1 Day Kyoto Itinerary, Japan – The Ultimate Guide

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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 itinerary for Kyoto, 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
  • Gion

RELATED ARTICLE → 7 DAY JAPAN ITINERARY

kyoto itinerary

KINKAKU-JI TEMPLE

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.

LOCATION:

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.

→ Click here for the pin location on Google Maps

ENTRANCE FEE & OPENING HOURS:

The entrance fee to visit Kinkakuji Temple is 400¥.

Opening hours are Monday to Sunday from 9 am – 5 pm.

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Kinkaku-ji Temple – Kyoto Itinerary 1 Day
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The Golden Pavillion – 1 Day Itinerary In Kyoto

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RYOAN-JI TEMPLE

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!

LOCATION:

From Kinkaku-ji Temple, it’s a 20-minute walk or a 5-minute bus ride to reach Ryoan-ji Temple.

→ Click here for the pin location on Google Maps

ENTRANCE FEE & OPENING HOURS:

The entrance fee to enter Ryoanji Temple is 500¥.

Opening hours are Monday to Sunday from 8 am – 5 pm.

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Ryoan-ji Temple – 1 Day Itinerary In Kyoto

ARASHIYAMA BAMBOO FOREST

Next up on this 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.

LOCATION:

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.

→ Click here for the pin location on Google Maps

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.

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Kyoto Bamboo Forest
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Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

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Osprey Backpacking

Less is more with the Atmos AG 50L, the newest arrival in the Osprey backpacking range!

From weekend explorations to month-long expeditions, this EPIC backpack is up to the task and will stand the test of time.

FUSHIMI INARI

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!

LOCATION:

Take the JR Nara Line from Kyoto Railway Station using the JR Pass and ride it two stops to JR Inari Station.

→ Click here for the pin location on Google Maps

ENTRANCE FEE & OPENING HOURS:

The Fushimi Inari Shrine is FREE to enter and it’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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Fushimi Inari Shrine

MOST POPULAR TOURS IN KYOTO

 

MAIKO THEATER

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!

LOCATION:

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).

→ Click here for the pin location on Google Maps

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.

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Traditional Geisha girl in Kyoto
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Maiko performance – Kyoto Itinerary 1 Day

The BEST Affordable Camera For Travel

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If you’re on the hunt for a professional camera for traveling, check out the Canon G7 X Mark II.

This tiny camera fits in your pocket, captures high-quality photos and videos, and has Wi-Fi so you can instantly transfer to your phone!

KIYOMIZU-DERA

Next on this itinerary for Kyoto 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!

LOCATION:

Make your way to Kiyomizu-michi street and follow it uphill until you reach the popular Kiyomizu-dera (Water) Temple.

→ Click here for the pin location on Google Maps

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.

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Kiyomizu-dera Temple
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View of Kyoto City from Kiyomizu-dera
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Kiyomizu-dera – 1 Day Itinerary In Kyoto

GION

Last but not least on this Kyoto itinerary is Gion. From Kiyomizu-dera, you can meander down the iconic Sannen-zaka alleyway, a historical, stone-paved street lined with many traditional Japanese buildings, shops, cafes, and inns.

MUST READ: 21 BEST TRAVEL ACCESSORIES FOR ANY TRIP

Sannen-zaka is also surrounded by several famous landmarks such as Yasaka Shrine, Maruyama Park, Yasaka-no-to Pagoda, and Kodaiji Zen Temple.

→ Click here for the pin location on Google Maps

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 timing 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, and enjoy the chance to see one in the moment!

RELATED ARTICLE → 7 DAY JAPAN ITINERARY

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Sannen-zaka alleyway
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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

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MID RANGE: TUNE STAY KYOTO

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BUDGET: DOWNTOWN INN KYOTO

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If you’re looking for an authentic experience to add to your 1 day in 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!

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FOR ALL OTHER PLACES TO STAY IN KYOTO, SEARCH ON BOOKING.COM

BEST DAY TRIPS FROM KYOTO

The best day trips from Kyoto are to Nara and/or Osaka.

NARA

Nara was once the 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!

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Todai-ji Temple in Nara
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Nara Deer Park – Kyoto Itinerary 1 Day

OSAKA

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.

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Osaka Castle

THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

CURRENCY:

The currency in Japan is Yen (¥) and the exchange rate is approximately $1 USD = 100 ¥.

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 trip.

MOBILE DATA:

When you arrive in Tokushima Japan, you’re going to want to get online, and purchasing a sim card is very simple. You can do this at the airport on arrival at one of the retail stores.

Alternatively, I recommend purchasing an eSIM in advance with pre-loaded mobile data so you can get online as soon as you land and stay connected on your trip.

Forget plastic SIM Cards… Get an eSIM!

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Simply buy online, install it on your smartphone, and you’re good to go!

LANGUAGE:

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.

tokyo skytree

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!

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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.

hakuba ski resorts, hakuba valley

VISA FOR JAPAN

Japan is visa-free for 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.

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KYOTO MAP

kyoto map

WHAT TO PACK FOR KYOTO

When visiting Kyoto, here is a list of items I highly recommend bringing with you:

Must-Have Travel Essentials

Hidden Money Wallet

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Reusable Water Bottle

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Travel Backpack

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Quick-Dry Travel Towel

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Portable PowerBank

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More Japan Travel Guides

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Click the button below to view all articles related to Japan!

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 in Kyoto Itinerary, please leave me a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

For a quicker response, be sure to join Jonny Melon’s Travel Tribe on Facebook and post your questions or recommendations to our awesome community.

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TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR YOUR NEXT TRIP

Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or it’s your first trip overseas, here are some useful travel resources to help you kick-start your next adventure!

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Search and book accommodation worldwide.


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Compare and book cheap flights to anywhere.


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Find tickets, tours, and experiences around the world.


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Book buses, trains, and transfers online in advance.


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Search all rental cars in your next destination.


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Need travel insurance for your next trip?

THANKS FOR READING

Hey friend, thanks for reading this guide!

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