Kansai Spring Travel Guide

What to Do in Kyoto in Spring 2024 | Travel Guide

Kyoto is enveloped by rich nature and history. From mid-March to early April is an ideal time to plan your trip to Kyoto in spring. During this time, Kyoto experiences the famous cherry blossom season.

It’s obvious that spring is arguably the best time to visit Kyoto besides the autumn foliage season. With many stunning cherry blossom spots and historic temples and shrines, Kyoto does offer plenty of things to do and see, no matter the season.

In this guide, we will highlight the must-see places to visit in Kyoto in the spring, including some of the best day trips you can make from Kyoto city.

Spring Weather in Kyoto

Kyoto’s spring months are March, April, and May. Spring weather can be cold, especially in the morning and evening, so be sure to carry a light jacket.

You will experience comfortable temperatures throughout the spring season in Kyoto, where days can be chilly and overcast. Sometimes there could be occasional showers of rain. Check the weather forecast before you go out for sightseeing.

The daytime average temperature is between 10°C and 20°C, whereas nighttime temperatures drop to 4-8°C. Upon the arrival of spring, along with plum blossoms and tulips, sakura start to bloom and reach their peak around early April.

1. Cherry Blossoms (Sakura)

Cherry blossoms near the Togetsukyo Bridge. Photo Credit: Kimon Berlin at Flickr.

Kyoto is considered one of the most popular places in Japan to admire the beauty of cherry blossoms (sakura). Spring is arguably the best time to visit Kyoto! You can catch the peak bloom time from late March through early April every spring in Kyoto.

There are many renowned hanami spots to explore, such as Yawaragi Road, Arashiyama, The Philosopher’s Path, Heian Shrine and Maruyama Park to name a few.

Some of you even would like to visit Osaka or Nara from Kyoto by train and spend their time viewing tons of sakura. When you are in Kyoto, plan wisely so you don’t miss visiting a great spot like Osaka Castle Park.

This big weeping sakura tree is the main highlight in Maruyama Park.

One of my favorite sakura spot in Kyoto is Arashiyama. Located in the western outskirts of Kyoto, Arashiyama offers a number of great places to appreciate the blossoms.

Visitors can see many cherry trees walk around the Togetsukyo Bridge, an iconic landmark in Kyoto. Walk across this wooden bridge and gaze at those beautiful sakura blossoms along the river and mountains in the distance.

Besides, enjoy a stroll along the famous Bamboo grove, which is in fact a must-visit destination in the area.

You must enjoy a ride on the Sagano Scenic Train whenever you visit Arashiyama.

There are so many great things to see and do in Kyoto. If you don’t mind having an adventure in Arashiyama, be sure to take a Hozugawa River Boat Ride and admire stunning rural scenery of Kyoto.

Please note that before you indulge yourself in the boat ride, you must experience a 25-minute train ride on the Sagano Scenic Railway, a scenic train journey which runs between Saga Torokko Station and Kameoka Torokko Station.

This 4-day suggested Kyoto itinerary is a perfect travel plan you can rely on for your upcoming spring trip! 

2. Plum Blossoms (Ume)

Plum blossoms at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kyoto. Photo Credit: Tmv at Wikimedia Commons.

Plum blossoms (Ume) bloom before the arrival of sakura in spring in Japan. In general, the best time to see ume in Kyoto is from mid-February through late March.

Kyoto boats a number of famous plum blossoms viewing spots that include Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Imperial Palace Park, Nijo Castle, and Zuishin-in.

If you are visiting the temple (Zuishin-in) on the fourth Sunday of March, you can experience one of its traditions called Hanezu Odori, where girls wear pink attires and hats and perform charming dance as a tribute to the famous poet and beauty Ono no Komachi.  

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is another interesting place to go and appreciate the beautiful plum blossoms.

Plum grove of Zuishin-in Temple, Kyoto.

With over 1,500 plum trees of around 50 different varieties, this special place is where you should go and enjoy delicate plum blossoms. Besides, you can also experience an outdoor tea ceremony (Baikasai) there served by geiko and makio.

While this exclusive Japanese cultural experience is not available in the Imperial Palace Park, it’s still worth exploring, as you can take a leisurely stroll in its plum grove and enjoy a relaxing time.

You can spend a week in Hokkaido in February for a perfect ski holiday and then head towards Kyoto to see tons of colorful ume, one of the late winter and early spring blooms in Japan!

3. Nagaoka Tenmangu Azalea Festival

Beautiful displays of Azaleas at Nagaoka Tenmangu Shrine!

Dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane, a famous Japanese scholar, poet, and politician, this shrine is a must-see place if you are going to visit Kyoto in late April. Do you know why?

