Kyoto 2 Day Itinerary: The BEST of Kyoto in 2 Days or More

Kyoto 2 Day Itinerary: The BEST of Kyoto in 2 Days or More

Whether it is to discover the city’s well-preserved culture, explore the beautiful historic sites, or sample the fantastic cuisine, Kyoto has plenty to keep you busy on a 2-day stay. Follow my step-by-step Kyoto 2 day itinerary to discover the best of Kyoto in 2 days or more. 

Kyoto, Japan, is a beautiful city that boasts ancient temples, sublime gardens, and age-old traditions and customs. As one of the most popular cities to visit in Japan, it’s not surprising that more than 50 million travelers come to soak up the terrific vibes of this ancient city every year. 

That said, Kyoto is not your average Japanese city. For starters, Kyoto is home to more than 1600 temples and shrines, making it one of the most historically-rich places in all of Japan. Second, despite its old-world charm and intricate history, Kyoto is a laid-back city. So, it’s really not hard to slow down and enjoy all of its best bits.

The hardest part about visiting Kyoto is, in fact, deciding what to do! 

With just 2 days, seeing all of Kyoto’s best bits can be quite tricky, especially considering the sheer number of excellent things there are to do in Kyoto. Luckily, I’ve done all the hard work for you. In this Kyoto 2 day itinerary, I’ll unpack the top places to visit in Kyoto on your first visit to Kyoto. 

It will be a fast-paced itinerary. But, it will allow ample time to get to know the city and explore all of its best gems. Throughout this Kyoto travel guide, I’ve also included tons of tips to help you plan the perfect 2 day itinerary in Kyoto. At the end of this post, you’ll find more suggestions on extending your Kyoto itinerary for 3 or 4 days.

Exploring the magical gardens of the Silver Pavilion is a huge must when spending 2 days or more in Japan.
Make sure not to miss the beautiful Ginkaku-Ji on your Kyoto 2 day itinerary.

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Pre-travel Tips for a 2 Day Kyoto Itinerary 

Before you visit Kyoto for 2 days or more, it’s essential to have a few things already in place. Here are some tips and tricks to help you plan a stress-free trip to Kyoto in 2 days:

  • Search the best hotels in Kyoto. Since Kyoto is a favorite tourist spot, rooms tend to fill up quickly, and prices are generally quite steep. Make sure you book accommodation well in advance. 
  • Wifi is widely available at most tourist spots in Kyoto. However, to travel Kyoto hassle-free, grabbing pocket wifi or a 4G sim card is highly encouraged. This way, you’ll always be connected and never have to worry about planning your stops. 
  • Kyoto is a very safe city to visit (even for solo female travelers). That said, it’s always best to think about your safety when traveling abroad. Make sure you and your belongings are covered while visiting Kyoto by grabbing travel insurance with World Nomads. Applying online is easy and only takes a few quick clicks. 
  • If you aren’t comfortable navigating Kyoto on your own, this Kyoto tour covers all the highlights. You’ll see all of Kyoto’s best bits without the headache of planning out a trip. 
  • If you’re looking for a unique experience, renting a kimono is a fun thing to do in Kyoto. 
  • For a stress-free visit to Kyoto, planning is vital. Online research is a great way to get to know the city, but it’s also a good idea to invest in a good guide book. This Lonely Planet was such a big help on my Japan solo trip. It includes tons of valuable tips and insights into the history, culture, and traditions of Kyoto. 
  • Grab an ICOCA card, Kansai’s top-up transport card, to help you travel easier on buses, trains, and the subway. You’ll also be able to use it at convenience stores. 
  • If you’re going to visit lots of tourist attractions in Kyoto, grabbing a sightseeing pass will be worthwhile.

In a rush? Pin this 2 day itinerary Kyoto to read later. 

Planning a visit to Kyoto soon? Follow my detailed Kyoto 2 day itinerary to discover all of Kyoto's best gems. You'll also get tons of tips and tricks on when to visit Kyoto, where to stay and how to extend your stay should you have 2 days or more in Kyoto. #kyoto #travel #Japan #kyotoitinerary #thingstodokyoto

When to visit Kyoto

Kyoto is an excellent city to visit year-round, with average temperatures varying between 4.5°C and 28.5°C. However, to experience Kyoto at its very best, the best time to visit Kyoto is during spring or autumn. Here’s a quick look at the seasons in Kyoto. 

Spring (March-May)

Since Kyoto is one of the world’s best places to see cherry blossoms, spring in Kyoto is a delightful time to visit the city. The weather starts to warm up, and if your timing is right, you’ll get to see the entire city covered in pink blossoms. 

