14 Free Things To Do in Kyoto, Japan

For broke traveler like me Kyoto is heaven. However to find the free and cheap things under all the expensive ones can be tiresome. To safe you from this task here is my free tips to Kyoto. This free things to do in Kyoto, Japan list includes some of my favorite destinations in Japan and maybe in whole world. I even left some out of this list because I would talk endlessly about Kyoto. Still after almost two years I keep naming this city as my favorite travel destination.

(I will add some photos to this post later today or tomorrow… Sorry!)

14. Heian Shrine

White sand, bright red buildings and tourists with cameras. There is 600 yen admission fee to get in the garden but at least for me the free front area was enough. And you should not forget to walk a little farther away from the shrine to see the huge Torii gate and beautiful red bridge next to it. If you want to take photos without other tourists interrupting you, go just after the opening in 6 am. Because I am not morning person I almost visited this shrine too late. It closes already at 5 pm.

 

13. Kiyomizudera Temple

kiyomizu

The temple itself isn’t free but the area around it is enough to keep you occupied for a while. There is souvenir shops, free food samples, smaller temples, pagodas, old buildings and a lot of people. It’s easy to get lost here but you will definitely found something interesting on every alley. I recommend this for those wanting to free samples of local sweets because you can find those from almost all of the souvenir shops. Also if you are kpop, kdrama or Korean beauty product fan, there is interesting shops for you.

 

12. Nishiki Market

Maybe not place to do shopping if you are short of money but still forth of visiting. Nishiki market is street full of fish, sweet and food sellers. Some even have free samples. Opening hours depend on store but I recommend visiting either on morning between 9am to 11am or on afternoon between 2pm and 4pm. Most of the stores are open at that time and they have a lot of free samples. But if you are on budget and trying to find sales go just before closing time at 6pm.

 

11. Gion

gion

Have you ever dreamed of seeing Keishas and Maikos? At Gion it may be possible! It may be hard to spot them and requires some getting lost in smaller streets of Gion. However even lazier traveler may be able to see normal Japanese girls and boys wearing their kimonos. Just don’t be rude and ask before taking photo.

This is place to take pretty selfies and admire the architecture. If you are hungry -and out of money like me- just visit the shops on Shijo dori (from Kamo river to Yasaka shrine). There you can find free samples to try.

 

10. Philosopher’s Path

Beautiful walk starts from Ginkakuji and runs two kilometers along the river until Nanzenji neighborhood. Philosopher’s Path belongs to my free things to do in Kyoto list because it is one of the most beautiful places in Kyoto around the year. However I have two recommendations: spring and autumn… I visited during colorful fall and it was perfect. The trees surrounding this path are cherry trees so during spring and hanami this is perfect cherry blossom viewing spot.

This walk got its name because it is told that one of Japan’s most famous philosophers used to meditate and walk this path. Don’t settle for only walking! There is many pretty shops, cafes and restaurants that you can visit. Also many small temples and shrines welcome visitors.

 

9. Umekoji Park

Around Kyoto aquarium and Railway museum is located Umekoji park. Even if you don’t have money to those two attractions is just enjoying the park nice experience. When I visited there many locals were playing football and walking their dogs. Stop by to buy hot drink from vending machine and took small break from your day. This may not be the most interesting free attraction in Kyoto but good spot to relax for a while. Also the neighborhood around this park is beautiful. There is many small ponds and idyllic forest.

 

8. Nishi Honganji & Higashi Honganji

Honganji temple kyoto

Two huge (and free) temples in the center Kyoto. If you want to take look to older Japan and Buddhism, I recommend to visit these two. At some parts it’s prohibited to wear shoes so prepare pair that is easy to take off an put on. I didn’t want to include too many temples and shrines on this free things to do in Kyoto list but Nishi Honganji and Higashi Honganji are close to everything and easy to access. Also if I should recommend places for day trip in Kyoto, these two would be on my list.

