Kyoto

Once the imperial capital of Japan, Kyoto was built in 794, modeled on the Chinese capital of Chang'an. During World War II, Kyoto was spared much of the devastation that other Japanese cities faced, and as a result, retains many of its historic buildings - so much so that there are almost 20 UNESCO World Heritage Sites within Kyoto. Indeed, so well-preserved is its old quarter that many buildings are as ornate and stunning today as they were during Kyoto's heyday as the capital of Japan.

Experiences

A handpicked selection of experiences endorsed by our experts. If you can’t see what you’re looking for, let us know, as our extensive network of local contacts can open many doors.

Daitoku-ji Temple

Visit Daitoku-ji, which was founded in 1319 and was historically one of Kyoto’s principal centers of the “Way of Tea,” and tea ceremony and related arts like calligraphy flourished here. To this day, it remains a subdued oasis in Kyoto’s northern reaches. It is a vast temple complex containing 21 sub-temples, of which Daisen-in and Obai-in both have excellent Zen gardens.

Fushimi Inari Grand Shrine

Visit the Fushimi Inari Grand Shrine, one the most mysterious and haunting Shinto shrines in all of Japan. This iconic image of Japan was the inspiration for Bulgarian artist Christo’s Central Park Gates; the shrine grounds are home to tens of thousands of vermilion torii (gates) which create tunnels that run for miles up through the forest of Mount Inari.

Geisha Culture

Have a private dinner in the Gion neighborhood accompanied by traditional geisha performance and socializing. Kyoto is the birthplace of this time-honored custom, which began in the 17th century and typically includes songs with shamisen (a three-stringed instrument). Though once a central part of Japanese culture, today the art of the geisha is largely one of historical preservation.

Ginkaku-ji Temple

Stop by the Ginkaku-ji, the “Silver Pavilion” to Kinkaku-ji’s gold. Like the Golden Pavilion, Ginkaku-ji was built to be the retirement villa of a 15th-century shogun and was converted into a Zen temple after his passing. Ginkaku-ji is renowned for its meticulously landscaped gardens, including a dry garden dubbed the “Sea of Silver Sand,” unique for its huge sand cone nicknamed the “Moon Viewing Platform,” and a sizeable moss garden with pond, islands and bridges.

Historic Noodle Restaurant

Have lunch at Honke Owariya, Kyoto’s oldest noodle restaurant (nearly 550 years old). During the Edo period (1603-1868), it served its famous dishes inside the Imperial Palace itself, and it continues to tout its status as the Imperial family’s noodle purveyor of choice in Kyoto.

Kinkaku-ji Temple

The Kinkaku-ji, or "Golden Pavilion," is one of the iconic sights of Kyoto. Built as a pleasure pavilion by a 15th-century shogun and burned down by a deranged monk in the 1950s, it has now been rebuilt to is previous exquisite perfection.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

One of the oldest temples of the city, Kiyomizu is built high on massive stilts in the eastern foothills, with excellent views of Kyoto. Kiyomizu means “pure water,” and the temple takes its name from the Otowa waterfall that flows within its grounds. The waterfall tumbles in three streams, said to represent wisdom, health and wealth. Visitors typically queue up to sip from ladels provided (first use one cup to rinse your hands, then a second cup to sip from, and finally a third cup to stand on the ladel’s end to allow water to flow down and rinse the handle). Please note that Kiyomizu-dera is an attraction of great renown, and as a result, it is often one of Kyoto's most crowded temples.

Miho Museum

Take a day trip to the I.M. Pei-designed Miho Museum, located about 1 hour by car southwest of Kyoto. You will be met and guided on a private tour by a museum curator. The museum houses Koyama’s private collection of Asian and Western antiques, as well as other pieces with an estimated value of between US$300 million to US$1 billion. Each exhibit in the Miho Museum was carefully selected as much for its artistic beauty as its historical significance, and careful attention is paid to how the collection is displayed.

Nanzen-ji Temple

An imposing, quintessential Zen temple that made a cameo in Sofia Coppola’s film Lost in Translation, the Nanzen-ji contains an enormous two-story sanmon, or main gate, that is one of the largest in Japan. The ascent up steep stairs to the second-story balcony rewards visitors with breathtaking views. In the main temple building, pause and enjoy a cup of green tea; savor the sound and sight of a waterfall emptying into a pond, and you will understand why Nanzen-ji has been a Zen holy place since the 13th century.

