 beef: 1800 yen
Not cheap, but so much worth it!! Extra recommendation for this restaurant. We will go back to Kyoto just to eat there!
Address: 187 Zaimokucho NakaGyo-Ku, Kyoto 604-8017, Kyoto Prefecture
Day 2 in Kyoto
Start the day early, it will be quite packed!
Kinkaku-ji or the Golden Pavilion
The first step of the secon day is Kinkaku-Ji, the golden pavilion. Kinkaku-ji is one of the most visited temples of Kyoto, and is famous mainly for its golden walls. It has been burnt many times (latest one was in 1950), and rebuilt many times. It became a world heritage site in 1994. The gorgeous garden and the golden temple forms an unbeatable synergy and you will be at awe watching at the scenery. But… you won’t be alone. Expect a LOT of people. This really was the spot where we saw the most of tourist, and it can be challenging to enjoy the view. So try to get there early!
How to get to Kinkaku-Ji
We took the bus 205 from Kyoto Station and got off at Kinkaku-Michi stop. We really like travelling by bus!
Lunch: Japanese Hambagu and Tonkatsu at Itadaki
To optmize the time we had lunch near the Kinkaku-Ji, at a restaurant called Itadaki.
We took two very famous Japanese “modern” dishes:
- Tonkatsu: Deep Fried pork cutlet
- Hambagu: Hamburger pronounced japanese style
The restaurant was very good! Very casual yet tasty, we could experience a more modern Japanese taste. Recommended!
Tenryuji Temple is the biggest of the 5 big temples of Kyoto. It was constructed in the 14th century, for a deceased emperor by a shogun. The temple is greatly famous for the very pleasant walk in the absolutely beautiful garden of the temple. It’s also very near the famous bamboo grove of Arashiyama.
How to get there
It’s quite difficult to get to Tenryuji temple from Kinkaku-Ji. The best way might be to take a taxi. But we like the bus, so we took back the bus 205 and got to Nishioji-Sanjo. Then from there we took the Keifuku Dentetsu – Arashiyama line and got off at Arashiyama station. The whole trip was around 450 yen per person and it took 50 minutes.
The famous bamboo grove of Arashiyama is very easily accessible through the North exit of Tenryuji Temple. Just make sure that you finished with the temple before going out, you cannot come back!
The official name of this Bamboo Groove is The Sagano Bamboo Forest, and you surely have seen photos somewhere on the internet. It’s just one simple road through the forest, and it’s not a hike! So don’t worry about difficulty and go for it. However, it’s THAT famous, and unfortunately for you, there will be a LOT of people. We would have loved to walk the path with less people, but it’s the price to pay to visit such a wonderful place!
Arashiyama Monkey Park
To get to the Monkey Park, head towards Katsura River and walk along it. The view is beautiful so we really enjoyed the walk! You can also rent a boat and play on the river! But don’t get too close to the edge, we saw a couple getting stuck there because of the stream.
You will soon see a bridge, cross it and you will find some signs that will lead you to the monkey park! The entrance fee is around 500 yen, and you have to hike 20 minutes to get to the monkey park. The hike is quite steep!
We thought it would be like a zoo but…
The monkeys are out in the nature! It was amazing! You can also feed them from inside the caged building. It was the first time we were so close to wild monkeys! Really a memorable experience. But be sure to follow all the instructions of the staff (especially regarding food!)
After the monkey park we came back to the center of Kyoto. As we had some time left, we headed to the philosopher’s path, in the northern side. It’s a very quiet and pretty road and the walk is very enjoyable! We hesitated before going as it was quite far away from where we were,but at the end we were glad we did it!
The last dinner, we decided to do a Yakiniku, because we love that! And we know you love it too :).
We found a great place near Omiya Station, Yakiniku no Bull.
No english menu, but the staff will help you choose! The meat was great, and it goes very well with Japanese beer. It was actually so delicious that we ordered some more, even without understanding perfectly what we were ordering. You will feel the fatigue melt down!
After dinner, if you want to take a drink, we recommend going to the Izakaya marked on the map (couldn’t find the english name). It really looked great but we couldn’t try it as there were too many people. But just from the smell and the atmosphere we could feel it was great!
End of the Itinerary
That’s it, that was our last day in Japan… The end of our 6 days trip. If you have more days in Kyoto, you can read this 5 days itinerary of the Huffington Post!
We struggled to get back to the airport for an early morning flight, but that’s a funny story for another post.
We hope that you enjoyed this article, and that it helped you planning your trip!
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