Kyoto Prefecture is a one of the best sightseeing spots in Japan located in the Kinki region. It is possible to enjoy Japanese culture from the streets, temples, geisha, and local food. There are 17 World Heritage sightseeing spots in the prefecture. Additionally, there are forests, flowers and animals as well as cultural properties. The marvellous view of cultural properties and nature is worth seeing.
It should be noted, that Kyoto city and Kyoto Prefecture are different. Kyoto Prefecture is divided into five areas. Kyoto city is one of those areas. This article introduces Kyoto city as well as Kyoto Prefecture as a whole.
Over 80% of Kyoto is mountainous and hilly. However, there are no mountains that stand at an altitude of 1,000m and it has an wide and open impression. The land is roughly divided into northern, central and southern areas. The northern and central areas consist of mountains, and the southern area consists of basins.
The main tourist destination, Kyoto city, is located at the northern tip of the Kyoto Basin, surrounded by mountains on three sides. In the city, there is a grid-like road area that has been retained since it was developed in the 8th century.
The Main Points of Kyoto’s History
Kyoto Prefecture is a historical city that became the capital of Japan in the 8th century. Even though the centre of politics moved to Kamakura in the 12th century, Kyoto was developed as an economic centre. Later, in the 14th and 19th centuries, Kyoto became the political centre once again and it transformed into a modern city.
Lots of tourist attractions have been built in Kyoto since the 8th century. Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Ninna-ji Temple, and Byodo-in Phoenix Hall were constructed in this order.
How many Days are necessary to Fully Enjoy Kyoto?
Kyoto Prefecture is divided into five areas. Therefore, it is best to decide on the length of your stay depending on the number of sightseeing areas and places that you wish to visit. Information on each sightseeing area is described below, but even sightseeing in only one area requires at least two nights and three days to fit everything in. Moreover, when sightseeing in multiple areas at once, it is better to think about staying for 3 to 4 nights.
For example, the northernmost point of the Kyoto Prefecture is Tango, and the southern part is the Yamashiro area. From “Tango city Kumihama Station” in the northernmost point of the Tango area to the main tourist destination in the Yamashiro area “Uji city and Uji Station”. The travel time between these two stations takes around three and a half hours by train.
When you consider the travel time and the time spent at each sightseeing spot, it is recommended to stay for a week or more to fully enjoy the Kyoto Prefecture.
The Sightseeing District in Kyoto
The tourist area of Kyoto Prefecture is divided into the following five areas. Sightseeing maps for each area can be downloaded from the tourist website home page of each city in the Kyoto Prefecture.
The Kyoto area sightseeing map is also distributed at the Kyoto Tourist Information Centre situated inside Kyoto Station.
|Tango (丹後) (Amanohashidate etc)||Picturesque scenery and hot springs|
|Chutan (中丹) (Fukuchiyama Castle etc)||Sightseeing spots which make use of the surrounding nature|
|Nantan (南丹) (Hozugawa River etc)||An area rich in nature that is in the area adjacent to Kyoto city|
|Kyoto City (京都市) (Kyoto Station etc) ||An area where 15 World Heritage sites are located|
|Yamashiro (山城) (Uji etc)||Ocha no Kyoto (Kyoto of tea)|
Tango 丹後 (such as Amanohashidate)
Tango is located in the northern area of Kyoto Prefecture. This area is centred on Kyotango City in the Tango Peninsula, and it is well-known for its scenic spots and hot springs.
Among these, the most notable spots are Amanohashidate and Tateiwa. Amanohashidate is one of the three most scenic spots in Japan. Tateiwa is a natural monolith which stands at 20m in height and has been designated as a place of scenic beauty.
Chutan 中丹 (such as Fukuchiyama Castle)
Chutan is located underneath Tango and consists of Fukuchiyama, Maizuru, and Ayabe. In this area that is surrounded by nature, like the sea and mountains, activities such as hiking and sightseeing boats are popular.
Moreover, historical buildings are also dotted around the area, such as Fukuchiyama Castle and Ankoku-ji Temple.
Nantan 南丹 (such as Hozugawa river )
Nantan is the area next to Kyoto City. There is a variety of sightseeing spots, such as valleys and primeval forests, as well as shrines and temples.
In addition, be sure to try paragliding, rafting, and other activities where you can feel the nature of Kyoto. Hozugawa river rafting, in particular, is a rafting course that goes from Kameoka to Kyoto's popular sightseeing spot, "Kyoto Arashiyama". With a distance of 16㎞ at the most, it brings maximum thrill.
