The 20 Most Beautiful Shrines and Temples in Kyoto

by RICH - TripleLights travel specialist

Kyoto, an ancient city with long history, was always on the list of word’s top city. In the recent years, it was even voted the word’s top city by readers of Travel+Leisure, one of the most famous travel magazines based in New York. 

Visiting temples and shrines is a must do when traveling in Kyoto. There are over 1500 of them in Kyoto. Here is the recommended top 20 most beautiful shrines and temples in Kyoto - if you want to maximize your time in Kyoto and visit all of them, you should definitely check out TripleLights as they offer various private tour guides or private tour groups that will ensure you have the most convenient itinerary and the best experience in Kyoto.

1. Fushimi Inari Shrine


Fushimi Inari Shrine – A 1,300 years old shrine for the God of bountiful crops and prosperous business
Serving as a place of worship for commoners over 1,300 years, Fushimi Inari Shrine is the headquarters of inari shrines. The tunnel consisting of 10,000 torii gates is something to see. Enjoy a stroll through the gently rolling land of the spacious grounds of the shrine.

Red torii gates and white foxes – the symbols of Fushimi Inari Shrine For more than 1,300 years, people have come to Fushimi Inari Shrine to worship the Inari God that assures bountiful crops. The shrine is the headquarters of the more than 30,000 inari shrines across Japan. The red torii gates and white foxes are the symbols of Fushimi Inari Shrine. It is said that the red color of the torii gates and the shrine building has power against supernatural powers and that the color also indicates the bountifulness of the Inari God. 

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Business hours
- Everyday (8:30 AM ~ 4:30 PM )
Shrine grounds are open 24 hours a day
Phone
075-641-7331
Price
- Free
Website
en.wikipedia.org

2. Kinkakuji

The 20 Most Beautiful Shrines and Temples in Kyoto

Photo by Planetyze

Kinkakuji – the World Heritage site of gold that glitters with nature in each season
Kinkakuji was established in 1397 by Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. The dazzling appearance of the reliquary hall on the temple grounds, which is decorated with gold leaf, is what Kinkakuji is known for.

Kinkaku glitters with gold Kinkaku is a three-story building made of wood. The first story is in the style of a Heian palace, the second story is in samurai-house style, and the third story is in the style of a Zen Buddhist temple. The second and third stories are covered in gold leaf, as is the inside of the third story, except for the floor. The Kinkakuji seen today was rebuilt in 1955 after the building was destroyed by fire in 1950. 

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Business hours
- Everyday (9:00 AM ~ 5:00 PM )
Phone
075-461-0013
Price
- Adult: 400 JPY
- Child: 300 JPY
Website
en.wikipedia.org

3. Kiyomizu-dera


Kiyomizu-dera – Kyoto’s most popular tourist attraction
Kiyomizu-dera is a Kannon temple where the goddess Kannon is worshipped. Among Kyoto’s temples, Kiyomizu-dera has a particularly long history, and is a registered World Heritage site. It is one of Kyoto’s most popular tourist attractions.

Enjoy the National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties of Kiyomizu-dera Kiyomizu-dera was constructed on Mt. Kiyomizu (Mt. Otowa). The main temple at Kiyomizu-dera, which is also referred to as the “Kiyomizu-dera stage,” was rebuilt by Tokugawa Iemitsu in 1633. The main temple building, constructed early in the Edo period, is a National Treasure. It is supported by more than 100 keyaki (Japanese Zelkova) trees and not a single nail is used. 

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Business hours
- Everyday (6:00 AM ~ 5:30 PM )
Phone
075-551-1234
Price
- Adult: 300 JPY
- Child: 200 JPY
Website
www.kiyomizudera.or.jp

4. Sanjusangen-do

The 20 Most Beautiful Shrines and Temples in Kyoto

Photo by Planetyze

A museum of Buddhist statues – 1001 life-size statues of Senju Kannon
Sanjusangen-do, which was rebuilt in 1266, has been maintained for more than 700 years while repeatedly undergoing repairs. 1001 statues of Kannon are enshrined in the 120-meter long temple, which is made entirely of Japanese cypress.

1001 statues of the 1000-armed and 1000-bodied Kannon Higashiyama-ku is one of Kyoto’s most popular tourist destinations. It is a hub of historical buildings, including Kiyomizudera, Ginkakuji, and Yasakajinja. Even among them, Sanjusangen-do is a popular destination for tourists that was given three stars in the Michelin guide. The sitting statue of Senju Kannon, which is the principal object of worship in Sanjusangen-do, is enshrined in the Buddhist temple. The statue, which is made of wood, is a designated National Treasure.

