Kyoto is the second most visited city in the country, after Tokyo. The ancient capital of Japan has preserved a lot of the traditional architecture that makes the city naturally photogenic. Every stone-paved alleyway and Zen garden makes a perfect background for the ‘gram. With so many options to choose from, here are our shortlisted top 20 spots that are extremely Instagram-worthy.
1. Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Designated as a ‘National Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty”, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is without a doubt one of the most Instagrammable spots in all of Japan. Any spot on the paths that weave through the tall bamboo is a great picture-taking spot. The bamboo grove does get extremely crowded, however, so be sure to time your visit well.
Location: Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
2. Arashiyama Kimono Forest
Also in the Arashiyama village is the Kimono Forest. This attraction site is slightly underrated compared to the Bamboo Grove, but it’s definitely worth the visit. There are rows of cylindrical pillars containing a strip of fabric with traditional Japanese Kimono designs. There are a total of 600 pillars with 32 various patterns in the Kimono Forest.
Location: Arashiyama Kimono Forest
3. Fushimi Inari Taisha
Another iconic attraction in Kyoto is the Fushimi Inari Taisha. At this shrine, you’ll be able to find bright vermilion-coloured torii gates that line the path. While the main shrine sits at the base of the grounds, the torii gates lead up to 233 meters above sea level! If you’d like to get a shot with no one in the background, hike up a little further and the crowd clear out.
Location: Fushimi Inari Taisha
Want to take amazing pictures in this shrine? Book this photoshoot with our local photographer Matt!
4. Yasaka Pagoda
In the Higashiyama district, the most significant landmark is the Yasaka Pagoda, dating back to 1400. This five-story tower used to be a part of the Hokanji Temple, but the main temple was destroyed by a fire. While the best pictures of the pagoda are from the bottom, visitors are also allowed to climb up the pagoda.
Location: Yasaka Pagoda
If you want to take pictures of you here, we highly recommend you this article on how to book a kimono photoshoot in Kyoto!
Not only is it home to Geisha and Maiko girls, but the Gion district is also a historical and well-preserved streetscape. You might even get lucky and spot a Geisha walking down the rows of wooden merchant houses. It’s recommended to visit both day and night as they give off different atmospheres.
We also have this fantastic photoshoot available so feel free to book it! Our photographer will take stunning shots of you while you explore this traditional area.
You can also check out more similar options if our post about the best photoshoots in Kyoto!
6. Nanzenji Temple
Built in 1291, the Nanzenji Temple can be found in the Higashiyama district. It is one of the most important Zen temples in all of Japan. A popular photo spot is on the stone steps of Sanmon, and you can even go past the gate’s balcony for spectacular views of Kyoto.
Location: Nanzenji Temple
7. Philosopher’s Path
Philosopher’s Path is named after a famous Japanese philosopher, Nishida Kitaro. He used this path to go to Kyoto University, and meditated along the way. This road is lined with not only beautiful cherry trees that make the path an amazing picture spot in spring, but also various cute cafes and restaurants, ancient temples and shrines, and unique shops.
Location: Philosopher’s Path
8. Maruyama Park
Venture a little further through Yasaka Shrine and you’ll find Maruyama Park, an amazing area full of cherry trees, maples and ponds. There is also a temple hidden in the park, so if you’re in an adventurous mood, make it your quest to find it!
Location: Maruyama Park
This temple is named after the waterfall that flows through the grounds. The name “Kiyo mizu” in Kiyomizu Dera means “pure water”. The temple was built in 778, making it one of the oldest Japanese architecture in the country! This temple is one of the best photo spots for traditional Japanese architecture.
10. Togetsukyo Bridge
The Togetsukyo Bridge has been a symbol of the Arashiyama village for a long time. It’s built across the Katsura River, and from this 155-meter bridge, you get amazing views of the Arashiyama mountains. It’s beautiful in both day and nighttime, with the bridge being lit up at night.
Location: Togetsukyo Bridge
Looking for more photogenic spots? Check out our list of the cutest cafes in Kyoto here!
11. Nishiki Market
You might not think that a market makes a good photo spot, but this one does. Nishiki Market is decorated with lit-up paper lanterns and bright stall signs, making it a perfect backdrop for an Instagram-worthy picture. This is also a famous attraction, so after getting your pictures taken, get yourself some octopus skewers and a couple of sushi bites.
Location: Nishiki Market
Kinkakuji is known as the Golden Pavilion as the entire upper storey of the pavilion is covered in gold leaves. Because it’s a very popular temple to visit for both locals and tourists alike, it can get quite crowded. If you want shots without many people in it, go early in the morning.
13. Ninenzaka & Sannenzaka Streets
Kyoto is known for its well-preserved old streets, and two of the best streets that are worthy of the ‘gram are Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka Streets. These streets are full of traditional Japanese wooden houses that are now shops, restaurants and cafes.
14. Kifune Shrine
Kifune Shrine is an amazing place to visit if you’re looking for off-the-beaten-path attractions. It’s known for its stairs which are lined with red lanterns, leading up to the shrine’s main hall. Because it’s not as touristy as the other destinations, you might even get a chance for a shot with no one on the stairs, if you’re lucky!
Location: Kifune Shrine
15. Hojo Gardens
Located in the Nanzenji Temple, the Hojo Gardens is one of the best representations of a “karensansui” garden, which means “Japanese dry garden” or more commonly known as a Zen garden. There are also screen paintings on the garden grounds as well, and both the paintings and the Zen garden make photogenic backdrops.
Location: Hojo Gardens
Ginkakuji is known as the Silver Pavilion. Despite its name, it’s not coated in silver plating even though that was the original intention of the designer. But this temple is still a great attraction for pictures, as there are various Zen gardens, bonsai and bamboo trees, koi ponds and even waterfalls!
17. Higashiyama District
The entire district of Higashiyama is picture-perfect, full of picturesque streets and local stalls and restaurants. This area is where you can find the Yasaka Pagoda and the Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka Streets. On top of that, there are other smaller shrines and temples that you can stumble upon on casual strolls that are off the beaten path. You’re surely going to get amazing solo shots there!
Location: Higashiyama District
18. Kamo River Bridge
The Kamo River Bridge is slightly north of the main city centre. From here, you get an amazing view (and shot) of the main bridge, Sanjo Bridge. Because it’s a little further out from the main shopping street, there are fewer people.
Location: Kamo River Bridge
19. Kamogawa Delta
Near the Kamo River Bridge is the Kamogawa Delta, which is kind of like a park. Here you can walk on the stepping stones on the river, watch the sunset peacefully, skip some stones, and of course, take amazing pictures!
Location: Kamogawa Delta
20. Kyoto Tower
Last but not least, slightly north of Kyoto’s central station is Kyoto Tower. This is the tallest structure in the city and is extremely beautiful lit up at night. In the daytime, this tower stands out against the scenic mountain landscape in the background, offering a great photo opportunity!
Location: Kyoto Tower
I hope you enjoyed this list of the most Instagrammable photo spots in Kyoto! Which one is your favourite? Let us know in the comments!
Kyoto is without a doubt one of the most breathtaking cities in Japan, and it’s a definite must-visit for travellers to Japan. Mark these spots on your map before your next Kyoto holiday!