To my own surprise after wondering what would be my top 10 places to visit in Kyoto most of them were free things. It’s not only because I’m broke and cheap (okay, maybe it has something to do with that fact…). Kyoto just has many free and beautiful attractions!
So here is my top 10 list of things to do when visiting Kyoto (most of them free or cheap). I spend almost two months in Kyoto so I visited most of them several times. If I had only a one day in Kyoto these are the ones I would be considering to visit.
10. Philosopher’s Path & Ginkaku-ji
Whatever you were deep thinker or just doing touristy things around Kyoto Philosopher’s Path is something you shouldn’t skip. I recommend visiting during fall (the colors are BEAUTIFUL) or during cherry blossom season. Philosopher’s path follows small canal for two kilometers.
There is cute small cafes, shops and small temples to visit during your walk. Or if you are deep thinker you may want to follow the foot steps of Nishida Kitado who is one of Japan’s most famous philosophers and who used to walk this route and meditate. Philosopher’s path starts/ends to Ginkakuji temple that is place worth of visit on its own.
9. Kyoto Aquarium
It may seem stupid to include aquarium in this list because you can find them from anywhere in the world. Fortunately I am not one to follow general opinions. I think I have said this before but if you want to make me fall in love with you just take me to the aquarium. Seeing colorful fishes, sharks, etc. is amazing what ever country you are currently.
Penguins, jellyfishes and pet a sea animals corner made me spend too many hours in this dark huge aquarium. There was also dolphin music show and a lot of souvenirs to buy. I recommend this for all fellow aquarium lovers!
8. Train Station
This may sound lame but Kyoto’s train station was one of my regular places to wander around. There is three shopping centers, countless restaurants and city’s best tourist information. One of my favorite things to do in Kyoto was to eat evening snacks in the free observation deck after I had bought them from the basement floor’s food stalls. (BTW. free food samples are offered there if you go on the right time.)
You can use hours after hours just getting to know all the shops and trying different foods. Get your the best city tips and current events from tourist information. And like I said that observation deck and its Happy Terrace are one of the secret wonders of Kyoto.
7. Manga Museum
My plan was to visit here on my last week in Kyoto but then I didn’t have a time. I can however recommend it for everyone because I did hear so many good reviews of it by the other hostel guests. Manga museum is just what it sounds like… building full of mangas you can read! Majority of the books is in Japanese but there is also section for other languages.
Manga museum is located in old elementary school so in addition to all the mangas you can experience the atmosphere of Japanese school life. Admission costs 800 yen (and special exhibitions have their own prices). However there is “special” days when the admission is free for everyone.
Let’s play association game once again! When I say Japan what do you think? I would guess that at least some of thought beautiful geisha. If that is what you wait from Japan then going to Gion is your best bet of succeeding in ‘geisha hunting’. (Don’t hunt geishas please… They are working so if you see them be considering).
Gion is often referred to be the old district of Kyoto. The buildings are photogenic and the shops offer free food samples of traditional Japanese snacks. There is one ‘main street’ but don’t be scared to part from it and wander around the smaller streets. I don’t recommend eating here even if the restaurants seem tempting (the prices are totally touristy/expensive).
5. Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)
The Golden temple is one of the most touristy places in Kyoto. It is still worth of visiting. The main thing to see is the gold-colored temple in water. Just to take pictures with that temple is worth of paying the 400 yen entrance fee. -That however is just my opinion…-
Be aware that there will be a lot of people and possibly waiting to get in. In the end of this walk through the area you can find small food and souvenir stalls. Don’t just run past them even if I don’t recommend buying anything (the prices are high). Try the free food samples because they have some options that aren’t so popular in other parts of Kyoto.
Read about my adventure to Golden Pavilion
I tried to not put too many shrines and temples to this list but with Kyoto it is impossible. I would do own list for those because I visited so many on my time in this historical city. Kiyomizu-derra is place I hope I could have found earlier during my stay. It’s not even the temple that charmed me but the area around it. All the small shops, tiny alleys and old buildings.
Even if you feel like paying the 400 admission fee is too much for you to handle I recommend visiting the area. You can’t see the main temple but there is a lot more for this place. There is also many pop culture (and kpop culture) shops for those who share my interest in this area.
Arashiyama is area in western Kyoto. There is located two must to go places: Bamboo forest and Monkey park. Also the area of Arashiyama alone is fun to explore. There is a lot of souvenir shops, temples/shrines and free food samples. Just be careful or you will get hopelessly lost…
When you see cool Japan travel photos with bamboos I would bet they are taken in Bamboo forest. It is one of the places Kyoto is popular for. Warning: Its popularity means too much people and if you go wrong time you probably can’t take that perfect bamboo photo without dozen tourist heads disturbing you. I recommend morning or just before sunset.
2. Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art
At first I was surprised that Kyoto doesn’t have that many museums. But after visiting the ones this traditional city has I didn’t have any more complaints. Municipal Museum of Art was amazing and I didn’t even go inside the museum. Unfortunately when I meant to visit I hadn’t checked the timing correctly and it was already closed. However you can always visit the museum’s garden and let me tell you it was enough art for me. There was countless amount of modern art pieces during my visit.
And when you are at it Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art is located perfectly. It is separated from Kyoto’s National Museum Of Modern Art by huge torii gate (see photo above). Close to the museum is also Kyoto zoo and popular Heian Shrine.
1. Fushima Inari
My favorite place in Kyoto, Japan and maybe even in the whole wide world! If you have learned about Japan and/or about it religions you have probably seen photos of Fushimi Inari and its endless rows of torii gates. Fushimi Inari, Fushimi Inari Taisha or Mt. Inari is mountain dedicated for fox god. The mountain paths are surrounded by thousands of red gates that are donated by Japanese businesses.
Hike up the mountain is going to be tough so I recommend good shoes and a lot of snacks. Don’t be scared to take the not so beaten path because this mountain is full of surprises and secret wonders.
Read about my adventure to Fushimi Inari
I know, I know… Once again I was late with post. Sorry, but I think you are already used to me not following my own rules. I’m waiting excitedly the day when I can write all my posts on the right days. We are going there (slowly) so please bear with my laziness for a little while longer.
Like always comments are welcome! Have you visited Kyoto and what were your favorite places? Or would you like to visit there some day?