As the sun dips below the horizon, Kyoto transforms into a realm of enchantment, where ancient traditions merge seamlessly with vibrant nightlife. From the historic streets of Gion to the mystical allure of Yasaka Shrine, the city offers an array of after-dark adventures waiting to be explored. In this guide, we’ll unveil the hidden gems that come to life under the Kyoto moonlight, ensuring an unforgettable night in this timeless city.
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Things you should know before going to Kyoto
Visa for Japan
Check that you do not require a visa for Japan. The visa website is a quick and easy way to check whether your passport requires a permit.
Travel Insurance for Japan
SafetyWing is the World’s first International Travel Medical Insurance developed to meet the needs of entrepreneurs and remote workers travelling or living abroad. However, if you do not fall under this category, do not worry; SafetyWing also suits all vacation types.
The best time to travel to Kyoto
The best time to visit Kyoto is during the Cherry Blossom Season from late March to Early April. The weather is typically mild, with temperatures ranging from 10°C to 18°C (50°F to 64°F). Light layers and comfortable walking shoes are recommended. During this magical time the city’s parks and temples come alive with delicate pink blooms, creating a picturesque atmosphere. Don’t miss spots like Maruyama Park, Philosopher’s Path, and Kiyomizu-dera for breathtaking views.
Another wonderful time to visit Kyoto is during the Autumn Foliage Season from late October to Early December when Kyoto’s landscapes transform into a canvas of red, orange, and gold. The weather is cool and comfortable, with temperatures ranging from 10°C to 20°C (50°F to 68°F). Layers and a light jacket are recommended. This season offers stunning displays of autumn foliage (koyo) at iconic spots like Kiyomizu-dera, Arashiyama, and Tofuku-ji. The city exudes a peaceful, serene atmosphere, making it ideal for leisurely strolls and temple visits.
Tipping in Japan
In Japan, tipping is not a common practice and can actually be considered rude or inappropriate in certain situations. Generally, excellent service is expected and included in the price of goods or services. Japanese hospitality is deeply rooted in the culture, and the service provided is already of high quality. Attempting to tip may cause confusion or embarrassment for the recipient. However, if you really want to show appreciation for exceptional service, a polite thank you, or a compliment to the staff is more than enough.
Currency in Japan
The Japanese Yen (¥) is the official currency in Kyoto. While credit cards are accepted in many places, it’s wise to have some cash on hand, especially when visiting smaller shops, street vendors, or participating in cultural experiences.
Remember to check the current exchange rates before your trip, and consider using a currency exchange service for the best rates. Additionally, notify your bank or credit card provider about your travel plans to avoid any issues with transactions while in Kyoto. With the right currency prepared, you’ll be ready to fully enjoy your visit to this enchanting city, whether you’re captivated by cherry blossoms or the fiery hues of autumn leaves.
How to get to Kyoto
Transport: You can order a private transfer here. The drive time from Kansai International Airport to downtown Osaka is just under 1 hour.
Train or bus: From Kansai International Airport (KIX) to Kyoto, the travel time by train and bus typically takes just over an hour. However if you decide you can hop on the Shinkansen bullet train from Shin Osaka Station to Kyoto city which will get you there in 15 mins. Once you arrive, navigating this enchanting city is easy thanks to the well-developed and efficient transport options from Kyoto Station including JR trains, privately-operated railways and bus lines.
Travel times may vary slightly based on train schedules and traffic conditions.
Hiring a car is also an option if you plan to spend a few days here and want to do it at your own pace.
With its plethora of world heritage sites and opportunities to immerse in traditional Japanese culture, Kyoto promises an unforgettable experience. In this guide, we’ll unveil the top five activities you can include in your itinerary to have an epic adventure in the heart of Japan.
Enchanting Nightlife and Hidden Gems of Kyoto
Kamo River at Night: Reflections of Tranquility
As night falls, the Kamo River takes on a magical quality. The reflections of city lights dance on the water’s surface, creating a serene and picturesque scene. Stroll along the riverbanks, where you’ll find locals and visitors alike, savoring the peaceful ambiance of this natural sanctuary. Kamogawa River is best to be visited during dusk, or just when the sun is about to set. Afterwards, you can walk through Gion where the alley is beautifully lit up by the street lights and traditional lamps.
