Kyoto City Guide | Japan

Kyoto City Guide

I loved the vibrancy of the city, the quietness of the gardens, the timeless experience of walking through a cedar forest, to be lost in the atmospheric swaying of tall, very tall bamboo trees and the ever present smell of woodsmoke and incense at the temples. There is no place quite like Kyoto. A city that is majestic and delicate, proud, deceitful yet friendly and kind, this lucky city had been saved from all bombings that Japan once endured. Kyoto is a city with a strong medieval spirit but with all the flavours of modernity that one would experience. So rich in tradition, the rituals embodies serenity and clean simplicity. From tea ceremony, kaiseki dining to being served by Geisha, Kyoto is the ultimate experience of Japanese culture. You will find all the information you need in this article on Kyoto City Guide.

Know before you go – some basic facts about Kyoto

Where is Kyoto

This amazing City sits on west-central of Honshu Island, Japan., 55 metres above sea level. At 50 kilometres (30 miles) of northeast of Osaka and about the same distance from Nara (another ancient city of culture), Kyoto is strategically located with excellent transport links connecting with other major cities in the rest of the country.

The Japanese people are deeply connected to their culture and heritage. This is very much represented in their special relationship with Kyoto – it is said that all Japanese must try and visit Kyoto at least once in their lifetime. Almost a third of the country’s population visit the City annually.

Population of Kyoto is 1,459,640 (2020)

City of Kyoto is at GPS: Latitude: 35° 01′ 15.85″ N | Longitude: 135° 45′ 13.86″ E

Best time to visit Japan

The best time to visit Japan will depend on what you want to do – winter is best to see the snow monkeys and spring for the Hanami season. However, generally anytime is a good time to visit Japan. but as a rule of thumb, late Spring, March to May and late Fall, September to November are the best times to visit. Temperatures are mild and you won’t be caught up with the rain ruining your sightseeing plans. For a detailed guide on best time to visit Japan, go to this page.

Take special note on the Best time to Travel to Japan article – it incorporates Japan’s national holidays for 2020/21. National holidays are times when the Japanese people have their own holidays as well and accommodation, flights are ordinarily more expensive.

Fushimi Inari, Kyoto
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Hello there! Welcome to Timeless Travel Steps, a space where Georgina happily shares her love of travel, culture and history – bringing you only the best in travel to add value to your vacation. Learn more in About Georgina.

February 2021, Update

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A little about the vibrant City of Kyoto | Tradition, Culture and Food

Kyoto was the former capital of Japan until 1869. It was the residence of the Japanese emperor between AD 794 and 1868. Today, the city centre looks like any other major cities in Japan, with modern buildings and high rises. Despite it’s modern twist, Kyoto has retained much of its old charming architecture, tradition, and culture.

UNESCO | Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto

As a cultural city, Kyoto is the heart of Japan. The City of Kyoto, along with Uji and Otsu are recognised by UNESCO as Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto. The region is home to many Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, palaces, gardens and other landmarks which forms part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site. Collectively, there are at least 1600 temples and shrines, both small and large, famous and not so much. There are many imperial palaces and gardens as well.

To add value to your visit to Kyoto, don’t miss the recommended Best 5 in Kyoto.

Kyoto as an education centre

In relation to its educational importance, Kyoto is home to 37 universities and colleges scattered throughout the city’s perimeter. This includes the internationally renowned, Kyoto University.

Mount Hiei, regarded as the sacred mountain in Japan, is home to the “Marathon Monks” – a place for those who dedicate themselves to pursue enlightenment which is a test of endurance and preseverance. Read more about the Marathon Monks on this page.

Food | Kyoto City Guide

In addition to these attractions, Kyoto is rich in its offering of a diverse food culture, local delicacies and traditional sweets. This is a region which has a strong culinary history, and formal traditions such as Kaiseki dining still widely practised.

Kyoto City Guide | Kaiseki Dining
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Kaiseki Ryori , Japanese cuisine | Japan Guide

Kaiseki (懐石) or kaiseki-ryōri (懐石料理) is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. It refers to the collection of skills and techniques that allow the preparation of such meals.  There are two kinds of traditional Japanese meal styles called kaiseki or kaiseki-ryōri.

It is a dining experience that embodies a celebration of Japanese traditional culture. Multiple courses of precise dishes is served by geisha, a female entertainer often found in Gion-Shiji.

Other dining experiences or food that one must try is the Yodofu, simmered tofu.


Having visited Kyoto almost every week during my almost six months stay in Hirakata, saying ‘goodbye’ was difficult. I sincerely hope to return to Kyoto one day soon.

As for anyone visiting Japan, I can confidently say that Kyoto is a city that should not be missed. It is also a city where you should not rush through with a view to ticking off the sights on your list! You do have to spend some time here. Exploring Kyoto and unveiling its mask of modernity will turn up countless historical gems. Strolling through Gion or Pontocho to steal a glimpse of geishas, visiting the many iconic temples or experiencing a traditional ryokan stay will leave you with lasting memories.

Visiting the heart of this fascinating country will always be a rewarding experience but selecting what to visit, when to visit and how much time is needed to visit this iconic city will require some prior planning. Here are some articles on Kyoto to support your travel plans.

Comprehensive articles on Kyoto to support your travels which you may like to read

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Travel resources at a Glance

Planning your dream vacation? Excellent! Here are all the Resources and Practical information you need for your self-guided or guided vacation.

Flights – I have a few choices. Search Google flights because they offer very competitive prices. You could also try Opodo for cheap airfares or Etihad Airways for long haul flights. For special experiences, go to On the Beach and Jet2Holidays.

Accommodations – My favourite website for booking hotels is – I love their flexible cancellation policy which means I’m covered till the last minute. I also like that the totals show up for the whole stay so it helps me budget better. Other favourites of mine are Millennium & Copthorne Group of Hotels and Resorts for their consistent high quality accommodations and service. You could also take a look at the Radisson Hotels chain that caters for all budget.

Unique experiences & tours – My all time go to resource for unique experiences and tours is Get your Guide. I am also a fan of Viator for their special deals.

Travel insurance – Never travel without travel insurance and never overpay for travel insurance! I use and recommend World Nomads for your travel insurance needs. They even insure on the go. Before purchasing any any travel policy, read through the terms to ensure that the plan is right for you and your trip.

Travel essentials – Never travel without these! I use and fully endorse all the products on this page but especially: High powered wireless power bank, Universal travel adapter and unlimited portable pocket wifi.

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Kyoto City Guide
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“I loved the quiet places in Kyoto, the places that held the world within a windless moment. Inside the temples, Nature held her breath. All longing was put to sleep in the stillness, and all was distilled into a clean simplicity.
The smell of woodsmoke, the drift of incense; a procession of monks in black-and-gold robes, one of them giggling in a voice yet unbroken; a touch of autumn in the air, a sense of gathering rain.”

― Pico Iyer, 

I look forward to connecting with each of you

A vibrant city of culture, hidden gems, markets, food and so much more! via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/
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