Things to do in Kyoto (Winter)

  • Sumo


Kyoto 京都 was Japan’s capital and the emperor’s residence from 794 until 1868. It is now the 7th largest city of Japan, filled with countless temples, shrines and other priceless historical structures all around the corner.

Check out what we did while we were in Kyoto for about 3 days before heading to Osaka, the sleepless city.

Read on the full itinerary: Japan Trip 2016: 5D4N Winter in Kyoto & Osaka

Read also Autumn Version: Things to do in Kyoto (Autumn)

1. Up to go, to the tallest building in Kyoto
The tallest building in Kyoto, also the iconic landmark in this city, standing high at 131 meters across Kyoto Station, showing a contrast of modern building in this historical city. Up you go, you will be able to capture the 360 degree view of Kyoto. If you love to catch the panoramic view of the city, make your way up here. But we didn’t go up larrr.


Getting there:
Just across Kyoto Station

2. Eat Tendon
It is always great to travel with the besties kampungboycitygal because they know where to get the good food. Tenshu Tempura is famous for their tempura kaiseki dinner priced from ¥5,000. We went for the wallet friendly version which is their lunch; lunch sets are priced from ¥1,100 to ¥1,900. I opted for the anago (sea eel) and ebi (prawn) tempura don, priced at ¥ 1700 which was yummy and tummy filling.





the BFF


Tenshu Tempura
Kyoto 605-0073
Tel: +81 75-541-5277
opens daily from 11 am to 2 pm and 5.30 pm to 9 pm daily.
Closed on Wednesdays.

Getting there:
About 2 minute walk from Shijo Keihan-mae bus station.

3. Eat matcha desserts in Tsujiri Honten
Tsujiri is specialised in matcha desserts and they offer a variety of them. Their parfaits are normally touched with red bean paste, green tea pound cake, kanten, mocha, topped with matcha flavoured whipped cream and filled with many other ingredients. Flip through their menu will make one become indecisive with their order. Dunno which to choose?! Just ran over their best seller, just like what we did. We opted for the no. 1 best seller parfait, a classic one and a warabimochi dusted with kinako (sweet toasted soybean flour).






Tsujiri Honten
573-3 Gionmachi Minamigawa,
Kyoto 605-0074, Kyoto Prefecture
Phone: +81 75-561-2257
Open daily from 10 am to 10 pm

Getting there:
About 4 mins walk away from the nearest train station is Gion Shijo Station 祇園四条駅.

4. Catching a glimpse of Geisha or Maiko in Gion
Gion 祇園 is Kyoto’s famous geisha district, located around Shijo Avenue. This area is full with shops, restaurants and teahouses. However, there were no sight of geisha or maiko during the time we visited gion but it was good to explore around this area for its beauty. A very beautiful place, as though we were transported back to the ancient period.





Getting there:
By bus: 100, 206 from Kyoto Station
By train: Gion Shijo Station on Keihan Railway Line and Kawaramachi Station on Hankyu Line.

5. Visit the pure water temple – Kiyomizudera
Literally known as Pure Water Temple, is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites, founded in 780 on the site of the Otowa Waterfall in the wooded hills east of Kyoto, and derives its name from the fall’s pure waters.

Kiyomizudera is best known for its wooden stage that projects out from its main hall, 13 meters above the hillside below. Visitors can get a magnificent view of numerous cherry and maple trees below which create a sea of spring and fall colours in each season respectively. The main hall was built without the use of nails, houses the temple’s primary object of worship, a small statue of the eleven faced, thousand armed Kannon.







Getting there:
By bus: Kyoto City Bus 100, 202, 206, 207 Kiyomizu-michi stop, about 10 mins uphill walk to the temple.
By train: 20 minutes’ walk from Kiyomizu-Gojo Station along the Keihan Railway Line.
Entrance fee: ¥ 400

6. Stroll along the streets in Higashiyama
There are a lot of narrow lanes housed the wooden building and traditional shops in this area. Patrons can check out the local specialties such as kiyomizu-yaki pottery, sweets, crafts and souvenirs here. You can sign up for the pottery class too if you are into pottery.








7. And eat tofu soft serve
Priced at ¥ 350, soft silky smooth



8. Enjoy the ryokan stay with a dip in public bath
The night we slept in the comfortable bed futon bed in the tatami room, very soundly.




Gion Fukuzumi
Nishi-hairu Shimbashi Higashiohji,
Higashiyama-ku Kyoto-city 605-0062
Tel:+81 75-541-5181

Getting there:
by bus: board bus 206 from bus stop D2 opposite Kyoto Tower to Gion, it is about 2 minute walk from the station.

9. Experience the uniqueness of Kyo-ryori
Dinner in the ryokan itself, we were served with numerous courses and what captured my heart most was the tofu nabe, soothing and tummy warming. The breakfast was very hearty too!



10. Walk through the tunnel of torii gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine 伏見稲荷大社
Fushimi Inari Shrine is an important Shinto shrine in southern Kyoto. Famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates. Fushimi Inari is the most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. Foxes are thought to be Inari’s messengers, so you will see the fox statues across the shrine grounds.





Getting there:
Located just outside JR Inari Station. The shrine can be reached in a short walk from Fushimi Inari Station along the Keihan Main Line.

