With so much to see and do in Kyoto, you’re most likely wondering if it’s possible to get the most out of this quintessential city by spending just 24 hours there.
Despite its size and plethora of things to do, Kyoto can be explored in just one day although, truth be told, I could happily spend a full week exploring! But, like so many of my other trips, time is never enough and with just 24 hours to explore this traditional city, I’ve managed to whip up a simple guide on how to explore Kyoto in just 24 hours.
8 am – 10 am: Start early
If you’ve already checked into a Kyoto hotel the night before, then guess what? You’ve got a head start already! Checking in the night before means you get to avoid the travelling time from other connecting cities. Start your morning at the Nishiki Market which located parallel to Shijo Avenue and less than five minutes away from both Shijo and Kawaramachi station. Also known as Kyoto’s Kitchen, here you will find a variety of fresh fruit, snacks and sweets. Grab your breakfast here as you simultaneously get to sample some unique Japanese cuisine!
If you are traveling from another city into Kyoto this morning, don’t despair. Catch the high speed Shinkansen train from Shin-Osaka station directly into Kyoto Station for just 1420 yen. If you have a JR Pass then that’s even better as you won’t have to pay. The Shinkansen train takes just 15 minutes from Osaka so grab a quick breakfast at the train station and eat it as you make your way into Kyoto.
10 am – 2 pm: Fushimi-Inari Taisha
While you could easily spend an entire day hiking through the mountain trails of this Shinto shrine, it’s also possible to spend just a few hours wandering through some of the 10 000 Torri gates at Fushimi-Inari Taisha. While the hike to the summit alone will take around 2 – 3 hours, you are free to walk as far you want and are able to turn back at any time. There are also many shrines along the way that are worth a visit. Schedule at between three to four hours of exploring here.
If you haven’t eaten lunch, you can always pick up some themed dishes (inari sushi!) from little restaurants that are strategically placed along the way.
2 pm – 6 pm: Head to the Arashiyama Bamboo Groves
Many say that it’s near impossible to see the red Torri gates at Fushimi-Inari Taisha and the bamboo groves at Arashiyama in one day but I’m here to tell you, that YES you can! It is possible but it will be a very busy day indeed. After spending a few hours at Fushimi-Inari Taisha, catch the JR Nara line from Inari Station to Kyoto Station. Then take either the Sagano or San-in line to Arashiyama, which is about 20 minutes away from Kyoto station.
There’s so much to do at Arashiyama but head first for a walk through the bamboo groves before the sun begins to set. The bamboo stalks seem to stretch on forever and line a pathway allowing you to capture some of the most serene looking pictures. Past Tenryuji Temple is where you will find some of the most beautiful spots of the bamboo grove. You can also rent a bike to ride or catch a rickshaw driven by locals. This will take you through the forest path and around Arashiyama. As the sun begins to set, head back to the Kimono Forest which is located at the entrance of the Arashiyama area. The pillars light up at night to reveal the beauty of the designs usually found on kimonos worn by Japanese women.
6 pm: Dinner and head back
If you’re leaving Kyoto today then wander around Arashiyama a bit more and grab some dinner at a nearby restaurant.
If you’ve arrived today and are planning on spending the night before heading out in the morning, then that’s great! You’ve still got some time. Head back to Gion for dinner and some Geisha spotting. The evening is the perfect time to see Geisha’s as this is when they are out and about, heading to their evening appointments from around 6 pm onwards.