There are countless temples and shrines located in Kyoto, but to be honest, many of them are overrated just to squeeze money out of tourists.
I’ve visited couple famous temples, and personality I think most of them are just waste of time, such as the extremely popular Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺, “Temple of the Golden Pavilion”) – There’s nothing there except that one golden temple on a pitiful small lake, and you are still required to pay for entrance fee.
Therefore, I’ve made a list of my choices for the attractions to visit in Kyoto, which I think is more worthy of going, including various stunning scenic locations as well.
Additionally, it’s recommended to rent a bicycle and ride around the city if the weather is good, as it’s not an enormous city so this way you’ll get to see more of Kyoto. If the weather’s not so good for bicycles, you can also get around by bus or trains.
1. Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺)
Kiyomizu temple (dera is the Japanese for temple), is one of the most famous temple in Japan.
It is even mentioned in the English textbooks of Japanese elementary schools in Tokyo, therefore I’m certain there’s some value to the place.
Unfortunately by the time I arrived there, we were running out of time, plus we didn’t want to ride bicycle up the steep hill through the crowd, so we didn’t actually go up to the temple. Although due to above mentioned reasons, I’d still recommend to go here.
2. Bamboo Forest
Located on Arashiyama (嵐山), Bamboo Forest is a bit far to get to as it’s not very close to city center, but if you like peace and quiet, something out of the city, then you’ll like it here.
Inside the forest there’s an area where you can experience traditional Japanese Ocha (Japnese Green Tea) in a relaxing garden. A small sum of entrance fee is required to enter, they do have some nice scenery at the top of mountain though.
3. Ōi River
You will be able to see the river on the way to Bamboo Forest by bicycle.
4. Iwatayama Monkey Park
Also located on Arashiyama (嵐山), I didn’t find this park on my research before going to Kyoto, but heard other travelers telling me about it after I returned to Tokyo, it sounded quite interesting so I’m putting it up as another recommendation.
Here’s the description of the monkey park on Wikipedia:
The Iwatayama Monkey Park on the slopes of Mount Arashiyama. Over 170 monkeys live at the park. While the monkeys are wild, they have become accustomed to humans. The park is located on a small mountain not far from the Saga-Arashiyama rail station. Visitors can approach and photograph the monkeys. At the summit is a fenced enclosure, from within which visitors can feed the monkeys.
5. Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社-千本鳥居)
This is the head shrine of Inari, either go by bicycle or take train to Fushimi-Inari station on Keihan Electric Railway Main Line (伏見稻荷駅), it’s a short walk from the station.
This shrine is where segments of the movie “Memoirs of Geisha” was filmed, fantastic photo site, a must go location if you’re into photo shooting.