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Kyoto Travel Guide: Higashiyama

Higashiyama Kyoto

One of Japan’s most popular cities to visit, Kyoto is the place to see the magnificent Japanese temples and explore the ancient Japanese history! Each Kyoto District has something to offer, we’ll start with Higashiyama, one of Kyoto’s most charming and historic districts! This area is home to many temples, gardens, matcha tea houses, traditional shops and restaurants.

Must Knows >>

Where to stay? >>

Transportation >>

Walking >>

Things to do >>

Where to eat? >>

How to Travel from Tokyo to Kyoto

To get to Kyoto from Tokyo you can use your JR rail pass to take a bullet train. Take the Shinkansen Hikari bullet train from Tokyo Station and arrive at Kyoto Station. The trip takes 2 hr and 15 min. I recommend that once you get to Tokyo stop by the station and get a train ticket a day or two in advance!

To get around all the major cities in Japan including Kyoto you can use the subways and buses. You’ll need an IC card, a Japan rechargeable metro card, to move around which can be purchased online.


Top things to see in Higashiyama Kyoto

1. Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka Street

Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka Street
Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka Street

Sannozaka and Ninenzaka are the two most popular streets in Kyoto! You can find traditional shops and restaurants with art, stationery, clothes and handcrafts. It’s the perfect spot to take photos! 

Tip: Go early! It can get pretty packed during the day! 

Walk around the side streets! I got lost and ended up encountering a group of dancers in a park! Practicing for a performance.

2. Rent a Kimono

Rent a kimono in Kyoto
Rent a kimono in Kyoto

When you get to Sannenzaka street, you’ll see almost everyone wearing Kimonos! You can rent one and spend a few hours walking around the area taking photos! They even do your hair and makeup! 

Tip: There are many kimono rentals in Higashiyama but if you want a photoshoot you’ll need to sign up in advance!

3. Try Traditional Japanese Sweets and Pickles (Tsukemono)

Traditional Japanese Sweets and Pickles (Tsukemono)

Along Sannenzaka Street you’ll find stores with baskets of Tsukemono, Japanese pickles. They are quite unique in taste. You can find all sorts of pickled vegetables. The most popular are pickled carrots, plums, ginger, radish, cucumbers. Be sure to try some! They are great as a snack too!

4. Eat everything Matcha!

Starbucks Higashiyama

Along the Sannenzaka street you’ll find various tea houses and coffee shops. Stop by and rest while you enjoy the various desserts made with Matcha! I made a stop at Higashiyama Starbucks. They have unique matcha desserts! This one here is a Matcha Parfait! It was sooooo good! I ate the whole thing! At the Higashiyama starbucks they have seasonal desserts too so if you go during cherry blossom season you’ll find cherry blossom drinks and desserts!

5. Kiyomizudera Temple

Kiyomizudera Temple

Right at the end of the Ninenzaka stairs and Sannenzaka stairs is Kiyomizu-dera, an UNESCO World Heritage. It is one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto. Kiyomizu-dera is a beautiful wooden temple overlooking Southern Higashiyama. It looks like it’s hanging from a clift! In fall and spring it is beautiful to see it surrounded by the colored trees! 

6. Stroll The Philosophers Path (Tetsugaku no michi)

 The Philosophers Path in Higashiyama Kyoto

Moving to the Northern Higashiyama district, The Philosopher’s Path is a serene walking path that runs along the ​​Lake Biwa Canal with an end point at Nanzen-ji. You’ll see locals riding bikes along the path and small restaurants, boutiques and shrines along the way. It is a popular spot for walking surrounded by nature.

7. Zen Temple Complex of Nanzen-ji

Kyoto, Japan at the Nanzenji Temple
Kyoto, Japan at the Nanzenji Temple aqueduct behind autumn foliage.

At the end of The Philosophers Path you’ll find Nanzen-ji, a Zen temple complex. It is one of the largest Zen temples in Japan, and is known for its beautiful Japanese gardens. Inside the complex you’ll find various sub temples including the Nanzen-ji Temple, Konchi-in Temple, Tenjuan Temple and an aqueduct! The Tenjuan Temple has a beautiful Zen garden where you can appreciate the dry garden right in the form of it! 

Where is the Best Place to Stay in Kyoto?

Downtown Kyoto is the best place to stay in Kyoto. It’s centered to all the major temples, attractions and restaurants, as well as major subway and train stations. To book stays in I prefer to use and

Kyoto has amazing RYOKANs, a traditional Japanese inn with tatami-matted rooms and onsen baths where you can wear yukata! CHECK OUT THESE RYOKANS

Hotels & Ryokans !

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Final Thoughts

Kyoto is a big city with lots of temples so you can easily become overwhelmed by temples. I recommend picking a few different types of activities per day and sticking to a district. Pick 3-4 of these and you’ll have a fun day! 

  • Pick a neighborhood to explore (preferably a walking tour)
  • A temple in that area
  • An food area (alleys, market or restaurants)
  • An activity (tea ceremony, culture or arts oriented)

Walking Tours & Activities in Kyoto


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There are too many cuisines to only cook one! I  hope this blog allows you to explore and taste the diversity of cuisines from around the world. Here you’ll find globally-inspired recipes and the travel stories that led to them.  

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