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“Happiness often sneaks through the door you didn’t know you left open.” – John Barrymore

It’s hard to believe I had never heard of Kyoto before planning my trip to Japan, mind you, I didn’t know much about Japan at all. When I got there I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was, and how much there was to do. Endless temples, culinary masters on every corner, and real-life geishas are some of the wonders this city has to offer.

With so much to do, and so much to see how can you fit it all into a weekend? The simple answer, you can’t. You can, however, make the most of it with a little planning.

How to Make the Absolute Most of a Weekend in Kyoto.

Stay

Gate 80 

We loved the privacy at gate80. The capsules were cozy and it was conveniently located close to the train station, near a grocery store, convenience store, and department store and had some great restaurants in the area. 

Jam Hostel

Located in the entertainment district, if you are hoping to get a glimpse of a Geisha on her way to work this is a great option for you! They offer dorms and private rooms and have many temples within walking distance. 

Getting Around

We used our IC cards that we got in Tokyo throughout all of Japan. They are convenient and MUCH CHEAPER than JR passes.

To Do

DAY 1 

Gion 

Spend the evening exploring the entertainment district of Kyoto. Yasaka Shrine is the most famous shrine in Kyoto. Stroll along the Kamo River and have a relaxed evening. If you fancy a splurge, enjoy being hosted by Geishas at a teashop. 

BONUS* If you are there in early April you can see the cherry blossom trees in full bloom! 

 

DAY 2

Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama

Tucked away over the Togetsu-ko Bridge you can find this lovely Monkey Park. Wild monkeys come and roam around knowing they can be fed by humans. You climb mt Arashiyama and once you are at the top there is a lookout and a little cage that you, the human, must stand in to feed the monkeys. It’s great to witness monkeys lounging around and babies playing.

Eat Bamboo or Cherry Blossom Ice Cream

After you have worked up an appetite climbing up and down Mt Arashiyama you can grab some lunch in the village (street vendors are incredible) and finish it off with some ice cream. I would go for the bamboo cherry blossom swirl, but go for whatever you desire. 

Boat Date in Arashiyama

If you are feeling romantic, you can take a boat ride along the Katsura River.

DAY 3

Ryoanji Temple 

Home of the famous rock garden, and surrounded by natural beauty this temple is a great place to visit. Get there early, as it is an attraction that gets hundreds of visitors daily. 

Kinkakuji Temple

The Golden Pavillian. If you want to see a building covered in gold, this is your chance. You can walk around through the temple grounds but most of the structures are not open to the public. 

Cat Cafe

With many options across Kyoto to hang out with cats (or dogs, or owls) you can fit this into any day. Make sure you do your research beforehand and don’t support animal cruelty. Some cafes don’t mistreat their animals, choose wisely. 

Nishiki Market 

Food! Five blocks of food! This is a great way to see the food culture in Kyoto first hand and explode your tastebuds with some local cuisine. 

There are hundreds of things to do in Kyoto, but if you have to shrink it down to one weekend this is a great option. Remember not to overbook yourself and try to spend your days in one district to make the most of your time.

Let us know what your favourite district or activity in Kyoto is in the comments below!

Check out more Japan posts HERE.

If you are doing multiple cities and Tokyo is on your list, check out A Weekend in Tokyo

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