Kyoto is one of the most visited cities in Japan and my favourite city too. There is so much to see there and although it’s impossible to see everything in a day, there are several sights and experiences you can’t miss if you only have one day in Kyoto.
Kyoto has definitely become busier since my first trip in 2017. I recently returned to Kyoto for a longer trip and despite the crowds, the city is still beautiful and has so much to offer - even for 1 day in Kyoto.
Of course one day is never enough time to see any city. But if you’re short on time and perhaps planning a 1 day Kyoto itinerary from Osaka or a short day trip to Kyoto before flying out of Kansai Airport, then it’s still a great idea to see the main sights in the city.
So if you’re planning a trip to Japan, don’t miss Kyoto and use this one day in Kyoto itinerary to plan your trip.
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Below are some of the top rated tours, hotels and recommendations for visiting Kyoto. Make sure to book ahead of time to ensure availability!
Top Experiences and Tours in Kyoto:
1) Traditional Tea Ceremony Experience at a temple
2) Full Day Kyoto tour of the city highlights
3) rent a traditional Japanese Kimono
Top Hotels and Accommodation in Kyoto:
1) Kyoto Machiya Fukune (highly rated traditional style)
2) Good Nature Hotel Kyoto (beautiful hotel, convenient location)
3) Hotel Seiryu Kyoto Kiyomizu (luxury hotel, amazing views of Gion)
1 day Kyoto tour options
If you’d prefer to have this one day in Kyoto itinerary planned and the logistics and transport between sights arranged for you with an English speaking tour guide, I’ve used Get Your Guide for other similar tours and highly recommend their one day Kyoto tour options.
This day trip to Kyoto from Osaka tour is Get Your Guide's highest rated one day tour in Kyoto and it really maximises your one day trip to Kyoto.
It includes the Fushimi-Inari Shrine, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and the stunning Golden Pavilion temple, Kinkaku-ji Zen Temple before heading to Nara Park in the afternoon. You’re accompanied by a local English speaking tour guide throughout the day.
If you would prefer a private tour for you, you and your travel partner or your group, Get Your Guide also offers a Kyoto private guided day tour for either 4 or 6 hours. Click here to book.
Can you do Kyoto in a day?
While I would always recommend longer than a day to really experience and appreciate a new place, if you’re short on time, it is completely possible to spend one day in Kyoto and see the main sights and experiences thanks to the city’s brilliant transport infrastructure and relatively small size compared to Tokyo or Osaka.
Kyoto is famous for its temples and Gion district (old town area) so I would recommend picking a small number of these things to do in Kyoto in one day.
Kyoto itinerary 1 day overview
8am - Arashiyama Bamboo Forest (or go earlier in the summer)
10.30am - return to Kyoto city and travel to Inari
11am - Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine
1pm - go to Gion (optional time to rent a kimono)
1.30pm - explore Gion, tea ceremony and shrines
How to spend your one day Kyoto itinerary
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Kick off your 1 day sightseeing in Kyoto with one of the most famous places to visit in Kyoto which is absolutely worth seeing! My top tip is to go first thing in the morning as soon as it opens.
I made the mistake of going mid-morning and it was very busy. The full effect of the bamboo walk can be appreciated much more with fewer people so you can enjoy the peaceful walk among the bamboo groves.
2024 updated tip: on my recent trip to Kyoto, I discovered a nearby temple in Arashiyama called Adashino Nenbutsuji which is not only a beautiful temple but also has a short but much less busy, bamboo walkway. It’s a 20 minute walk from Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and Google Maps works well to get you there. It’s also a beautiful temple in the autumn foliage.
Spent some time exploring the rest of the Kameyama Park where the bamboo grove is. The park is beautiful with blossoms in the spring and stunning colours in the autumn. There are also scenic lookout points over Katsura River Gorge.
How to get to the bamboo grove from Kyoto
The bamboo grove in Arashiyama is a 25 minute drive from Kyoto so you can take a taxi. Or alternatively, take the JR Sagano(San-in) line from Kyoto to Saga Arashiyama station which is just a 10 minute walk from Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.
In you’re staying in the Shijo area of Kyoto, you can also take the Randen line from Shijo-Omiya station which takes you to Arashiyama Station.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Another famous sight in Kyoto and one that I think you can’t miss on a 1 day itinerary in Kyoto.
