Want to get out of Kyoto for a memorable day trip? Visit one of these must-see day trip destinations from Kyoto!
If you are looking for the best Kyoto day trips, and want to discover new places outside Kyoto city, here we have got the perfect Kyoto day trip ideas for you to choose from.
Kyoto is one of Japan’s most iconic destinations. It boasts a lot of beautiful places, including the temples & shrines, museums, shopping streets, river, parks and gardens. Besides, many tend to enjoy cultural experiences and thankfully, Kyoto has it all!
There is certainly no shortage of fun and exciting day trips from Kyoto and you will find them out here in this article. Japan’s excellent transportation network allows you to travel easily from one place to another.
So, don’t worry, you will reach Hiroshima quite easily from Kyoto and enjoy a perfect day trip there.
1. Nara City, Nara Prefecture
Known as Heijo-kyo in the past, Nara is a truly incredible place to visit in Japan. Visitors in Nara Prefecture find most of the important and oldest Buddhist temples of Japan.
This ancient Japanese capital city has eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, consisting of multiple temples, shrine, forest, and a palace. They are pretty impressive structures, and enjoyable to discover while learning the history of each place.
Your first stop in Nara would be Nara Park/Nara Koen. It is a large public park, established in 1880. This is where you will find most of Nara’s best attractions, such as Todaiji Temple, Kofukuji Temple, Kasuga Taisha Shrine, Nara National Museum, and traditional gardens.
If you want to see the World’s largest wooden building, head over to Todaiji Temple. This temple was built in 752. Todaiji’s main hall – the Daibutsuden is a massive wooden structure and considered the biggest wooden building in the world.
The hall houses one of Japan’s largest bronze Buddha statues. This Daibutsu is about 15 meters high. In addition, make sure to pay a visit to Kofukuji Temple, where you will see the second tallest pagoda (50 meters) of Japan.
The path to the Kasuga Taisha – the most important Shinto shrine in Nara, passes through Nara Park. Take a leisurely walk along the path to the main shrine building.
Encounter around 2,000 stone lanterns on the both sides of this picturesque walking path. Besides, you may see freely-roaming deer there as well.
Furthermore, spend your time roaming around Nara Park, feeding the deer, and discovering many historic buildings. If you are in the park in autumn, you will see spectacular views of changing trees and cherry blossoms display in the spring will overwhelm you for sure.
Find out the best places to see autumn leaves in Nara.
A visit to Nara National Museum is well worth your time as you discover an amazing collection of Japanese Buddhist art, including artworks and archeological artifacts.
Nara is located less than one hour from Kyoto, making it a perfect day trip destination for anyone looking to explore historic Buddhist temples, cultural treasures, freely roaming deer, gardens, ancient forest, and sensational seasonal views.
Lastly, if you have visited Nara city before and looking forward to seeing something extraordinary, especially in spring and autumn, we highly recommend Nara Hasedera Temple.
Situated in a valley, this Buddhist temple is beautiful in all seasons. Admire the surroundings from the balcony of the main hall. The views you will experience from there are incredible in spring when cherry trees are in full bloom, and in autumn when leaves turn fiery-red.
Once I visited the temple during the rainy season and I was very pleased to see beautiful hydrangeas! Without question, this is one of the best places to see hydrangea in Kansai.
Nara Hasedera is a 20-minute walk from Hasedera Station on the Kintetsu Osaka Line.
2. Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture
While Nara is a perfect destination to enjoy historic temples, gardens, and unique traditions, Osaka city is sure to impress you with its picture-perfect castle, theme parks, amazing shopping opportunities, and rich food culture.
Osaka city is only a 15-minute train ride from downtown Kyoto, and there is so much to do in the city. For foodie travelers, Osaka is a top-notch place in Japan with a variety of regional food to eat and restaurants to try.
After having an amazing time exploring the city’s most popular attractions, be sure to head to Namba, especially Dotonbori area, or Umeda for a perfect dine. These areas are packed with shopping malls and restaurants.
