A PERFECT Kyoto 1 Day Itinerary: First Timer’s Guide

Where ancient traditions and modern life meet, Kyoto is a bucket-list travel destination. From its enchanting bamboo groves to beautiful temples to modern city life, Kyoto offers travelers the best of both worlds. This Kyoto 1 day itinerary allows you to explore both.

I been lucky enough to visit Kyoto twice and I have truly fallen in love with this cultural capital. I was SO excited to visit here, so I did more than enough research before stepping foot in Kyoto! Not to my surprise, I LOVED Kyoto. It was everything I had ever hoped for in a city!

With only 1 day in Kyoto, I have crafted a whirl-wind itinerary that takes you to ALL the best spots in the city. This Kyoto 1 day itinerary is sure to leave you wanting more from this incredible city!

man in kyoto in bamboo grove

Table of Contents

The PERFECT Kyoto 1 Day Itinerary For First Timers

Early Morning: Breakfast

With only a Kyoto 1 day itinerary, aim to have an early breakfast! You’ll want to make the most out of your time in this awesome culture hub of Japan.

Stop by a 7/11 or FamilyMart for breakfast. Unlike in America or Europe where 7/11 is cheap gas station food, here it’s high quality.

7/11 in Japan has a variety of healthy snacks and breakfast options. They will even heat it up for you behind the counter!

So, to maximize your time in the morning, stop at 7/11 for breakfast. Believe it or not, this is a very Japanese thing to do!

cup of matcha tea in Japan

Morning: Bamboo Grove and Monkey Park (8:30-10:30)

Your first stop on this Kyoto 1 day itinerary is Bamboo Grove. I recommend arriving by 8:30am at the latest. Kyoto is a very popular tourist destination, and the Bamboo Grove tops most travelers’ lists.

To beat the crowds and get an awesome picture here, you’ll want to arrive as early as possible. Trust me, it’s worth it!

How To Get To The Bamboo Grove from Kyoto

To get to the Bamboo Grove, there are two different trains you can take.

From the Kyoto Station, you can jump on the JR/Sagano/San-in Main Line to the Saga-Arashiyama Station. This journey takes about 15 minutes. Once you arrive at the Saga-Arashiyama Station, it’s a quick 10-minute walk to the bamboo forest.

If you are not staying near Kyoto Station, you can take the local Kyoto Subway. This Kyoto subway easily connects most parts of Kyoto. From your station in Kyoto, purchase a ticket on the Purple Hankya Kyoto Semi Line. You will need to get off at Arashiyama Station. From here, it’s a 10-minute walk to the Bamboo Grove.

This will be your easiest option if you are staying near Gion, Nakishi Market, and other touristy parts of town.

You will see lots of other tourists on the train heading to the same spot as you. So, you can follow the crowds to find the bamboo forest. However, if for some reason there are no crowds, there are signs that will point you in the right direction. 

Bamboo Grove (8:30-9:30 am)

bamboo grove walkway in Kyoto - Kyoto 1 day itinerary

Once you arrive at the Bamboo Grove, you are transported into a world unlike any other. Here, the bamboo trees soar into the sky! It’s incredible.

Use the morning time to take photos. This place gets PACKED. Which is why it’s the first thing on our Kyoto 1 day itinerary!

The Bamboo Grove consists of many paths weaving through the tall trees. It’s best to wear good walking shoes here.

See the Monkeys in the Park (9:30-10:30 am)

bridge over river in kyoto japan - Kyoto 1 day itinerary

A must-do on your Kyoto 1 day itinerary while you are in the area is to see the snow monkeys! These adorable monkeys are located in the Iwatayama Park.

The Iwatayama Park is home to over 120 snow monkeys, also known as the Japanese Macaques. These monkeys are known to be playing in hot baths. They are distinct because of their red faces. They truly are so cute!

To visit the Monkey Park from the Bamboo Grove, it is less than a 20-minute walk. To get there, you will need to walk back through the town towards the Arashiyama Subway Station. Next, cross the Togetsu-Kyo Bridge.

The Togetsku-Kyo Bridge is a beautiful wooden bridge that crosses over the Katsura River.

Once you are over the bridge, make your way to Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama. It’s a bit of a hike, but well worth it!

kyoto monkeys playing in the park

Grab a Coffee (10:30-11:00 am)

Between the Bamboo Grove and seeing the Monkeys you will pass through the tourist town. Here, you will find lots of shops, delicious restaurants, and cute coffee shops. It’s the perfect break on your Kyoto 1 day itinerary.

You had an early morning, so if you have extra time, grab yourself another coffee and enjoy the atmosphere.

