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Kyoto 2 Days Itinerary – Best City Highlights in 48 Hours

by Viola
Kyoto 2 Days Itinerary

Gentle, traditional, stunning, Kyoto is a city in Japan that you would want to visit again and again. There are so many sites to see here that even a week is not too much. However, if 2 days is all you got, it’s still possible to experience the best of Kyoto. I have been to Kyoto twice, and each time I was blown away by its beauty. This Kyoto 2 days itinerary gathers all the must visit spots for first time visitors. The schedule is tight but manageable if you are organized. (Spoiler: expect to wake up early everyday) Make sure to grab the printable PDF version of the itinerary at the end of the post!

*Psst this post contains affiliate links, which means, at no extra cost to you, I may earn a commission if you make a purchase. Thanks for supporting!

 

The Best Time to go to Kyoto

tenryuji temple autumn leaves Kyoto 2 Days Itinerary

Kyoto is no doubt the most beautiful during spring cherry blossom season (from late March to early April), and second most beautiful during autumn foliage (from early November to early December). The downside is, the rest of the world knows it too and millions of tourists flock to Kyoto in these two seasons. This means higher hotel prices and crowd everywhere you go. It’s still worth it though! Avoid July and August as the heat makes it very difficult to walk around. I last visited in mid-June and was blessed with fair weather that was not too hot and not too cold. Whatever season you decide to go, make sure to plan ahead as early as possible for best accommodation and flight options.

Related Read: Tokyo Osaka Kyoto – 7 Days Japan Itinerary

 

How to get to Kyoto

If you are coming from Osaka, there are many JR lines available from Shin-Osaka Station to Kyoto Station including: Tokaido-Sanyo line, Haruka line, Thunderbird line. The ride takes 24 minutes on all of these lines. I recommend the Tokaido-Sanyo line since it only cost 560 yen while the other two each cost 1,930 yen.  If you are in a rush, you can take the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen instead (not to be confused with the Tokaido-Sanyo JR). The Shinkansen will get you to  Kyoto in 14 minutes for a more expensive price of 3,220 yen. If you have the Japan Rail Pass, you don’t have to worry about the cost since it’s all covered. Go ahead and take the Shinkansen and experience the impressive efficiency of a Japanese bullet train.

 

japan jr pass

 

 

Day 1 –Morning

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Arashiyama bamboo forest Kyoto 2 Days ItineraryRise and shine for a stroll in Arashiyama Bamboo Grove around 7 am. This is one of the most photographed spots in Kyoto. The tall stalks of bamboos are absolutely awe-inspiring and look almost otherworldly in the bright morning light. Enjoy the peacefulness of the forest and take as many photos as you want undisturbed, before the other tourists start arriving.

Opening hours: 24/7
Admission: Free

 

Tenryuji Temple

tenryuji temple Kyoto 2 Days Itinerary

After getting that perfect Insta shot in the bamboo grove, be the first guest to enter Tenryuji Temple (right next to the bamboo grove). The Tenryuji Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The main pond is especially beautiful during autumn when you can see reflection of the colorful foliage in the water. Take in the meticulously maintained gardens, the giant carps swimming happily, and the general zen vibes of the grounds.

Opening hours: 8:30am-5:30pm normally (until 5 pm from late October to late March)
Admission: Free Other than the Hojo Garden.

Hojo Garden *Open 9am-5pm normally (until 4:30 pm from late October to late March)
Adults and College and High school students: 500 yen
Junior high and elementary school students: 300 yen

 

Monkey Park

monkey park arashiyama kyoto 2 day itinerary

A 12 minutes walk away from Tenryuji is the famous Iwatayama Monkey Park. After a short hike up the hill, you will come face to face with countless monkeys. Unlike in the zoo, these little fur balls are not caged here. It’s fascinating to watch them roaming freely, going about their business, swinging from trees to trees, picking lints off each other, and eating treats from tourists. You can buy some apples to feed them yourself. The view of the city from top of the hill is also incredible.

Opening hours: 9 am-5 pm normally (until 4 pm from late October to late March)
Admission: Free

 

Lunch at Arashiyama Yoshimura

Togetsukyou bridge Kyoto

Have lunch at Arashiyama Yoshimura, a popular soba shop that is 5 minutes walk away from Monkey park. There are several lunch set options, “Tenzaru Zen” is a colorful and delicious set with homemade soba noodles, pickled vegetables, rice and tempura. The restaurant features an authentic traditional Japanese atmosphere, and you can see the gorgeous Togetsukyou Bridge. Talk about lunch with a view!

