Kyoto Neighborhood Guide
Kyoto, the spiritual and cultural heart of Japan, is a city of magnificent temples, Zen gardens, traditional teahouses, and plenty of culinary gems. From historic Gion to temple-filled Fushimi, these eclectic Kyoto neighborhoods are well worth exploring. Here are a few you shouldn’t miss.
In the heart of Kyoto, this bustling neighborhood is home to two of the city’s most popular attractions, Nijo Castle and the Imperial Palace. Foodies won’t want to miss the Nishiki Market, nicknamed “Kyoto’s Kitchen” for its array of culinary delights and local products. Indulge in some retail therapy along Sanjo-dori, or get a taste of the city’s burgeoning craft-beer scene.
This neighborhood on the western edge of Kyoto centers on the picturesque Togetsukyo Bridge—a popular spot for viewing fall foliage. Visitors to Arashiyama can explore Buddhist temples and shrines (including Tenryu-ji, a UNESCO World Heritage Site), spot Japanese macaques at Iwatayama Monkey Park, feast on traditional Buddhist-temple fare, or stroll through a magnificent bamboo grove.
If you’re hoping to spot one of Kyoto’s elusive geishas, Gion is the place to do so. Geishas in their characteristic wooden geta (sandals) often hurry along Pontocho Alley in the evening hours. Gion is also one of the best spots in town to partake in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony or feast on a multicourse kaiseki ryori dinner.
Higashiyama sets the scene for temple hopping in Kyoto, with several historic structures within walking distance of each other. The northern portion of the neighborhood is home to some of the city’s top art museums, including the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, National Museum of Modern Art, and the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts.
Kyoto’s famed weaving district, Nishijin, sits just northwest of the city center. Machiya (traditional wooden townhouses) line the streets, many selling kimono fabrics and obi sashes. Visit the Nishijin Textile Center to learn more about how these traditional garments are made or relax in the warm waters of Funaoka Onsen.
You’ll find one of Kyoto’s top attractions, the Fushimi Inari Shrine with its vermilion torii gates, in this neighborhood in Southeast Kyoto. Stop at one of the neighborhood food stalls to sample some kitsune noodles with fried tofu, sip sake from one of many local breweries, or head to Tofukuji Temple—one of Kyoto’s most impressive—to soak up the views.