The most famous coffee shop in the area (and with undoubtedly the best views) is % Arabica – Arashiyama. However, this place gets crazy busy, so if you are in a rush it might be best to go somewhere else.

Lunch: Nishiki Market (12:30-2:30 pm)

busy japanese market with food

The next stop on your Kyoto 1 day ininerary is Nishiki Market. From the bamboo grove head to Nishiki Market. Nishiki Market is a large outdoor market with lots of delicious food to choose from. This narrow market is 5 streets long, meaning it has hundreds of restaurants and shops for you to explore.

Nishiki Market is known for its traditional and rich history. This 400 year old market is home to many of the most famous foods in Kyoto too!

How to Get from The Bamboo Grove to Nishiki Market?

To get from the Bamboo Grove to Nishiki Market, you will need to get way on the train.

If you have the JR pass, you can ride the JR train from Saga-Arashiyama Station to Kyoto Station. Then, connect from the Kyoto Station onto the subway Green Karasuma Line. This takes around 45 minutes.

The quickest way is to take the subway from Arashiyama Station to Sai Station. From here, connect to the Hankyu Kyoto Line. Then, get off the train at Omiya Station.

Omiya Station is one street away from the market.

Things To Do At Nishiki Market

decorations in a market in japan

Nishiki Market is the best spot in Kyoto for foodies. This market has it all and really is bustling during the lunch rush. You should arrive here around 12:30. This gives you enough time to enjoy a nice sit down meal and then some added time for exploring.

Eat Tako Tamago – A small baby octopus with a quail’s egg in the head. I’m not going to lie, this one is a bit far-fetched for me. But, when in Japan!

Mochi – This rice cake is a delicious sweet treat found all over Japan. Try some mochi in this market! There are many different forms of mochi – you can’t go wrong with any of them.

Shinkyogoku Shopping Street – This famous shopping street is packed with stores. Here you can stock up on anything you need or peruse for some souvenirs. There are more than enough options in this area.

Afternoon: Fushimi Inari Taisha (3:00 – 5:00 pm)

torri red gates in kyoto - Kyoto 1 day itinerary

The top thing to do on your Kyoto 1 day itinerary is to visit the Fushimi Inari Taisha. This popular Shinto shrine is famous for its hundreds of orange Torii gates. This path is one of the most photographed spots in all of Japan!

The Fushimi Inari Taisha also gets PACKED! But, with only a Kyoto 1 day itinerary, it’s important to make every second count. So, you’ll have to brave the crowds to visit here.

How to get to Fushimi Inari Taisha

To get to Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto, you will need to find your way to the Fushimi-Inari Station. This is located on Kyoto’s subway line that runs through the city.

From Nishiki Market to Fushimi Inari Taisha, it’s a quick 25-minute ride from Gion-Shijo Station to Fushimi-Inari Station along the red Keihan Line.

What To Do at Fushimi Inari Taisha

red torri gates in kyoto japan - Kyoto 1 day itinerary

When you enter the Fushimi Inari Taisha, you are first greeted with gift shops, temples, and other things to see before you find the famous orange Torri gate walkway.

You will find lots of crowds and people in this front second, as well as the beginning of the Torri gate walkway.

However, explore further down the Torri gate walkway to get away from people. This walkway is actually a 2.8-mile loop and is considered moderately challenging. The best part is that the whole hike is FILLED with the beautiful orange Torii gates. You’ll want to bring water for the hike! 

Once you get past the busy crowds at the beginning, later in the hike you will have many opportunities to take photos by yourself with the orange gates.

If you are feeling up for it, you should hike the whole way! At the top, you are greeted with a beautiful view of Kyoto.

You can easily spend an hour or two at this stop on your Kyoto 1 day itinerary.

Kyoto city view from Fushimi Inari Taisha -Kyoto 1 day itinerary

Usually, I am a bit skeptical of somewhere so famous. I am scared it will be too crowded or not live up to the hype. However, I LOVED the Fushimi Inari Taisha. It was a highlight of my trip.

Give yourself a good two hours here to hike, explore the temple, take photos, and browse the shops.

Evening: Gion District (5:00 – 8:00 pm)

Gion district - kyoto 1 day itinerary

Another iconic stop on your Kyoto 1 day itinerary is the Gion District. The Gion District is the historical and traditional area in Kyoto. This place is picture-perfect. These beautiful streets transport you back to traditional Japanese culture.

Spend your time in Gion shopping and eating. Gion has many famous restaurants in the area that are worth a try. 

One of the most famous shops in Gion is actually is Starbucks! This Starbucks is said to be one of the most beautiful and unique Starbucks in the world. So, to be festival, I recommend just stopping by and having a look.

When visiting Gion on your Kyoto 1 day itinerary, you can’t go wrong just roaming around and discovering new streets. Each turn you take transports you to a new beautiful street with unique shops and restaurants.

