Located in central Honshu, just an hour from Osaka, Kyoto was once Japan’s imperial capital for over a thousand years. Offering an insight into old Japan, Kyoto is home to spectacular gardens, quiet temples, colourful shrines and striking geishas. Once nicknamed the ‘City of Ten Thousand Shrines’, Kyoto is renowned as one of Japan’s most beautiful cities. Although most first impressions of the city are of its central urban sprawl, it doesn’t take long to discover the hidden beauty of parks and temples which lie on the outskirts of the city centre. There is much more to Kyoto holidays than meets the eye and you will find yourself making new discoveries every day. You bound to uncover secret temples, interesting shops or excellent places to eat each day.
One of the most bike-friendly cities in the world, Kyoto is surrounded by mountains and offers excellent hiking opportunities. Kyoto is really the perfectly sized city, not too big but not too small and with plenty to see, do and experience. There are many Kyoto attractions to enjoy, however it is the city’s temples which are the biggest attraction. In fact, Kyoto is said to be home to more than 1000 Buddhist temples and some of the true masterpieces showcasing this religious architecture includes the famous Golden Pavilion as well as the vast Higashi Hongan-ji. Fushimi-Inari-Taisha is also the most spectacular shrine in Kyoto with incredible vermillion gates (torii). Within these temple precincts you’ll also find breathtaking gardens and monuments of faith.
Despite its modest size, Kyoto offers an excellent range of restaurants with everything from traditional Japanese to the intricately refined kaiseki and the basic but delicious ramen. There is also a surprising array of Chinese, Italian and French restaurants. Many of Kyoto’s restaurants are located within wooden buildings offering lovely views of private gardens. Kyoto also offers an interesting insight into the old Japanese way of life. See old ladies ladle water onto their stoops in the textile district of Nishijin, join locals at a public bath (sento) for a soak and admire ancient specialty stores like pickle vendors, tofu sellers and fish mongers at an old shopping street (shotengai).
The changing seasons of Kyoto is part of the city’s charm and are denoted by the hair ornaments worn by geishas. Celebrating the natural world, the geisha change the ornaments worn in their hair 12 times a year. A cacophony of colour, flowers bloom from February including cherries, wisteria, plums, azaleas, daphnes and camellias. The new green of April (shinryoku) is also spectacular, as is the incredible autumn foliage in November.