I’m sharing part 2 of my Japan guide… and highlighting our next stop which was Kyoto! After 4 days in Tokyo, we hopped on the bullet train and rode it 2 hours to Kyoto. Kyoto was like nowhere I’d ever been… it felt so old world and traditional…it was truly a magical place. There were parts of Kyoto that felt like a normal bustling city, and then you’d wander down an alley or stumble upon a side street and be transported back in time.
My favorite street in Kyoto was in the Gion District along the Shirakawa Canal.
We spent a lot of time there – having dinner at Nobu’s restaurant and enjoying that ginormous shaved matcha ice at the cutest tea house, Pass the Baton, that you saw in my Vlog and Instastories! It was the most peaceful, romantic street and the perfect place to catch women dressed as geisha.
My favorite experience in Kyoto – was by far the Bamboo Garden.
We hopped in a cab from our hotel (which I’ll share more about in a bit…) and got dropped off at the Arashiyama District which is home to the iconic Bamboo Garden and several temples, shops and restaurants. We were able to admire the gorgeous bamboo trees and stumbled upon a small temple to enjoy tea at and walk the grounds of. Now back to our hotel situation…we booked our Kyoto hotel quite last minute and sadly most places were sold out.
So FYI if you want to go to Kyoto, book your accommodations far in advance.
We ended up booking a modern-ish hotel in the heart of Kyoto that we knew was overpriced but that looked decent and got ok reviews on Trip Advisor, but OMG it ended up being terrible. We could hear the cross walk go off from our window every 4 minutes (torture LOL!), the elevator beeped constantly, the breakfast/restaurant was just plain YUCK, and the concierge wasn’t helpful at all. The hotel was was walking distance to Shirakawa/Nishiki Market and plenty of train stations, but I would never recommend anyone to stay at it.
Here’s what I would have done differently now that I know Kyoto:
I would have absolutely stayed a bit outside Kyoto at a traditional Ryokan. This is an authentic Japanese style inn and is so much more charming. My friend Merritt is in Kyoto right now, and I’ve been loving her Instastories. The place she’s staying at; Gion Hatanaka, looks darling – so I’m including it here in case you want to book it! I’m looking forward to going back to Kyoto in the future and having my trip a bit more planned out so that I can see even more temples/parks (there are SO many to see) and experiencing a traditional Ryokan!
Kyoto Travel Guide:
Things you must do in Kyoto, Japan:
This was my favorite neighborhood in Kyoto and I made sure to walk along the Shirakawa Canal everyday. It’s stunning at night and during the day – and is home to darling shops and restaurants, like Pass the Baton tea house, Itoh (Nobu’s restaurant), and more.
See a Geisha show
Our concierge told us you could not buy Geisha show tickets online (at least for the one we wanted to go to in the Gion District) so we tried to arrive about 30 minutes early for the 6PM show. Sadly it was already sold out by then, and the next night we went – the line was around the corner and that was when we were an hour and a half early! SO, if you want to see a geisha show it seems as though you have to be prepared to wait quite a bit, or try to book through a service. I was definitely bummed we weren’t able to see one and it’s at the top of my list next time I’m in Kyoto!
This is a huge market/shopping area in Kyoto. The main street strip is full of food vendors so go hungry! You can try everything from ramen to sushi, to chicken skewers and mochi. Wander down the side streets and you’ll find a handful of cute boutiques.
Take a cab or the train just about 30 minutes away to the stunning Arashiyama District. This area is breathtaking and you’ll be able to wander through the bamboo garden and several temples. It’s a great spot to spend at least half the day at.
This is one of the most iconic shrines in Kyoto with a path of over 5,000 bright orange gates. We took the train here, and had fun trying all of the desserts and coffee from the vendors that were just off the train stop. We walked through the orange gates (great picture opp hehe!) and had tea overlooking a pretty park.
Tea at Pass the Baton
I’m including this here again (I mentioned it in #1), because it was such a memorable experience for me! Cross a tiny bridge over a canal into the most darling tea house in Kyoto. Enjoy mochi desserts, green tea, shaved matcha ice, and the stunning ambiance/view from inside. It was my favorite place to take a mini break at after wandering through Kyoto.
I think I ate ramen every single day on my Japan trip for lunch. We loved a place called Kyoto Gogyo which was right in the Nishiki Market. It was a bit touristy, but the location, service, and absolutely delicious ramen hit the spot! The ramen in Kyoto Station is also top notch!
Kinkaku-ji aka the Golden Temple
This is one of the most popular buildings in Japan. It is a zen Buddhist temple covered in gold leaf surrounded by a sprawling garden.
Riding the bullet train was such a neat experience! Derek and I had always wanted to do this. We were pleasantly surprised at how clean, organized and seamless it was. We enjoyed my favorite Japanese cookies and crackers on the way there ;)
Stroll along this tree lined walkway which is about a mile long and beautiful during any season – especially cherry blossom season.