This 1 Day Kyoto Itinerary is the perfect guide for first-timers visiting the cultural capital of Japan! Discover ancient Buddhist temples, towering bamboo forests, Geisha girl performances and much more!
There are so many things to see and do in Kyoto that you could quite literally spend weeks exploring this magnificent city. But don’t worry – if you only have a short time frame to visit, seeing the top Kyoto attractions in one day is totally possible.
In this 1 Day Kyoto Itinerary, I have included a complete list of the top places to see as well as some useful information on how to get around, where to stay in Kyoto and a map of the city.
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1 DAY KYOTO ITINERARY OVERVIEW
To get the most out of your Kyoto 1 Day Itinerary, see below for a list of must-see attractions:
- Kinkaku-ji Temple
- Ryoan-ji Temple
- Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
- Fushimi Inari (Tori Gates)
- Maiko Theatre (Geisha Girl Performance)
- Kiyomizu-dera Temple
RELATED ARTICLE → 7 DAY JAPAN ITINERARY
1 Day Kyoto Itinerary
MOST POPULAR TOURS IN KYOTO
For the first stop on your 1 day Kyoto itinerary, I highly suggest paying a visit to Kinkaku-ji Temple in Kyoto’s northwest, where you’ll find the famous Golden Pavilion, located on a small lake in the middle of a serene garden.
The building dates back to 1397, and was once the holiday retreat villa for a prominent Japanese Shogun!
You can expect to spend about an hour exploring the temple and its surrounding gardens.
To reach Kinkaku-ji Temple, you can take the Kyoto City Bus 205 from Kyoto Station to Kinkakuji-michi bus stop, or Kyoto City Bus 59 from Sanjo-Keihan to the Kinkakuji-mae stop, or taxi directly to Kinkaku-ji Temple.
ENTRANCE FEE & OPENING HOURS:
The entrance fee to visit Kinkakuji Temple is 400¥.
Opening hours are Monday to Sunday from 9 am – 5 pm.
Kinkaku-ji Temple – Kyoto Itinerary 1 Day
The Golden Pavillion – 1 Day Itinerary In Kyoto
Ryoan-ji Temple is the site of Japan’s most famous rock garden, attracting hundreds of visitors every day.
Meditating with the view of this immaculately well-kept Cultural World Heritage site is the next best place to visit on your 1 day Kyoto itinerary!
From Kinkaku-ji Temple, it’s a 20-minute walk or 5-minute bus ride to reach Ryoan-ji Temple.
ENTRANCE FEE & OPENING HOURS:
The entrance fee to enter Ryoanji Temple is 500¥.
Opening hours are Monday to Sunday from 8 am – 5 pm.
Ryoan-ji Temple – 1 Day Itinerary In Kyoto
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
Next up on this 1 day Kyoto itinerary is the world-famous Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. A trip to Kyoto wouldn’t be complete without having visited Arashiyama!
Kyoto’s bamboo forest is one of the most photographed attractions in the city and experiencing it through your own eyes is even better than any picture you would have seen of this place!
There is one main path leading through the Kyoto bamboo grove and when you enter the parallel tunnel of bamboo trees, you’ll feel like you’ve just entered another realm.
You will also notice the temperature drop when you are wandering through Arashiyama Bamboo Grove as the canopy above almost completely cuts out the sun.
The nature that surrounds Arashiyama is absolutely breathtaking and chances are you’ll spot a few monkeys in the area too, so keep your eye peeled.
The Bamboo Forest in Kyoto is located in Arashiyama, northwest of the city center.
Find your way to Saga Arashiyama Station on the JR Sagano line using the JR Pass and it’s a short 10-minute walk from here.
ENTRANCE FEE & OPENING HOURS:
The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest entrance fee is 500¥.
Opening hours are Monday to Sunday from 5:30 am – 11:30 pm.
The famous Kyoto Bamboo Forest
Bamboo Forest in Kyoto
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove – 1 Day Kyoto Itinerary
Continue the adventure on your one day Kyoto itinerary by journeying through the world-famous Tori gates of Fushimi Inari.
This must-see shrine consists of a pathway lined with over 4000 Tori gates that extends 4km up to the very top of Mount Inari. It takes two to three hours to walk to the very top and back down again, however, you can turn back at any time you want!
Along the pathway, you will also see many stone foxes, symbolizing the messenger of Inari – the god of rice… and business!
Take the JR Nara Line from Kyoto Railway Station using the JR Pass and ride it two stops to JR Inari Station.
