Kyoto is now in full bloom though petals have started to fall. Yet there are plenty of areas to see cherry blossom and viewing sakura petals falling down off the blooming trees is an unforgettable experience. Are you ready for it?

These days the popular cherry blossom viewing (hanami) spots in Kyoto Prefecture are packed with locals and tourists alike. You will never be tired of seeing its iconic landmarks including the top hanami spots. They all look absolutely gorgeous and pretty picture-perfect. Seriously it’s the perfect time to capture amazing photographs of this old capital of Japan.

Weeping cherry blossoms at Kyoto Botanical Garden. Photo Credit: Kimon Berlin at Flickr.

If you are in Kyoto now for sightseeing or will be visiting it next year, you can find some inspiration and ideas to make your dreams come true here in this post. This itinerary will take you to some of the best places for celebrating your spring vacation in Kyoto. From beautiful hanami spots and traditional Japanese gardens to shrine and temples, you will experience a wide range of activities in the city.

Please note one day in Kyoto is not enough to explore all of its attractions. So, take this suggested itinerary as one of your multiple day trips in Kyoto. There are many itineraries out there to choose from that you can find on the web, but I hope my ideas here help you to organize an unforgettable day trip.

For accommodation, I prefer to stay at Kyoto Tower Hotel. The location of the hotel is adjacent to Kyoto Station.

Kyoto Botanical Garden and Kamo-gawa River

Kyoto Botanical Garden in spring. Photo Credit: Tatters at Flickr.

Kyoto Botanical Garden is the first destination for the day. Buy a Kyoto City Subway One-Day Pass. It costs 600 Yen for adult and 300 Yen for children. This pass offers travelers unlimited travel on the Karasuma and Tozai subway lines.

Take Kyoto Municipal Subway from Kyoto Station to Kitayama Station on the Karasuma Line and then walk for a 10-minute to reach the garden.

Established in 1924, Kyoto Botanical Garden is one of the top hanami spots in Kyoto with hundreds of cherry trees on its spacious grounds. It’s located on the east bank of the Kamo-gawa River. Alongside viewing sakura, you will be impressed seeing tons tulips of different kinds including other seasonal flowers.

Sakura trees along the Kamo river, Kyoto. Photo Credit: Kimon Berlin at Flickr.

Even though cherry trees here are lit up nicely at night, your visit to the garden during the daytime will be an epic adventure. You can experience the night sakura (Yozakura) in other place; I will definitely recommend you the best one to visit in this post.

The garden is located near Kamo-gawa River. And you can take a leisurely stroll along the banks of Kamo-gawa (Kamo river) where sakura trees bloom beautifully in early April. This is another popular hanami spot in Kyoto city. You will be excited when taking a walk along the river banks and the surroundings are pretty mind-boggling during the peak of the sakura season. Who knows that this may become your favorite spot for photography in Kyoto!

Higashiyama District: Maruyama Park, Heian Shrine, and Keage Incline

Maruyama Park’s giant sakura tree. Photo Credit: Oren Rozen at Wikimedia Commons.

If you visit Higashiyama District for 4-5 hours, you will be blessed with numerous historic landmarks to visit.

Next destination of your 1-day trip in Kyoto is Maruyama Park. Located in the Higashiyama District, this is a public park and a famous hanami spot with a lot of food vendors, walkways, and a large weeping tree. Have your lunch here with variety of street foods, as it’s the perfect location for enjoying your lunch.

To get the Maruyama Park from Kitayama Station, you will have to get to Karasuma Oike Station on the Karasuma Line. From there, move to Higashiyama Station on the Tozai Line. Then, from the station you take a walk into Maruyama Park. It will take a 10-minute. That’s a short walk, right?!

The paid garden of Heian Jingu. Photo Credit: Kimon Berlin at Flickr.

I like visiting Maruyama Park when hanami is in full swing. It’s often very crowded, but you will still like its lively atmosphere. Here, a lot of locals like setting up picnics under the sakura trees. Whether you believe it or not, that is one of the popular things to do in Kyoto. So, don’t waste your opportunity.

Make your way to Heian Shrine from the park. The shrine is dedicated to the spirits of the first and last emperors who ruled from the city, Emperor Kammu, and Emperor Komei. The entire ground of the shrine is home to a number of amazing discoveries such as, a large Torii gate, museums, garden, traditional buildings, plants of different kinds.

Sakura at Keage Incline, Kyoto. Photo Credit: Kimon Berlin at Flickr.

One of the main highlights of the garden is you will be pleased to see a lot of beautiful weeping cherry trees. Admission to the shrine is free, but the garden is not. Entry costs 600 yen.

When your time is up and about to leave the shrine ground, you are suggested to make your way to Keage Incline. This is an old railroad and a wonderful sakura viewing spot, which is truly breathtaking. It was an important transport route between Kyoto and Lake Biwa during the Meiji Era.

Okazaki Canal and the Torii gate of Heian shrine. Photo Credit: Kimon Berlin at Flickr.

You can walk up here from Heian Shrine. Along the way, you will also experience the beauty of Okazaki Canal. Not many tourists are familiar with Keage Incline, and often when they get there, they are surprised seeing the number of cherry trees it possesses.

Get back to Kyoto Station.

Toji Temple

Five storied pagoda of the Toji Temple and cherry blossoms. Photo Credit: Robert Young at Wikimedia Commons.

Toji temple is going to be the last destination to visit before you call it a day. It’s one of Kyoto’s many UNESCO World Heritage Sites and interesting Japanese Buddhist temples. One big reason to visit the temple’s ground is – it’s illuminated gorgeously in the evening during the hanami and koyo seasons.

Explore its Kodo, Kondo halls, Treasure house and the five storied pagoda (57 meters tall). Toji’s five storied pagoda is considered the tallest pagoda in Japan. If it’s your first time visiting Kyoto, of course take an evening stroll at Toji temple and enjoy the illuminations out there.

Please note Toji Temple is a 15 minute walk from Kyoto Station.

Kyoto Tower and Kyoto Tower Hotel. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

If you are thinking of where to find a perfect restaurant for dinner, then I would recommend you to find one that’s located nearby Kyoto Station. There are many and finding one based on your food preference will not be a daunting task for you.

When you are in Kyoto, make sure you visit Kyoto’s famous temples & shrines alongside visiting the public parks and gardens and try its local dishes as many as possible.

Kyoto is one of the top tourist destinations in Japan, and as a visitor it seems like there are endless things to do and see. The above itinerary is one of the great ways to admire the beauty of Kyoto’s top sakura viewing spots. Happy Hanami!