Opening hours: 11 am – 5 pm

 

Day 1 – Afternoon

Kinkakuji

After lunch, head to the renowned Kinkakuji Temple, AKA the Golden Pavilion. Travel time is about 45 minutes by public transport (take bus 93 from Arashiyama bus stop and change to bus 205 at Emmachi station). Alternatively, taxi will take about 25 minutes, which will save you a lot of time. No matter which transport mode you choose, this impressive structure is a must on any Kyoto itinerary. Because….Gold! Overlooking a large pond, the extravagant Kinkakuji shimmers in the sunlight. Although it’s not possible to enter the pavilion, you can admire the architecture from the outside. Beware that it’s always quite crowded here unless you go in the early morning.

Opening Hours: 9 am – 5 pm
Admission: 400 yen

 

Ginkakuji

ginkakuji temple kyoto

Ginkakuji is kind of the sister shrine of Kinkakuji. Yes those two names are confusing…I still have to think twice about which one I’m talking about everytime TBH. Anyhow, Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion, features beautiful moss garden and dry sand garden. You can tell that every pine tree and rock is delicately cared for here. Relish in a peaceful walk around the grounds.

Opening hours: 8:30 am – 5 pm normally (9 am – 4:30 pm December to February)
Admission: 500 yen

 

Philosopher’s Path

philosopher"s path kyoto

From Ginkakuji, stroll down the Philosopher’s Path. The route’s name comes a famous Japanese Philosopher, Nishida Kitaro, who used to walk this path daily during his commute to Kyoto university. The path follows along a canal and is lined with many cherry blossom trees. It’s a pleasant walk year round but especially dreamy in the spring when the sakura flowers are in full bloom. It takes about 30 minutes to get to Nanzenji temple, the other end of the path (photo taking time not include). Depends on how tired you are at this point, you can decide whether or not to complete the route.

Opening hours: 24/7
Admission: FREE

 

And that’s the end of the first day! Eat dinner at a restaurant of your choice, or just pick up a yummy bento from the convenience store (This is what I live on! So cheap and tasty). Head back to your hotel for rest. Tomorrow is another busy day!

 

Day 2-Morning

Fushimi Inari Taisha

fushimi inari taisha kyoto 2 days itinerary

Start the morning at Fushimi Inari Taisha. Similar to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, this Insta famous landmark gets packed in the afternoon so it’s best to visit as early as possible (Before 8 am preferably). Fushimi Inari is an important Shinto shrine dedicated to Inari, the God of rice. Most people come to hike the red tori gates covered trail that leads all the way to the summit of the mountain. The entire walk and back takes 2-3 hours but you can walk as far as you like and turn back. Since we are on a Kyoto 2 day itinerary with limited time, it’s recommended to spend no more than an hour and a half here.

Fishimi Inari Fun facts:
Did you know that all the red toriis are donations from merchants and companies? The writings on the gates indicate these donners. Although Inari is the god of rice, it has long been worshipped as a patron of business.
Also, foxes are thought to be the messengers of Inari. So look out for various fox sculptures on the ground of the shrine. How many can you find?

Opening hours: 24/7
Admission: Free

 

Kimono Rental

What better way to experience the culture of Japan/Kyoto than to trying on a traditional kimono? I highly recommend booking ahead of time with Yumeyakata. You can customize your outfits with over 500 kimono selections, a variety of obi belts and colorful accessories. The staff members are professional and speak several languages including English and Chinese. Discounted price on Klook starts at only 2,900 yen. I was in love with the red kimono I rented. After getting all dolled up, you can walk around Kyoto and model your fancy attire. Let’s make all your friends jealous with some fabulous photos. 😛

Opening hours: 10am-7:30 pm

For a detailed guide on renting kimono in Kyoto, including proper etiquettes, check out Kiyoko’s article on Footsteps of A Dreamer

 

Kiyomizu Dera

Kiyomizu Dera Kyoto 2 days itinerary

Take the bus to Kiyomizu Dera. The vibrant architecture and nature makes an epic backdrop for your kimono photoshoot. Hope you have those graceful poses ready! This temple’s name literally means “pure water”. It is one of the most iconic temples in Japan and another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although the main hall is going under construction for its roof until March 2020, it’s still worth visiting.  Check out the Jishu Shrine, a place to pray for love. And make sure to take a sip at the Otowa Waterfall, where its three streams of water each promises longevity, academic success, and great love life.

