Hannah's Kyoto tips

We have clustered these into areas that you could do all together.

I have noted if they need pre-booking. If I have not mentioned about booking it means you don't need to book in advance. 
However it is common to book for cafes/ restaurants in Kyoto, especially on weekends pre-booking is recommended.

General tips: 
Check the opening hours online before you go anywhere! Both on google & their social media accounts wherever possible... opening days seem a little flexible here, as lots of places are owner operators they close for certain times that google might not have updated. Same for temples.
I would suggest avoiding the super popular touristy temple gardens if you can - there are so many temple gardens in Kyoto, most of the best ones we have seen are the smaller less known ones (listed some below). The popular places can be so packed and a bit stressful.

ONE half a day:
Kawai Kanjiro's house and studio and other things:

Start at:

1. Kawai Kanjiro's house

2. Ichikawaya Coffee shop (yummy seasonal fruit and cream sandwiches and Omurice). The building is beautiful too. Worth the wait for a table.

3. Tofukuji temple complex
it has bridge and garden - do both.
The garden is very famous because it was designed by Mirei Shigemori, a modernist garden designer. The gardens are quite radical compared to the traditional structures.

4. Komyo-in - by that same experimental landscape designer Mirei Shigemori. Really beautiful & only a 5 min walk from Tofukuji (technically a sub temple of Tofukuji)


ONE half a day (or a full day depending how slow/ fast you go):

Nanzen-Ji complex & Murin-an

Start at:

1. Nanzen-ji MAIN temple:

THEN IMPORTANT... go to the smaller temples around it (all within 5-10 min walk from each other).
They are really special gardens, here are the ones we went to that we loved:

2. Nanzen-in:

3. Tenju-an (we saw a turtle in the lily pond):

4. Konchi-in:

on the way you could stop for a coffee at Blue Bottle:

5. Murin-an (a bit of a walk own from the others, maybe about 10 min walk)
you can get a drink/ sweet set and sit and rest at murin-an. 

Food/coffee in this area:
Hanafusa East coffee shop
Super cute old school coffee shop with old men wait staff that wear bow ties and play really good music from their CD collection. 
It is 1950's style and sort of a time warp. BUT just a warning there are people smoking inside sometimes, which is horrible for non smokers! 2/3 times we have been no one was smoking, but once they were and it was intense.


ONE half a day (or a full day depending how slow/ fast you go):
Daitoku-ji temple, soba for lunch & ancient mochi

Start with lunch at:
Soba Horiba:
Open 11.30am-2.30pm (last order)
Closed Tuesdays & Wednesdays. If going on a weekend day I suggest pre-booking via instagram.
Our favourite restaurant/ cafe (only lunch) in Kyoto. They drive 3 hours to collect specific water to make the soba. It is all handmade/ hand cut 100% buckwheat. The most perfectly hand cut soba we have had in Japan so far and the best taste. We have tried other popular soba places and prefer this one. The couple met when they worked together in a cafe in Mashiko (pottery community) so a lot of the pottery at the restaurant is from their time in Mashiko. They have traditional simple soba dishes, but also interesting seasonal specials.
If you are not vege, try their 'walnut sauce' side, so yummy - for dipping soba into.

Daitoku-ji is a big temple complex. The ones I have listed are all about 5 mins walk from each other. You need to pay for entry at each smaller temple.
There are a lot of beautiful smaller temples within here to visit, here are some that we have been to that we loved:

Ryogen-in Temple:

Zuiho-in Temple:
Garden of this one was designed by Mirei Shigemori.

Koto-in Temple:
This one looks so beautiful - even worth just checking out the entry! But has sadly been closed all the times we have walked past. Worth a try though, even to see the entry.

Near Koto-in is a very cute matcha soft serve place:

Kouroan tea shop & farm

then about a 7 min walk to the ancient mochi place....

Ichimonjiya Wasuke
Ancient Mochi:
Open 10am-5pm. 
Closed Wednesdays
This is the OLDEST SHOP IN JAPAN!!! It was established in the year 1000.
25 generations deep.
The grilled mochi is so delicious too.
PLEASE NOTE: there are confusingly two across from each other -  the right one is the oldest one! but they are quite similar!