 

7. Kyoto Imperial Palace

Kyoto Imperial Palace is free to visit and offers wide look to Japanese history. There is free English tours but you have to reserve place for one beforehand. A few years ago Imperial Palace was only accessed by guided tours that were hard to book but fortunately nowadays anyone can access the palace’s grounds. This makes it one of my favorite destinations in free things to do in Kyoto list. (I had so many problems booking that free tour during my Kyoto visit two years ago…)

In addition to the palace I recommend walking around the Imperial Park that has many smaller attractions. Also the neighborhood around park is interesting and has many things to see. For example river next to Horikawa Dori is worth of seeing.

 

6. Kamo River

free things to do in Kyoto

Join in the locals sitting on the bends of Kamo river. In Kyoto I lived right next to Kamo river so it has reserved its special spot in my heart. There is not many things to see when you first visit and you may even ask why would I include this normal river to my free things to do in Kyoto list. However if you sit down and look around, this is the best place to see local life and Kyoto’s true side. Fishers, families playing around, couples walking around, young adults drinking and having fun.

One of the best things is that Kamo river runs along the whole city and past some of the major attractions. You can walk from Fushimi Inari to Gion and back. If you have bike and time, try day trip out of the town. One man told me about his trip while I was staying in hostel and apparently if you follow the river you can see some amazing and beautiful Japanese views.

 

5. Arashiyama

free things to do in Kyoto

Arashiyama is huge area in west Kyoto. There is many things to see and most of them are free so it is good addition to our free things to do in Kyoto list. Firstly, just walking around the area is interesting experience. Remember to take good shoes because I totally destroyed mine here. Walk bends of the river towards the forest and you will see beautiful photographic spots. Not so many people go there but it is definitely worth it.

Then secondly be part of the tourist masses and visit souvenir shops you can find from the main street of this area. They have tasty free food samples. And thirdly go to bamboo forest (read below) and Kameyama Park. Kameyama Park is extremely beautiful during fall when you can admire the colorful mountains and river from its observation spots. It is accessible from Bamboo forest but not so many tourists visit here.

 

4. Bamboo Forest

bambooforest

This major attraction from Arashiyama deserves its own spot on my free things to do in Kyoto list. Why? It is one of the most popular destinations in Kyoto and maybe in whole Japan. If you have seen beautiful bamboo photos when looking up Japan, I bet those are taken in Kyoto’s Bamboo forest. If you want to have photos without huge tourist crowds, go super early. Also good tip is to walk and walk and walk. Most of the people just visit the beginning of this path in bamboo forest so if you walk more than them you will also find spot with not as many people.

 

3. Kyoto Station

happy_terrace_kyoto

Almost everyone visiting Kyoto will walk around station at some point. I recommend it as the place to start your trip whatever you are seeking for free things to do in Kyoto or want to use as much money as possible. It is a little hard to find but Kyoto station has tourist information with free maps, flyers and helpful staff members. It may sound touristy but there is no better place to start your trip.

When you walk up the stairs of station (often decorated with light show or other decorations) you will find observation deck that is often forgotten. This is good alternative for Kyoto Tower if you don’t want to spend money. If you want to see the station from high, find free Skyway path that walk above the station. Kyoto station has also three shopping malls and even if you don’t want to buy anything it is fun to just walk around. Also find food section and they usually serve free samples.

And the last but not least thing to see in Kyoto Station is just outside the front doors. Aqua Fantasy Musical Fountain Show has amazing name but it describes perfectly what this is about. Colorful lights, water and of course music amaze people on evenings.

 

2. Yasaka Shrine

Known also as Gion temple this shrine is next to Gion area and in the end of Shijo street. It’s big area with people constantly passing by. You can buy food and crafts from small stalls. One of the free and main shrines worth of visiting. At weekends you may see locals wearing pretty kimonos and visiting the shrine. Don’t just visit the main shrine but walk past it and wander around the whole area.

 

1. Fushimi Inari Taisha

Magical Forest Kyoto Torii

My ultimate favorite place in Kyoto, Japan and maybe whole world. I don’t even know why I have so utterly fallen in love with this mountain full of torii gates. It is perfect for everyone from photographers to travelers seeking for free adventure in Kyoto. Definitely one of the best free things to do in Kyoto.

