Kyoto is Japan’s 7th largest city with a population close to 1.5 million. It is also one of the top tourist destinations in Japan. Even though small in size this city is by far my favorite compared to Tokyo and Osaka. It was love at first sight when I came across the gorgeous photos of the famous bamboo groves and the red shrine called Fushimi Inari when researching online. Who knew I would have fallen in love with the place even more after visiting! Kyoto is one of the prettiest cities especially if you go during sakura (cherry blossom) season. It was barely blooming when we got there and can only imagine how beautiful it would have been during the season’s full bloom. The city is full of charm, cute little streets and you will be immersed in the culture during your visit. I’m so excited to share with you in my first post on how to see Kyoto in 2 days!
I stayed near Kyoto Station and highly recommend this as this station will be your go to spot when visiting any area. I also recommend purchasing the JR Pass for foreigners who visit and plans to go from Tokyo to Kyoto or Osaka. It takes 30 minutes from Osaka and up to 2.5 hours from Tokyo.
Arashiyama (Bamboo Groves)
This beautiful bamboo forest is simply a must visit in Kyoto. The walkway is short and will be crowded with tourists so I recommend coming as early as 9am if you’re like me and likes photos without people in it. I did not get a chance to dress up as a geisha but this area is known for it. If you’re up for it, I would suggest dressing up and walking around this area or take photos of others dressed up.
This temple is beautiful and basically part of the Bamboo Groves. Most likely you’ll stumble upon this temple first and then make your way into the Bamboo Groves since the entrance of the groves is behind the temple. The temple is lovely and entrance fee is 600 yen to enter the temple and view the outside garden.
Iwatayama Monkey Park
Monkey Park in Arashiyama is located across a bridge. After visiting Tenryu-Ji Temple and Bamboo Groves I went looking for this bridge… it was a little confusing to find but once we did I walked across and up to the entrance of Monkey Park. They advise you that it’s a 20 minute hike. It was fairly exhausting since I’m a baby and was already tired from walking most of the day but once we arrived it was one of the best experiences ever. It was so fun and exciting to see all the monkeys wandering around like no one’s business. There’s an area for tourists to buy peanuts, apples or bananas to feed the monkeys!! I purchased peanuts =) It was so fun watching their cute hands grab the food from our hands. Once on top of the hill there is also a gorgeous viewing point overlooking the city. I think I must have spent more than enough time here because the monkeys were so entertaining!
After Monkey Park we walked back down across the bridge to walk the street for some authentic udon. There are many ice cream shops, mochi shops and souvenir shops.
By now I’m sure everyone has seen the famous torii gates symbolizing the entrance to the Inari Shrine. This place is so big! It sits on a base of a mountain also named Inari which is 233 metres above sea level, and includes trails up the mountain to many smaller shrines which can take up to 2 hours to walk up. It was quite the walk with many steps but beautiful torii gates throughout. You will have plenty of chances to take photos, don’t try to take them early on as it is full of tourists walking into your photo. I suggest waiting awhile and enjoy your walk first. You will find some empty steps halfway or even on top. Once you’re on top you will see a beautiful city view of Kyoto. No entrance fee.
The temple is fairly close to Fushimi Inari. I took a cab since it wasn’t too far to get to. The temple is again on a hilltop so it could also a be a bit of a walk up. The temple is beautiful and has cherry blossom trees everywhere. They were barely starting to bloom so I did not get to see how beautiful it could have been. My favorite view of the temple is pictured above. No entrance fee.
Kinkaku-ji Temple (The Golden Pavilion)
I could not have left Kyoto without seeing one of the most popular temples! The top two stories of the pavilion are covered with pure gold leaf. I would recommend visiting Kinkaku on the day you visit Arashiyama since it’s much closer and somewhat on the way. I ran out of time and wasn’t able to do so on my first day. There is an entrance fee of 400 yen and it closes at 5pm.
If you have extra time I would suggest visiting Kitano Tenmangu Shrine which is fairly close to Kinkaku-ji (I did make it on Day 1)
I did a lot on Day 2 but I had about an hour of day light left and wanted to visit Philosopher’s Walk. It is a pedestrian path that is planted with cherry blossom trees along the canal. This is a bit far from Kinkaku temple, closer to Kiyomizu if interested in going from there. The canal passes a number of temples and shrines such as Hōnen-in, Ōtoyo Shrine, and Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji. I did not visit them since I didn’t have time. The walk takes about 30 minutes to complete.
Overall I think 2 days in Kyoto is do-able but will be fairly rushed. I would recommend staying for 3 days to see all that Kyoto has to offer. Below are a few other great places to visit.
Gion District for cute wooden shops and sites of authentic geishas walking around
Shogunzuka Seiryuden Temple is a bit of a hike but you will see an art installation “KOU-AN – Glass Teahouse” along with an observation deck overlooking Kyoto (Wish I had time to do this)
Maruyama-koen Park known as the main park for Cherry Blossom viewing in Kyoto
Have you been to Kyoto? What was your favorite part about the city? Comment below!