Planning the perfect visit to Kyoto, Japan? No matter your plans in this historic city, it’s crucial to know the best time to visit. Kyoto is famous for its culture and history, so make sure that you plan well to appreciate and fully enjoy the city.
This guide will cover the best time to visit Kyoto, whether your priority is cost, weather, or avoiding crowds.
We’ll also cover some of the worst times to visit Kyoto and travel tips and tricks to maximize fun and enjoyment in the heart of Japan, as well as answer some frequently asked questions.
Why You Should Visit Kyoto
Kyoto is a cultural and historical hub within Japan, as the city is one of the oldest areas in Japanese history and has been the royal seat of the Japanese empire for centuries.
The city is covered in go-to landmarks like the Kyoto Imperial Palace and the Kyoto Tower. Many visitors visit Kyoto to see the cultural capital of Japan, and traditional Japanese architecture, art, and design define the city.
Along with large landmarks, the city has many shrines, temples, and gardens that visitors will love.
When visiting Kyoto, you can experience traditional Japanese customs like tea ceremonies. You can attend various festivals throughout the year as well.
The area mixes in modern activities like bike tours and night markets. If beautiful sights, rich history, and cultural significance are the keys to your vacation, Kyoto is the ideal city to visit.
Overall Best Time to Visit Kyoto
The overall best time to visit Kyoto is either in the spring, from March to April, or in the fall, from October to November.
Both spring and fall in Kyoto have cool and comfortable weather, numerous festivals and events, and attractions like the beautiful cherry blossoms and the bright red and orange fall trees.
Temperatures in March average 48 degrees, while in April, they reach up to 58 degrees. October is even warmer, with an average of 66 degrees, while November is similar to the spring, averaging 55 degrees.
You can decide on your best time to visit based on the different activities of each season. Below are some of the most popular spring activities in Kyoto:
- Several performances by Kyoto’s renowned geisha (also known as geiko) performers.
- Lighting festivals illuminate the historic buildings at many shrines and temples.
- Several cherry blossom festivals and events in Kyoto.
- Special sakura-flavored items (on offer from many restaurants).
Below are some of the most popular fall activities in Kyoto:
- Attending thrilling fire festivals and fire parades.
- Taking part in several festivals in Kyoto, including shrine festivals, Festival of the Ages, and parades.
- Admiring the beautiful fall foliage around shrines and temples.
- Traditional tea ceremonies.
Cheapest Time to Visit Kyoto
The cheapest time to visit Kyoto is in the winter, from December to February. These are also the coldest months, with temperatures ranging from 45 degrees in December to 41 degrees in February and 42 degrees in March.
Winter in Kyoto is the slow season, as the temperature falls and there are fewer tourist activities. Because of this, prices of hotels, flights, and attractions fall in the winter.
It’s always best to book flights early, as that often gets you the best deal possible. You can check out travel sites to find out what days are usually the cheapest.
Luckily for savvy visitors, the most popular attractions in Kyoto are free. Some temples and shrines have a small entry fee, but many have no fee, including the Chion-in Temple, Eikan-do Temple, and Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine.
As far as hotels, even the fancier stays will have a reduced price in the winter. Generally, the cheapest areas to stay in Kyoto are Gion, Shimogyo-ku, and Nakagyo-ku.
Least Busy Time to Visit Kyoto
The least busy time to visit Kyoto is in the winter, from December to February. Winters in Kyoto are typically cold and snowy, so tourists often avoid the season. If crowds aren’t your thing, consider visiting Kyoto in the winter months.
Although you won’t be able to enjoy some spring pleasures like the gorgeous cherry blossoms, winter in Kyoto still has a ton to offer, including the equally beautiful plum blossoms!
Visiting a traditional Japanese onsen (hot spring bath) is a real treat, but in the winter months, it becomes the ideal activity. Kyoto has several, though the Tenzan no Yu is one of the most popular as it is a natural geothermal hot spring.
Wherever you visit in the winter, you’ll be pleased that the crowds are thin, and you’ll receive more individual attention from the staff at your favorite restaurants and on tours.
Worst Time to Visit Kyoto
The worst time to visit Kyoto is in the sweltering summer months of June, July, and August. In addition to the high heat, these months have heavy rainfall. In July, the rain comes nearly every afternoon.
Temperatures are still breathable in June, with an average of 74 degrees, but they become intolerable in July (82 degrees) and August (84 degrees) because of the humidity.
Because of the constant rain, the air is thick, heavy, and humid, so it can quickly become uncomfortable for visitors. Most of the activities that attract visitors in Kyoto consist of walking around outside, so uncomfortable weather can become a significant complication.