The best month to see cherry blossoms in Kyoto is April. This is also one of the most crowded months to visit Kyoto. The streets and attractions are teeming with visitors enjoying hanami. In general, temperatures range between 9°C and 19°C. 

Since the mornings and evenings can still be a bit chilly, remember to pack a jacket.  

Summer (June – Aug)

Kyoto in summer is a beautiful time to visit the city, but it’s also sweltering and humid. I would not recommend a visit to Kyoto during summer unless you are used to hot temperatures. 

If you must visit Kyoto during summer, it’s essential to know that it’s the rainy season. June sees up to 240mm of rain, so remember to pack an umbrella. August is the hottest month in Kyoto, with temperatures reaching as high as 33°C. Another critical aspect to keep in mind when visiting Kyoto during summer is that it is typhoon season. Therefore, remember to keep an eye on the weather forecast.

Autumn (Sept – early Dec)

Autumn is one of the most magical times to visit Japan, and it is no different in Kyoto. The city is covered in beautiful fall colors ranging from fiery reds to bright yellows and striking oranges. Temperatures are generally pleasant during the day, reaching as high as 22°C. However, expect mornings and evenings to dip as low as 8°C on average. 

To experience fall foliage in Kyoto, you’ll need to put a bit more effort into planning a visit to Japan during the fall — especially since the peak season for autumn leaves depends on the weather. Therefore, make sure to keep an eye on the official peak season forecast, which is updated yearly. 

Winter (Late Dec – Feb)

Winter in Japan is not as crowded as other seasons in Kyoto, but it can be frigid. Still, if you want to enjoy Kyoto sans the crowds and don’t mind the possibility of snow, visiting Kyoto during the winter is incredibly beautiful. Expect near-freezing low temperatures, while the average high is generally around 8°C.  

Colorful yellow leaves can be seen allover Japan during autumn.

How to get to Kyoto

There are many ways to reach Kyoto, depending on your departure point. Nevertheless, getting to Kyoto from Osaka or Tokyo couldn’t be easier. Here are the best and easiest ways to get to Kyoto from there. 

How to get to Kyoto from Osaka

The nearest airport to Kyoto is Kansai International Airport (KIX), located just 80km south of Kyoto. There are several ways to travel between Osaka and Kyoto. The quickest way to get to Kyoto Station from Kansai Airport is by airport express train. The Limited Express Haruka train (operated by JR West) takes 1h 20m and departs every 30 minutes. The first train leaves at 6:20, while the last train to Kyoto Station is at 22:16. 

Another option to consider is the direct limousine bus from KIX to Kyoto. It’s cheaper than the train and only takes about 70-90 minutes. Buses are comfortable, reliable, and frequent. The first bus departs at 6:20 am from Terminal 1, while the last bus leaves at 23:05. 

It is also possible to take a taxi from the airport to Kyoto, but the prices are quite steep. And, I wouldn’t recommend this option if you are traveling on a tight budget. If you are traveling with family or in a small group, booking a private transfer is another feasible option. 

How to get to Kyoto from Tokyo

By Train

The fastest and most convenient way to get from Tokyo to Kyoto is by Shinkansen (Japan’s uber-fast bullet train). The journey takes just over 2 hours and costs roughly ¥14,000. Slightly cheaper tickets are also available on non-reserved seats. If you plan on spending one week in Japan, it might be worth investing in a Japan Rail Pass. A 7-day pass costs about the same as a round trip ticket between Tokyo and Kyoto. 

Travel Tip: If you’re planning to buy a JR Pass, make sure to buy it before you arrive in Japan. Pre-ordering the Japan Rail Pass online can save you heaps of money.

By Overnight Bus

If your visiting Japan on a shoestring, the cheapest way to travel between Tokyo and Kyoto is by overnight bus. An overnight bus from Tokyo to Kyoto can take anywhere between 7-9 hours, depending on which company you use. Buses usually depart after 9 pm from Tokyo and arrive in Kyoto the next morning before 7 am. 

Since prices are hugely dependent on the season, day of traveling, and which kind of seat you choose, it’s always best to check real-time prices online. That said, generally expect to pay between ¥5,000 – 10,000 for an overnight trip. Getting a dirt-cheap ticket for as little as ¥1,600 during the low season, though, is not uncommon.  

*Just a side note: These prices were correct at the time of writing. Since prices often chance, please only use them as a guide. For the most accurate prices, it’s always best to consult official sites or better yet check prices on the spot. 

Kyoto's ancient Kiyomiza-Dera temple is a spectacular sight to visit during autumn in Japan.

How to get around Kyoto in 2 days or more

Kyoto is a flat city, and one of the best ways to really get to know the city and see all its best bits is on foot. There are many excellent walking tours to join, but if you prefer something a bit more active, joining a biking tour is another great option. 