The Fushimi Inari Shrine is famous for the hundreds of torii gates that cover the walking path up the mountainside.
Although this attraction does get busy, because the torii gates are the whole way up the mountainside, it’s easier to find parts of the walk to take photos and admire the torii gates without crowds if you walk a bit further up the trail - most people stay only within the first 300-500m.
The view over the city from the peak is spectacular on a clear day.
How to get to Fushimi Inari Shrine:
The nearest station is Inari Station. You can can take the Naara Line here from Kyoto Station which is a local train but runs more regularly (every 20 minutes).
Alternatively there is also the nearby Fushimi-Inari station which can be reached on the Keihan main line from Kyoto Station.
To get from Arashiyama to Fushimi-Inari Shrine, take the San-In line then the Nara line to reach Fushimi-Inari directly from Arashiyama bamboo forest.
Gion - the traditional Geisha district of Kyoto
The historic Gion district in the centre of Kyoto cannot be missed on your one day itinerary in Kyoto.
The traditional wooden merchant houses and teahouses, plus the chance to spot real geishas draw many people to the district.
The district is the place to go if you wish to experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony or try some traditional cuisine.
This short tea ceremony experience is a great option for experiencing a traditional tea ceremony and it's only 45 minutes long in the centre of Gion.
This is also the area where you’ll find historic shrines and temples as well as the famous view of the Yasaka Pagoda - the 5-storey pagoda often pictured in Kyoto and a must-see on your one day in Kyoto itinerary.
Traditional Kimono dress
If wearing a traditional kimono is something you’d like to experience in Japan, Gion is the place to do it and take some beautiful photos in the historic streets.
Kimono Miyabi Kyoto offers kimono rental from as little as ¥5000 or £27/$34 depending on what dress style or additional extras you’d like and also how long you’d like to rent it for. This includes their professional hair styling and kimono fitting.
I also like their service because you can book as late as the day before, so if you're undecided when you're travelling to Kyoto, you can rent a kimono last minute.
Maruyama Park - Yasaka Shrine
Within walking distance of Gion is the picturesque Maruyama Park.
This beautiful park is home to lush Japanese gardens with iconic Japanese-style stone bridges, low-hanging willows and beautiful colours in the spring and autumn.
It’s also home to the Shinto Yasaka Shrine, built in 656 AD and home to the famous Gion Masuri festival in the summer months.
While I was here, I was lucky enough to see a traditional wedding procession. The outfits, the ceremony and the bride’s dress were absolutely spectacular.
If you’re planning to see Kyoto in 1 day during the autumn or winter, coming here at dusk is beautiful with all the lanterns lit up.
One day in Kyoto must visit shrines
If you started your one day trip in Kyoto early, you might find you have extra time in the afternoon when you’re in Gion.
Or if you choose not to rent a kimono or do the tea ceremony. So here are (in my opinion) some of the best temples in Kyoto to visit easily from the Gion area on your one day itinerary in Kyoto.
Kiyomizu-dera (amazing city views and great for cherry blossom and autumn foliage) - 500 yen entry fee
Yasaka Kōshin-dō Temple (three wise monkeys temple with hundreds of colourful balls) - free to visit
Kōdaiji Temple (also great for autumn and cherry blossom) - 600 yen entry fee
A great way to finish your 1 day in Kyoto itinerary is to experience traditional Japanese food and specifically the haute cuisine in Kyoto called kaiseki ryori.
The Shirakawa Canal area and Hanami-koji Street are both popular areas full of restaurants and teahouses, perfect for experiencing the unique cuisine and traditional practices of Kyoto.
If the language barrier or food choice is perhaps a little intimidating, I would highly recommend going on a Kyoto food tour.
I really rate Get Your Guide food tours, who always provide authentic, local experiences and take extra care of all their guests. Their highest rated tour is the Gion Food and Cultural Tour which offers great value for money at 3 hours for £76 - all inclusive!
Summary: 1 day Kyoto itinerary
I hope this Kyoto 1 day itinerary is useful and shows you that you can do Kyoto in a day and experience the sights and authentic experiences of this unique Japanese city.
There is of course so much more to experience and see in this city, but thanks to its compact nature and great city transport links, it’s possible to experience a lot of the city of Kyoto in one day.
If you’re continuing your trip, I would recommend travelling onwards to Osaka, via Nara to see the famous bowing deer at Nara Park.
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