Although the weather is formidable, summer is the season of festivals in Kyoto, so the city is incredibly crowded at this time. Hotel and travel prices are only slightly lower than in other busy seasons (spring and fall) but not lower than in the winter season.
If you visit during summer, you’ll be dazzled by the many cultural and arts festivals that take place at this time. Just make sure you reserve some time for rest, as the heat and humidity can tire you out quickly.
Things to Consider
Here are some key things to consider when planning your trip to Kyoto, Japan:
- Like any place, staying respectful and polite is key in Kyoto, so the city lets visitors know the most important ways to respect the people and culture in Kyoto.
- Avoid eating while walking in the narrow streets.
- Don’t block others from passing on the narrow streets.
- Respect Kyoto’s natural beauty, so don’t clip flowers or carve a name into wild bamboo.
- Take plenty of pictures, but don’t use any flying drones.
- Always throw trash in a designated bin.
- No smoking outdoors (there are designated smoking areas inside restaurants).
- Tired of carrying around your luggage or souvenirs for friends back home? There’s a service called Hands Free Kyoto where you can either store your things to pick up later or send them to your hotel or even the airport.
- Kyoto has an amazing public transportation system, so you should take advantage of it!
Frequently Asked Questions
A few other factors may influence your decision on when to visit Kyoto. Here are some frequently asked questions regarding travel in Kyoto that may help you:
What food is famous in Kyoto?
Kyoto’s most famous food options are yudofu, yatsuhashi, and matcha:
- Yudofu: This is a hot tofu dish made with just tofu, water, and kombu seaweed. Kyoto’s natural crystal-clear water is the key to making this simple dish amazing. Once cooked, the tofu is typically served with ponzu or soy sauce.
- Yatsuhashi: Yatsuhashi is a dessert that’s often sold as a souvenir snack in corner stores all over Kyoto. The dessert consists of rice flour, sugar, and cinnamon dough that’s folded into a triangle and filled with sweet red bean paste.
- Matcha: Kyoto is famous as the cultural capital of traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. Traditional Japanese tea ceremonies feature matcha, a powder made from green tea leaves.
What part of Kyoto is best to stay in?
Kyoto has several distinct neighborhoods, all with different advantages and disadvantages. Below are the best areas in Kyoto:
- Downtown Kyoto: Centrally located with access to food, drink, and public transportation. Hotels and hostels in the area may lack the gorgeous landscape views of the outer areas. Still, you’ll be surrounded by all the comforts you need, including easy and convenient access to Kyoto’s bustling nightlife.
- Central Kyoto: Unlike Downtown Kyoto, you’ll have to board public transportation to visit all the restaurants and bars you want to see. However, Central Kyoto is the best option for anyone on a limited budget. Since Kyoto’s public transportation is excellent, you won’t be far from any activity you’re interested in.
- Southern Higashiyama: If the traditional and historical aspects of Kyoto are your main inspiration, Southern Higashiyama is the best place to stay. The area is a famous tourist destination steeped in culture and history. Many of Kyoto’s most famous landmarks are near this area.
How many days do you need in Kyoto?
You’ll need at least two or three days to take in all the sights and attractions of Kyoto. The city’s robust public transportation system and walkable areas make it easier to see several landmarks in one day.
But if you’re hoping to get more than a second at each destination, you’ll need at least two days. Three days is ideal for taking in the landmarks on top of any food and nightlife you may want.
Is Kyoto a walkable city?
Yes, Kyoto is a walkable city! The city is relatively compressed, so you can easily walk from your hotel to bars, restaurants, and landmarks. Any areas that may take too long to walk to are easily accessible through public transport.
The area is packed with landmarks, so one walk can lead you to more than one beautiful temple or shrine. The city has several streets that are packed with traditional artisans all in one row.
Is Kyoto foreigner friendly?
Whether you’re traveling alone or with a large group, Kyoto is a foreigner-friendly city. The city is well-known as a tourist hotspot thanks to its beauty and cultural significance, so the city is both welcoming and accommodating to visitors of all kinds.
Travelers from other countries are always welcomed wholeheartedly as long as they stay respectful. Informational signs (like those for public transportation, healthcare, and restroom facilities) are typically written in multiple languages and include a picture so anyone can easily understand the message.
So, When Should You Visit Kyoto?
The overall best time to visit Kyoto is in the spring, from March to April, or the fall, from October to November, due to the lovely weather and numerous activities available. If you’re looking for a bargain and small crowds, the winter season from December to February is your best bet.
Avoid Kyoto in the summer, from June to August, because the weather can quickly become unbearable for visitors. Whenever you decide to visit, however, this beautiful city will be worth your time!