Kyoto is one of the prettiest and most iconic cities to visit in Japan and it must be on your Japan itinerary! There are lots of things to do in Kyoto and places to visit in Kyoto but if you only have one day in Kyoto, that’s ok, you can see many of these on a Kyoto 1 day itinerary.
There are many reasons you may spend just 1 day in Kyoto, for me, it was because I was in Japan in Cherry Blossom season so accommodation in Kyoto was really expensive. Therefore I decided to base myself in Osaka and do an Osaka to Kyoto day trip to ensure I could still see the temples and Kyoto attractions I desperately wanted to see!
In this Kyoto one day itinerary I am going to tell you how to visit the most iconic places to visit in Kyoto like the Fushimi Inari Shrine, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Gion District, Kyoto Palace, Kyoto Park in the perfect Kyoto itinerary!
Kyoto 1 Day Itinerary
Things To Do in Kyoto in One Day
The two main, popular and iconic places to visit in Kyoto, in my opinion, are the Fushimi Inari Shrine and Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. They have been made even more famous thanks to Instagram and Instagram often shows you photos with no one else in them making you think that you will see this too.
Well, if you want to see that you need to get to them early!
Of course, I could only visit one of the two sites early because I was on a one day trip to Kyoto!
After looking on a map I realised that Fushimi Inari Shrine and Arashiyama Bamboo Grove are opposite ends of Kyoto to each other and that Fushimi Inari Shrine is much closer to Kyoto Station, so I decided to go there first and on your 1 day Kyoto itinerary, I recommend you do too whether you are staying overnight in Kyoto or not.
- More of my Must Read Japan Posts:
- How to do a Day Trip to Kyoto from Osaka!
- Free Things To Do in Japan’s Most Popular Cities To Visit!
- Visiting Himeji Castle on a Day Trip or via Hiroshima.
- My Guide to Kobe City & Why You Should Visit!
- Things To Do In Takayama & Why You Should Visit!
Fushimi Inari Shrine
If you are taking a day trip to Kyoto from Osaka like myself or perhaps from Kobe, to get to Fushimi Inari Shrine from Kyoto Station when you get off the train head to the ‘JR Nara Line D’ Train on platforms 8-10. Check the train before you get on as you need to get the local train, not the rapid train as the rapid train does not stop at Inari.
The train from Kyoto Station to Inari Station takes 5 or so minutes and the station exit is across the road from the Temple Entrance so by 9:00 am, I was there!
Kyoto Travel Tip – If you want to see those iconic and very impressive Torii Gates with minimal people on your Kyoto 1 day itinerary, when you arrive do not spend time seeing the Temples at the bottom, head straight up the hill to the Torii Gates and follow them up for as long as you can!
I was really surprised by how long the Torii Gates go on for, they keep going and going! I turned around after about 30 minutes of walking but I could have gone much further. I didn’t expect the pathway to be such an incline either but it is although luckily there are quite a few stopping points on the way.
Kyoto Travel Tip – If you want to get a photo in the Torii Gates of the Inari Shrine with no people in it you need to keep walking, the further you get, the fewer people there are, however, this also depends on the time of day.
Alternatively to get a photo at the Inari Torii Gates with no one else in it, just take a selfie and block other people with your head as I have!
One Day Trip Kyoto
If you would prefer to see Kyoto with a guide or combine your trip with a tour of Kyoto, these Kyoto tours all have good reviews and are reasonable in price. Kyoto holds so much history that a day out with a guide would be a good idea and going on the Kyoto hop on, hop off bus will make seeing Kyoto in one day much easier too:
By 10:00 am I was back down at the base by the Temples and the day tour groups of Kyoto were arriving which made it so much busier and I was so glad I got there at 9:00 am.
The Fushimi Inari Shrine does not shut so technically you can get there as early as you like and I recommend getting there as early as possible on your 1 day Kyoto itinerary/
Kyoto Street Food
Outside the Temple are Street food vendors selling lots of different foods. In fact, there’s lots of street food in Kyoto outside the tourist spots which is actually really nice and a great way to eat on the go and eat some fairly cheap eats too. I got an Okonomi Yaki which was really good for 500Yen which I don’t think is too bad for a popular Kyoto tourist site.
If you would prefer to sit down and get breakfast or brunch, or even just a coffee after that walk, a nice looking cafe close to Inari Shrine is Vermillion.
JAPAN SIM CARD
If you prefer eSIM’s these days, here’s a great option for an eSIM Mobile Data Plan in Japan so you’re connected as soon as you land without the hassle of swapping sims and waiting for connection.
JAPAN RAIL PASS
I’m sure you know, or have heard, that the Japan Rail Pass is the best value for getting around Japan!
There are many providers for the JR Pass but this is the official provider and the one I used.
Not sure how the JR Pass works and wondering if it will save you money?
I then headed to Fushimi Inari Station Railway which is across the across and different to the station I got off at and headed a few stops on the metro North to Gion Shijo. To use the metro/subway in Kyoto you can either by individual tickets or use a top-up Icoca Card.
