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Depart from Kyoto Station! 1-Day Itinerary to Visit 5 World Heritage Sites and Other Famous Locations in Kyoto

While it would be nice to take your time to enjoy Kyoto after travelling a long way, time is limited, so you probably want to see all the best spots in an efficient manner. In order to do so, it is recommended to make use of Kyoto's buses, trains, and subways. With that in mind, here is a model course for sightseeing in Kyoto that departs from Kyoto Station and takes in various popular spots, including 5 World Heritage Sites, while making use of the affordable Kyoto Sightseeing One-day Pass.

Wait! Make Sure to Buy the Following Before Departing

It is recommended to purchase a Kyoto Sightseeing One-day Pass (Adult/1,200 JPY, Child/600 JPY), which allows you to ride the subways and city buses an unlimited amount of times for one day (some areas of Kyoto do not apply). It really is quite a convenient card!
Furthermore, it comes with a guide map with complimentary coupons, making it an even better deal.

You can also download the guide map (updated as of March 19, 2016) at the following links:
(Maps are written primarily in Japanese, but also contain important information in English, Korean, and Chinese)

Kyoto Sightseeing Guide Map (Front)

Kyoto Sightseeing Guide Map (Subway and Bus Route Map)

Start from Kyoto Station and Head to Kinkaku-ji Temple

If you can't figure out where to go first, just head to Kinkaku-ji Temple.
Even those who have seen this temple in photos will be shocked by the otherworldly beauty of it when seen in person.
So, make sure you have your camera ready and head off to the shining, golden Kinkaku-ji Temple to start your journey!

How to get there:
1. Take the Kyoto City Bus 101 toward Nijo-jo Castle - Kitano-Tenmangu Shrine - Kinkakuji Temple from platform B2 of the Kyoto Station Bus Terminal, and get off at the Kinkakuji-michi (Kinkakuji Temple) stop.
2. Take the Kyoto City Bus 205 toward Kinkakuji Temple - Kitaoji Bus Terminal from platform B3 of the Kyoto Station Bus Terminal, and get off at the Kinkakuji-michi (Kinkakuji Temple) stop.

1. Kinkaku-ji Temple (30 - 40 minutes by bus from Kyoto Station)

Official name: Rokuon-ji
The Kinkaku-ji Temple World Heritage Site consists of the golden Kinkaku-ji Temple, originally constructed in 1398, as well as the surrounding garden, and is said to be the worldly manifestation of Amitabha's Pure Land. The original temple was totally lost in a fire in the year 1950, and the current temple is a near identical recreation that was built in 1955. The 2nd and 3rd stories in this elegant 3-story temple are plated in gold, which are the reason why this temple is so famous. Other highlights of the temple include the shining statue of a Ho-o (Chinese phoenix) on the roof, as well as the fact that each of its three floors are constructed in a different architectural style. When snapping a photo, pay attention to the surface of the pond as well, as the "Sakasa Kinkaku" (upside-down Kinkaku-ji) reflected in the water is quite photogenic! Additionally, the view of Kinkaku-ji Temple in the winter, with snow falling all around, is particularly special. The view of the white snow and its contrast with the golden temple will take your breath away!

Opening hours: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Admission fee: 400 JPY/Adult

Estimated visitation time: 30 minutes

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1. Kinkaku-ji Temple (30 - 40 minutes by bus from Kyoto Station)

1 Kinkakuji-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

2. Ryoanji Temple (10 minutes from Kinkaku-ji Temple by bus)

The World Heritage Site Ryoanji Temple was constructed in 1450. The temple grounds include a Karesansui, a Japanese rock garden (a type of garden that recreates nature using rocks, sand, and plants, and without using any water), that is surrounded on three sides by a wall and contains 15 rocks surrounded by white sand. The stones are placed such that no matter where you view the garden from, one of the rocks will always be hidden behind another.
The number 15 represents the idea of perfection in Eastern culture, and the reason that the garden is arranged in such a way that all 15 rocks cannot be seen at once is to convey the concept of imperfection. It is imbued with the idea that we should always look at the imperfections within ourselves and thus never forget to feel gratitude for being alive in each moment.
Actually, it is said that you can see all 15 of the rocks at once if you view the garden from a place called the Hojo (chief priest's chamber) instead of from the hallway. Try to see if you can find the spot!
Located next to the rock garden you will find a moss garden, which is a place where you can truly feel the concept of wabi-sabi (aesthetic sense in Japanese art centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection). This stunning garden, which has an atmosphere where you could sit and enjoy the view endlessly, shows off a completely different scenery when it is raining.

Opening hours: (March - November) 8:00 am - 5:00 pm, (December - February) 8:30 am - 4:30 pm
Admission fee: 500 JPY/Adult

How to get there:
Exit Kinkaku-ji Temple and you will see the Kinkakuji-mae bus stop directly to the right on Kagamiishi Dori (Kagamiishi Street). From there, take the City Bus 59 toward Yamagoe Nakacho and get off at the Ryoanji-mae bus stop.