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Business hours
- Everyday (9:00 AM ~ 4:00 PM )
Phone
075-561-0467
Price
- Adult: 600 JPY
- Child: 300 JPY
Website
en.wikipedia.org

5. Eikan-do


Eikan-do, where you can refresh your soul from the beautiful autumn leaves and the Mikaeri Amida
With the temple grounds colored by the autumn leaves, there is a wonderful harmony among the beautiful architecture, the pond and the garden, and so an elegant scene arises. Beautiful autumn leaves striving to be the best even in Kyoto can be seen.

When thinking of Eikan-do, the beauty of the autumn leaves comes to mind In 853, Shinjo, the student of the monk Kukai, established the temple. The official name is Zenrin-ji, but due to the deeds of helping out the disadvantaged by the 7th head monk Yokan, it started to be called Eikan-do. Since long ago, fall foliage that strives to become the best in Kyoto can be seen here to the extent that people say “Autumn means the maples in Eikan-do”. 

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Business hours
- Everyday (9:00 AM ~ 5:00 PM )
Phone
075-761-0007
Price
- Adult: 600 JPY
- Child: 400 JPY
Website
www.eikando.or.jp

6. Ninna-ji Temple

The 20 Most Beautiful Shrines and Temples in Kyoto

Photo by Planetyze

Ninna-ji is recommended for the beautiful late-blooming cherry blossom season
The temple was built in 888 by Emperor Uda. An example of Heian Era palatial architecture that served as a residence for the nobles of that time, Ninna-ji was recognized as a National Treasure and has also been registered as a World Heritage site, famous for its cherry blossoms.

Enjoy the National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties of Ninna-ji Temple There are many National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties inside Ninna-ji. The Golden Hall that retains the notable atmosphere of a palace has been recognized as a National Treasure for its Heian Era style as it served as a residence for the Heian nobility. The Goei-do Hall which was constructed in the Momoyama style is an Important Cultural Property as is the temple’s five-storied pagoda, which, unlike other similar pagodas whose roofs usually g...

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Business hours
- Everyday (9:00 AM ~ 4:30 PM )
Phone
075-461-4070
Price
- Adult: 500 JPY
- Child: 300 JPY
Website
www.ninnaji.or.jp

7. Ginkakuji (Higashiyama Jisho-ji)

The 20 Most Beautiful Shrines and Temples in Kyoto

Photo by Planetyze

Ginkakuji, or “Temple of the Silver Pavilion,” is representative of the Higashiyama Culture, which saw the blossoming traditional Japanese culture
Built in 1490, during Japan’s Muromachi shogunate, by Yoshimune Ashikaga, the Eighth shogun, who prospered in the Muromachi period, Ginkakuji is a structure in which the first floor section is built in a domestic style, and the second floor section is built in the style of a Buddhist temple.

The Appeal of the Ginkakuji Beyond the main gate of Ginkakuji, proceeding further inside is the Kannon-den, also called the Silver Pavilion. This has been designated a national treasure; the Silver Pavilion is also a building that preserves the hallmarks of the culture of the Muromachi Period. It is said that the Muromachi period, in which Ginkakuji was built, was an age that blended the aristocratic culture of samurai warriors, monks and court nobles.

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Business hours
- Everyday (9:00 AM ~ 4:30 PM )
Phone
075-771-5725
Price
- Adult: 500 JPY
- Child: 300 JPY
Website
en.wikipedia.org

8. Kifune Shrine


The God of Water and The God of Marriage
Upstream from the Yodo and Kamo Rivers, it was said that the main building of the 1500-year-old Kifune Shrine had been built in an area gushing with water. It is a famous Shinto shrine which, as a shrine dedicated to marriage, has also been visited by historical figures.

A shrine whose god rules the water Kifune Shrine, which has a history of 1500 years and is surrounded by woods along the banks of the Kibune River, the source of the Kamo River, is a shrine that deifies the God of Water. It’s separated into 3 rear shrines: the main shrine devoted to the God of Water, an associated shrine devoted to the God of Marriage, and the site of the original main shrine.

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Business hours
- Everyday (9:00 AM ~ 4:30 PM )
Phone
075-741-2016
Price
- Free
Website
en.wikipedia.org

9. Nanzenji

The 20 Most Beautiful Shrines and Temples in Kyoto

Photo by Planetyze

Kyoto’s foremost location for cherry blossoms and autumn colors – enjoy the Cultural Properties of Nanzenji
Nanzenji was built as a temple of prayer for the prosperity of the country. It was inaugurated by the Cloistered Emperor Kameyama in 1291 during the Kamakura period. It is one of the most popular locations for the beautiful cherry blossoms in spring and autumn colors in the fall.