Of course, Kyoto also has an extensive transport network with buses, trains, and taxis ready to transport you to all corners of the city. It’s a good idea to get an ICOCA card for your 2 days in Kyoto itinerary. This way, you can tap-and-go on the subway, buses, and most trains without the headache of buying tickets. 

The Bus Station is right outside the Kyoto Train Station, and it’s also here where you can buy day passes for the bus. If you plan to visit lots of landmarks and attractions in Kyoto, this is the most cost-effective way to see them. 

Another option to consider on a Kyoto two day itinerary is to take the hop on hop off bus. It is a fun way to see the city at your own pace. Moreover, you won’t need to worry about planning your stops! The Kyoto sightseeing bus also has pre-recorded commentaries. These are available in multiple languages, allowing you to gain in-depth knowledge of Kyoto’s best gems. 

2 Day Itinerary Kyoto – Quick Overview 

Day 1: Get orientated to the city upon arrival by exploring the Kyoto Station areadowntown Kyoto, and central Kyoto. On your first day, hit some of Kyoto’s top sightseeing spots, such as Kyoto StationHigashi TempleNishiki MarketFushimi-Inari Taisha, and Ponto Cho.

Day 2: Explore Kyoto’s Higashiyama areas. Visit important historical sites such as Kiyomizu-DeraHeian-JinguGinkaku-JiKinkaku-Ji, and Gion

Day 3 (Optional): Take a day trip to Arashiyama, where you can walk through the famed Bamboo Grove. Then visit immaculate temples and shrines and snack your way through the food market. 

Day 4 (Optional): Explore the magical ancient city of Nara. Meet the friendly deer. Drop by temples and shrines, and soak up the vibes.

Save this 2 day itinerary Kyoto for later.

Looking to explore Kyoto in 2 days or more? Follow my step-by-step 2 day itinerary for Kyoto to discover the best things to do in Kyoto. You'll also get tons of tips and tricks on when to visit Kyoto, where to stay and how to extend your stay should you have 2 days or more in Kyoto. #kyoto #travel #Japan #kyotoitinerary #thingstodokyoto

Kyoto 2 Day Itinerary: The Best Things to do in Kyoto

Kyoto is a fascinating city with plenty to keep you busy for a few days’ stay. Since there are so many amazing things to do in Kyoto, visiting Kyoto in 2 days might seem like an impossible task. This guide narrows down all the top things to do in Kyoto. That way, you can spend less time planning and more time exploring all of Kyoto’s best bits.

Are you ready to find out what to see and do in Kyoto in 2 days? Let’s dive right into this Kyoto 2 day itinerary to discover Kyoto’s top sights! 

Kyoto 2 Day Itinerary – Day 1

On your first day in Kyoto, get to know the city a bit better by exploring some of its best landmarks located in downtown and central Kyoto. Since you’ve probably just arrived in Kyoto, it’s highly encouraged to slow down and allow some time to orientate yourself to the city. Here are some suggestions to fill the first day of your 2 days in Kyoto itinerary. 

Kyoto Station 

Kyoto Station is the main gateway to the city, and it is also here where you are likely to start your Kyoto 2 day itinerary. It’s a big station, but thankfully it’s easy to navigate as there are clear signs in English, Japanese and Chinese practically everywhere. 

You might be wondering why I’ve added the station as one of the top sights in Kyoto. Well, the reason is quite simple. Kyoto’s central station boasts beautiful steel-and-glass architecture, a stunning Skyway Tunnel, and a relaxing Sky Garden from where you can admire the incredible views over the far-stretching city for free. 

While the Skyway Tunnel, located on the 11th floor, leads to many fine restaurants, there is yet another reason to visit here. It’s jaw-dropping futuristic design makes in extremely Instagrammable! If you happen to have the tunnel all to yourself, it’s the perfect place to take a new profile picture.

Afterward, make your way to the 15th floor, where you’ll find the Sky Garden offering a bird’s eye view over the cityscape. 

Besides these, Kyoto Station also offers easy access to the Isetan Department Store and Porta Underground Mall. Here, you can browse, shop, or grab a bite to eat at a fraction of the price you’ll find elsewhere. At its eastern flank, you’ll also find Kyoto Theater and the lavish 5-star Hotel Granvia Kyoto

The Kyoto station is a fine add-on to any Kyoto itinerary. More so, if you aren’t in a rush to get to your next stop. 

Kyoto Observation Tower

Located right opposite the Kyoto station’s north gate, you’ll find the tallest structure in Kyoto – the Observation Tower, standing 131m high. The tower offers panoramic views over the city no matter which way you turn, and it’s the perfect place to get orientated to the city. 

