As we all know, traveling in Japan is expensive. A week trip can easily set you back a few thousand dollars. That is why it is so important to have a perfect Japan itinerary and not overstay in any cities.
Two of the most frequently asked question I get about Kyoto are “How many days in Kyoto?” and “How long should I stay in Kyoto?”
The answer is… It all depends.
How many days to spend in Kyoto depends on what type of traveler you are and what you want to see on your trip.
Are you into temples, shrines, or are you more of an outdoorsy person? Do you enjoy the crazy nightlife? These are questions you will need to ask if you want to decide how long to stay in Kyoto.
How To Decide How Many Days in Kyoto To Stay
Though Kyoto is not a huge city, there is an abundance of amazing attractions in Kyoto. From the numerous UNESCO Heritage Sites to beautiful bamboo forests, deciding how many days to spend in Kyoto ultimately comes down to how much you want to see.
If you really want an in-depth understanding of Kyoto and its culture, you can spend up to weeks here, exploring the hundreds of treasures scattered around the city.
Well, I am not going to recommend you to stay a week. Kyoto (or Japan in general) is too expensive and diminishing returns are inevitable when you stay for too long. In simpler words, it won’t be worth your money and time to stay for an extended period of time.
For the general traveler, I recommend spending a minimum of 2 days in Kyoto. The ideal number of days to stay in Kyoto is 3 days.
Unlike deciding how long to stay in Osaka, deciding how long to stay in Kyoto is a little easier. Kyoto is the cultural capital of Japan. It has an extremely high concentration of historic sites, temples, and shrines. However, Kyoto’s nightlife and food options just cannot compare to Tokyo or Osaka.
Some travelers might even find Kyoto boring at night, but I personally found some fun things to do in Kyoto at night.
These are all things to consider when you ask yourself, “How many days to stay in Kyoto?”
1 Day in Kyoto
Let me start by saying that 1 day in Kyoto is just not enough, but sometimes you just have to make do with the amount of time you have.
Kyoto is known as the Japan’s cultural capital. Filled with beautiful UNESCO Heritage Sites, amazing temples, and well-preserved traditional places, you will only see a fraction of them in just one day.
If you are on a day trip to Kyoto or only have 1 day to spend, I am afraid you won’t be able to get a good understanding of why Kyoto is such an incredible city in Japan.
Though you will be able to see some of the most popular tourist attractions such as the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Fushimi Inari Taisha, and the Gion District, the cultural atmosphere can only be felt after staying for a few days.
2 Days in Kyoto
2 days in Kyoto is the minimum number of days to stay in Kyoto. In two days, you have just enough time to cover all the best things to do in Kyoto: Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Nishiki Market, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kinkakuji, Ginkakuji, Kiyomizu-Dera, and a few more.
Your itinerary will be packed if you just have 2 days in Kyoto. From the early morning to the night, you will be hopping from one attraction to another, with very few breaks in between.
Want to casually stroll along the Kamogawa River at night? Nope, can’t do that. You have to visit the Gion Corner for a show with geishas. Want to watch the sunset at Fushimi Inari Taisha? Nope, you have to go to the Gion District.
You will be so rushed that you simply won’t be able to fully appreciate the beauty of Kyoto, which requires a little bit of presence and time.
3 Days in Kyoto
How many days do you need in Kyoto to appreciate it? I would say 3.
3 days in Kyoto is enough time to see the main attractions of Kyoto without rushing through all of them. You might even have extra time to revisit some of the ones you like, such as the delicious food market in Kyoto called Nishiki Market.
You will have time to spend a night sitting in one of Kyoto’s onsens, experiencing a tradition unique to Japan. (I highly recommend Tenzan-no-yu Onsen!)
You will start having glimpses into the local lives here. The drastic difference between Japanese culture and Western culture will start becoming transparent to you.
4 or More Days in Kyoto
If you are spending 4 or more days in Kyoto, you are either a slow traveler or want to do some side trips from Kyoto. There is nothing wrong without spending that much time in Kyoto. In fact, it is a great opportunity to visit some of the off-the-beaten-path attractions in Kyoto, try some traditional izakayas, or even meet some locals!
The initial excitement will definitely wear off after 4 days in Kyoto. That is why I recommend you to do day trips if you are spending that many nights in Kyoto.
Best Day Trips from Kyoto
Kyoto’s strategic location in the Kansai region means that you will have easy access to other great cities. The best day trips from Kyoto are Osaka, Nara, Kobe, Hiroshima, and Tokyo.
