1. Sacred Destinations
  2. Japan
  3. Kyoto

Kyoto, Japan

Colorful maple leaves at a Kyoto temple. Photo Creative Commons License Bryan Cole.

Nestled in the mountains of Western Honshu, Kyoto has earned a worldwide reputation as Japan's most beautiful city. Kyoto is known as "the city of a thousand temples," but it actually has more - an astonishing 1,600 Buddhist temples, plus 400 Shinto shrines, a trio of palaces, and dozens of gardens and museums! Kyoto boasts more World Heritage Sites per square inch than any other city.

Kyoto was the capital of Japan and the residence of the emperor from 794 to 1868, when the capital was moved to Tokyo. Kyoto thus spent a millennium as the center of Japanese power, culture, tradition, and religion. During this time Kyoto accumulated an unparalleled collection of palaces, temples and shrines, built for emperors, shoguns, geishas and monks. And Kyoto was one of the very few Japanese cities to escape Allied bombings during World War II. There is much to see in Kyoto - start your virtual explorations of its temples and shrines below.

  • Kyoto Map Our detailed, interactive city map of Kyoto, showing the location of sacred sites and religious attractions.
  • Kyoto Photos Our galleries of hand-selected photos of religious sites in Kyoto.
  • Kyoto Books Selected travel guides and other books on Kyoto.
  • Kyoto Sightseeing Tours Save money and time by booking sightseeing tours and excursions in Kyoto before you leave home.
  • Kyoto Hotels Search availability, read reviews, browse photos, view a map and book a room in Kyoto at the guaranteed lowest price.

Sacred Sites and Religious Attractions in Kyoto

  • Adashino Nenbutsuji
    Thousands of stone Buddha statues mourn the dead at this unusual hilltop temple. The main hall contains a medieval Amida Buddha.
  • Byodoin
    Founded in 1052, this Pure Land Temple includes a rare and beautiful Pure Land garden and the famous Phoenix Hall. A World Heritage Site.
  • Chionin
    The head temple of Jodo (Pure Land) Buddhism, Chionin boasts the largest gate and the heaviest temple bell in Japan. It was built to represent the Pure Land on earth.
  • Daigoji
    Founded in 874, this World Heritage Temple in Kyoto has a five-story pagoda dating from 951 and a beautiful garden.
  • Daitokuji
    This temple complex is considered one of the best places to experience Zen art, architecture and practice.
  • Fushimi Inari Shrine
    This ancient Shinto shrine dedicated to Inari, the god of rice and prosperity, features a remarkable path through thousands of red torii.
  • Ginkakuji
    Originally intended to be coated in silver, this harmonious temple ended up in simple wood. It houses an image of Kannon and includes lovely gardens.
  • Heian Jingu
    An imperial Shinto shrine built in 1895 in honor of the founding of Kyoto.
  • Kinkakuji
    This gold-leaf-covered temple is one of the most beautiful sights in Kyoto, nestled in the woods and reflected in the waters of its garden pond.
  • Kiyomizudera
    This popular Buddhist temple offers a healing waterfall and an incredible view over the city of Kyoto from its wooden terrace.
  • Nanzenji
    An important Rinzai Zen temple on the Path of Philosophy, Nanzenji has a beautiful Zen garden and extensive grounds.
  • Ryoanji
    A World Heritage Site famed for its Zen rock garden.
  • Sanjusangendo
    Sanjusangendo houses 1,001 statues of Kannon in Japan's longest wooden building.
  • Toji
    A Shingon Buddhist temple in the center of the city, Toji includes a five-story pagoda that is the tallest wooden tower in Japan.
  • Yasaka Shrine
    This Shinto shrine to the god of health and prosperity was the site of the first Gion Matsuri festival. It remains the spiritual heart of Kyoto.