There are some great day trips from Kyoto you can do. Base yourself in the temple city of Kyoto and use the notoriously wonderful Japan public transport to get around. Or, book yourself on a tour to see as much as possible, with a guide too.
If you’re looking for the best side trips from Kyoto for your Japan itinerary, then read on.
– The city is a great base for some great Kyoto side trips to see more of Japan
Japan is a long skinny country with a bit of a curve, and Kyoto is more or less in the middle. This makes Kyoto a great place to base yourself for a good few days. After you’ve soaked up all the cherry blossoms, geisha culture and historical significance the city is known for, you can use it as a starting point to reach some other cool spots both north and south of the city.
Of course you could do a different day trip from Kyoto for a month and still not see all there is to see in Japan, but these are some of the easiest and best trips you should consider making from beautiful Kyoto.
Top 7 day trips from Kyoto
1. Day trip to Osaka from Kyoto
The Osaka day trip from Kyoto is an absolute classic for any Japan itinerary.
In just over an hour on the train you can be southeast of Kyoto in one of the coolest cities around, Osaka. I’ve been here a fair few times and there’s so many things to do in Osaka.
The old Shinsekai neighborhood is fun to walk around, Dotonbori district’s bright lights are fun to see once it’s dark and Osaka Castle is a must-see.
And then there’s the must eats.
Osaka is known as the nation’s kitchen and so naturally it has a big food scene. I’d advise going on an empty stomach so you can pack in all the octopus balls, savoury pancakes and skewered goods this city is known for.
Osaka is probably the most popular day trip from Kyoto, thanks to its proximity.
2. Day trip to Uji from Kyoto
Just south of the city, Uji takes 30 minutes to reach by train and is kind of the suburbs of Kyoto. All green rolling hills, UNESCO world heritage sites and a picturesque river, Uji looks like it’s right off a postcard. But not just a pretty face, it’s got a fair bit to see and do.
Like almost every other city in Japan, there are impressive shrines but the Byodo-In Temple might be the most impressive of them all. Built in 998 it’s thought to be one of the oldest in the country and is incredibly pretty.
Matching the city’s love of shrines is its dedication to green tea. They say this is where green tea cultivation began and so grabbing a cuppa here is a must but so is swotting up on brewing techniques at the Fukujuen tea factory, cafe and museum.
Definitely one of the more unique day trips from Kyoto!
3. Day trip to Nagoya from Kyoto
Every cup of tea needs a decent teacup and Nagoya would be the place for that.
A port city, it’s known for its car factories, samurai and ninja ties and the beautiful ceramics it produces. That means the first activity you should book in is a ceramic workshop and factory tour.
From there, head to the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology before stopping by Nagoya Castle. White, green and gold with cherry blossoms, it’s fairytale-level pretty and the views from the top tower aren’t bad either.
Before jumping back on the train, get a sugar fix in one of the many dessert spots like Patisserie Gramme or Chez Shibata Nagoya.
4. Day trip to from Kyoto to Omihachiman
I had a whole week exploring Kyoto’s neighbouring prefecture of Shiga last year – it was fascinating. This is one of the lesser known areas of Japan among British tourists, but seriously, it was beautiful.
Omihachiman in particular is used in many Japan films, to show the ‘old Japan’. Pretty waterways dominate here, and you can take a ride along them. It’s a peaceful and perfect thing to do on your day trip from Kyoto.
It’s just half an hour to get from Kyoto to Omihachiman.
Here you can enjoy Ohmi Beef, ninja houses, and all activities galore around the stunning Lake Biwa.
Watch my YouTube video to find out more about what to do in Shiga
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5. Day trip to Nara from Kyoto
As soon as you arrive in Japan you’ll see the signs at the airport advertising the deer in Nara, it’s like they want to subconsciously get you to visit the deer – even if you’ve never had any desire to before.
– A day trip from Nara to Kyoto is worth it for these guys
A Nara day trip from Kyoto is an absolute classic though. I went on my first trip to Japan, and loved seeing the deer roaming free. There’s no need to stay here longer than a day really, making it the perfect Kyoto day trip.
Back in its glory days, Nara was the capital of Japan. Today, although it’s not got the big title, it’s still a great place to see and has loads of historic spots so you can learn about the country back in the day. Kofuku-ji temple, Kasuga-taisha shrine and the Nara National Museum are just a few.