Moreover, there is Miyama-cho also known as "Another Kyoto" located in Nantan. Miyama-cho is an area with buildings that have thatched roofs. It is possible to enjoy the natural beauty along with the thatched roofs.
Kyoto City 京都市 (such as Kyoto Station)
Kyoto City is located in the central part of the Kyoto Prefecture. This area is centred around Kyoto Station and has lots of sightseeing spots like famous sites that have been registered as World Heritage sites.
In addition, another characteristic is that the atmosphere is different depending on the tourist area even in the city.
For example, Kyoto Kawaramachi is the largest urban area in Kyoto. This area is the main tourist spot for shopping.
Others include Kyoto Gion and Higashiyama are also some of the best areas of Kyoto. There are plenty of streets that have traditional town houses and shops, as well as shrines and temples like the Kyoto Yasaka Pagoda and Kiyomizu-dera temple.
There is also Arashiyama and Kurama, which are great places for hiking.
Yamashiro山城 (such as Uji)
Yamashiro is located in the southern area of the Kyoto Prefecture. It is an area that is composed of 12 municipalities, also called "Ocha no Kyoto". It is the area where the Japanese tea brand “Ujicha” originated, so there are lots of famous shops.
In addition, there are also plenty of shrines and temples. One of the most famous of them is Byodo-in. Byodo-in has been registered as a World Heritage Site, and you can enjoy looking at the national treasure "The Phoenix Hall" and garden.
Where to Stay in Kyoto?
Kyoto Prefecture has a lot of accommodation facilities. The characteristics of the facilities in each area are different, especially in Kyoto, where there are lots of different types of hotels, from luxury hotels to private lodgings.
|Tango (such as Amanohashidate)||Plenty of hot springs|
|Chutan (Such as Fukuchiyama Castle)||Private lodgings dotted around the area|
|Nantan (such as Hozugawa River)||Abundant with compact inns such as cooking inns and hot spring inns|
|Kyoto city (such as Kyoto Station)||Plenty of hotels|
|Yamashiro (such as Uji) ||Reasonably priced accommodation such as ryokan (Japanese inns) and private lodging|
Cheap accommodation is dotted around Kyoto Station in Kyoto city and other places such as the Yamashiro area. However, since Kyoto is a large area, it is a good idea to narrow down the accommodation by sightseeing area before searching by price.
Ryokan in Famous Hot Spring Areas & Hot springs in the Kyoto Prefecture
There are lots of hot springs in Kyoto prefecture in Kyoto city and Kyotango city on the Sea of Japan side. There is a hot spring inn located near Arashiyama on the mountain side of Kyoto city. The most expensive price range is from 20,000 - 30,000 yen. (Information accurate as of January 2020)
|Hot Spring Area||Characteristics ||Hot Spring Inn|
|Arashiyama Onsen||Near the urban area of Kyoto||Togetsutei (渡月亭)|
|Yunohana Onsen|| A hot spring located in the mountains of Kameoka City, northwest of Kyoto City ||Sumiya Kihoan (すみや亀峰菴)|
|Amanohashidate Onsen||A hot spring located in Amanohashidate, a famous sightseeing destination in the northern area of Kyoto||Hoshi no Aoto (天橋立離宮 星音)|
|Kuminohama Onsen||A hot spring located on the seaside of Kyotango City in northern Kyoto Prefecture||Hekisui Gyoen (碧翠御苑)|
|Taiza Onsen ||A hot spring located in Kyotango City on the seaside, famous for its Taiza crabs||Sumihei (間人温泉 炭平)|
The following is about the introduction of Kyoto City, instead of Kyoto Prefecture.
Things to Know before Sightseeing in Kyoto
Kyoto is packed with tourist spots. For this reason, it is best to gather information at tourist information centres before you start sightseeing. It is also a good idea to check subway maps and places to store luggage to make your Kyoto trip more fulfilling.
It should be noted that all Seven-Eleven stores and Starbucks stores within Kyoto City becomes Kyoto Tourist Information Centres, so they provide traffic information, maps, information about sightseeing spots, etc. for areas that are near the stores, for free.
Download Kyoto Subway Map before Travelling
There are a total of four subways and subway lines in Kyoto city. In order to reach each tourist spot smoothly, it is recommended to download a map in advance.
The Kyoto subway map can be downloaded from the Kyoto City Transportation Bureau's home page.
Where can Luggage be Stored in Kyoto?
Most stations in Kyoto have coin lockers. However, large-sized luggage can fit into few of these lockers. Additionally, when sightseeing outside Kyoto city, it is difficult to find coin lockers and places to store luggage, so it is better to find out in advance.
