Best of Kyoto, Japan: 3 Day Itinerary (+ Ryokan Experience)

Transportation:

After spending a week traveling around Tokyo, we made our way to Shinagawa station where we redeemed our JR pass and then took the shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Kyoto. Once we arrived at Kyoto station, we bought a day pass for busing around. Busing is the main form of transportation around Kyoto.

Accomodation:

We stayed at a homey & convenient Airbnb in near downtown, Kyoto for one night, and a relaxing Ryokan in Arashiyama for the second night. We enjoyed both of our stays and highly recommend checking them out!

Airbnb: Quiet Bright Room w/ Balcony (Near Downtown, Kyoto)

  • $110 CAD/night
  • Pocket WiFi included
  • Extremely clean, convenient, and comfortable
  • Bus stops are within walking distance for easy transportation

RYOKAN: Hanaikada (Centre of Arashiyama)

  • 59,700 yen/night ($748 CAD)
  • Traditional Japanese dinner and breakfast meal included
  • Public and private open air onsen baths available
  • Located steps away from popular tourist attractions: bamboo groves, monkey park, and togetsukyo bridge

KYOTO THREE DAY ITINERARY: AT A GLANCE

Day 1: Fushimi Inari, Gion & Kamogawa River
Day 2: Silver Pavilion (Ginkakuji), Philosopher's Path & Golden Pavilion
Day 3: Togetsukyo Bridge, Arashiyama Bamboo Groves & Monkey Park


DAY ONE:

ARRIVE AT KYOTO STATION & TAKE A BUS TO YOUR AIRBNB

If you're coming from Tokyo, you will most likely arrive at Kyoto station after taking the shinkansen (bullet train). From there, we purchased a day pass for the bus, and headed to our Airbnb.

Single bus fare: ¥ 230 yen
Day pass: ¥ 900 yen (this is more worth if you plan on taking 4+ bus trips in a single day)

SETTLE INTO YOUR ACCOMMODATION

When you book an Airbnb and want to make the most out of your day, ask your host if it's possible to do an early check-in or luggage storage. This way, you can drop off your stuff and travel without feeling like you're carrying around boulders. If your Airbnb doesn't offer early check-in, another option is storing your luggage in coin lockers which are available throughout station buildings.

VISIT FUSHIMI-INARI AND EAT STREET FOOD

First stop - Kyoto's iconic Fushimi Inari aka the 10,000 tori gates! This is a great place to rent a kimono and take pictures, or to just simply enjoy the walk. One thing we really loved about this area was the variety of street food nearby. We ate soo many skewers (wagyu beef, crab, chicken, pork belly), had stir-fried noodles, and Japanese pancakes. That was basically our lunch!

Travel tip: If you want to rent a kimono, consider researching and booking online in advance. This was actually something I really wanted to do, but didn't have the chance to try.

TAKE A NIGHT STROLL IN GION

Gion was such a beautiful area to visit with a lot of great scenery and food options! It's also known as Kyoto's geisha district, but we didn't see any during our time there.

TRY DANGO

Dango is a fun Japanese mochi snack that has three different colours and flavours: white (rice), pink (red bean), and green (green tea)! I love my desserts hehe, and was craving this earlier in the day.

EAT OKONOMIYAKI @ GION TANTO

We found this restaurant from Google, and ngl, we had a foodgasm moment. You know in Shokugeki when your mind gets blown and the flavours explode?! That's how the okonomyaki tasted like. We also ordered stir-fried udon noodles and it was equally delicious!

ENJOY DESSERT @ CACAO MARKET BY MARIEBELLE

This delightful chocolate store was originally opened in New York City. While we were on the bus to Gion, a Japanese local (who spoke English) actually told us about it, and we later happened to stumble across it on our walk. At first we were thinking, "why should we try a place from NYC when we're in Japan?" but when we actually stopped by the store, we were pleasantly surprised by the beautiful interior and intricate desserts. We tried the "Hazelnut Pillow" which was very light, rich in flavour, but also soft and crispy. It was a bit on the pricier side for its size (¥ 540 / ~$6.50 CAD) but tasted really good (and tbh, I always lose track of how much money I'm actually spending because I don't like doing the conversion in my head ha ha ha... xD).

RELAX @ THE KAMOGAWA RIVER

There's something about just sitting at the riverside, watching the stream move, closing your eyes, taking a deep breath, and quietly listening to your surroundings. It's in those moments where we slow down life, appreciate what we have, and reflect on how fortunate we are to be living in this world.