Estimated visitation time: 40 minutes

2. Ryoanji Temple (10 minutes from Kinkaku-ji Temple by bus)

13 Ryoanji Goryonoshita-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

3. Ginkakuji Temple (Around 50 minutes from Ryoanji Temple by bus)

Official name: Higashiyama Jishoji
This World Heritage site was built in 1482 as a summer house for a samurai. The temple's Togu-do (Togu Hall) is known as the oldest extant example of an everyday-use home, and is designated as a National Treasure.

Opening hours: (Summer: March - November) 8:30 am - 5:00 pm, (Winter: December - February) 9:00 am - 4:30 pm
Admission fee: 500 JPY/Adult

How to get there:
Get back on the City Bus 59 from the Ryoanji-mae bus stop, then get off at the Kinkakuji-michi (Kinkakuji Temple) bus stop. From there, get on to the City Bus 204 and then depart at the Ginkakuji-michi (Ginkakuji Temple) bus stop.

Estimated visitation time: 1 hour

3. Ginkakuji Temple (Around 50 minutes from Ryoanji Temple by bus)

2 Ginkakuji-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

Stop by Nanzen-ji Temple for More Sightseeing in the Area

Official name: Zuiryusan Taiheikokoku Nanzen-zenji
This historic temple that contains a National Treasure is famous as a spot to take photos for posting on social media, and is crowded with visitors from Japan and abroad throughout the year. There are many photogenic spots to see within the spacious, tree-covered grounds: the 22m tall Sanmon Gate; the view from the roof of Sanmon Gate (note there is an admission fee to enter the gate structure); the arched aqueduct made with bricks; the Japanese rock garden; and more. It's not included within this model course, but is a recommended spot for those who want to take beautiful photos.

Opening hours: (December - February) 8:40 am - 4:30 pm, (March - November) 8:40 am - 5:00 pm
Admission fee: (Hojo Garden) 500 JPY, (Sanmon Gate) 500 JPY, (Nanzen-in Temple) 300 JPY

How to get there:
From the Jodoji bus stop, take a City Bus 204-otsu or 5 to the Nanzenji Eikando-michi (Nanzenji Temple) bus stop, then it is a 7-minute walk.

Stop by Nanzen-ji Temple for More Sightseeing in the Area

Nanzenji Fukuchi-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

4. Arashiyama (Around 50 minutes from Ginkakuji Temple by bus)

There are many things to see in the Arashiyama area, but the stunning view of autumn foliage from Togetsu Bridge is particularly breathtaking. Once here, you can take a walk around the area, making your way from Saga-Arashiyama Station to Togetsu Bridge, the Bamboo Grove, and then to Tenryu-ji Temple, all while looking at various souvenirs as you go.

How to get there:
From the Ginkakuji-michi (Ginkakuji Temple) bus stop, take the Kyuko 102 Bus toward Ginkakuji - Kinrin Shako, and get off at the Kinrin Shako-mae bus stop (it is also possible to walk to this bus stop directly from Ginkakuji Temple), then take the City Bus 93 toward Saga-Arashiyama and get of at the Saga-Arashiyama Sta. bus stop.
*Tenryu-ji Temple is the next spot on this list, but of course the order in which you visit the sightseeing spots is up to you. Traversing the area on a rental bicycle is also recommended.

Estimated visitation time: 2 hours

4. Arashiyama (Around 50 minutes from Ginkakuji Temple by bus)

11-1 Sagatenryuji Kurumamichi-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

Recommended Lunch Spot: anju

The water in Kyoto is of high-quality and especially suitable for making tofu, and the city is famous for yudofu (tofu simmered in broth), a dish that highlights the flavor of tofu itself. So, why not have some yudofu for lunch during your sightseeing trip to Kyoto? One recommended spot is the restaurant anju, located on the main street of the famous sightseeing area, Arashiyama. At anju, you can savor many classic Kyoto dishes, from yudofu to namayuba (raw tofu skin), and even Wagyu (a type of high-quality beef) steak. The simmered tofu melts in your mouth as soon as you take a bite, releasing a pleasant and subtle sweetness. Another masterful dish is their yuba sashimi, made from the film that develops when soy milk is heated, a dish you are sure to fall in love with due to its unique texture and the deep flavor of the soy milk used to make it. For the main course, you ought to get their specialty item, steak. Hagi-zen (3,000 JPY (excl. tax)), shown in the image, is a popular set meal in which you can taste all of these delicacies in one meal.

