Kyoto, Japan: An In-Depth Travel Guide

Kyoto is often referred to as Japan’s most beautiful city, thanks to its countless temples, shrines and traditional gardens. Many people go there to visit its iconic architectural attractions, spot elusive geishas, and of course, to experience the cherry blossoms in spring.

To help you on your way, I outline the essential things you need to know below, and I link out to my more in-depth articles about the city.

About Kyoto & Why To Visit

Kyoto was Japan's capital for over a thousand years. It's one of the few Japanese cities that escaped World War II bombings, which is why you’ll find so many well-preserved temples, shrines and wooden machiya townhouses there, often contrasted against modern, bustling structures.

The city is also home to a staggering 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites, which are almost all temples. Some of the best temples in that list are the Kinkaku-ji, Ryoan-ji, and Kiyomizu-dera.

From the many reasons to visit Kyoto, I personally love the city for its unique culture, the wide variety of Japanese cuisine, as well as the beautiful scenery that changes with the seasons.

When To Go

Fall Foilage in Kyoto
The Oi river in Kyoto's Arashiyama district, during autumn

Kyoto's 4 seasons are spring (March to May), summer (June to August), autumn (September to November), and winter (December to February). You can see the average temperature for each month here.

The best seasons to visit are spring and autumn. Spring weather moves from cool to warm, with the cherry blossom trees flowering from the 4th week of March till the 2nd week of May. Most of autumn is comfortably warm, and it has beautiful fall foliage to admire. The popularity of these seasons do make them relatively busy.

Summer is generally not recommended due to its hot, wet, and humid weather, though it is the peak season for festivals. Winter is cold, but if you're lucky you can experience the city under snow cover, which does add to the magic. Both of these seasons have less tourists.

Kyoto Travel Guides

Kyoto is a large city that’s definitely not short on attractions and activities, so I’ve written an article about Kyoto’s top 12 things to do to help you decide which activities to experience during your stay.

Apart from doing activities and visiting attractions, don’t forget to have a taste of the best of Kyoto’s sushi restaurants, and also check out Kyoto’s lively nightlife.

Most visitors traveling to Kyoto stay within the neighborhoods of Downtown Kyoto, Southern Higashiyama, or the Kyoto Station area. Each neighborhood has its distinct advantages, depending on your travel style.

To help you choose accommodation that best fits your travel style, I’ve written an in-depth article about where to stay, and the 12 best ryokan within the recommended locations.

Getting to Kyoto involves landing at one of three nearby airports, and then choosing from one of several transfer options to get to the city. To help you plan your journey, I’ve written a 5-part article about how to get to Kyoto.