The Gion District is Kyoto’s famous Geisha District and an old area of Kyoto so it a must-see in Kyoto in one day. For me, this is what I imaged not only Kyoto to be like but Japan too. Especially after reading the book Memoirs of a Geisha which I read a few years ago and really recommend to you if you haven’t read it.
There’s a river running through the Gion area of Kyoto with small traditional wooden merchant houses lining the streets. Because I was there at the start of April the Cherry Blossoms were also out in full bloom and it was extremely picturesque and a must-visit place in Kyoto!
It’s said that you are very lucky in Japan if you see a real Geisha, especially here in Kyoto, however, what you will most definitely see a lot of is tourists who have either hired Kimono’s which you can do here to save looking around many different shops or have had a full Geisha Makeover in Gion which you can book here, taking photos in the old backstreets of the area. Dressing up as a Geisha is possible with 1 day in Kyoto!
From Gion, I walked along the Shirakawa River in a loop until it reaches the main Kamo River detouring via Okazaki Park and the Temple next to it and I really enjoyed this walk as it took me through a mix of buildings and the river kept changing shape and looks at every turn, so I would recommend you follow the same walkthrough Gion, Kyoto on your kyoto 1 day itinerary as there are all things to see in Kyoto in one day.
Walking alongside the wide Kamo River was absolutely stunning, I did not realise this side of Kyoto existed. In both directions of the running river ahead of me I could see the Mountains and I knew that the City of Kyoto was spread out between them.
Kamo River was a lovely place to walk in Kyoto and it took me to Kyoto Park which is a huge rectangular Park in the Centre of Kyoto occupying a lot of space and is a nice place to walk around or enjoy a picnic in.
Kyoto Castle and Palace
Next up is another popular place to visit in Kyoto and that is Kyoto Castle and Palace aka Nijo Castle and Ninomaru Palace.
Unfortunately, this is not one of the free things to do in Kyoto and a ticket is needed to get into the Castle and Palace gates. The cost of entry to Kyoto Castle is 600Yen and 1000Yen for the Castle and Palace combined ticket.
I decided not to pay to enter as it was extremely busy and I was tight on time with only 1 day in Kyoto but the Castle was a good walking point to head to and I enjoyed walking the smaller streets that led me from Kyoto Park to Kyoto Castle.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
To end your day in Kyoto, lastly head to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove which is the Kyoto Bamboo Forest. The reason I say to end here is because it is quite far out of the Centre of Kyoto.
To get to the Kyoto Bamboo Grove by public transport, at Kyoto Castle I got on the subway at Nijojo Mae Station and carried on to the end of the line to Uzumasa-Tenjingawa Station and then got on another subway line to Arashiyama Station.
When getting the train to the Bamboo Forest in Kyoto, if you are getting a JR Line Train, be sure not to get on a rapid train as it doesn’t stop at Saga Arashiyama so make sure you check you’re getting a local train!
Kyoto Travel Tip – If you have a JR Pass, wherever possible always look for a JR line instead of a subway so you get the journey included in your pass and do not need to pay extra.
I knew the Bamboo Forest in Kyoto would be busy any other time than first thing in the morning and it was indeed a total tidal wave of people from the station all the way into the actual forest.
The Bamboo Forest in Kyoto for me had been really hyped up, especially on Instagram and I’ll say that I was a little disappointed in the fact that the actual line of Bamboo Trees that you see so many photos of really is not that long, looking up is of course very impressive and the Bamboo Tree’s are very unique but if it hadn’t been made famous online I don’t think it would be a great place to visit in Kyoto, and if you’re reading this and have no idea about this forest, I would go as far as saying if you only have one day in Kyoto you don’t need to push yourself to visit here.
Aside from the line of Bamboo Tree’s though there are lots of temples and there are more green spaces to wander and relax in, it was just way to busy for me in Cherry Blossom season to really enjoy it like this.
I did, however, enjoy the street food stalls that are located out by the road before the forest entry!
After visiting here I headed back to Saga Arashiyama on the JR line to Kyoto Station and then jumped on another JR train back to Osaka Station at about 16:00 meaning I had a nice day trip to Kyoto and definitely got some serious steps in as well as seeing this beautiful City.
JAPAN ON A BUDGET
Japan isn’t the cheapest country to travel but you can save money in Japan, here are my budget tips for Japan:
Here’s my 2 week Japan itinerary for first time visitors which will help you plan yours and you can adapt it whether you’re in Japan or longer or less time.
Accommodation in Kyoto
If you are able to stay in Kyoto for 1 or 2 nights, this is a great idea as it will mean you will have more time to explore in the morning and evening rather than taking the train back to Osaka.
Nice Hostels and Hotels I walked past and can see online have good reviews are:
For more accommodation in Kyoto, have a look at Booking.com here.
To SEE my day trip to Kyoto, watch my Youtube video here: