Solo travel in Kyoto is safe and fun. But if this is your first time going to Kyoto, then you must have a lot of questions about all the best things to see and do, what to eat in Kyoto and how to make the most of your time while travelling solo in Kyoto.
As one of the Japan’s biggest cities, Kyoto has many historic temples, shrines and zen gardens. And it is possible to see all the best attractions while spending 2 days in Kyoto. I condensed all the highlights into a 2-day Kyoto itinerary where you can efficiently see all the best of the best in Kyoto while on a budget.
Keep reading my Kyoto solo travel guide and I’ll show you exactly how to spend two days in Kyoto and explore the old capital city on your own.
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Table of Contents
Kyoto Solo Travel: what you need to know
Before you start your solo 2 day Kyoto itinerary, take a look at my post on everything you need to know before going to Japan. I included a lot of information, including how to get around Japan and other travel tips.
Here are additional travel tips that you may find useful when you are spending 2 days in Kyoto alone:
- Whether you are wandering around during the day or night, Kyoto is a safe city for solo female travellers.
- It is possible to spend 2 days in Kyoto on a budget. There are affordable accommodations, cheap street food and many free things to do in Kyoto.
- Carry cash with you, as many eateries accept cash only.
- There are a handful of cashless restaurants. So it is a good idea to bring a credit card as well.
- Plan your visit with the following festivals and events in Kyoto:
- Flea Market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine (every 25th of each month) – monthly market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine.
- Cherry blossom viewing (late March to early April) – Maruyama Park Kamogawa River, Philosopher’s Path, and Kiyomizudera Temple.
- Gion Matsuri (July) – the most famous festival in Japan, which involves a procession with massive floats and hundreds of participants at Yasaka Shrine.
How to travel solo to Kyoto Japan
Kansai International Airport (KIX) is about 95km southwest of Kyoto. There are two direct ways of getting from the airport to the city:
- Airport Haruka Express Train: 1 hour 25 minutes to Kyoto Station; ¥1,910
- Airport Limousine Bus: 1.5 hour to Kyoto Station (and other locations in Kyoto); ¥2,600
If you are already in Japan, many trains on the Japan Railways can take you to Kyoto Station, including the Shinkansen (bullet train). Check Hyperdia website for the schedule and cost.
How to get around Kyoto for 2 days
Kyoto is a relatively big city. So the best way to get around Kyoto for 2 days is to take public transportion which includes buses and trains.
If you haven’t already, get the ICOCA card, a rechargeable IC card for the Kansai Region. This will be very useful for travelling Kyoto on both days. Or, if you already have a Pasmo or Suica card or other IC cards from different regions in Japan, top up your card and use it in Kyoto.
For your first day in Kyoto, top up your ICOCA card for a full day of bus rides. Bus costs ￥230 per ride.
For day 2 in Kyoto, take the train for first half of the day and the rest of the day will be on foot. Train ride costs between￥150-240 depending on distance.
Kyoto 2-Day Itinerary Map
There are actually so many things to do in Kyoto that it could take days to see them all. But if you are short on time, you can spend 2 days in Kyoto and see all the best attractions by following my efficient itinerary.
I pinned all the top things to do in Kyoto on the interactive map below. Red numbered pins are all the must-see Kyoto attractions on Day 1, purple numbered pins are things to see in Kyoto on Day 2, blue pins are other things to do in Kyoto if you are staying longer, and green pins are day trip ideas from Kyoto.
Kyoto 2-Day Itinerary: Day 1
As mentioned, ICOCA card for a full day of bus rides as the itinerary includes many attractions across the city. I included all the directions and bus routes to and from each of the destination to make it easier for you to navigate.
Your 2-day Kyoto itinerary starts at the most famous attraction in Kyoto: Kinkakuji, also known as The Golden Pavilion. And it is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
When you enter the temple premises, turn left, and you will immediately be in front of a large pond with Kinkakuji in the background.
Then, follow the guided path that tours the premise. As you get closer to Kinkakuji, you can see the wood structures and white plaster walls which are characteristics of the Shinden style. And the upper floors are covered in gold leaf where the second floor was built in the Bukke Style (similar to samurai houses), and the third floor is in the style of Chinese Zen Hall.
Keep walking around and see different gardens, Ryumon-taki waterfall, Sekkatei Teahouse, and souvenir shops.
How to get to Kinkakuji: Take bus 205 from Kyoto Station or Kawaramachi to Kinkakujimichi Bus Stop and walk 3 minutes.