Nishiki Market

Explore Nishiki market, where myriad food stalls serve yakitori (grilled chicken on a stick), fried fish, oshinko (pickled vegetables), and much more. Nishiki is where many residents of Kyoto do their grocery shopping if they have time; it is similar to wet markets in Hong Kong, except they are much cleaner and more dedicated. Generally, each storefront only sells one thing: bonito fish flakes, root vegetables, fresh fish, or locally made sake, for example.

Philosopher’s Walk

Go on the “Philosopher’s Walk,” named after a Kyoto University philosophy professor, Nishida Kitaro, who trod this path along the Shishigatani canal daily. The route takes you past several temples and shrines within a park that is also home to coffeehouses, boutiques and craft shops. Cherry blossoms and maple trees line the walkways; this is indeed the perfect place to reflect and contemplate.

Ryoan-ji Temple

With its world-famous stone garden (karesansui) Ryoan-ji is another of Kyoto’s UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Zen rock garden, measuring 2,659 square feet (247 square meters) in area, is believed to have been originally landscaped in the 15th century. It consists of 15 moss-covered small boulders in a sea of raked white gravel, and is laid out so that when viewing the garden from any angle (other than a bird’s-eye view), only 14 rocks are visible – the 15th becoming visible, it is said, upon enlightenment.

Shopping

In terms of shopping, Kyoto is famous for its traditional handicrafts, which be roughly divided into three categories – Buddhist art, tea ceremony accoutrements and everyday household items. The area around Pontocho Street in particular has high-quality wooden products, such as bowls and other dining ware crafted from local zelkova and cherry trees.

Traditional Japanese Arts

Have a private lesson or ceremony in one or more traditional Japanese arts, such as ikebana (flower arrangement), calligraphy, sushi-making, tea ceremony, sword-fighting, or kimono fitting.

Visit Shiga Prefecture

Surrounding the largest freshwater lake in the nation, Shiga Prefecture is a diverse and gorgeous region. From the white beaches of the west to Mount Hira’s Oku-Biwako Parkway road, from pristine Lake Biwa to the countless rice fields, one is constantly surrounded by natural beauty. Shiga is renowned for funa-zushi, or fermented crucian carp sushi, and wagyu, also known as Omi beef of supreme quality. For lovers of history, Shiga offers a number of impressive relics dating back centuries. Among these, Hikone Castle stands as a reminder of classic Edo architecture, one of the oldest castles in the nation and considered a treasure amongst Japanese people.

Japan Regions

Explore in-depth information, experiences and highlights by navigating to specific regions using the links below.

Kyoto Itineraries

Classic Japan

Duration
14 days / 13 nights
Price Per Person
From $39,100
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A Japanese Journey - Tokyo to the Noto Peninsula

Duration
13 days / 12 nights
Price Per Person
From $17,900
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Across 18 Centuries: Historic Japan

Duration
11 days / 10 nights
Price Per Person
From $34,300
See Itinerary

Aman Japan Culinary Journey 2024 | Aman Jet Expeditions | May 14–23, 2024

Date
May 14–23, 2024
Price Per Person
$58,888
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Castles and Coastline: From Kyoto to Osaka

Duration
11 days / 10 nights
Price Per Person
From $19,500
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Japan with Kids

Duration
8 days / 7 nights
Price Per Person
From $14,300
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Japanese Art and Culture Tour

Duration
13 days / 12 nights
Price Per Person
From $31,900
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Land of Cherry Blossoms: Southern Japan Highlights

Duration
8 days / 7 nights
Price Per Person
From $21,800
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Piste-Carving and Storm-Chasing in Japan

Duration
13 days / 12 nights
Price Per Person
From $30,500
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Relax & Rejuvenate: Babymoon in Japan

Duration
9 days / 8 nights
Price Per Person
From $20,400
See Itinerary
Preferred Hotel

