3 Days and 2 Nights in Kyoto
Stepping out of the train onto the platform at Kyoto Station, everything seemed pretty much the same as the rest of Japan; Yet, Kyoto is a city unlike Osaka. Its rich natural environment weaves intricately with its urban space, earning it a reputation as Japan’s most beautiful city. With just 3 days and 2 nights there, here’s our Kyoto Budget Guide, where we curated a list of must-dos without busting our budget.
Kyoto Budget Breakdown
In the short 3 days 2 nights in Kyoto, we stayed in a quaint little guesthouse called Taikoya Bettei Guesthouse, where we slept on Tatami mats. The 180 years old house creaked beneath us as we crept around, getting ready for bed. Soon enough, we found ourselves being comforted and put to sleep by the smell of rice straw – one that I, too, found it a struggle to wake up from, every morning.
During the three days, we visited a handful of temples and serene spots. Mostly, we moved around by trains as ticket prices were cheap and typically ranges between ¥180 to ¥210 per trip. Any change in train lines will warrant another ¥180 or ¥210 again. Since there were 4 of us, it was more cost efficient for us to take a cab to places that were within 3 train stations away.
There was just too much to see and too much to eat in Kyoto! We kick started our day early everyday and made it a point to visit 3-4 places on our must-go list.
Here’s a rough breakdown on what we spent for 3 days in Kyoto, per person:
Accommodation: ¥3,510 (Twin-sharing room) + ¥2,950 (Quadruple room) = ¥6,460
Total/Day: ¥5,503/day on average (S$69)
Places to Visit in Kyoto
1) Fushimi Inari Shrine
There are tons of free tourist attractions in Kyoto and this definitely tops the list. With a sea of shrine gates sprawled across the mountain of Southeast Kyoto, there’s just absolutely no way you can describe the sight in words.
Opening Hours: Dawn to dusk
Address: 68 Yabunouchi-cho, Fukakusa, Fushimi-ku
Nearest Station: 5min walk from Inari Station, JR Nara line
10min walk from Fushimi Inari Station, Keihan line
Pro-tip: Visit early before the crowd starts streaming in, so you can take photos undisrupted.
2) Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is one of the most popular sights in Kyoto. Its stunning beauty is favoured by many tourists all over the world. Delve into another realm of nature as you step into the forest. Also, spend some time exploring Arashiyama-Sagano district and visiting some of the temples nearby.
Opening hours: 24 hours
Address: Arashiyama, Ukyo-ku
Nearest Station: Saga Arashiyama Station, JR Sagano line
Pro-tip: Go as early as 7am to experience the calm before the storm. By the time we got out at 9am, we were waddling between crowds just to find our way out.
3) Gio-ji Temple
This small and humble temple is found about 1km north of Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and boasts a magnificent sight of thick groves of moss.
Opening Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm, last entry 4:30pm
Address: 32 Kozaka, Saga Toriimoto, Ukyo-ku
Nearest Station: 10 min from “Sagashakado-mae” bus stop (Kyoto city bus or Kyoto bus)
4) Tenryu-ji Temple
Tenryu-ji Temple has one of the finest gardens in Japan and is ranked as the most important Zen temple in the Arashiyama district. Surrounded by the Arashimaya forested mountains, Tenryu-ji is also a recommended visit if you aren’t bored of temple visits yet heh.
8:30am – 5:30pm, last entry 5:30pm, March 21st – October 20th
8:30am – 5:00pm, last entry 5:00pm, October 21st – March 20th
Address: 8 Susukinobaba-cho, Saga Tenryu-ji, Ukyo-ku
Nearest Station: Arashiyama Station, Keifuku dentetsu, Arashiyama line
5) Nishiki Market
This narrow and long shopping street was initially known for the sale of traditional food. Today, Nishiki Market holds literally all kinds of food you can think of: tsukemono (Japanese pickles), fresh tofu, kyo-yasai (Kyoto vegetables), wagashi (Japanese sweets), yakitori, tea, and fresh fish and shellfish. So much good food here!
Opening Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm, varies for individual stalls (Some shops closed on Wednesday)
Address: Nishikikoji-dori, Nakagyo-ku (between Teramachi and Takakura)
Nearest Station: Shijo Station, Karasuma subway line OR Karasuma or Kawaramachi Station, Hankyu line
6) Nanzen-ji Temple
Said to be one of the best temples in the Northern Higashiyama district, you’ll have to visit this Zen paradise to understand how magical it is. Its vast area and surrounding lush green hills are definitely worth exploring!
