Kyoto was a city I didn’t expect to fall in love with so quickly. But it took me by surprise and swept me off my feet. I was in Japan mainly to visit Tokyo, but decided to spend a couple days in Kyoto first. It was abrupt and ended too soon, like having to leave behind someone you just met after a short-lived whirlwind romance.

Nevertheless, Kyoto will forever hold a special place in my heart for several reasons, one of which being that this destination was my first-ever solo trip. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but the experience left me feeling empowered and excited to do it again.

If you are ever on the fence about visiting Kyoto, my advice is: GO! And spend more than a couple days there! I didn’t get to do everything that I wanted to during my time there, but I managed to fit in what I consider to be the “must-see” places to visit in Kyoto.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Admission: Free

This place was simply breathtaking. My advice: get here early in the morning to avoid large crowds of people. There were still a few people walking through when I got there around 8:30am, but I had arrived early enough to avoid the huge crowds and tour groups. I spent a little less than an hour here, but as I was leaving, giant throngs of people had started to form at the entrance.

arashiyama-kyotoThis beautiful and peaceful bamboo forest was far and away my favorite place. I imagine it’s not so peaceful once it’s bustling with tourists, but in the early morning hours the place was magical.

Fushimi Inari Shrine

Admission: Free

I don’t think it matters WHAT time of day you get here, I think it will ALWAYS be PACKED! It’s rated as the number one place to visit in Kyoto on TripAdvisor, so it’s always swarming. I don’t do very well in large crowds. I get easily overstimulated and then I get anxious and can’t think straight. There were so many people walking every which way that I think my brain almost exploded.

Luckily, the crowds start to thin out the higher you go up the path to Mt. Inari. It was here that I was able to take photos where I appear to be completely alone, though I did still have to wait for people to pass through every so often.

instagram-fushimi-inariKinkaku-ji Shrine

Admission: 400 yen

I visited Kinkaku-ji, The Golden Pavilion, later in the afternoon, and while it wasn’t as crowded as Fushimi-Inari, there was a gaggle of people all clamoring to get to the railing for that iconic shot or selfie.

I may have had to elbow a few people to get the shots I wanted. Just kidding. πŸ˜‰ I didn’t stay at the shrine for too long, but it really is quite an impressive structure.

Ginkaku-Ji Shrine

Admission: 500 yen

When I first got to Ginakaku-ji, the Silver Pavilion, it had been lightly raining. But that wasn’t the worst part.

The worst part was that there were 200+ little schoolchildren all here on a mega class field trip. Hard to take peaceful-looking pictures with tons of screaming kids running around! However, I did my best. πŸ™‚

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Path of Philosophy

Admission: Free

If you were to walk the Path of Philosophy during cherry blossom season, you would be rewarded with the beautiful sight of the trees lining either side of the path bursting with pretty pink flowers.

Unfortunately, I visited at the end of May, so the cherry blossoms were long gone. Still, the walk down this path was one of my favorite moments of my Kyoto trip. While the Path of Philosophy isn’t as iconically touristy as some of these other locations, it was the most serene and peaceful (aka not as crowded!).

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What were some of your favorite places to visit in Kyoto?

Or places you want to visit in Kyoto in the future? Let me know in the comments below!

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