By the way, now let’s see what places you should visit in Osaka city. The first attraction could be Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, a great family-friendly place to spend fun time and one of the best aquariums in Japan. It houses about 30,000 aquatic animals representing 620 different species.
Looking for an alternative? We recommend Universal Studios Japan!
Continue your Osaka trip by a visit to Osaka Castle, a famous and historic landmark in Japan. It is a favorite destination for many visitors to Japan, especially those who plan on exploring the Kansai region’s top attractions.
Originally built in 1583 by feudal lord Hideyoshi Toyotomi, Osaka Castle impresses its visitors with the iconic castle tower, stone walls, moats, gates, turrets, and gardens. In spring, many come to enjoy hanami here. It is a popular cherry blossom spot in Osaka alongside other notable ones in the city.
If you are not tired and have the time before heading toward Namba/Umeda would be Shitennoji Temple. It is one of Japan’s oldest and first ever Japanese Buddhist temples built by the state. The prince Shotoku Taishi established this temple in 593.
The inner garden of this temple is quite eye-catching. And I am sure you would not mind spending some peaceful time there.
3. Kinosaki Onsen, Hyogo Prefecture
If you are seeking a place to see a lovely onsen town in the Kansai region, consider taking a trip to Kinosaki Onsen, one of the oldest hot spring towns in Japan.
With more than 1,300 years of history, this picturesque onsen town is located in Hyogo Prefecture, which is easily accessible by direct limited express train from Kyoto Station (2.5 hours one way).
Whether you want to refresh your mind and body, a visit to Kinosaki Onsen would be a great experience for anyone looking to know about Japanese spa culture.
Please note Kinosaki Onsen features 7 amazing hot springs. They are perfect to relax in the well-designed indoor and outdoor baths and enjoy the hot spring facilities. All these seven public bathhouses allow people with tattoos of any size, color, or shape. How cool is that!
The waters of Kinosaki onsen have healing abilities. In the past many visited the onsen town and got cured after just a few days of soaking in the onsen.
Being one of the best onsen towns nearby Kyoto and Osaka, you must plan a trip there and enjoy its relaxing hot spring baths, walk around the onsen town wearing traditional dress and try delicious local cuisine.
The river that runs through the onsen town is called Otani River, and is lined by traditional wooden buildings and trees. Walk across the bridges and along the banks, take photos of the beautiful surroundings.
If you come to this onsen town in spring between late-March and early-April, you will see many cherry blossom trees found all along the Otani River. Someone looking to avoid the crowds in Kyoto during cherry blossom season must come here and enjoy its tranquil atmosphere.
Those planning to spend a night at Kinosaki Onsen should stay overnight at this ryokan hotel.
4. Uji, Kyoto Prefecture
Uji is a small town in the southern part of Kyoto. It is known for its stunning temples and high-quality green tea production. Uji makes a great day trip from Kyoto and drinking green tea there at Tsuen Tea is one of the big reasons why.
If you did not know, Tsuen Tea is the oldest tea house in the world, established in 1160. It is located right in front of Keihan Uji Station. Enjoy its fantastic tea and desserts!
The Uji Tea Festival is held on the first Sunday of October every year at Koshoji Temple. Experience the traditional ceremony during the festival, and it’s worth your time.
Next to the tea house is the famous Uji Bridge, built around 646, featured in the Tale of Ganji, a classic Japanese novel written by Murasaki Shikibu. Take a walk across the bridge and admire the beauty of Uji River and surroundings.
If you come to Kyoto during the rainy season, visit Mimurotoji for its beautiful hydrangea garden. The temple is also known as “flower temple” as you would expect to see seasonal flowers throughout the year, including autumn leaves in fall.
Mimurotoji is one of the best places to see hydrangea in the Kansai region of Japan. Therefore, be sure to spend your time here by taking a stroll in the garden during the rainy season (in June and July). In July, many come to see its lotus garden, situated right in front of the main hall.
