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The Best 24 hours in Kyoto Itinerary For First-Time Visitors In 2023

Despite its size and array of wonderful things to do, Kyoto can be explored in one day.

Kyoto Gion Shrine Temple Night

Are you wondering how it can be possible to spend 24 hours in Kyoto and make the most out of this city? Despite its size and array of wonderful things to do, Kyoto can be explored in one day.

First time I visited Japan, I spent 5 days in Kyoto, and probably I would have happily stayed there for months to come. Truth be told, Kyoto is a fantastic city, with a rich history and heritage. Many come to Kyoto to enjoy the most widely known attractions, but truly, it is right off the beaten paths where I discovered this city’s true spirit.

I found matcha cafés, Zen restaurants and forested trails where I expected them the least. Kyoto is magic. Before I continue, please note that there are myriad ways which you can discover Kyoto in 24 hours. I would like to share what is my favourite way of doing so.

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24 hours in Kyoto

Our 24 hours in Kyoto itinerary will be quick so make sure you wear something comfortable so you can cover as much of the city as possible. We recommend getting an IC Card so you can charge it in the morning and have enough money for the subway throughout the day. This will save you time as you won't have to buy tickets for the subway, just tap your IC Card as you pass through the gates. You can read a little more about our Japan Guide: What You Need To Know Before You Travel.

Kyoto Gion Japanese Street Night

Nishiki Market

If I had one single day to spend in Kyoto, then I would want to make the most out of it by waking up as early in the morning as possible. Food in Kyoto is renowned for being fantastic, so what better way to start the day than by eating your way through the city. First stop would be the Nishiki Market, also known as Kyoto’s kitchen. Here, I found a huge variety of fresh food, snacks and sweets. I particularly enjoyed the matcha covered sweets, the Japanese pancakes and the amazing takotamago (octopus with a small boiled egg in its head). But there is a lot more to the Nishiki Market than just ready to eat goodies. There are also lots of shops with souvenirs and handcrafted items. There is plenty of fresh seafood and sushi available, as well as small ramen and tempura restaurants.

  • Hours: Varies by store, typically 9:00 to 18:00
  • Admission: Free
  • Location: The Nishiki Market is in parallel to Shijo Avenue. It can be reached on foot in less than five minutes from Shijo Station or Kawaramachi Stations

Nishiki Market Kyoto

Yasaka Shrine

From Nishiki Market, walk towards the Yasaka Shrine. There are other methods of transportation but I always like walking in a new city. This enables me to get to know and understand my surroundings. Yasaka Shrine is a great place to get an introduction to Kyoto’s spiritual side. It’s a relatively busy temple which in my opinion offers a peek into Kyoto’s Zen side. It offers a beautiful quiet walk, dotted with small vermilion lanterns. It features two gigantic torii gates, several small shrines, the Yasaka Shrine itself and a Buddhist temple. Beyond the temple grounds, you can venture into the Maruyama Park, a large green space with a pond, beautiful maple trees and stone paths which lead right into a cosy forested trail. It’s hard to spend a little time visiting the Yasaka Shrine, yet I feel like you couldn’t give this a miss during my 24 hours in Kyoto adventure.

  • Hours: Always open
  • Admission: Free
  • Location: Japan, 〒605-0073 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Higashiyama Ward, Gionmachi Kitagawa

Kyoto Gion Night

Shijo Dori

Shijo Dori is my ulterior motive to have sent you to the Yasaka Shrine. I discovered this street by chance. Shijo Dori is a foodie’s paradise and just like the Nishiki Market, has a tremendous amount of foods, sweets and goods which are sure to put the hunger at bay. Whilst meandering on Shijo Dori, I enjoyed charcoal ice cream and sakura mochi. Since Kyoto is so very close to Uji, it’s natural to find everything matcha around: matcha sweets, matcha cakes and of course matcha lattes. I can’t imagine the number of calories I paid for, but who’s counting? I found kombucha tea which is a plum tasting seaweed tea. It’s rather salty and actually incredibly delicious. On Shijo Dori I found some of the best dango in the whole of Japan, as well as myriad types of rice crackers, pickles and lots of chutneys. Being on Shijo Dori can get expensive, but since Kyoto has some of Japan’s best food, it seems only natural that you should fit in in a 24 hours trip to Kyoto.

  • Hours: Varies by store, typically 9:00 to 18:00
  • Admission: Free
  • Location: Higashiyama-ku, Nakagyō-ku, Ukyō-ku and Nishikyō-ku in Kyoto


Just a short walking distance from Shijo Dori is Gion, Kyoto’s old entertainment quarters. This is the best place for geisha spotting. Geishas are quite elusive, and there is a good chance you won’t be able to see one in real life unless you buy tickets for an actual geisha show. Nevertheless, Gion is a wonderful place which preserved some of Kyoto’s old soul, hence I see it as a must during 24 hours in Kyoto. Here, I found an impressive amount of winding, narrow streets, all dotted with old Japanese wooden houses.

