Our EPIC Kyoto itinerary will show you all of the best things to do while you are in Kyoto no matter your travel style!
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Kyoto is an incredibly beautiful ancient city which was the capital of Japan for over a thousand years. It’s famed for its numerous gorgeous Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, traditional wooden pandolas, and Imperial Palaces.

Its scenic cityscape, bursting with cherry and maple trees, is iconic as are some of its buildings, dating millennia back! Kyoto’s cuisine is also famous throughout Japan.

Kyoto offers visitors an irresistible combination of ancient architecture and modern infrastructure. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, art or nature, the city has plenty to offer everyone.

Explore the best that this city has to offer with our 3-day Itinerary Kyoto! We’ve also put together the best day trips in the area, for those lucky enough to be spending more than a weekend in Kyoto.

A Little Bit About This 3 Day Kyoto Itinerary

This itinerary has been designed for travellers with 3 days in Kyoto. For the first 2 days, we offer a step by step Kyoto itinerary and have carefully timed attractions to ensure you can fit them all in. We have also included spots for eating as we all know exploring is hungry work!

Day 3 is a bit more free and easy. We have provided a bunch of cool ideas for you to choose from.

Kyoto Itinerary Overview

Where to Stay in Kyoto in 3 Days

So where is the best place to stay in Kyoto?  If you’re interested in temple-hopping – one of the best activities in Kyoto – try to find a place in the Higashiyama district! Famous for its many beautiful and historic temples, some of the best Kyoto attractions are located within easy walking distance. If you’re only spending a weekend in Kyoto this is ideal, as you won’t have to spend much time on transportation!

One of the coolest neighbourhoods for your first time in Kyoto is Gion. However, it’s unlikely you’ll actually find a place to stay here. It’s so popular, and most of its streets are dedicated primarily to its famous tea houses and merchant homes. Still, if you have the money to spend, give it a go! It’s not every day that you get to stay in a neighbourhood that is an iconic and integral part of a community’s culture! There are also some great Kyoto Airbnbs in this area.

These are the best places to stay in Kyoto!

Another great neighbourhood you can stay in is Downtown Kawaramachi. It’s central and modern, but really close to the oldest parts of Kyoto. A vacation in Kyoto is always really well spent here.

The best hostels in Kyoto are spread over the city. We have selected a few option below to get you started.

Kyoto itinerary
Len Kyoto is our pick for the best hostel in Kyoto!

Best Hostel in Kyoto – Len Kyoto

Centrally located and just a 1-minute walk from the Kamo River, Len Kyoto is a great hostel to choose! It has a café and bar lounge where you can grab a coffee and breakfast in the morning, and drinks at night. Rooms are spacious and clean, and the beds are comfortable.

New House in Kyoto with Area for Family Group
New House in Kyoto with Area for Family Group is our pick for the best Airbnb in Kyoto!

Best Kyoto Airbnb – New House in Kyoto with Area for Family Group

Close to Kyoto Station, this Kyoto airbnb traditional home can sleep up to ten people, perfect for large families and friends travelling together. The sleeping arrangements are Japanese style, in that most people sleep in the same room on tatami mats on the ground.

The main sleeping room doubles as the living room, with a TV, table, and sofas as well. There’s another room that can be used for sleeping and/or eating, and you’ll find comfy floor seats in this room too.

There’s a separate toilet and bathroom and a well-equipped kitchen with a small breakfast bar. Lovely Japanese features can be found throughout the home.

Kyoto itinerary
Sunput Nanajo Mibu is our pick for the best budget hotel in Kyoto!

Best Budget Hotel in Kyoto – Sunput Nanajo Mibu

This hotel is luxury on a budget! Each room has air conditioning, a fully equipped kitchenette, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom. Located in the heart of Kyoto, it has everything you could want! The staff is friendly and helpful, and you can even rent bicycles.