Apart from taking in the incredible views on offer here, dropping by the Sky Lounge to enjoy a light meal or a boozy cocktail is also highly encouraged. In the entrance hall, you’ll also find vendors selling all kinds of unique knick-knacks and local snacks to bring back home. 

You can visit the tower seven days a week from 9 am – 9 pm. However, you should know that the Kyoto Tower is a favorite tourist spot in Kyoto. This means, the ticket lines can get quite long. Skip the queues by booking your Kyoto Tower Admission Ticket online first. This way, you can maximize your 2 days in Kyoto and have more time to admire the incredible views! 

Higashi-Hogan-Ji 

Just a short walk from Kyoto Station and Kyoto Observation Tower, you’ll find one of Kyoto’s most impressive Buddhist temple complexes – Higashi Temple (Eastern Temple of the Vow). 

Higashi-Hogan-Ji has quite a complex history and was first established in 1604 by the military dictator (or shōgun) Tokugawa Ieyasu. Over the years, the temple has gone through many restorations after burning down several times. 

The grand temple flaunts an impressive main hall (Goei-dō), which is one of the largest wooden structures in all of Japan. Besides the imposing main entrance, be sure to enjoy a leisurely walkabout through the immaculate gardens and have a peek inside the Amida Hall. 

Visiting Higashi-Hogan-Ji is an excellent add-on to any Kyoto itinerary since it is one of the best free things to do in Kyoto. Higashi is open daily from 5:50 – 17:30 (March to October) and 6:20 to 16:30 (November to February).

Nishiki Market 

Nishiki Market is one attraction that you simply can not leave off of your Kyoto 2 day itinerary. Dating back more than 700 years, Nishiki Market is an essential historic site in Kyoto. Today, Nishiki is the beating heart of Kyoto’s fresh produce supply chain and a treat for all the senses! 

“Kyoto’s Kitchen” houses more than 100 stalls and eateries, which line a five-block narrow walking street. It’s a lively place full of character and exciting finds. Of course, there is a terrific mix of products on offer here too – from fresh seafood, vegetables, and fruit to a weird and wonderful mix of pickled goods, sweets, and sake

Travel Tip: Nishiki Market is a booming place to visit in Kyoto. If you want to skip the crowds, it’s best to come in the early morning. However, you should know that if you decide to go too early, you run the risk of some shops not being open yet. For a truly unique food experience, consider joining this excellent Donburi Cooking Course and Nishiki Market Tour

Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine

As one of Japan’s most famous Shinto shrines, Fushimi-Inari is a huge must when exploring Kyoto in 2 days. With more than 10,000 vermilion Torii gates serving as the pathway to the sacred shrine and dating back to 711 AD, Fushimi-Inari is another excellent example of an Instagram-worthy place in Kyoto. 

While most people only drop by Fushimi-Inari briefly to take a few selfies, there is so much more to see and do. First, get a closer look at the intricate architecture of the impressive main hall and surrounding buildings. 

Then follow the 4km trail up Inari Mountain, where you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views over Kyoto. Along the way, you’ll find countless fox statues, multiple smaller shrines, and a few restaurants ready to serve you an ice-cold beer. 

It’s a rewarding hiking trail, but you should probably know that it can take quite a bit of time to complete — especially since the path is not the smoothest, and there are many steps to climb. If you want to make it to the summit and back, prepare at least 2-3 hours for the trek. It’s probably a good idea to grab a few snacks and water at one of the food vendors located at the entrance to Fushimi. 

 Depending on which time of day you visit, the crowds can be quite overwhelming. But luckily, they tend to trickle down the further you follow the trail. Whether you’re quickly dropping by or planning to spend a bit of time at Fushimi-Inari, don’t forget to write a wish on a cute fox-shaped ema (a wooden wish card)! 

Travel Tip: You can still enjoy the magnificent views along the way if you don’t intend to complete the hike. There are several excellent lookout points, and since visiting Fushimi-Inari is free and open 24/7, you can really slow down and take it all in! 

Ponto-Cho

Ponto-cho is a tiny bustling alleyway hidden in central Kyoto not too far from Kyoto’s traditional area, Gion. This long, narrow cobblestone alley is famous for its traditional architecture, hidden geiko and maiko houses, lively atmosphere, excellent tea houses, and fine intimate dining opportunities. 

While a stroll through Ponto-cho is unlikely to take more than a few minutes, one could easily spend a few hours here ducking into Izakayas (traditional beer houses), sampling yakitori, and sipping sake

It is possible to stroll through Ponto-cho during the day, but you really do want to experience Ponto-cho at its very best! Therefore, come during the night when the street is teeming, and the bars and eateries are full of atmosphere.

