Most travellers love to visit Japan during the Spring season, and this is mainly due to many reasons. The main reason would be that Spring is one of the best times to visit Japan, and the most popular place is none other than Kyoto.
Why Spring? Well, this is the season just after winter when the weather is perfect and also cooling, while all the flora would be starting to blossom. And the main highlight of Spring in Japan is definitely the Cherry Blossom or Sakura flowers blooming.
In this article, you will find out which is the best Kyoto Spring season itinerary for anyone who plans to travel here during the months of April to June. Note that there are those who also start to travel from mid-March onwards, to catch the tail end of the winter and an early Spring.
The old town of Kyoto during spring. Photo Wikipedia.
Suggested 4 Day 3 Night Itinerary in Kyoto
Most people would settle for just two days in Kyoto, but I beg to differ as there is much to see and explore around Kyoto. With many temples and attractions, a four day and three-night trip would be perfect for any first-timer. But if you want to make it five or six days, it would be even better as you would not have to rush.
The Kyoto Imperial Palace known as Kyoto Gosho. Photo Wikipedia.
Day 1 Kyoto
AM – Visit Kyoto Gosho, or the Kyoto Imperial Palace (10 minutes walk from Imadegawa Station) and take the 10:00 AM English guided tour for an hour. After that, explore the park on your own, as the palace gardens are pretty spectacular, with lush landscapes and lakes available. For early spring visitors, look for the Shidarezakura or Weeping Cherry Trees by the north lake area.
When you are done at the palace, head to the north of the palace to the Maruyama-koen Park. This is where you will find the most beautiful Sakura cherry blossom blooming. It is also one of the most famous places in Kyoto and all of Japan.
The beautiful Yasaka Shrine. Photo Wikipedia.
When you are done at the park, take a walk to the Yasaka Shrine which is also called Gion Shrine, and is another popular shrine in Kyoto. This is a 1350-year-old shrine which is home to the Summer Gion Matsuri Festival, known as the most famous festival in Japan.
Philosophers Path is a highly popular place in Kyoto. Photo Wikipedia.
PM – After lunch, take a taxi and head to Ginkakuji, which is a national treasure Zen Temple that was built in 1482. When you are here, explore the sand and moss gardens, the silver pavilion and the overall surroundings. This place is one of the recommended photo spots of Kyoto, so get those cameras ready. When you are done here, take a five minutes walk towards the river to a place called Philosophers Path or Tetsugaku no michi.
This is where a canal runs for two kilometres long, and both sides of the canal are lined with cherry blossom trees. This makes the Philosophers Path another one of the famous areas for Sakura viewing in Kyoto. You can spend all day here just walking and admiring the beauty of the cherry trees.
Scenes at the Nishiki Night Market in Kyoto. Photo Wikipedia.
To end the day, take a train to Nishiki Night Market, which is about 30 minutes away, and you can spend the rest of the day exploring this local market which sells food, clothes and all sorts of everything. When you are here, do check out the Nishiki Tenman-gū Shrine in the middle of the market.
Day 2 Kyoto
The Fushimi Inari Shrine, probably the most visited shrine in Japan. Photo Wikipedia.
AM – Visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine. To be honest, anyone visiting Kyoto will want to visit this world-famous shrine, namely for the 10,000 bright orange torii gates that line the walkway. It is paramount that any visitor here will be guaranteed to take photos for memories, or for Instagram, and there is no hiding this fact. To get here, take the subway and get off at the Inari Station, and walk about 100 meters to the shrine, and you can spend all morning here.
The massive Torii Gate at Heian Shrine. Photo Wikipedia.
PM – After an early lunch, jump on the train and head north for 30 minutes to the Jingu Marutamachi Station and walk 15 minutes to the famous Heian Shrine, which is another super famous spot in Kyoto. Once here, you can spend three to four hours covering the entire temple area and its surroundings. There is also the Kyoto National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto City Zoo, Hosomi Museum, Okazaki Park for Sakura viewing, and many other smaller shrines and shops.
When you are done, get back to the Jingu Marutamach station, and take a five minutes train down south to the Kiyomizu-Gojo Station. Exit and walk to the Kamo Riverside, where you can take a stroll on the cobblestone walkway by the river and see the local nightlife.
