A Quick Guide to Kyoto

A Guide to Kyoto | World of Wanderlust
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Once the capital of Japan for more than a millennium, Kyoto is a city that is rich in history and ancient traditions, though first time visitors may be surprised at just how hidden Kyoto’s history lies within a now bustling metropolis. Kyoto is Japan’s 7th largest city and although small in size compared to the likes of Tokyo and Osaka, this city packs a lot in, if you know where to look. As it is so often considered to be Japan’s prettiest and most charming city (particularly throughout cherry blossom season from late March – mid April). Thus if you’re looking for quintessential Japanese charm and age old traditions, this guide is your complete quick guide to Kyoto!

Fushimi Inari Taisha Kyoto | World of Wanderlust

A Quick Guide to Kyoto

What to See

Kyoto is full of charm by way of temples, shrines, and gorgeous natural scenery. However the most famous locations to visit are dotted throughout the city, making them difficult to reach in a short space of time, so at least 3 days in Kyoto is recommended.

A Guide to Kyoto | World of Wanderlust

Arashiyama (bamboo groves)

Located on the western outskirts of Kyoto is an impossible beautiful bamboo forest that you simply cannot come to Kyoto without visiting. Arashiyama opens at 9am daily and as crowds form quickly, it is best to visit first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon to see the sun set. Public holidays and weekends should be avoided if possible as the serenity is somewhat diluted with hoards of crowds to elbow your way through! There is no fee to visit.

Fushimi Inari Taisha Kyoto | World of Wanderlust

Fushimi Inari Taisha

As the head shrine of Inari (by now on your travels in Japan you’ve probably seen countless torii gates symbolising the entrance to an Inari shrine), Fushimi Inari Taisha is by far the most impressive of all these, and perhaps the most impressive religious site to visit in the entire country! The thousands of red torii gates all lead to the sacred Mt. Inari, heading up hill and spanning a distance of 4 kilometres (roughly 1.5-2 hours walk one way). There is no fee to visit.

Moss Garden Kyoto


Saihō-ji (moss garden)

If you are well prepared and intent on visiting, the Saihō-ji moss garden is an absolutely gorgeous natural place of worship that is unlike any other in the world. In order to visit you will need to apply in advance to make a reservation, at least 7 days outside of your visit, though much more time is recommended. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the moss garden is incredibly worth the extra effort if you have your heart set on visiting. The price to enter is 3000 yen per person.



Located in the Higashiyama District of Kyoto is Sanjūsangen-dō, an impressive Buddhist temple with 1,001 statues inside the sacred walls. Visitors are not allowed to take photos of the statues inside, however photography outside in the garden area is entirely allowed. The price to enter is 600 yen and the temple opens 8:00-17:00 daily (9:00-16:00 from Nov 16 – March 31).

Kyoto Japan | World of Wanderlust Kyoto Japan | World of Wanderlust

Gion (geisha district)

Gion is for certain Kyoto’s most well-known Geisha district in Kagai (translates to “flower town”). If you would like to visit each separate district, these are: Kamishichiken, Pontocho, Miyagawacho, Gion-higashi and Gion-kobu.

In Goin you are able to see Maiko (apprentice Geisha) and Geiko (Geisha) in traditional kimono walking through the streets of Gion, located in downtown Kyoto. This area extends from Sanjo and Gojo streets in the north and south to Higashiyama and Kawabata streets to the east and west.

Address: Gion, Higashiyama-ku
Nearest Subway & Bus: Keihan Railway Shijo Station, Hankyu Railway Kawaramachi Station, or City Bus Stop Gion

Kyoto Gion Parfaits

Food to Try in Kyoto

Street food and matcha (green tea) reign supreme in Kyoto, a city that is highly regarded for its fantastic Japanese cuisine. Eating in Kyoto doesn’t need to be expensive, and more often than not the best food can be found in local markets in the downtown area. If matcha flavoured ice cream, parfaits, frappes, hot drinks (and oodles more) are what you’re after, head to Gion district for a wide selection. Here are my favourite finds:

Vegetarian in Japan | World of Wanderlust

Tamagoyaki (fried egg)

One thing I ate a lot of in Kyoto and more than anywhere else in Japan was tamagoyaki – which is more or less fried egg – the same kind you’ve probably tried before at your local sushi store at home. It is a great cheap street food to grab on the go, especially for the vegetarians!


Japanese sweet dumplings – also known as Dango – are an incredibly popular treat to grab on the go at markets in Kyoto. You’ll find many variations with some being plain and others in various sweet colourings – but all taste fairly similar. While they are a little tasteless for my liking (I have a mega sweet tooth), they’re still great to try. Prices vary, but expect to pay around 300-500 yen for 3-5 dumplings on a skewer.

Green tea soft serve

If I know one thing for sure about the Japanese after my visit it is this: they love their ice cream. Everywhere you go all over the country you will be tempted and spoiled for choice, with popular flavours including matcha (green tea – especially popular in Kyoto), tofu milk, yogurt, cherry blossom, blueberry, chocolate, strawberry, lavender… almost anything you could imagine! Expect to pay anywhere between 250-480 yen for a matcha soft serve ice cream in Kyoto.

