Kyoto is world-famous for its grand palaces, historical landmarks, temples and traditional entertainment, attracting disorientating crowds from across the world. The overwhelming swarm of tour groups are known for clogging the narrow streets leading from Kyoto-Kawaramachi Station.
However, for those who take a step beyond the gift shops, there is an abundance of exceptional ateliers, independent shops and innovative restaurants that are waiting to be found.
For us, Kyoto has been a pilgrimage of craft and below we have compiled a short a guide of some of our favourite locations from around this incredible city. We hope you enjoy!
The central district of Kyoto is dominated by a focus on tourist entertainment. However, there are still some gems to be found amongst the hustle and bustle of souvenir shops and department stores. The famous Nishiki Market is one example. It may be on all the tourism maps and overcrowded and a little pricy but it's a good place to taste some of Japans local delicacies.
A lot of Kyoto's legendary craft stores and restaurants are located here and here are few that are worth a visit while you are getting your bearing.
The Kita-ku district is located in the north of Kyoto. We recommend hiring a bike and explore this side of the city. Kyoto is one of the best bicycle cities in Asia, and for good reason: The city is largely flat and there are plenty of places to purchase or rent a bicycle, plus you get to experience the city and streets at an enjoyable pace.
If like us you like to seek out the small independent shop then you must have these places on your list;
The most famous geisha district Located in the heart of the city it is a place where the sense of the traditional Kyoto still remains. There is also a fantastic range of traditional Teahouses and sophisticate stores, however much of this area has been extensively remodelled and you may need to dodge the occasional selfie stick
Higashiyama district aims to preserve the look and feel of feudal-era Japan. This wood-built historic quarter of narrow lanes lined with traditional pottery stores, tea houses, and restaurants that offer multi-course kaiseki meals.
Kyoto is famous for having preserved much of the atmosphere of the past and in some places has the feel of a living museum. We just recommend you embrace all that the city has to offer, and by taking a few steps off the tourist trail you'll be heavily rewarded.
That said, you travel itinerary should include seeing at least some of the more touristy sites, just make sure you arrive very early or later in the evening when the tour bus crowds haven't yet arrived or have already dispersed.