Day 3 Kyoto
Arashiyama’s famous bamboo grove.
AM – Another must-not-miss place in Kyoto is none other than the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove walkway, where millions of photographs have been taken here at this beautiful location. It has also become the most Instagrammed places in Japan during the spring and summer time.
I would not miss this place for anything, hence it is on this itinerary. Be prepared to spend half a day in this part of Kyoto. However to get here from Kyoto Station, it takes about 25 minutes with the San-In Line (Purple Line), and then a 10 minute walk to the bamboo grove.
The serene beauty of the Jojakkoji Temple. Photo Wikipedia.
For cherry blossom viewing, there is the Jojakkoji Temple where sakura trees are found. In the surrounding of the bamboo grove, there are many other smaller temples, parks and reserves. There are also many cafes and restaurants in the area for lunch.
PM – Take the Sagano Romantic Train journey from the Saga Totokko Station next to the Arashiyama Station. This experience is highly recommended for just about anyone and not only lovers. It is a historical journey that takes you through four stations, allowing the visitor to see the pure and natural Kyoto landscape and culture. A standard ticket cost ¥620 per adult while for children, it is ¥310.
Day 4 Kyoto
The Kyoto Tower on the right, on a beautiful day.
AM – This day depends on your departure from Kyoto and I always put the last day as souvenir shopping and free time to explore. If you have four full days in Kyoto, then the first thing after breakfast would be to head to the Kyoto Station and then walk to the Kyoto Tower.
This is the tallest standing structure in all of Kyoto at 131 meters high. From up here, you can get some pretty good views of Kyoto City, and all 360 degrees of it too. Make sure when you are headed here, the weather is nice and clear, and if it is not, then skip this and keep it for another day.
The Ninomaru Palace at the Nijo Castle. Photo Wikipedia.
After the Kyoto Tower, head to the station and hop on the Sagano Purple Subway Line, and head to Nijo Station in a six minutes journey. From the station, it will take around 20 minutes of walking to the famous Nijo Castle in Kyoto, which was built in 1603. There are three main areas here to explore, including a beautiful garden and a palace area. Explore the castle gardens for more cherry blossom sightings.
Sakura in full bloom at Kyoto. Photo Nullumayulife on Flickr.
Travelling to Kyoto for Spring
The first thing for any traveller is the journey to Kyoto, and just so you know, there is no airport in Kyoto. The nearest international airports are in Osaka, where there are two airports, known as the Osaka International Airport (ITM) or Kansai International Airport (KIX).
For your added knowledge, ITM is much nearer to Osaka than KIX, so depends on the airline, and where it lands, I will provide options for both airports.
The Airport Limousine Bus from ITM. Photo Wikipedia.
From Osaka International Airport (ITM)
After you have landed, cleared immigration and customs, you will look for the Kyoto Limousine Bus Service Itami to Kyoto. This bus service is by Osaka Airport Transport, and the one-way fare is ¥1,280 per person. It generally takes about 55 minutes direct to Kyoto, and you can buy the bus tickets from a vending machine outside the arrival hall. When you arrive in Kyoto, the bus will do a final stop at Avanti Department Store.
For those travelling in groups, you have the option for taking a shared taxi or van, which requires a minimum of two-day advance booking. To book, visit the MK Taxi website, and the price is ¥2,900 per person one way. The shuttle service runs all day and night at ITM.
The Haruka Airport Express train to Kyoto.
From Kansai International Airport (KIX)
From Kansai Airport, you have more options, and the best is to take the JR Haruka Airport Express to Kyoto. This train takes about 75 minutes journey, and the cheapest fare is ¥2,980 per person. The first train is at 6:33 AM and the last train is at 8:16 PM.
For bus service, there is the Osaka Airport Transport that offers a limousine bus which cost ¥2,550 per person, and it takes about 90 minutes journey.
For those travelling in families or groups, you have the option for taking a shared taxi or van, which requires a minimum of two-day advance booking. To book, visit the MK Taxi website, and the price is ¥4,200 per person one way.
Please take note of your arrival, as the first shuttle departure from Kansai Airport is at 7:00 AM and the last shuttle to Kyoto is at 10:45 PM, and there is an excess baggage charge for those with over one main suitcase.