I loved Kyoto and wish I could have spent more time there.  I didn’t realize how spread out it was until after I left, but just within walking or short biking distance of my hostel, there was SO MUCH to see!  Someday I’ll go back, hopefully sooner than later, but for now, here is what I love about it.

Flatness

Kyoto is incredibly flat.  This makes walking and biking around even easier.  There’s so much to see in Kyoto that not having hills to constantly climb makes exploring that much more enjoyable.

Helpful things:

  • Bike rentals are pretty cheap per day, from 500-2000 Yen.  A good guide can be found here.
  • Renting a bike is probably way easier than figuring out buses and trains and what not.  Weather pending, of course.
  • Bring a map or download some kind of offline maps.  Google Maps didn’t work for me there.

Small alleys

Along with being flat, it has tons of little alleys and backstreets that are worth exploring.  Just spend a day or afternoon wandering around with no real plan, just seeing and doing as you happen upon it.  This can be much less stressful.

Helpful things:

  • If you get hopelessly lost, spring for a taxi to get back if you’re really worried.  It may be pricey, but it’s worth it to not lose your mind or end up freezing.
  • Don’t worry if you’re wandering around at night, I wasn’t even worried doing this, and I don’t like the dark.  If you are worried, get a taxi.
  • Of course, follow your gut and don’t go down a street or alley that makes you fell nervous.

Temples

There are SO MANY temples in Kyoto, it’s just ridiculous.  One temple a day or one day of temples, you can’t go wrong either way.  They are everywhere, so seeing them shouldn’t really be a problem.  If you go early, you probably won’t see many other people there, either.

Helpful things:

  • Pick a few that you definitely want to see.  If you go in one day, figure out the most efficient way to see them.  Bike, subway, walk?
  • Go early, there will probably be a lot less people.
  • Take pictures and things, but still be respectful.
  • Research ahead of time if certain ones you want to see have entrance fees.  A lot do, but a lot don’t either.

Food

Foooooooood.  This is where I had the Japanese Beef and it was SO GOOD and I want to eat it all the time, with the egg and all and I wish I was back there right now so I could have some.  I had it in the Gion area I believe and waited for probably an hour if not more and is was SO worth it.

Helpful things:

  • Don’t be afraid to try new things.  I was terrified of steak with any kind of pink in it and then somehow I convinced myself to try the Japanese beef, which was mostly pink and I LOVE it.
  • Tempura Tendon is how you you get tempura not in soup, like the picture.  This way it’s crispier.
  • If you want sushi on the cheaper side, check out a sushi train.  These are usually pretty affordable.  And fun.

Gion

This is known as the Geisha district.  This is where they most commonly entertain.  There is a lot of fine dining here, that is probably totally worth it.  It also has tons of tea houses and the classic wooden architecture.

Helpful things:

  • Don’t pester the Geishas with taking pictures.
  • If you’re on a budget, splurge on a good dinner.  Like I said, worth it.
  • If you want to see Geishas, attend the cultural show on Gion Corner.
  • Wander around here during the day and at night.  Night could make for some cool photo opportunities.

Proximity to Nara and Arashiyama

These make perfect day trips from Kyoto, either two separate days or both in one like we did.  You can feed monkeys and deer in the same day AND see the bamboo forest made famous by Pinterest.

Helpful things:

  • Go by train, not bus.  It’s way faster.  To Nara take the JR line directly there.  To Arashiyama,you have to take a couple trains.  I would ask at your hostel to get specifics and times on this.
  • Do them on two separate days, if you have the time, if you want to spend a lot of time wandering around Arashiyama and feeding monkeys, which I would recommend. There’s a ton to see in Nara, too.
  • For Nara, bring some extra yen for biscuits to feed the deer.
  • Watch out, some of the deer can be a little aggressive.  Keep an eye on purses and any kind of straps.
  • Be nice to the monkeys and follow the warning signs you read on the way up.  No one wants to get attacked by a monkey.

Have you been to Kyoto?  What did you like about it?  Did you do any of these things?  Which ones?

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