One of Uji’s most remarkable temples is Byodoin Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It appears on the 10 yen coin – check your wallet if you want to see the proof! Together with its garden, the temple represents the Pure Land Paradise.
The temple’s Amidado Hall (the Phoenix Hall) was built in 1053 and it’s one of the rare surviving structures from the Heian Period. This original temple building houses a Buddhist statue carved from cedar and covered in gold leaf.
You can enter the Phoenix Hall on short guided tours (conducted in Japanese only), but English-language brochures are available to learn about the temple and surrounding structures.
Ujigami-jina Shrine is also worth a visit, which existed since 1060 as a guardian shrine for Byodoin Temple. Located within a short walk from Byodoin, it is one of the oldest original Shinto shrines in the country.
To reach Uji town, take the Nara Line to JR Uji Station from JR Kyoto Station. You can either the take local train or rapid train.
5. Hiroshima City, Hiroshima Prefecture
Hiroshima is a historic city in the Chugoku region of Japan. We are not going to describe the tragic history of this city; instead we will feature some of its major attractions, which are well worth your time.
Start your Hiroshima day trip by heading to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. It is a place of remembrance of Atomic Bomb drop in 1945.
Located in the center of Hiroshima city, this park is a tranquil spot covering over 120,000 square meters. It was designed by Japanese architect Kenzo Tange. Inside the park, you will find many trees, memorial statues, lawns, museums and spacious walking paths.
One of the main highlights of this park is Genbaku Dome (The Atomic Bomb Dome) – the only building left standing by the first atomic bombing on the city of Hiroshima on August 6 1945.
In addition, explore the Peace Memorial Museum and learn the history of Hiroshima before and after the atomic bombing through a wide variety of collections, such as photographs, films, and materials.
Next, head to Hondori Shopping Street in the downtown area of Hiroshima city, which is lined with many shopping stores, cafes and restaurants. Why don’t you eat something there and buy some souvenirs? The restaurants that you see along the shopping street offer delicious local dishes, so enjoy your lunch there.
Hiroshima Castle is a popular landmark in Hiroshima, built in 1589 by the feudal lord Mori Terumot. You can view the city from the top of the main castle tower.
The castle features hundreds of cherry trees around its grounds. The best time to see sakura here is from late-March through early-April.
The last stop of your Hiroshima day trip is Shukkeien Garden, a beautiful Japanese landscape garden featuring different kinds of trees and plants, pond, bridges, walking paths, and a tea house.
This garden served as refuge for those that got injured in the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945.
Take a peaceful stroll along the paths and catch a glimpse of the brilliant foliage in late-November. Autumn leaves illumination takes place here during the koyo season every evening. If you come here in early-April, you will see a stunning display of cherry blossoms.
Shukkeien garden is a 10-minute walk from Hiroshima Station.
6. Miyajima Island, Hiroshima Prefecture
Miyajima Island, also known as Itsukushima, in the Seto inland sea, is one of the famous tourist destinations in Japan. Perhaps the best attraction on the island is Itsukushima Shrine, a national treasure and famous Shinto shrine in Japan, built in 593 AD.
You can’t miss a day trip to Miyajima Island, if you plan on exploring a sacred and scenic place in Hiroshima. Itsukushima is considered a perfect day trip from Kyoto, but make sure to take the Nozomi train.
To get there from Kyoto, first you have to get to Hiroshima by the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen. Take the direct Nozomi train for faster access to Hiroshima Station, which will take about 95 minutes.
From Hiroshima Station, take the JR Sanyo Line to Miyajimaguchi Station (26 minutes). Then take the Miyajimaguchi ferry to Miyajima Pier (10 minutes). Please note Itsukushima Shrine is a 10-minute walk from the Miyajima ferry pier.
This sacred island offers a lot of iconic spots, such as Itsukushima Shrine, Daisho-in Temple, the Five-Storied Pagoda, Senjokaku hall, Momijidani Park, Tahoto Pagoda, Miyajima Ropeway, Mount Misen Summit, Museum, Shopping Street, and Scenic Hiking Trails.
