15 Best Spots to Photograph in Kyoto

Best Instagram-Worthy Spots in Kyoto

First time in Kyoto?? Want to take the best travel photos in Kyoto?

Kyoto is an incredible city that used to be an imperial capital of Japan for over 1,000 years. The city is full of attractions such as temples, shrines, parks and markets that are most of tourists’ favorite. When in Kyoto, you will never have enough time to explore the beauty of this city.

Bear in mind that Kyoto has approx 4,000 temples and shrines in the entire prefecture, and each one has unique and special feature. If you are going to visit Kyoto for limited days and want to make most of it, you should definitely plan where to visit in Kyoto in advance.

Today, I’d like to introduce 15 must-visit spots in Kyoto where you can take amazing photos. Especially, if you are a first timer in Kyoto and wondering where to take amazing photos in Kyoto just like on guide books or on Instagram, you should definitely check out this list! So let’s start 🙂

*Please note that this article contains affiliate links.

1. Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion)

Kinkakuji Temple (金閣寺) is one of the most famous landmarks in Japan. Its official name is Rokuonji Temple, however, because of its shiny golden exterior, it’s better known as Kinkakuji which means the Golden Pavilion. It’s one of the most visited spots in Kyoto, and sometimes you have to wait in the queue to enter, but it’s 100% worth.

More info: Kinkakuji Temple: Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion

2. Kifune Shrine

Kifune Shrine (貴船神社) is a beautiful Shinto Shrine located at Kibune Village in Sakyo-ward, Kyoto. The shrine is best known for the red lantern lined stairs which is an approach to the main hall of the shrine. The iconic approach displays the beautiful scenery in each season. It’s one of the best off-the-beaten-path destinations in Kyoto.

More info: Kifune Shrine: New Travel Destination in Kyoto

3. Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine

One of the most instagrammed places in Japan, Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine (伏見稲荷大社) is famous for its super photo worthy “a thousand of vermilion torii gates”. In past years, the shrine was chosen as the most popular tourist attractions in Japan among foreign visitors by Tripadvisor for multiple times, and it’s definitely on everyone’s bucket list. If you want to take photos of the torii gates without crowds, I’d recommend you to go there in super early morning before the mass crowds get there!!

More info: Fushimi Inari Taisha: Kyoto’s Most Visited Shrine by Foreign Visitors!

4. Yasaka Pagoda

The picturesque landmark of Higashiyama District, Kyoto, Yasaka Pagoda (八坂の塔) is a 5-story tower belongs to Hokanji Temple. The temple does not exist any longer since it was destroyed by fire, but luckily the stunning 46 m tall pagoda survived and stands there still since 1400. Although the pagoda is beautiful to look at and take photos of, it’s actually possible to enter and climb up inside the pagoda.

More info: Yasaka Pagoda: the Best Photo Spot in Higashiyama

5. Ninenzaka & Sannenzaka Streets

Ninenzaka (二年坂) and Sannenzaka (三年坂) slopes are two most charming streets in Kyoto located in the preserved historic district of Kyoto, Higashiyama District. Ninanzaka and Sannenzaka Streets are both touristic streets lined with traditional wooden houses which are shops, restaurants, teahouses, etc. Enjoy shopping and dining at the most entertaining streets of Kyoto as well as taking the photos of historical Japanese architecture.

More info: Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka: Unspoiled Historical Alleys in Kyoto

6. Gion District

Gion (祇園) is a district in Kyoto known as the home ground of Geisha and Maiko girls. The area was developed as the city’s entertainment district many years ago and there are still some traditional tea house and private dining establishments existing today where you can be entertained by Geisha or Maiko. Gion is also famous for the beautifully preserved historical streetscape with the traditional wooden merchant houses and stone paved streets. It’s highly recommended to visit both during day and night as you can see more bustling atmosphere during the day, and at night the streets of Gion is much more quiet in dimmed lights.

More info: Gion: Traditional Geisha District in Kyoto

7. Kiyomizudera Temple

Along with Kinkakuji Temple, Kiyomizudera Temple (清水寺) is also one of the most famous landmarks in Japan. The temple is known for its main hall with a large open-air wooden terrace with a great overlook view of Kyoto city. The temple and the surrounding nature displays absolutely stunning view in each season. During the cherry blossoms and autumn leaves season, the temple is open for night light-up.

More info: Kyoto Kiyomizudera Temple: When is the Best Time to Visit?

8. Arashiyama Kimono Forest

Kimono Forest (キモノフォレスト) is one of the most charming tourist attractions in Kyoto, which is located at Randen Arashiyama Station. The Kimono Forest is formed with approx 600 poles with a various colourful textiles with the traditional Kyo-Yuzen pattern, making the most charming and photo-worthy path in the town. Kyo-Yuzen is a traditional dyeing technique of kimono in Kyoto, and 32 different patterns are displayed at Kimono Forest. The poles are lightened up at night.

