10 Historical Landmarks to See in Kyoto

Historical Landmarks of Kyoto| © LizardJedi
Historical Landmarks of Kyoto| © LizardJedi Flickr
Photo of John Asano
30 January 2017

Kyoto is an ancient city that is rich in both history and culture. From temples and shrines to castles and palaces, we take a look at 10 landmarks in Kyoto that are must see attractions due to their historical significance.

Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was once the official Kyoto residence of the Tokugawa Shogunate, who ruled Japan during the Edo Period (1603-1868). The castle’s main tower burned down in the 18th century, but the castle’s Ninomaru Palace is worth the visit alone to see the might and power of the former shoguns. The Palace features exquisite interiors such as paintings on ornate sliding paper doors, gold leaf covered rooms, elegant ceilings and the pièce de résistance, ninja proof chirping nightingale floors.

541 Nijojo-cho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, +81 75-841-0096

Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine

Walk through the red torii gates at Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine
Walk through the red torii gates at Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine | © Dr_Flash / Shutterstock
Fushimi Inari Taisha is Kyoto’s most important shrine and is dedicated to the Shinto god of rice. Founded in 711, it is one of the most impressive and memorable sites in all of Japan, known for its thousands of vermilion torii shrine gates. The surreal world of shrines and torii shrine gates wind their way up Mount Inari from the base of the mountain and main shrine buildings. The Romon Gate at the shrine’s entrance was donated in 1589 by the samurai warlord, Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Kyoto Imperial Palace

The Kyoto Imperial Palace is the former residence of the Emperor and the Imperial family of Japan before the move was made to the Tokyo Imperial Palace during the Meiji Restoration in 1869. The palace grounds are open to the public and feature several beautiful buildings built in the classical Japanese style. The original palace was built in 794 with the present Imperial Palace constructed in 1855; it still acts as an important place for official state ceremonies and enthronements.

3 Kyoto-gyoen, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, +81 75-211-1215

Kinkaku-ji Temple

Kinkaku-ji Temple, known as the ‘Golden Pavilion’ is one of the symbols of Kyoto and its most famous attraction. It was originally built in 1397 as a retirement villa for the Shogun and later converted into a Zen Buddhist temple. The magnificent temple’s top two floors are completely covered in brilliant gold leaf making it very picturesque against a lush green background.

1 Kinkakuji-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, +81 75-461-0013

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Kiyomizu-dera Temple is one of the most celebrated temples in Japan, and the city’s greatest World Heritage Site. The ancient temple was founded in 780 and is dedicated to Kannon, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. Its biggest attraction is the main hall, which is built on a mountain slope with a wooden framed balcony perched out over the cliff offering spectacular sweeping views of Kyoto. The balcony was built without the use of nails, highlighting the amazing craftsmanship and skill of traditional Japanese carpentry techniques.

1-294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, +81 75-551-1234

Enryaku-ji Temple

Enryaku-ji Temple is a monastery located on Mount Hiei which overlooks Kyoto. It was founded during the Heian Period in 788 and is one of the most important monasteries in Japanese history. Many of Japan’s most influential monks studied here before going off to found some important Buddhist sects. The complex features an entire world of temples and sub-temples all set in an ancient forest.

4220 Sakamotohonmachi, Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, +81 77-578-0001

Nanzen-ji Temple

Nanzen-ji Temple is a sprawling Zen Buddhist temple surrounded by lush green hills. It is famous for its large brick aqueduct which stands in the temple complex and looks like an ancient roman ruin. The aqueduct was built during the Meiji Period (1868-1912) as part of a canal system to carry water and goods between Kyoto and Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture. The temple was established by Emperor Kameyama in 1291 after his death on the grounds of his retirement villa. It is one of the most rewarding temples to visit in Kyoto with spacious grounds and numerous sub temples to explore.

Nanzenji, Fukuchi-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, +81 75-771-0365

Fushimi Castle

Fushimi Castle also known as Momoyama Castle or Fushimi Momoyama Castle was originally built in 1592 by the second great unifier of Japan, samurai warlord, Toyotomi Hideyoshi as a retirement palace. It featured gold leaf walls, as well as elaborate furnishings and decorations. The current structure is a 1964 replica of the original.

Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, +81 75-602-0605

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel – and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Epic Trips, Mini Trips and Sailing Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travellers and friends who want to explore the world together.

Epic Trips are deeply immersive 8 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and enough down time to really relax and soak it all in. Our Mini Trips are small and mighty - they squeeze all the excitement and authenticity of our longer Epic Trips into a manageable 3-5 day window. Our Sailing Trips invite you to spend a week experiencing the best of the sea and land in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm – and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Cookies Policy

We and our partners use cookies to better understand your needs, improve performance and provide you with personalised content and advertisements. To allow us to provide a better and more tailored experience please click "OK"