Address: 1 Kinkakujicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto | Hours: 9am-5pm | Admission: ¥400
As Kyoto’s second most visited place, you can easily spend a few hours in Arashiyama. Here are some of the highlights that you shouldn’t miss:
- Arashiyama Main Shopping Street and Tenryuji Temple – Both sides of the main street in Arashiyama are lined with souvenir shops, kimono rental shops and restaurants. This is an excellent spot to have lunch and try some of the local Kyoto food specialities including silky tofu and udon.
- Tenryuji Temple – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and see the buildings in the temple complex that were spared by fires and the manicured zen garden.
- Arashiyama Bamboo Grove – a guided path with thousands of bamboo flanking on both sides of the narrow path. And the bamboo grove is especially pretty when sunlight shines through from the top.
- Arashiyama Park and Katsura River – The bamboo path will lead you directly to Arashiyama Park where you can meander through the park at a leisurely pace. There is an observation deck on the west end of the park or keep walking on the east side of the park and walk towards Katsura River. Depending on the day, you might even see some chartered sightseeing boats.
- Arashiyama Monkey Park – Cross Togetsukyo Bridge to the south side and follow the signs for a ten-minute hike to Arashiyama Monkey Park. While you are walking uphill, you may be approached by a monkey or two. But most of them are at the top, where you can buy food and feed them. And don’t forget to catch a glimpse of the view of Arashiyma from the top; the panoramic view is breathtaking.
How to get to Arashiyama from Kinkakuji: Take bus 205 from Kinkakujimichi Bus Stop to Nishinokyo Enmachi Bus Stop. Then, walk 3 minutes to the adjacent bus stop on Marutamachi Dori and take bus 93 to Arashiyama Tenryuji Mae Bus Stop.
Address: Ukyo Ward, Kyoto | Hours: 9am-4pm | Admission: ￥600 for Monkey Park
6. Nishiki Market
Nishiki Market is a long and narrow food market on a long in Kawaramchi, the downtown area of Kyoto. Over a hundred vendors sell Japanese food including seafood, takoyaki, matcha desserts. And this is where you can buy some of the best Kyoto specialties (Japanese sweets, pickled vegetables, etc.). And many of them give free samples! Yum!
Many food vendors close around 5:30pm so give yourself at least half an hour to walk through the busy street.
How to get to Nikishi Market from Arashiyama: Take bus 73 or 76 from Arashiyama Bus Stop to Shijo Karasuma Bus Stop. And walk 6 minutes.
Address: Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto | Hours: varies | Admission: free
7 & 8. Teramachi Street and Shinkyogoku Shopping Street
Teramachi Street is a covered shopping street located in the middle of downtown Kyoto. Many coffee shops, cafes, and restaurants line the main avenue and side streets.
And parellel to the covered shoping street is another covered shopping street called Shinkyogoku Shopping Street. Yup, there are more shops and restaurants here.
And at the south end of the shopping streets, there are a few alleyways with many local restaurants. Perhaps you can find somewhere to eat around here? Or you can follow my Kyoto food guide for more food suggestions.
How to get to Teramachi Street from Nikishi Market: Walk the entire length of Nishiki Market and Teramachi-dori is at the east end of the market. And Shinkyogoku Shopping Street is parallel to Teramachi-dori.
Address: Teramachi-dori, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto | Hours: varies | Admission: free
2-Day Itinerary Kyoto: Day 2
For your second day in Kyoto, pay individual train tickets for the first half of the day and walk for the remainder of the day. Remember to top up your ICOCA card to save time.
1. Fushimi Inari Taisha
Fushimi Inari Taisha is one of the most important Shinto shrines in Kyoto. While some people visit the shrine to pray for bountiful harvest and success in business, many others want to see the Senbon Torii, which are the thousands of torii gates.
When you arrive at Inari Station, you will be greeted by a giant orange torii gate. Beyond the gate is the main hall, many fox statues (Inari’s messengers), and the Torii Gate hiking trail entrance.
Halfway up Mount Inari, there is a spot where you can take in the panoramic view of the area. And the further you go up, the further you are away from others, i.e. no one photobombing your photos! The whole journey will take about two hours or so.
How to get to Fushimi Inari Taisha: From Kyoto Station, take Japan Railways – Nara Line to Inari Station (6 minutes, ￥150). And walk 5 minutes. From Kawaramachi, take Keihan Railway from Gion-Shijo Station to Ryukokudai-mae-fukakusa Station (10 minutes, ￥220). And walk 7 minutes.
Address: 68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free
2. Kiyomizudera Temple
Kiyomizudera Temple means “Pure Water Temple” and is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of my favourite temples in Kyoto.
