If you only have a short amount of time to visit Kyoto then you will undoubtedly leave promising to come back and experience everything that you missed out on. There’s a lot to get through! If you need a step in the right direction, here’s our guide to 24 hours in Kyoto, created by our team of Kyoto locals.
No doubt you’ll be arriving by train (either from KIX airport near Osaka or on Shinkansen bullet train from one of the nearby cities), which means you should definitely check out the train station. It’s sleek, modern, and absolutely huge. Right at the very top is a garden with great views across the city, from which you’ll quickly get a sense of the grid-like layout of Kyoto nestled within its ring of surrounding mountains.
One of the best ways to explore Kyoto is by bike. You can hire bikes from just near the station or join a Kyoto bike tour. It’s the best way to get around town, proven by the fact that it’s how all the locals travel. Everyone cycles on the pavement, so it’s one of the safest cities to cycle – plus it’s flat, so you can bike at a gentle pace without too much exertion.
During the day, also make sure you visit Kyoto’s shrines and temples. You’ll only have time to see a couple of the many you’ll find here, so the best we can recommend are the Golden Pavilion, the Silver Pavilion, Fushimi Inari, and Kiyomizu-dera.
Make sure you eat plenty of food during your day in Kyoto! Nishiki Market is worth exploring if you’re interested in tasting all the flavours on Kyoto cuisine.
In the evening, head to the Gion neighbourhood to try and catch a glimpse of the Geiko and Maiko geisha entertainers that are still working in this historic area – they move quickly, though, so can be hard to spot!
The bars and restaurants of the Pontocho area are a great option for dinner and drinks during the evening. There are also a lot of great restaurants in Kyoto, so do your research to accommodate for your tastes, and make sure you book ahead.
Oh, Kyoto. So much to explore, so little time!
To get an insider’s look on what it’s like to be a local in this magical city, check out our Kyoto tours!