Enjoy the cultural properties at Nanzenji Nanzenji is a designated National Historic Site, and there are many Cultural Properties on the temple grounds. First of all, there is Sanmon, which is a National Important Cultural Property, and one of Japan’s three greatest gates (it is the entrance to the temple and one of the locations that must be passed through during Buddhist training). The view of northwest Kyoto from the upper floor of the gate (known as Gohoro) at a height of 22 meters is very popular. 

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Business hours
- Everyday (9:00 AM ~ 4:30 PM )
Phone
075-771-0365
Price
- Adult: 500 JPY
- Child: 300 JPY
Website
www.nanzen.net

10. Ryōan-ji


Relax in the famous Ryōan-ji Rock Garden
Hosokawa Katsumoto established Ryōan-ji in 1450 during the Muromachi period, when Zen sects flourished. Without using water, karesansui, or dry landscape, gardens represent water using stones and sand, and “Ryōan-ji’s Rock Garden” is famous for this.The garden is listed as a World Heritage Site.

Enjoying the Rock Garden at Ryōan-ji The Rock Garden at Ryōan-ji is listed as both A National Site of Special Scenic Beauty and a National Historic Site.As a karesansui, or dry landscape, garden, sand is used to represent the sea, its waves represented by lines drawn in the sand using a rake. The stones are said to represent mountains and islands.Additionally, the Rock Garden’s meanings are interpreted variously as a “Garden of Tiger Cubs Crossing,” or as the shape of the Chinese character for “heart”.

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Business hours
- Everyday (8:30 AM ~ 4:30 PM )
Phone
075-463-2216
Price
- Adult: 500 JPY
- Child: 300 JPY
Website
www.ryoanji.jp

11. Tenryu-ji Temple


Tenryu-ji Temple, a World Heritage site with the spectacular Unryu-zu (image of the cloud dragon) and a garden from 700 years ago
Tenryu-ji Temple once contained all of the Arashiyama area. It has a garden whose view hasn’t changed in 700 years and an ink painting 9 meters in diameter titled “Unryu-zu” that is a splendid World Heritage asset.

The beauty of a Japanese painting Founded by Ashikaga Takauji in 1339, Arashiyama, Togetsukyo Bridge and Kameyama Park among other places were within the temple grounds. Burned down by fire 8 times, the buildings were mostly re-built in around 1900. However, the Sogenchi Pond Garden has retained its original form from 700 years ago, and was given Japan’s first designation as a Special Historic Site and Special Place of Scenic Beauty. In 1994, it was registered as a World Cultural Property as a Historic Monument of Ancient Kyoto.

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Business hours
- Everyday (9:00 AM ~ 4:00 PM )
Phone
075-881-1235
Price
- Adult: 500 JPY
- Child: 300 JPY
Website
www.tenryuji.com

12. Toji (Kyo-o-gokokuji)

The 20 Most Beautiful Shrines and Temples in Kyoto

Photo by Planetyze

A temple with great history marked by its five-story pagoda, the landmark of the ancient Kyoto
Roughly about a 10-minute walk from Kyoto Station. Surrounded by modern buildings of the city center, Toji exudes an atmosphere as though time stopped flowing at some point. Established 1,200 years ago, it is the first Esoteric Buddhist temple in Japan. Experience the unusual and distinctive world views expressed at this temple

Forever the landmark of Kyoto It is believed that Toji was built when Emperor Kanmu relocated to the ancient capital (the present day Kyoto, then called Heiankyo) in 794. It was later given to a monk named Kukai, who had returned to Japan after studying new Buddhism and Esoteric Buddhism in China, by the subsequently enthroned Emperor Saga. This is how Japan’s first Esoteric Buddhist temple came into existence. Since its establishment, it has continued to prosper as the headquarters of Esoteric Buddhist practices in Japan and still exists.

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Business hours
- Everyday (8:30 AM ~ 4:30 PM )
Phone
075-691-3325
Price
- Free
Website
www.toji.or.jp

13. Daikakuji

The 20 Most Beautiful Shrines and Temples in Kyoto

Photo by Planetyze

Daikakuji, the temple that originated ikebana and has the oldest man-made pond in Japan
Daikakuji is a temple with many things to see such as Japan’s oldest forested pond, the corridors of nightingale flooring and the images painted on the sliding doors. It is also known as the birthplace of ikebana and the safekeeping place for a handwritten sutra written by the Emperor, and is a temple with an Imperial relationship which can relate Japanese culture to future generations.

