Katsura Imperial Villa (Katsura Rikyu)
Exploring the Katsura Imperial Villa is only possible as part of a guided tour and most of the buildings can only be admired from the outside. Follow the circular walking trail around the lake, stopping to take in the views from the bamboo moon-viewing pavilion, see the four teahouses, and gaze out across the lake from the bridges. Guided tours point out architectural details such as the individually carved stone lanterns and manicured gardens, laid out according to the principles of Zen Buddhism.
Things to know before you go
- Katsura Imperial Villa is a must for history buffs and those interested in Japanese architecture.
- Guided 1-hour tours are held several times daily in Japanese or English. Advance booking is essential and you’ll need to bring your passport to use as ID. Tours are open to children over the age of 12.
- Parts of Katsura Imperial Villa may be difficult to access in a wheelchair—it’s recommended to inquire about access requirements when booking.
How to get there
Katsura Imperial Villa is located six miles (9 kilometers) west of downtown Kyoto on the west bank of the Katsura River. Ride the Hankyu Kyoto Line to Katsura Station, from where it’s an about 15-minute walk to the villa, or take bus 33 from Kyoto Station, which stops right outside (an about 30-minute journey).
When to get there
English language tours are held every day of the week except for Mondays throughout the year, but they can fill up quickly, so book well in advance to avoid disappointment. The gardens are at their most stunning in the spring, when the flowers and cherry blossoms are in full bloom, or in the autumn, when the colorful fall foliage makes for some impressive photos.
Architectural Highlights of Kyoto
Kyoto is renowned as one of Japan’s cultural capitals and the historic city is brimming with architectural gems. Must-see landmarks include the 19th-century Imperial Palace, the Edo-era Nijo Castle, and the Shinto Shrine of Fushimi Inari-Taisha, famous for its bright red Torri gates. Afterward, take a stroll around the Kyoto Botanical Gardens, ponder the zen rock gardens of Ryoan-ji Temple, and pay a visit to the UNESCO-listed temples of Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) and Ginkaku-ji (Silver Temple).
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