You know that feeling of total serenity you have when you leave a spa? This is how you'll feel throughout your entire stay in Kyoto - but more. Tranquility lies in the very architecture of a city which overflows with Buddhist temples, botanical gardens, Shinto shrines and traditional wooden houses. If you want to get in touch with nature, head to Arashiyama on the western side of Kyoto, where you can spend the morning getting lost in the sprawling bamboo forest before a lunch of more-ish soba (buckwheat) noodles finished with green-tea ice cream - Kyoto is known for its vegetarian comfort food. A scenic boat ride through the cherry trees lining the Hozu River is a must during sakura season (March to April), while the stillness of the Saiho-ji moss temple will soothe your soul - though you need to reserve your spot in paradise. If you miss that, head up to Suzumushi-dera or the 'bell-cricket temple' for panoramic views of the city. As for hotels, Kyoto is famous for its traditional Japanese guesthouses, known as ryokan - you'll find one to suit every budget.
When to go
The best times to visit Kyoto are October and November and March to May. The rainy season is in June and July, so you might want to avoid these months.
Who to take with you
This is the place for a completely chilled-out holiday with bags of culture, so grab your mum or your best friend (why not take both?).
The Gion geisha (referred to as geiko in Kyoto) district, which first began in the Middle Ages. This area is dotted with old-style teahouses, where you should make sure to schedule a Japanese tea ceremony class. You will learn how to whisk traditional matcha tea and serve it using the original technique.
An essential you need to bring with you?
Conservative cool is the way forward here. A loose-fitting smock dress and some platform espadrilles or leather sandals are your best bet for walking around the city and will avoid any dress-code dramas when trying to get into historical sites.
Most likely to bump into…
A perfectly painted geisha sipping tea in Gion.
How to get there
The easiest way for international travellers to get to Kyoto is to fly into Kansai International Airport and then take a 90-minute express train into the city. If you're stopping by Kyoto after a visit to Tokyo, take the Shinkasen (bullet train), which will get you there in two hours and 20 minutes.