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Timeless, elegant, tranquil: It’s no wonder Kyoto attracts almost four million international tourists a year. Japan’s capital from the eighth to the 19th centuries, the city was spared major damage during World War II and retains its architectural heritage and old-world charm.
In today’s Kyoto, deep-rooted traditions thrive in a 21st-century metropolis. The ancient temples, inspiring nature, bustling markets, contemporary art scene, and culinary culture beckon travellers of all types to explore the city’s hidden treasures.
Two tourists wait for a meal clad in traditional attire. Renting kimono in winter and yukata in summer is a popular trend among visitors eager to immerse themselves in the local culture.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MARC STAPELBERG, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC YOUR SHOT
When to go: There’s something new to discover here in any season. Summer brings a wave of cultural celebrations and fireworks festivals, followed by autumn’s colourful sweep of changing maple leaves. After winter blankets venerable alleys and temples in snow, spring comes with the sakura (cherry blossoms) bursting into bloom in late March, one of the most popular times to visit.
What to do: Rent a bike to cycle through residential and rural areas while travelling between temples in this “City of 10,000 Shrines.” Explore historic buildings, bamboo forests, and UNESCO World Heritage sites before relaxing with a traditional tea ceremony. Here are 10 additional sights and experiences you can’t miss in Kyoto.