Whether you’re visiting Ponto-cho to soak up the vibe, or dipping into a traditional tea house, trendy bar or beautiful restaurant, Ponto-cho is an excellent add-on to any Kyoto 2 day itinerary. 

A visit to Ponto-cho will not disappoint when visiting Kyoto for 2 days.

Travel Tip: Expect to pay top dollar in Ponto-cho, so remember to budget accordingly. 

2 Day Itinerary Kyoto – Day 2

On your second day of 48 hours in Kyoto, make sure to get an early start. Today you’ll have a chance to experience all of Kyoto’s magical charm and deep-rooted history. Pop by centuries-old temples, wander through sublime gardens and visit Kyoto’s most iconic traditional neighborhood, Gion. 

Kiyomizu-Dera

Kiyomizu-Dera (Pure Water Temple) is a massive must on any Kyoto 2 day itinerary. This remarkable Buddhist temple in Southern Higashiyama is one of Japan’s most famous landmarks and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Founded in 780, Kiyomizu-Dera offers visitors a glimpse into Japan’s religious history accompanied by breathtaking city views from all corners. In addition to exploring the exquisite halls and getting a closer look at all the age-old Buddhist relics and figures, there are several other exciting things to do here. 

A short stroll away, head to the small Shinto shrine to make a special love wish. Further afield, just below the main hall’s impressive verandah, you’ll find the sacred Otowa-No-Taki spring. Drinking water from this natural spring is believed to bequeath longevity and good health.  

Kiyomizu-Dera is a massive complex with many nooks and crannies to explore. Allow ample time to wander the gorgeous gardens, explore the halls and shrines, and soak up the relaxing vibe with a refreshing cup of matcha at one of the many tea houses.

Kiyomizu-Dera temple in fall is simply breathtaking. It's also one of the top attractions to add to your Kyoto 2 day itinerary.

Heian-Jingu

Similarly to Fushimi-Inari, Heian-Jingu is another top Shinto shrine in Kyoto and Japan. It is dedicated to the very first and last emperors ruling over Kyoto, so it plays quite an essential role in Kyoto’s rich history. 

Besides the giant Torii gate that marks the entrance to the complex, the intricately designed doors that open up into the courtyard are simply immaculate. Heian-Jingu is a lovely place for a walkabout, and within the main complex, you’ll find several museums of modern and municipal arts to explore. 

Take Kyoto bus #5 or 100 to reach Heian Shrine. The ride only takes about 30 minutes from Kyoto Station, and there is no admission fee to enter the area.

Ginkaku-Ji (Silver Pavilion)

Tucked away at the foot of Higashiyama mountain, Ginkaku-Ji isn’t nearly as popular as it’s sister temple, Kinkaku-Ji. But despite this, you would seriously be missing out if you didn’t add Ginkaku-Ji to your 2 day Kyoto itinerary. 

Besides getting a close-up view of the spectacular Buddhist temple overlooking a pond, the most charming part about visiting here is wandering through the breathtaking gardens.

As soon as you enter the complex, the first striking feature you’ll see is an impressive sand garden used to reflect moonlight into the main hall. A short stroll further, you’ll be transcended in a luscious garden home to ponds, secluded miniature waterfalls, and a prominent moss garden. Make sure to follow the pathway up the hill to the lookout point from where you can get a bird’s-eye view over the entire city.

Immaculate gardens are a treat for all the senses when spending 2 days in Kyoto.

Travel Tip: To experience Ginkaku-Ji in all its glory, visit during cherry blossom season, or when the autumn leaves are in full swing. There is a ¥500 charge to enter the ground, but it will be money well spent. It takes about 40 minutes by bus from the central station to reach the Silver Pavilion. 

Kinkaku-Ji (Golden Pavilion) 

No Kyoto in 2 days itinerary would be complete without dropping by the city’s most jaw-dropping Zen Buddhist temple and a designated UNESCO site — The Golden Pavilion. 

Located in the northwestern corner of Kyoto, the Golden Pavilion is a majestic structure bound to make a lasting first impression. The most striking feature is undeniable the temple’s exterior – with its two top floors wholly covered in golden leaf. The pavilion also overlooks a large pond and is surrounded by sublime gardens, making it an even more impressive sight. 

Since Kinkaku-Ji is a must-visit place in Kyoto, one could easily spend hours taking in all the visual treasures here. Allow ample time to explore the gardens and admire the intricate architectural details. Upon exiting the complex, make sure to sample the Gold Leaf ice cream at Kinkaku Soft. It’s divine! 

The stunning Golden Pavilion should not be missed when planning a 2 day itinerary for Kyoto.