Opening hours: 6 am – 6 pm (until 6:30 pm on weekends and holidays from mid April to July and everyday in August and September).
Admission: 400 yen

 

Day 2 –Afternoon

Higashiyama District

kiyomizu yaki kyoto

Explore the Higashiyama District that oozes the vibe of old Japan. Walk on narrow stone lanes, browse through merchant shops in traditional wooden buildings. Check out pottery shops selling “Kiyomizu Yaki”, a pottery style that originated from Kiyomizu Dera. These hand painted teacups and dish ware are so kawaii that you may be unable to resist picking up a few. There are also a variety of sweets shops, souvenir shops, and restaurants. Here would be a good place to grab lunch!

 

Yasaka Shrine

After a bit of rest, walk to Yasaka Shrine. Also known as the Gion Shrine, it is right next to the popular Gion District. This colorful shrine is the hosting place of Gion Matsuri, the most well-known summer festival in Japan that takes place in July.

Opening Hours: 24/7
Admission: Free

 

Gion

matcha ice cream kyoto japan

Want to know where can you spot geishas in Kyoto? Try your luck in the Gion district. Geishas are traditional Japanese artists trained in entertaining guests with dance and music performances. If you are a peasant like me and are not invited to one of the lavish private parties where maikos/geikos entertain, you can still get a taste of the culture at Gion Corner Theatre at Yasaka Hall. Here, geisha experiences are put on for tourists twice daily at 7 and 8 pm, March to November. Other than trying to stalk geishas, the Gion area itself is wonderful for strolling around. Pay attention to the wooden merchant shops, tea houses, and adorable looking eateries. Psst here’s your chance to find some matcha ice cream! For ladies and gents who are into beauty and skin care, visit the Yojija store. Yojiya is a famous cosmetic brand from Kyoto. Their facial oil blotting paper and make up setting powder are amazing!

Opening Hours: 24/7
Admission: Free

 

You may also like:  Japan on a Budget – An Insider’s Guide to Saving Like a Boss

 

Landmark Map of Kyoto 

 

Where to stay in Kyoto

Looking for accommodation in Kyoto? Check out these great options:

Centurion Cabin & Spa Kyoto 

  • Excellent location and cheap price   Rating 8.5 / Estimated price $25 USD

Nine Hours Kyoto

  • Unique capsule hotel experience. Great for solo travelers   Rating 8.3 / Estimated price $59 USD

THE POCKET HOTEL Kyoto Shijo Karasuma 

  • Well located and clean hotel popular amongst female travelers Rating 9.0/ Estimated price $22 USD

Daiwa Royal Hotel Grande Kyoto

  • Rated #1 Best Value Place to Stay in Kyoto on Tripadvisor   Rating 9.0/Estimated price $115 USD

Gion Maifukan 

  • Traditional Japanese style guesthouse located in Kyoto’s historic city center   Rating 9.3 /Estimated price $182 USD

 

Want more options? Search for Kyoto accommodation deals on booking.com. Psst get $16 off your first booking when you register through my link.

 

You may also like:  27 Smart Ways to Travel for Cheap (or Free)!

 

Kyoto 2 Days Itinerary PDF Printable

And that’s it! Although this Kyoto 2 Days Itinerary is jammed packed, it can definitely be accomplished. If you ever have the chance to visit Kyoto again, I beg you to allow yourself more days. With some extra time, you can do things such as take a day trip to beautiful Nara.

To help you further, I’ve made a PDF version of this itinerary that you can print out and bring with you on your trip. Enter your email below to get the download link in your inbox. By signing up, you will also receive the TBB newsletter where I share monthly travel tips, new itineraries, and exclusive goodies like free printables.

Kyoto 2 days itinerary pdf

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Going to Japan soon? Plan your trip in 4 easy steps

Book A Flight: Find the cheapest flights on Skyscanner, my go-to search engine. 
Find A Hotel: Score affordable accommodation on Booking.comReceive $16 off your first booking with my link here
Buy insurance: You never know what may happen on the road. Protect your trip & gear with World Nomad, the best travel insurance company ever. Get a quote here.

Read up on the best advice: Love a good old fashion guide book. Suggested reading: Lonely Planet: Japan Travel Guide

 

If you want more Japan travel inspiration, make sure to check out my Japan Instagram Story Highlights.

 

Bon voyage!

 

 

 

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22 comments

Zainab rizvi June 28, 2018 - 2:18 am

I would love to visit New Zealand.its my dream destination

Reply
Viola June 28, 2018 - 2:28 am

Yes such a beautiful country! I’ve been there twice but would definitely go back a third time 😛

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Heather M June 28, 2018 - 11:58 am

Thank you for the great article. I’m headed to Kyoto next weekend!

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Heather M June 28, 2018 - 12:03 pm

Thank you for the detailed post. I’m headed to Kyoto next weekend and I’m so excited!
Heather

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Chavvi June 28, 2018 - 1:38 pm

Just what I was looking for, thank you! I hope to be visiting Kyoto this autumn 🙂

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Christine King July 12, 2018 - 5:43 am

Kyoto looks so beautiful! We’ll be there next year. I can’t wait to visit!

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Weekend Haven July 12, 2018 - 12:46 pm

I’m missing Kyoto. Been here twice and still can’t get enough. So many places to see.

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Ellis July 12, 2018 - 12:55 pm

What a great and comprehensive post about Kyoto. That green icecream looks interesting. There are so many places where I want to travel next and now Kyoto is one of them, but if I have to choose one it would be Tajikistan

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Queenie July 12, 2018 - 1:20 pm

I went to Kyoto during cherry blossom season but I didn’t rent a kimono! lol! I kind of wished I did – alot of girls rented kimonos and wore it around town and also had photographers taking photos of them. I was the jealous one! lol thanks for sharing such a great itinerary!

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Rachel Silverwood July 12, 2018 - 1:32 pm

Kyoto looks like such a great place to visit – I’d especially like to go to the bamboo forest, totally unique!!

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Anya July 12, 2018 - 1:58 pm

Japan is one of a dream destinations for me and posts like yours help me get a closer look before I go myself. I feel there is so much in Kyoto that I would probably need more than 2 days 🙂

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SecretMoona July 12, 2018 - 2:37 pm

Philosophers’ path along with Fushimi Inari were my favourite places in kyoto. Sadly I have not been to the bamboo forest but hopefully I will be able to later this year when I go in late October, early November! It looks cool.

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Jenny Ventura July 12, 2018 - 3:18 pm

That bamboo forest looks incredible! All of your photos are gorgeous – looks like a great trip!

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Erica July 12, 2018 - 4:23 pm

I love the pics you got for this article! I happened to stumble upon an itinerary today on another website for Osaka and now yours on Kyoto …I think the universe is trying to tell me to visit Japan 😉

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Madhu July 12, 2018 - 4:55 pm

Kyoto looks great and so is the itenerary. You made best use of the time available covering as many places as possible.thanks for sharing great articles and beautiful pics

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Maggie July 12, 2018 - 5:15 pm

What a great itinerary! Kyoto looks beautiful. I’d love to visit that Bamboo forest and the peaceful looking gardens! And your picture of that baby monkey is so cute!!!

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Lyne July 13, 2018 - 3:18 am

I’ve been to Nara but sad’ yet couldn’t make it to Kyoto due to lack of time -shame. It looks absolutely stunning, definitely exploring Kyoto on my next trip! Thanks for sharing

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Michelle July 13, 2018 - 8:56 pm

I have literally booked my next trip to Singapore (Solo travelling!) after reading your post on all the amazing things to see and do in Singapore. I got so excited!!! Im not one for taking selfies (too self concious!) at the Instagrammable areas but i love photography and i think it will be awesome to get there early before anyone else and have the whole place to myself to try and get the best pic. Thanks for the awesome tips Viola!

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Andrea Mayfield July 15, 2018 - 12:05 am

I am dying to go there! I have always wanted to see the Bamboo forest as well! great photos!

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Mariana January 12, 2019 - 11:37 pm

Hi, great itinerary, thank you for sharing.
I have a question about the kimono rental. After renting, you went on the bus to Kiyomizu Dera, does this man you wore the kimono all day? Or did you just take photos and return it?

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Viola January 12, 2019 - 11:47 pm

Hi Mariana, yes we wore the kimono pretty much all day from 11 am to 6 pm. Thankfully, the weather was not hot on the day we went. It can get uncomfortable after awhile. It’s completely up to you how long you would like to wear the kimono and return it. In the summer, the rental shops provide yukatas, which is a lighter version of a kimono. 🙂

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Mariana January 13, 2019 - 12:28 am

Thank you. I guess we will see how hot it is on the day and decide.

Reply

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