Top 5 Activities in Kyoto, Japan

5 things to do in Kyoto, Japan

We spent seven wonderful days in Kyoto, Japan. We enjoyed virtually everything we did, saw and ate during our brief time in the city. With that said, it is extremely difficult to narrow it down to our five favorite events. However, the post title dictates it, right? So, our five favorite activities we took part in while in Kyoto are…

Visiting Yasaka Shrine

Yasaka Shrine Kyoto

We took the city bus to the Gion district of Kyoto and were eagerly awaiting our visit to the Yasaka shrine. We heard many good things about it from our guesthouse mates as well as the research we did in advance of our trip. We arrived with perfect weather and were delighted with everything we saw that day. The gardens which accompanied the shrine were wonderful and had a very calming feel throughout. We casually strolled around the shrine and gardens and enjoyed every second of our time on the grounds.

Seeing the Kinkaku-ji Temple (Golden Pavilion)

Kinkaku-ji Temple in Kyoto

As one of the main tourist attractions in Kyoto, we were looking forward to visiting the Golden Pavilion, but also dreading it based on the potential tourist onslaught we would walk into. However, the temple was literally located steps from our guesthouse, which allowed us to pick whatever time suited us best to evade the bulk of the other tourists for the day. In the end, our experience was fantastic and we really enjoyed the sights at the temple. It is certainly a must-see in Kyoto and for good reason!

Hiking Mount Daimonji

Mount Dainmonji

Hiking Mt. Daimonji was definitely one of the highlights of Kyoto for us and the view of the city from the top speaks for itself. We would recommend this to anyone who visits the city and you can read more about our hike here.

Saturday in Gion

Gion Kyoto Japan

Beers in Gion, Kyoto

Our Saturday spent in Gion was awesome! We walked through the streets of old Kyoto, ate green tea ice cream, found a perfect happy hour spot to enjoy our favorite Japanese beer (Asahi!) and then attended our couchsurfing meet-up with Kazu. We could not have asked for a better time in the heart of Kyoto!

Seeing a Geisha in the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Geisha in Kyoto, Japan

Visiting the bamboo forest in Arashiyama was on our to-do list thanks to it being on Alana’s bucket list. The forest itself was absolutely stunning and we were extremely happy with our decision to make the trip to see it. It lived up to our expectations and then some! However, the real highlight of our time in the forest was seeing a geisha in person. We had previously been out in the five districts of Kyoto known for geisha sightings, but had not been lucky enough see one. With our time dwindling in Kyoto (we visited the forest our last full day), we figured it was not going to happen. Then, there she was. It is a general rule of thumb to not take photos of people without permission, but the geisha was happily taking photos with different people at the time. So, Alana snapped a quick photo. A perfect ending to our time in Japan.

What are your favorite activities in Kyoto? Did we miss anything that is a must-see?

About Alana

Alana is one-half of Great Big Globe. She loves animals, the Wisconsin Badgers, exploring new countries and chasing the sun.


  1. Hi guys… did you confirm with her that she was in fact a geisha?

    If not, alas but it’s far more likely that she was a tourist dressed up as a geisha… this is a popular activity for Japanese tourists visiting Kyoto, there are several studios in Gion which rent out the outfits for the day and do the makeup. The chances of bumping into a geisha wandering around in Arashiyama are tiny… in a year and a half living in Kyoto, the only genuine geisha I believe I ever glimpsed was in the back of a limousine.

    Still, lovely pics anyway!

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