Travel Tip: Kinkaku-Ji is open daily between 9 am and 5 pm, and you’ll need to pay a ¥500 admission fee to enter the grounds. Take the Kyoto sightseeing bus or tourist bus to reach here. You should know, though, the bus ride takes roughly 40 minutes from the central station, so make sure to plan your stops accordingly. Taking the subway or hopping in a taxi are great alternatives should you wish to maximize your time.

Gion 

Gion is Kyoto’s traditional entertainment district and the most photogenic neighborhood in the city. It’s rich in history and full of fascinating alleys lined with beautiful traditional Japanese wooden houses that are home to shops, tea houses, and fine dining restaurants.

It’s an extremely atmospheric area, and at night the streets are brimming with locals and tourists who’ve come to soak up the vibe, spot geishas, shop, or dine. 

While it’s easy to explore Gion on your own, joining this Kyoto Geisha Districts Tour is an excellent way to experience all of Gion’s best bits.

Kyoto's traditional area, Gion is a highlight on any 2 day Kyoto itinerary.

Optional Kyoto Itinerary Extensions

While there’s plenty to keep you busy in Kyoto, there also are many other fascinating places to explore nearby. Here are some suggestions on what to do in Kyoto if you have a bit more time in the city.

How to spend 3 days in Kyoto

One place that you do not want to miss adding to your Kyoto 3 day itinerary is Arashiyama.

Tucked away in western Kyoto, Arashiyama is full of gorgeous scenery, stunning natural beauty, age-old temples, and home to one of the most enchanting places in all of Japan — the Bamboo Grove. 

After strolling through the towering bamboo stalk walkway, make your way to Tenryuji Temple with its breathtaking Sogen Pond garden. For more tips on what to do in Arashiyama, also read my Arashiyama day trip guide.

Arashiyama is easily reached by train/bus from Kyoto, but taking a romantic ride on the Sagano Train is highly encouraged if you want to make a day of it. 

The Bamboo Grove is one of the top attractions to visit in Kyoto. Make sure to add it to your Kyoto travel itinerary.

How to spend 4 days in Kyoto

If you’re planning a Kyoto 4 day itinerary, you’ll have ample time to explore the ancient city of Nara, located less than 1h30m from Kyoto.  

Nara is a beautiful city full of history, and there are several essential landmarks worthy of your time. Besides visiting the largest wooden structure in all of Japan, Todaiji, there is another reason to visit Nara on a day trip. And that’s the chance to meet the city’s free-roaming deer.

Stopping by Kasuga Taisha Shrine and taking a gentle stroll through the beautiful Nara Deer Park are other activities not to miss while visiting Nara. To learn more about what to do in Nara, be sure also to read my Nara guide.  

Getting to Nara is quite easy, but if you aren’t comfortable navigating the area by yourself, this Nara half-day tour is an excellent alternative. 

Where to stay on your Kyoto 2 day Itinerary

Kyoto is a sprawling metropolitan city with many fantastic accommodation options — from funky capsule hotels and  family-friendly stays to Kyoto’s beautiful ryokans and everything in between! Kyoto truly has something for everyone. 

Since accommodation in Kyoto and pretty much elsewhere in Japan is much more expensive compared to other Asian destinations like Taipei, Hong Kong, and Singapore, choosing the right place to stay in Kyoto can be tricky.

That said, when deciding where to stay in Kyoto for two days, the most crucial factor to consider is location. Make sure to stay somewhere central with easy access to shops, restaurants, landmarks, and transport. 

Wherever you choose to stay in Kyoto, it’s always best to book accommodation well in advance as hotels fill up quickly, especially during peak seasons. 

So, where should you stay in Kyoto for 2 days or more? 

Gion – Best Place to Stay in Kyoto for First Timer’s

If it’s your first time in Kyoto and you want to experience the best of Kyoto, stay in Gion. Gion is the historical heart of Kyoto, and it’s definitely one of the most charming neighborhoods you’ll ever encounter. Since Gion is filled with history, there are many shops, restaurants, and attractions nearby. Here are some top choices to consider for a stay in Gion.

Best hotels & hostels in Gion

  • The General Kyoto Yamatooji is an excellent budget option conveniently located near some of the city’s top tourist spots. The rooms are spacious for Japan standards and feature clean, modern interiors at surprisingly affordable rates. 
  • Well-placed in the cultural heart of Gion, Kyoto Granbell Hotel is an excellent mid-range option for travelers looking for an upscale stay at reasonable rates. The hotel has beautiful exteriors and modern, clean interiors. There are many shops and restaurants nearby, and Kiyomizu-Dera is a 30-minute walk away.  
  • Travelers looking for an upscale stay don’t need to look much further than Yuzuya RyokanThis beautiful 5-star hotel offers exquisite rooms, and an assortment of recreational facilities such as a hot spring bath, massages, and sublime gardens. 
Kyoto's beautiful skyline. The Kyoto Tower is a must-see spot to see while spending 2 days or more in Kyoto.

