Japan itinerary: 2 days in Kyoto

After a whirlwind stop in Osaka we were on our way to Kyoto by train, no booking involved we just used our Icoca card and grabbed the next train.  They run regularly and are only 1 hour way from Osaka.   We wanted to be sure we had a full 2 days in Kyoto.

It can be easy to daytrip to Kyoto but as most of the cool temples and sites are in Kyoto it’s easier to be based in the city

Getting around Kyoto

The sites in Kyoto area very spread out so the best way to get around is by subway.  It’s easy as ask the signs are in English too!

Also, to make the most of your day you definitely need a plan and to check what is within easy walking distance.  Check out our itinerary in Kyoto for ideas.

Read our post here on how to get an Icoca card to make travel in Osaka & Kyoto easier.

While in Kyoto we needed to top up our cards. This is easy to do on the machines (thank goodness there’s an English option!). You can either choose a set amount or decide how much you need to top up.

Again, knowing what you are doing helps as any excess on your card you can get back – but with an admin fee of yen 200! So best to use the card in full. I have to say we patted ourselves on our backs when we had only Yen 100 left on them!

Note: you can use these cards in a family mart or 7 eleven so if you do have anything left get some snacks for your next journey!

Where to stay in Kyoto

We booked to stay outside the main city (as it’s cheaper) but close to a subway so we that had easy access to the sites.  The accommodation was Actually called, Kyoto Tsukiusagi.

The accommodation was brand new and pretty cool.  We had another 4 bed dorm but it was very modern.  Again, we had shared bathroom facilities which were amazing and also full kitchen facilities.

This was great for us as we had a huge supermarket just down the road and meant we could cook our own meals and prepare breakfast and lunch.


Things to do in Kyoto

Day 1 itinerary in Kyoto

Fushimi Inari Taisha – make sure you are there before 7.30am to escape the crowds. Earlier the better!

This is a very busy tourist site walkways lined with torii gates. It’s very beautiful and the walk up to the top of the hill is very beautiful.

We saw lots of spiders so be careful where you stand!

Although there is a view, it’s not spectacular but it’s a good walk with some steep sections & lots of steps.

We arrived at 7.30am and left around 10.30am and it was very busy. We definitely picked a good time to arrive.

Next, we got a train to Kyoto main station.

Kyoto city centre – we wandered to get a real feel of Japan city living. What better way to do this than to wander the streets of Kyoto city. It was very easy to get around. The boys (as in all of them) loved the electronic stores. They were huge!! And I’m not just talking about the TV’s.

We spent a good hour, wandering around the huge store while the boys had their own TV show 😂

Higashi-Honganji temple – only a short walk from Kyoto main station.  There were a few temples within the grounds and you could walk escape some freely.

The boys loved washing their hands on the dragon water fountain.

Nikishi markets – I’d seen this place mentioned as a good place for Street food. And it was a hub of activity with lots of good choices. But because it was so busy we didn’t have chance to stop long enough to see anything!

The most we got to see were Ethan’s favourite Gozas (Japanese dumplings) so we grabbed a set to munch on.

There’s nowhere to stop and eat though… Another quirk in Japan!

Overall the area was just crazy busy. You just tend to get carried along with the crowd and spat out the other side.

Gion – this area is known as a traditional area where you may see Geishas. So imagine my surprise when I saw 2 walking down the street. Oh my goodness! But they seemed to be struggling to walk properly and had mobile phones and… Then took a selfie! Ha ha.

Ok, so this was someone who had paid to be a Geisha! Tourists were stopping to take pictures with them (which if she was a real geisha, in Japanese tradition, is not good etiquette!).

As we walked further through the area we saw lots of lovely traditional Japanese buildings with lots of tourists dressed in Japanese clothing!  But I did enjoy the streets around this area, it was very pretty.

Surprisingly alot of the activities were free! This made it a very reasonable day out!

Day 2 itinerary in Kyoto

After such a hectic day yesterday we opted to have a lazy morning before heading out. Our first stop was,

Chion-in temple – the complex grounds are free, but it also has 2 quaint Japanese gardens that you have to pay for yen 500. We visited both of these and it was nice to see.

Maruyama Park – free park with streams and ponds. Not overly big, but can be quite busy. Better known for its fabulous cherry blossoms when in season (April).

Sanneizaka (Sannenzaka) & Nineizaka (Ninenzaka) are basically tourist shopping areas on lovely cobbled streets. The shops are all quaint Japanese traditional homes.  The light in the afternoon/night is best or if you are around for sunset. We arrived around 3pm, took a few photos and then left.

It was very busy during our visit with lots of people dressed up in traditional clothing here.

You can hire a traditional Japanese outfit from yen 3,500.

Other things to do in Kyoto

These are just a few sites that we researched but never go to visit… There are so many more!!

Kiyomizu-dera.  We had read that there is scaffolding covering it and that it wasn’t worth visiting. With such little time,  we were relying heavily  maon socurrent reviews.   Plus with so many other sites to visit we decided to miss this one.  Note: it can get very busy here.

Sagano bamboo forest – we’d read about the bamboo forest on the outskirts of the town. By all accounts is a very short 20 minute walk along a path with bamboos either side. It sounded nice, but we did similar in China when we visited Chengdu panda sanctuary.  So we decided to miss this.

Nearby the bamboo forest there’s mention of a 2 hour boat ride which includes some exciting, but fairly tame rapids. We decided to miss this too as heard it was nice, but a bit expensive.

Yasaka shrine – we didn’t get chance to visit but this site is free and the most famous shrine in Kyoto. With such a rushed itinerary this was too far away from other areas we wanted to see.

Shōren-in Monzeki –  is a Japanese Buddhist temple complex costing Yen 500pp.  We walked up to the door but the area didn’t seem that speaking y when we read the signs. So we opted to go to chion-in temple instead. 

Nara – if you have time then it’s highly recommended to get a train to visit a village called Nara. It’s famed for dress which roam the streets and you can feed them.  If we had longer this would have been an addition to our itinerary!


Kyoto was lovely. A very easy city to navigate and  very, vexplore, albeit it was very busy!!  You have to get up early to enjoy the best of what Kyoto has to offer.  There’s lots of free sites to visit, but you won’t get chance to see them all. In fact there’s a high chance that you’ll be templed out so read up on the ones that interest you the most.

You’ll also do alot of walking so make sure you have good shoes!

A great addition to any Japanese itinerary.


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