5 Days Itinerary in Kyoto
5 Days in Kyoto: Best Things to See
Kyoto is an ancient capital of Japan, fascinating millions of visitors across the world by its well-preserved historic streets and sites of the UNESCO World Heritage such as temples, shrines and gardens. If anyone visits Japan for the first time, Kyoto is definitely one city that can’t be missed out and it’s very much worth spending some days to learn the beauty, culture and tradition of the country.
A lot of tourists stay 2–3 days in Kyoto along before or after visiting the western capital city, Osaka, but there’s never enough time to fully explore Kyoto as the city explores countless tourist attractions.
But if you really wish to discover the beauty and wonder of this fabulous city, I would say 5 days is pretty long enough to see best bits of the city as well as do extra activities, visit some off-the-beaten-track spots and extend the trip to some neighbouring cities.
In this article, I’d like to share a suggest 5-days itinerary in Kyoto with the best things to do, must-visit spots and popular tours as well as some tips for dining and shopping!
Day 1: Higashiyama & Gion
The best tourist attraction in Kyoto is definitely the preserved historical sites including temples, shrines and the town itself, and many of them gather within the Higashiyama District such as:
Kiyomizudera Temple: One of the most famous historic landmarks in Japan, and the oldest temple in Kyoto which was built in 780. The iconic view of its large wooden terrace collaborates with the surrounding nature and displays astonishing scenery such as with cherry blossoms and autumn leaves.
Yasaka Shrine: A Shinto shrine brightly painted in red and a host of the famous Gion Festival held in July every year.
Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka: Two shopping streets situated within the preserved historic districts in Higashiyama, filled with numbers of souvenir shops and restaurants transformed from the Kyoto style traditional wooden houses.
Yasaka Pagoda (Hokanji Temple): One of the most recognizable landmarks in the district, and a popular photo spots in Kyoto where you can capture the stone-paved street and the magnificent pagoda tower of Hokanji Temple.
I’d also recommend you to stop by at cafes along the iconic Kamogawa River, and relax with the pleasant scenery of the river while hopping temples and shrines.
Besides above, there are some more notable tourist sites around Higashiyama area, which you may consider adding to your itinerary such as:
Nishiki Market: One of the largest food streets in Kansai area, offering a wide variety of food products, street snacks, kitchenware and souvenir products. It’s a must-visit place for foodies where authentic Kyoto food can be tasted. (▶ Popular Food Tour at Kyoto Nishiki Market)
Sanjusangendo: the famous temple, Rengeo-in (known as Sanjusangendo) is home to 1001 human-sized statues of Kannon.
Kyoto Tower: The tallest (131m tall) building in Kyoto and city’s modern landmark where you can see the panoramic view of Kyoto and neighbouring cities.
After visiting iconic temples, shrines and strolling down the charming well-preserved neighbourhood, I recommend you to finish off the day with the nightlife in Gion district.
Gion is known as “Geisha District” and the streets are filled with restaurants, bars and traditional teahouses where visitors can have a fabulous dining experience of being entertained by Geisha and Maiko girls. Click the link below to book an exclusive dinner with Geisha in Gion including Kyoto cuisine course dishes!
If being served by Geisha is too extravaganza for you, there are still other ways to enjoy nightlife in Gion, for example visiting inexpensive Izakaya bars on the backstreets and enjoy strolling down on the beautifully preserved historic streets at night.
If you are interested in nightlife of Kyoto and wish to spend a night like a local, I’d highly recommend you to join the Kyoto Food Tour by Magical Trip, a popular food tours in Gion area, offering an authentic food and drink experience with an English-speaking local guide.
Check out the attached link below for more details and book the tour on your wished date while it’s available!
Day 2: Southern Kyoto
On the second day, let’s explore the southern part of Kyoto including the famous row of red torii gates at Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine.
Since Fushimi Inari Taisha is one of the most popular tourist sites in Japan, the shrine is crowded by tourists pretty much all day.
However, there is a way to enjoy this popular landmark in peaceful and serene atmosphere without feeling densely packed by tourists. “Fushimi Inari Hidden Hiking Tour” is an amazing half-day tour offering a guided tour off the main route of the shrine. You can explore hidden area of this popular shrine and enjoy taking photos without crowds. The tour is usually available twice daily starting at 9 am or 2 pm.
