When you think Kyoto, you think of peace and quiet; you imagine birds chirping as the sunrises; you visualise many elements of traditional Japan bursting serenely into the scene, from temples to torii gates, bamboo forests to castles – the word Kyoto is synonymous with Old Japan, and it is indeed where you’ll be able to find many picture opportunities worthy of being labelled the most Instagrammable place in Kyoto.
Kyoto has become an absolute tourist magnet over the past decade or so, and whilst more than 10 years ago, you would be able to pick out the tourist in a heartbeat, these days, they travel in hordes to this stunning city because it just has so much to offer.
We’ll navigate you throughout list of the 10 most Instagrammable places in Kyoto which ranges from the bright vermillion red gates of Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, all the way to the bright Golden Temple, Kinkakuji.
The 10 Most Instagrammable Places in Kyoto
- Kinkakuji Temple
- Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
- Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine
- Yasaka Pagoda in Higashiyama District
- Gion District
- Kiyomizu Dera Temple
- Daigo-ji Temple
- Ginkakuji Temple
- Nijo Castle
- Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple
1. Kinkakuji Temple
Kinkakuji, aka the Golden Temple, aka the Golden Pavilion, sits on top of this list as one of the most aesthetic and definitely one of the most popular places in Kyoto to visit. This stunning temple is famously covered in real leaf on its top two tiers, and during the year when it reflects off the still water, it’s simply breathtaking.
Photographers both amateur and professional travel in crowds to this pavilion to capture perfect the perfect of it simply because it’s just so beautiful. It actually also sits on top of gorgeous temple gardens that you can spend some time exploring, which also hosts teahouses and souvenir shops.
- Address: 1 Kinkakujicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, 603-8361, Japan
- Access: From Kyoto Station, take the Karasuma line to Kita-Oji Station. From there, walk 2 minutes to Kitaoji Bus Terminal and take #101, #102, #204, #205 to Kinkakuji-michi bus stop (10-min bus ride).
2. Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
Nothing screams “KYOTO” quite like a photo inside the dense Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. Even though it’s so popular that you’ll most likely always find a crowd there, it’s a definite change of pace from Kyoto city and exploring historic structures.
Walking underneath the towering emerald green groves as they sway high above your head and seeing endless rows of bamboo ahead and behind you is a surreal experience in itself, and it’s almost an addictive feeling.
During peak periods, and sometimes even off-peak, we recommend that you head there (really) nice and early or during dusk to avoid the large crowds. Whilst it’s not exactly a hike, the 500m or so windy path throughout the forest might take a while as you’re not only walking through it, but stopping to admire the scenery, breath in the fresh air, and take a million photos of this stunning grove, all whilst navigating your way around others.
- Address: Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-0000, Japan
- Access: Take the JR Sagano line from Kyoto Station to Saga-Arashiyama Station, and alight there to walk 10-minutes to the grove.
3. Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine
The vermillion-red torii gates of Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine are once-again a must for all visitors to Japan looking to take epic Instagram photos. The shrine itself is a prominent Shinto shrine in Kyoto, and on its grounds is a main hall where visitors can pray and make an offering as well as multiple smaller structures to admire and take photos of.
However, it is the torii gate trails at the back of the shrine that really command people’s attention.Thousands of torii gates stand together to create a pathway that you can walk under until you reach a network of walking trails at the end which lead up the mountain.
The bright pop of red of the torii gates are simply stunning, and whilst you don’t have to walk the entire way to the end (most people just walk however long they feel comfortable and make their way back), it is worth a visit to breath in the fresh mountain air and take some awesome Instagram photos.
- Address: 68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, 612-0882, Japan
- Access: The shrine is just outside of JR Inari Station, which is 5-minutes from Kyoto Station on the JR Nara line.
If you want to take awesome pictures of you here, we recommend you to book this photoshoot in Fushimi Inari Shrine. It’s provided by Matt, a very friendly local photographer based in Kansai area.
4. Yasaka Pagoda in Higashiyama District
Yasaka Pagoda is one of the most beautiful pagodas you will ever come across, whether it’s during the day or night. The pagoda sits on the popular and stunning historical Yasaka street, and is the oldest recorded pagoda in the entirety of Kyoto.