Kyoto Gion Parfaits

Green Tea Parfait

A delightful treat you absolutely must try in Kyoto is known as a parfait – an indulgence if ever there were one! Packed with ice cream, jelly, cake and fruits, the parfait craze is alive and well in Kyoto! Be brave and try the local speciality – green tea (matcha) – you will be surprised by the deliciousness!

The best area to find parfaits is in Gion (geisha district) and you will be spoiled for choice. A line out the front guarantees a worthwhile treat, or play it safe and head to the popular tea lounge koishi. Expect to pay anywhere between 900-1400 yen per parfait.

A Guide to Kyoto | World of Wanderlust A Guide to Kyoto | World of Wanderlust A Guide to Kyoto | World of Wanderlust

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  • brooklyn_0391@hotmail.com'
    April 12, 2016 at 7:20 am

    I’m not sure which looks more beautiful, the moss garden or the matcha parfait!

  • me@readysetgab.com'
    April 9, 2016 at 4:31 am

    Lovely photos! How were you able to take photos at the Fushimi Inari Shrine and the Bamboo Groves without any hint of other tourists? 🙂 When we went, it was quite impossible to get photos without anyone else in the background! 🙁

  • bananakonggame@gmail.com'
    descargar gratis whatsapp
    April 8, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    Oh wow, I am in love with Japan now

  • freecoresite@gmail.com'
    April 8, 2016 at 1:08 am

    I’ve been watching your vlogs cos I’m absolutely in love with Japan at the moment. Want to go so badly, I think about it all the time. Thanks for sharing the awesome photos and ideas, gonna check some of these out when I finally go.

  • theinspirationhighway.blogspot@gmail.com'
    Samm - The Inspiration Highway
    April 2, 2016 at 2:15 am

    What an amazing place! I desperately want to visit as the culture just really appeals to me. Where was your fave place in Japan?

  • thisoffscriptlife@gmail.com'
    Jennifer @ This Off Script Life
    April 1, 2016 at 3:14 am

    Kyoto is still one of my most memorable trips. Loved walking through the serene pathways between the temples and eating a traditional tofu lunch. I even spotted a real Geisha in the Geisha district — a good time to go is just after dark.

  • Willflyforbeer@gmail.com'
    March 31, 2016 at 8:22 pm

    I concur! You need a few days to really enjoy the city. I’m in Kyoto as I’m typing this and not only were some of the areas you mentioned on my itinerary but so were some other beautiful temples, like Kinkakuji, and the Philosopher’s Path especially with the blooming of the cherry blossoms. Foodies would also get a kick out of the Nishiki Market. My friend and I stayed at a more traditional Japanese hotel which was different but worth the experience. Glad you had a great time! I’ve been enjoying it here!

  • londonkitchendiaries@gmail.com'
    March 31, 2016 at 2:25 am

    Japan is such a beautiful country! Loved Kyoto with all the gorgeous temples and the lush and green bamboo groves (every photographers heaven).

  • sasharrrr@hotmail.co.uk'
    March 31, 2016 at 12:09 am

    Such an amazing post! I love your photos – I went to Kyoto a few years back and such a wonderful cultural experience!

  • sara_mcavoy@hotmail.com'
    sara mcavoy
    March 30, 2016 at 11:30 pm

    I am so jealous! My list of where to travel in Japan is just growing larger and larger!
    Beautiful pictures!

  • conor.rees15@hotmail.com'
    conor rees
    March 30, 2016 at 9:38 pm

    Love the photos 🙂

  • karmapoliice@gmail.com'
    Tessa / Bramble & Thorn
    March 30, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with this post, and a million times yes to the green tea ice cream! I think I ate it every day I was in Kyoto, it’s so delicious!

    Tessa at Bramble & Thorn

  • cateaclysmic@gmail.com'
    March 30, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    I loved Kyoto so much we were there for 3 days and it just wasn’t enough I could have easily spent our whole trip there there’s just so much to see and do and the food especially the street food is so good! xoxo

  • am19941018@yahoo.co.jp'
    March 30, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    I’m going to visit Kyoto in a month, super excited! xD Thank you for sharing, I will try all the food! They look awesome 😀

  • ainnabila.2210@gmail.com'
    March 30, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    Oh wow, I am in love with Japan now. Seems like you had lots of fun! I have to visit Japan now, thanks to your wonderful guide!

  • hello@polkadotpassport.com'
    Nicola Easterby
    March 30, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    Thanks for the guide Brooke! I’m visiting Japan in June so this is definitely going to come in handy. Love your photos with the bamboo, so cool!


  • Katie@kittytocity.com'
    March 30, 2016 at 11:55 am

    Brooke – this is great! I’m going to Japan for the first time next week and will be staying 3 days in Kyoto. I’m looking forward to eating all of the ice cream.