If there’s only one place you should visit in Japan, it has to be Kyoto! This historic city is a must-see destination for travelers hoping to get a glimpse of Old Japan.

Kyoto is one of Japan’s most beautiful cities, famed for its scenic temples, shrines, gardens, and historic structures, which includes 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Here are the main places that I enjoyed in Kyoto. This list is perfect for first-timers planning a quick visit.

I’ve included the locations on Google Maps to make it easy for you to plan your trip. Simply use the “Save” feature on the Google Maps app for easy reference of all the places you want to visit.

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1. Fushimi Inari Shrine (Fushimi Inari Taisha)

Location: 68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi Ward. Save on Google Maps.

Dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice and success in business, the Fushimi Inari Shrine is one of the most famous sights in Japan. Here, you’ll find the iconic vermillion torii gate covered trail that leads to the sacred Mount Inari. The Fushimi Inari Shrine is perhaps the busiest tourist spot in Kyoto, so visit early in the morning before the crowds arrive.

How to go: Take the JR train (JR Nara Line) to JR Inari Station, two stations away from Kyoto Station. You’ll find the shrine right outside the station. It’s also a short walk away from the Fushimi Inari Station along the Keihan Main Line.

2. Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Location: Ukyo Ward. Save on Google Maps.

Found in the western outskirts of the city, the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is one of the most scenic attractions of Kyoto. A walking path cuts through the bamboo grove allowing you to get immersed in the serene view of towering bamboo trees.

How to go: Take the JR train to the JR Saga-Arashiyama Station. The bamboo grove is a 15-minute easy walk away from the station.

3. Tenryuji Temple

Location: Ukyo Ward. Save on Google Maps.

Located beside the bamboo grove, the Tenryuji Temple is a must-visit when in Arashiyama. It the top Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto and registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as part of the “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto”. Don’t miss the sprawling Zen garden with the Arashiyama mountains as its backdrop.

4. Togetsu-kyo Bridge, Arashiyama

Location: Ukyo Ward. Save on Google Maps.

The Togetsu-kyo Bridge, which literally means “Moon Crossing Bridge” is a well-known central landmark in Arashiyama. Stopover for a peaceful view of the riverside and surrounding mountains.

5. Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion)

Location: 1 Kinkakujicho, Kita Ward. Save on Google Maps.

In the northwest part of the city, you’ll find the Kinkakuji Temple or the Golden Pavillion, one of the most photographed sites in Kyoto. Take your spot from across the large pond to enjoy the landscape garden and the Zen Buddhist temple, which has its top two floors covered in gold leaf.

6. Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Location: 294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama Ward. Save on Google Maps.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple, which literally means “Pure Water Temple” was ) is a Buddhist temple founded on the site of the Otowa Waterfall in the eastern hills of Kyoto. A beautiful view can be seen from the terrace, which overlooks the canopy of trees and the Kyoto cityscape.

7. Sanneizaka & Nineizaka Streets (Kyoto Old Town)

Location: Higashiyama Ward. Save on Google Maps.

Get a feel of Old Japan at the historic streets of Sanneizaka & Nineizaka. Walk through the stone paved streets lined the whole way with traditional wooden shophouses and landmarks like the Hōkan-ji Temple.

8. Kodaiji Temple

Location: 526 Shimokawaracho, Higashiyama Ward. Save on Google Maps.

You’ll find the Kodaiji Temple temple near the northern end of Nineizaka Street. This Buddhist temple is famous for its stunning Zen gardens and special illumination shows in autumn and spring.

9. Yasaka Shrine & Gion District

Location: 625 Gionmachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama Ward. Save on Google Maps.

From Kodaiji Temple, you can walk farther north and explore Gion, Kyoto’s geisha district. One of the main places to visit here is the Yasaka Shrine, home to the most famous festival in Japan, the Gion Matsuri. Visit during the evening to see hundreds of lanterns lit up at the dance stage fronting the main hall.

10. Nijo Castle

Location: 541 Nijojocho, Nakagyo Ward. Save on Google Maps.

Nijo Castle is another interesting place to go in Kyoto aside from its famed temples and shrines. This castle features massive stone walls surrounded by a wide moat, heavy gates, and a richly decorated palace.

11. Kyoto Tower

Location: 721-1 Higashishiokojicho, Shimogyo Ward. Save on Google Maps.

Get a breathtaking view overlooking Kyoto from the Kyoto Tower, the tallest structure in the city. It’s conveniently located beside Kyoto Station.

12. Sushi no Musashi

Location: Atsy Road, Kyoto Station (near the Shinkansen Hachijo entrance on the southern side of the statiob). Save on Google Maps.

If you’ve always wanted to try a conveyor belt sushi restaurant (kaiten-sushi), check out Sushi no Musashi, which has three branches in Kyoto including one right inside the Kyoto Station complex.

13. Ramen Sen no Kaze

Location: 580 Nakanocho, Nakagyo Ward. Save on Google Maps.

One of the best ramen I’ve had in Japan! Ramen Sen no Kaze is a must-try in Kyoto. The queue was long when I went but it was worth the wait.

What places have you added to your bucketlist? Have you been to beautiful places in Kyoto that should be on this list? Feel free to share your thoughts!

Places to visit in Kyoto

Kyoto tourist spots, things to do in Kyoto, where to go in Kyoto & more.

Note: Destinations featured above are not listed by rank.

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