The best tours in Kyoto focus on the city’s incredible wealth of majestic architecture and rich culture. Thanks to towering pagodas, peaceful shrines, and an ultramodern train station, no place in Japan captures the eclectic blend of the historic with the futuristic quite like Kyoto.

    Whether you want to browse the shops on the way to Kiyomizu-dera Temple or seek solitude at Toji Temple, you are sure to find a place that transports you back to when Kyoto was the bustling capital of Japan. With so many tours in Kyoto offering places to see and things to do, make it easy on yourself by taking part in one of the best. 


    City of Culture small group afternoon tour

    Show duration: 3hr 30m

    It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when arriving in Kyoto, but a speedy yet comprehensive afternoon tour can orient you and help set your holiday itinerary.

    Meet your expert English-speaking guide a few metres from the central train station and then head to the Tofukuji Temple, which boasts multiple lush gardens to get lost in – not to mention 25 sub-temples to explore. Your next stop is the Fushimi Inari Shrine, where you can pass through nearly 1,000 red torii gates that line the path. Be sure to check out all the fox statues before heading back to the city centre.


    Nighttime local eats and streets in Old Kyoto

    Show duration: 3hr

    Wander the narrow streets of Kyoto’s Gion neighborhood and enjoy the aroma of Japanese delicacies as you and a small group stroll through the city’s vibrant, lantern-lined entertainment district.

    Your journey includes samples at a couple of the best spots in town – not to mention your choice of beer, sake, or shochu. Carnivorous connoisseurs can upgrade to the “Extra Beefy” option and indulge in well-marbled meat – but don’t fret if you’re vegetarian or vegan because there are plenty of choices for everyone. Before the tour ends, be sure to ask your guide for recommendations for your next drink or bite.


    Ramen-making class

    Show duration: 1hr

    After you’ve explored Kyoto’s food scene, try your hand at making ramen noodles from scratch at Ramen Factory. Roll up your sleeves and put on your apron as an expert ramen chef leads you through the process of kneading the dough, rolling it out, and cutting noodles. Then, it’s time to prepare the chicken—or tofu—followed by the addition fragrant local spices to your choice of broth. Once you put it all together, it’s time to eat. Before you depart, make sure you choose your gift of a ramen bowl, T-shirt, or Japanese apron.


    Nara afternoon tour

    Show duration: 5hr 35m

    Leave Kyoto behind and venture to Nara to enter a mystical world filled with fragrant cherry blossoms, adorable spotted deer, and a massive Buddha. This small, friendly town is less than 1 hour away from Kyoto. It's home to Nara Park and its 1,200 free-roaming deer.

    If you decide to buy some deer crackers and feed these cute creatures, be sure to watch out behind you as all your new friends gather for a snack. The world’s largest wooden building, Todai-ji Temple provides a glimpse into the town’s religious side with its 15-metre-tall bronze Buddha.


    Shodo calligraphy class

    Show duration: 1hr

    Immerse yourself in Japanese culture as you gently grip the bamboo-handled brush and apply strokes of black ink to specially designed paper. Your expert teacher provides you with all the materials and knowledge you need to create evocative script. 

    As much an art form as a method of communication, calligraphy allows you to express yourself with the thickness of a line or the quickness of your brushstroke. After you create your masterpiece, let the ink dry on the perfect souvenir from your time in Kyoto.


    Kimono rental

    Show duration: 3hr

    Geisha or geiko, as they’re known in Kyoto, go about their daily lives throughout the city, and you have a chance to dress the part yourself. Rather than a tourist novelty, geiko are just as much a part of the fabric of the town as the fish mongers at Nishiki Market.

    If you want to try out the geiko look or want to don something more traditionally masculine, be sure to book a kimono rental package – and you can even get your hair styled and have your photo taken.


    Traditional Taiko drum lesson

    Show duration: 1hr

    Taiko drumming is a high-energy musical form that combines theatrical movements with synchronized rhythms played by multiple booming drums, and you can try it out for yourself in Kyoto. After meeting your instructor and finding out how to handle the bachi (drumsticks), you will learn how kata (posture) affects your playing.

    Once you understand the basics, join your classmates in a beat-driven performance of a few of the simpler Japanese classics. As your lesson draws to a close, try on a happi (traditional outfit) and snap a few pictures for your friends back home.


    Small-group Kyoto cycling tour

    Show duration: 3hr 30m

    Fitness-focused travelers and those who only have a brief time in Kyoto can spend a morning pedaling through the city to discover places that aren’t easily reached on foot.

    Cycle along the Kamo River and venture over to the Heian Shrine, home to one of the country’s largest torii gates. Next, cruise along the city’s canals and discover one of Kyoto’s lesser-known – but equally magnificent – Zen temples, Nanzen-ji. Before returning to Kyoto Station, follow in the footsteps of a famed local philosopher as you bike along the tree-lined Philosopher’s Path, which is home to even more temples and shrines.


    Guided tea ceremony

    Show duration: 1hr

    Step into a tea master’s machiya (traditional wooden house), take off your shoes, and get ready for an hour of tea and relaxation. A translator guides you through the process as the tea master mixes a style of powdered matcha tea that has been in use for nearly 1,000 years.

    Watch as the brush delicately whisks the green matcha dust into the water, creating a pleasant emerald liquid. As the tea steeps, learn the proper posture for sipping tea and then take a drink before topping your experience off with a sweet snack.


    Samurai and Ninja Museum

    Show duration: 1hr

    Learn how Kyoto, the former imperial capital, played an important role in the history of samurai and ninja in Japan at the Samurai and Ninja Museum. Listen as your guide explains how samurai were the nation’s elite fighting force while ninja handled shadowy covert operations.

    You will learn how 10,000 samurai along with a fortuitous kamikaze (divine wind) wiped out 40,000 Mongols with 900 ships and defended Japan from this historic threat. Be sure to ask a lot of questions and take the opportunity to try on a replica helmet.

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