This blog post was updated on September 28, 2018.
Kyoto is on my top ten list of favorite cities I’ve visited. From the historic temples to the top-notch restaurants, I was completely enthralled with Kyoto’s beauty and depth. I can’t wait to get back there. Until I do, please enjoy these three quintessential Kyoto activities for me, okay?
1. Shop and learn at the Kyoto Handicraft Center, a multilevel building dedicated to traditional Japanese art and crafts. Watch demonstrations by master artisans, learn about traditional symbolism, and, of course, stock up on souvenirs. With so many beautiful watercolor paintings, calligraphy pieces, silk kimonos, lacquer trays, enamel jewelry, wooden boxes (and more!) available for purchase, your biggest problem will be choosing which ones to take home with you. If traditional arts and crafts are your thing, you’ll definitely want to budget at least 3-4 hours for your visit.
Kyoto Handicraft Center
7 Shogoin Entomicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto
2. Experience traditional Kyoto-style sushi at Izuju. Hailed by global foodies as the best traditional sushi spot in Kyoto, Izuju’s master sushi chefs serve up tantalizing combinations like sabazushi (pickled mackerel on sushi rice) and sasamaki (sea bream, kinome and sushi rice wrapped in a sasa bamboo leaf) in a traditional, minimalist environment. Izuju has stood the test of time, and is now on its third generation of owners. This is also the perfect restaurant for budget foodies; despite Izuju’s popularity with international tourists, prices have stayed low.
292 Gionmachi Kitagawa, Kyoto Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto
3. Step back in time as you tour Nijō Castle. One of the most impressive historic sites in Kyoto is Nijō Castle. The Nijō Castle is comprised of Ninomaru Palace, Honmaru Palace, along with a few other buildings, gardens, and cherry and plum tree groves. The two palaces contain priceless pieces of art, including stunning hand-painted screens. Nijō Castle is one of the seventeen sites that comprise the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
541 Nijojocho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto