2 Days in Kyoto (+ Printable Itinerary)

A lot of you have probably heard of Kyoto – The ancient capital of Japan. A few hundred years ago, it was in the thick of things because it was where the emperor lived. You’d be able to picture it bustling with activity, with vendors selling their wares to samurai’s walking about the place and spending the night at a Ryokan(Traditional Japanese Inn). We had lived in Japan 4 months when we decided to visit Kyoto in autumn. We’d heard that it was beautiful during that time. We’re so glad that we went because we fell in love it and ended up visiting Kyoto a few more times. So, we decided to make a travel itinerary that might help you save some time and effort planning –

Day 1 Fushimi Inari >> Kiyomizu-dera >> Sannen-zaka & Ninen-zaka >> Gion
Day 2 Kinkakuji Temple >> Tenryuji Temple >> Arashiyama Bamboo Grove >> Togetsukyo Bridge

Kyoto Food

Travel Tips

Download a printable Itinerary by clicking on the image below:

KyotoItineraryThumbnail

Day 1

Fushimi Inari –

In the Heian period, this shrine was one of the shrines that carried written messages of important events occurring in Japan, to the gods. That’s why you see a lot of foxes in the shrine as they are regarded as the messengers.

Timings: Always Open

Access:  Fushimi Inari station (Keihan Line) or JR Inari station from Kyoto station.

Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kyoto

Photo by Davide Gorla

  • Start your day early, at least by 8:00 so you have an hour for breakfast.

  • It's best to start here, if you like to hike. You can climb all the way to the top and come down another way. You can look around for 2 to 3 hours if you go there by 9.

  • After Fushimi Inari you can take a train to Kiyomizu temple. It'll take you about 30 minutes to reach there.
  • Note: To get to Kiyomizu temple, you need to head back to Kyoto station and board a bus (for Kiyomizu dera) from the Kyoto bus station (which is located to the right of Kyoto station, just outside.)

    Kiyomizu-dera

    Kiyomizu temple, originally built in 798 is famous for its 3 waterfalls and their wish granting powers. It is also a world heritage site.

    Timings:  http://www.kiyomizudera.or.jp/lang/01.html

    Access: Get off at the Gojozaka Stop on Route 206 bound for Higasihama-dori Kitaoji Bus Terminal or Route 100 bound for Kiyomizu-dera Gion/Ginkaku-ji and walk 10 minutes


  • You have to walk for about 10 minutes from the bus stop to get to Kiyomizudera. You can have your lunch in one of the shops lining the street, before going inside.

  • You can spend an hour at the temple. We recommend visiting there during Autumn. Be warned though, it can be crowded around that time of the year.

  • Sannen-zaka and Ninen-zaka

    The names mean three year hill and two year hill respectively and they refer to the ancient imperial years when they were first laid out.

    Timings : It tends to open around 10:00 and close around 17:00 or 18:00. The hours may depend on the shops and even the seasons.

    Access : The streets are a few steps from Kiyomizu-dera.

    Sannen-zaka
  • You can spend quite some time here. There are some amazing shops selling souvenirs and all the other kinds of snacks that you have got to try. The shops may close early depending on the season. You can also get your caricature made in one of the shops, if you like.

  • Once you are done, you can go to Gion and spend time exploring the old neighborhoods.
  • Gion

    Gion district is famous for the its Geishas ( locally referred to as Geiko) and maikos. It also has many tea houses. Geiko are mature Geishas and Maiko are Geishas under  20.

    Timings: Closing time depends on the stores and restaurants.  Usually open till very late in the night or even early mornings.

    Access : Keihan Line to “Shijo”. Hankyu Line to “Kawaramachi”.Kyoto City Bus to “Gion”. If you’re up for walking, it’s a 20 minute walk from Kiyomizu-dera

    Hanamikoji_Gion_Kyoto_Kinki_Kansai_Japan_花見小路_祇園_京都_近畿_関西_日本_1

    Photo by hans-johnson

  • If you are lucky, you can catch a glimpse of geishas. If you would actually like to meet them, you can try going to a traditional tea house. It can be very expensive though. This is also a good place to have your dinner before returning to your hotel. Be sure to check the train timings.
  • Day 2

    Kinkakuji Temple(Golden Pavillion)  –

    It is also called the Golden Pavillion. The top 2 storeys are covered with pure gold leaf. The pond surrounding the temple also has Koi carp.

