It is ideal to spend at least 5 days in Kyoto when visiting this historical city.
However, for those who plan to travel throughout Japan or simply want to visit Kyoto for a weekend, it may be impossible to allocate that many days. In cases like these detailed planning is required since there isn’t any time to waste.
For this plan let’s assume that you arrive at Kyoto Station at noon on Saturday, stay at a hotel nearby and need to get back to the station at 17:00 the following day.
At noon on Saturday
There are bunch of restaurants at two underground shopping centers in Kyoto. For more information on this topic, read “Eat in Underground Kyoto Station Porta.” This is a great plan if it is a weekday, but for the weekend almost all of the restaurants will be very busy. If eating at a fastfood chain is not a problem, do so. There are a few in the underground center called Porta. For those who are not hungry yet,don’t want fast food, or just don’t want to wait for 45 minutes at the entrance of the restaurant, check in the hotel first or visit Kyoto Tower;
or visit Nishi Honganji Temple, which is a World Heritage Site.
Both are within walking distance from Kyoto Station.
Go back to Kyoto Station. Find the bus ticket office and get a One Day Subway & Bus Pass (1200 yen/adult, 600 yen/child).Go to the underground on the Karasuma side (Kyoto Tower side), and get on the Subway Karasuma Line (insert the card into the ticket gate. It will be returned, so don’t forget to get it back). Get on the train headed for Shijo/Kokusai Kaikan. Get off at the third stop, Karasuma Oike Station. Now, find the sign leading people to a different subway called the Tozai Line. Get on the train heading to Rokujizo. Get off at the third station, Higashiyama. From this point there are two choices. Plan A is for people who want to walk a long distance, and Plan B is for people who are don’t.
Plan A — Visit Nanzenji Temple, walk along the Philosopher’s Path and visit Ginkakuji Shrine.
Note: The weak point of this plan is that you need to take a bus back. Take the City Bus Line 5, 17 or 100. When taking a bus, be sure to confirm that you have enough coins since the bus doesn’t give change. However, they do have a money-changing machine, which accepts only 500 yen coins or 1000 yen bills.
Plan B — Visit Chion-in Temple, Shoren-in Temple and Heian Jingu Shrine, preferbly in this order.
Heian Jingu Shrine
After visiting Heian Jingu, go back to Higashiyama Station. Then take a subway heading to Uzumasa Tenjinmae. Get off at Karasuma Oike Station (the fourth stop). Find a sigh that says “Subway Karasuma Line bound for Shijo/Kyoto”.
8:30 AM on Sunday
It is better to finish breakfast by 8:20. This day’s plan includes a few bus rides. So, first things first. Go to the bus terminal next to Kyoto Station (Kyoto Tower side). Get a One Day Bus Pass (500 yen). Find the bus stop going to Kinakakujimichi (101 or 205). Visit Kinkakuji Temple.
After visiting Kinkakuji Temple
Kinkakuji Temple is one of the most popular sightseeing spots in Kyoto. Another one that is also very busy and popular is Kiyomizudera Temple. It is worth noting that the ride from Kinkakuji to Kiyomizudera is long. So, for those who are not ready to take another long bus ride (it might take 45 minutes), it is a good idea to take a taxi. Although it might cost 2000 – 3000 yen to Kiyomizudera Temple, this option will surely minimize stress and save a lot of time.
After visiting Kiyomizudera Temple
Eat lunch near Kiyomizudera Temple. There are some nice places for eaing and snacking on the way to Kodaiji Temple or Yasaka Shrine, which is the next stop. If it is already past 14:00, it is safer to go back to Kyoto Station. Otherwise, walk to Kodaiji Temple.
From Kodaiji Temple, it is easy to find Yasaka Shrine through Maruyama Park. This park is a famous cherry blossom viewing point. Take a look around and make a wish at Yasaka Shrine. For how to make a wish, read “How to Pray in Shrines.” After visiting Yasaka Shrine, depending on the time, it is possible to wonder around Gion or go straight back to Kyoto Station. Take the City Bus (100) at Gion to go back to Kyoto Station.