Kyoto Tourist Attractions and Sightseeing

(Kyoto, Kansai, Central Honshu, Japan)

Picture of Geisha girls walking around GionContrary to popular belief, the city of Kyoto is not all about ancient temples, shrines and white-faced geishas, though these attractions are what draw most visitors and tourists. As one of Japan's centres of culture, the sheer number of tourist attractions in Kyoto is quite overwhelming.

Whilst the city's religious sites and famous villas are simply stunning, there are a few fun-based attractions that make for a good alternative to these historically intriguing sightseeing options. But if geisha-spotting is your number one objective, get ready for a whale of a time following the clacking of their clogs in the Gion district. Kyoto's main tourist attractions are detailed below.

Further view of Gion


Address: Gion, Kyoto, Japan, JP
Home to geishas, this district of Kyoto is one of the city's true highlights and top tourist attractions. Characterised by narrow flagstone-paved streets and traditional wooden buildings, this is the place in which you are most likely to catch a glimpse of one of these white-faced, beautifully dressed beauties as they scuttle between teahouses. Situated northwest of Kiyomizu, the area to the north of Shijo-dori is especially beautiful, as are Sannen-zaka and Ninen-zaka.
Open hours: daily - 24 hours
Admission: no charge

Picture of the Higashi Honganji

Higashi Honganji

Address: Karasuma dori Shichijo-agaru, Kyoto, 03 600 8167, Japan, JP
Tel: +81 075 371 9181
Unlike many of Kyoto's historical buildings, the centrally located Higashi Honganji is free to visit. Situated within striking distance of Kyoto Station, this is an essential stop off for all visitors. Constructed in 1602 by shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa, the building was intended to rival nearby Nishi Honganji. Its huge gates and buildings, as well as the black rope made from women's hair, (used in the 19th century reconstructions) are sure to impress you, as are the thousands of pigeons that call Higashi Honganji home.
Open hours: daily - 06:00 to 16:30
Admission: no charge

Photo of enclosure at the Municipal Zoo

Kyoto Municipal Zoo

Address: Okazaki Hoshoji-cho, Kyoto, 26 606 8333, Japan, JP
Tel: +81 075 771 0210
A good alternative to Kyoto's historical and religious attractions, the municipal zoo is not just a place to come to look at animals, it is renowned for being one of the best spots to enjoy spring cherry blossom and the turning of the leaves in autumn. Located near Heian Jingu in Okazaki Park, Japan's second-biggest zoo is home to more than 1,000 creatures, including approximately 200 different species, such as lions, lowland gorillas, elephants and apes. It cannot really be compared to Tokyo's zoo, but Kyoto Municipal Zoo does make a good daytrip destination for those with children.
Open hours: Tuesday to Sunday - 09:00 to 17:00
Admission: charge

Photo showing the Kyoto Tower

Kyoto Tower

Address: Karasuma Shichijo-sagaru, Kyoto, 26 600 8216, Japan, JP
Tel: +81 075 361 3211
If you want the best views of the city, scaling Kyoto Tower is a must. From over 130-metres / 427-feet high, you can enjoy the cityscape from the observation deck, while the tower is also an indispensable landmark for navigating your way around the city. Built to resemble a torch, the tower has some quirky novelties, namely a bathhouse at the top. If you prefer to stay dry, consider checking out some of the latest Japanese video games at the arcade.
Open hours: daily - 09:00 to 20:40
Admission: charge

Uzumasa Movie Village

Address: 10 Higashihachioka-cho Uzumasa, Kyoto, 26 616 8161, Japan, JP
Tel: +81 075 864 7716
If you thought Kyoto was all about dusty museums and ancient shrines and temple attractions, you are quite wrong. Home to one of Japan's largest moviemakers, Kyoto's Uzumasa Movie Village has been the setting for all sorts of historical dramas, ninja films, samurai fight scenes and flicks of geishas. Japan's equivalent of Hollywood's Universal Studios makes for an exciting day out. Don't miss the on-site theme park and movie museum.
Open hours: daily - 09:00 to 17:00
Admission: charge, discount for children