Beautiful scenery that hasn’t changed in 1200 years Built as an Imperial villa, the temple was established in 875. Osawa Pond, which was built within the grounds, is Japan’s oldest artificial pond, and around its 1 km perimeter are about 650 overhanging cherry and maple trees and 3000 lotus plants growing wildly, so you can enjoy scenery that hasn’t changed in 1200 years. The chrysanthemums on Osawa Pond’s Chrysanthemum Island were placed in vases by Emperor Saga.

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Business hours
- Everyday (9:00 AM ~ 5:00 PM )
Phone
075-871-0071
Price
- Adult: 500 JPY
- Child: 300 JPY
Website
www.daikakuji.or.jp

14. Saiho-ji Temple (Koke-dera)

The 20 Most Beautiful Shrines and Temples in Kyoto

Photo by Planetyze

Covered in 120 kinds of moss, it’s a splendid garden which spreads out like a green carpet.
This is a moss garden that is a lush green thanks to the rainy season, and the contrast of red and green during the fall is beautiful. Reservations are necessary to see Koke-dera, a place which has been said to have been visited by Steve Jobs many times incognito.

Koke-dera, a World Heritage site Reportedly founded by the Buddhist priest Gyouki in the 700s, the temple was destroyed by war and floods after which it was rebuilt by Soseki Muso as a Rinzai sect temple in 1339. Its official name is Saiho-ji but the temple grounds are covered in approximately 120 kinds of moss which spread out beautifully like a green carpet thereby earning it the name of Koke-dera or “moss temple”. It has been registered as a World Heritage site. Viewing is by reservation only.

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Phone
075-391-3631
Price
- Adult: 3000 JPY
- Child: 3000 JPY
Website
www.saihoji-kokedera-reservation.com

15. Tofuku-ji Temple


Tofuku-ji Temple whose buildings have been designated as National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties
The temple has plenty of highlights including 25 sub-temples and a rock garden. It is also famous as a place to see the fall colors. The colors are especially beautiful at Tsutenkyo Bridge linking the main hall with Kaisan-do Hall.

Tofuku-ji, Kyoto’s leading group of temple buildings There are 5 famous temples in Kyoto which have been ranked as the Kyoto Gozan or the Five Great Zen Temples of Kyoto, of which one is Tofuku-ji Temple. As well, the buildings of the temple show characteristics that belie its status as a Rinzai sect temple. The 22-meter high sanmon gate has been designated as a National Treasure and is known as the oldest sanmon gate in Japan. Also, Tokufu-ji has the oldest zen meditation hall in the nation.

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Business hours
- Everyday (9:00 AM ~ 4:00 PM )
Phone
075-533-0621
Price
- Free
Tsutenkyo Bridge
adults 400 yen/children 300 yen
Garden
adults 400 yen/children 300 yen

Website
www.tofukuji.jp

16. Yasaka Shrine


The guardian deity of the Hanamachi (geisha quarter) providing hope through protection against evil, the warding off of disease, and prosperity of business
A shrine located close to Hanamachi that was the origin for Kyoto’s Gion district. It has been popular as a place to earn the grace of the gods through protection against evil, warding off of disease, business success, matchmaking and beauty among other things.

A venerable shrine for the Gion Festival Yasaka Shrine was established in 656, approximately 150 years before the transfer of the capital to Kyoto. Affectionately called Gion-san, it can be visited from a walk through Hanamachi. Its guardian deity is known as Susano Kushi-inada Hime Yahashiranomiko-kami. Revered from all over Japan as the capital underwent development, even today, it has 3000 branch shrines all over the nation. The Gion Festival which is the great annual summer festival for Kyoto which lasts for almost a month from July 1st.

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Business hours
- Everyday
Phone
075-561-6155
Price
- Free
Website
www.yasaka-jinja.or.jp

17. Byodoin Temple

The 20 Most Beautiful Shrines and Temples in Kyoto

Photo by Planetyze

Heaven on earth – A World Heritage site, Byodoin Temple
Byodoin Temple embodies the heaven envisioned by an aristocrat of the Heian period. A valuable building that attests to the prosperity of the Fujiwara clan. The temple’s Phoenix Hall has been recovered in a brilliant state following the recent completion of its restoration work.

Aristocrat’s second house turned into a temple Byodoin temple was established in 1052 when an aristocrat named Yorimichi Fujiwara decided to turn his second house into a temple. The temple building and the Buddha statues created nearly 1,000 years ago have been collectively listed as a World Heritage site. Adding to its glory, the temple’s Phoenix Hall is featured on the Japanese 10 yen coin. The Phoenix Hall recently underwent nearly 2 years of restoration work including a roof replacement and re-coating of its exterior layer.

