Wander in Kyoto: The Best Shrines and Temples to Visit

japanese lantern Places to visit in Kyoto

For most people who visit Japan, Kyoto is the second destination on their itinerary, right after Tokyo. Kyoto is acclaimed for its many traditional shrines, temples and historical buildings. The city was lucky to be mostly spared from the WOII bombing (as for why, multiple explanation exist) and therefore still many pre-war buildings can be seen. The city of Kyoto is home to over 2,000 Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, including 17 World Heritage Sites.

Kyoto has very unique food culture, that is different to any other cities in Japan and food is actually one of the most attractive pull factors to come this city. Read more about the food culture and food tours in this blog: Best Food Tours in Kyoto 2020.

But the main reason to visit this exciting city is because of its many beautiful shrines and temples. This historical sites in Kyoto are a must visit and you will be amazed by the rich history and culture of Kyoto. Here are some of the top-rated shrines that you should visit. Pack your luggage and head to Kyoto!

Fushimi Inari Taisha

One of the top-rated shrines that you should visit in Kyoto is a shrine that is around 1,300 years old. It is actually a shrine that is meant to pray for the success of one’s business as well as good harvest. This shrine is called Fushimi Inari Taisha and it is the most important shrine dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice.

Red Torii gate Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine

The most popular spot to see in Fushimi Inari Taisha is the read sea made out wof 10,000 torii gates. They are these recognisable gates of red pillars and black roofs that you will have seen before. It is one of the most popular places in Japan for tourist. These torii gates symbolise the path from earth to heaven and are part of the trails that will lead you to the sacred forest of Mount Inari.

Aside from the torii gates, another symbol of inari shrines is white foxes, the protectors and messengers of the deities. People often donate sake and sweets to the shrines to show their gratitude.

Fushimi Inari Taisha
Always open
Admission free

Kinkakuji temple (Golden Pavilion)

Another popular temple that you should visit in Kyoto is a place called Kinkakuji temple which is also known as The Temple of the Golden Pavilion. Kinkakuji temple is said to be Japan’s most popular temple because of its golden pavilion that, on a clear & sunny day, is reflected beautifully in the Kyoko-chi, the Mirror Pond.


This temple also has a Zen garden for visitors to behold. However, it can be quite a trip to reach this temple since it’s not located anywhere within the vicinity of major train lines.

Kinkaku-ji temple
9am – 5pm
Admission fee ¥400

Kiyomizu-Dera Temple

Another temple that is located in Kyoto and created back in 778 is called Kiyomizu-Dera Temple. Surrounded by the beautiful natural scenery, this temple is made out of wood which makes it feel very earthy and calm. It is especially known for its wooden deck from where visitors can view numerous cherry and maple trees, showing off their amazing colours in spring and fall, as well as of the city of Kyoto in the distance.

Kiyomizu-Dera Temple
Photo by Jordy Meow

Kiyomizu-Dera Temple is a place that many people visit to pay respect to Kannon, the deity known for being merciful and filled with compassion. People use this time to reflect on their own lives to see if it is filled with compassion as well.

Kiyomizu-Dera Temple
6am – 6pm (extended opening times in summer)
Admission fee ¥400

Heian-Jingu Shrine

Although not as old as the previous shrines and temples on this list, the Heian-Jingu Shrine still has a lot of character and is a beautiful shrine with well-maintained halls and flourishing gardens to behold. This shrine was founded back in 1895 to celebrate Kyoto’s 1,100th year anniversary as Japan’s capital.

The entrance of the shrine is marked by a 24-meter high torii gate, one of the largest in Japan and leads to the great garden of the shrine. The garden is great to visit during all the different seasons in Japan as it changes colours with each season that passes.

heian-jingu shrine torii gate

Heian Jingu Shrine (Japanese only)
9am – 5pm
Admission free

Kurama-dera temple

In a quaint village by the river called Kibune you can find a temple called the Kurama-dera temple. This temple is a serene temple that makes for a great trip from Kyoto. Take the train to Kuruma station and hike your way up to mountain to the Kurama-dera temple and end your hike in Kibune. Escape from the busy city-life of Kyoto and enjoy beautiful hiking in the woods. The hike will take you approximately 2-3 hrs.

Mt. Kurama lanterns

The entrance of the temple is hard to miss: it is marked with a long stone staircase lined with red lanterns. The sight from the mountain is absolutely stunning in any season. It has beautiful views of the area and is a nice way to appreciate the verdant hills and forests around the temple.

Kurama-dera temple (Japanese only)
9am – 5pm
Admission fee ¥300


Another popular tourist destination in Kyoto is the Sanjusangendo, which is home to 1,001 statues of the god Kannon, that you know from the Kiyomizu temple. This shrine, located in the east of Kyoto, has been in existence since 1164 and was rebuilt in 1266.

This temple’s length is about 120 meters long, making it Japan’s longest structure made out of wood. The temple complex houses in total 1,001 Kannon statues.

Sanjusangendo (Japanese only)
9am – 5pm
Admission fee ¥600

Shimogamo Shrine

Last but not the least, another Shinto Shrine called the Shimogamo Shrine, located at the junction of the Takano and Kamo rivers. If you’re looking for a simple and peaceful walk, then you can’t go wrong taking a walk along the paths of the Shimogamo Shrine that will lead you through the Tadasu-no-Mori trees, some of which are 600 years old!

Shimohama shrine
5.30am – 6pm
Admission free

Recommended Tours in Kyoto

If you would like to make your trip much more special and gain deeper insights of the Japanese culture and the location, consider taking a guided tour! We offer different standardised tours, but are also happy to customise a trip according to your wishes. During the tour, a knowledgeable and friendly local guide will show you around Kyoto and explain about the history and stories behind the city. Some of the tours we offer in Kyoto:

  1. Kyoto Food and Drink Tour
  2. Kyoto Private Full Day Tour
  3. Nara World Heritage Private Walking Tour

Visiting the shrines in Kyoto is a great idea because it helps give you great insights in the Japanese culture and the local culture of Kyoto. This is especially attractive to people who are spiritual by nature but even if you aren’t spiritual there’s still something enchanting about visiting these top-rated shrines and temples in Kyoto.

When visiting these shrines and temples make sure that you follow the dictates of the rules in the place and pay proper respect. Let yourself enjoy the beauty of the temples and take yourself to a place that feels like a whole different, new world, by visiting these lovely shrines and temples. Which of these places are on your itinerary?

Recommended hotels

  1. Hotel Resol Kyoto Shijo Muromachi
  2. Imo Hotel Kyoto
  3. Toshiharu Ryokan

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