Not sure what to do in Kyoto at night?
From exploring the popular Gion district to visiting some of the off-the-beaten-path places, our guide will feature an array of Kyoto night activities.
What To Do In Kyoto At Night: 14 Best Night Activities in Kyoto
1. Explore Gion, Kyoto at Night
Gion is the most famous geisha district in Kyoto. Filled with many elements of the past, the Gion District is the best place to get a good glimpse of Kyoto’s culture. Walk down the historic streets and you will see wooden machiya merchant houses, ochaya (teahouses), and if you are lucky, a geisha or two.
Though ochaya translate to teahouses in English, don’t mistake them for your ordinary cafes or something similar. Ochaya are the finest-dining establishments you can find in Kyoto. Guests are entertained by geishas and maikos (geisha apprentices) as they dine. The admission fee for a well-established ochaya can be astronomical, and many only accept guests that have been personally invited.
Gion District is a huge area and exploring it thoroughly would take a long time. However, there are some streets and places you must see in Gion at night. They are Hanamikoji Street and Shirakawa Canal.
Hanamikoji Street is the most famous street in the Gion District. If you take any Kyoto tour, chances are the tour guide will take you on this street. Timeless houses, traditional alleys, a visit to Hanamikoji Street is like stepping into a time machine. You also have a high chance of spotting a geisha here!
Shirakawa Canal is personally my favorite spot in the Gion District. It has everything the Hanamikoji Street has but with fewer tourists and a serene river passing through. It is the most picturesque part of Gion, especially during the cherry blossom season!
2. Go For Late Night Food In Kyoto!
If you visit Japan, you must try some of their traditional mouth-washing cuisines. Luckily for you, Kyoto is one of the best cities in Japan to get your hands on some of its internationally-famous dishes.
There many worthy dishes to try such as sushi, okonomiyaki, takoyaki, and plenty of other quirky Japanese street foods, but my favorite has to be the timeless Japanese ramen.
Hot-steamy thick delicious broth with hand-made al dente noodles, Japanese ramen is one of the reasons why I gained so much weight on my trip to Japan. Ramen is an international dish and I have confidence that you have had it before.
A ramen-lover myself, I have tried ramen in many big cities such as Hong Kong, New York, and many others.
Nothing compares to the ramen I had in Japan.
3. Take A Kyoto Night Tour
Known as Japan’s cultural capital, Kyoto is filled with riveting but dense Japanese history. Trying to learn everything from the culture to the history alone might seem like a daunting task. Luckily for you, there are many night tours in Kyoto, some tours are even free.
The one Kyoto night tour I highly recommend is Kyoto Localised Free Night Walking Tour. Led by experienced locals, there is no better way to learn about the various traditions and UNESCO Heritage Sites of Kyoto. The night tour is completely free but the tour guides make their money off of tips.
If you don’t think the tour was worth your time or money, you don’t have to tip a single dime!
There are also many private Kyoto night tours. These are more costly but will provide you with more information as well as more personal attention.
Here are some Kyoto night tours we recommend:
4. Have A Nice Stroll Down Kamogawa River And Have a Beer!
The Kamogawa River, or Kamo River, is a 31-kilometer river that goes through some of the most popular tourist spots in Kyoto.
In the daytime, the riverbanks of Kamogawa River are bustling with activities: people are walking their dogs, going on dates, and generally having a good time.
At night, nothing changes. Everyone is still out having a good time. I personally like strolling down the riverbanks of Kamo River at night, people watching with a beer in my hand.
The feeling of a sedative evening breeze along with the mesmerizing music of the soothing river is the perfect way to rejuvenate your body after a tiresome day in Kyoto.
It is legal to drink outside in Japan so head over to your nearest convenience store, grab a beer and some snacks, and have a good time at the Kamogawa River!
(Just don’t go in the winter!)
5. Visit Gion Corner
Many of the experience in Japan relates to how different Japanese Culture is compared to western culture. From traditional ryokans, onsens, and Japanese food experiences, there’s a host of different things to try.
If you don’t have much time in Japan, and Kyoto especially but want to understand a little more of some of the cultural aspects of Japan, then a visit to Gion corner at night in Kyoto will cover a few bases for you.
A visit to Gion Corner will let you explore 7 of the cultural arts of Japan in one evening. You’ll experience Japanese flower arranging and a maiko and geiko dance as well as listening to the traditional art of koto music.
There’s also Gagacou musical theater – once performed at the Imperial court shrines and temples and the humourous Kyogen theatre. Japan’s traditional puppet theatre, Bunraku is also shown – this was added to the UNESCO list of intangible humanity in 2003.
Finally, you may be lucky enough to be chosen to take part in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony at Gion Corner, a great experience and worth the ticket price alone!
Performances last a total of around 50 minutes and adult tickets cost 3,510 Yen – but discounts may be available in low season.
