Kyoto 3 Day Itinerary: Where To Go, Eat And Sleep


Kyoto was the capital of Japan for over a thousand years and is home to countless beautiful temples. It was so hard to decide where to go in the 3 days we would be staying in the city…

Don’t get me wrong, I love temple sightseeing, but I do need to mix it up with other attractions. After seeing five temples in a row I tend to get a little temple-tired, pretty as they may be. Luckily, Kyoto has much more to offer than just temples and I loved our 3 days in this beautiful old city in Japan.

Kyoto highlights sightseeing Japan

3 days in Kyoto: highlights, budget, accommodation, transport & food

I put together this guide to help you plan your trip to Kyoto. Below you can find the map of our 3 day Kyoto itinerary, highlights in Kyoto, the Airbnb we stayed at, how to get around in Kyoto and where to find the most delicious food.

Kyoto 3 day itinerary: map & highlights

Kyoto itinerary day 1: highlights

We started our sightseeing tour around Kyoto in the afternoon, having just traveled there from magical Koyasan. We first dropped off our bags at our Airbnb (read more about our accommodation below) and then headed out to Gion, the historic district of Kyoto.

Gion Kyoto old district Japan

Gion: we strolled along the quaint little streets, admiring the beautiful kimonos many women were wearing.

Pontocho street Kyoto Japan umbrella

Pontocho street: after a great dinner (read more about food further on in this post) we walked along Pontocho street, a tiny and cute street with many bars and restaurants.

Kyoto itinerary day 2: highlights

To avoid the crowds we got up early to visit Ayashima Bamboo Forest.

Arashiyama bamboo forest Kyoto Japan

Ayashima Bamboo Forest: the enchanting bamboo forest is something I had never seen before in my life, it’s nothing like the forests at home in the Netherlands. In the early morning it’s a really nice and relaxing place.

As more and more people entered the forest, we headed to our next destination: the Philosophers Path.

Philosophers Path in Northern Higashima Kyoto Japan

The Philosophers Path: the Philosophers Path in Northern Higashima was surprisingly quiet! Walking through this green tunnel I almost felt like I was in a small village instead of a city with 1,5 million inhabitants.

Honen-in garden Kyoto Japan

Honen-in: along the Philosophers Path you can find many temples, one of those is Honen-in temple, which we visited. I particularly loved the garden, it was so green!

Nanzen-ji Zuiryusan Nanzen-ji Zenrin-ji Zen Buddhist temple Kyoto Japan

Nanzen-ji Zen Buddhist temple: we decided to skip Ginkakuji temple because of the crowds and instead we went to Nanzen-ji, a beautiful wooden temple with incredible attention to detail.

View from Kyoto station Kyoto tower Japan

View over Kyoto from Kyoto station: our next stop was Kyoto station. We went up the roof, which offers a great view over the city and of the Kyoto tower in front of the station.

Kyoto station and Kyoto Tower Japan

Kyoto station: Kyoto station itself is a nice building too, I love the symmetry of the lines in this picture!

Torii gates Kyoto Fushimi Inari Shrine

Inari Fukushi Torii gates: last but certainly not least! The final stop on our itinerary for the day was the world-famous Inari Fukushi shrine, known for the thousand vermilion Torii gates.

Following the path below the Torii gates is something I had been dreaming about since booking m ticket to Japan. I was thrilled to actually be there, there are just so many gates… It’s a very special place to visit!

Inari Fukushi shrine vermilion Torii gates

Inari Fukushi shrine: because we arrived late in the afternoon is wasn’t too crowded. We decided not to climb all the way to the top, as we were pretty tired from our intense sightseeing day. But I hear that’s really nice so if you have the time and energy, definitely go for it!

Kyoto itinerary day 3: highlights

Our third day in Kyoto started with a visit to Kinkakuji temple, also known as the Golden Pavilion. We arrived at 8.30am and even though the gates only open at 9am, a crowd had already gathered! At 9am exactly (the Japanese are very precise!) the gates were opened and we got to admire the beautiful Golden Pavilion.

Kinkakuji temple Golden Pavilion Kyoto Japan

Kinkakuji temple: of course Kinkakuji temple is the main attraction, but the surrounding garden is very pretty too, so don’t forget to check that out as well!

Imperial Palace Park Kyoto Japan

Imperial Palace Park: up next was a visit to the Imperial Palace Park, a nice green area where a lot of families were picnicking and playing with their children. Too bad we didn’t bring any food with us, the park is a great stop for a lunch break!

Nishiki market Kyoto JapanKyoto Nishiki market Japan

Nishiki market: after an Indian lunch including the biggest naan I have ever seen (picture in the food section below) we headed to our last stop of the day: Nishiki market! I was absolutely astonished by the crazy foods available and still don’t know what the food in the left picture actually is…

Budget breakdown for 3 days in Kyoto

3 day itinerary for Kyoto: budget information, Kyoto highlights (Kinkaku-ji, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and much more), recommended accommodation, transport information and where to eat delicious food! Plus downloadable map and budget breakdown infographic.

• I spent 3 days and 3 nights in Kyoto and traveled with my husband.

•  The starting and endpoint of our Kyoto trip was Kyoto station.

• Our trip to Japan was in April/May 2016. The exchange rate around that time was approximately €1 = 125JPY (¥) and $1 = 110JPY (¥).

• In total we spent ¥28.231/€225/$255 in the 3 days we were in Kyoto, this comes down to an average of ¥9410/€75/$85 per day for us as a couple.

Our expenses in Kyoto can be divided into 4 categories

1. Airbnb accommodation: 37% of our costs
2. Transport by bus: 11% of our costs
3. Food & drinks: 49% of our costs
4. Activities: 3% of our costs (the only activity costing money was Kinkakuji temple, entrance fee ¥400 per person, the rest of the activities we did were free!)

