A Helpful Guide For Your Trip to Kyoto
Where to stay
Personally, if you are planning to stay anywhere in or near Kyoto, I recommend Arashiyma park. Of all the places I visited, it was by far my favorite and the most beautiful place there. There's also plenty to do there. They have Bamboo Forest, Monkey Park, and boat rides down a gorgeous river. There is also a Bengal Cat and Owl cafe right off the main road on the way to Bamboo forest.
However, if you cannot stay in Arashiyama or even Kyoto, Namba station in Osaka is still fairly close to Kyoto and is a major station with plenty to do nearby.
First Stop, Arashimaya Monkey Park
As you can tell by my opening, I deeply enjoyed Arashiyama as a city. I would recommend this as a first stop since there's a lot to do here and it's a bit further south so it's easy and convenient to work your way across Kyoto from here.
I recommend going to Monkey park first since they have a time frame for when you can visit and it's the closest attraction to the station.
This place is excellent for both children and adults. On the way up the mountain there is a playground with a slide and some swings and there is a feeding area at the top of the mountain where you can view the monkeys. They also have an excellent view of Kyoto from the mountain.
However, please make sure to follow the signs at the park and DO NOT pet the monkeys. They will also let you know in English and Japanese not to stare at the monkeys and to keep your distance.
Their hours are the following:
3/15 to 9/30: 9:00-16:30 (Sometimes until 17:00 during peak summer times)
10/1 to 3/14: 9:00-16:00 (You can stay at the top until 16:30)
Adults: 550 yen
Children(4-15): 250 yen
Arashiyama Monkey ParkClick thumbnail to view full-size
Arashiyama Monkey Park
Next up, Bamboo Forest
After Monkey park, I suggest taking the walk down to Bamboo Forest. The attraction is free and at the end of the path there's a lovely shrine as well. There are several food booths and shops along the way. You will also pass by the Bengal Cat and Owl cafe if you choose to venture inside. The Bamboo forest is excellent if you're looking for a leisurely walk and want to pay a visit to the shrine. I would consider this excellent for a short activity towards the end of the day.
Bamboo ForestClick thumbnail to view full-size
A Classic Sight, Fushimi Inari Taisha
I always try to see some of the classic sights to see if they live up to expectations shown online. Fushimi Inari Taishi definitely delivered. It's picturesque with the several different types of shrines and red gates circling the path all the way up to the top of the mountain. Even at night, the area is pretty well lit and there are visitors milling about. But watch out for live foxes that may be wandering in the area.
It's a beautiful hike and a must see for Kyoto. While I didn't make it to the type of the mountain, I still highly recommend this for hiking or general sightseeing.
Fushimi Inari-TaishaClick thumbnail to view full-size
Fushimi Inari Taisha
Kaleidoscope and Manga Museums in Kyoto
My last major stop I would recommend for Kyoto is museums. They have so many of them, but I'm going to mention my favorite ones here.
First off is the Kaleidoscope museum. I found it while wandering Kyoto and it ended up being an excellent visit. While they don't offer the option to take pictures once inside the museum you can pay to make your own Kaleidoscope. Several times throughout the day they will also use a projector to turn the exhibit room itself into a kaleidoscope. These were not your ordinarily kaleidoscopes. Some looked like mini replicas of a beach and others looked like people.
For this museum, they have lockers inside and you have to put your phone inside the lockers. It's 200 yen, but you get the money back when you unlock the locker.
Adults- 300 yen
Elementary and Junior High Students- 200 yen
Last but not least is the Kyoto Manga Museum. They are an excellent place to visit if you love to read manga and want to learn more about the history of manga. Depending on when you go they have different exhibits from featured manga artists and even have a station where you can try to make your own manga panel. The entrance is a bit pricey at 800 yen for adults, but it's well worth it.
This museum has an abundance of seating areas where you can read their vast collections of manga. While this is more beneficial to those who read Japanese, there is also a smaller English section on the first floor. I personally read the ending to a manga series I had been reading and started another series called the Phantom Theif Jeanne. Overall, this was an excellent exhibit with plenty to do for both kids and adults and I would highly recommend it.
Adults- 800 yen
High School and Junior High School- 300 yen
Elementary School- 100 yen
Manga MuseumClick thumbnail to view full-size
Kyoto Kaleidoscope Museum
On my second trip to Kyoto I visited some more of the cities sites such as Nijo-jo Castle, Kinkaku-ji temple, and Kyoto Tower. It was a lot of fun and the places I saw were definitely worth a visit.
The first place I visited was Kinkaku-ji Temple or the golden temple. I would say of all the places it was definitely the most crowded which made it a little difficult to enjoy it at times.
However, the temple itself was absolutely gorgeous and they had an amazing tea house where I hid out from the cold and enjoyed some delicious tea and a little dessert with gold leafing on it. To have dessert and tea at the tea house was about 500 yen and well worth it.
Just on the way to the temple there's also an ice cream shop where you can get ice cream with edible gold leafing coating it. It's 900 yen for the ice cream and it's delicious. It was a cool experience and worth a try.
Adults: 400 yen
Children (elementary and middle school aged): 300 yen
7 days a week- 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Kinkakuji Temple and Gold Leaf Ice creamClick thumbnail to view full-size
The first time I was near Kyoto I ended up getting to Nijo-jo Castle too late. It was already closed. So this time I decided to go. Turns out it was much larger than expecting and there's so such a rich history behind it.
The castle grounds are huge and I could have easily spent hours walking around if I hadn't arrived so close to closing. It wasn't nearly as crowded as Kinkakuji Temple so it gave me a little break from the crowds as well. I definitely recommend visiting the castle if you're in the area. the main castle is also wheelchair accessible.
However, navigating the castle grounds may be a bit of a hassle with a wheelchair since the walkways are mostly gravel.
8:45 a.m. - 4 p.m. (the castle closes at 5 p.m.)
*Ninomaru Palace viewing hours are 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
General admission- ￥400
Junior high school, high school, Primary school- ￥200
Finally, you can head over to Kyoto Tower to get a nice view of the city at night. If you look carefully, you may even be able to spot the 5 story pagoda from the observatory. I would recommend making this stop towards the end of your day since the view is much nicer at night and it is one of the places open the latest.
While you're there you can get your fortune in Japanese or English for 100 yen and there is a also a vending machine where you can buy charms for good luck in friendships and in love. It's in the mall area just near the station so it's a good last stop before heading back to your hotel if you're staying in Osaka or near Kyoto station.