Aman Kyoto

Kyoto, Japan

The highly anticipated Aman Kyoto brings an even higher level of luxury to the historic and cultural ancient capital. A blend of authentic, traditional ryokan hospitality and contemporary spaces, the Aman Kyoto offers travelers a respite in the heart of one of Japan's most visited cities. The secluded 80-acre property is situated in a hidden garden close to the Golden Pavilion at the foot of the Mountain of Hidari Daimonji, within easy reach of Kyoto's impressive collection of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Scattered among the grounds is a series of standalone pavilions. The four guest pavilions house 24 guest rooms (choose between garden or stream views) and a pair of two-bedroom villas overlooking the forest canopy. Each room captures a contemporary, minimalistic style with nod to the quintessential ryokan feel; walls of windows bringing the outside in to spacious, light-filled interiors. Facilities include separate Arrival, Living and Spa pavilions. The signature restaurant, Taka-An, showcases Japanese haute cuisine in the form of the kaiseki banquet - a multi-course dining experience made using the season’s finest local produce. The Living Pavilion offers an inviting spaces with a central fireplace for guests to enjoy home-cooked Kyoto obanzai-style cuisine and afternoon tea. The Spa Pavilion’s onsen bathing facilities use water from a local spring and the range of treatments highlight local, natural ingredients such as green tea, black beans, sake and cold-pressed camellia oil.

Preferred Hotel

Four Seasons Kyoto

Kyoto, Japan

Inspired by the tranquility and contemplative calm of the region’s many temples and Zen gardens, Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto features 110 standard rooms, 12 suites, 57 condos and a Presidential Suite, which at over 2,600 square feet, is the largest hotel suite in Kyoto. The restrained chic of designer Agnes Ng’s modern ideas, allied with traditional design elements such as bamboo groves and shoji paper-walls, create an extraordinary set of contemporary, yet classic, accommodations – with a peaceful vibe, enhanced and completed by the gentle crash of water from the Waterfall Garden. The hotel features two restaurants, bar, lounge and even a tea house where guests can find a range of tantalizing treats and refreshments to expedite their relaxation – set off to perfection by a team of expertly trained, confident and multilingual service staff.

Preferred Hotel

HOSHINOYA Kyoto

Kyoto, Japan

Opened in December 2009, HOSHINOYA Kyoto is a brand-new private retreat located on the banks of the Oigawa River in the city’s Arashiyama neighborhood. The property’s 25 rooms, all with river views, reflect the heritage and modernity of Kyoto itself, combining traditional ryokan dwelling with contemporary western comfort. The Arashiyama area is a designated scenery protection area, regarded equally for its cherry blossoms in the spring and brilliant foliage in the autumn. With its famous Togetsukyo Bridge, Arashiyama evokes “old Kyoto” at its best, as no new buildings are permitted. The property itself was the private vacation home and library of Suminokura Ryoui, a wealthy Kyoto merchant, until its conversion to an inn about 100 years ago. HOSHINOYA’s Library Lounge and bar, whose shelves hold many books on Kyoto’s history, looks out on the contemplative water garden, while its traditional landscape garden incorporates a view of Arashiyama Mountain using the ancient technique of shakkei, or "borrowed scenery." HOSHINOYA Kyoto has a sister property in Karuizawa.

Preferred Hotel

Hyatt Regency Kyoto

Kyoto, Japan

The Hyatt Regency is centrally located in the city’s historic Higashiyama neighborhood, and blends Western luxury with Japanese decor, while displaying works by Hiroshi Sugimoto and other modern artists in its reception lobby. The Hyatt is located near some of the city’s iconic sights, including Kiyomizu-dera Temple (Kyoto’s “Notre Dame”), Sansujangendo, and the narrow streets of machiya (traditional townhouses) and ochaya (tea houses) within the historic geisha district of Gion. The property’s Riraku Spa offers a variety of treatments incorporating Shiatsu, acupuncture, moxibustion, aromatherapy, and reflexology. The Hyatt’s restaurants are Touzan, serving a variety of traditional Japanese cuisine; The Grill, specializing in meat and seafood dishes, prepared in an open kitchen with woodburning stoves; and Italian fare from Trattoria Sette, while Touzan Bar includes an extensive menu of boutique sakes.

Preferred Hotel

Park Hyatt Kyoto

Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto’s Higashiyama District, tucked alongside the waters of the Kamo River, is an area of immense cultural significance with an abundance of classical buildings and historic sites - an ideal base for Park Hyatt Kyoto. Offering “a unique blend of modern heritage and hospitality,” Park Hyatt Kyoto features 70 guest rooms, including nine suites, with interior spaces designed to highlight the craftsmanship of local Japanese artisans. Subdued tones of tamo wood, original artworks depicting revered sakura (cherry blossoms), and garden views are standard. The hotel also has spa and fitness center, as well as services such as in-room dining and laundry. Culinary options are also highly diverse at Park Hyatt Kyoto, as several in-house restaurants and bars cover Japanese “teppan” style cooking, seasonal kaiseki (traditional banquet dining), casual bistro-style comfort foods and baked goods, and a curated collection of rare spirits, wines, and other beverages.
Preferred Hotel