    Timings : 9:00 a.m – 5:00 p.m

    Access : From Kyoto station, board Kyoto City Bus number 101 or 205. It’ll take 40 minutes to get to Kinkaku-ji.

  • Have an early breakfast again at 8:00 a.m.

  • Start at 9:00 to Kinkaku-ji. It might take you 30 minutes to an hour to get there, depending on the place you start from, but it's totally worth it. You can spend an hour or more exploring the place. Visiting Kinkaku-ji is an absolute must if you are on a short visit.
  • Tenryu-ji Temple

    The name, Tenryuji  translates to dragon of the sky. It is ranked 1st out of 5 Zen temples and is also a World Heritage Site. The gardens of Tenryuji was designed by Muso Soseki who also designed Koke-dera ( moss garden). he was also the head priest of Tenryuji.

    Timings : 8:30 – 17:30 ( until 17:00 October to March)

    Access : From Kinkaku-ji-Street, take Kyoto city bus 59 to the Ryoan-ji-mae or Omuro Ninnaji bus stop. Transfer to Keifuku Electric Railroad and get off at the Arashiyama terminal station.

    Tenryu-ji
  • From Kinkaku-ji, it would take at least 40 minutes to make you way to Tenryu-ji. You need to travel by bus and train till you reach Arashiyama station . It's a 1 minute walk to Tenryu-ji from the station. Once inside Tenryu-ji, you can spend at least an hour exploring.
  • Arashiyama Bamboo Grove –

    As the name suggests, it’s a forest of bamboo. A path cuts right across the forest so you get to walk with bamboo on both sides.

    Timings : Always open

    Access : Exit the north gate of Tenryuji temple and take a left. Walk for less than 5 minutes .

    Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
  • Before making your way to the bamboo forest, you can have lunch at one of the few restaurants lining the road. It might take you an hour to finish.

  • The bamboo forest is quite close to Tenryu-ji, within walking distance. Once inside the forest, you can walk for a bit and you'll come across a shrine. You can finish looking around the forest and the shrine in an hour and a half.
  • TogetsuKyo bridge

    Togetsu means “moon crossing”. This bridge is famous for it’s autumn leaves and cherry blossoms. The river underneath it has a different name on either side – on the West, Hozu River and on the east, Katsura river.

    Timings : Always open

    Access : Walk back towards Tenryu-ji and head towards Arashiyama station. Go past the station and keep walking straight till you reach the bridge. It will take you about 8 minutes.

    IMG_0788

  • The Togetsukyo bridge is also nearby. It'll take some time for you to walk across the bridge. On the other side, you have many shops. Our personal favorite was a shop selling studio Ghibli music boxes.

  • In Japan, most places close by 5:00. If it's nearing that time, you can make your way back to Arashiyama station. If you find that you're early, you can either spend time at the kimono forest, which is right next to Arashiyama station or you can go to Saga Arashiyama station and buy tickets for the Sagano scenic railway.

  • IF you are travelling to Osaka the same day, we'd suggest making your way to Kyoto station. You can have your dinner in Osaka. However, if you are staying in Kyoto for the night, we recommend have your dinner at Pontocho or near Kyoto station.

  • Kyoto Food 

    If you’re staying at a Ryokan, don’t miss out on the traditional Kyoto breakfast. Many Ryokans provide a breakfast for a reasonable price –

    IMG_0751

    For lunch/dinner, we recommend the Yuba lunch Set. Yuba is basically Tofu skin and is a food often associated with Kyoto

    IMG_0842

    A must try dessert in Kyoto is the famous “Matcha Parfait”

    IMG_0637

    Travel Tips

    Bus Pass – Buying a one day bus passes would save you a lot of money on travel. It costs 500 yen per pass. There is also a 2 day unlimited bus and subway pass for 2000 yen. But we recommend buying a bus pass because you’ll mostly be travelling by buses in Kyoto.

    Accommodation – If you want to experience traditional Kyoto, a stay at the Ryokan is a must! But, make sure you book a Ryokan(Japanese style Inn) in advance because it’ll definitely be cheaper and it’ll also make sure that you have a place to stay. The Ryokans (and all the other hotels)get booked really fast during autumn.

    Storing Luggage – Every station has some lockers where you can store the luggage so you don’t have to carry them around.

    Kimono Rentals If you want to walk around Kyoto in a Kimono, make advance reservations online to get a lower Kimono rental rate. Prices vary a lot so do your research before you reserve one. 