Although Itsukushima Shrine, the floating torii gate, and the five-storied vermilion pagoda might be the prime landmarks on the island, you should not underestimate the other aforementioned attractions as they would take you on a journey that makes your Hiroshima trip unforgettable and uniquely satisfying.
Many travelers to the island tend to hike up Mount Misen, especially those who like outdoor activities and adventure. Besides, for professional photographers and content creators, a visit to the five-storied pagoda, Daisho-in, and the torii gate at low tide are highly recommended.
During the autumn, the island offers a view of spectacular vistas. Visit Momijidani Park in autumn, where abundance of red maple leaves and freely roaming deer can be found.
On the other hand, the island attracts thousands of visitors every day when sakura start blooming in spring (between late-March and early-April). You will see a lot of crowds visiting the island in spring and autumn. If you want to avoid the crowds, visit Miyajima in June!
Each attraction on the island gives you many incredible sights to experience. Make sure to plan carefully by considering the time (season) of your visit, so you get the most out of your trip.
7. Arashiyama and Sagano, Kyoto Prefecture
Arashiyama and Sagano districts are located on the western outskirts of Kyoto. Together they share a number of stunning places that anyone would like to come back to discover its scenic spots, and appreciate the seasonal beauty in the area.
The area north of Hozu River is Sagano. On the other hand, the area south of the river is called Arashiyama, but commonly they are referred to as Arashiyama.
Arashiyama is a famous place to see cherry blossoms in spring and autumn foliage in fall. Come and explore its temples and their awe-inspiring traditional Japanese gardens and wooden structures.
For example, Tenryuji, an important Zen Buddhist Temple located near Togetsukyo Bridge, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which features one of the most beautiful landscape gardens in Japan. In addition, don’t forget to pay a visit to Nison-in Temple and Jojakkoji Temple during autumn to see abundance of red maple leaves.
Being one of the must-see places in Kyoto, the area boasts a lot of interesting activities ranging from walking across Togetsukyo Bridge (an iconic landmark in the area) and hiking to the top of Mt. Iwatayama to ride on the Sagano Scenic Railway and Hozu River Boat Ride.
Here, one interesting place that most tourists are attracted to is Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Take a walk along the paths that cut through the bamboo groves. It would surely make your trip a great adventure, offering spectacular scenery along the way.
A day in Arashiyama would be an epic travel experience of a lifetime. Therefore, whenever you come to Kyoto, don’t forget to spend a day in Arashiyama and enjoy its historical sites and the beautiful landscapes through a number of outdoor activities.
It takes only a 15-minute to reach Saga-Arashiyama Station from JR Kyoto Station. Isn’t it very easy to get there?
8. Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture
Many visitors stop by Nagoya as they travel between Kyoto and Tokyo by the shinkansen. However, Nagoya makes a great day trip from Kyoto, and you would not mind doing that, especially if your itinerary shows you would fly directly to Hokkaido from Kansai International Airport.
Some international tourists want to travel around Kyoto and then visit Hokkaido, the northernmost prefecture of Japan. If your intention is to see cherry blossoms and snow in Japan, you must go to Hokkaido.
From late-March through early-April is considered late winter time in Hokkaido, so still you will see plenty of snow in the mountains and you can even hit the slopes in Niseko if you like skiing and snowboarding.
Again, if you drive around Lake Shikotsu and Lake Toya, I can guarantee you will see tons of snow on the grounds.
We can suggest you visit some of Nagoya’s popular attractions, such as the iconic Nagoya Castle, Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium, Legoland Japan, SCMAGLEV and Railway Park, Atsuta Shrine, Tokugawa Art Museum, Noritake Garden, Osu Shopping District, and Nagoya City Science Museum.
It is impossible to explore all those attractions in a day. Therefore, you have to plan wisely considering what you really want to experience besides exploring Nagoya Castle, the symbol of Nagoya city.
The castle attracts thousands of visitors every year during cherry blossom season, usually from late-March to early-April. I would always make my way to this famous hanami spot and spend a day even if I reside in Tokyo. I enjoy the festive atmosphere it provides during cherry blossom season.
SCMAGLEV and Railway Park is a railway museum of Central Japan Railways (JR Central). The Japanese rail system is remarkable, fast and efficient. You would enjoy your time seeing the displays – from local trains to the Superconducting Maglev train, and learning about Japanese train culture. Overall, it is a fun spot, educational, too!
Everyone likes shopping no matter where they go. In Nagoya, the best shopping area is Osu Shopping District for locals and tourists alike. With over 1,200 restaurants and shopping stores, this shopping area has got everything you need to enjoy shopping in the city.
This is also a perfect place for hunting Japanese street food. I reckon it would not be a daunting task to find out the local specialties as you keep exploring the shopping area. Osu Kannon Temple is located nearby the shopping arcade, check this out and obviously it is worth a visit.
Do you know that one of the best and largest Aquariums in Japan is located here? It is called Port of the Nagoya Public Aquarium. It consists of two buildings, the north and the south.
Located on the 3rd floor of the North Building, the aquarium houses the biggest outdoor pool in Japan, and is needed a great sight to behold. Here you can see various entertaining events, such as the dolphin show, beluga and orca performance & training.
9. Himeji Castle and Its Nearby Landmarks, Hyogo Prefecture
Designated a national treasure and a UNESCO world heritage site, Himeji Castle is the best place to visit in the city of Himeji. If your visit is going to be in spring, especially when cherry blossoms are in full bloom, then you literally hit the jackpot.
Himeji Castle is one of the 12 original castles of Japan and highly renowned for its cherry trees that surround the castle. Over 1,000 cherry trees can be found on the grounds, attracting thousands of visitors per day during the peak blossom.
Originally established in 1346 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, this hill top Japanese castle would amaze visitors by its beautiful structures. The castle consists of 83 well-preserved wooden buildings. The main castle tower attracts anyone visiting it by its elegant shape.
Be dazzled by the largest castle’s structures and sakura displays in spring, and enter the main castle tower to discover its unique interior.
Himeji Castle is without question an easy day trip from Osaka or Kyoto. Hop on the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen from Kyoto Station and get off at Himeji Station, about a 50-minute ride.
If you want to explore other places in the city, we recommend you pay a visit to Kokoen, a beautiful Japanese traditional garden, located next to the castle. A stroll in this garden would be a relaxing experience.
In addition, a short walk from Himeji Castle is Otokoyama Hachimangu Shrine. It provides excellent views of the castle’s main keep and the city in the distance.
If you want to travel on the outskirts of Himeji, Engyoji temple on Mount Shosha could be an ideal place to go. The temple is surrounded by dense forest. The atmosphere here is very quiet and peaceful.
The temple comprises three massive wooden buildings known as Mitsunodo. You probably have watched it in the Hollywood movie called “The Last Samurai” starring Tom Cruise.
Mount Shosha is a 30-minute bus ride from Himeji station. It is possible to hike up the mountain, but we recommend taking the Mount Shosha Ropeway for easy access to the temple.
10. Mount Yoshino, Nara Prefecture
Mount Yoshino (Yoshinoyama), one of Nara’s major attractions, is a famous cherry blossom spot in Japan, and one of the top places to visit in Japan in spring. It is also renowned for its fall foliage in November.
In 2004, Mount Yoshino was designated as part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site called “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range.”
Every year in spring, about 30,000 cherry trees lining the slopes make the mountain a place of scenic beauty. You can explore the area by going on a leisurely hike. No wonder it’s one of the main things to do in Nara Prefecture.