Hike to the top and back requires good health (or many breaks) because it takes about two hours. Fortunately there is many break points and several vending machines. Just remember to take coins with you. In addition to admiring the red torii gates taking over all of the paths you should look for the amazing views to the city. Sunset from mount Inari is breathtaking. If you have more than enough time, try the not so popular paths and you may find secrets… For those interested I have written story from my trip to Fushimi Inari.

 

These were my favorite free things to do in Kyoto. Do you have any additional tips? Or maybe favorite places in Kyoto? All comments are welcome like always. Also if you are interested I wrote this short text about my home country Finland. Or if you are interested to read more about Kyoto, here is my top 10 things to do in Kyoto list.

I hope you are having an amazing day!
With love

Viivi Severina

10 Things To Do In Stockholm

Stockholm is interesting northern city divided to idyllic old town and modern city full of shops, culture and tourist attractions. For me the best 10 things to do in Stockholm would be mostly museums BUT I know not everyone is as art freak as I am so this list tries to contain also other things you can experience in Stockholm. I hope you enjoy and feel free to leave your own tips to the comments section.

(I will add more images afterwards because I am busy now…)

10. Skeppsholmen

Stockholm has many small islands and Skeppsholmen is one of them. Skeppsholmen is best known as home of interesting museums. Modern art museums Moderna Museet, Bergrummet museum in old tunnels, Asian art museum Östasiatiska museet and Arkitektur och designcentrum museum that has information about Swedish architecture.

In addition to these museums (most of them free) Skeppsholmen is beautiful island full of nature so I recommend walking around it. There is also old Af Chapman ship that works as hotel and restaurant. From its deck you can see beautiful view to central Stockholm.

 

9. Canal Walk

stockholm_city

Stockholm has several bridges and canals and that’s why walking among them is one of the must things to do in Stockholm. I recommend starting in front of Royal Palace where you can feed birds and take cool photos. Then continue your trip among the water. Another good place to start is from Stockholm City Hall and walk among Klara Sjö. It may be a little more remote but you get to see real Stockholm.

If walking isn’t for you, taking canal cruise is also good option. Sit in boat while sailing through beautiful Stockholm. However some of the smaller, more remote and in my opinion more beautiful canals may be better places to visit and offer you more authentic Stockholm experience.

 

8. Moderna Museet / Modern Art Museum

yayoi kusama moderna museet

I already mentioned this place when talking about Skeppsholmen island being one of the must things to do in Stockholm. However, Moderna Museet is definitely my favorite place in Stockholm and deserves its own recommendation section. (I think I would write its own post for this place if I wasn’t this lazy… Seriously, visit here even if you hate art!)

Moderna Museet has world class modern art exhibitions and in addition to that totally free huge permanent art collection. If you don’t want to pay to see art, consider at least giving quick visit to that free side of this museum. When you fall in love with it, because I surely know you will, visit their expensive changing exhibitions. I have seen everything from Yayoi Kusama’s colorful infinity rooms to Marina Abramovic’s questionable raw films. Definitely one of the best modern museums I have visited.

 

7. Kulturhuset

The name ‘Kulturhuset’ already tells why it’s on my ’10 Things To Do In Stockholm’ list. Who wouldn’t like culture? If I tell the truth I fell in love with Kulturhuset, because of its amazing rooftop cafe/restaurant. Those views are just amazing and one of the must things to do when you come to Stockholm. I always start my city trip from observation deck and Kulturhuset fits that purpose perfectly.

I have visited Kulturhuset every time I have went to Stockholm (and that’s a lot). However my solo travel to Stockholm earlier this year was the first time I did more than just had coffee at the rooftop cafe. Kulturhuset has huge tourist information center that is the best place to start your trip. They have a lot of free guides, maps and friendly staff that is always ready to help you. If you need free internet, they also have that.

In addition to these more touristy things, Kulturhuset has libraries and theater. If you have extra time, try visiting one of the libraries. It’s not just a normal books but real media center full of new experiences and interesting settings. Kulturhuset also arranges several design, art and fashion exhibitions every year.

