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Kyoto is so jam-packed with sights that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Don’t give in to the temptation to do too much, especially if you only have a few days at your disposal – you don’t want to end up with “temple fatigue.”

Things to do in Kyoto

Geisha walk

Women of the flower and willow world are notoriously shy, but you’ll increase your chances of a photo opportunity with one of them (and learn about the city) on one of geisha-expert Peter Macintosh’s "lecture walks."

Kyoto Sights & Nights, 011-81-905-169-1654,
Tags: smart splurge | things to do | culture | history | tour

Imperial Household Agency

Home to the Imperial family until 1868, visitors can only enter the palace with a guide – reserve a tour online with the Imperial Household Agency at least four days ahead.

Kyoto Gyoen 3, Kamigyo-ku, 011-81-75-211-1215,
Tags: family | things to do | architecture | history

Japanese Traditional Arts

This course offers a chance to try your hand at a variety of traditional Japanese arts, including tea ceremonies, Noh drama dances, calligraphy, martial arts, flower arrangements, and Zen meditation.

144-6 Sujiya-cho Takatsuji-agaru, Tominokoji-dori, Shimogyo-ku, 011-81-75-352-0211,
Tags: art | things to do | culture


Built in 1397 as Shogun Yoshimitsu’s retirement villa, this glittering pavilion has burned down numerous times (now only the top two stories are covered in genuine gold leaf). Avoid daytime crowds; visit during early evening.

1 Kinkaku-ji-cho Kita-ku, 011-81-75-461-0013,
Tags: family | things to do | architecture | history


Enjoy stellar views of Kyoto from this hilltop temple’s large terrace. While you’re here, drink the spring water – many believe it has healing powers (the name translates to “pure water temple").

294 1-chome Kiyomizu, Higashiyama-ku, 011-81-75-551-1234, (Japanese Only)
Tags: views | things to do | architecture | religious


This temple contains 1,001 statues – each slightly different – of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. The gilded carvings line Japan’s longest wooden structure, a 328-foot-long hall.

Higashiyama-ku, 657 Mawari-cho Sanjusangendo, 011-81-75-525-0033, (Japanese Only)
Tags: things to do | architecture | religious | sculpture

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