Kyoto itinerary Day 1: Gion & Geisha’s

Kyoto Day 1 Itinerary Map
1. Kinkakuji Temple 2. Nijo Castle 3. Tea Ceremony at Camellia FLOWER 4. Nishiki Market 5. Gion District

The first day of our Kyoto Itinerary in 2 days includes some of the most beautiful places in the country! Put on your walking shoes – you’ll be touring ancient temples and markets, among other things. If you’re only visiting Kyoto for the first time, this is also the best way to do it!

9.00 AM – Kinkakuji Temple

Kinkakuji Temple
Kinkakuji Temple, Kyoto

This serene, gold-colored temple is iconic! Perched on the water, with its leafy, mountainous backdrop, is a perfect example of Japanese architecture. Each level represents a different architectural style from the extravagant Kitayama culture. It looks like a painting from every angle!

Also known as the Golden Temple, or Golden Pavilion, Kinkakuji is definitely one of the most beautiful Buddhist temples in the world.

  • Cost – $4
  • How Long Should I Stay Here? 30 mins
  • Getting There - Public transport runs here or you can use Uber

10.00 AM - Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle
Nijo Castle, Kyoto

This is a castle very different from any that you’ll find in Europe!

The gorgeous embellishments are made from wood and gold leaf. Marvel at the craftsmanship, and imagine the secrets and battles held in these walls. Its palace buildings are one of the best surviving examples of its architectural style from Japan's feudal era.

  • Cost – $6, with an extra $4 for entrance to Ninomaru Palace
  • How Long Should I Stay Here? 60 mins
  • Getting There - Take the bus from Kinkakujimichi to Horikawa Marutamachi

11.00 AM - Tea Ceremony at Camellia FLOWER

Japanese Tea Ceremony
Japanese take their tea very seriously - so experience it!

A tea ceremony is the ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha; powdered green tea. A great cultural experience, this is a must! You’ll learn more about Japanese history and tradition, and come away with a greater appreciation of the ancient civilization.

Zen Buddhism was a primary influence on the tradition, and it is still considered an art.

  • Cost – $27 – yes this is one expensive cup of tea!
  • How Long Should I Stay Here? 60 mins
  • Getting There - Walk from Horikawa Marutamachi and then take the bus to Higashiyama Yasui


12:30 PM - Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market, Kyoto
Nishiki Market, Kyoto

Next up is a lunch time visit to the Nishiki Market. A narrow, five-block long shopping street, this lively market is known as "Kyoto's Kitchen".

It specializes in all things food related, including fresh and cooked seafood, produce, and cookware. It’s the perfect great place to find seasonal Japanese foods and incredible Kyoto specialties. Almost everything sold here is locally produced!

  • Cost – $27 – yes this is one expensive cup of tea!
  • How Long Should I Stay Here? 1 or 2 hours mins
  • Getting There - Walk here. It's 25 minutes, but far less complicated than changing busses.

3.30 PM - Gion District

Gion District, Kyoto
Gion District, Kyoto

Gion is Kyoto’s geisha district. It has held this title for centuries, and you’ll find a lot of traditional architecture and history here. You’ll also spot beautiful hostesses in colorful kimonos walking down the wooden Tatsumi Bridge and on the streets.

Admire the upscale restaurants and boutiques of the unique district. Watch one of the traditional Kyomai dances hosted at Gion Corner.

  • Cost – Free
  • How Long Should I Stay Here? 60 mins
  • Getting There - Walk here in 15 minutes. Aim for Gion Tatsumi Bridge

5.00 PM - Geisha dance in Gion

Geisha Dance
Geisha Dance, Kyoto

Stopped in tradition and culture, these dances are an art form long recognized in Japan! Once you’ve enjoyed the general delights of the district, enter a tea house if you can (many only cater to locals).

If you’re lucky, you will be able to observe a small performance in one of these teahouses. If you’re very lucky, or a good planner, you’ll be able to see a large performance, put on for the general community!

