Things to know before you visit Kyoto! Tips for a smooth and enjoyable time sightseeing in the ancient city
Prepare for the Variable Weather and Climate
Kyoto's climate is said to be "like a hot bath in summer and bone-chillingly cold in winter."
In order to survive the summer heat and protect your feet and hands from the chilling winter cold, preparation of suitable clothes and seasonal goods is essential.
The weather varying from area to area within the city is also characteristic of Kyoto, for example, while rain is falling at the Kyoto Station area in the south of the city, it can surprisingly snow at the Golden Pavilion which is at a higher altitude in the north of the city.
In order to deal with the variable weather, it is a good idea to check detailed weather forecasts for the day before you set out.
Very Popular Sightseeing Areas in Kyoto
Spring and autumn are the best and most popular seasons for visiting Kyoto as the weather is pleasant and you can enjoy views of beautiful cherry blossoms and autumn leaves. Unsurprisingly, huge numbers of people choose to visit during these seasons and it is almost impossible to avoid crowds not only at popular tourist spots, but also in the downtown areas and on public transportation.
In order to have a pleasant and enjoyable time in Kyoto during these seasons, it is a good idea to plan your visit to avoid the worst of the crowds. If you would like to see the autumn leaves, it is better to visit in early December which is generally less crowded than November. For cherry blossoms, we recommend avoiding the peak season in April and instead aiming to see the early blooming blossoms in March.
Hints to Find your Way in the City
Remembering that there are no mountains in the south of Kyoto is a useful way to orientate yourself when strolling around the city.
The center of Kyoto City lies in a basin surrounded by mountains on three sides and you can see beautiful mountains in the North, East, and West from within the city.
There are some exceptions to this rule, for example, from the west of Kyoto you cannot see the Higashiyama mountains in the east, and in Arashiyama and near the Golden Pavilion you can see nothing but mountains, but there is nothing to lose by knowing this easy method to find your way in the city.
If You Get Lost, Don't Panic
With streets lying on a grid running North to South and East to West and indecipherable place names, finding your way around Kyoto is a daunting experience for many.
It is very difficult to remember all of the street and place names, so we recommend remembering just the names of the two most important streets you are likely to visit: Shijo Dori (running East to West) and Karasuma Dori (running North to South).
If you know where you are in relation to these two streets, it should be easier to figure out which direction you are facing in.
Make the Most of Public Transportation
We recommend using the bus and subway for sightseeing within the city.
As there is a high chance of getting caught in congestion if you take a bus from Kyoto Station, the key to enjoyable sightseeing is to first of all take the subway to get some distance from this area.
Particularly in the busiest tourism seasons in spring and autumn, the large numbers of sightseeing buses and tourists can cause unbelievable levels of congestion on the roads and crowding on regular buses.
From busy areas, take the subway in the direction of your destination and then walk or take the bus from the station and you will be on your way to stress-free and enjoyable sightseeing in the city.