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How to Spend 1 Day in Kyoto

How to Spend 1 Day in Kyoto

The place in Japan to immerse yourself in ritual and tradition, Kyoto—known for its teahouses, temples, gardens, and geisha—is a modern city with a historic heart. Here’s how to see and experience as much as possible in just one day.

Morning: Hit the Must-See Sights

Begin your visit to Kyoto with a morning tour that takes you to some of the city’s UNESCO-listed temples and palaces. A guided bus tour—which typically includes entrance fees and hotel pickup and drop-off—introduces you to sights such as Nijo Castle, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji), and the Kyoto Imperial Palace. Prefer more flexibility? Choose a hop-on hop-off bus tour, and spend as much time as you wish at the attractions along the route.

Afternoon: Delve Deeper

Continue sightseeing by joining a tour that focuses on more of Kyoto’s many attractions, such as Sanjusangendo Temple with its Kannon statues, the red and green Heian Shrine, and Kiyomizu Temple. Or go deeper: dress in kimono and participate in a traditional tea ceremony, tour sprawling Nishiki Market followed by lunch, or watch a Kembu sword performance. Some hands-on experiences include samurai swordsmanship and Zen meditation.

Night: Explore the Gion District

Round out a full day in Kyoto with a guided walking tour of the atmospheric Gion district. Immerse yourself in the culture of the famed entertainment and geisha quarter by watching a performance by maiko (apprentice geisha) accompanied by traditional Japanese music, followed by a multicourse dinner. Or, book a private meal with a geisha who entertains you with song and dance as you dine.

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5 Tours and Activities

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Samurai Performance and Casual Experience: Kyoto Ticket

Samurai Performance and Casual Experience: Kyoto Ticket

star-4.5
85
Learn the arts of the samurai as you enjoy a 1-hour Kembu show, a traditional sword performance celebrating the culture of this ancient Japanese warrior class, in Kyoto. Head to Kyoto’s Samurai Kembu Theater to admire the intricate movements of traditional and new-style Kembu performances, celebrating the legendary stories of Japan’s feudal period. You’ll also hear a fascinating talk before the performance and have time for a photo session with samurai sword and the performers post-show.
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  • 1 hour
  • Free Cancellation
From
$22.75
From
$22.75

Kyoto Samurai Experience

Kyoto Samurai Experience

star-5
365
Immerse yourself in samurai history and culture during this 2-hour samurai experience at a traditional Kyoto Samurai House. Under the guidance of an expert sword instructor, learn the philosophies of Bushido, the "Way of the Warrior" handle a real katana sword; and take part in a Zen meditation session.
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  • 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$113.76
From
$113.76

Private Dinner with a Geisha

Private Dinner with a Geisha

star-5
10
Immerse yourself in quintessential Japanese culture during a private tour and dining experience with a geisha. In Kyoto, considered the birthplace of geisha culture, you’ll explore the historic Gion area and dine on a multi-course meal at either a Japanese restaurant or tea house, accompanied by a ‘maiko’ (apprentice geisha) or ‘geiko’ (fully-trained geisha).
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  • 2 to 3 hours
From
$281.01
Price varies by group size
From
$281.01
Price varies by group size

Kyoto Nishiki Market Tour with 7 Course Lunch

Kyoto Nishiki Market Tour with 7 Course Lunch

star-5
24
The Nishiki Food Market, known to locals as the “Kitchen of Kyoto,” is a huge 400-year-old market sprawling with food vendors. Navigate what can be an overwhelming space with the help of your guide, whose insight into the local food scene will give you a taste of Japanese culture—and plenty of food. All food tastings are included as per itinerary.
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  • 3 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$193.00
From
$193.00

Japanese Tea Ceremony (Private Session) in Kyoto

Japanese Tea Ceremony (Private Session) in Kyoto

star-5
67
Discover the beauty, art and ritual of the Japanese tea ceremony during this private workshop in Kyoto. Experience true ‘omotenashi’ (hospitality) during your visit to the Tea Ceremony Room of Ju-An, observing as your tea is methodically, painstakingly, boiled, poured and mixed with matcha powder using a bamboo whisk. Enjoy your warm drink accompanied by Japanese sweets as you learn about the intricacies of this timeless custom.
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  • 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$72.93
Price varies by group size
From
$72.93
Price varies by group size