Got only one day in Kyoto? It can be quite challenging, but it is definitely doable! My friends and I did this tour and although it required A LOT of walking, it was totally worth it! There are many attractions in Kyoto so you must pick the ones you absolutely want to see to get the most of your trip. One day is short, but you can try. Just like we did! At the end of the day, you will be exhausted but there is always a match ice cream in a vending machine to make you feel better! Read on to see my 1-day Kyoto Itinerary!
1-day Kyoto Itinerary Overview
7:00 AM to 9:00 AM – Arashiyama
10:00 AM to 1:00 PM – Fushimi Inari Taisha
1:30 PM to 3:00 PM – Nishiki Market and Yasaka Shrine
3:30 PM to 4:30 PM – Kinkakuji Temple
5:00 PM to 6:00 PM – Kiyomizu-dera Temple
6:30 PM onwards – Gion
1-day Kyoto Itinerary In Detail
First Stop: Arashiyama
My friends and I woke up early in the morning to get to Arashiyama to avoid the crowd. However, it turned out, the other tourists thought the same way lol! Even though we arrived at the Bamboo Grove at around 8:00 AM, there were already many tourists trying to get that perfect Arashiyama portrait for Instagram!
Located on the western outskirts of Kyoto, Arashiyama is home to various temples and shrines as well as the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. We spent around 30-45 minutes trying to get a decent group shot or a selfie in the middle of Arashiyama’s soaring stalks of bamboo. However, tourists kept coming by groups so it was a real struggle. If you are planning to see this bamboo grove, you really have to be early (6:00 AM to 7:00 AM)! If you can, take the earliest train going to Arashiyama or if you have extra money to spare, take a cab.
To get the most of your trip, I suggest doing a half-day tour of Arashiyama. Some of the must-see attractions in this area are Togetsukyo Bridge, Okochi Sanso Villa, Monkey Park Iwatayama, Tenryu-ji Temple, Kameyama-koen Park, and Saga Scenic Railway.
How to get to Arashiyama from Osaka or Kyoto:
Option # 1 (Osaka to Arashiyama – covered by JR Pass)
Depends on where you are staying in Osaka, go to JR Osaka Station or Umeda Station. Then, take JR Special Rapid Service or Limited Express Thunderbird and get off at Kyoto Station. From there, take the JR Saga Line and get off at JR Saga-Arashiyama Station. Travel time is about 50 minutes and the one-way fare is 970 yen.
Option # 2 (Osaka to Arashiyama –not covered by JR Pass)
This is the cheapest option if you don’t have a JR Pass. From Osaka’s Hankyu Umeda Station, take the Hankyu Railway’s Kyoto Line to Katsura Station. Then, transfer to Hankyu Arashiyama Line bound for Arashiyama Station. Travel time is about 50 minutes and the one-way fare is 400 yen.
Option # 3 (Kyoto to Arashiyama – covered by JR Pass)
If you are staying in Kyoto and you have a JR Pass, take the JR Sagano Line from Kyoto Station to JR Saga-Arashiyama Station. Travel time is about 15 minutes and the one-way fare is 240 yen. From the station, it is an only 10-minute walk to get to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.
Option # 4 (Kyoto to Arashiyama –not covered by JR Pass)
If you are staying in Kyoto and you have a JR Pass, take the Hankyu Main Line to Katsura Station from Kawaramachi Station or Karasuma Station in Central Kyoto. Then, transfer to Hankyu Arashiyama Line bound for Arashiyama Station. Travel time is about 15 minutes and the one-way fare is 220 yen.
Second Stop: Fushimi Inari
After breakfast at Arashiyama, my friends and I went to our second destination, Fushimi Inari. This iconic Shinto Shrine is probably Kyoto’s most popular and widely recognized attraction. Dedicated to the Shinto god of rice, Inari, Fushimi Inari features thousands of vermillion torii gates, which lead up to the sacred Mount Inari. There were also many fox statues scattered around the shrine grounds to depict foxes as Inari’s messengers.