Mount Yoshino sits at an altitude of 350 meters. Along with different kinds of plants, including cherry and maple, there you will find multiple Buddhist temples, shrines, and designated observation platforms to enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
This sacred mountain can be divided into four areas: lower (Shimo Senbon), middle (Naka Shinbon), upper (Kami Senbon) and top of the mountain (Oku Senbon). Each of them is distinct, and offers incredible views.
Note that Hanayagura observatory of Kami Senbon provides the most incredible panoramic view of the mountain slopes covered by thousands of cherry trees in spring.
Learn about Mount Yoshino, including how to get there from Kyoto and other important travel tips.
11. Okayama City, Okayama Prefecture
Why don’t you travel to Okayama City from Kyoto? You don’t need to stay a night there as Okayama is connected with Kyoto by the JR Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen line, making it easy for travelers to enjoy a perfect day trip from Kyoto.
By Nozomi train it takes about an hour to reach Okayama City from Kyoto Station.
Okayama is famous for one of Japan’s three best gardens, known as Korakuen. Located beside Okayama Castle, this Japanese style landscape garden is an ideal place to relax and stroll. Obviously, the garden is a must-go!
The construction of Korakuen started in 1687 by the order of Ikeda Tsunamasa, and completed in 1700. Originally it was a private garden by the ruling family for their entertainment, but in 1884 it was transferred to Okayama Prefecture and since then the garden was opened to the public.
Discover its maple trees if you visit the garden in autumn and the sakura grove in spring. In general, the garden can be visited year-round and it will never disappoint you with its scenic beauty.
Anyone looking to experience perfect Japanese landscape garden scenery must come here and enjoy the garden elements, such as rocks, ponds, garden paths, hills, waterfalls, bridges, tea houses and trees of different kinds. The view of Okayama Castle looks absolutely breathtaking from the garden.
After exploring its vast grounds, make your way to Asahi River Cherry Road (if you visit the garden during sakura season) and take a stroll along the road to enjoy the stunning cherry blossoms.
You can take the Korakuen Bus from Okayama Station and reach the garden’s main gate. Alternatively, catch the tram and get off at Shiroshita stop, though from there you still have to walk for 10-15 minutes to reach the garden’s south gate.
Okayama Castle, also known as “Crow Castle” due to its black color outer wall, is located next to Korakuen Garden.
The castle was built in 1597. The original castle was totally destroyed in the Second World War, but a reconstruction happened in the year of 1966.
Enter the main castle keep, it is free and see the exhibits relating to the history and development of the castle. Roam around the castle, enjoy the view from outside and take a lot of photographs.
12. Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture
Does Kobe deserve a spot on your Japan itinerary? I think it does. Many visitors prefer traveling to Kobe as a day trip from Kyoto and Osaka and they do enjoy it a lot.
Kobe city is famous for Kobe beef, a special type of Wagyu beef. So, would you go there if you are a vegan? Of course you would go as there is so much to do in the city.
Where to eat Kobe beef in Kobe? There are many restaurants around JR Sannomiya Station in Kobe specialized in serving Kobe beef dishes. You can visit Kobe Steak Sai Dining for reasonable Kobe beef. Alternatively, go to Kobe Gyudon Hiroshige and enjoy its gyudon bowls made with Kobe beef and toppings.
While many would just go to Kobe from Kyoto to try famous Kobe beef, we highly recommend checking out Kobe’s other attractions, such as Kobe Harborland, Merikan Park, Ikuta Jinja, Mount Rokko and Arima Onsen – an oldest onsen town in Western Japan, which is accessible by Rokko Cable Car and Rokko-Arima Ropeway.
For panoramic views of Kobe and Osaka city, you have to climb up to the top of Mount Rokko. Don’t worry, you won’t have to use your foot to reach the summit, instead access it easily by Rokko Cable Car.
On Mount Rokko, you will find a number of attractions, including a music box museum, botanical garden, golf course, forest adventure park, and Rokko Garden Terrace.
Are you going to visit Tokyo after your Kyoto trip is over? Check out these amazing day trips from Tokyo, then.