Inari Fukushi Kyoto Japan Torii gates

Where to stay in Kyoto: accommodation

We stayed at Mi’s via Airbnb for 3 nights.

What I liked

+ What you see is what you get! Yes, the apartment is old and basic, but that’s clearly indicated in the advertisement and it’s excellent value for money.

+ The apartment is close to Kinkakuji tempel (the Golden Pavilion) and there are a bus stop and a Lawson convenience store within 100 meters of the apartment.

+ Communication with Mi was superb, he responded to all my messages very quickly and he was flexible about our travel dates. I would stay here again in the future, budget accommodation in Kyoto is hard to find!

What I didn’t like

– It’s not fancy, I didn’t mind but if you are looking for something classy for your stay in Kyoto, this place is not for you!

Accommodation information

Airbnb rating: 4 stars
Price paid per night: €28/$31.
Click here to see the apartment on Airbnb.

How to get around in Kyoto: transportation

Kyoto Bus Only Passes City Bus All-day Pass

The bus station of Kyoto is in front of the train station, as is the bus ticket information center. We were given a city map, a bus map and a Kyoto city bus all-day pass costing ¥500 per ticket. This ticket gives you unlimited rides withing the area on the bus map and that area covers pretty much all the major sites! Read more on the Kyoto Station website.

Where to eat in Kyoto

I spent a lot of time in Japan eating because Japanese food is absolutely delicious… I have written an extensive post detailing my favorite food in Japan, which you can find here. Below you can find the food I ate during my time in Kyoto. I have to admit we had a craving for Indian food while we were in Kyoto and ended up eating Indian for lunch 2 days in a row…

Abura soba

Kyoto abura soba

Where to eat this: Aburasoba Nekomata, 〒605-0862 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Higashiyama-ku, 清水4丁目138, +81 75-551-5088
Price: ¥700

Indian lunch menu at Kerala

Kyoto 3 day itinerary

Where to eat this: Kerala, 〒604-8006 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Nakagyō-ku, Shimomaruyachō (Kawaramachidōri)
Price: ¥900 for the set lunch menu

Indian lunch menu at Ganesha

Delicious Food To Eat In Japan - My 10 Favorite Dishes

Where to eat this: Ganesha, 〒603-8357 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Kita-ku, Hirano Miyanishichō
Price: ¥900 for the set lunch menu


紫蔵 Ramen Kyoto

Where to eat this: 14 Hirano Miyakitachō, Kita-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 603-8352, +81 75-462-3737 (read more in my food post)
Price: ¥600 (+ optional toppings, between ¥50 – ¥100)

A final word about Kyoto

I hope I have convinced you to visit Kyoto, it’s a wonderful city and definitely worth a trip! We spent 3 days in Kyoto but there is much more to see and do so you could easily stay longer… Do you want to read more about traveling in Japan? Check out my other posts here.

Looking for more travel planning resources? Check out the Phenomenal Globe Travel Planning Library and my Travel Resource page!

3 day itinerary for Kyoto: budget information, Kyoto highlights (Kinkaku-ji, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and much more), recommended accommodation, transport information and where to eat delicious food! Plus downloadable map and budget breakdown infographic.

3 day itinerary for Kyoto: budget information, Kyoto highlights (Kinkaku-ji, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and much more), recommended accommodation, transport information and where to eat delicious food! Plus downloadable map and budget breakdown infographic.

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  1. Mike
    January 1, 2017 / 10:17 am

    I’m heading to Kyoto in 2 days and love this guide! Very useful info and thanks for the budget breakdown too because I’m having a hard time figuring out how much to bring

    • Lotte
      January 1, 2017 / 2:08 pm

      Hi Mike, arigatou gozaimasu (thank you very much) for your kind comment! I am happy to hear you like my Kyoto guide:-). Have fun on your trip!

  2. January 3, 2017 / 1:46 am

    I was just in Japan for 2 weeks back in Nov and absolutely loved Kyoto. It was such a breath of fresh air after being in Tokyo for 3 days! And Gion is the best!! Great photos! It made me miss Japan.

    • Lotte
      January 3, 2017 / 2:02 pm

      Gion is awesome! I am plotting to go back to Japan, I loved the country, the people and the food… What is your favorite place in Japan?

  3. January 5, 2017 / 3:25 pm

    I love Kyoto and have been there many times. This is a great post! I don’t agree on everything but that’s unavoidable when you talk about a city whith so much to do and see.
    I personally don’t like to use buses to move around the city. They are cheap, sure, but often so crowded and very, very slow. I really like to move around kyoto on a bicycle! And on foot (for shorter distances)!

    • Lotte
      January 6, 2017 / 2:31 pm

      I agree the buses take a long time, but because it was my first time in Kyoto I didn’t mind as I found it a great way to do some sightseeing:-). We also walked around a lot, but for longer distances a bike would be perfect! As a Dutchie I’m used to cycling everywhere anyway;-).

  4. September 16, 2017 / 11:47 am

    Great article Lotte, really helpful and informative! Thumbs up
    Check out this article written by one of our community, he’d put much effort on it and I think you’ll like it too. let me know what you think

    • Lotte
      September 17, 2017 / 5:42 pm

      Great itinerary! Kyoto is such a beautiful city…

  5. March 15, 2018 / 3:44 pm

    We went to Kyoto last spring and absolutely adored it! You’re really lucky to enjoy Arashiyama Bamboo Forest so early in the morning – it was teeming with people when we were there.

    • Lotte
      March 16, 2018 / 1:51 pm

      Kyoto is pretty great indeed! Yes, I’m glad we set our alarm very early to see Arashiyama before the flood of other tourist arrived;-)

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