First, walk through Nio-mon, the main entrance, and visit Sai-mon (West Gate) and Zuigu-do Hall before you enter Hondo (Main Hall). The main hall is the largest building on the premises, and it has a large wooden stage overhanging the steep hill.
Continue on and visit Okuno-in Hall, where you can take a stunning photo of the main hall. Then, catch water with a ladle from the three streams of water at Otowa no Taki (Ottawa Waterfall). It is said that water can prolong life and is suitable for purification.
How to get to Kiyomizudera Temple from Fushimi Inari Taisha: Take Keihan Railway from Ryukokudai-mae-fukakusa Station to Kiyomizu-Gojo Station (7 minutes, ￥220). Then walk 20 minutes.
Address: 1 Chome-294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto | Hours: 6am-6pm (close 9:30pm for night viewings in summer and autumn) | Admission: ￥400
Kiyomizu is a touristy area with many traditional Japanese homes that houses many cafes, restaurants, dessert shops and souvenir shops. This is an excellent area to try local Kyoto desserts and buying souvenirs.
From the entrance/exit of Kiyomiuzudera, walk down Sannen-zaka Path, a hilly pedestrian street, which will lead to Ninen-zaka Path, which is another pedestrian street.
Also explore some of the smaller streets. Look for Yasaka Pagoda, a picturesque five-storey pagoda and Yasaka Koshindo, a small temple with many colourful ball called “kukurizaru”.
For coffee lovers, check out Starbucks Kyoto Ninenzaka Yasaka Chaya. The interior resembles a traditional Japanese home. You can enjoy your usual Starbucks coffee on one of their tatami seats.
How to get to Kiyomizu from Kiyomizudera Temple: Follow Sannen-zaka Path from the entrance of Kiyomizudera, walk downhill until you reached Ninen-zaka Path. Then keep walking north.
Address: Kiyomizu, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free
4 & 5. Maruyama Park and Yasaka Shrine
As the oldest park in Kyoto, Maruyama Park attracts many visitors to see pink cherry blossoms bloom in spring. Over 680 cherry blossom trees are in the park, and the central weeping cherry blossom is the highlight.
Near the entrance of Maruyama Park is Yasaka Shrine, also known as Gion Shrine. And in front of the shrine, it has a dance stage with many lanterns. Walk around the temple premise and see the vibrant vermillion architecture; Yasaka Shrine is particularly beautiful at night when all the lanterns are lit.
How to get to Maruyama Park from Kiyomizu: At the north end of Ninen-zaka, walk north on Nene-no-michi and it will take you directly to Maruyama Park. Yasaka Shrine is just west of the park.
Address: 625 Gionmachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free
A visit to Kyoto must include strolling around Gion, Kyoto’s most famous geisha district. This area has many traditional Japanese houses and many of them are teahouses, restaurants and shops.
Make sure to walk down Hanamikoji Street to see all the traditional houses and peek around the small side streets. Also, walk over to Shirakawa Lane via Gion Shinbashi Bridge to see the picturesque houses next to the river.
How to get to Gion from Yasaka Shrine: Hanamikoji Street is south of Shijo-dori and is 5 minutes west of Yasaka Shrine. And Shirakawa Lane is 5 minutes north of Hanamikoji Street.
Address: Gionmachi Minamigawa, Kyoto | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free
7. Kamogawa River
Take the scenic route along the Kamogawa River before dinner. There are pedestrian pathways on both sides of the Kamo River. The walkway on the east side is quieter, but it can be busy during the cherry blossom season.
And on the west side of the riverbank, the path is next to the backends of restaurants along Pontocho Alley. During the warmer months, the restaurant balconies are open for business. The alfresco tables tend to fill up quickly, especially when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.
How to get to Kamogawa River from Gion: From Shirakawa Lane, walk 5 minutes west.
Address: Kamo River, Kyoto | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free
8. Pontocho Alley
Pontocho Alley is a narrow alley with many traditional restaurants parallel to the Kamogawa River. The alley has budget restaurants, but most are mid to high-end, as the area is known for kaiseki ryori (Japanese haute cuisine).
Browse through the alley and around the area. The small, narrow alleys are quite interesting, and I promise you, you won’t get lost in the maze. And while meandering around the small streets, choose a restaurant in Pontocho Alley that appeals to you. Maybe one facing the Kamo River?
After dinner, return to Kamogawa River and enjoy the scenery at night. And if you haven’t bought souvenirs yet, head back to Teramachi Street.
How to get to Pontocho Alley from Kamagawa River: The narrow alley is only 2 minutes west of the Kamo River.