ENTRANCE FEE & OPENING HOURS:
The Fushimi Inari Shrine is FREE to enter and it’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Fushimi Inari Shrine – 1 Day Kyoto Itinerary
One of the most exclusive experiences to add to your Kyoto 1 day itinerary is meeting a traditional Geisha performer.
Geisha are highly skilled entertainers who appear at high-end dinners, private parties and special events to add a special touch to the proceedings, and are rarely seen in public.
Many foreigners tend to run around the red light district areas to try to get a glimpse of a Geisha girl or pay large sums of money to have a private performance. Luckily, for travelers on a budget, there are some cheap options to get a taste of what a Geisha show is like!
I personally recommend the Maiko Theatre. While training to become Geisha between the ages of 15 and 20, these girls are known as ‘Maiko’, and this theatre gives you the rare opportunity to get to see one of them close up!
Take the bus from Kyoto Station to Kawaramachi Gojo bus stop, then walk for 2 minutes, or 3 minutes walk east from Keihan Shimizu Gojo station (exit 4).
ENTRANCE FEE & OPENING HOURS:
It is relatively inexpensive at 3300¥ for their basic show, including a special dance and Q&A session, and you can take as many photos of (and with) her as you like!
Opening hours are Monday to Sunday from 10 am – 7 pm.
Traditional Geisha girl in Kyoto
Maiko performance – Kyoto Itinerary 1 Day
Next on this 1 day Kyoto itinerary is a visit to the Kiyomizu-dera (Water) Temple.
The walk leading up to the temple is almost as exciting as the temple visit itself, with a multitude of traditional buildings, shops and restaurants.
Kiyomizu-dera is built into the side of the mountain, and from the huge verandah, you can see spectacular views of the hillside and the entire city.
Below the Kiyomizu-dera temple, you can find the reason why people make pilgrimages here from around Japan and the world – the Otowa Waterfall. The waters are divided into three streams, and visitors use long poles with cups attached to drink from the streams.
Each stream has a different meaning and benefit – long life and health, success in school/career, and love. However, you can only drink from one… so choose carefully!
Make your way to Kiyomizu-michi street and follow it uphill until you reach the popular Kiyomizu-dera (Water) Temple.
ENTRANCE FEE & OPENING HOURS:
The Kiyomizu-dera Temple entrance fee is 300¥.
This Kyoto tourist spot is open daily from 6 am to 6 pm.
Kiyomizu-dera Temple – 1 Day Kyoto Itinerary
View of Kyoto City from Kiyomizu-dera
Kiyomizu-dera – 1 Day Itinerary In Kyoto
Last but not least on this 1 day Kyoto itinerary is Gion. From Kiyomizu-dera, you can meander down the iconic Sannen-zaka alleyway, a historical, stone-paved street is lined with many traditional Japanese buildings, shops, cafes and inns.
Sannen-zaka is also surrounded by several famous landmarks such as Yasaka Shrine, Maruyama Park, Yasaka-no-to Pagoda, and Kodaiji Zen Temple.
Once you reach the bottom of the hill, you’ve basically arrived at Gion, home to various red-light districts where you might be lucky enough to spot a Geisha! My favorite is Hanamikoji Street.
I recommend to time your arrival here for around 5:30 pm, as this is when the Geishas start leaving their homes to go to work (…and avoid the paparazzi of foreigners while doing so!)
Be careful though, you can be fined for taking photos of them, as it is considered highly disrespectful. Put the cameras down for this one, enjoy the chance to see one in the moment!
RELATED ARTICLE → 7 DAY JAPAN ITINERARY
Sannen-zaka alleyway – 1 Day Kyoto Itinerary
Wandering the streets of Gion
WHERE TO STAY IN KYOTO
There are thousands of accommodations in Kyoto, so I have narrowed it down to a few of the best places to stay to suit the needs of luxury travelers, budget backpackers and everyone in between. See the list of accommodations in Kyoto that I personally recommend:
LUXURY: HOTEL GRANVIA KYOTO
MID RANGE: TUNE STAY KYOTO
BUDGET: DOWNTOWN INN KYOTO
If you’re looking for an authentic experience to add to your 1 day Kyoto itinerary, I highly recommend staying at a traditional Ryokan (Japanese-style inn) during your stay.
My personal favorite is Kyoto Ryokan Kinoe which is conveniently located in central Kyoto just 5 minutes walk from Gion. This cozy Ryokan offers spacious tatami mat rooms, 24-hour baths and multi-course meals served for breakfast and dinner. Staying here will make you feel like you’re a traveler back in Edo-era Japan!