Hiroshima and Tokyo are located far away from Kyoto. You should only consider doing day trips to them if you plan on taking the expensive but hasty bullet trains. These bullet trains are called shinkansen and some are free to take if you have the JR Rail Pass.
If you are a shopaholic, nightlife-lover, or a foodie, Osaka is the perfect place for you. Located about an hour away from Kyoto, a day trip from Kyoto to Osaka is very doable.
Though it is easy to take a day trip to Osaka, I wouldn’t recommend it. Why? Because 1 day in Osaka is simply not enough.
Osaka is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan and it requires a minimum of 2 or 3 days to cover the basics. The nightlife in Osaka is also some of the best in Japan and it’s hard to experience it if you are not staying a night in Osaka.
A visit to Nara is a must on any Japan itinerary. As the old capital of Japan, Nara is filled with UNESCO Heritage treasures such as temples and shrines.
The best part about Nara is definitely Nara Park. A massive park with wild deers that harass (I mean bow) to visitors, Nara Park is a unique attraction you can’t miss in Japan.
Luckily for you, a day trip to Nara from Kyoto is very easy. It takes about an hour on the train to arrive from Kyoto. Unlike Osaka where it takes several days to explore, Nara can be easily done in a day.
If you stay more than 4 days in Kyoto, you must add Nara onto your itinerary!
Kobe is a port city located about an hour and a half from Kyoto.
Home of the freshest Kobe beef, travelers come from all over the world to try this Japanese delicacy. A type of Wagyu beef, Kobe beef is said to be the tastiest beef in the entire planet.
If you weren’t able to get an onsen experience in Kyoto, Kobe is the home to one of the best onsen in Japan called Arima Onsen. An entire town is built around this impressive onsen. It is the perfect spot for a relaxing weekend getaway!
Hiroshima (via Shinkansen)
Hiroshima is a historic city located 310 kilometers west of Kyoto. The only possible way to do a day trip to Hiroshima from Kyoto is by taking the shinkansen (bullet train). Even then, the trip from Kyoto to Hiroshima will take about 2.5 hours one way.
The shinkansen must pass through Osaka before going to Hiroshima. If you are planning on staying in Osaka, you should wait to do a day trip to Hiroshima from Osaka instead.
If you have the JR Rail Pass, the shinkansen is free.
As one of the cities where the atomic bomb was dropped in World War II, Hiroshima is a historic city with much evidence of the past. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Atomic Bomb Dome are two attractions you can’t miss when you visit Hiroshima.
If you have some extra time, visit the beautiful island of Miyajima!
Tokyo (via Shinkansen)
Though it is technically feasible to do a day trip to Tokyo from Kyoto via the shinkansen, I wouldn’t recommend doing so. As Japan’s capital, Tokyo is loaded with some of the best attractions in Japan.
You wouldn’t want to spend a few hours there when you could be spending few days or a week!
Where to Stay in Kyoto to Maximize Your Days in Kyoto
Best Hostel In Kyoto – K’s House Kyoto Backpacker Hostel
If you are looking for a proper backpacker hostel, look no further. K’s House Kyoto Backpacker Hostel is probably the best hostel in Kyoto. Featuring beautiful common areas and spacious dormitory rooms, you get such a good value for a low price. The hostel is also attached to a bar where you can meet international travelers and share your stories over a drink!
Best Airbnb in Kyoto – Sakura Inn 2
(Images Courtesy of Airbnb)
One of the most unique things to do in Kyoto is to stay in a traditional Japanese home. Thanks to Airbnb, you can do that!
Sakura Inn 2 is a traditional Japanese apartment that was originally inhabited by a Geisha. Guests will experience sleeping on a tatami mat!
With 4 total tatami mats, a family of four can enjoy this unique experience. Kids will fall in love with the beautiful terrace, as it offers views of the Takase River and the ducks that inhabit it.
If you are visiting during the cherry blossom season, you will be blessed with some of the most magical views at this Airbnb as it faces one of the most popular cherry blossom streets in Kyoto.
Best Luxury Hotel In Kyoto – Dormy Inn Premium Kyoto Ekimae Natural Hot Spring
Dormy Inn Premium Kyoto takes advantage of the rich natural hot springs (onsens) Japan is known for. Featuring several natural hot springs (one on the roof terrace), guests can properly relax after a long day in Kyoto. If they don’t like onsens, just lay down on their super soft and comfortable beds!
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This concludes our guide to how many days in Kyoto to stay! I hope it helped you determine how many night in Kyoto to spend!
Any questions? Leave them in the comments!
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