Group of tourists posing with their local guide at a popular temple in Kyoto

Top Things To Do In Kyoto

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Wondering what to do in Kyoto?

Kyoto at its core is a perfect pocket of Japanese history and culture, and many of the most memorable things to do in Kyoto offer an authentic glimpse into the Japan of centuries ago. Whether you explore 1200-year-old Kiyomizu-dera Temple, walk the wood-built streets of fairytale Higashiyama, or marvel at geishas in twinkling Gion, the city narrates Japan’s history beautifully. But Kyoto certainly hasn’t lagged behind in the modern aspects of Japanese life. In fact, the things to do in Kyoto span centuries, and the other side of the city is an exhilarating world of late-night karaoke bars, draft beers at intimate izakayas, and fluorescent 100-yen sushi restaurants.

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Tourists enjoying a quiet moment with a local at a peaceful temple in Kyoto
Japan’s historic heart

Kyoto is a perfect snapshot of old Japan brimming with ancient temples, traditional teahouses, and narrow streets leading to centuries-old shrines tucked between modern storefronts. Many of the things to do in Kyoto today are the same things locals would have been doing centuries ago. From catching a streetside performance put on by a geisha to sitting down for the 1000-year-old experience of traditional Kaiseki dining, the things to do in Kyoto can take its visitors on a mesmerizing trip through time. It may be small in size, but the city is infinitely vast in cultural heritage.

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Locals enjoying a meal with tourists while exploring the izakayas of Kyoto
Food fit for royalty

There’s a reason Kyoto was nicknamed the “kitchen of the Imperial Court” – the food here is spectacular. From traditional tea ceremonies with sweet wagashi confections to snacking on gyoza dumplings at Kamo River, many of the best things to do in Kyoto revolve around food. You could sample street food in the crisscrossing lanes of centuries-old Nishiki Market, the crowded “kitchen of Kyoto”, or experience the opulent epitome of Japanese haute cuisine, Kaiseki, a traditional multi-course menu. As long as you have an appetite, you certainly won’t struggle for things to do in Kyoto.

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A Geisha posing in at night in Kyoto with a Shingon Buddhist temple in the background
Kyoto by night

Nights in the city are the stuff of magic, and some of the most exciting things to do in Kyoto only appear when the sun goes down. Kyoto’s traditional entertainment district, Gion, wakes up, and quiet streets packed with restaurants, vibey local haunts, and tucked-away shrines become crowded. The cobbled streets, bathed in the golden glow of paper lanterns, take on an ethereal appeal made even more bewitching by geishas floating by. Catch a traditional performance at Gion Corner, belt out a song at a karaoke bar, or have a drink at a quiet bar away from the madness – the night is yours.

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