Address: Nabeyacho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free
Other attractions for your Kyoto 2 day itinerary
There are so many things to do in Kyoto that choosing what to do in just two days is difficult. But if you are staying longer or want to change up the 2-day Kyoto itinerary, here are some suggestions:
- Sagano – see restored traditional Japanese houses at Saga Toriimoto Preserved Street, visit the quieter bamboo forest at Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple and ride the Sagano Scenic Railway
- Sanjusangendo – a Buddhist temple known for two things: Japan’s longest wooden building structure and 1001 golden statues of Kannon (Goddess of mercy).
- Mount Kurama – see temples and autumn leaves during an easy half-day hike from Kurama to Kibune, two small towns north of Kyoto.
- Fushimi Sake District – visit a quaint little village with over 40 sake breweries. Join a sake brewery tour with sake and food pairing which includes a guided tour around Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum and sampling many types of sake.
If you are spending more than 2 days in Kyoto
If you spend more than 2 days in Kyoto and want to venture outside the city, consider adding a few excursions.
Day trips from Kyoto are super easy because of the efficient train system. All the places mentioned below are accessible by train and can be reached under 2 hours.
- Uji – spend the day in Uji, a small town known for matcha green tea production and UNESCO World Heritage site Byōdō-in Temple, the same temple on the ¥10 coin.
- Nara – see Buddhist temples and wild deer and get lost in the Old Nara City on a day trip to Nara.
- Yamanobe-no-Michi Trail – hike the oldest mountain path through rural villages between Sakurai City and Tenri in Nara Prefecture.
- Osaka – a day trip to Osaka includes seeing the modern city with over-the-top restaurant signages and bright neon lights while eating some of the best Osaka food.
- Kobe – wandering around Kobe and visit Chinatown and Harbourland and sample some of the best cuisine in Kobe including Kobe beef.
- Arima Onsen – experience the “kinsen” golden hot springs in one of the oldest Japanese onsen town.
- Himeji – see Himeji Castle, aka the White Heron Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site, during a day trip to Himeji.
Spending more than 2 days in Kyoto? Check out some of these tours:
2 Days in Kyoto: Where to Stay
Kyoto has many types of accommodations for solo travellers. You can find modern and clean hostel beds for a cheap price tag or luxurious high-end Japanese Ryokan-type accommodations throughout the city.
For this 2 days Kyoto itinerary, staying in Kawaramchi, the downtown area of Kyoto, would be ideal. Alternatively, accommodations near Kyoto Station are another great option. Here are some Kyoto hotels that are awesome for solo travellers:
- REF Kyoto Hachijoguchi By Vessel Hotels ($) – a contemporary budget boutique hotel south of Kyoto Station. Check Agoda for prices & reviews.
- Hotel Resol Kyoto Kawaramachi Sanjo ($$) – a modern Japanese hotel in Kawaramachi. Check Agoda for prices & reviews.
- nol kyoto sanjo ($$$) – a chic boutique hotel inspired by traditional Japanese aesthetics in Kawaramchi. Check Agoda for prices & reviews.
Solo travel in Kyoto: Is Kyoto worth visiting?
Absolutely! Kyoto is worth seeing and definitely worth visiting again if you already seen the city. The vibe of Kyoto is so different from other big cities like Tokyo and Osaka and it is one of the top cities to visit in Japan for solo travellers.
And for those on a budget, there are many free things to do in Kyoto. Don’t let budget be the reason for you not to visit Japan because there are many affordable (i.e. free) things to do!
Hope you liked my solo Kyoto 2 day itinerary, and if you have any questions, leave a comment below.
Thank you for reading my Kyoto solo travel guide
You might also like these other posts on solo travel in Japan:
Introduction to Japan
- Solo Travel to Japan: 17 best cities for solo travellers
- Things I wish I knew before going to Japan
- 11 Off-the-beaten-path places in Japan
- Japanese Food Culture: 11 must-try food
- One month in Japan: from Tokyo to Hiroshima
- Where to stay in Kyoto: Best Areas & Hotel Reviews
- Kyoto Food Guide: What and Where to Eat
- Where to stay in Kyoto: Best Areas & Hotel Reviews
- Kurama to Kibune hiking itinerary
- Uji day trip from Kyoto
- Nara day trip from Kyoto or Osaka
- Nara famous food: Where and What to Eat
- Hike Yamanobe-no-Michi Trail in Nara Prefecture
- 2-day Osaka itinerary
- Where to stay in Osaka for first time traveller
- Where and What to Eat in Osaka, Japan
- Osaka to Kobe day trip: 1-day itinerary
- Best food in Kobe: Where and What to Eat
- Arima Onsen day trip itinerary
- Himeji day trip from Osaka