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
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.