 

6. Royal Palace

sweden sky and sea

Sweden is lead by royals so of course Royal Palace is one of the must things to do in Stockholm. I feel like bad tourist because I don’t have that much information about this place. I only saw changing of guards (one of the major things to see in Sweden) for the first time this year. So, I don’t have much to say except visit here or at least take some cool photos.

 

5. Djurgården

Djurgården or Kungliga Djurgården (Royal Park) is one of the island in central Stockholm. If you want to see nature in city, this place is for you. Its touristy place but also locals like to spend sunny summer days here. Walk around, drink coffee and enjoy fresh Swedish nature. Djurgården is easily accessed either by foot or by ferry from old town. There is also several museums like ABBA: The Museum, Vasa Museum, Thielska galleriet, Junibacken and Biological Museum.

One of the most popular museums (and the one I recommend for everyone coming from somewhere far away) is Skansen open-air museum. It has zoo and it displays traditional Swedish way of living. So, if you want to learn something about this Nordic country you have just visited, Skansen should definitely be on you must things to do in Stockholm list.

 

4. Fotografiska Museet / Photography Museum

I don’t know why I haven’t visited here before the trip I did to Sweden this year. This photography museum made its way to my favorite things to do in Stockholm right away after I stepped inside. Firstly, who doesn’t love photographs? Secondly, the atmospheres in different exhibitions were perfectly created with right lighting and correct layouts. I have nothing bad to say (except maybe the expensive admission but I can understand why…) This place is a little walk away from the most central area of Stockholm but it only fits well with the nature of this museum.

 

3. Stockholms Stadshus

Stockholms Stadshus (or in English Stockholm’s city hall) gets place three from my 10 Things To Do In Stockholm list because of the view you will see from its garden/yard. Old town and the colorful buildings reflect beautifully from the water and create perfect place to take photos for tourists and those loving photography. They also have interesting shop with cool souvenirs and you can visit the city hall itself.

 

2. Shopping

 

Stockholm is like northern shopping paradise. You can find everything from world-class brand stores to old small local vintage shops. My favorite is Gallerian shopping mall (that was apparently the first shopping mall in Stockholm’s central area and is still one of the most popular ones). You should also visit Åhlens because even if it may be a little expensive for traveler’s budget it definitely has its own charm. Newer place I haven’t had change to try but that I have heard a lot of good things about is Mall Of Scandinavia. It has many brand stores and is truly shopping PARADISE.

 

1. Gamla Stan / Old Town

sweden_photo

Like I have said million times: I love old towns. Stockholm’s Gamla Stan (Swedish term for old town) is one of my favorites. Narrow streets, colorful buildings and -of course- cute little cafes. They have nutella waffles everywhere so I recommend tasting those. I spent most of my time in local book shop but if you want to see something more touristy try Kungliga Slottet / Royal Palace and go see the changing of guards. Also royal shop near Royal Palace is something worth of seeing.

 

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I am traveling to Stockholm with my family this weekend so I thought now would be good time to publish this ’10 Things To Do In Stockholm’ article that has been waiting for too long. I mean I have traveled to Stockholm at least two times during the last year I have been writing this blog. So, do you have any new recommendations for me? All tips, tricks and opinions are welcome like always.

Have an amazing day!
With love,

Viivi Severina

TOP10 Tokyo

Today I’m going to introduce for you my ten favorite things to do in Tokyo. I tried to pick up different activities, some free some not and even put them to order from 10th to 1st. If you have more recommendations, feel free to share them in the comments.

 

10. The National Art Center

artmuseum_tokyo

Tokyo has countless amount of different museums. It was hard decision to pick out just one of them. National Art Center was for me the most charming museum. Different exhibitions. Interesting artistes form Japan, Asia and around the world.

The modern art exhibition I visited was one of the best I have been. There was videos, sculptures, interactive art and inspiring works of art. One work even let the visitors take a piece with them. There was also a big house made of homeless people’s cardboard boxes.

 

9. Go to concert

tokyo harajuku street performance

Japan has music to offer for everyone’s tastes. Maybe go to small bar and listen rock or to big stadium see pop star. The Japanese music scene has many interesting artists and genres. In my opinion you can find concert experience that wouldn’t be possible anywhere else. If you are lucky, there may be free concerts or events on the street.