  • Hours: Always open
  • Admission: Free
  • Location: Gionmachi, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0001, Kyoto Prefecture

Japanese Kimono Dress Oiran

Kyoto Station

To end 24 hours in Kyoto, it comes a time when we must return back to the train station. The Kyoto station is not just an ordinary place where you can grab a train, it’s an impressive shopping mall, full of shops, restaurants and supermarkets. In fact, I spent almost a whole day meandering through the Kyoto Station. Before taking the Shinkansen back to another city or on your way to the airport, I strongly recommend sitting down for one of the most fabulous meals you can enjoy in Kyoto. Either in Musashi where you can enjoy fresh sushi made right in front of your eyes, or Katsukura where you will be served the best Tonkatsu in this entire world. Whichever you go for, you are guaranteed to leave Kyoto feeling fully satisfied. For the train ride, go downstairs to the lowers floors and buy yourself some snacks and a bento box from the supermarket located in B1 in the Cube.

  • Musashi Opening Hours: 10AM–10:30PM
  • Musashi Location: Japan, 〒600-8214 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Shimogyo Ward, Higashishiokoji Takakuracho, 8−3
  • Katsukura Opening Hours: 11AM–10PM
  • Katsukura Location: The Cube, Japan, 〒600-8216 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Shimogyo Ward


I very much adored Kyoto, and I can’t wait to go back and spend even more time strolling around and discovering its most secret places. If you decide to come back, don't forget to check where to stay in Kyoto and make the most of our Kyoto onsen guide. For the adventurous, we recommend several day trips from Kyoto so you can explore a little more of the Kansai area.

Would you like to add anything to my short but sweet 24 hours guide in Kyoto? What are you most excited about? Tell me all about in the comments section below.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you visit Kyoto in 1 day?

    It is possible to see the most important attractions in Kyoto in just 1 day. Start nice and early to see the highlights, try some delicious local foods and get acquainted with Japanese culture.

    In this 24 hours in Kyoto article, I will show you where to go, what to see and what to eat in Kyoto.

  • How many days in Kyoto is enough?

    I normally recommend everyone to spend 3-4 days in Kyoto on their first visit. That's enough time to see the attractions, visit sights outside of Kyoto, try the local foods, do some shopping and generally have a great time.

    You can use this 5 Day Kyoto Itinerary to pick and choose the things you want to see.

  • Is 1 night in Kyoto enough?

    It takes about 8-9 hours to see the most important attractions that you cannot miss when you are visiting Kyoto. So, while 1 night is not enough time in Kyoto, you can still see the top sights and get to know this stunning city a little.

    If you arrive at midday or in the afternoon and stay one night, you might be able to squeeze in quite a few places before they close. In the evening, after dark, wonder around Kyoto to see the illuminated streets, especially Gion and the road leading up to Kiyomizu-dera. Most restaurants and bars are open until late, so you can try some of the local dishes and drinks.

  • Is it better to stay in Osaka or Kyoto?

    Deciding whether to stay in Osaka or Kyoto largely depends on your personal preferences and travel plans. Here are some factors to consider when making your decision:

    • Culture and History: Kyoto is known as the cultural capital of Japan and is home to numerous temples, shrines, and historical landmarks. If you're interested in Japanese culture and history, Kyoto may be the better choice for you.
    • Food: Osaka is known as the "Kitchen of Japan" and is well-known for its street food, including takoyaki (octopus balls), okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes), and kushikatsu (deep-fried skewers). If you're a foodie, you may want to stay in Osaka.
    • Nightlife: Osaka has a more vibrant nightlife scene than Kyoto, with numerous bars, clubs, and entertainment venues. If you enjoy nightlife, Osaka may be the better choice.
    • Accommodation: Kyoto is the more popular destination, and it's smaller than Osaka, so hotel prices are generally higher. You will find more budget friendly places in Osaka. On the other hand, Kyoto has a lot more traditional Japanese ryokans to pick from.
    • Convenience: Osaka is a larger city with better transportation infrastructure, making it easier to travel around the city and to nearby attractions such as Universal Studios Japan. If you value convenience, Osaka may be the better choice.
    • The vibe: Kyoto is the old capital of Japan and has preserved its historic streets and buildings, as well as stunning temples and shrines. Meanwhile, Osaka was historically a port and industrial city, but has reinvented itself in the past decades through food and nightlife. If you are after traditional Japan, Kyoto is the better place to stay.

    Both Osaka and Kyoto are great destinations to visit in Japan, and you can easily visit one city from the other using the train or bus. The trains go between Osaka and Kyoto every 15 mins and the ride takes about 30 mins. If you have limited time, you may want to consider staying in one city and taking day trips to the other.

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Your Comment


Nice post. I would definitely save this, who knows I have a chance to visit Japan soon *fingers crossed* ;)

Thanks for sharing.

Cory Varga
Cory Varga - You Could Travel

Oh you will love Japan. I hope you manage to visit soon. Do let me know if you need more help with further tips.