Kyoto Station Area or Karawamachi – Best Place to Stay for Convenience

If you intend to travel onwards, the best area to stay in Kyoto is Karawamachi or near the Kyoto Station. There is a fine selection of accommodation options at both these locales. While both of these areas are more modern than Gion, a short stroll up any road will quickly reveal quintessential Kyoto. 

Since you’ll have easy access to the train, metro, and bus system, it makes even more sense to stay here. Here are the best places to stay near the Kyoto Train Station.

Best Hotels & Hostels Near Kyoto Station

  • If you’re a solo traveler in Kyoto, you’ll want to stay at Shizuya Kyoto. Located just 5-minutes walk to Shichijo Station and a 10-minute walk from JR Kyoto Station, Shizuya is a great base to explore Kyoto in as little as two days. The rooms are spotless and the staff friendly. There’s also a neat little garden where you can unwind after a day out exploring while the on-site restaurant is always ready to fill your belly. 
  • Hotel Ethnography Kikoku no Mori is an excellent mid-range option at a surprisingly affordable rate. The hotel offers uber-chic room interiors, making it a haven to relax and unwind after a busy day out in Kyoto. 
  • Located mere steps from the Kyoto Station, Daiwa Roynet Hotel Kyoto-ekimae is an excellent choice when looking for affordable luxury in Kyoto. Since the hotel is conveniently located, it offers easy access to all of the city’s must-see spots.
  • Further afield, yet mere steps from public transportation, is Piece Hostel Sanjo. It’s a great hostel to stay at since Nishiki Market is just around the corner, and there are many nearby shops and restaurants. Both dorm-style and private rooms are available, featuring clean, stylish finishings. The hostel offers a lovely communal area, a funky rooftop bar, and a filling breakfast.

Need more help finding the perfect place to stay in Kyoto? Search the best hotels in Kyoto on Agoda to compare prices and read reviews. 

Nara Deer Park is a must-visit on any Kyoto 2 day itinerary.

What to Eat in Kyoto 

Kyoto has a bustling foodie scene. And, one of the best ways to really get to know the city is through your stomach. Whether you’re after the perfect bowl of ramen, want to sample the most delicate sushi, or looking to satisfy your sweet tooth with gooey mochi, Kyoto’s best restaurants boast an excellent selection of fine food.

While it’s great to experience Kyoto’s food scene independently, the most fun way to sample the city’s diverse food scene is on a food tour. This Kyoto walking food tour is one of the best food tours you’ll ever take. It includes classic Japanese treats like tsukemonotaiyakitakoyaki, and much more that will leave craving more.  

If you enjoy cooking, joining a cooking class is another great way to familiarize yourself with Japanese cuisine and bring the tastes back home. Here are three cooking courses worth checking out: 

Need More Help Planning Your Japan Trip?

Before you go, here are a few more handy guides to help you plan the perfect Japan itinerary:

If you’re spending a bit more time in Japan, this Japan 2 week itinerary will come in handy. 

As you can see, 2-4 days in Kyoto is ample time to experience all that Kyoto has on offer. Have you visited Kyoto yet? What tips do you have for fellow travelers planning a Kyoto 2 day itinerary? If you have any suggestions on fun things to do in Kyoto, let me know in the comments below. 

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Wondering what to do in Kyoto? This detailed Kyoto itinerary unpacks what to do in Kyoto in 2 days or more and includes tons of tips to help you plan the perfect Kyoto 2 day itinerary. Plus BONUS options to extend your stay to 2-4 days in Kyoto. #kyoto #travel #Japan #kyotoitinerary #thingstodokyoto


32 thoughts on “Kyoto 2 Day Itinerary: The BEST of Kyoto in 2 Days or More”

  • It was quite a long time ago when I visited Kyoto. Your post brought me back beautiful memories. The highlights of my trip were definitely Kijomizu Dera and the Golden Pavilion. Loved your pictures. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks Anita! Kiyomizu Dera was one of my favourites too, I loved all the little temples scattered about the grounds. Not to mention those beautiful city views.

  • Two things leave an impression on the mind after reading this post. The first is the red color that you see as part of most architecture and the second is rows and rows of stunning flower trees. Kyoto is so exotic, isn’t it?

  • Kyoto observation tower looks interesting! Reminds me of the TV Tower in Berlin!
    Pure Water temple looks absolutely gorgeous! Good to know its a UNESCO Site too!
    The greenery everywhere is just gorgeous!