Every spring at Nagaoka Tenmangu Shrine, thousands of blooming Kirishima azaleas decorate the entrance path to the main hall of the shrine, creating a lovely sight to behold. These azalea trees are approximately 170 years old and they reach their full bloom around the end of April.

If you cannot visit the shrine around late April, the chance of viewing stunning azalea flowers there is possible in early May.

The shrine is a 20-mintue walk from Nagaokakyo Station on the JR Tokaido Line.

Azalea is one of the highly notable flowers in Japanese culture. You can read our guide on the best azalea viewing spots in Japan.

4. Learn Wagashi Making in Kyoto

Have fun while making these sort of cute Japanese sweets!

Are you interested in learning “how to make wagashi” in Kyoto? There are many places you can find to learn making traditional Japanese sweets, such as dango, sakura mochi, and daifuku.

Part of Japan’s food culture, this cultural experience is what you will love to try and appreciate along with eating Kyoto’s famous dishes at many fancy restaurants located in Kyoto city.

With the instructions of a skilled confectioner, this traditional sweet-making experience with a tea ceremony can be a great indoor activity and a great addition to your memorable Kyoto trip.

In Kyoto, you can enjoy making Japanese sweets at this popular confectionery store, which was established in 1958. You will receive a certificate of completion after the end of the course from a confectioner!

5. Nijo Castle Night Illumination in Spring

Nijo Castle’s night illumination in spring. Photo Credit: Kyoto City Office.

Nijo Castle (Nijojo) is one of the most important landmarks in Kyoto, which was the residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Tokugawa Shogunate of Japan. This historical site has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

With many varieties of sakura trees, Nijo Castle boasts a great place in Kyoto to admire the cherry blossoms. A lot of tourists including locals visit Nijo Castle during the cherry blossom season (late March – early April).

You can find cherry trees throughout the castle grounds, but one interesting site which draws everyone’s attention is the Ninomaru Garden, which is a traditional Japanese landscape garden with pine trees, pond, and stones.

Here is the beautiful Ninomaru Garden at Nijo Castle! Photo Credit: Casey Yee at Flickr.

Even though there are many important cultural properties to see, I particularly like spending my time in this garden.

During the cherry blossom season, Nijo Castle holds a fabulous night illumination every year. You can enjoy amazing displays of digital art throughout castle grounds including the Karamon Gate, and the landscape garden, and illuminated cherry blossoms, yozakura.  

Make one of your Kyoto nights very special by visiting Nijo Castle in the evening and get some amazing photo opportunities.

6. Kyoto Botanical Gardens

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

Would you like to explore a place with various kinds of plants in Kyoto? Kyoto Botanical Gardens is the ideal place to go then. So, set some times aside to visit this botanical gardens!

Established in 1924, this 240,000 square meters Botanical garden houses about 12,000 species of plants. It’s considered one of the oldest and most comprehensive botanical gardens in Japan.

Without question, it’s a hidden spot in Kyoto which you must visit, especially in spring when different kinds of flowers bloom in abundance including plum, cherry, tulips, lilies, and camellias.

Wander around the garden and see some very rare varieties of plants that you can’t find elsewhere in Japan. You can surely expect to have a diverse range of garden experiences here.

Moreover, be sure to check the conservatory of the Kyoto Botanical Gardens, which is a big greenhouse, filled with plants and trees. It displays around 25,000 specimens of 4,500 species. How cool is that!

7. Explore the Museums in Kyoto

Kyoto National Museum, Kyoto. Photo Credit: Lisa Pinehill at Flickr.

There is no guarantee that you will be able to escape the crowds at many well-known cherry blossom spots throughout Kyoto city.  In fact, spring is arguably the best time to visit Kyoto. So it becomes very touristic in the spring.

While many visitors would be busy exploring Kyoto’s best sakura spots, you can avoid them by visiting some great museums.

Whenever I go to Kyoto, I don’t forget to visit a museum there. Some museums there are wroth returning to, for example, the Kyoto National Museum. Opened in 1897, this is one of the oldest Japanese museums!

If you want to learn the history of Japanese trains, be sure to pay a visit to the Kyoto Railway Museum. Photo Credit: mendhak at Flickr.

There, you can see both permanent and special temporary exhibitions of various tangible cultural properties, including sculptures, ceramics, calligraphy, paintings, and many more. Take time to explore all the exhibits and learn something precious.

Kyoto Railway Museum is another renowned museum to visit in Kyoto, which exhibits over 50 retired trains from locomotives, electric trains, and shinkansen (bullet trains). If you are visiting Kyoto and interested in the history of Japanese train, this museum should be your primary destination!

Buy Kansai Grutto pass to get discounted admission to around 50 museums located throughout the Kansai region.

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