Ritz-Carlton Kyoto

Kyoto, Japan

Just steps away from the popular streets of Gion, Kawaramachi and Pontocho, the Ritz-Carlton hotel is the perfect gateway for seeing Kyoto’s famous sights. Respecting the ancient traditions and culture of Kyoto, the extravagant space is inspired by the natural surroundings and traditional architecture. Famous for Zen Temples, palaces and gardens, Kyoto's atmosphere is incorporated in the Ritz-Carlton’s design. Built in the style of a traditional Meiji House and courtyard, a stay here is truly a cultural experience. A four-story waterfall is featured in the hotel entrance amidst patterned motifs. Luxury Ritz-Carlton touches include high-thread count linens, plush Japanese “IMABARI” robes and towels, Kyoto soap and seasonal bath salts, LED TVs and touch-panel environmental controls for automatic drape closure. Accommodation amenities include a concierge service, swimming pool, banquet room, babysitting service, sophisticated dining and drinking options, as well as an indulgent spa for any pampering needs. 

Preferred Hotel

The Shinmonzen

Kyoto, Japan

The Shinmonzen is a luxury boutique hotel exclusively located in the beautifully preserved streets of Gion Shirakawa and Shinmonzen. A 10-year combined labor of love project by famed contemporary architect, Tadao Ando, and world class cosmopolitan interior designer Rémi Tessier, their pooled talents created this intimate retreat of peaceful elegance from the sights and sounds of Gionʼs buzzing alleys and cobbled streets. Offered are 9 distinct suites all with private balconies featuring views of the Shirakawa River and 500 thread count organic cotton bed linen from Pedersoli. Western style suites feature plush king-sized Edwardian beds and hand-woven carpet flooring from Kawashima Orimono. While Japanese style suites feature twin IWATA futon beds with tatami mat bedroom flooring. All suites offer exclusive Villa La Coste/The Shinmonzen organic bath amenities with many suites feature Hinoki cypress bathtubs. There are two dining options, the Jean-Georges restaurant, which showcases exquisitely crafted dishes blending French, American, and Asian influences and the Riverside Lounge where guests can sip fine wines with light fare. Facilities include a cardio gym to maintain fitness and spa for pampering massages. This hotel is 1.5 hours from the Kansai International Airport (KIX).
Hiiragiya Ryokan

Hiiragiya Ryokan

Kyoto, Japan

With just 28 rooms and scores of dedicated staff, some of which have been with the property for over 50 years, the Hiiragiya Ryokan is able to deliver an unparalleled level of service. You will not eat the same meal twice – unless you request a repeat – and the maid will only insert the main flower in your room's ikebana arrangement when you enter the room for the first time. The cuisine here is Kyoto-style Kaiseki, and it is served on handcrafted Kiyomizu ceramics and the finest lacquer ware. Each room is exquisitely decorated and all have elegant, traditional wooden bathrooms made of aromatic fir. The property was opened in the early 1800s and has been with the same family for six generations.

Hotel The Mitsui Kyoto

Hotel The Mitsui Kyoto

Kyoto, Japan

Hotel The Mitsui Kyoto is tucked away next to Nijo-jo Castle, at the Kyoto home of the Kitake, a branch of the Mitsui Family. This land has been in the care of the family for more than 250 years. A contemporary twist on the quintessential Japanese tearoom aesthetic, the Mitsui Kyoto is composed of 161 guest rooms and suites, all decorated in earthy tones and furnishings sourced from natural materials. Some room types feature private onsen. There is a thermal spring spa on-site, which offers onsen healing baths (both private and shared), as well as a gym and massage treatments. In terms of dining, guests can enjoy four diverse dining venues: Gastronomy Teppan for a surprising fusion of French cuisine and Japanese teppanyaki, Forni for Italian, The Garden Bar, and SHIKI-NO-MA for private dining and tea ceremony. Hotel The Mitsui Kyoto is approximately 15 minutes by car from Kyoto Train Station.
The Thousand Kyoto

The Thousand Kyoto

Kyoto, Japan

Conveniently located next to Kyoto's train station, The Thousand Kyoto is a great base from which to explore the city. The property is comprised of 222 rooms and suites, designed in a minimalist style inspired by the tranquility of a traditional Machiya tea house. Facilities include two restaurants (Kizahashi for Japanese and Scalae for Italian), a garden, a spa, a fitness center and a modern tea bar.

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