Golden temple on water with reflection against stormy pink sky surrounded by lush trees.


Kyoto offers the classic image of Japan, traditional wooden houses, weeping cherry and the sound of geta (wooden soled shoes) on the paving stones.

The capital of Japan for over a thousand years Kyoto has an overwhelming number of ancient Buddhist temples, majestic palaces and gardens of every size and description, many of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The city is also one of the only places in Japan where it is possible to cross paths with a geisha, a magical experience.

Japanese Lady, Tea Ceremony, Kyoto, Japan
Tea ceremony in Kyoto
Todaiji Temple in Nara, Japan
Todaiji Temple in Nara
Kyoto, Japan
Cherry blossom, Kyoto

Exploring Kyoto

Kyoto is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace, either on foot or by bike. Explore some of the many UNESCO temples, take part in a tea ceremony or just stroll along the banks of the river savouring the sight of cherry blossom, overhead. Kyoto is a lovely slow-paced city, easily combined by bullet train with a few days in Tokyo and is the perfect place to experience a stay in a Ryokan, a traditional Japanese Inn. South of Kyoto and a lovely day trip by train is Nara, home to some of Japan’s largest and oldest temples.


What do you really love doing? We can curate your itinerary especially for you. Below are a few suggested experiences to include during a stay in Kyoto.

Bicycle lane in Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto by Bike

Explore the back streets of Kyoto by bicycle. Experience the city from a different perspective, stopping at tea houses and less known temples, keeping your eyes peeled for geisha as they go about their daily lives.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Young Geisha (Maiko), Kyoto, Japan

Geisha Experience

Spend an evening with Geisha and gain an insight into this ancient and fascinating world.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Kinkaku ji Temple, Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto Temples

Visit some of the thousands of temples and gardens, many of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Tasty octopus at Nishiki market stall

Nishiki Market

Sample local specialities from soy ice-cream to sweet-spicy octopus skewers at this colourful market in Kyoto.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Cherry Blossom, Japan

Cherry Blossom

Visit in spring to see the magnificent cherry blossom which blankets many parts of the country, lasting just a few weeks.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Pottery shop, Kyoto

Kyoto Markets

Purchase some of the local arts and crafts from ceramic ware to beautiful fabrics, folding fans and Japanese dolls.

Suggested Holiday Idea

To ji Temple, Nara, Japan

Nara Temples

Travel by train to the vast temple complex of Nara and wander among the temples and gardens with the resident deer for company.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Tea Ceremony, Japan

Japanese Tea Ceremony

Participate in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Sit on tatami mats and enjoy a slow paced hospitality steeped in history and tradition.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Bento box with sushi and rolls

Make a Bento Box

Learn to make a bento box; a traditional Japanese style packed lunch containing rice, vegetables and sashimi.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Where to stay

Some of the wonderful places to stay that we frequently recommended.

Amanemu £££££

  • Japan
  • Boutique

Inspired by a traditional Japanese village, each of the 24 elegant suites at Amanemu has a private onsen and spacious terrace. Positioned on a hillside above the picturesque islets of Ago Bay the hotel embraces the ancient Japanese tradition of onsen (mineral hot springs) and the culinary traditions of this gourmet region. The hotel also has a heated swimming pool.

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Four Seasons Kyoto £££££

  • Japan

The Four Seasons Kyoto offers spacious and contemporary rooms overlooking tranquil gardens and Japanese rooftops. An 800-year-old ikeniwa or pond garden lies at the heart of the grounds, surrounded by Japanese stone bridges and delicate maple and blossom trees. A pretty tea house completes the scene. The spacious terrace area allows picturesque waterside dining.

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Kifu no Sato Ryokan £££££

  • Japan
  • Unusual

Kifu no Sato Ryokan is an understated, family-run ryokan located just a 90-minute drive from Kyoto. All rooms are traditional in style, furnished with low futon style beds, tatami mats and local artisan glassware and pottery. During a stay, it is possible to try out traditional crafts such as pottery and carpentry and experience the traditional culture of Samurai. Relax in the open-air hot spring baths either overlooking the gardens by day or under the starry sky at night and feast on traditional Japanese cuisine from a menu that changes with the seasons.

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Meet our experts

A passion for travel runs right through every one of our experts - meaning they're always ready with first-hand insight about their specialist countries.

Paul Craven

Paul is the Conde Nast Traveller chosen Specialist for Central Asia and the Silk Route.

Being from a family with Army connections I can from an early age remember travelling. From camping in Europe and then later being sent to boarding school when we lived in Germany at the age of eight, complete with shorts, long socks, a cap and my suitcase. In appearance not too dissimilar to the children evacuated to the countryside during the blitz.

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Clare Higginson

It was my passion for languages that first encouraged me to leave the UK behind and grab my rucksack. Since then, it’s been a mixture of intriguing cultures, jaw-dropping landscapes and the wonder of seeing animals in their natural habitat that sees me continuously extending my travel wish list.

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