In contrast, there are lots of places in Kyoto city where luggage can be stored. The area around Kyoto Station has the most. The following are some examples.
- JR Kyoto Station Baggage Storage (Crosta Kyoto / Hachijo Exit / West Exit Nippon Travel Agency TiS Kyoto West Exit Branch)
- Kyoto Central Post Office
- Kyoto Tower Kansai Tourist Information Centre Kyoto
- Kyoto Station coin lockers (24 spots, about 4,200 lockers)
The usage fee is 300-700 yen for coin lockers and 400-1,000 yen for direct baggage storage. (Information accurate as of January 2020)
Seasonal Characteristics of Kyoto -Weather & Highlights-
Kyoto has different climates in the northern and southern areas. A feature of the northern area is that in winter, there is a lot of snow.
In contrast, the southern area is hot in summer and cold in winter.
Another characteristic is that it is possible to see different scenes every season.
This section of the article introduces the details the climate of Kyoto, a major tourist destination.
Spring in Kyoto (March - May)
The average temperature in spring is around 14 ° C. It's relatively warm during the day, but long sleeves are a must, particularly in March when it can get cold in the morning and evening .
The highlight of spring in Kyoto is the sakura (cherry blossoms). Sakura bloom in various places in Kyoto and they fully bloom around April. In mid-May, one of the three major festivals in Kyoto, Aoi Festival, is held.
Summer in Kyoto (June - August)
The averagesummer temperature in Kyoto is around 26 ° C. Short sleeves are fine as it is unlikely to get cold in the morning and evening. However, this season has a lot more rainfall than the other seasons.
Autumn in Kyoto (September-November)
The average temperature in autumn is around 19 ° C. September and October are relatively warm and comfortable, but in November the lowest temperatures can drop below 10°C. For this reason, it is good to bring long sleeved clothing.
Autumn is the season of autumn leaves in Kyoto. Particularly in late November, the autumn leaves are at their best and the stunning scenery spreads out. Autumn leaves can be seen everywhere, but there are lots of spots particularly in Sagano and Arashiyama located in the northwestern part of Kyoto city.
Kyoto in Winter (December - February)
The average winter temperature in Kyoto is around 7°C. It never falls below freezing, but it is best to bring thick clothing.
In winter, illuminations and light-up events are attractive. Illuminations of the shrines and temples and sightseeing spots in the Higashiyama, Saga and Arashiyama areas in Kyoto are particularly fantastic.
Kyoto Food & Restaurants
There are lots of Japanese dishes if you are wondering what to eat in Kyoto. Kyoto famous food includes Shojin Ryori, Yudofu, and Mackerel Sushi. The places where to eat these in Kyoto are widespread, but there are lots of restaurants located in Gion and Kamogawa.
Sushi Restaurants in Kyoto
If you wish to eat sushi in Kyoto, head to a conveyor belt sushi restaurant or restaurants with counter seats. For example, in the case of conveyor belt sushi, it is possible to eat sushi for 100 - 200 yen a piece at Muten Kurasushi Nijo Store (無添くら寿司 二条店).
In contrast, if you wish to eat sushi as a course or set, we recommend Gion Sushi Tadayasu (祇園 鮨 忠保) and Sushi Kawano (鮨 かわの). Prices range from 5,000 - 33,000 yen. (Information accurate of January 2020)
In the Tango region of Kyoto Prefecture, there is a local dish called Barazushi (ばらずし). Barazushi is finely ground mackerel, shiitake mushroom, kinshi egg and red ginger spread over sushi rice. There are many famous restaurants in the Tango region that serve local cuisine, but you will largely find them in Kyotango City. Prices range from 500 - 2,000 yen.
Ramen shops in Kyoto
Kyoto ramen is known throughout Japan as "Kyoto Ramen". Kyoto Ramen features a rich soy sauce flavour or rich chicken soup.
|MENBAKAICHIDAI (めん馬鹿一代)||The fire ramen from Kyoto made using plenty of Kujo leeks is famous|
|Shinpuku Saikan Main Branch (新福菜館本店)||The roots of Kyoto ramen. Famous for its Chinese soba with soy sauce flavour|
|Honke Daiichi Asahi Main Branch, Kyoto||The grilled pork and noodles that goes well with the soy sauce flavoured soup is delicious|
|Masutani (ますたに)||Features a chicken soy sauce soup with thin noodles|
The dark base is the same, but the ingredients and the thickness of the noodles are different, so it would surely be interesting to compare the different dishes if there is time. The price range of the ramen is 600-2,000 yen. (Information accurate as of January 2020)
Best Restaurants in Kyoto in the Michelin Guide
There are around 200 restaurants listed in the Michelin Guide in Kyoto, including Bib Gourmand. Among these, Hyotei (瓢亭) is a kaiseki restaurant with a 400-year history. For Western dishes, we recommend going to Hiramatsu Kodaiji (ひらまつ高台寺) or Ristrante Chimera (リストランテ キメラ).