The 5-story, 46m structure sits high and proud, demanding attention from passers-by. You absolutely need to get a photo of this pagoda if you are visiting Higashiyama district. Definitely one of the most Instagrammable places in Kyoto!
We recommend taking it from afar outside so that you can capture a bit of the street’s character and livelihood in the image as well, however, the pagoda is occasionally opened up to visitors for a fee as well.
- Address: Japan, 〒605-0862 Kyoto, Higashiyama Ward, 清水八坂上町388
- Access: It is a 15-minute walk from Kiyomizu-Gojo Station.
If you want to take pictures of you here, we recommend you to check out this post on how to book a Kimono photoshoot in Kyoto!
5. Gion District
Gion District is Kyoto’s most famous traditional entertainment district, and even still as you walk through today, you will see many elements of ancient Japan permeating through the temples, shrines, and historic sites all over Gion’s picturesque streets.
Whilst all the locals may celebrate Gion as the wonderfully nostalgic entertainment quarter that it is, tourists are most likely attracted to it because of one other factor: it’s unofficially the Geisha capital of the region.
Here, in amongst the old wooden structures, small lantern-lit alley ways, and perfectly preserved cobblestone walkways, you might be able to lay your eyes on a real-life Geisha! If you’re unaware, it is extremely rare to encounter these beauties in today’s society. Whereas in the early 1900s there were over 80,000 full-fledged Geisha, these days, the numbers have dwindled down to the low hundreds.
Recently the local authorities have placed a light ban on following and photographing Geisha and Maiko (their apprentices) on private property, as impolite and irrational tourists in the past have trespassed and done all sorts of illegal behaviour to get their perfect shot. You can still whip out your camera in public places though, Gion being one of them.
If you’re looking for that extra oomph in your photos, we recommend dressing up in rented kimonos and heading into the ancient Gion streets to capture a picture. This is the perfect way to re-create a nostalgic photograph that looks as though it just stepped out of a magazine from olden day Japan. This is a popular and fun activities that many people take part of, and some tourists might even ask to take photos of you! Book your kimono rental here.
We also recommend you to hire a photographer in Gion so he can take pictures of you in Kimono in Gion district!
6. Kiyomizu dera Temple
Kiyomizudera Temple, aka the “Pure Water Temple” is one of the most prominent and celebrated temples of Japan. Its name is derived from the water that flows down Otawa Waterfall, which is located at the base of Kiyomizudera’s main hall.
There are plenty of places to take nice photos here, but the best vantage point, and probably the reason why most visitors head there, is the massive wooden platform that was built to stick out from its main hall. The platform sits 13-metres above the hillside on which it was built, and provides impressive sweeping views of the mountains and hills surrounding.
The best time to come here would be either during peak spring when the cherry blossoms have bloomed in abundance, or during the koyo (autumn) season when the momiji leaves constantly float through the air and create a vast view of bright red and orange. This is a great photo opportunity for those in love with nature.
- Address: 294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0862, Japan
- Access: From Kyoto Station, take bus #100 or #206, and alight at Gojo-zaka or Kiyomizu-michi bus stop for a 10-minute walk uphill to the temple.
7. Daigo-ji Temple
For a photo opportunity that’s equally unique and beautiful, check our Daigo-ji temple, a prominent Shingon Buddhist temple that sits on the mountainside in Kyoto.
This stunning temple offers all sorts of stunning photo opportunities, from its famous Bentendo Hall, a gorgeous bright red structure that sits stark and beautiful next to the peaceful pond, framed by foliage and a red bridge, to the Shimo Daigo pagoda, which stands at 38-metres tall and is quite a sight in amongst the surrounding trees and mountains in the distance.
The best time to head here would be during autumn, when the luscious greenery surrounding the temple turns a bright hue of red and orange and perfectly complements the structures. That’s why Daigo-ji is also one of our 10 best autumn leaves spots in Kyoto.
