Located in the heart of Kyoto lies the Kyoto Imperial Palace, the official residence of the Emperor in Kyoto. Previously the capital of Japan, Kyoto Imperial Palace is still active to this day and is a relic of the past that you can visit and tour with prior preparation and planning.
Visiting the Imperial Palace Kyoto
Although visiting the Imperial Palace Kyoto is free and available to the public with permission of the staff on-premises, you will not be given access to tour inside any of the buildings.
To receive permission, you will need to fill out an application form and present your passport to the staff. Children are also allowed but must be accompanied by an adult over the age of 20. The only restriction is that children are not allowed at the Sento Imperial Palace, Shugakuin Imperial Villa, or the Katsura Imperial Villa.
What to see at the Imperial Palace Kyoto
When entering the grounds of the Imperial Palace Kyoto, you will find many gravel paths that lead to the gardens on the premises as well as many historical buildings. The main buildings are the Kyoto Imperial Palace, also known as the Gosho, and the Sento Gosho.
These are the palaces and you need to book a tour in advance to be allowed to visit these locations. But don’t let that dissuade you, you can still enjoy the beauty of Kyoto-gyoen, which is part of the palace grounds itself.
There is also a section that has weeping cherry blossom trees that are especially scenic during the spring in the northern section of the park. They generally tend to bloom in late-March for only a few weeks, so if you are in town during this period, make sure to not miss out on it!
Kyoto Imperial Palace Tour
There are several tours available throughout the day and they are offered in Japanese, English, and Chinese. The tours themselves can last around 50 minutes and are subject to change or last-minute cancellations as the staff deems necessary.
In order to participate in one of the tours, you will need to visit the Visitors Room, which is located on the right of the entrance to the palace. This tour will take you around the Kyoto Imperial Palace grounds with a guide to help explain the history of the buildings.
You will need to make an online reservation if you want to visit any of the following spots within the Imperial Palace Kyoto: Sento Imperial Palace, Katsura Imperial Villa, Shugakuin Imperial Villa.
Kyoto Imperial Palace Hours
Hours to the Kyoto Imperial Palace vary depending on the season but the grounds usually open at 9:00 am in the morning. During the months of September and March, the grounds open from 9:00 am until 4:30 pm with last admission being at 3:50 pm.
From the months of October until February, the opening hours are from 9:00 am until 4:00 pm, with final entry to the grounds being at 3:20 pm. From April until August, the opening hours are from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm, with last entry at 4:20 pm.
The Kyoto Imperial Palace is closed on Mondays, but if a holiday occurs on that Monday, the following day will be closed. The Kyoto Imperial Palace is also closed during the period of December 28th until January 4th.
Please be aware that there may come times when entry to the Kyoto Imperial Palace may be denied to the public due to any Imperial court events, visiting dignitaries, or other reasons.
Kyoto Imperial Palace Reservations
Although touring the grounds of the Kyoto Imperial Palace are free to the public, touring some of the special buildings within the grounds are limited only to those that make a reservation using the official website.
Although the process can seem intimidating, all you need to do is select the specific building that you would like to visit, choose the course you would like to participate in, enter your information, review your application, and submit your application.
Slots for these special tours are very limited and sometimes are fully booked months in advance due to their popularity with locals and tourists alike. Some of the tours run on a first-come-first-served basis, while others work around a lottery system to ensure fairness.
Please be aware that all visitors to these reserved tours must be ages 18 and older and that you cannot actually step inside any of the buildings. Depending on the building, there may be 2 to 5 tours for a single day, but if you plan on visiting, make sure to apply for a reservation far in advance!
- Spot name: Kyoto Imperial Palace
- Street address: 3 Kyotogyoen, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto 602-0881
- Access: A 10-minute walk from Imadegawa Station