Kyoto is, in my opinion, one of the best large cities in Japan for nature lovers. There’s lots of natural beauty tucked away in the many shrines within Kyoto, as well as large green spaces for all at very accesible areas. For those looking for budget friendly options, here is a list of free parks and forests you can explore!
Maruyama koen park
This pretty park is not to be missed as it is located right beside Gion, and behind the Yasaka shrine. The park has become one of Kyoto’s most famous cherry blossom viewing spots, and is a nationally designated place of scenic beauty.
Thousands gather during the cherry blossom season as the park becomes coloured with a vibrant pink. But even without the blossoms, the atmosphere within the park is really pleasant. Many enjoy taking a stroll along the gardens in the evening as well.
Kyoto Imperial palace park (Kyoto gyoen)
If you look at any map of Kyoto, the first thing that stands out is the giant green rectangle right in the middle, which is Kyoto Gyoen. This park serves as Kyoto’s central park, and has become a popular area for jogging and cycling. Families sometimes have picnics in the area on weekends, as the park is very spacious. This also means that although the park remains popular, it never feels crowded as you can simply move to a quiet area. There are also numerous cherry and plum trees in the park, making it especially beautiful in spring.
This shrine needs no introduction. Fushimi Inari is an obvious choice among tourists, and has become famous for the hundreds upon hundreds of Torii gates that carve a path along the mountain.
What truly stands out in this shrine is this hiking trail, which boasts some of Kyoto’s most scenic spots. This includes a fantastic view at the top! How such a beautiful and popular attraction still remains completely free is beyond me.
It’s not hard to see why Arashiyama has been given the title ‘nationally designated place of scenic beauty’. Many flock to the famous bamboo groves (no admission fee!) all year round, but Arashiyama becomes especially popular when the autumn colours are at its peak.
Arashiyama is best covered as a day trip, as there is a lot to see and explore, including the surrounding craft shops, food, the beautiful river banks and even a monkey park (which has an admission fee of 550 yen). This green hotspot in western Kyoto is a definite must-see.
Tadasu no mori
This is a natural forest surrounding the Shimogamo shrine that is now preserved as a national historic site. Tadasu no mori is a hidden gem that is actually one of the many UNESCO world heritage sites within Kyoto, and yet draws little to no attention.
It is deeply connected to the Shinto religion and is said to have never burned down. Untouched and quaint, this is, in my opinion, the perfect spot for nature lovers travelling to Kyoto.