11. Mesmerize the shimmering beauty Kinkakuji
Super lucky we managed to be in here just before the closing hour. The Golden Pavilion is a Zen temple located in northern Kyoto. Its top two floors are covered with gold leaf. It is very elegant, standing ‘on’ the pond with its reflection shimmering on the surface of the water.





Opens daily from 9am to 5pm
Entrance fee: ¥400

Getting there:
By bus: take bus #101 or #205 from Kyoto station to Kinkaku-ji michi bus stop.

12. Try all the food in Nishiki Market 錦市場
Also known as Kyoto’s Kitchen, is a narrow shopping street lined with hundreds of shops and restaurants. We managed to try a few good stuff over here such as Professor Takoyaki (plain ¥ 190, flavours ¥ 350), Miki Keiran’s famous dashimaki (¥ 1360), shirako (¥ 300), Konnamonja tofu doughnuts (¥ 300 for 10)










Nishiki Market
Nishikikoji-dori, Nakagyo-ku
Located between Teramachi and Takakura

Getting There:
3min walk from Shijo Station, Karasuma subway line
3min walk from Karasuma or Kawaramachi Station, Hankyu line

13. Sink your teeth with 551 Horai pork bun
One of the most popular barbeque pork bun stores in Osaka. We saw it Kyoto and seriously hooked in it and ate all the way from Kyoto to Osaka and from Osaka to Kansai. Stuffed with minced pork and minced onion, encased in a sweet fluffy bun. Their stores are available everywhere in Kyoto and Osaka.



14. Kanpai in local izakaya
We found out this from the hotel’s concierge. Located very near to our hotel, this izakaya has only 3 tables inside. Manned by an old couple who can’t speak English, we managed to order with our limited Japanese language and body language. And I believe we were the first ever Malaysian gang dine in their place.






Watanabeya 渡辺屋
Tel: +81-75-256-0657
Opens from 6pm to 12midnight on weekdays; 5.30pm to 11pm on weekends

15. Enjoy the afternoon tea in Zen Kashoin
Located in Muromachi, it has a shop, a café, a studio and a gallery. Zen Kashoin is famous for their Ranmitsu or also known as “Zen” Castella, paper-baked castella made with egg from hens raised in Kyoto. The castella was very yellow in colour due to the Kyoto’s egg. Enjoy it with a cup of matcha, the compatible match, silently here. . It was really good but quite expensive given we had to pay about ¥ 1000++ for the castella and match set. Good thing you can tour around the gallery for free and inhale the artistic air over here.






Zen Kashoin
Tel: +81-75-241-3300
Opens daily from 10am to 7pm

16. Slurp up the bowl of Tsukemen
Citygal brought us here for the bowl of superb tsukemen!!! Thanks to her!!! We savour down the huge yummy bowl of tsukemen, thick noodles dosed with pretty chashu and negi, side with a hot piping bowl of thick broth for the noodles. Such a comforting bowl of noodles on the chilling night. Priced at ¥1,050 for a bowl of tsukemen.








Menyatakakuranijou 麺や高倉二条
Address: 京都府京都市中京区観音町64-1
Tel: +81-75-255-9575
Opening hours:
11am to 3pm and 6pm to 10pm on weekdays
11am to 3pm and 6pm to 9pm on weekends

17. Sip on the Hoshino Coffee along with their breakfast dish
A large coffee chain in Japan and famous for its aromatic hand drip coffee and fluffy soufflé pancakes. It is also a popular breakfast spot which offer breakfast sets priced from ¥500 until 11am every day. We woke up early and came here for breakfast before leaving to Osaka.









Hoshino Coffee
Kyoto Station
Opens daily from 7am to 10.15pm (Last orders at 10pm)

18. Try out all the snack from konbini
Be it 7-11, Family Mart, Lawsons, each of them has their special food to try.






Get the ICOCA & HARUKA pass from JR ticketing office upon arrival at Kansai International Airport.


ICOCA & HARUKA is a discounted set consists of ICOCA IC card (pre-charged with ¥1,500 and a reduced fare ticket for Kansai-Airport Express HARUKA. You can use the ICOCA on JR, subway, private railway and bus transportation. You may get the direct assess from Kansai International Airport to Tennoji, Shin-Osaka and Kyoto with Kansai-Airport Express HARUKA pass. Round-trip for this ICOCA & HARUKA set is priced at ¥4,060.

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7 thoughts on “Things to do in Kyoto (Winter)”

  • Hi Ivy,

    Do you reserve the ICOCA IC card and Haruka online before collecting from Kansai airport? Or can you get it at the Kansai airport when you arrived?

    Thank & Rgds,
    TAN EP

    • Hi, you can reserve online and then make payment and collect at Kansai Airport, at the JR West Ticket Office.
      or, you can actually get the ICOCA Haruka on the spot when you touch down in Kansai Airport. The JR West Ticket Office opens til late everyday.

      I didn’t reserve mine and got it at JR West Ticket Office directly.

      Hope this helps! 🙂

  • hi, may i know which month of the winter season you went? And any recommendation on the best month to go for winter ? Thanks ?

    • I went in end of January. Didn’t manage to catch the snow though.
      I’m not too sure when is the best month to go for winter.
      I do suggest u to go kyoto in autumn. Very beautiful!

    • HI Sally,
      No I didn’t reserve ticket for Haruka.
      I bought the ICOCA + Haruka combo which is the non-reserved ticket departing from kansai

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