Cost: Free to explore grounds; Hojo Garden ¥500; San-mon Gate ¥500
8:40am – 5:00pm, last entry 4:40pm March-November
8:40am – 4:30pm, last entry 4:10pm December-February
Address: 86 Fukuchi-cho, Nanzen-ji, Sakyo-ku
Nearest Station: Keage Station, Tozai subway line
7) Philosopher’s Path (哲学の道, Tetsugaku no michi)
If you’re planning to visit Nanzen-ji Temple, you can’t miss this place. The Philosopher’s Path is a beautiful stone path lushed with greenery and decorated with cherry blossom trees, making it a highly popular hanami spot. This 2km long path is found between Ginkaku-ji and Nanzen-ji. And if you’re a cat lover, there’s a spot along the Philosopher’s Walk where contented cats reside 🙂
Opening Hours: 24 hours
Address: Nanzenji-Fukuchi-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-city (From Nanzen-Ji)
Nearest Station: 10 min from “Sagashakado-mae” bus stop (Kyoto city bus or Kyoto bus)
8) Funaoka Onsen
Travel westwards from Philosopher’s Path and you’ll find Funaoka Onsen tucked away in a quiet alley. This place is actually a sento rather than an onsen, but provides a wide variety of tubs – hot tubs, cold tubs, electric tubs, herbal tubs, sauna and even a stone-lined rotemburo (outdoor bath).
Monday – Saturday 3:00pm – 1:00am
Sunday & holidays 8:00am – 1:00am
Address: 82-1 Minami-Funaoka-cho, Murasakino, Kita-ku
Nearest Station: 5min walk from Senbon Kuramaguchi Bus Stop, Kyoto City Bus 206 from Kyoto Station
9) Kiyomizu-dera Temple
I know there are so many must-sees in Kyoto, but this temple is unlike any that you’ve seen. Perched on a higher ground, Kiyomizu-dera has a brilliant view of the entire city. At the northern part of Kiyomizu Dera, Jishu Jinja Shrine is especially popular amongst young women as it is said to be a shrine to the god of marriage. Many visit Jishu Jinja in hope for a good love life.
Opening Hours: approx. 6:00am – 6:00pm, gate close time varies by season (5:30pm – 6:30pm)
Address: 1-294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama-ku
Nearest Station: 10min walk from Gojo-zaka
10) Gion (祇園)
Gion is a street in Kyoto filled with food, teahouses and entertainments. It is also Kyoto’s most famous Geisha district where Geishas can sometimes be spotted moving around during their meal hours. If you’re heading there for dinner, note that many of the shops will be closed by 8pm. Also, be sure to take a stroll down Higashiyama District for a more traditional ambience too!
Nearest Station: Gion-Shijo Station
Bonus – Kimono Rental Yumeyakata
Although this is not exactly a place to visit, you can drop by Kyoto Kimono Rental Yumeyakata to rent a Kimono to experience wearing a kimono for a day! I’m sure your Kyoto experience will be vastly different in a Kimono 😉
Address: Gojo-dori Higashinotoin Higashi-iri Manjyujicho 128
Opening hours: 10:00am – 8:00pm (kimonos must be returned by 6:00pm) Opened throughout the year except on New Year Holiday
Tel: +81 75-254-9110 (for English & Chinese speaking)
Things to eat in Kyoto
If you’re one who’s on a perpetual hunt for good food, we’re sure you’d like our finds too!
1) Issen Yoshoku Okonomiyaki (壹錢洋食)
Let’s face it. Okonomiyaki is one of the greatest food inventions by the Japanese. I mean, who knew that tossing seafood, cabbage, eggs and bonito flakes together will taste so good?? Although it leans more towards the pricey side I’d say splurge a little on good food when you come across one. This ¥680 Okonomiyaki is worth your money!
Opening hours: 10:00am – 6:00pm
Address: 238 Giommachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0073 , Kyoto Prefecture (Gion)
2) Matsuba Sweet Stewed Mackerel Soba (総本家にしんそば松葉本店)
Also known as Nishin Soba, this is a highly popular food in the Kansai region, and is first created in Kyoto. This local special food is a definite must-try for anyone visiting Kyoto!
Opening hours: 10:30am – 9:30pm (Closed on Wednesdays)
Address: 192 Kawabatacho, Higashiyamaku, Kyoto 605-0076, Kyoto Prefecture
3) Konnamonja Soy Milk Donuts and Soft Serve (Nishiki Market)
These aren’t just your average doughnuts. Made from soy milk, the inside is chewy while the outside is slightly crunchy. It comes in a bag of 10 mini doughnuts and for just ¥300! This is probably the most valuable buy at Nishiki!! If you’re a fan of soft serves, you can try out the soy milk soft serve at this shop too!
Opening hours: 10:00am – 6:00pm
Address: 494 Nakauoya Nishiki Kouji Agaru Sakaimachi, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
Nishiki Market’s seafood
4) Fresh Oysters from Nishiki Daiyasu (だいやす)
This shop is a gem that serves insanely fresh oysters (raw or roasted). If you love oysters as much as we do, trust me, this is the place for you to go. What’s a better deal than having 2 fresh and succulent oysters for just ¥660?? They also serve tofu (¥520) and grilled fish like soba or hoke. Mmmmm mmmmmmmmm….
