Wednesday 13 March 2019

Following on from our 3 nights in Tokyo, we flew to Osaka airport to continue our Japan trip to Kyoto. As beautiful as Kyoto was, I think it is a trip we should have probably left for March as the cherry blossoms weren't in season yet, meaning that we didn't get to witness the shrines and temples in all their pink glory. That being said there was plenty to see that didn't need the added floral aesthetics to appreciate them. Here's my guide on planning your trip to Kyoto, Japan.

tea with gi kyoto guide


There are several ways to get to Kyoto from Toyko - the quickest and most efficient ways are either taking a bullet train from Tokyo station (prices start at £90) or fly to Osaka airport (around £50). We decided to fly and it was a fairly quick and simple trip, and I recommend flying with All Nippon Airways. There is a Limited Express Haruka train that takes you from Osaka airport to Kyoto station for £20 and the journey time is around 75 minutes. 


We stayed at Suzakukan Suzaku Crossing and would 100% recommend it. The apart-hotel was a 5 minute ride (or 20 minute walk) from Nijo station and Nijo Castle. The apartments were decorated in an authentic Japanese design and were clean, spacious and comfortable. They also come with washing machines so we were able to wash our clothes properly instead of doing the whole 'soap and water and hang on the bathroom rail' job. Most importantly, they had good Wi-Fi.

suzakukan suzaku crossing



We started off our weekend with one of Kyoto's top sights - the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. It's pretty much just a long pathway filled with soaring stalks of Bamboo. The earlier you get here the better as it's one of Kyoto's most visited sites, so it can get pretty busy. In this area you'll also find the Tenryu-Ji Temple and from here you will find the main path to the grove. The main street of Arashiyama is a pleasant walk in itself, as it's filled with lots of quirky little cafes, shops and restaurants. If you're looking to visit a cat cafe the Bengal Cat Cafe is also on this street. For a lunch spot I recommend Arashiyama Yoshimura which serves traditional Japanese food and fair prices and boasts a great view from the seating area.

bamboo grove

kyoto cafes


The Kinkaku-Ju Temple (known as the Golden Pavilion) is Kyoto's most iconic sight - so I recommend going here an hour or so before it closes to beat the large crowds or just as it opens (9am - 5pm). As the name suggestions, it is a temple covered completely in gold leaf. There is also a tea garden in the area, souvenir shops and a couple of statues. To get here, take the 101 or 205 bus outside Kyoto Station and for 230 yen you will arrive outside the pavilion in about 40 minutes. 


If you're looking to spot some real Geisha's then Gion is the place to do so, and the best time to come here is after the sun goes down (for obvious reasons). It's a great area to just walk around and take in the scenery and architecture. Hanami-Koji street is filled with nice places to dine (although they are more on the expensive side), traditional tea houses and machiya houses. Shirakawa Area runs parallel along Shirakawa Canal and is also a pleasant area to walk around. If you do happen to spot any Geishas, try and at least be discrete if you want to take a photo. We saw two but they moved so fast that we just smiled and at them and that was that. To get here take bus number 100 from Kyoto station and you will reach Gion in around 15-20 minutes. 



Sadly this has nothing to do with Harry Potter but nevertheless it's a pleasant place to spend your morning in. From start to finish, the walk is around 2km and winds around cafes, boutiques and a number of temples and shrines. We were here in February so the cherries hadn't blossomed yet, but from photos it seems like this place is best visited in March/April once they have. When starting the path, you should first set your map to the Silver Pavilion/Ginkakuji (which unlike the Gold Temple, is not covered in silver). It's more on the black side, so I'm not sure where its name came from - i'm sure Google will tell us. *Google says it was given this nickname in contrast to the Gold Pavilion, and because when the moon light reflected on its exterior it gave it a silver like appearance. To reach the Silver Pavilion, take bus 100 outside Kyoto Station to the end of the line for 230 yen. 

silver pavilion


For a cultural eating experience, head to Nishiki market where you will find dozens of stalls selling snacks, sweet treats and slightly more unconventional delicacies. We played it pretty safe by eating baked potatoes glazed with honey on a stick which were delicious. We then ate at Ramen Sen No Kaze which was recommended to me by Amita and the ramen did not disappoint (it's meant to be one of the best ramen places in town). If you're a picky eater then don't worry there are also pizzerias, american bars and a Wendy's in the area. The market is open from 9:30am - 6pm.   

nishiki market


This place is going to be busy whenever you visit, but as always it's best to go when it first opens or 1.5 hours before it closes. In essence, Fushimi Inari is just a very long trail covered with orange tall 'torii' gates. The trail leads to a forest where you can then trek to Mount Inari, which will take you around 3 hours to hike to the summit and back. If you're feeling particularly generous, you can have your name inscribed one of the gates for the small price of 400,000 yen. We were lucky that there were only a couple of people coming back through the gates on the left, so we managed to snap some photos without the crowd (and then people behind us started forming a queue to get their photo taken instead of barging in) - how polite!

fushimi unari

I really liked Kyoto, I think I'd like to visit again in the future, and spend some time in Osaka too. Preferably when the cherries have blossomed, just because I feel like it would be worth seeing. We found a weekend was enough for us, but i'm sure with more research we could have found more stuff to do with a 5 day itinerary. If you've been to Kyoto, I'd love to know what other things you got up to! 


tea with gi kyoto pinterest

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