  • Cost – $18 – $40
  • How Long Should I Stay Here? 60 mins
  • Getting There - It's in the Gion district
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Day 2 Itinerary in Kyoto: Another side of Kyoto

Kyoto Day 2 Itinerary Map
1. Yasaka Pagoda 2. Kiyomizudera Temple 3. Kyoto International Manga Museum 4. Lunch at Shishin Samurai Restaurant 5. Kyoto Station Building 6. Maruyama Park 7. Ginkakuji Temple

Explore nature, modern Japanese architecture and art, and of course more temples in day 2 of our Kyoto Itinerary! It’s going to be an incredible day.

9:00 AM - Yasaka Pagoda

Yasaka Pagoda, Kyoto
Yasaka Pagoda, Kyoto | source: Travelerpix (shutterstock)

Also known as Hakanji Temple or Yasaka-no-Tou, this pagoda is perfect. With an iconic design and great location, it feels like you’re in an old Japanese movie as you look at it.

Yasaka Pagoda, the last remnant of Hokanji Temple, is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the district. Occasionally the interior is open to visitors, which is a rare opportunity.

  • Cost – $4
  • How Long Should I Stay Here? 30 mins
  • Getting There - You can reach the Pogoda by bus

10:00 AM - Kiyomizudera Temple

Kiyomizudera Temple
Kiyomizudera Temple, Kyoto

Kiyomizudera, or the ‘Pure Water Temple’, is one of the most beautiful and celebrated temples of Japan. Founded in 780 AD on the site of the Otowa Waterfall, it derives its name from that waterfall’s waters.

The temple is nestled in the wooded hills east of Kyoto, but you will be able to catch a bus to the area and stroll along a path through the forest to get there. It’s a great opportunity to leave the city for a few hours and admire the surrounding area.

  • Cost – $6
  • How Long Should I Stay Here? 30 mins
  • Getting There - It's a 15 minute walk

11:00 AM - Kyoto International Manga Museum

Kyoto International Manga Museum, Kyoto
Kyoto International Manga Museum, Kyoto | source: Olivier Bruchez (Flickr)

For something a little different and a little more modern, visit the Manga museum! Just as much a part of many Japanese people’s lives as the temples you’re visiting, Manga is very important in Japanese culture.

Manga are comics or graphic novels rendered in a very specific style, with its roots in Japanese art. Japanese people of all ages read manga! The comics cover every genre, the most popular of which are adventure and erotica.

  • Cost – $7
  • How Long Should I Stay Here? 60 mins
  • Getting There - Take the 95 bus from Gojozaka to Karasuma Oike

12.00 PM - Lunch at Shishin Samurai Restaurant 

japan safety food

Feeling hungry? I hope so because our Kyoto itinerary next stop is Shishin Samurai Restaurant. Housed in a traditional, 100 year old building, the cuisine is traditional "Samurai" food made using award winning Tofu and fresh, organic vegetables. The grilled omi beef is delicious, the Samurai burger filling and if you want something light and green then check out the Samurai salad.

  • Cost – Budget $20- $30 per person
  • How Long Should I Stay Here? 60 mins
  • Getting There - You can walk from the Manga museum

1.00 PM - Kyoto Station Building

Kyoto Station Building, Kyoto
Kyoto Station Building, Kyoto

You would think this is an odd choice, being a train station. But the Kyoto Station Building showcases really impressive modern architecture! It’s also one of the best places to shop in Kyoto.

An ultra-modern structure of glass and steel, the station building houses a brilliant amount of shops, restaurants, and recreational facilities.

  • Cost – Free
  • How Long Should I Stay Here? 30 mins
  • Getting There - Take the Karasuma (Green line) metro to Kyoto station

2.30 PM - Maruyama Park

Maruyama Park, Kyoto
Maruyama Park Kyoto | source: cowardlion (shutterstock)

This public urban park is incredible in Spring! The cherry trees blossoming turn it into an ethereal landscape, and you feel like you’re on another planet. Any other time of the year though, it’s still a great place to visit in Kyoto!

