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2 Days in Kyoto Itinerary: Solo Guide for First Time Travellers

If you are planning your first solo trip to Kyoto, you must have a lot of questions about all the best things to do, what to eat in Kyoto and how to make the most of your time while travelling solo in Kyoto.

Many first time visitor to Japan include Kyoto on the itinerary because it is one of Japan’s best places to visit where the city has many historic temples, shrines and zen gardens. While the city is quite big, 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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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:

  • 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.

Is Kyoto Safe for Solo Female Travellers

Like many other Japanese cities, Kyoto is safe for female solo travellers. Violent crime rate is almost unheard of and even petty theft is rare.

As for my own experience, I’ve been to Kyoto four times, spent over two months in the city collectively, and stayed at different parts of the city. I felt safe throughout the day and at night walking around on my own and taking public transportation.

Tips for staying safe in Kyoto

Even though Kyoto is a safe city, I still recommend practicing regular travel safety precautions. Here are some safety travel tips that every solo traveller should practice:

  • Be aware of your belongings (bags, mobile phone, etc), especially in crowded touristy areas.
  • Leave your passport, (large sums of) money and other valuables at your hotel.
  • Avoid poorly lit alleys when you are walking home at night.
  • Enjoy a drink or two (and know your limit) but don’t go overboard.

Kyoto 2-Day Itinerary: Summary & Map

There are actually so many things to do in Kyoto that it could take many 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.

Kyoto Itinerary: Day 1

  1. Kinkakuji
  2. Tenryuji Temple
  3. Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
  4. Arashiyama Park
  5. Arashiyama Monkey Park
  6. Arashiyama Main Street
  7. Nishiki Market
  8. Teramachi Street
  9. Shinkyogoku Shopping Street

Kyoto Itinerary: Day 2

  1. Fushimi Inari Shrine
  2. Kiyomizu-dera
  3. Kiyomizu 
  4. Maruyama Park
  5. Yasaka Shrine
  6. Gion
  7. Kamogawa River
  8. Pontocho Alley
  9. Kawaramchi

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 1purple numbered pins are things to see in Kyoto on Day 2blue 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

Make sure to get an ICOCA card for a full day of bus rides as the itinerary includes many attractions across the city. It will save you the hassle finding coins for the bus and make travelling round the city much easier.

1. Kinkakuji

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 premise, 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.

Address: 1 Kinkakujicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto | Hours: 9am-5pm | Admission: ¥500

2-5. Arashiyama

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:

  • Tenryuji Temple – see the buildings in the temple complex that were spared by fires and the manicured zen garden. This a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • 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. 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.

Address: Ukyo Ward, Kyoto | Hours: 9am-4pm | Admission: ¥600 for Monkey Park

6. Try Silky Tofu or Kyoto Udon

While browsing the souvenir shops on Arashiyama Main Shopping Street, look for a place for lunch and try some of the local Kyoto food specialities like silky tofu and udon.

Many local restaurants specialize in Yodofu and Yuba (boiled tofu and tofu skin). At Saga Tofu Ine, they serve many different tofu set meals. English menu available.

If you don’t like tofu, there are many restaurants that serve Kyoto Udon (thick noodle made from wheat flour). Saga Tofu Sanchu is a cheap food stall near Arashiyama Bamboo Forest serving affordable dishes including udon, herring soba, and tofu dishes.

7. 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.

Address: Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto | Hours: varies | Admission: free

8 & 9. 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.

Many more shops and restaurants are scattered beyond the two main pedestrian streets. Perhaps it is a good time to look for souvenirs and dinner before calling it a day.

Address: Teramachi-dori, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto | Hours: varies | Admission: free

2-Day Itinerary Kyoto: Day 2

A good pair of walking shoes is a must for day two in Kyoto. The first half of the day will have a few train rides so remember to top up your ICOCA card. Then spend the rest of the day walking around Kiyomizu area.

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. The whole journey will take about two hours or so.

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. It is said that water can prolong life and is suitable for purification.

Address: 1 Chome-294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto | Hours: 6am-6pm (close 9:30pm for night viewings in summer and autumn) | Admission: ¥500

3. Kiyomizu

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 Temple, walk down Sannen-zaka Path, a hilly pedestrian street, which will lead to Ninen-zaka Path, which is another picturesque 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.

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 for its pink cherry blossom tree. 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.

Address: 625 Gionmachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free

6. Gion

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.

Address: Gionmachi Minamigawa, Kyoto | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free

7 & 8. Kamogawa River & Pontocho Alley

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, a narrow alley with many traditional restaurants parallel to the river. 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.

Address: Nabeyacho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free

9. Dinner in Kawaramchi

Pontocho Alley has mid to high-end restaurants, as the area is known for kaiseki ryori (Japanese haute cuisine), a multi-course meal where everything is presented meticulously. But you must make a reservation in advance.

If you prefer something more spontaneous, there are many restaurants in Kawaramchi serving delicious Kyoto food, like temari sushi (bite-size ball of sushi), chazuke (rice dish with dashi broth), mackerel sushi (mackerel fish pressed on vinegar-seasoned rice), and Kyoto ramen (straight noodles with rich flavoured soup).

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.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Sanjusangendo – a Buddhist temple known for two things: Japan’s longest wooden building structure and 1001 golden statues of Kannon (Goddess of mercy).
  3. Mount Kurama – see temples and autumn leaves during an easy half-day hike from Kurama to Kibune, two small towns north of Kyoto.
  4. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. Nara – see Buddhist temples and wild deer and get lost in the Old Nara City on a day trip to Nara.
  3. Yamanobe-no-Michi Trail – hike the oldest mountain path through rural villages between Sakurai City and Tenri in Nara Prefecture.
  4. 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.
  5. Kobe – wandering around Kobe and visit Chinatown and Harbourland and sample some of the best cuisine in Kobe including Kobe beef.
  6. Arima Onsen – experience the “kinsen” golden hot springs in one of the oldest Japanese onsen town.
  7. Himeji – see Himeji Castle, aka the White Heron Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site, during a day trip to Himeji.

How to travel solo to Kyoto Japan

Air

Kansai International Airport (KIX) is about 95km southwest of Kyoto. There are two direct ways of getting from the airport to the city:

Train

If you are already in Japan, many trains on the Japan Railway can take you to Kyoto Station, including the Shinkansen (bullet train).

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.

Where to Stay in Kyoto for 2 Days

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, booking a hotel in Kawaramachi, the downtown area of Kyoto or near Kyoto Station. Alternatively, choose a hotel in Central Kyoto area but close to either area. Here are some Kyoto hotels that are awesome for solo travellers:

  • Downtown Kyoto Kawaramachi Hotels: Hotel Resol Kyoto Kawaramachi Sanjo (Agoda | Booking); nol kyoto sanjo (Agoda | Booking)
  • Kyoto Station Hotels: REF Kyoto Hachijoguchi By Vessel Hotels (Agoda | Booking)
  • Central Kyoto Hotels: hotel tou nishinotoin kyoto (Agoda | Booking); Agora Kyoto Karasuma (Agoda | Booking)

Is Kyoto worth visiting as a solo traveller?

Absolutely! Kyoto is worth seeing and definitely worth visiting again if you already been to 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

Kansai region

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About Author

Hi, my name is Queenie, and I've been a solo traveller for 20+ years and currently based in Hong Kong. Follow me on my adventures through Instagram and my blog!

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