Kyoto, once the capital of Japan, is a city on the island of Honshu. It is one of the country’s ten largest cities with a population of 1.5 million people. Over the centuries, Kyoto was destroyed by many wars and fires, but due to its exceptional historic value, the city was no longer placed as a target city for the atomic bomb. Because of this, they escaped mass destruction during World War II, saving countless temples, shrines, and other historically priceless structures. These survived structures and temples offer a rare link between modern life in the city and its very ancient past.
While it’s world famous for the pieces survived during the war, Kyoto is also known for its gardens, imperial palaces, and traditional houses. The city is also well known for its formal traditions such as kaiseki dining, consisting of multiple courses of precise dishes, and geisha, female entertainers often found in the the Gion district.
Where To Eat
For some true Japanese food, Okonomiyaki Katsu is the place to go! Famous for their Okonomiyaki, a Japanese savory pancake, which you can combine with several different ingredients such as seafood or veggies. Run by husband and wife, you’re immediately welcomed into the cozy place by a warm smile on both of their faces.
Ramen Sen no Kaze
If you’re searching for a delicious bowl of Ramen in Kyoto, look no further than Ramen Sen no Kaze. A local establishment that has become a tourist favorite. They offer several types of ramen from a delicious pork broth to vegan options. All are delicious – it’s no wonder people keep coming back time after time.
Known for strictly Japanese food, Hokuto restaurant strives for exceptional food quality and impeccable service. Here, you can try something new, like the sukiyaki, which is a dish of sliced meat, especially beef, fried rapidly with vegetables and sauce. It is a must try when immersing yourself in Japanese culture.
Teppan Tavern Tenamonya
Teppan Tavern Tenamonya is a steakhouse, a grill, and a pub all in one. Pick from a variety of menu items, such as shrimp, gyoza, wagyu beef, crab tempura, and many others, to have prepared fresh and cooked right in front of you. This will be quite an experience!
At Yasakadori Enraku you are enjoying dinner and a show. During this time, you’ll get to see traditional dances, play games important to the Japanese culture, and talk with the maiko and learn about his long-standing cultural heritage. Do this all while enjoying a nice meal and the all you can drink offer.
Nijo Castle was built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of the most powerful men in Japan. The castle was built as a residence rather than for defense purposes. The castle consists of two concentric rings of fortifications, inside which are beautifully painted ceilings, sliding doors and tatami mat-covered rooms. The vast grounds cover some 275,000 square metres, with impressive gardens, stone walls and moats.
Nishiki Market is Kyoto’s largest traditional food market. Here you get a glimpse of what a traditional shotengai (shopping street) once looked like. On this strip, you’ll find all the major ingredients of traditional Kyoto cuisine. Foods such as tsukemono (Japanese Pickles), fresh tofu, Kyo-yasai (Kyoto vegetables), and wagashi (Japanese sweets) line the stores, ready for your purchase and enjoyment.
Kyoto Railway Museum
Opened in April 2016, the Kyoto Railway Museum opened to the public, offering the opportunity to experience Japan’s steps toward modernization through its railway history in the city of Kyoto. Covering three floors on a 30,000 square meter site, the museum exhibits a total of 53 retired trains, from steam locomotives to more recent electric trains and shinkansen (high speed passenger trains). Visitors can also walk underneath and observe the inner workings of a retired freight locomotive.
Where To Stay
RIHGA Royal Hotel Kyoto
This hotel is perfectly located for anything you wish to do while in Kyoto. With a shuttle service every 15 minutes from the hotel to the railway station, the sky’s the limit. Located only a few blocks away are the Aeon Mall and Kyoto Tower. After a long day out exploring, wind down in the revolving French restaurant located inside of the hotel.
Citadines Karasuma-Gojo Kyoto
If you’re wanting to do more of the cooking and cleaning yourself, the Citadines is the perfect hotel for you. In each room you will find a small kitchen space with all the essentials to make a delicious meal. Also located in the hotel are laundry machines (both washer and dryer) for guest use. How convenient!
Sakura Terrace The Gallery
Conveniently located two minutes away from Kyoto Station, Sakura Terrace The Gallery opened in 2015 with a modern aesthetic and plenty of artistic flair. Here you’ll find an unusual open-air lobby with fire pits, complimentary drinks each night, live music, a self-service cafe and even an onsen (hot spring). How relaxing does that sound?
- Japan does not have a tipping culture and tips aren’t expected. In fact, if you do tip, it will most likely be refused.
- Kyoto can be explored by foot and public transport such as buses and trains. Taxis aren’t cheap, but the drivers are honest and very professional.
- Bring a lot of five yen coins like pictured above, as they are the coin of choice to offer to the prayer box when praying at a shrine or temple in Japan. The small round coin with a hole in the middle is considered auspicious and is thought to be the best to bring you luck when praying.
- With all its historic temples, colourful shrines, well-preserved ancient streets and traditional gardens, Kyoto is a place that requires a lot of serious walking. Make sure to bring a comfortable pair of shoes with you.
- Pack a small umbrella to carry with you while traveling in Kyoto. Whether you’re using it to block out the rain or to protect your skin from the sun, the weather can be very unpredictable in this bustling city.