The park’s centerpiece is a famous weeping cherry tree and gets lit up at night.

  • Cost – Free
  • How Long Should I Stay Here? 60 mins
  • Getting There - Take the bus from Kyoto Eki mae to Gion

4.00 PM - Ginkakuji Temple

Ginkakuji Temple
Ginkakuji Temple, Kyoto

Ginkakuji Temple, or the Temple of the Silver Pavilion, is elegant and lovely. Set at the base of the mountains, its grounds are gorgeous. A perfect example of curated Japanese landscape architecture.

Walk the trails around the lake, admire the raked sand garden, sit and look up at the blue sky through the trees.

  • Cost – Free
  • How Long Should I Stay Here? 3o minutes
  • Getting There - Bus again! From Gion to Ginkakuji mae

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Guest House Ga-Jyun
Situated in Kyoto’s historic core, this guest house is just a short walk from many major attractions. Private rooms in various sizes are available as well as single-gender and mixed dorms.
    • $$
    • Free WiFi
    • Coin - operated washing machines
    • Bike rentals

What To Do With More Than 3 Days in Kyoto

There is so much to do in the greater Kyoto prefecture, we hope you’re spending more than 3 days in Kyoto! These are the must-sees that just don’t fit into the busy structure of your first 2 days in Kyoto.

Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine

Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine Kyoto
Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine, Kyoto

Only 30-minutes from Kyoto by train, the Fushimi Shrine is an absolute must-see in Japan. With thousands of vermilion Torii gates and some really impressive buildings, it’s one of the most iconic holy places in the world.

The Torii gates symbolically mark the transition from the mundane and earthly to the sacred. That’s quite a transition!

  • Cost – $3
  • How Long Should I Stay Here? 120 minutes
  • Getting There - It's just outside  JR Inari Station

Japanese Izakaya Cooking Class

Japanese Izakaya Cooking Class

Immerse yourself in the famous Kyoto foodie culture and learn how to make home-style Japanese dishes.

An izakaya is an informal Japanese space for casual after-work drinking and tapas.  Lasting 3-hours, the course covers a surprising amount of food. You’ll learn to make 2 or 3 local dishes, chatting and learning from your chef, before eating them together in a fantastic communal experience.

When you’re full and happy you’ll make another 2-3 dishes, allowing the food to settle while you learn. This is the perfect activity for foodies, families, couples, and people interested in learning an element of the local culture.

  • Cost – Varies
  • How Long Should I Stay Here? 2 to 3 hours
  • Getting There - It

Monkey Park Iwatayama

Monkey Park Iwatayama, Kyoto
Monkey Park Iwatayama, Kyoto

If you’re feeling a little overloaded from all the temples and shrines, take a little hike up this nearby hill to visit the Monkey Park. With only a $5 USD entrance fee and a very casual setup, it’s a great place to experience something entirely different.

It’s a 30-minute hike and quite steep, so, unfortunately, those with physical limitations may struggle. It’s also not wheelchair friendly.

  • Cost – $5
  • How Long Should I Stay Here? 2 hours

Mt. Kurama

Mt. Kurama
Mt. Kurama, Kyoto

If you have half a day to spare, one of the greatest Kyoto points of interest is in its greater prefecture! Said to be the home the King of the Tengu - legendary creatures in Japanese folk religion - this mountain is mysterious and immense.

On the mountain, you’ll find Kurama, a rural town best known for its hot spring and beautiful Kurama-  temple. The hot spring is one of the most easily accessible from Kyoto!

Don’t forget to pack a good book!

Lonely Planet Kyoto (Travel Guide): This is our top recommendation for an awesome and inspiring read on this magical city

How To Get Around Kyoto

Our itinerary is jam-packed with amazing things to see and some of the best places to visit in Kyoto! But that doesn’t mean you need to stay in the middle of the city to make the most of it. The transportation in Kyoto is world-class, and you’ll be able to get anywhere in the large city in minutes. So breathe easy, touring Kyoto is a breeze!

