Known as the cradle of Japan's cultural heritage, Kyoto was Japan's capital. Today it's the country's seventh largest city, thoroughly modern while remaining Japan's most traditional city. Get to know Kyoto with this three-day itinerary.
Day 1: Kyoto in a day
If you've got limited time, trying to explore a history-drenched city like Kyoto can be a daunting prospect. Take a one-day sightseeing tour to acquaint yourself with the layout of the city and its highlights, such as Nijō Castle, the Golden Pavilion, Kyoto Imperial Palace and Kyoto Handicraft Center.
Day 2: Sushi and Nara
Artfully constructed Japanese food is a favorite the world over. So how about taking home some Japanese cooking tips as a souvenir with a difference? Take a guided walk through the mile-long, covered Nishiki food markets and eclectic back streets of Kyoto, then learn how to make Japanese home-cooked food from market ingredients. Follow that up with a visit to a sake brewery museum to really cover all your Japanese gourmet bases.
If you've got enough time, consider an afternoon spent in nearby Nara – it's less than an hour from Kyoto and full of historic treasures, including some of Japan's oldest temples and the delightful Deer Park - home to hundreds of friendly free-roaming deer.
Day 3: Bamboo groves and neon light
For a totally tranquil start to the day, stroll the rural bamboo groves and mountain temples of the Arashiyama and Sagano districts just outside of Kyoto. The lush Sagano Bamboo Grove is surrounded by mountains and will make you feel instantly relaxed. When you're ready, head up a mountain to the Jojakkoji Temple- its history dates back to the 6th century and it has a pagoda surrounded by Japanese maples.
For the rest of the day, move from the past and speed into the future. Kyoto is a modern city full of concrete and neon and downtown Kyoto can more than provide for those feeling templed-out. Kyoto's shopping district (which offers everything from notebooks to the latest fashions or traditional fans) is located around the intersection of Shijo-dori and Kawaramachi-dori.