6. Eat Till You Drop At Pontocho Alley
Though there aren’t any Kyoto night market, the Pontocho alley is the closest thing to a night market in Kyoto!
Featuring diverse dining establishments from the cheap street food to traditional and modern Japanese cuisine, Pontocho is the place to be if you have a growling stomach. Takoyaki, yakitori, okonomiyaki, if there is a Japanese dish your heart desires, chances are you can find it at Pontocho alley.
Most of the restaurants on the eastern side of the Pontocho alley overlook the Kamogawa River. In the summer, temporary terraces are built so guests can dine outside with the beautiful views of the river. It is the perfect place for a romantic date in Kyoto!
7. Visit A Japanese Onsen (Natural Hot Spring) or Sento (Public Bath)
Some of the best attractions in Japan are the numerous natural hot springs (called onsens in Japanese) throughout the country. As a volcanic island, Japan is home to over 30,000 naturally occurring hot springs. Though there are plenty of onsens in the country, unfortunately Kyoto is not in the prime region.
For those cities that are not lucky enough to have natural hot springs, man-made sentos (Japanese public baths) are available to the public.
Luckily for you, due to technology, Kyoto has a few proper onsens. The one closest to town is called Tenzan-no-yu Onsen, and it is located near the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. The onsen water comes from a well drilled 1,200 meters below the city and is rich in minerals.
For those that do not want to venture out into Arashiyama, there are public baths closer to the city center. One of my favorites is the Goko-yu Sento.
The public baths are separated by gender so if you are visiting with your partner, you will have to separate. One of the striking features of a Japanese public bath or onsen is the nudity. Anyone entering the baths must be completely nude.
This might be shocking in western culture but the Japanese are used to it. Don’t worry if you are a little shy at first because the locals are used to seeing the shock on foreigners’ faces!
Most baths and onsens are open till midnight and beyond. If you are unsure of what to do in Kyoto at night, just head over to a sento or onsen!
Enjoy Kyoto Nightlife!
1. Drink Sake at A Traditional Izakaya
By: The Nomadic Vegan
Eating and drinking at a traditional izakaya is a quintessential Japan experience. The word “izakaya” doesn’t really have an equivalent in most languages, although one possible exception is “bar de tapas” in Spanish. Of course, the type of cuisine served in an izakaya is different from typical Spanish tapas, but it is similarly served in small portions.
The idea is that you order a bunch of dishes and share them with friends while having a drink. Sometimes the word “gastropub” is used to translate the concept of an izakaya into English, as this emphasizes the point that an izakaya is not just for drinking but also for eating.
Renkon-Ya is a very authentic yet still tourist-friendly izakaya right in the center of Kyoto, near Sanjo station.
The place is very small, with just a handful of Western tables, a few stools at the bar, and some Japanese-style seating at low tables on a tatami mat platform in the very back.
It’s run by two hardworking women who do everything themselves, including the cooking, the washing, and the serving. They don’t speak very much English, but they have arranged for someone to create a hand-written English menu for them.
The dishes change often depending on the season, but you can always find a few veggie options that are clearly identified as such. This means that vegans and vegetarians in Kyoto don’t have to worry about missing out on the izakaya experience.
Make sure you try the national drink of Japan, sake, when you are at an izakaya!
2. Party at World Kyoto, The Biggest Nightclub In Kyoto
Though the nightlife in Kyoto is not as crazy as the nightlife in Osaka or Tokyo, there are still many clubs and bars you can go to.
The most popular nightclub in Kyoto is unquestionably World Kyoto. As the biggest nightclub in Kyoto, World has two floors: one with lockers for guarding your stuff and another for dancing the night away.
With a variety of music and frequent events, guests will have an unforgettable night here. Well, unless you drink too much. 🙂
If you are not sure where to go in Kyoto at night, you can always find a good crowd at World Kyoto!
3. Sing Your Heart Out At A Japanese-Style Karaoke
Japanese-style karaoke is one of the Japanese locals’ favorite things to do at night. Unlike the western counterpart where you have to embarrass (I mean sing) in front of a group of strangers, Japanese karaoke is a lot more private, and a lot more fun in my opinion.
In Japanese karaoke, you sing in a private room that you rent out by the hour. Not only do you get to choose the type and size of the room, but you also get to decide who is invited or not. No more singing Backstreet Boys in front of people you don’t know!
Most karaokes in Japan sell snacks and drinks. That way you can get loose and have some fun with your friends!
Hours: Usually until 5 AM the next day
Check out the Kyoto Night View!
1. Kyoto Tower At Night!
If you are looking for the ultimate panoramic night view of Kyoto, head over to Kyoto Tower. Measuring at 131-meter tall, Kyoto Tower is officially the tallest building in all of Kyoto. Nested in the historic city of Kyoto, this modern iconic landmark is the perfect juxtaposition of old and new Kyoto.