The train and subway system is extensive, making it easy to get around the city, and also to reach nearby cities like Osaka and Nara very quickly. Japan is a very small, technologically advanced country, so it’s a great place to travel.

You can also catch the bus to get around the city. They are very reasonably priced and fun! You get on at the back, and depart from the front, paying when you leave. Within the main part of the city, all bus fares are ~$2 USD. You can also walk! But with such efficient, well-priced public transport, and limited time, you may choose not to.

However, our favorite option is cycling! Renting a bicycle for the day is a really great way to explore the city, and you’ll be able to see lots of lovely random things in-between stops. It’s also a common form of transportation in Kyoto, so you won’t be alone!

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Best time to visit Kyoto

when to visit Kyoto
These are the best times to visit Kyoto!

Kyoto’s climate is temperate humid. This means that winters are mild and summers are hot and rainy. The in-between months are best as they’re usually mild and sunny, and very pleasant. Therefore, depending on when exactly you visit Japan, pack accordingly.

Wondering when to visit Kyoto? Spring is absolutely idyllic when the cherry trees bloom and transform the Japanese landscape with their calm, beautiful pink. This starts in April, and is a great time to do a Kyoto walking tour! Keep in mind, the cherry trees bloom quickly, so if you’re planning a trip to Kyoto for its best season you’ll want to go in the first two weeks of April. The city is very popular at this time so the crowds will be large. But it’s well worth it!

The city is also gorgeous in Fall, when all those trees go red and orange. In Fall, the rains has ended but the crowds are reasonably small and everything is a little cheaper than during the springtime rush!

Weather in Kyoto

 Average TemperaturesChance of RainCrowdsOverall Grade
January4°C / 40°FLowCalm😐
February 5°C / 41°FLowCalm😐
March8°C / 46°FAverageCalm🙂
April 14°C / 57°FAverageBusy🙂
May18°C / 65°FAverageBusy🙂
June22°C / 72°FHighMedium🙂
July27°C / 80°FHighMedium🙁
August28°C / 82°FAverageMedium😐
September24°C / 74°FHighCalm😐
October17°C / 63°FAverageBusy😐
November12°C / 53°FLowBusy🙂
December7°C / 44°FLowMedium🙂
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What To Prepare Before Visiting Kyoto

Japan is a very safe country to visit. While Kyoto is a large city and very busy, it is, in fact, the safest city in Japan. You can walk around at night in safety. You can also use public transport alone. This means Kyoto is a really great city for solo travelers - so often we have to make sure we’re inside or in a group by dark. Here you can keep exploring into the night!

Like in every busy city, the flow of people attracts pickpockets. However, the risk is comparatively low. If you keep your bags closed and close to you, you’ll leave the city with everything you arrived with!

While not a safety measure per-se, there are a few things you should do to avoid being rude in Kyoto and greater Japan. Take off your shoes when you enter a home. Don’t eat or talk on the phone while you walk - Japanese folk find it quite offensive, and you’ll definitely get some funny looks. Don’t touch in public, it makes them uncomfortable.

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Final Thoughts

Isn’t it wonderful, what you can see and do on a short trip to Kyoto? The ancient city has so much to offer, both in Kyoto’s city center and beyond it. And the locals are welcoming and kind!

Whether you’re coming on a spiritual pilgrimage, a foodie foray, or a historical and cultural adventure, Kyoto is one of the best places in the world to do it! You will never walk away from this city disappointed. Not with this Kyoto itinerary 2 days! There are just too many incredible experiences to be had.

Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation through the site, The Broke Backpacker will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your support helps me keep the site going.

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Our EPIC Kyoto itinerary will show you all of the best things to do while you are in Kyoto no matter your travel style!