Cost: ¥520 and above
Opening hours: 9:00am – 6:00pm (Closed on Wednesday)
Address: 509 Nakauoyacho, Kyoto 604-8125, Kyoto Prefecture
5) Skewers and Small Bites (Nishiki Market)
Need I say more? Nishiki Market is literally a food paradise. Marinated fatty salmon on a stick, matcha mochi, salt hammock skewer, shoga (red ginger) fishcake, the list is endless! You’ll have to go there to experience this food haven for yourself!
Address: Nishiki Market
6) Onigiri and Bento Set from Family Mart / Supermarkets
Convenience stores are literally a stone’s throw away no matter where you are in Japan. We’ve had a few meals made up of Onigiri and Bento set while we were on the go. These meals were surprisingly cheap yet filling. Though not the best food you can find in Japan, they sure taste pretty reasonable!
Cost: Approx ¥320 per “meal”
Opening hours: Varies
7) Ichiran Ramen (一蘭 京都河原町店)
If you’re one who gets hungry in the middle of the night and can’t fall asleep even after dinner, snacks and supper, Ichiran Ramen is the place you need to go. This restaurant is open 24 hours and serves its signature rich and flavourful Tonkotsu Ramen. And if you haven’t heard, it’s probably one of the best ramen in Japan! Not bad at all, I must say. Not bad at all.
Opening hours: 24 hours
Address: 598 Urateramachi, Takoyakushi Sinkyogoku-dori Higashi-iru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture
Pro-tip: Top-up noodles top-up for the ravenous, so long as there’s still soup in your bowl.
Also read: 16 Must Eat Foods in Osaka and Kyoto
Where to stay in Kyoto
Taikoya Bettei Guesthouse
This 180 years old guesthouse emitted a charm much like that of a small home. With a mini garden and the smell of rice straw, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of warm fuzzy feeling of returning to a cosy home. With warm laughters and gestures, the staff at Taikoya Bettei assisted us with our itinerary planning. I would definitely return to this quaint little guesthouse if I visit Kyoto again 🙂
Cost: ¥3,510 (Twin-sharing room) ; ¥2,950 (Quadruple room)
Address: 170 Kameyacho (Takakuradori), Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 600-8406, Japan
Nearest Station: Gojo Station
Getting around in Kyoto
3 important things to note, in order to travel around Japan:
1) If you’re not going to have Wi-Fi most of the time when on the go, download the CityMaps2Go app and plot your destinations. This is an offline app that helps you identify where you are and shows where your destination is.
2) Download Navitime for Japan Travel. It will be really useful when you’re trying to figure out their train network.
3) And of course, Google Maps transcends them all. Google Maps gives accurate recommendations for mode of transports when you plot your journey. If you intend to take the buses (usually fixed at ¥230/trip), Google Maps will tell you which bus to take in order to get to your destination.
Sometimes, train and buses aren’t exactly viable options to get to a certain location because the destination is simply not near any train stations or the buses just can’t reach them. Our advice is, if it’s less than 30 minutes by foot, just walk. Alternatively, you can opt for per day bicycle rental if you want to get to those inconvenient places in a shorter time. If you can’t seem to find any public bike rental services, many accommodations provide rental services too.
As for travelling around by train, we bought single journey tickets wherever we went. There was no need for unlimited passes as we weren’t exactly travelling very far out. However, we realised that it may have been more cost efficient to get the Icoca Prepaid Card. This card can be used for travelling between Kyoto, Nara and Osaka too. You can easily get this card from the airport at just ¥2,000n including a ¥500 deposit.
Fly with Scoot
It wasn’t my first time flying by Scoot, but it was definitely my first time on their new 787 Dreamliner and we were pleasantly surprised at how spacious it was!
The best part about flying on their new plane is that we could stay connected while being in the air! We got the chance to try both the hourly Wi-Fi and Social-Lite plans. Since the Travel Intern team had some last minute planning to do, some of us were making use of the hourly Wi-Fi to research about the places to go in the Kansai region!
As for me, I was trying out their Social-Lite plan to update Instagram. For those of you looking to stay connected via social media and text messages during the flight, Social-Lite is the perfect solution for you!
Rather than having a time limit like the regular Wi-Fi, Social-Lite offers you 20MB, with no duration limit. You can buy this onboard at just 5USD. But do note that with a max speed of 64kilobits/s, video streaming and internet surfing is not recommended for the Social-Lite.
Ultimately, I think budget travel to Japan just got easier, with Scoot flying to Osaka 6 times a week and a short stopover in Bangkok. There’s simply too much to explore in the Kansai region! You can even buy a train ticket for less than 10GSD and travel from Osaka to Kyoto under an hour. Scoot off to Japan for your next adventure, even if you’ve been there before! You won’t regret it! 😉
Do you have any questions about Kyoto that you think we can answer? Head on down to the comments section and give us a nudge! 🙂
This post was brought to you by Scoot.