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Plan Your Trip to Kyoto: Best of Kyoto Tourism

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Explore Kyoto

Kyoto, Japan’s capital for over 1,000 years, offers a rare link between modern life in a city and its very ancient past. Here, Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, Zen rock gardens, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites are at every turn. Visit the 7th-century Shimogamo Shrine with its stunning arcade of orange gates, the elegant Kinkakuji Temple with a gold-leaf exterior perfectly reflected in a placid lake, and Kiyomizu-dera Temple with a hillside location that makes for spectacular city views. Still the center of traditional Japanese culture, Kyoto is the place to experience a tea ceremony, savor multi-course Kaiseki haute cuisine, and catch sight of a geisha as you stroll through Gion at dusk. For the very best of Kyoto, check out our recommendations below.

Travel Advice

Essential Kyoto

How to do Kyoto in 3 days

Famous shrines, unexpected flavors, and peaceful bamboo groves
Read on

Take a deep dive into Kyoto’s traditional arts and crafts scene

If you ask me, no place has a richer arts and crafts culture than Kyoto. I could spend hours browsing the finished products at boutiques around the city, but even better is getting to watch demonstrations, touch the materials, and try my hand at making them myself. At these six spots, you can truly immerse yourself in Kyoto’s centuries-old traditions.
Selena Takigawa Hoy, Tokyo, Japan
  • ROKETSU Dyeing Studio YAMAMOTO
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    This traditional studio run by the friendly Yamamoto family specializes in wax-resist dyeing. They are happy to explain the process and have patterns you can choose from to create your own design on anything from a tea towel to a T-shirt. The final product makes a great souvenir to bring back home.
  • Kyoto Museum of Crafts and Design
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    Dozens of handicrafts—everything from ceramic roof tiles to ornamental hairpins to paper lanterns—are on display at this incredible museum. You’ll see not only the finished products, but detailed explanations on how they were made. Even more fascinating are the artisans demonstrating their craft. The regular rotation includes woodworkers, printmakers, and candlemakers, and many have their own studios where you can take classes. A highlight: Seeing how kimonos are dyed.
  • Asahiyaki
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    This studio has been making ceremonial tea utensils from locally sourced clay for more than 400 years. Located in the famous tea-producing city of Uji, about 30 minutes from Kyoto, it has a riverside setting that’s a great escape from downtown. If you want to create your own ceramics, the studio offers pottery-making classes using molds or spinning wheels. I recommend that you pick up some fine green tea while you’re in town.
  • Kyoto Shibori Museum
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    Textile lovers should check out the Kyoto Shibori Museum, featuring intricate paintings, scrolls, and kimonos created using a traditional resist-dyeing technique called shibori. The museum offers reasonably priced classes led by knowledgeable instructors who help you create your own shibori silk scarf or furoshiki (a cloth used to wrap goods). A bonus: The class includes free admission to the museum’s exhibits, which gives you something to do while your fabric dries.
  • Usaginonedoko Kyoto Shop
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    I’m a sucker for a beautiful cafe, and I don’t mind paying (a little bit) more when it’s as unique as this one. A combination cafe, inn, and gallery, Usaginonedoko is all about finding beauty in nature and you see it in everything from the art to the food. Make sure to check out the dessert menu. The dishes are inspired by minerals and look more like geology exhibits, but they deliver in the flavor department.
  • Kyoto Handicraft Center
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    Leave enough time to explore the Kyoto Handicraft Center, which has a vast array of items that were handmade by local artisans. The cotton yukatas (summer kimonos) are an especially good buy, but you’ll also find tea kettles, sake cups, and traditional dolls and toys, along with works of art you can hang on your walls back home.