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.
If you’re planning a trip to Japan, don’t miss Kyoto and use this Kyoto 1 day itinerary to plan your trip.
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Kyoto Day Tours
If you’d prefer to have this itinerary planned and the logistics and transport between sights arranged for you with an English speaking tour guide, I’ve used Klook and Get Your Guide for other similar tours and highly recommend their Kyoto one day tour options.
This day trip to Kyoto from Osaka tour is Klook’s highest rated Kyoto tour and includes the Fushimi-Inari Shrine, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and includes an authentic lunch at a traditional Japanese restaurant in Gion before finishing the day at the stunning Golden Pavilion temple, Kinkaku-ji Zen Temple. You’re accompanied by a local English speaking tour guide throughout the day.
This is the best guided tour in Kyoto offered by Klook and is similar to the tour above but with more stops as it starts from Kyoto rather than Osaka, perfect if you’re planning to spend a night staying in the city. This tour visits several other famous temples in the city as well as famous scenic spots such as the Katsura river area in Arashiyama. Lunch and a local English speaking tour guide means your day will be fully catered for.
If you would prefer a private tour for you, you and your travel partner or your group, Klook also offers a Kyoto private guided day tour for any size of group up to 8 people. Click here to book.
Get Your Guide also offers a similar private Kyoto day tour if you prefer to book with them, although their price is less competitive.
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.
Self-guided One Day in Kyoto Itinerary
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
One of the most famous spots in Kyoto and absolutely worth visiting! 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.
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 line from Kyoto to Saga Arashiyama station which is just 10 minutes from Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.
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 with stunning colours in the autumn. There’s also scenic lookout points over Katsura River Gorge.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Another famous sight in Kyoto and one that I think you can’t miss!
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.
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 the Fushimi-Inari station which can be reached on the Keihan line from central Kyoto. Or 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. 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 Kyoto food tour is a great option to experience Kyoto style kaiseki ryori.
This is also the area where you’ll find historic shrines and temples as well as the famous view of the Hokan-ji Temple - the 5-storey pagoda often pictured in Kyoto.
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 3000 Yen or £20/$27 USD 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.
A great way to finish your one day itinerary in Kyoto 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 £70 - all inclusive!
There is also another highly rated tour which is much more in depth with a Kaiseki course meal experience and opportunity to learn about the traditional Geiko and Maiko (Geisha and Geisha apprentice) culture in Kyoto, plus loads of street food stops and snacks too.
Kyoto 1 day itinerary final thoughts
I hope this 1 day in Kyoto 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.
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