Only 35 minutes by express train from Kyoto, you can easily spend a day here making your way around them, but the attraction that tops everyone’s list is the Daibutsu Bronze Buddha. Standing at 49 feet tall inside the Todai-hi temple complex and amongst all the wild deer, it almost bankrupt Japan but they reckon it was worth it.
A Kyoto to Nara day trip is totally worth it, just to get a dose of wildlife so close to the city.
I’ve written a whole itinerary on 3 weeks in Japan – and these day trips from Kyoto are going to be difficult to choose between!
6. Day trip to Arashiyama from Kyoto
Half an hour directly west of Kyoto, you can enter what has to be one of the most magical places: the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. I never knew bamboo could grow so tall.
It’d be easy to tick that off the list and head back to the city but the district of Arashiyama, which is a nationally designated historic site and place of scenic beauty, has way more to it. A traditional cormorant fishing tour is one of the more unique things you can do here. This is where instead of a rod, a bird is used to catch the fish.
Once you’ve had a go, the Toriimoto preserved street which takes you back to Japan circa 1900 is another good place to see, and if you need a temple fix, Tenryū-ji is the one to bookmark here.
7. Day trip to Kanazawa from Kyoto
For this day trip from Kyoto you’re heading north right up to the coast. It’ll take about three hours either by car or train and so I’d set off early morning to squeeze in as much as possible.
Some say Kanazawa rivals Kyoto as the historical capital so definitely one for those interested in learning about Japanese history. The Kenroku-en Castle Garden, samurai and geisha districts and Yuwaku Edo village are a good place to start.
If your brain then needs a break, I’d recommend getting some seafood respite at the Omi-cho market before wolfing down a gold leaf ice cream. Yes actual gold!
The city is randomly Japan’s gold leaf capital and you’ll find loads of shops like Hakuichi offering it up by the scoop.
Interesting Facts About Japan to Know Before You Go
8. Day trip to Hiroshima from Kyoto
A day trip to Hiroshima from Kyoto is totally doable, given the fact Hiroshima is 1 hour 40 minutes on the train from Kyoto. Lurve the trains in Japan!
We all know Hiroshima as the site of the atomic bombing in 1945, but it has risen from that and become a super cool, forward thinking city, with a permanent memorial to the atrocity.
– Taking a day trip Hiroshima from Kyoto definitely means visiting the Memorial Peace Garden
A Kyoto to Hiroshima day trip could include a visit to the Peace Memorial Park and to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum to learn more about the history and conflict here.
I’d suggest visiting there in the morning and then moving on to explore the many things to do in Hiroshima in the modern day.
How about a visit out to Miyajima Island? A ten-minute ferry takes you to the maple leaves, tame deer and the impressive torii gate, guarding the entrance to the Itsukushima Shrine, a World Heritage Site colloquially known as the Floating Shrine.
The shrine is one of Japan’s official Three Greatest Views, thanks to the fact it looks like it’s floating.
If you’re doing a day trip from Kyoto to Hiroshima, you need to include this in your itinerary.
Shukkeien Garden, Hiroshima Castle and the Mazda Museum are all popular things to see on a day trip to Hiroshima too.
9. Day trip from Kyoto to Kobe
I recently spent the day in Kobe and had a great time. It’s only an hour on the train from Kyoto on a day trip, so again, easy enough to go there and back in a day.
In Kobe you can visit the shopping areas of Nankinmachi Street and pick up a few treats. The famous Ikutajinja Shrine is nearby and well worth a look.
I loved my trip up to the Kobe Herb Gardens – worth the visit and ride for the journey in the cable car up there alone. On the way you can see the Nunobiki Waterfall. We hiked to it but if you’re full of the street market food in the centre of the city then you can just enjoy the view from the cable car above.
The Takenaka Carpenter Tools Museum is here in Kobe, and even if you don’t think you’re into carpentry, I feel like you will be after this. It’s one of the most popular museums in all of Japan.
While you’re in Kobe for the day you need to go down to the harbour and up the Kobe Port Tower. And if you’re looking for some fantastic Kobe beef, then the Meriken Hotel serves up an incredible dinner featuring Kobe beef in all kinds of different ways.
Which one of these awesome day trips from Kyoto do you like the sound of most?
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