Dango japanese snack

The Gion District is built on the side of a hill, so there are many hills and steps in this area. The Gion District leads up the hill, and at the top is home to the Yasaka-jinja Shrine. This is another beautiful shrine that has another fantastic view of Kyoto. It’s free to walk around the grounds, however, you’ll need to pay if you want to go inside.

Night: Take a walk, eat more food, enjoy a tour, or Karaoke!

walkway along a river with traditional japanese archetecture

After a busy day in Kyoto, you will probably be pretty tired by the time the night falls.

But, if you still have energy to add more to your Kyoto 1 day itinerary, you have a couple of options for things to do once the sun goes down.

Shirakawa Canal – This canal is a beautiful canal right in the heart of the city. It has a beautiful walking path that many people utilize during their time in Kyoto.

Pontocho Alley – A famous alley in Kyoto home to many restaurants and bars. If you’re still hungry after the Gion District, you’ll want to go here. It’s a photographer’s dream as well. This beautiful street is stunning at night.

Take a Night Tour – Night tours allow you to see the city in a completely new way. At night, the Japanese lanterns light the streets. This is where the modern and the traditional sides meet. 

Karaoke – When in Japan you MUST Karaoke! Karaoke is the best thing to do at night. Here, you can rent out private rooms and sing your heart out. 

Other Things To Do on your Kyoto 1 Day Itinerary

  • Golden Temple place
  • Free Walking Tour
  • Tokyo Tower
  • Pontocho
  • Tenryu-ji Shrine

Temple in Kyoto

Where to Stay in Kyoto

Kyoto 1 Day Itinerary

Kyoto is a descent sized town with many options on where to stay. It’s important to be in a good location for your Kyoto 1 day itinerary to help save time. One of the charms about Kyoto is that everything is close together.

The best areas to stay in Kyoto are as close to the Gion District, Nishiki Market, or Kyoto Train Station as possible. However, as long as you are next to a subway line, you will be well connected to the city.

Best Budget Accommodation

  • K’s Backpacker Hostel – This hostel is the best in Kyoto! Japan is not known for its social life in hostels. In fact, I found it quite difficult to make friends in Japan. However, once I stayed in this hostel everything changed. This hostel fosters community. There are lots of opportunities to meet fellow travelers. It also has all the amenities you would need – a full-size kitsch, great wifi, laundry, and more.
  • Hotel Musse Kyoto– A 4.5 star hotel with great reviews. It’s located just between the Nishiki Market and Gion District. Here you will be in the center of all the action without breaking your budget.

How To Get Around Kyoto:

Kyoto is a very easy city to get around. Kyoto has the JR line, subways, and lots of walking paths. It’s a well-connected city and every tourist hot spot is easily accessible by subway or train.

kyoto train station

I found during my trip I walked most places. It’s a very walkable and safe city. A lot of the major tourist attractions are near each other.

However, the Bamboo Grove is a bit farther from the other attractions. To get to the bamboo grove you will have to take a train or the subway.

There are also taxis in Kyoto, however, they are very expensive and I don’t recommend using them.

How To Get To Kyoto

airplane view at night

To get to Kyoto you will need to fly, take a train, or travel by bus.

Kyoto does not have an airport. The closest airport to Kyoto is the Osaka International Airport. The airport is about an hour away by bus or train.

Traveling by train in Japan is an epic way to see the country. The Japanese are known for their high-speed and futuristic trains. These trains don’t come cheap, but they are usually the fastest way to get from one city to another in Japan.

Taking a bus in Japan is the slowest and cheapest way to travel to Kyoto. From Tokyo, you can take an overnight bus to Kyoto. This is very cost-effective as you also save on a night’s accommodation!

How Many Days in Kyoto?

It’s best to have 3 days in Kyoto, however a Kyoto 1 day itinerary is entirely possible! 3 days is enough time to see all the main sites, take a tour around the city, and enjoy all the city has to offer. I spent 2 days in Kyoto and really wish I had more time! I LOVED this city. Although it is small, ideally I would have 3 days in Kyoto.

street sign in japanese with nature - Kyoto 1 day itinerary

Is a Kyoto 1 Day Itinerary Enough?

Kyoto is a must-see city. Even within a short 24 hours, you are able to see the major tourist attractions, enjoy the food, and get a feel for the city. Although it is a short amount of time, any time is better than no time here!

Gion district - kyoto 1 day itinerary

I’m Danika! A travel obsessed, Disney adult, with a knack for budgeting.

In 2020 I was furlough from my “dream” job at Disney and have pursued my first love of travel ever since. I have traveled to 33 states and 28 countries spanning 5 continents.

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