... or is that just me? LOL


DAY TWO:

VISIT THE SILVER PAVILION (GINKAKUJI)

Start the day early! We made our way to the Silver Pavilion at 8:30AM when it opened so we could make the most out of our day, and also avoid the crowd. Tbh the pavilion itself was underwhelming for me (looked exactly like the Google images LMAO), but we enjoyed the exercise and got a nice view of Kyoto from it!

SNACK ON MOCHI AND STREET FOOD

Lots of street vendors can be found on the way to and from the Silver Pavilion. This was a great place to stop by for a snack and refuel our energy. We grabbed some rice cakes, skewers, pork buns, and an okonomoyaki pancake.

WALK THROUGH THE PHILOSOPHER'S PATH

Call me mel-stotle! Haha the Philosopher's Path was a really pretty walkway. It wasn't that long, but it opted for a beautiful picture and was near the Silver Pavilion too! 

GRAB A DRINK AT THE VENDING MACHINE

You can't go to Japan without grabbing a drink a the vending machine! We literally had one every day because they were so convenient and tasty. Our favourite was this carbonated peach drink, but funny enough, I grabbed a coke on this day haha.

VISIT THE GOLDEN PAVILION (KINKAKU-JI)

If you don't have a lot of time in Kyoto, this is the one main pavilion that you should make time to visit because it's the most beautiful one. It's also close and easy to bus to Arashiyama from here, so keep that in mind when you plan your itinerary!

EAT A MATCHA PARFAIT

Near the entrance of the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji) is a matcha dessert store that sells soft serve and parfaits. We tried the parfait, and I was blown away by its richness in flavour. Highly recommend trying it while you're here!

TAKE THE BUS TO ARAYASHIMA

From the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji), there's one bus that takes you straight to Arashiyama and all the tourist attractions are within walking distance from there. The ryokan that we booked (Hanakaida) was in the centre of it all as well, so I'd definitely recommend checking it out if you plan on going here!

CHECK IN AND RELAX @ THE RYOKAN

Once we arrived at the ryokan, we were welcomed by the staff with warm green tea and a peanut mochi snack. After settling in, the first thing we did was take a bath to relax and wash away the fatigue. This was honestly the most relaxed I've felt in a while. My mind and body felt at peace and ease, and it was a much needed reset.

Note: We booked the room that came with a private onsen, which I really enjoyed because of its privacy and convenience. Hanaikaida also offers public open-air onsens free of charge, but I preferred to have my alone time and felt shy about being naked with strangers LOL. They also offer private open-air onsens, but there's an additional fee per hour.

Stay tuned for a blog post on my full ryokan experience.


DAY THREE:

WALK THROUGH THE TOGETSUKYO BRIDGE

Within steps from our ryokan was the Togetsukyo Bridge, a renowned bridge in Arashiyama with a picturesque outlook. We were allowed to store our luggage free of charge after checking out in the morning! This gave us the freedom to explore more of Arashiyama without the burden of carrying our stuff around!

STROLL THROUGH THE BAMBOO GROVE

From our ryokan, Kyoto's famous Bamboo Grove was around 10 minutes away by foot. The walk was nice because it was filled with restaurants and souvenir shops, but once we reached there, the area was flooded with tourists. The sight was beautiful to take in, but the forest itself actually wasn't that big, so it was difficult to get a clean picture.

A tip would be to avoid taking pictures at the entrance because that's usually the most crowded. Instead, walk further in until the area clears out a little.

TASTE JAPANESE SOFT SERVE

On our way back from the Bamboo Groves, we stopped for soft serve ice cream. I had the sakura and matcha twist which was an interesting mix, and later tried the hojicha flavour. Both were enjoyable and rich in flavour!

HIKE AND FEED MONKEYS AT THE MONKEY PARK

After eating, we decided to visit the Monkey Park and work off some calories. The hike wasn't too bad, and once we reached the top, we saw a bunch of monkeys roaming around which was fun to watch. Tbh I was a little scared at first because the park had a lot of warning signs to keep a 3-meter distance from the monkeys and to avoid direct eye contact.. but the experience was completely safe and enjoyable. There was also an indoor area where you could purchase snacks to feed monkeys through a fence. We bought some peanuts, and it was actually really cute watching the monkeys extend their hands towards to grab the food and eat haha.

HEADING TO OSAKA?

Stay tuned for my Osaka itinerary! We headed there after the Monkey Park.

 

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