While the primary reason foreign tourists come to Fushimi Inari Shrine is to take photos of the vermillion torii gates (Senbon Torii in Japanese), the shrine buildings are equally beautiful and historic. Japan’s second great unifier, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, donated the imposing Romon Tower Gate, the shrine’s main gate. Behind that is the main shrine, where locals go to pay respect to the resident deity.
How to get to Fushi Inari from Osaka, Kyoto, and Arashiyama:
Option # 1 (Osaka to Fushimi Inari – covered by JR Pass)
Depends on where you are staying in Osaka, go to JR Osaka Station or Umeda Station. Then, take JR Special Rapid Service and get off at Kyoto Station. From there, take the JR Nara Line and get off at JR Inari Station. Travel time is about 50 minutes and the one-way fare is 840 yen.
Option # 2 (Kyoto to Fushimi Inari – covered by JR Pass)
If you are staying in Kyoto and you have a JR Pass, take the JR Nara Line from Kyoto Station to JR Inari Station. Travel time is about 5 minutes and the one-way fare is 140 yen. From the station, it is only 2-minute walk to get to Fushimi Inari.
Option # 3 (Arashiyama to Fushimi Inari – covered by JR Pass)
If you are going to follow my itinerary, take the JR Sagano Line and get off at Kyoto Station. Then, take the JR Nara Line to Inari Station. Travel time is about 35 minutes and the one-way fare is 240 yen.
Third Stop: Nishiki Market and Yasaka Shrine
For lunch, my friends and I stopped at Nishiki Market located in the heart of downtown Kyoto. This market has everything from fresh seafood and Japanese produce to Japanese sweets, pickles, dried seafood and even knives and cookware. Not only is this a great place to find traditional delicacies, but there are plenty of restaurants you can try for lunch as well.
Fourth Stop: Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion)
In the afternoon, my friends and I went back to Kyoto Station and boarded Kyoto City Bus going to Kinkakuji. To get to Kinkakuji Temple, take Kyoto City Bus number 101 or 205. Travel time is about 45 minutes and the one-way fare is 230 yen. Alternatively, you may take the subway to Kitaoji Station. From there, take Kyoto City Bus number 101 or 205 to Kinkakuji Temple.
Kinkakuji or the Golden Pavilion is a Zen temple covered in golden leaves. It was originally built as a retirement home of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the third shogun of the Ashikaga Shogunate (1338-1573). Today, Kinkakuji is one of Kyoto’s most popular attractions. Although the main building is not open to the public, the view of the temple from across the pond is spectacular. At the other side of the garden, you will find a teahouse, which is a perfect spot for sakura viewing and autumn foliage.
Fifth Stop: Kiyomizudera Temple
Kiyomizudera is a Japanese temple established in the Heian period that sits on the slopes between the Otowa Waterfall and Mount Otowa. In 2015, my friends and I visited during the cherry blossom season. Its beautiful architecture framed by the blooming cherry blossoms was truly an enchanting sight.
Last Stop: Gion
Gion is a historic district located in the heart of downtown Kyoto. It’s an iconic place to visit if you’re looking for an authentic Japanese experience. When I first visited in 2015, I was so amazed with its traditional wooden houses, machiya and winding streets. Because the area is best known for its geisha population, my friend and I actually experienced Maiko Transformation. It was, to this day, one of the best experiences I had in Japan.
If you’re not keen to be a Maiko for a day, just walk around the small streets of Gion. It’s an experience like no other to spot a real Maiko, so be on the lookout for these enchanting beauties during your visit!
Where to Stay in Kyoto
Daiwa Roynet Hotel Kyoto Shijo Karasuma
600-8413 Kyoto Kyoto Shimogyo-ku Karasuma-dori Bukkoji kudaru Omandokoro-cho Japan
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Hotel MyStays Kyoto Shijo
52 Kasaboko-cho, Shijo-dori Aburanokoji Higashi-iru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto 600-8494, Japan
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205-1 Okuracho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-0861, Kyoto
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Japan has so much to offer travelers and the beautiful city of Kyoto is only the beginning of an amazing Japan trip. I hope this 1-day Kyoto itinerary has provided you with useful information for your trip and that you have had a wonderful time exploring the ancient city of Kyoto. Thanks for following along and safe travels!