Efficient 2 Day Kyoto Itinerary With Map

Author Carina Klein
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You have 2 days in Kyoto, we have the perfect itinerary for you.

We have recently spent a couple of days in Kyoto to compile a super efficient Kyoto 2 day itinerary for you. If you only have two days in Kyoto, you need to be determined to see all of the highlights and experience the unique culture.

With our Kyoto 2 days itinerary, you’ll get a guide on how to visit the best temples and experience the culture from tea to Geishas. We provide you with a detailed itinerary that includes your best public transport options.

2 Days Itinerary in Kyoto – Quick Guide

Before you go to Kyoto:

Is 2 Days in Kyoto Enough?

In case you’re wondering “How many days do I need in Kyoto?”: We think two days in Kyoto is enough if you’re efficient.

Kyoto Itinerary 2 Days Map

2 Day Itinerary in Kyoto

Day 1 in Kyoto

Day 1 of your Kyoto 2 day itinerary is reserved for the historic streets of Gion and Kyoto’s famous temples.

Morning – Alleys and Temples

Put your walking shoes on and get an overview of Kyoto. The highlights are the beautiful

  • Ninenzaka Path
  • Sannensaka Path
  • Yasaka Pagoda

If you go early, you can try and avoid the crowds. There are countless more alleys and temples to explore. Some of our favourites are

  • Chionin Temple (free)
  • Kiyomizudera Temple (famous wooden terrace with amazing views).
  • Kodaiji Temple (oldest Zen temple in Kyoto with a Japanese garden).

There are over 2000 temples and shrines in Kyoto so you have to set priorities.

Bucketlist2life tip: We went on a free walking tour which gave us a great overview of Kyoto and brought us to most of the spots we have mentioned above.
Picture of Yasaka Pagoda Kyoto
Yasaka Pagoda Kyoto

Lunch – Nishiki Market

For a tasty lunch, head to Nishiki Market. There are countless restaurant and street food options on the main street. It’s also very worthwhile to stray from the main street and explore the side alleys – we found this delicious hole-in-the-wall ramen place pictured below.

Picture of Nishiki Market, Kyoto
Nishiki Market, Kyoto

Afternoon – Fushimi Inari Shrine

Bucketlist2life tip: From Nishiki Market, you can reach Fushimi Inari Shrine in under 30 minutes via the Keihan Main Line. Enter at Gion-Shijo Station, exit at Fushimi-Inari Station.

Fushimi Inari Shrine is absolutely worth the hype if you ask us. Of course, the highlight is the thousands of red Tori gates leading towards the summit of Mount Inari. While the bottom is extremely crowded, the crowds will quickly disperse the higher you climb up – even in the afternoon.

You can hike a complete loop but it will take you around 3 hours. Instead, we recommend you hike to the observation deck we have marked on our map. It’s the best view we have found on the loop and you will have ditched most of the crowds by that point.

Picture of Fushimi Inari Shrine Kyoto
Fushimi Inari Shrine Kyoto

If you have some time and energy, explore the area outside of the main Tori gates. There are loads of beautiful hidden corners around. For example, we found a bamboo forest with no other tourists close to Shin-ike Pond.

Bucketlist2life tip: For time reasons, we decided not to include Arashiyama Bamboo Forest in our 2-day Kyoto itinerary. Nowadays, Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is extremely crowded. We were happy enough with our small private bamboo forest at Fushimi Inari Shrine.
Picture of Bamboo forest at Fushimi Inari Shrine
Bamboo forest at Fushimi Inari Shrine

Evening – Geisha Culture

In the evening, explore another main draw of Kyoto: the Geisha culture. The Geisha (or Geiko as they are called in Kyoto) hub is in Gion – particularly one of the five hanamachi or “flower towns”. The best time to spot a Geiko is in the evening because that’s when they head to work.

Waling around Gion in the evening, don’t miss

  • Hanamikoji Street, the main hanamachi street of Gion Kobu.
  • Gion Tatsumi Bridge from the movie Memoirs of a Geisha.
  • Yasaka Shrine with its beautiful lanterns.