Visit Tower Records store and ask if they sell tickets (if they don’t ask in which of their stores they do). The staffs are nice and at least for me they were able to suggest concerts foreigner should see as part of their Tokyo experience.

 

8. RiSuPia

Risupia tokyo museum

Some may say this place is for kids but I enjoyed it as twenty years old solo traveler. Japan is the country of inventions and in RiSuPia you can experience just that. Go to buy your ticket and while waiting for your turn check out all the new inventions from first floor or play newest Nintendo and Wii games in the second floor.

You get this remote thing and with it do different tasks in RiSuPia. Problem solving, funny experiments and teaching games. It really made the mathematics, psychics and chemistry lot more clear and easy. This should be the way to teach things to children! But the point is I had fun and the staff were amazing and kind. I recommend visit in RiSuPia for everyone.

 

7. Ueno Park

sunset in ueno park

I would write a long post about Ueno Park and why it is one of my favorite places in Tokyo. I lived near it and spend countless of hours exploring around. Ueno park is home of zoo, museums, shrines and temples. Take pretty picture with torii gates or people watch locals having free time around the beautiful fountain.

Museum in ueno park

The park is right next to Ueno station so many people are hurrying through it towards schools, works and homes. At evenings different dance groups are practicing and having fun. (I stalked this one group dancing with light sticks in too many nights…)

Tokyo Ueno Starbucks

Ueno zoo is worth of seeing if you have time. The pandas are their biggest attraction but I totally fell in love with the zoo area itself. Next to zoo you can find small alley made of torii gates, the spot many tourists (and me) took pretty picture of themselves. The locals are happy to help you and take the picture (even if you don’t ask!).

 

6. Harajuku (Takeshita Street)

Line Friends shop Harajuku

As district Harajuku is place you should just get lost and find interesting shops, crazy looking people and small museums. However I know some people are short of time and for you I recommend walking Takeshita Dori/Street. They even have maps made of that one street and it’s countless shops selling different kind of fashion. Be aware of the mass trying to run over you if the touristy you decides to be too slow at walking!

 

5. Sibuya

umbrella_tokyo

One part of Tokyo known for Hachiko dog statue and rumored to be world’s busiest pedestrian crossing (Shibuya crossing). May sound crazy but I recommend visiting here when it is raining. The way Japanese walk with their umbrellas without bumping to other people is art!

 

4. Senso-ji

Senso-ji Temple Asakusa Tokyo

When visiting Japan you should go to see at least one temple or shrine. I recommend Senso-ji because of the area around it and it is photogenic place. Walking from metro station to the temple is an experience on its own. There is small shops everywhere selling sweets, souvenirs and fortunes. If you walk to one of the side alleys getting lost is sure but so are amazing adventures.

 

3. Cherry Blossom Viewing

Japan is known for its pinkish blossoming trees and the beautiful pictures taken from them. Unfortunately you only can see cherry blossoms at specific time at year. For example I didn’t see them when going Japan in autumn (well I have reason to return…) The best time to go and get charmed by the pink brilliance is in spring but you should google more accurate timing.

 

2. Character Street

Hello Kitty Character Street

Character street gets the second place because it’s something different, cute and full of life. (Oh and free to go if you don’t get too desirous to buy something!) The shops are lined closely next to each other and people are everywhere. There is a lot of tourists but also locals. You will find Character Street on the basement of Tokyo Station.

 

1. See Mt. Fuji (from far away)

Tokyo metropolitan government building night

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building offers two free observation decks. I visited there three times while in Tokyo and there was no line at all (an most of the times I was even alone in the elevator…) Maybe this is for me at first place because I am from small city and never seen skyscrapers before but definitely must place to visit for everyone.

The views are breathtaking and if you are lucky and the mother nature is in good mood (read the weather is clear) you will be able to see Mt. Fuji. You should start from here and check out the city from above. Good place to go either in sunlight (to see everything clearly/the Mt. Fuji) or after dark (beautiful city lights).

 

To see more free things to do in Tokyo go HERE.

Top 10 Things To Do In Tokyo Japan
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With love (and endless homesickness to Japan),

Viivi Severina