You can check the attached link below for more details about the tour!
Besides Fushimi Inari Taisha, there are a few more amazing tourist sites in southern Kyoto where you may be interested in such as:
Tofukuji Temple: A large temple complex consisting of several gates, halls and gardens. It’s one of the most popular temples in Kyoto for autumn leaves viewing.
Daigoji Temple: A large Buddhist temple with a pleasant landscape garden, pond, and pagoda, and famous for cherry blossom viewing.
If you are interested in Japanese Sake, you should also head south to the Fushimi Sake District, one of the major Sake brewing districts in Japan. There are several Sake breweries within the district where you can taste and purchase locally brewed Sake.
Kyoto Sake Brewery & Tasting Tour is a great day-trip tour in Fushimi Sake District offering visitors amazing Sake experiences including tasting of 22 kinds of local Sake, learning about the culture and history of Sake, and walking around the charming neighbourhoods of Fushimi district.
Check more details from the link below and see the availability of this popular guided tour!
After visiting the famous Sake district and enjoy a couple of Sake tasting, I’d suggest you to move down south and visit Uji City. It’s situated approx 15 km southwest of Kyoto City, and can be accessed within 15–20 by Keihan Uji Line or JR Nara Line.
There are two things that every visitor to Uji shouldn’t miss out:
Byodo-in Temple: The magnificent temple built in 998 during the Heian Period. In fact, it’s one of the most famous temples in the world as the Phoenix Hall of the temple is printed on the back of Japanese 10 yen coin.
Uji Tea: The city is also known for the green tea production and fine quality matcha products. Numbers of restaurants and teahouses offering high quality tea, matcha flavour products and authentic tea ceremony.
For Uji area, I’d recommend you to join this tour, Kyoto Uji Matcha & Byodo-in Temple Walking Tour by Magical Trip, offering visits of magnificent temple and shrine with a guide and authentic tea ceremony experience with fine Uji Matcha tea.
Click the link below to find more details about the tour!
If you still feel active to go out after returning to the city center, I’d recommend you to check out this article introducing the best drink/nightlife spots in Kyoto!
Day 3: Northern Kyoto
After visiting two of the three most famous landmarks in Kyoto (Kiyomizudera Temple and Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine), let’s complete the list by visiting the last one, Kinkakuji Temple a.k.a. the Golden Pavilion which is located in northwest of Kyoto City.
Or if you are up for something more active, how about exploring the city by bicycle?? Kyoto Historical Highlights Cycling Tour with the Golden Pavilion offers a great opportunity to visit some of greatest historic sites in Kyoto in an extraordinary way including Kinkakuji Temple, Imperial Palace and Kamogawa River!
See the link below for more details about this popular tour!
Along with Kinkakuji Temple, there are two must-visit UNESCO World Heritage sites that should be added to your itinerary:
Ryoanji Temple: A Zen temple famous for the rock garden with 15 rocks which are places carefully with unclear meaning.
Ninnaji Tample: A temple complex consisting gates, halls, Japanese garden and pagoda. Known for the late blooming “Omuro Cherry” during spring.
If you wish to see all three sites within a short time, this Kyoto UNESCO Historical Walking Tour is highly recommended to join as you can learn the rich history of these magnificent temples with an expert guide. The tour also includes traditional cultural experiences: matcha and Shakyo(sutra copying).
If you are interested, check the attached link below and find more details about the tour!
After visiting three must-see historical sites in northern Kyoto, I’d suggest you to take one of these two options to spend afternoon:
Exploring further in northern Kyoto by visiting these places
Kifune Shrine: One of the most photo-worthy shrines in Kyoto, offering the spectacular view of stone steps lined by red larnterns before entering the shrine site.
Kamigamo Shrine: A Shinto shrine situated by the Kamogawa River. Considered as one of two most important shrines in Kyoto along with Shimogamo Shrines.
Shungakuin Villa: A specious imperial villa consisting of traditional Japanese style gardens and buildings.
Or heading to eastern Kyoto (northern Higashiyama) and exploring following places
Ginkakuji Temple: Also known as “the Silver Pavilion” as it’s modelled after Kinkakuji Temple, but it’s not actually covered in silver as it was planned.
