3D2N Itinerary: Things to do in Kyoto, Japan

Join KrisFlyer and Japan-based content creator Cheesie on an adventure to uncover the best sights and sounds of the land of the rising sun with an exciting 3D2N Kyoto itinerary.

In the final leg of their journey, they explored cultural heritage sites and indulged in Kyoto’s gastronomic delights. Check out their full itinerary for inspiration on things to do in Kyoto, the cultural capital of Japan. Don’t miss the highlights of their trip captured in a special video at the end of this guide!

Day 1: Take in a side of Kyoto that not many have seen

Mention Kyoto, and most people immediately think of the many shrines, temples, and castles found in this city. But not many people know that there’s another side of Kyoto, which sits by the sea.

Ine is a traditional fishing village located on the northernmost tip of Kyoto Prefecture. Make your way there and spend the morning taking in the slower-paced lifestyle.

a woman in a white dress on a wooden walkway in the traditional fishing village Ine

The town is best known for its funaya, or boat houses that line the bay, so take a stroll and check out the many wooden structures that have now been repurposed into guest houses and restaurants.

If the idea of feasting on seafood in a funaya appeals to you, a great place to dine at is Wadatsumi Sushi, which serves up freshly caught local fishes such as yellowtail.

a girl enjoying a meal at Wadatsumi Sushi restaurant

In certain seasons, you’ll also find oysters and crabs on the menu, but whenever you visit, you can look forward to a decadent spread of dishes – served with appetisers, pickles, soup, and dessert – set against a panoramic backdrop of the Ine Bay.

Done exploring Ine on foot, and would like to take in a different perspective of the village? A good post-lunch activity would be a leisurely boat ride. Hop onto one of the sightseeing boats for a half an hour tour and see what is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful villages in Japan from the water. 

This is also where you can watch large seabirds fly alongside your boat, and if you’re feeling up to it, hold up a piece of cracker, and watch as the large winged creatures swoop by to pick it straight out of your hand!

While Ine is a tiny fishing village, there are a few funaya ryokans that visitors can spend the night in. The other option is to head to Amanaohashidate, which is a nearby town with more accommodation options, including a glamping site!

Day 2: Experience Japanese tradition and visit districts that ooze old-world charm

Amanohashidate is rated as one of the top three most beautiful sites in Japan, and one cannot visit this part of Kyoto without heading up to one of the two observatory decks to enjoy the views of Miyazu Bay and Amanohashidate Sandbar. This three-kilometre-long, pine-covered sandbar, which is colloquially known as “bridge over heaven”, acts as a natural bridge between both sides of Miyazu Bay. 

By mid-morning, hop onto the Kyoto Tango Railway, a train with a beautiful wooden interior that’s run by a private railway operator. Used primarily as a sightseeing train, it’s also an alternate mode of transport for visitors to get from Ine to central Kyoto in about 2 hours.

Once you’ve arrived in the city of Kyoto, head to your hotel and check-in. For a luxe stay, choose Hotel The Mitsui Kyoto, which is situated right opposite Nijo Castle; opt for a room with a view of this 17th century castle that used to be the home of the samurais, or warlords, who controlled the nation for centuries. The property also has a stunning seasonally-blooming courtyard garden with a pond, as well as a private onsen that’s exclusive to hotel guests.

Hotel The Mitsui Kyoto also offers its guests the experience of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony – complete with a tea master and his wiped bowl, a scoop of matcha, and a rhythmic bamboo whisk. 

a tea master performing the traditional Japanese tea ceremony at Hotel The Mitsui Kyoto

You’ll be presented with a piping hot bowl of matcha – the perfect welcome to this city that’s just so quintessentially Japan in every way.

If you’re up for another experience that you won’t find elsewhere in the world, why not consider dressing up in a kimono for a few hours, as you wander through the historic streets of this city that is steeped in history? A good place to rent your kimono is at Yumeyakata, which has various types of kimonos – from those meant for everyday wear, to those meant for special occasions – for both males and females. Here, there are endless designs to choose from, and you can even sign up to have your photos taken by a professional photographer, in a traditional Japanese house.

a lady posing for a picture on the streets of the Higashiyama Ward

Or stroll down the streets of the Higashiyama Ward. It’s an area of the city which has preserved the vibes of feudal-era Japan; think of narrow lanes flanked with wooden buildings that are home to tea houses, restaurants, specialty shops, pottery stores, and even art galleries. You’ll also chance upon centuries-old sites such as the grand Kiyomizudera, which is a Buddhist temple that’s built on the foothills of Mount Otowa.

a woman enjoying the beautiful sunset over a calm ocean at Kiyomizudera

Given its location on the hillside, it’s a great place for some peace and quiet, as well as amazing views that overlook the city, so plan to spend some time here before heading back down.

a woman in a traditional Japanese dress posing for a photo at the Yasaka Pagoda

The whole district is full of Instagram-worthy spots, so factor in some time to stop for photos, like this one with the Yasaka Pagoda, which is Kyoto’s oldest pagoda.

If you’re still up for even more walking and sightseeing, a good neighbourhood to head to is Gion, which is famous for being Kyoto’s geisha district. As you wander through the many lanes, you may spot geishas and maikos who are on their way to their next appointment at one of the many ochayas, or teahouses in the neighbourhood.

End the long day at Pontocho Alley. It’s a narrow, lantern-lit alley that’s one of the most atmospheric dining areas in the city, so stop by for some yakiniku (grilled Japanese beef) or kaiseki (traditional multi-course dinner), before ending the night with a drink or two at one of the small bars that the locals frequent.

Day 3: Visit a world-famous bamboo grove and fill your stomach with delightful street food

On your final day in Japan, rise early and get to Arashiyama Bamboo Forest before the rest of the day trippers do. It’s extremely peaceful early in the morning, so take your time to admire the emerald green stalks that tower high above you.

Legs feeling very weary from all the walking that you’ve done? Opt for a ride on a rickshaw instead. 

a lady taking a rickshaw ride in a serene bamboo forest in the town of Arashiyama

Rickshaw riders can be found all around the town of Arashiyama, and each rickshaw can take up to 2 passengers on a slow, peaceful ride through the bamboo grove – this might just be one of the biggest highlights of your trip!

End your stay in Kyoto with a visit to Nishiki Market, where you’ll find more than a hundred shops selling all manner of fresh produce as well as cooked food. There’re also tons of street snacks ranging from more popular ones like mochi (rice cakes), to unique offerings like tako tamago (baby octopi with quail eggs). 

This is also the place to be if you’re looking to buy Japanese delights for family and friends. Consider purchasing tsukemono (pickled vegetables), furikake (rice toppings), or even wagashi (Japanese sweets). They’re all extremely traditional and will make a good complement to the rest of the snacks that you’ve picked up in Tokyo and Osaka! Shop to your heart’s content before heading to the airport for your flight home.


Interested to see what went on when KrisFlyer explored Japan with Cheesie? Watch the highlights here:




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