ONE half a day:
Katsura Imperial Villa
so so so beautiful. It is a guided tour. Worth it though. 
NOTE: You need to book in advance, we booked the tour from this location (confusingly a different similar sounding location):
Imperial Household Agency, Kyoto office:

You can actually book this online too, I think this is the website to book:
If the website is too confusing maybe try email:


ONE half a day (or a full day depending how slow/ fast you go):
Northish, Enko-ji & others:

Start at:

1. Enko-ji Temple & garden:

2. Shisen-do Temple & Garden:

3. Konpuku-ji Temple
Basho-an is located here, so so beautiful tea house type cottage, really nice thatch roof


Other things (not by day just listed places):

Vinegar Shop:
we LOVED this place. So yummy the taste testing. The old Machiya building is so nice.

Bolts Hardware Store:
Really great hardware store, run by an architectural grad who sells his own designs and the most amazing hardware from around the world. It is located in a shop, under his house, which was designed by the same architects that did the skinny bookshop. We are selling some of his stuff on Klay too! 

Chou Chiku Kyo House:
One of the most beautiful houses we have ever visited. I highly suggest visiting this house if you are interested in architecture. The details are amazing - so many interesting passive natural cooling systems. You must book in advance to go on a tour. We had to book one month in advance because it was so booked up! After you make a booking contact them to ask for an english guide. It is important to get a guide because understanding the details are what makes this place special.
It is a little far out of town, but the trainstop is about a 7 minute walk from the house.
Book on their website:

Shugakuin Imperial Villa:
You usually need to book in advance to go on a tour, however we just showed up 20 mins before the tour and there was space for us - bit of a gamble but you could do this too. They run two tours a day.
Info on how to book is here:

It is very close to Bar Hutte below

Bar Hutte:
"skinny bookshop", it is also a standing bar! 2nd hand books. Most of the books here are in Japanese. The building itself has a good design award and was designed by the same architects that did BOLTS and Yenta Bakery.

Mirei Shigemori Residence:
Official website  http://www.est.hi-ho.ne.jp/shigemori/association.html
You need to book in advance to go on a tour by emailing shima753@hotmail.com
This is on the same road as Yenta Bakery - so if you go here on a Wednesday or Friday, make sure to go check out the bakery! It is 30 seconds walk away.

D & Department store:
Homewares, clothes & you can have yummy lunch here too!

The Terminal:
art gallery and tea/ sweet place in an old beautiful machiya.

Homewares shop selling beautiful kitchen things

Shokunin Showroom:
Japanese handcraft - kitchen items & homewares store
They also have a great website & ship worldwide

Books and Things:
Really good second hand architecture and art bookstore. Let the owner know what you are interested in, he is so helpful.

Media Bookstore:
Bookstore selling a lot of architecture books. It is connected to an art gallery.

Tairyudo Book Store:
UPDATE: someone told me this shop has now permanently closed.
Kyoto's only architecture dedicated bookstore. Note that the opening hours on google are not correct. It closes at 3pm. They sell books with good details and traditional construction methods too. 



Ao Onigiri (lunch)
Best onigiri! Go early if you can, as they sell out quickly. Check out their instagram page on the day to see what is left.

Soba Horiba (lunch)
Open 11.30am-2.30pm (last order)
Closed Tuesdays & Wednesdays. Book in advance if going on a weekend, they sell out of soba early sometimes. You can make a booking by messaging them on instagram.

Yenta Bakery (lunch)
They are only open Wednesdays & Fridays. Really cute bakery that operates out the front of the owner's house. The house/ bakery was designed by the same architects that did Bolts and Bar Hutte. Check out their instagram page for updates.
we had a yum iced coffee with lemon and thyme and sparkling soda here!

Uzu vegan Ramen Kyoto (dinner)
Very delicious and affordable too (it has a Michelin Bib Gourmand). Only seats 8. You need to book well in advance on their website:

Arata Okonomiyaki (dinner)

Akagakiya (dinner/ Izakaya restaurant)

Picaro Eis (ice cream)
Experimental flavours, always changing. Cute & independent feeling.

Antique/ flea Markets:

Heian Market:
We loved this one the most. It is only on once a month. Check their instagram page for updated dates:

Tenjin-san Market:
This one is also just once a month:


Very Touristy places (but worth it if you go early enough)

Saiho-ji (Koke-dera) Moss Temple
You need to book in advance (we booked about a month in advance). Follow the directions from the website.

Ginkaku-ji (Silver Temple)
No booking required so it gets very packed. We went as soon as it opened and it was already very busy.
The crowd was worth it for this one for me.