Philosopher’s Path: A walking trail and one of the most popular cherry blossom spots in Kyoto where cherry blossoms flourish along the pleasant path.
Nanzenji Temple: A large Zen temple complex known for the beautiful Japanese Zen garden and the large Western style brick aqueduct passing through the temple site.
Keage Incline: An old railway track that is open now to public. One of the most popular cherry blossom viewing spots in Kyoto.
If you feel tired after long walking, why don’t you stop for delicious Matcha desserts and taste Kyoto’s finest Matcha tea!
At night, I’d recommend you to visit one of the most lively and atmospheric night spot areas in Kyoto, Pontocho. There are numbers of restaurants and bars, offering authentic Kyoto cuisine in a wide price range. It’s a perfect place for bar-hopping and enjoy nightlife in Kyoto
Check the popular bar-hopping tour held in Pontocho area every night!
Day 4: Arashiyama Area
After visiting numbers of temples and shrines within Kyoto’s city center, it’s time to extend your trip to outside of the city.
Arashiyama area is situated in western outskirt of Kyoto, offering the pleasant scenery with nature and more historic sites. As the surrounding area is rich in nature, Arashiyama is also recommended to visit during cherry blossoms and autumn leaves season.
There are several iconic photo spots in Arashiyama area such as Togetsukyo Bridge and the Bamboo Grove as well as important historic sites such as
Tenryuji Temple: The largest and most important temple in Arashiyama Area
Gioji Temple: A small temple famous for green moss covering the temple sites during summer
Iwatayama Monkey Park: A park with over 100 freely roaming monkeys located on the Arashiyama mountain.
Hozugawa River Boat: An iconic river and cruising down the rive through the pleasant nature is a popular activity in Arashiyama area.
Check more places to visit ▶ Best Things to Do in Arashiyama
As there are plenty of tourists attractions, I’d suggest you to spend a whole day in Arashiyama area, but in case you have limited time, I’d highly recommend you to join a guided tour to see the best highlight of Arashiyama efficiently.Kyoto Arashiyama Insider Walking Tour is a 4-hour guided tour that lets you to visit several famous spots in Arashiyama, learn the deep history and culture and taste delicious Kyoto cuisine lunch!
More details of the tour can be found on the attached link below!
If you are looking for a great place to dine after coming back to the city center from Arashiyama area, we have some articles introducing some of the best places to eat in Kyoto.
Day 5: Day Trips from Kyoto
On the last day of a 5-day Kyoto trip, I’d suggest you to take another day trip to either countryside such as:
Ine no Funaya: A small fishing village with scenic water views, often called the Venice of Japan.
Miyama: A rural village with approx 200 traditional thatched roof houses
Amanohashidate: A scenic sandbar in northern Kyoto Prefecture, ranked as one of Japan’s three most scenic views.
Or why not to extend the trip to neighbouring cities such as
Osaka: The capital city of western Japan, offering countless tourist attractions and entertainments
Nara: Another ancient capital in Japan and home to numbers of majestic historic monuments and treasures
Or if you prefer to stay within the city center of Kyoto, there are plenty more to see and do including MORE temples and shrines, museums, shopping and eat-out. There are also numbers of hidden temples and shrines which are not usually introduced on guidebooks such as
Enkoji Temple: A little known temple with the traditional Japanese style garden displaying astonishing scenery especially in autumn
Saihoji Temple: Known as “Koke Dera” (Moss Temple) known as the Apple founder, Steve Job’s favourite place in Japan
Yasaka Koshindo Temple: the most colorful and instagram-worthy temple located in Higashiyama District
You can check more places to visit and things to do in Kyoto here!
There are also plenty things to do in Kyoto besides historic sites.
Before leaving Kyoto, make sure to get some special souvenirs! There are numbers of souvenir shops offering Kyoto’s specialties such as authentic crafts, delicious sweets and snacks. Check out the article below introducing some of the best-selling souvenirs from Kyoto!
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed reading my suggested 5-day Kyoto itinerary. Although it’s a basic itinerary that can be followed through the year, I’d also recommend you to add some seasonal attractions and activities such as cherry blossoms in spring, traditional festivals in summer, autumn foliage and snowy scenery in winter.
More suggested itineraries in Kyoto
If you are planning a trip to Kyoto, I’d recommend you to check out these articles, too!