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How to Tackle Kyoto as a First Timer

How to Tackle Kyoto as a First Timer

Kyoto is an unmissable stop on the itinerary of any first-time visitor to Japan, seducing with its ancient temples and shrines and serene Zen gardens. Ensure your visit goes as smoothly as possible by following our top tips for your first time in Japan’s ancient capital. 

Get an Early Start

Kyoto can get overwhelmingly crowded with tourists at times, so ensure a hassle-free experience by booking a tour that visits the most popular attractions early. Stroll around the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove before the tour groups arrive, visit the Temple of the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji temple) right as it opens, and walk through the torii gates of Fushimi Inari Shrine before it gets packed. 

Experience Traditional Culture

Kyoto is one of the best places in Japan to experience the Japanese arts. Packages are available that combine watching a range of performances, includingmaiko (apprentice geisha) dancing, flower arrangement, court music, and puppet theater, with a tea ceremony and dinner. 

Deepen Your Knowledge

You’ll enjoy a much richer experience of the temples, shrines, and gardens that make Kyoto famous if you learn about the traditions and practices behind them. A scholar-led walking tour focused on Shinto and Buddhism or garden and landscape design can fill you in.

Ditch the Crowds

When the masses of tourists get to be too much, head off the beaten path on a bicycle tour of Kyoto’s hidden side, and discover intimate Zen gardens and charming backstreets known only to locals.

Go to Samurai School

Learn the skills of the samurai in a class studying the basic techniques of these ancient Japanese warriors. Especially popular with families, courses typically include a photo session in samurai costume and a certificate of completion.

Take a Bite out of the Food Scene

Don’t leave Kyoto without trying some local specialties, such as obanzai (homestyle cooking) and sake. A guided walking tour can take you to some of the city’s best food spots, including some hole-in-the-wall eateries and hidden watering holes that most visitors miss.

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6 Tours and Activities | All Kyoto Tours

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Kyoto Early Bird Tour

Kyoto Early Bird Tour

star-5
Kyoto is one of Japan’s most popular travel destinations and with over 50 million annual visitors, it can get busy. This tour makes an early start so you can avoid the crowds and cram much more into your day. Stroll around the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove before the tour groups arrive, visit Kinkaku-ji temple (Golden Pavilion) right as it opens, and walk through the torii gates of Fushimi Inari (Shrine) before the midday heat.
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  • 5 hours 15 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$132.18
Price varies by group size
From
$132.18
Price varies by group size
Taking safety measures

Hidden Kyoto E-Biking tour

Hidden Kyoto E-Biking tour

star-5
Cycle past a mix of Kyoto’s most-famous sights and its lesser-known secrets during this half-day ‘Hidden Kyoto’ bike tour. Take a 4.9-mile (8-kilometer) ride that starts by winding past iconic Kyoto temples and shrines like Kinkakuji, Koto-in, and Kitano Tenmagu. You’ll continue ‘off the beaten path,’ discovering intimate Zen gardens and charming backstreets known only to locals.
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  • 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$100.42
From
$100.42
Taking safety measures

Kyoto Night Foodie Tour

Kyoto Night Foodie Tour

star-5
Get a deeper experience of Kyoto food culture than would be possible on your own by joining this guided tour. Stroll through the districts of Gion and Pontocho, stopping in to small bars and restaurants to sample traditional drinks and food, as you explore.
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  • 3 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$116.32
From
$116.32
Taking safety measures

Kyoto Morning Tour - Golden Pavilion and Kyoto Imperial Palace from Kyoto

Kyoto Morning Tour - Golden Pavilion and Kyoto Imperial Palace from Kyoto

star-4
Marvel at the some of the top UNESCO World Heritage-listed temples and palaces of ancient Kyoto on this half-day tour. This quick introduction to the sights of Kyoto covers Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion), and the Japanese Emperor’s former Imperial Palace—a perfect way to see the city if you’re short on time. Your guided morning Kyoto excursion includes entrance fees and transport between sites by coach.
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  • 4 hours 30 minutes
  • Taking safety measures
From
$69.52
From
$69.52
Taking safety measures

Samurai School and Show in Kyoto: Samurai for a Day

Samurai School and Show in Kyoto: Samurai for a Day

star-5
Prepare for battle as you learn the skills of the samurai during this 1- or 2-hour class studying the basic techniques of these ancient Japanese warriors. Take the 1-hour session, providing an introduction to the basics of the samurai art, or choose the 1.5-hour course, practicing more complex movements using a sword and folding fan. When your class ends, enjoy a photo session with your samurai costume and receive a certificate of completion.  This samurai session also includes an English-speaking guide and instructor and a 'tenugui,' a traditional Japanese towel.
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  • 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$97.91
From
$97.91
Taking safety measures

Private Highlights of Kyoto Tour

Private Highlights of Kyoto Tour

star-4.5
Immerse yourself in the cultural and architectural splendor of Kyoto on this private tour, ideal for first-time visitors. Choose from two different routes, both of which cover major Kyoto attractions including Nijo Castle and Kiyomizu Temple, and explore the city with a personal guide. On the northwest-bound route, you’ll visit the Golden Pavilion, Nishiki Food Market, and the bamboo groves of Arashiyama Park. Alternatively, the southeast course covers the Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kiyomizu Temple, and the Gion area. Receive undivided attention from your guide on this private tour. 
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  • 7 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$224.07
Price varies by group size
From
$224.07
Price varies by group size