5 essential Kyoto experiences 


Once the country’s capital from 794 to 1868, Kyoto remains the country’s cultural capital with its age-old traditions and rich heritage, sat alongside contemporary comforts. From brewing sake to contemplating rock gardens, here are five ways to enrich your trip to this captivating city.  

Peek into the past


Just a five-minute stroll away is Nijo Castle, one of 270 or so fortresses in Japan and one of the historic monuments that make Kyoto a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


A guided tour will reveal parts of the 400-year-old fort that are usually closed to the public, and unveil fascinating insights into the lives of the shoguns – military leaders – who controlled the land during the Edo period (1603 - 1867). 


541 Nijojocho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8301, Japan

Take part in Japanese art


In Japan, the practice of serving tea goes beyond mere hospitality. It has been elevated to an art form. Rooted in Zen Buddhism to bring inner peace and connection between host and guest, the tea ceremony is a ritual involving intricate movements performed in a specific order. 


Share in this meaningful practice when you visit historic teahouses such as Maikoya in the Gion district, set in an atmospheric old wooden townhouse – or machiya. Complement the experience with traditional confectionary known as wagashi, made with mocha, azuki beans, and fruit. 


329 Ebiyacho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto 604-8076, Japan

Contemplate Zen rock arrangements


15 stones on a backdrop of white sand. These simple elements make up the Zen rock garden at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ryoanji Temple – a famous cultural attraction in Kyoto. 


Originally an aristocrat’s villa, the site was converted into a Zen Buddhist temple in 1450, and regularly sees visitors from all over the world. 


13 Ryoanji Goryonoshitacho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8001, Japan

Immerse in a bamboo forest


Step into a peaceful other world at the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, and walk its paths surrounded by towering green stalks – some of which reach heights of up to 20 metres. Located in Kyoto’s Arashiyama district, along the Katsura River, a walk through the park itself is short but can be continued to the nearby 400-year-old wooden Togetsu-kyo Bridge.


Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8385, Japan

Sample world-class sake


To the south of Kyoto lies the sake district of Fushimi, with its tree-lined waterways and old wooden warehouses and shops. Thanks to an underground water source that is soft, mellow and favourable for sake production, it’s no wonder that this area is home to over 30 breweries. Delve into the history and brewing process of this popular Japanese rice wine at the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum. 


Gekkeikan Okura Museum, 247 Minamihamacho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, 612-8043, Japan