Japanese Restaurants with Set Meals and Udon in Kyoto
Kyoto has a wide variety of Japanese restaurants. There are only a few chain restaurants, and it is possible to eat dishes unique to Kyoto.
If you wish to have Udon, head to Yamamoto Menzo (山元麺蔵), and for Kyoto cuisine Gohandokoro Yaosada (ごはん処 矢尾定), and Kyousaimi Nomura (京菜味 のむら) are recommended. It is a good idea to have a budget of 900 - 1,300 yen. (Information accurate as of January 2020)
Coffee Shops and Cafes in Kyoto
There are lots of coffee shops and cafes where Japanese sweets in Kyoto can be eaten.
What we would like to bring your attention to is the nationwide expansion of Starbucks, Starbucks Coffee Kyoto Kyoto Nineizaka Yasaka Chaya Branch. While it is possible to have coffee and cakes inside the store as you would at any other Starbucks shop, this branch features a quaint exterior that makes use of the atmosphere of Kyoto town.
The interior as well as the exterior is also attractive, and it is a zashiki room where you can drink coffee while sitting on tatami mats.
We also recommend the Gion Hitsuji Cafe, where it is possible to drink coffee in a calm space that is unique to Kyoto.
Unique Restaurants in Kyoto
When you come to Kyoto, it is good not only to go to standard restaurants, but also to unusual ones.
|Shop name||Price range|
|Issen Yosyoku (壹錢洋食)||210～800 yen|
|Shishin Samurai Restaurant (士心 サムライレストラン)||1,200～10,000 yen|
|The Western Restaurant Kichikichi (ザ・洋食屋キチキチ)||1,500～3,250 yen|
(Information accurate as of January 2020)
Issen Yosyoku is a pottery shop that became the origin of Kyoto okonomiyaki, and the mannequins placed inside and outside the shop are original.
In contrast, the Shishin Samurai Restaurant, where armour and swords are displayed, offers meals inspired by Busho (Japanese Warlord).
In addition, The Western Restaurant Kichikichi has an open kitchen where you can watch the Kyoto Omurice being made as if it was a performance.
Recommended Breakfast Spots in Kyoto
For breakfast in Kyoto, types of breakfast such as pancakes, Japanese-style breakfasts and buffets are recommended. For Japanese-style breakfasts, Tan (丹) and Kishin (喜心) are have good reputations, and for Western-style dishes like pancakes, “Okaffe Kyoto” and “Cafe & Pantry Matsunosuke (松之助)” have good reputations.
In addition, hotels that have restaurants with buffets are attractive.
Famous Desserts and Sweets in Kyoto
Kyoto is famous for its matcha flavoured sweets. It is used not only in Japanese sweets but also in Western sweets. For instance, at "Saryo Tsujiri (茶寮都路里)" you can make custom parfaits by combining ingredients such as matcha-based castella and chocolate.
In addition, Gion Koishi Kanmidokoro (祇園小石 甘味処) offers not only matcha but also other Japanese sweets like anmitsu. The prices are around 630-1500 yen. (Information accurate as of January 2020)
In Kyoto, there are 5-star hotels that are listed in the Michelin Guide to capsule hotels. Here, we will introduce the recommended hotels for each class.