Inside the Kyoto Tower, there is an observation deck 100 meters above the ground. It is the highest observatory in all of Kyoto. The viewing platform offers unobstructed 360 degrees view of the city below. Your eyes will jump from one temple to another, completely tranced by its historic beauty.
In the basement of the Kyoto Tower is a Japanese public bath where visitors can enjoy some of the best ways to relax in Japan!
Location: 721-1 Higashishiokojicho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, 600-8216, Japan
Hours: 9 AM to 9 PM (entry until 8:40 PM) Daily
Fee: 800 yen
2. Yasaka-dori (Yasaka Street) And Yasaka Shrine
Yasaka Street is one of the most popular streets located in the charming Higashiyama District. As one of the most well-preserved areas in Kyoto, the Higashiyama District is filled with ancient wooden houses, narrow alleys, and many relics of the past.
The most scenic location of Yasaka Street is near Ninenzaka, a small narrow street containing many traditional Japanese houses. Starting at the intersection of Ninenzaka and Yasaka Street, head down the slopes of Yasaka Street. Soon you will come to a narrow path with quaint wooden houses on both sides and the glowing Yasaka Pagoda in the distance!
Bustling with life in the daytime, unfortunately, it is a lot quieter at night. Personally, for me, that meant fewer people in my way to get that perfect photo! If you are an avid-photographer, visiting Yasaka Street is one of the best things to do at night in Kyoto!
If you have extra time, stop by Yasaka Shrine on the way. This shrine is opened 24 hours and is one of the best shrines to visit in Kyoto at night.
Off-The-Beaten-Path Things To Do In Kyoto at Night
1. Visit The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest At Night!
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is considered one of the biggest attractions in Kyoto. The countless number of bamboo trees soar into the sky, giving this unique place a sense of mystery and unworldliness. Visiting the bamboo grove is a popular thing to do in the daytime, but what about at night?
Though you can’t see the individual bamboo trees as well at night, the atmospheric feeling intensifies. With fewer tourists, you can properly enjoy the beauty of this natural wonder. For me, it was quite eerie to visit at night.
The path is illuminated by small lights so you can see properly, but there was a sense of uneasiness when you are the only one alone in a bamboo forest. It felt like I was in a survival/horror movie though I was in one of the safest countries in the world.
Without the staggering amount of tourists, it is also much easier to photograph the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. The photo, however, won’t come out the same as the ones in the daytime.
Location: Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-0000, Japan
Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week!
2. Check Out The Torii Gates At Fushimi Inari Taisha
Similar to the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Fushimi Inari Taisha is one of the top places to visit in Kyoto.
As one of the most important Shinto shrines in Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Taisha’s sacredness is lost when you are constantly smacked in the face by selfie sticks.
The thousands of vibrant vermilion torii gates that lead up to the sacred Mount Inari no longer seem so impressive when it is overcrowded with tourists.
That is why I recommend visiting Fushimi Inari Taisha at night. Though the colors are not as beautiful as when the sun is shining on it, Fushimi Inari Taisha is still very pretty at night. Without the tourists, you are free to do whatever you want: hike all the way to the top of Mount Inari, or just wander until where your heart’s content.
Boars can occasionally appear during non-peak hours, so keep an eye out when you are visiting Fushimi Inari Taisha at night.
Location: 68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, 612-0882, Japan
Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week!
Where To Stay In Kyoto
Best Hostel in Kyoto- K’s House Kyoto Backpacker Hostel
If you are backpacking Kyoto, then you must stay in K’s House Kyoto Backpackers. A social hostel filled with guests from around the world, come solo and leave with family! The hostel is also attached to an affordable bar to chill and relax!
Best Airbnb in Kyoto – Sakura Inn 2
(Images Courtesy of Airbnb)
If you want to take your visit to Kyoto to the next level, then staying at a traditional Japanese home is imperative!
Sakura Inn 2 is an authentic Japanese apartment that was originally inhabited by a Geisha. Guests staying here will have to sleep on a traditional tatami mat!
This Kyoto Airbnb features a total of 4 tatami mats, so a family of four can comfortably experience this lifestyle. Kids will especially love the terrace as it offers views of the Takase River. Ducks are often seen in that river.
This Airbnb faces one of the most spectacular cherry blossom streets in Kyoto. So if you plan on visiting Kyoto during that time, make sure you reserve in advance!
Best Luxury Hotel in Kyoto- Dormy Inn Premium Kyoto Ekimae Natural Hot Spring
If swimming in a pool is too cliche, why not change it up for some natural hot springs in the Dormy Inn Premium Kyoto Ekimae Natural Hot Spring. Nothing beats sitting in one of the natural outdoor onsens with beautiful views after a tiresome day of exploring Kyoto!
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