Taking a trip down the Old Capital: A 3-day Kyoto Itinerary

Kyoto is known for drawing the line between the remnants of historical experience and the effects of urbanization in Japan. Feel the deep-rooted culture and grand experience by digging into the several districts of Kyoto through a 3-day itinerary perfectly planned for you. You'd never wanna miss this offer!

Table of Contents

  1. Introducing Kyoto
  2. 3-day Trip around Kyoto
    1. Day 1
    2. Day 2
    3. Day 3
  3. Additional Tips
  4. Summary

Introducing Kyoto

Kyoto is a cultural center in Japan, and was a prominent capital in Japan’s history before it was moved to Tokyo. As advancement continues to take place in Japan, Kyoto is still iconic for its wide scope of heritage, traditions, and cultural engagements.

3-day Trip around Kyoto

Here’s a basic 3-day plan we suggest if you’re visiting Kyoto for the first time! 

Day 1 Itinerary

When it’s time for you to go beyond,  there is always a reason why Kyoto was called the Heart of Japan. In here, you will be walked into the Arashiyama District, where temples, nature, a taste of sweetness, and an onsen would catch your interest.

Arashiyama District

Places of Interest

1. Tenryū-ji Temple

A renowned UNESCO World Heritage site significant to the Zen community. This is a place where you can spend your first hours in Arashiyama and get into the details of the tranquil lake and the refreshing breeze within the colorful garden and trees.

2. Jojako-ji Temple

Finally a spot where you can collect your thoughts and indulge in serenity. It is a calm and peaceful pagoda to ease your tension and have a panoramic view of nature.

3. Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Be inspired to plant more seedlings in nature upon visiting the wild bamboo forest of the Arashiyama district. The feeling of walking through the pathway of the bamboo groves is very refreshing, and everything just seems to fall in order.

4. Ōkōchi Sansō

With a short walk from Arashiyama Station and an admission fee of only 1000 yen, enjoy a free cup of tea and a slice of cake in the imperial garden of Ōkōchi Sansō. After walking around a lot, you can just space out while in and viewing the finest constructions of the garden.

5. Tenzan-no-yu Onsen

To simply end your day, have a soothing massage and a hot spring bath in the western part of Kyoto - the Tenzan-no-yu Onsen. As one needs to rejuvenate after a tiring day, this could be the best place for you since it also offers a sauna and a mouthwatering meal.

Other activities to check out in this area if the above itinerary is not enough to last you a day is to visit Monkey Park Iwatayama where you can see and feed wild monkeys, walking along Saga-Toriimoto Preserved Street (a good walk from Arashiyama area) to check out buildings preserved from the Meiji Period, or even taking a trip to Kinkakuji, the famous Golden Pavilion, a must-see.

Kyoto Day 2  Itinerary

Found between Kiyomizudera and Maruyama Park is a neighborhood of temples, streets of historical architecture, arts, and sceneries worth sharing on social media is the district of Higashiyama. Lots of shrines, temples, geisha districts, and relaxing parks could be found in this area.

Higashiyama District

Walking through the streets, where you can see lots of Japanese and tourists in kimono, would take you hours to admire the place. Tourists mingle between the district's alleys, temples, and restaurants.

One famous shop in Japan, and of course, well-known to everyone who loves coffee, is nestled not far from Kiyomizu Temple - the most classical Starbucks. Perfect for the cold weather, the district's Starbucks nicely complements the old historic feels of Higashiyama. You would not notice how the shop was founded in the new century because it fits in with the scenery outside, from its entrance to its gardens.

Places of Interest

1. Kiyomizu-dera Temple

This is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most-visited temples in Japan. The temple, known as ‘’Pure Water Temple’’ is best pictured at night during cherry blossom seasons. Lights illuminate the trees, reflecting a magnificent and dreamy pink and purple color.   

2. Kodaiji Temple

A Zen Buddhist temple, instituted in the year 1606, and one of the best representations of ancients. Kodaiji Temple has zen gardens, which makes it more beautiful in spring and autumn.

Fushimi Inari Shrine

This shrine is a very significant dedication to Inari. Tourists can enjoy the fox statues and countless torii gates found throughout the shrine as they walk the trails up the mountain.

Downtown Kyoto

1. Gion

Gion, one of the Geisha districts of Kyoto, houses lots of teahouses and high-end restaurants. The perfect place for people who want an expensive taste of Gion is located in Hanami Koji , known for its Japanese traditional course cuisine.

2. Yasaka Shrine

Tourists often stop at this shrine just to witness the famous summer festival of Gion- the Gion Matsuri, involving numerous participants. Built thousands of years ago, this place is seated on the districts of Gion and Higashiyama.

3. Maruyama Park

For your afternoon tour, Maruyama Park can be the resting spot for you, with its hundreds of cherry blossom trees that you can find pleasing to the eyes. In the first weeks of April, lots of tourists and residents make this a leisure spot, especially at night, since cherries in full vibrance are lit up. But even when it’s not cherry blossom season, it’s still a great place to relax. 

Kyoto Day 3 Itinerary

To spend your remaining time in Kyoto, give yourself a nice hike, visit some significant shrines and temples, and end your day in some hot springs specifically situated in Kurama.

Kurama & the surrounding area

1. Hike from Kurama to Kibune or vice versa for the full experience

Situated on a mountain, this trek is a distance of almost 4km which takes over 2 hours by passing through Kurama-dera Temple. Getting to the small towns is fun and effortless and the scenery is quite amazing. Also, this place is a sanctuary of wildlife, so be ready to witness some animals. Of course, if you don’t have the time or stamina to hike, you can visit the below spots separately by the same train.

2. Kurama-dera Temple

This is a very special place and the journey itself can leave your mouth hanging by just looking at the big trees and the wide area of greenery on the way. Making a wish in this legendary area would only cost you 300 yen so don't ever miss this privilege.

3. Kifune Shrine

Before going back, have a quick visit to this shrine where the red wooden lanterns are especially magical in winter (we don’t recommend doing the hike to or from Kuramadera in winter, however). You can even purchase a fortune which appears when floated on water. A number of restaurants nearby where you can eat by the river adds to the experience.

4. Kurama Onsen

Lastly, aside from Tenzan-no-yu Onsen, there is also a great hot spring bath in this part of Kyoto - the Kurama onsen.

If you are still not tired from the trek up north, consider checking out the beautiful Shimogamo Shrine on the way back as it’s right near the station you would get off, Demachiyanagi Station. Strolling down Kamogawa River back is a nice relaxing way to end, especially if you make it back to the restaurant district for a nice dinner and drinks.

Additional Tips

Kyoto has a lot of subway lines so keeping track of their names, stops and passes in your itinerary would be convenient. A taxi may come in handy, especially if you would like a guided taxi tour. However, aside from cars and trains, the best ride while exploring the place is by riding a bicycle. That would be very fun and refreshing. And make sure you wear comfortable shoes as you’ll probably be walking around a lot!


Kyoto is one of the finest places in Japan. The 3-day itinerary might not be enough to discover the spectacular places of Kyoto fully. Just enjoy and take your time, not rush to follow the above must visit locations and maybe, spend more time one destination based on your interests. After all, visiting Kyoto is already fun and enjoyable to explore alone or with family and friends to share this Kyoto experience.

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