  • We just visited Kyoto in November. It is such an incredible city! We did not go to the observation tower, but we did see most of the other places listed here. Our absolute favourites were the Fushimi-Inari Taisha and Gion Geisha District. We had so much fun in Kyoto and hope to return there some day.

  • Day and night, Kyoto is beautiful! We love the multi-colored trees; they look like they are on fire! And since we love a gastronomic adventure, we will definitely visit Nishiki Market if we have the opportunity to visit Kyoto.

  • You had me at Nishiki Market! There is nothing better than wandering through the stalls soaking up the atmosphere, the sights, the smells. I am moving to Japan next year and I will 100% be revisiting this post! Thanks you for sharing.

  • There is so much to see and do in Kyoto. It’s really good that getting around is so convenient. I like designing my own itinerary and define my routes when I go anywhere. And if it’s not easy to go around the city, then it poses a lot of problems for me. BTW, your pictures are absolutely stunning.

    • Thank you Neha. I prefer doing things at my own pace too; seeing what I want, when I want.

      I couldn’t believe how easy it was to get from A to B in Kyoto, especially as this was my first solo female trip. All the research beforehand paid off. Plus, I totally mastered Google Maps!

  • We are heading to Japan next Summer and loved reading this! So many great ideas and amazing photos! I’ll be back to visit your blog more for sure!

  • Your wonderful photos are bringing back such lovely memories for me. Japan and indeed Kyoto were my very first country/city that I visited outside of Australia. After reading all about your fun, I think it’s time that I start looking at heading back to Kyoto after 15yrs!

  • Oh my word, Japan has so many incredible sights! I want to see everything on your list, but my favorite would have to be Kiyomizu-Dera. It just looks so stunning – and I can totally see what it is a UNESCO heritage site!

  • Your photographs of Kyoto are splendid and incredible. Higashi temple looks worth visiting, as well as The Observatory Tower area. The Gardens of Silver Pavilion are so enchanting.

  • You represented Kyoto so beautifully. Amazing photos and lovely flowers. I had plans to visit it this April, but couldn’t. Lovely gardens. I am saving your post to refer to when I visit at the end of the year. Thank you for sharing.

    • Fabulous Monica, thank you. You are going to love it!

      There are quite a few handy websites which forecast the best dates to see the autumn leaves. But, if you
      need any additional info, feel free to give us a shout.

  • Wow the Kyoto Observation Tower looks so much like the CN tower in Toronto! Kyoto is really amazing and I would definitely go back there anytime! Higashi Hongan-Ji temple really looks beautiful too!

  • How utterly gorgeous is Kiyomizu-Dera?! Well, everywhere you’ve mentioned really, but I’m totally blown away by those particular photos!
    Japan has never really been at the top of my “to-visit” list, so I haven’t really done much research into it, besides the obvious main tourist locations. So of everything you’ve mentioned I’d only actually previously heard of Fushimi-Inari Shrine – you’ve totally sold Kyoto to me!

    • Wow, Rhiannon, that’s awesome to hear ~ thank you. I hardly ever revisit a country/ city, but I would go back to Kyoto in a heartbeat! Even if one had a whole month to explore the city, it still wouldn’t be enough!

  • These are all awesome places to visit. I like the beautiful surroundings of Ginkaku-Ji. It looks tranquil and I can imagine a lot of people who go here to relax. I like that Nishiki Market offers much traditional Japanese food. I would love to visit Kyoto someday.

  • I just booked another flight to Japan later this year, so I’ve been researching non-stop. Your post is by far the BEST one I’ve seen on Kyoto! This is the first time I’ve heard about the Kyoto Observation Tower, like what? How do so many people miss that! Can’t believe the Fushimi Inari Shrine is open 24/7, def going to check it out at night. Don’t worry, I’ll bring a friend 😉 Thanks so much for all this great information!

    • Thank you Kim! That’s wonderful news. 🙂 Fushimi Inari is gorgeous, day and night. But, my favorite part was witnessing the incredible sunset halfway up the mountain! Hope you get to see it – it will blow your mind!

    • Hey Agness,
      You could rent a bike, but Kyoto is huge! Which makes it nearly impossible to just explore on foot…or by bike (unless you are into serious cycling of course 😊). The easiest way to reach most of the attractions are by bus, train or subway. I’d suggest biking downtown or in the Gion area as both areas are pretty flat.

      You might enjoy visiting Kyoto’s neighbors, Nara & Arashiyama too. Both cities are much smaller and biking around would totally be doable. Feel free to head to our Japan section if you’d like to read more about them.

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