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.