FOR ALL OTHER PLACES TO STAY IN KYOTO, SEARCH ON AGODA OR SEARCH ON BOOKING.COM
HOW TO GET AROUND JAPAN
The easiest and most convenient way to discover Japan is with a Japan Rail Pass that is valid for use on the vast majority of railways and local buses operated by JR (Japan Rail) throughout the country.
Choose between an Ordinary Pass, or choose the Green Class Pass if you’re looking to travel in more comfort with reclining seats, a footrest, extra leg space and a travel magazine.
The JR Pass includes the Shinkansen (bullet train), Limited Express, Local Trains, Monorail, JR Buses and the Miyajima Ferry.
The Japan Rail Pass is definitely the best ticket to have when planning your Japan itinerary!
CHECK PRICES → JAPAN RAIL PASS
MAP OF KYOTO
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BEST DAY TRIPS FROM KYOTO
The best day trips from Kyoto are to Nara and/or Osaka.
Nara was once an ancient capital of Japan and plays home to some of the country’s most important cultural places, including the world’s largest wooden structure.
Some of the best things to see in Nara on a day trip from Kyoto are the famous Todai-ji Temple which houses the world’s largest Daibutsu (bronze Buddha statue) and a visit to the Nara Deer Park where it’s said that when you bow to the deer, they will bow back!
Osaka is the 3rd largest city in Japan and is most popular for its modern architecture, historical castles, buzzing nightlife, and sensory-overload shopping malls.
The top attractions to visit in Osaka on a day trip from Kyoto are the Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi shopping malls, Osaka Castle, Amerika-mura (America Town) and Universal Studios Japan.
Todai-ji Temple in Nara
Nara Deer Park – Kyoto Itinerary 1 Day
Osaka Castle – 1 Day Kyoto Itinerary
1 DAY KYOTO ITINERARY – THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
The currency in Japan is Yen (¥) and the exchange rate is approximately $1 USD = 100 ¥.
Purchasing a sim card in Japan is very simple. You can do this at the airport on arrival or find a convenient store close to your accommodation. For approximately $40 USD, you can get a local sim card that comes with 10GB of data.
There are plenty of ATMs in Japan located in most convenient stores, in front of banks, inside hotels, etc. where you can easily withdraw cash to have with you during your 7 days in Japan.
I recommend purchasing a Hidden Money Belt to keep your cash out of sight, although the Japanese are the friendliest and most genuine people I have come across and the chances of being pick-pocketed are next to none.
Most Japanese people can speak English, so if you are ever lost or need help with something you will be able to converse in English. Also, all the signs at the airports, train stations, shopping malls, etc. are written in both Japanese and English.
Another great option when searching for accommodation in Kyoto is to stay in an Airbnb which generally has some great deals!
WANT TO SAVE $$$ ON AIRBNB? GET MY AIRBNB MONEY SAVING GUIDE
VISA FOR JAPAN
Japan is visa-free to travelers from over 65 countries and you can stay in Japan for up to 90 days on a tourist visa.
Click Here to see the full list of nationalities that are eligible for the free 90-day tourist visa.
You don’t need to apply online for this as you will be granted a 90-day tourist visa at the airport when you arrive.
BEST TIME TO VISIT JAPAN
The best time to visit Japan depends on what you plan to do. I personally prefer the spring and summer months in Japan (April – September) when temperatures are warm and the landscapes are vividly green.
However, visiting Japan in winter (December – March) is absolutely magical because the landscapes are completely covered in glistening white snow. Visiting Japan in winter also means you have to opportunity to go skiing and snowboarding in Japan’s alpine regions.
ITINERARY FOR KYOTO – FINAL THOUGHTS
After 7 eventful days exploring Japan, my short time spent in Kyoto by far exceeded my expectations!
With many fun activities to do and attractions to see, Kyoto is well-worth adding to your Japan Itinerary. I guarantee you won’t regret it!
If you have any questions at all about this 1 Day Kyoto Itinerary, please leave me a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.
MORE JAPAN TRAVEL GUIDES
- Japan Travel Guide: 7 Day Japan Itinerary
- Tokyo: Tokyo Skytree Observation Deck
- Tohoku Region: 5 Days In Tohoku
- Tokushima Prefecture: 4 Days In Tokushima
- Hakuba: Best Hakuba Ski Resorts
LONELY PLANET – JAPAN
One of the best books to take on your trip is the Lonely Planet JapanTravel Guide!