Gion Corner: A Glimpse of Traditional Japan
Gion Corner, nestled in the heart of Kyoto’s geisha district, is a cultural haven where visitors can immerse themselves in traditional Japanese arts. Its beauty is truly compelling at nightfall – from tea ceremonies to Ikebana (flower arranging) demonstrations, this venue provides a captivating introduction to the elegance and grace of Kyoto’s cultural heritage.
Pontocho: Kyoto’s Enigmatic Alleyway
Pontocho, a narrow alley along the Kamo River, is a world of hidden delights. This atmospheric alleyway is a perfect spot for a leisurely evening riverwalk – lined with lantern-lit restaurants, bars, and tea houses, it exudes mystery and delight. Stroll along its cobblestone path, walk into a local cosy bar to get a custom cocktail, and look out, because you might catch a geisha or maiko on their way to entertain guests. Don’t forget to drop by the Yasaka Shrine, nestled in the Gion district which, surrounded by light under the star-lit sky, is an insta worthy opportunity.
Kyoto Dinner with Maiko Experience: A Timeless Encounter
For an unforgettable cultural immersion, consider a Kyoto Dinner with Geisha experience. This enchanting encounter allows you to dine with an apprentice geisha, or maiko, while enjoying traditional Japanese cuisine. The maiko’s grace and conversation offer a rare insight into Kyoto’s age-old traditions, and takes you beyond the veil of the mysterious Geisha culture.
L’Escamoteur Bar: A Unique Taste of Kyoto’s Nightlife
L’Escamoteur Bar, tucked away in a Gion side street, listed on world’s 50 best is a hidden gem in Kyoto’s nightlife scene – playing on the idea of magic and alchemy, this experimental cocktail bar, with its cozy, whimsical decor is often compared to the fantasy world of Harry Potter. Scattered about is a mashup of odds and ends, including books, hats, bike parts and vintage decanters. Drinks follow the theme, all being centered around mystery and magic, and are presented by flamboyant bar staff. There’s plenty of local ingredients making an appearance, think yuzu, matcha and regional spirits, alongside the usual flavors. And it also frequently hosts live music events.The bar’s attentive staff and carefully curated drinks ensure a memorable evening in Kyoto.
Embracing Kyoto’s Timeless Night
Kyoto’s after-dark allure is a tapestry woven from ancient traditions and modern delights. From the grace of geisha to the tranquil sanctuaries of shrines, each experience offers a unique glimpse into the heart of this UNESCO World Heritage city. As you uncover the hidden gems and vibrant nightlife, let Kyoto’s enchanting spirit captivate your senses, leaving you with memories that will linger long after you bid the city goodnight.
KABIN Kyoto is a boutique hotel located in the heart of Kyoto. It offers a unique blend of modern design and traditional Japanese aesthetics. The hotel features a range of stylish and comfortable rooms, each thoughtfully designed to offer a relaxing and memorable stay for guests.The design of KABIN Kyoto is inspired by the concept of a traditional Japanese cabin, with elements of natural wood, minimalist decor, and neutral colours. The hotel has a serene and peaceful ambiance, providing a sanctuary to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
The Chapter Kyoto, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel
The Chapter Kyoto is a boutique hotel located in the historical Higashiyama district of Kyoto, Japan. It is part of the Tribute Portfolio by Marriott International, which focuses on unique and independent hotels that offer authentic experiences. Featuring a blend of traditional Japanese elements and contemporary design, The Chapter Kyoto offers a serene and peaceful atmosphere for guests. The hotel showcases the charm and elegance of Kyoto’s cultural heritage, with its simplistic yet sophisticated interiors.The hotel boasts 70 spacious and well-appointed rooms, each featuring modern amenities such as flat-screen TVs, minibars, and luxurious bathrooms.
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