5 and 4-Star Hotels
Kyoto prefecture’s 5-star and 4-star hotels are largely located in the Higashiyama area of Kyoto, which has a calm atmosphere away from the city centre. The price range is wide starting from 10,000 yen going up to 90,000 yen. (Information accurate as of January 2020)
|Kyoto Hotel Okura||A high quality hotel listed in the Michelin guide|
|Kyoto Century Hotel||Located conveniently by Kyoto station|
|The Ritz Carlton Kyoto||Abundant with guest activities|
|Hyatt Regency Kyoto||Functional room that makes you feel the Japanese-style|
|Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto ||Has a garden with a history of around 800 years|
|The Westin Miyako Kyoto||Close to the sightseeing areas in Higashiyama|
|ART MON ZEN KYOTO||Artistic hotel produced by an art dealer|
Kyoto Economy Hotels
Economy hotels in Kyoto are conveniently located in sightseeing spots and they are easy to use. There are lots of distinctive and unique hotels. The most expensive range is around 8,000 - 12,000 yen. (Information accurate as of January 2020)
|Hotel Granvia Kyoto||Special tours hosted by the hotel are popular|
|Kyoto Granbell Hotel||A Maiko show can be seen|
|Kyoto Tokyu Hotel||Convenient for sightseeing on the west side of the station|
|Kyoto Brighton Hotel||Hotels located in "The middle of Kyoto"|
|Cross Hotel Kyoto||Good location close to sightseeing spots|
|Solaria Nishitetsu Hotel Kyoto Premier||Rooms that have a view of Kamogawa river|
|Hotel The Celestine Kyoto Gion||Rooms with carefully selected amenities|
Kyoto Capsule Hotels
Kyoto city is that is full of unique capsule hotels. There are lots of them around Kawaramachi, so it is convenient for going sightseeing. The price range is around 2,200 - 5,000 yen. (Information accurate as of January 2020)
|Smart Stay SHIZUKU||The original mattresses make it a comfortable stay|
|GLANSIT KYOTO KAWARAMACHI||Located close to Gion and Nishikikoji, and it is convenient for sightseeing|
|Nine Hours Kyoto ||Features futuristic capsule rooms|
|Comicap Kyoto Sin-kyogoku Branch||Ten of thousands of comics available for unlimited reading|
|Centurion Cabin & Spa ||Spend the night in a Japanese-style designer space|
|Capsule Resort Kyoto Square ||They have capsules with long beds|
|Backpackers Capsule Ryokan Kyoto||A hotel so popular it is difficult to get a reservation|
Airbnb and Hostels in Kyoto
There are lots of private accommodation facilities in Kyoto along Karasuma-dori starting from the station. The most expensive price range is around 2,000 - 3,000 yen which is quite reasonable. There are also lots of hostels, such as Ryokan HOSTEL Gion, Kyoto Morris Hostel and Hostel Grids Kyoto . The most expensive price range is around 2,000-4,000 yen. (Information accurate as of January 2020)
Kyoto’s Unique Hotels
Kyoto has unique hotels with a variety of themed rooms.
|Hotel Gracery Kyoto Sanjo||Rooms with a Kabuki theme available|
|Hotel Anteroom Kyoto||There are themed rooms designed by various artists|
|MIMARU Kyoto||Pokemon rooms available|
Kyoto Love Hotels
There are around 80 love hotels in Kyoto, largely situated in Fushimi-ku, located south of Kyoto Station. The cost ranges from 4,000 - 30,000 yen. They have plenty of facilities and amenities which are attractive. (Information accurate as of January 2020)
Information Regarding Access to Kyoto
We have summarized the access information between Kyoto Prefecture and other areas below
How to get to Kyoto for your Kyoto Visit
If you plan to go to Kyoto city, Kansai International Airport is the most convenient. From Kansai Airport, take the Kansai Airport Transportation Bus. The bus arrives at JR Kyoto Station in around 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Buses and Trains are Convenient for Traveling around Kyoto!
In Kyoto city, sightseeing spots are scattered around each area, so it is recommended to use public transportation.
However, public transportation is extremely crowded, so it is best to go around using both trains and buses. In this case, it is best to purchase a subway or bus one-day ticket.
The ticket fare is 900 yen for a one-day ticket and 1,700 yen for a two-day ticket.
Furthermore, if you wish to use the JR lines, not just the subway, it is best to get the Arukumachi KYOTOreru Kippu (ticket). For unlimited rides in the designated areas of Kyoto Municipal Subway, JR West, Hankyu, Keihan, and Randen it costs 1,300 yen. It should be noted that this ticket is not for unlimited bus rides. (Information accurate as of January 2020)
Access from Kyoto to Major Stations and Sightseeing Spots around Japan
Access from Kyoto Station to major sightseeing spots around Japan is as follows.
|Major Station Name||Line ||Travel time|
|Kyoto from Tokyo||JR Tokaido Bullet Train|
About 2 hours 29 minutes
|Kyoto to Osaka||JR Tokaido Bullet Train||About 13 minutes|
|Kyoto to Nara||JR Nara line||About 1 hour|
|Kyoto to Hiroshima|| JR Tokaido Bullet Train ||Around 1 hour 45 minutes|
|Kyoto to Kansai Airport||Kansai Airport Transportation Bus||Around 1 hour 30 minutes|