Nowadays, it’s extremely rare to spot a Geiko because of too many disrespectful tourists.

If you want to increase your chances, we can fully recommend this Gion Geisha free walking tour. Our guide explained everything there is to know about the Geiko culture in Kyoto and even helped us spot some Geikos while remaining at a respectful distance.

Another opportunity to see a Geiko or Maiko (a Geiko in training) is the Traditional Arts Performance at Gion Corner.

Bucketlist2life tip: The Traditional Arts Performance at Gion Corner sells out a couple of days in advance so buy your tickets early if you want to attend.
Picture of Yasaka Shrine at night
Yasaka Shrine at night

Day 2 in Kyoto

The second day of our Kyoto two day itinerary is reserved for the deer in Nara, a castle, a palace, and a tea ceremony.

Morning – Half Day Trip to Nara

Bucketlist2life tip: The direct train from Kyoto Station to Kintetsu Nara Station takes around 50 minutes.

The main draw of Nara is bowing deer. Don’t worry, you can spot them everywhere around Nara Park.

Additionally, you should check out some temples while you’re there. There are 7 main temples in Nara. If you’re short on time, we recommend Kofukuji Temple and Todaiji Temple.

Bucketlist2life tip: We highly recommend you visit Yoshikien Garden, a Japanese Garden with a free entrance.

We have written a complete blog post about our half day trip to Nara.

Picture of Deer at a shrine in Nara
Deer at a shrine in Nara

Lunch – Sanjo-Dori Street Nara

For lunch, we recommend you head to Sanjo-Dori Street. It is on your way to Kintetsu Nara Station and there are loads of food options from convenience stores to restaurants. Don’t miss the famous mochi at Nakatanidou – maybe you can even catch one of their mochi-making presentations.

Picture of Mochi at Nakatanidou, Nara
Mochi at Nakatanidou, Nara

Afternoon – Kyoto Imperial Palace and Nijo Castle

Bucketlist2life tip: To get from Nara to Kyoto Imperial Palace, take the train back to Kyoto Station. Change to Karasuma Line and hop off at Marutamachi Station.

To be honest, Kyoto Imperial Palace was one of our favourite sights in Kyoto. It used to be the residence of Japan's Imperial Family until 1868 when the capital was moved from Kyoto to Tokyo. It is located in the beautiful Kyoto Gyoen National Garden and is completely free to visit. The area is large but there’s a clear path and great English signage. We were surprised to see almost no other tourists – a rare occasion in Kyoto nowadays.

Bucketlist2life tip. You can make a quick beeline to Kan'innomiya Residence Site which is also free to visit on your way.

Next, you can walk to Nijo Castle. The castle was the former seat of the Shogun in Kyoto. The interior of the palace is stunning – unfortunately, you cannot take any pictures. In addition to the palace, you can also find other living and defence structures as well as a lovely garden on the premises.

Bucketlist2life tip: You can see the interior of Nijo Castle in the movie The Last Samurai.
Picture of Kyoto Imperial Palace
Kyoto Imperial Palace

Evening – Kinkaku-ji Temple and Tea Ceremony

Kinkaku-ji Temple is also dubbed the Golden Temple. It is one of the main sights in Kyoto. You can visit quite quickly as you have to follow one main path.

Bucketlist2life tip: Taking a bus from Nijo Castle to Kinkaku-ji Temple takes around 30 minutes. Keep in mind that the temple is only open until 5 pm.

End your day with another highlight in Kyoto – this time a relaxing one. We participated in a tea ceremony by Tea Ceremony Kyoto and can fully recommend it. It is within easy walking distance to Kinkaku-ji Temple. For the time-conscious traveller, they offer an evening tea ceremony by candlelight at 6 pm.

We have written a blog post about our tea ceremony experience.

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Picture of Tea Ceremony Kyoto
Tea Ceremony Kyoto

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