In Japan its long history, Kyoto used to be the political as well as the imperial capital of Japan. The city is famous for its many ancient Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, imperial palaces and castles. When you visit Kyoto and walk around the city, you will see many of these ancient beautiful architectures. As more than 2,500 temples and shrines can be found in Kyoto, it is easy to miss some which are a must see. In this article, we introduce 5 of the best architectures you must see in Kyoto.
If you are a keen walker, we recommend to go around on foot. Kyoto is great for walking around – it’s compact, largely flat, the weather is comfortable most of the year, and drivers are sane – and during the walk you will see more of Kyoto city. If you would like to learn more about the city and its rich history and culture, arrange a customised walking tour
1. Nijo-jo Castle
Nijo-jo was constructed more than 400 years ago, under the order of Tokugawa Ieyasu. The Tokugawa family ruled Japan during the Edo period (1603 – 1868), a time of peace, stability, and growth. Tokugawa Ieyasu his main castle was located in Edo, which is now known as Tokyo. When he visited Kyoto to see the Japanese emperor living in Kyoto, he would stay at Nijo-jo castle. The interior of the castle is very impressive: tatami mats are spread on the floor, and many masterpieces of Japanese art and traditional Japanese ornaments can be seen on the ceilings and sliding doors.
It will take you between 10-20 min to get to the castle by subway or bus from Kyoto station. Or if you are walking approximately 45 minutes.
8.45am – 5pm
Admissions fee ¥1,030
2. Kiyomizu-Dera Temple
Kiyomizu-Dera Temple is a Buddhist temple built more than 1,200 years ago, on the hills of East Kyoto. Its name means pure water which derives from the clear and pure water from the Otowa waterfall, located at the base of Kiyomizu-Dera’s main hall. In 1994 it was designated as one of Kyoto’s World Heritage sites. The temple is well-known for its spacious wooden stage in the temple’s main hall. Because of its location on Mt. Otowa, you can enjoy a stunning panoramic view of Kyoto city fro the deck. When you visit Kiyomizu-Dera, you will pass through two gates: Sai-mon (west gate) and Nio-mon, the temple’s main entrance that is 14m high and 10m wide. Sai-mon is thought be the way to heaven, maybe because it is possible to see a beautiful sunset through the gate.
To get to the Kiyomizu-Dera, you can take a bus from Kyoto station. Or make your way up the hills in about 45 minutes.
6am – 6pm (extended opening times in summer)
Admission fee ¥400
3. Kinkakuji Temple
The official name of this temple is Rokuonji, but it widely known als Kinkakuji Temple, which translates as golden temple. This is because the outside walls of the temple are covered in golden leaves. The temple and its garden are thought to represent paradise in this world. Kinkakuji temple was built more than 600 years ago and Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the 3rd shogun of Muromachi shogunate, lived there after retiring as a shogun. After his death, Kinkakuji Temple has been used as a temple. The temple consists of three floors, each with distinctive designs: the first floor is designed in the noble style, the second floor in the Samurai style and the third floor in the style of a Chinese Zen Hall.
From Kyoto, a 30-minute bus ride will take you to the temple. When the weather is nice, we recommend making your way to Kinkakuji Temple on foot. You will pass Nijo-jo Castle on your way.
9am – 5pm
Admission fee ¥400
4. Fushimi Inari-Taisha
Fushimi Inari-Taisha is one of the most popular spots among tourists in Kyoto. With its 1,300 years of history, it is the most important Shinto shrine of the more than 30,000 Inari shrines in Japan. The deity of prosperous business, Inari, is enshrined in the ancient shrine. The most astonishing site in the shrine is the path to the Okusha Hohaisho. Thousands of the characteristic vermilion torii gates, called Senbon Torii, can be found along the path. The vermilion colour is thought to be an amulet against evil.
It takes around 20 min to get to Fushimi Inari-Taisha from Kyoto station by bus or train. To fully enjoy the Fushimi Inari-Taisha, we recommend you our walking tour, Kyoto private full day walking tour.
Fushimi Inari Taisha
5. Daigo-ji Temple
This Buddhist temple has over 1,100 years history and was built next to Mt. Daigo. When you visit the temple, you will see a 38m tall five-storied Pagoda, the oldest wooden building in Kyoto. In fact it is the only structure that survived the fires that have repeatedly destroyed Daigoji Temple over the centuries. Suzaku emperor, one of the sons of Daigo temple, built the pagoda to pray for the soul of his father around 1,060 years ago. The temple is exceptionally beautiful when the sakura trees blossom and when the autumn leaves appear, so we recommend you to visit the temple during spring or fall.
It takes around 35 min to get to Daigo-ji temple by bus or train from Kyoto station.
9am – 5pm
¥1,500 (from March 20 to May 15 & from October 15 to December 10)
¥800 (rest of the year)
Needless to say that there are many places to visit in Kyoto. But we highly recommend you to visit the five amazing places we have introduced here. Especially if it is your first time visiting Kyoto. If you want to learn more about the culture and the history, we recommend you to book our walking tours. We promise you, even if you have visited Kyoto before, you will discover new interesting things through our tours.