Things to do in Kyoto

Itineraries for Your Trip to Kyoto

Kyoto locals share their perfect days.
Find your Kyoto

1 Day in Kyoto for First Timers

Curated by Karen GardinerKaren is a Scottish freelance travel and culture writer based in the US. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, National Geographic, BBC, and Condé Nast Traveler.

The place in Japan to immerse yourself in ritual and tradition, Kyoto—known for its teahouses, temples, gardens, and geisha—is a modern city with a historic heart. Here’s how to see and experience as much as possible in just one day.


Begin your visit to Kyoto with a morning tour that takes you to some of the city’s UNESCO-listed temples and palaces. A guided bus tour—which typically includes entrance fees and hotel pickup and drop-off—introduces you to sights such as Nijo Castle, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji), and the Kyoto Imperial Palace. Prefer more flexibility? Choose a hop-on hop-off bus tour, and spend as much time as you wish at the attractions along the route.


Continue sightseeing by joining a tour that focuses on more of Kyoto’s many attractions, such as Sanjusangendo Temple with its Kannon statues, the red and green Heian Shrine, and Kiyomizu Temple. Or go deeper: dress in kimono and participate in a traditional tea ceremony, tour sprawling Nishiki Market followed by lunch, or watch a Kembu sword performance. Some hands-on experiences include samurai swordsmanship and Zen meditation.


Round out a full day in Kyoto with a guided walking tour of the atmospheric Gion district. Immerse yourself in the culture of the famed entertainment and geisha quarter by watching a performance by maiko (apprentice geisha) accompanied by traditional Japanese music, followed by a multicourse dinner. Or, book a private meal with a geisha who entertains you with song and dance as you dine.

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