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WHAT TO PACK FOR KYOTO
Everyday Backpack: One of the best backpacks on the market! The Nomatic 20L Backpack is perfect for on the go adventures. Featuring multiple storage spaces for valuables, drink bottles, chargers, notebooks and more. This sleek backpack was designed for you.
Universal Power Adapter: Don’t leave home without one! I highly recommend getting this Universal Power Adapter so that you are able to charge all of your electronics when you’re on the road. Compatible in Asia, UK, Europe, Africa, USA, SA and Australia.
Hidden Money Belt: I never go on a trip without one! The best thing is they are always out of sight, hidden beneath your clothing. With RFID blocking, they are perfectly designed to keep your credit cards, cash and other valuables safe when you’re out adventuring!
Waterproof Phone Case: A waterproof phone case is a must-have item! This universal case will keep your phone safe from water damage, sand and scratches during your adventures. Suitable for all smartphone models.
Portable Charger: One of the best portable chargers on the market! The Anker Power Bank keeps your phone and accessories charged on those longer adventures. Featuring 2 USB charging ports, rechargeable battery, works with iPhone, iPad, Samsung, Oppo and Android.
Microfibre Travel Towel: To pack a towel or not to pack a towel? A standard bathroom towel can take up a lot of space in your travel bag. Get your hands on a quick-dry Microfibre Travel Towel which is perfect for the beach, backpacking, camping and general traveling.
Rain Jacket: A light-weight rain jacket is an absolute must when traveling! North Face waterproof rain jackets come in both men and women sizes, featuring a breathable mesh lining and adjustable hood that can be tucked away inside the collar.
Kindle: The best alternative for books! Kindle e-readers are perfect for long haul flights, reading on the beach or a quiet evening away from the bars. Kindle’s are waterproof with rechargeable batteries and adjustable light settings to suit indoor/outdoor conditions.
Packing Cubes: My favorite item in my backpack! Perfect for organizing your shirts, pants, jackets, socks, underwear and more. This 5 Set Packing Cubes makes packing easier and more efficient, adding extra space in your bag for your next trip.
Activated Charcoal Tablets: Want to avoid food poisoning? Most of us have been a victim of travelers diarrhea from eating street food. Organic Activated Charcoal Tablets are fast-acting and will rid your system of the bad bacteria that causes stomach upset.
MY CAMERA GEAR
Everyday Camera: The most affordable mirrorless camera on the market! I personally use the Sony A7ii Mirrorless Camera on all of my adventures. It’s compact, lightweight and super easy to use for all levels of photography. A 28-70mm Sony lens is also included.
Drone Camera: Take your photography to new heights! The DJI Mavic Pro 2 Drone is at the top of the game when it comes to high-quality images and video, easy to control functions and traveler-friendly capabilities. I guarantee you won’t regret purchasing one.
GoPro Hero 8: One of the most popular cameras on the planet! I love using the GoPro Hero 8 for all of my underwater shots and fast-paced adventures. The GoPro Hero 8 captures the best moments with its wide range of functions that are very simple to use!
Camera Bag: My favorite camera bag I have ever owned! The Lowepro Protactic 450 AW II Camera Bag features a waterproof rain cover, drink bottle holder, padded compartments for cameras, drones, lenses, accessories and it also has a laptop pocket.
Selfie Stick: Everyone loves a good selfie, right!? The Sandmarc Metal Edition Selfie Stick is sleek, stylish and can extend to 1.2m. I find it much easier to take photos and videos with the GoPro when it is mounted to the Sandmarc Selfie Stick!
Camera Tripod: The Joby GorillaPod is suitable for all cameras. This tripod is easy to use and perfect for setting up a time-lapse video or even using it as a selfie stick. The legs are flexible so you can wrap it around a tree or a pole to get creative with your shot.
GoPro Dome: Have you ever wanted to capture those under/over water shots with the GoPro? This epic underwater GoPro dome housing is the best camera accessory to have to create the perfect 50/50 shot. I use mine every time I am in the ocean!
Memory Card: The best thing about SanDisk Extreme Pro is that it delivers maximum speed for images and videos. Having 64GB of storage means that you can store hundreds of files on this SD card for 2-3 days and not have to worry about running out of space.
External Hard Drive: As a photographer, my images and video files take up a lot of space on my MacBook so I use the WD Elements External Hard Drive to store everything. With 4TB worth of storage space, this is more than enough for 1 years worth of content.
ONLINE ENGLISH TEACHING
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