- Address: 22 Daigohigashiojicho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, 601-1325, Japan
- Access: From Kyoto Station, take the Keihan Bus number 301 which departs once or twice per hour to Daigoji. It is 30-minutes and will cost 270 yen. Use bus stop H4 in front of Hotel Keihan Kyoto Grande.
8. Ginkakuji Temple
Also known as Jisho-ji temple, but nicknamed the Silver Pavilion, Ginkakuji Temple is not what you imagine it to be – it’s not actually covered in silver. Unlike its predecessor, Kinkakuji (aka the Golden Pavilion) of which it was modelled after, its structure still stays true to traditional Japan, but its exterior is less flashy.
However, this doesn’t mean that it makes for less of a beautiful image. In fact, the historic structure coupled with the surrounding leafy greenery coupled with (most importantly) the almost non-existent crowds make this site a wonderful place to unwind, recharge and capture some beautiful photos of the quieter part of Japan. The garden of Ginkakuji temple has actually made it to our list of the 10 best gardens in Japan!
- Address: 2 Ginkakujicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8402, Japan
- Access: From Kyoto Station, take bus n#5, #17, or #100 to Ginkakuji. It will take 35-40 minutes and cost 230 yen.
9. Nijo Castle
Nijo Castle offers a vast site of beautifully preserved historical structures, beautiful and peaceful gardens, and a place which offers an interesting insight into a slice of history in Japan.
If you’re looking for a picture that’s a ‘throwback’ in time in Japan, you’ll definitely be able to capture one here.
Visitors will first enter through a large gate and head towards the Karamon Gate, a huge entryway into the Ninomaru made of wood and gold. Plenty of photo opportunities here! Next, you can visit the Ninomaru Palace which still stands in its original form!
The exterior is wonderfully nostalgic and will certainly take you back in time. Lastly, take a leisurely walk around the Ninomaru Garden, which consists of a well-maintained Japanese garden with a central pond surrounded by pine trees and decorative stones.
The perfect time to visit this castle would be spring (when the plum orchards bloom) or during the second half of November, when the maple, gingko and other trees burst into autumn colours.
- Address: 541 Nijojocho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8301, Japan
- Access: From Kyoto Station, take the Karasuma line to Karasuma-Oike Station and transfer to the Tozai line to Nijojo-mae Station. From there, it is a short walk to Nijo Castle.
10. Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple
Located on the outskirts of Arashiyama, Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple is one of the thousands of temples within Kyoto that often gets lost amongst the noise made up of bamboo groves, torii gates, castles and Geisha hype. However, if there ever were a temple that were off the beaten path, a tad hip, a lot authentic, and 100% original, it would be Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple.
We’ll start off with its major draw. Otagi Nenbutsu-ji hosts more than 1200 unique rakan statues, which are small stone statues of Buddha’s disciples wearing different facial expressions and poses.
These were created and added to the temple during the 1980s when the head priest decided to invite visitors to carve out their own statues under his guidance. Nowadays when you visit, you will find that no two statues look the same.
They range from your simple angelic expressions to some humorous ones such as the manic-looking statue carrying a Walkman! Apparently, it’s a popular activity to make your way around to try and find the stone that most resembles you…good luck!
- Address: 2-5 Sagatoriimoto Fukatanicho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8439, Japan
- Access: This is a great addition to your itinerary if you’re visiting Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and Tenryu-ji Temple on the same day. Once you’re finished at Tenryu-ji, you can either walk to Otaji Nenbutsu-ji (40-minute walk), or you can head to Arashiyama Tenryuji-Mae bus stop and take bus #64, #74, #84, or #94 towards Otagi Dera-mae Bus Stop. Alight there and the temple is right opposite.
I hope you enjoyed our article about the most Instagrammable places in Kyoto. As you can see, Kyoto is completely different from Tokyo and Osaka, and this is a great thing. Japan is full of beautiful scenery and landscapes that beg to be captured by even the most amateur photographers.
Instagram today is exploding with fun and creative ways people are presenting their version of Japan, and we adore seeing people spread the love. If you’ve visited any of the above, please remember to tag is so we can see your beautiful pictures!
Before you leave, if you want to discover the food scene in Kyoto, we recommend you to join one of our 10 best food tours in Kyoto.