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Kyoto see + do

Sightseeing in Kyoto can be overwhelming, simply because there's so much to see and do. It's best to organize your itinerary around specific neighborhoods, such as Higashiyama and Arashiyama, so you can explore on foot. Check out the Kyoto Fact Sheet to see how the city is laid out.

Though Kyoto has its share of museums, you might pass them up in favor of the city's real artistic treasures: its temples, shrines, and gardens. Most open daily at around 8:30 or 9 am and close at 4 or 5 pm, but check at your hotel before you head out. You'll be required to remove your footwear at most temples, so wear slip-on shoes and sturdy socks. (Slippers are usually provided, but in smaller sizes suited to the Japanese.) Everyone wants to see Ryoan-ji, the Zen temple with Japan's most famous sand-and-rock garden (which also makes it Japan's most crowded sand-and-rock garden). The stunning Kinkaku-ji, or Golden Temple, also attracts the hordes, as does Kiyomizu-dera, perched on a hillside with stunning views of the city. If you do visit, avoid the tour buses by going early in the morning or just before closing time. And don't miss some of the lesser-known but equally impressive alternatives, such as the Silver and Moss temples.

If you want to see history in motion, book a hands-on class taught by masters of Japanese traditional arts, such as calligraphy and tea ceremony, through the Iori Origin Arts Program[link]. And those interested in more contemporary Japanese culture will dig the Kyoto International Manga Museum.

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Daitoku-ji Temple Complex, Kyoto

A vast, walled-in Zen temple complex dating to the 16th century. There are about two dozen sub-temples here, and eight of them—and their gardens—are...more

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Ginkaku-ji (Silver Temple), Kyoto

The Silver Temple is almost as popular as its golden cousin, but many aficionados consider it far superior. Breathtakingly modern though half a millennium old,...more

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Iori Origin Arts Program, Kyoto

Sure, Kyoto's temples and shrines are must-sees. But to truly gain an understanding of Japan's history and culture, it's important to graduate from observing to...more

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Katsura Rikyu Imperial Villa, Kyoto

Built in the 17th century for an imperial prince, Katsura Rikyu is widely thought to be one of the best examples of how Japanese residential design masterfully...more

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Kyoto International Manga Museum, Kyoto

The Kyoto International Manga Museum is one of the few museums in the world where you're encouraged to get up close and handle the exhibits. You'll see locals...more

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Public Baths, Kyoto

After World War II, most Japanese didn't have baths in their homes, and the neighborhood bathhouse, or sento, served not only as a hygienic necessity but as a...more

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Saiho-ji (Moss Temple), Kyoto

Converted into a Zen temple in 1339, Saiho-ji Temple, in the southwestern outskirts of Kyoto, is justly renowned for its large and lush moss garden, which...more

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.



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