It’s no secret that Kyoto is the centre of Japanese culture. The city was once the capital of Japan, and it’s architecture clearly reflects this. With literally hundreds of Shrines and temples at every other street, it can get difficult to pick and choose which ones to go to (besides the obvious Kinkaku-ji and Kiyomizu dera, which should already be on your list). So here are my personal favourites, to help you plan your trip!
Ryoanji is one of Kyoto’s many UNESCO world heritage sites and is easily one of the most beautiful temples I visited during my trip. It’s most famous for its zen rock garden that has a total of 15 rocks, but only 14 can be seen at any given time.
The part that I enjoyed most though was the absolutely gorgeous temple gardens. This place is definitely worth checking out, especially during autumn as the temple grounds are covered in maple trees.
2. Fushimi Inari
This shrine is an obvious choice among tourists, and for good reason; the shrine is extremely beautiful. Yes, this place is insanely crowded, but trust me, it’s worth it.
For this shrine, the most important thing is to move past the main shrine area quickly and start the hiking trail, which boasts some of Kyoto’s most scenic spots. This includes a fantastic view at the top!
Situated at Mt Kurama at the north of Kyoto city, this mountain temple seems to be ignored by tourists (especially international tourists). There are lots of little shrines along the way to the main temple and the whole area is incredibly mystical.
It’s a natural, forested area that requires a lot of walking, but even so, this place has a sort of magical charm to it, almost like you’re stepping into the world of princess mononoke.
4. Kifune shrine
At the other end of the kurama hiking trail is Kifune shrine, a pretty shrine with a wonderful view of the river flowing beside it. The atmosphere of the shine is so peaceful and calming.
Like kurama dera there were no crowds at all and the surrounding town is quaint and very beautiful. I really recommend setting aside a day for kuramadera and Kifune shrine, which can be covered together.
Technically this is on the border of Kyoto and Shiga prefecture but it can be accessed from Kyoto via a cable car! The top has an amazing view of Lake Biwa. The main temple and the surrounding forests and temples are also really pretty.
There is also quite a bit of walking to be done here, but like with mount Kurama, this place is absolutely worth checking out. You can also take a look around otsu city and lake Biwa on the other side of the mountain if you have the time.
Special mention: Hirano shrine
Hirano shrine is a special little place known for its abundance of sakura or cherry trees. They also have a variety of sakura that bloom twice a year, once in spring and then again in late autumn!
It’s a fantastic place to visit especially if you are travelling in autumn or winter and have yet to see the sakura season.
Kyoto is probably one of the most beautiful cities I’ve visited. If you love Japanese traditional culture, this is the place to go and I hope this list helps you figure out which temples and shrines you want to visit! Remember, this list excludes 2 of Kyoto’s most famous attractions, Kinkaku-ji and Kiyomizu dera, which are on everyone’s lists anyway.