Did you know that you can explore Kyoto for free? There are so many free things to do in Kyoto, which is a big deal. Because Japan is a bit expensive compared to other countries in Asia, but you can travel on a budget without spending much as I did. In this post, I am going to share how to travel cheaply and explore all the best free things to do in Kyoto.
Free Things To Do in Kyoto
1. Walk along the Philosopher’s Path
One of my favourite thing to do in Kyoto was walking along the Philosopher’s path. It is a path along a canal connected to Lake Biwa and is very popular during cherry blossom season when the entire way transforms into a magical land.
Even without the blossoms, it is an excellent Kyoto attraction for sure, and you can enjoy some of the best views of nature. I went there after the season of cherry blossoms and didn’t like the path any less!
Gion area is located in Hanamachi sub-district not faraway from Kyoto downtown. A set of streets consisting of traditional wooden buildings will take you back in time.
But the area is mostly famous for Geisha, the beautiful, talented Japanese women who have an excellent dance, singing and art skills. You can easily spot them wearing the lovely Kimono and with traditional make-up on the way to work.
Don’t shove cameras in their faces, but politely observe them from a distance and make sure to take pictures only when possible.
There are plenty of temples in Kyoto, and you might feel templed-out after visiting a few. But I have included only those that are important and worth checking out. Not to mention, they are free to enter. One of them is Yasaka Shrine, which should be on your list of free things to do in Kyoto because of various reasons.
For starters, it is located in the Gion area, and you can pay a visit while checking out this neighbourhood. Yasaka Shrine is the place where Gion Matsuri, Kyoto’s major traditional festival happens. Also, if you are lucky, you can witness Geisha performing a dance or some rituals in this temple.
4. Take a Self-guided Walking tour in The Higashiyama District
The Higashiyama District in Kyoto is one of the cityâ€™s best-preserved historic areas and is one of the free things to do in Kyoto. The cobbled-stone streets of this area are home to traditional buildings, merchant houses and ancient shrines, and will take you back in time. Located close to Yasaka Shrine, you can plan trip combining the two.
5. Spend an evening walking around Maruyama Park
While you are in the Gion area, located behind Yasaka shrine is Maruyama Park, which is one of the attractions in Kyoto worth checking out. It is a traditional garden designed by a famous architect who is credited with creating many popular parks in Kyoto. It consists of all the elements of a Japanese garden including many lovely flowering plants, bridges, walkways, ponds and small streams.
Maruyama is popular among the locals for Hanami party, a tradition that occurs during the cherry blossom season. People picnic and party here amidst a gorgeous display of Sakura shortly before spring.
Recommended read: Top Things to do in Nagoya, Japan
Nishiki Market is one of the cool free things to do in Kyoto if you love checking out local markets. It is at least 500 years old and was Kyoto’s first fish market. It now functions as a food market and is a perfect place if you are a foodie. Here you can try almost all of the local delicacies from baby Octopus served as pancakes to the ubiquitous Sushi.
7. Get Your Instagrammable pics at Fushimi Inari
One of my other favourite Kyoto attractions is Fushimi Inari, which is famous as the temple with thousands of vibrant Torri gates. The temple is free to enter and is open until late night up to 10 PM. It is known for its bright orange and black coloured Torri gates and amazing views of Kyoto from the top.