    Temple stamp Book (Goshuin cho ご朱印帖 )

    If you plan on visiting a lot more temples, a Temple stamp book can be a great souvenir for yourself. A Goshuincho is available for purchase at many temples.   You can collect stamps (Goshuin) from the temples you visit, for a small price. They look something like this – 

    Your Thoughts…

    Do you have any suggestions or ideas for a good Kyoto Itinerary for 2 days? Let us know in the comments!

     

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    26 Responses

    1. Avik says:

      Nice reading. Thanks for sharing

    2. Koh says:

      Hi,may i know you use the bus one day pass on Day 1 or Day2?

      • Nimi says:

        Hello,

        What we mean is that you buy 2 “City Bus All-day” Passes from the main Kyoto Bus Information Center in front of Kyoto Station. We use this pass, since most of the locations in our itinerary can be reached easily by bus. But note that, the pass can only be used within the allocated zone of the city (Arashiyama, Sagano, Takao, Shugakuin etc. are outside of the allocated zone). When traveling outside of the allocated zone, it is necessary to pay the extra amount.
        If you are looking for other options, you can check out “Kyoto Sightseeing One – and Two-day Pass Card” , “Surutto Kansai Miyako Card” or “Traffica Kyoto Card”
        For more information, follow this link – http://www.pref.kyoto.jp/visitkyoto/en/info_required/transportation/bus&taxis/

        Hope this answers your question
        Nimi

    3. Ramana says:

      That’s lot of detail. Will try for my trip!

    4. abby says:

      Hi, I wonder if u can help me suggest cheap acomodations in Kyoto from which the above destinations can be easily accessed? I am planning for a trip with 2 other friends from 27th-30th March. Most of the rooms seem to have been booked :(

      • Nimi says:

        Hello,
        We usually use http://www.booking.com to book accommodations. I did a quick search and it seems like it’ll be difficult to find a place that you can stay at continuously for 3 days. Instead, you could try finding a hostel or a guesthouse. It’s cheaper. You can check availability on http://www.hostelworld.com
        At the moment, you might be able to book ‘Kyoto UTANO youth hostel’ for 27-29 and there are lots of options for hostels on 29-30th.
        Hope this helps!
        Good luck and enjoy your trip!
        Nimi

    5. Chiaki says:

      Thank you very much for this! I used your itinerary when I traveled alone in Kyoto last March 14 and 15. This was really helpful especially I didn’t have internet there. I truly appreciate it!

    6. Elaine says:

      Hi! We are staying in Osaka and will travel to Kyoto for 2 consecutive days. But our hotel is at Osaka. Is it possible to do this Itinerary if we will still travel from Osaka to Kyoto?

      • Nimi says:

        Hello,

        I think it should work. But you might have to adjust the timelines a bit to include the travel to and from Osaka
        Hope this helps,
        Nimi

    7. robin says:

      Hi,If I follow ur 2 days iti, I need to get 01 day city pass for day 1 & 01 day Arashiyama pass for day 2?

    8. Susie says:

      Thank you so much for the itinerary. Its so detailed with the directions and all. Really useful when doing my research for Kyoto. Thank you!

    9. So glad I chanced upon your blog! Love the organized and clear details you have shared. Thank you so much for sharing this. Can’t wait to try it out for our upcoming trip =)

    10. lisa says:

      Hi Nimi and Suki. Your blog is terrific! Thankyou for your information. Your 2 day Kyoto itinerary looks perfect for our trip in September. Do you have a suggested itinerary for Tokyo? We were also planning to do a self guided day trip to Mt Fuji via bullet train. We realise we may not see Mt Fuji in Sept but thought we could explore Hakone and go on the cablecar and pirate ship. Would this be a good use of a day? We will have a 1 year old and a 6 year old. Thanks so much in advance for your advice!

    11. Gerrianne says:

      Hello!
      Looks good! Next week I’m travelling to Japan. We have a few more days to spend in Kyoto, like 4 or 5. Do you have more nice suggestions? Maybe outside of Kyoto? Nice daytrips/hikes for example? Would be great help!

    12. timmy328 says:

      Good day. We like to follow your itinerary.
      1.from kyoto station, what bus number should we take to fushimi inari? Is it covered by the 1day city bus pass?
      2.from fushimi inari, what bus number should we take to kiyumizodera? Is it covered by the 1day city bus pass?
      Thanks for the help.

    13. Hanh says:

      Thank youuu!!

    14. babyboonl says:

      May i know the restaurants names for the Yuba? Thanks.

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