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Business hours
- Everyday (9:00 AM ~ 4:00 PM )
Phone
0774-21-2861
Price
- Adult: 600 JPY
- Child: 300 JPY
Website
www.byodoin.or.jp

18. Shimogamo Shrine


One of Kyoto’s oldest shrines surrounded by an ancient forest
Shimogamo Shrine, known for one of Kyoto’s 3 Great Festivals, the Aoi Festival, is among the oldest shrines in Kyoto. While enjoying that walk through the woods in the huge grounds, you will want to share in the benefits of the various gods.

A solemn holy ground evoking a long history The World Heritage site of Shimogamo Shrine (Kamo-mioya Shrine) is located in the triangular zone bracketed by Kyoto’s Kamo and Takano Rivers. With belief in the God of Guidance and the God of Victory since ancient times, it is known as a shrine to celebrate the beginning of things. 

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Business hours
- Everyday (6:30 AM ~ 5:00 PM )
Phone
075-781-0010
Price
- Free
Website
www.shimogamo-jinja.or.jp

19. Enko-ji Temple

The 20 Most Beautiful Shrines and Temples in Kyoto

Photo by Planetyze

A famous place for the autumn colors with a beautiful contrast between the 200 colorful trees and the moss
Enko-ji Temple was opened by Ieyasu Tokugawa and also served as a place of learning. It is now well known as a prominent venue for fall foliage in Kyoto. The garden, as pretty as a framed painting, and the sound of resonant buried earthen jars known as suikinkutsu soothe the hearts of all who visit.

Enko-ji, the school that was transformed into a temple In 1601, Ieyasu Tokugawa invited monks with the intention of developing national education, and so he opened a school at Enko-ji in the Fushimi area. Regardless of whether they were monks or laymen, all could enter the school, and numerous issues of one of Japan’s early examples of a printed book, the “Fushimi-ban” were made. The wood-cut letters used in the publication still exist. After entering the Sanmon gate, the Honryuutei opens up before your eyes.

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Business hours
- Everyday (9:00 AM ~ 5:00 PM )
Phone
075-781-8025
Price
- Adult: 500 JPY
- Child: 300 JPY

20. Heian Shrine


Immerse yourself in the history of the dazzling ancient capital Kyoto at Heian Shrine
Heian Shrine was built in the Meiji period (1868 – 1912) based on a plan to reproduce faithfully the architectural styles and colors of the central government building Chodoin which was the symbol of the ancient capital Heiankyo (present day Kyoto). Enjoy the beauty of the four seasons in the vast, 30,000 square meter “excursion type” garden.

Famous for the 300 cherry blossom trees that cloak the shrine with their flowers in spring Coated by luscious red lacquer, Heian Shrine was built in 1895 in commemoration of the 1,100th anniversary of the establishment of the ancient capital Heiankyo. The shrine is a 5/8 size reproduction of Heiankyo’s central government building Chodoin in the state it was at the time of its opening by Emperor Kanmu. The shrine’s approx. 30,000 square meter garden is an “excursion type” garden that is divided into four gardens.

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Business hours
- Everyday (6:00 AM ~ 5:00 PM )
Phone
075-761-0221
Price
- Free
Website
www.jnto.go.jp

Need help building your itinerary for Kyoto?

You can check out all different types of tours hosted by TripleLights, and then get help from a professional local tour guide in Kyoto or join a private tour group to have a hassle-free experience in Kyoto. That means eliminating the concern of language or cultural barriers, getting lost in Japan, and not knowing where the most authentic places to eat are! Check out all the different activities that are occurring in Kyoto for a better idea of what you would like your customized itinerary to include, and then feel free to send a message to any of the Kyoto tour guides for a personalized trip schedule as well as a price quotation. Trust me, having a private guide is going to make your trip so much more convenient and memorable as you can have all your questions answered immediately about Kyoto and its cultural attractions. In addition, if you are trying to visit all the temples and shrines in a short amount of time, it may be inconvenient to travel by foot or by public transportation, so I would recommend taking a look at the private car tours that are offered so that you can maximize the time that you have in Kyoto and make sure to hit all the highlights!

The 20 Most Beautiful Shrines and Temples in Kyoto

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Need help planning your trip to Kyoto ?

If you are interested to know more and save your time during your trip to Kyoto, You can send a message to our local guides to get a customized itinerary and quotation for an unforgettable experience.

In the TripleLights website you can find the best professional guides all over Japan to help you plan your trip. Check our local guides for Kyoto


08 Nov 2016

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