Recommended Lunch Spot: anju

48-3 Sagatenryuji Kitatsukurimichi-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

5. Tenryu-ji Temple (Around a 20-minute walk from Arashiyama Station)

Tenryu-ji Temple, a World Heritage Site, is famous for the Cloud Dragon, an impressive and powerful-looking painting on the ceiling of the Hatto (lecture hall). Photography is not allowed, so try to memorize the image as best you can. Furthermore, its Sogenchi Garden is known as a popular place to view autumn foliage.

Opening hours: 8:30 am - 5:30 pm (Kita-mon Gate 9:00 am - 5:00 pm), (October 21 - March 20) 8:30 am - 5:00 pm (Kita-mon Gate) 9:00 am - 4:30 pm
Admission fee: 500 JPY/Adult

Estimated visitation time: 30 minutes

*Head back to Saga-Arashiyama Station after finishing your stroll around the Arashiyama area, as the next destination, Nijo Castle, will be reached by train from there. Keep your eye on the time, as Nijo Castle closes at 5:00 pm (Ninomaru-goten Palace closes at 4:00 pm), and last entry is at 4:00 pm.

5. Tenryu-ji Temple (Around a 20-minute walk from Arashiyama Station)

68 Sagatenryuji Susukinobaba-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

6. Nijo-jo Castle (Around 20 minutes from Saga-Arashiyama Station by train)

Official name: Motori-kyu Nijo Castle (Former Imperial Villa Nijo-jo Castle)
The World Heritage Site Nijo-jo Castle is a hirajiro (castle built on level ground) that was built over the period from 1603 to 1626. It is notable for showcasing the luxurious and gorgeous style of hirajiro of that time. There are many interesting things to see, such as the uguisu-bari (nightingale flooring) hallways which creak when you walk as an anti-intruder measure, and the shohekiga (pictures on room partitions) which are covered in gold leafs. The Japanese-style garden within the castle grounds also can't be missed!

Opening hours: 8:45 am - 5:00 pm (Last entry 4:00 pm)
Admission fee: 600 JPY/Adult (400 JPY on days when Ninomaru Palace is closed)
*Starting from April 1, 2019, entry into the castle will be 600 JPY and entry into Ninomaru Palace will be a separate charge of 400 JPY
Closing days: December 29 - 31
*Ninomaru Palace is closed for viewing every Tuesday in January, July, August, and December, as well as Jan. 1 - 3 and December 26 - 28.

How to get there:
From Saga-Arashiyama Station, take a Sanin Main Line train toward Kyoto (not included in the Kyoto Sightseeing One-Day Pass), and get off at Nijo Station, then take a Tozai Line train toward Rokujizo and get off at Nijojo-mae Station.

Estimated visitation time: 1 hour

6. Nijo-jo Castle (Around 20 minutes from Saga-Arashiyama Station by train)

541 Nijojo-cho, Nijo-dori Horikawa Nishi-iru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

Stop By Nishi Hongwanji Temple for More Sightseeing in the Area

Official name: Ryukokuzan Hongwanji
While it veers off this model course, this is another World Heritage Site that you can visit. Known affectionately as "Onishi-san" by the locals, this is a temple of the same caliber as Kinkaku-ji and Ginkakuji. There are many National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties located within the grounds, such as the National Treasure and one of Kyoto's Three Famous Pavilions, Hiunkaku (under restoration work until 2020); Karamon Gate (under restoration construction until 2020); and Mieido (Founder's Hall). "Onishi-san" is really worth seeing, especially because you can view all these valuable architectural works for free!

Opening hours: 5:30 am - 5:00 pm (Admission is free)

How to get there from Nijo Castle:
From the Nijojo-mae bus stop, take the City Bus 9 toward Kyoto Station, and get off at the Nishi Hongwanji-mae bus stop. Alternatively, you can take City Bus 50 toward Kyoto Station and get off at the Nishinotoin Shomen stop.

Stop By Nishi Hongwanji Temple for More Sightseeing in the Area

Honganji Monzen-cho, Horikawa-dori Hanayamachi-sagaru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

Return to Kyoto Station (Around 30 minutes from Nijo Castle by train)

That marks the end of the trip! Now, having experienced the true wonder of Kyoto in a single day, it is time to head back to Kyoto Station while reminiscing on all the sights you just saw.

How to get there:
From Nijojo-mae Station, take a Tozai Line train toward Biwako-hamaotsu Station. Get off at Karasuma Oike Station and transfer to Karasuma Line train headed toward Takeda, and then get off at Kyoto Station.

Return to Kyoto Station (Around 30 minutes from Nijo Castle by train)

8-3 Higashi Shiokoji Takakura-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

Kyoto is one of the leading sightseeing cities in Japan, visited by tourists from all around the world. It's known for its stunning natural scenery that looks amazing no matter what season it is when you visit. If you have the opportunity, please take a whole day to discover the wonders of Kyoto and enjoy this city to the fullest. *This model course was planned around departing from Kyoto Station at 8:00 am.

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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