Map: http://bit.ly/2PJrW9Z

9. Togetsukyo Bridge

Togetsukyo Bridge (渡月橋) is a symbol of Arashiyama area for many years. The 155-meter bridge is built across the Katsura River and displays the stunning scenery with Arashiyama Mountain on the background. In each season, different scenery of the surrounding nature can be enjoyed. The traditional light-up event “Hanatouro” is held annually in Arashiyama area, and several sites in the area including Togetsukyo Bridge is lightened up at night.

Map: https://maps.app.goo.gl/QeuqNKQd1iJJsP4B8

10. Bamboo Forest

Bamboo Forest (竹林の小径) in Arashiyama is one of the most photographed places in Japan today. The view of the path through the bamboo grove is simply breathtaking. As it’s a top photography site in Kyoto for the past years, the Bamboo Forest tends to get extremely crowded during day, so if you wish to take pictures with an empty path, it’s better to hit the place in early morning before the crowds!

More info: Kyoto Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

11. Byodo-in

Byodo-in (平等院) is a Buddhist temple located in Uji City, Kyoto. It was originally built in 998 in the late Heian period as a rural villa then was turned into a Buddhist temple in 1052 by Fujiwara no Yorimichi. The most famous part in the temple is the Phoenix Hall which holds the Amida Buddha statue and two statues of phoenix on the roof. It’s situated in front of the pond and the reflection of the hall on the pond is simply breathtaking. The picturesque hall is actually printed on the back of 10 yen coins since 1951.

More info: Byodo-in: the World Heritage Buddhist Temple in Kyoto

12. Shoju-in Temple

Shoju-in (正寿院) is a temple located in Ujitawara near Uji City. The temple was built around 800 years ago and belongs to the Koyasan Shingonshu sect of Buddhism. The temple is situated slightly away from most of the major touristic sites in Kyoto and it might be hard to access especially for first time visitors, but it’s been attracting more and more tourists lately. Many visitors to the temple take photos of the picturesque hart-shaped window called inome window which is situated at the guest hall. You can also see the beautiful Japanese garden through the window that displays astonishing scenery in each season.

More info: Shoujuin Temple: Most Instagrammable Temple in Kyoto!

13. Yasaka Kosindo

Yasaka Koshindo (八坂庚申堂) is a small temple located in Kyoto’s Higashiyama ward, only a few hundred meters away from Ninenzaka slope. Yasaka Koshindo is known as the most colourful temple in Kyoto. Visitors to the temple write their wish on “Kukurizaru”, the round, ball shaped talisman made of cloth that represent the good faith of monkeys. The temple is best known for having divine favour for love knot. The multi-coloured Kukurizaru creates the photo-worthy scenery.

More info: Yasaka Koshindo: the Most Colourful Temple in Kyoto

 14. Araki Shrine

Araki Shrine (荒木神社) is a small shrine located near Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine. The shrine was established in 711 and is dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice & fertility. The shrine is known for the god of match-making, not only for love knot but also connecting people with good ties, job offers, employment, etc. A set of three fox dolls are sold at the shrine and when people’s wish is fullfilled, they return the dolls to the shrine. So the shrine is filled with a many fox dolls that creates a cute and photo-worthy view.

Map: https://goo.gl/maps/cQsYazpxtGN5vD1M7

Okazaki Shrine

Okazaki Shrine (岡崎神社) is a Shinto shrine located in Sakyo ward, Kyoto. The shrine is often called Rabbit Shrine as the rabbit is the divine messenger of the god of the shrine and rabbits are pictured and displayed in many spots in the shrine. The cutest sight at the shrine is a row of small rabbit statues in white and pink. The small statues are sold at the shrine with omikuji, a paper strip with fortune-telling written on. Many visitors leave the statues at the shrine after buying omikuji, which creates a super cute and photo-worthy scenery. The shrine is known as the place to pray for match-making, fertility and safe delivery.

Map: https://goo.gl/maps/CMAPjPExBmrQHtdWA

How did you enjoy the list?? When you see photos of Kyoto on social media sites like Instagram and wonder where those amazing photos are taken, you will find most of them at these 10 photo spots in Kyoto! Also there are must-visit places for all first visitors to Kyoto, so make sure to add all of them on your travel itinerary in Kyoto!

Not good at taking photos? Consider hiring a professional photographer to capture amazing moments that will serve as wonderful memories of your trip! ▶︎Book a Photoshoot Experience in Kyoto

If you are into Instagram and want to impress your followers with unique and eye popping photos in Kyoto, here are some more recommended articles to read! Check out cute and colourful Insta-Worthy temples, shrines and cafes in Kyoto!

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Written by

"The world is my oyster" A globetrotter 🌎 and hammock lover 🌞 who loves taking adventures to fuel wanderlust. Born and raised in Japan, I have lived and explored countries around the world. As a resident of Japan and based on my travel experience, I'd love to share my knowledge and tips for travelling Japan with my readers. I hope my story will help you plan your trip and have a great time in Japan 🌈