When we first began planning our 12-day Japan family vacation, we had originally planned to split our time equally between Tokyo and Kyoto. As we did more research, we were surprised to learn how incredible the Kyoto hiking is, so we eagerly decided to create a 7-day Kyoto itinerary with kids.
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Kyoto is world-renowned for its cultural attractions, but there are also many fun outdoor things to do in Kyoto with kids. What made Kyoto perfect for our family trip is that there are many opportunities to combine culture with hiking.
Traveling with kids is all about finding a balance of activities which keeps everyone happy. Our family vacation in Kyoto included cultural highlights, outdoor activities and some entertaining & developmental activities for the kids.
Here are the details of our 7-day Kyoto itinerary with kids.
What to do in Kyoto with Kids
Day 1 – Fushimi Inari Shrine
Despite being our fifth full day of our Japan family vacation, our baby was still suffering from jet lag. He was awake at 3:30 am and showing no signs of going back to sleep. We were all up by 6 am, it was the perfect day to visit one of the most popular things to do in Kyoto in hopes of beating the crowds.
The Fushimi Inari Shrine is open 24-7 and has no admission fee. It is not only the most important shrine in Kyoto but it is also one of the top attractions in Japan.
With thousands of brilliant orange and black torii gates lining the trail up the Inari mountain, this is a Kyoto kids activity they will never forget!
We arrived at the Fushimi Inari Shrine by subway shortly after 8 am. We were amazed to see crowds already starting to arrive.
After passing the main temple buildings, we started our amazing journey through the torii gates. The trail started with stairs, which seem to go on forever… oh so many, many stairs….
We didn’t break away from the crowds until we passed the Yotsutsuji intersection. Here you’ll enjoy a place to rest with nice views of Kyoto. You can also buy some ice cream here to reward your kids for their efforts.
If you need feed your baby, be sure to stop here. You’ll find signs along most of the trail prohibiting sitting on the steps.
The Yotsutsuji intersection is also the point where most people turn back. Beyond this point, it’s a peaceful, beautiful Kyoto hike. Well, at least it might be peaceful… our baby decided to throw a tantrum near the top of the hike.
A nice woman from a nearby teashop invited us in and it cheered him right up! This is typical of the hospitality the Japanese people offered our kids ones throughout our family vacation in Japan…
After completing the Fushimi Inari hike, we were shocked at how busy it was getting. We’re glad we arrived so early!
Not including time on the subway, we were able to complete our 3.3 mile (5.4km) hike in 2.5 hours.
If you only have a few days and are wondering what to do in Kyoto with kids, the Fushimi Inari Shrine is a must-do.
On our way home we grabbed some take-away sushi from Ganko Sanjo Honten, a few minutes west of the Sanjo bridge. We went back to the bridge and walked down to the riverside park for a quick family sushi picnic before heading back to our Kyoto vacation home rental apartment for the kid’s nap.
Wondering what else to eat in Japan? Don’t miss this post on 25 Foods you Must Try in Japan!
Day 2 AM – Kyoto Walking Tour
Many of the top things to do in Kyoto are found in a tight cluster on the map. We spent a pleasant morning enjoying a self-guided walking tour of Kyoto.
Today we had a pretty aggressive plan to visit some of Kyoto’s best temples. The kids woke up early again, so we got an early start to our outing.
We started our day with a walk down Shinbashi Dori, which some claim is the most attractive street in all of Asia. Not having visited every street in Asia, we can’t confirm if that’s true but we could easily imagine how beautiful it would look during the cherry blossom season.
Getting to experience it before the crowds arrived was a real treat. Sometime jet lag has its upside!
Gion – The Geisha District
Next we walked through Gion, Kyoto’s most famous geisha district via Hanamikoiji Dori.
Your chances of seeing a geisha are highest if you visit Gion at night. Visiting Kyoto with kids meant we weren’t likely to get to see a geisha. We were content to enjoy a visit to Gion when we had it pretty much to ourselves (look how empty the street was!).
We have accepted the fact that we won’t be able to experience everything when traveling with small children – but we don’t mind, knowing we will likely return someday! Plus, avoiding the huge crowds is a big bonus!
Next we walked to Kiyomizu-dera, one of the most popular things to do in Kyoto. We walked there through the temple-filled park which begins at Hiroshiyama Temple. Unfortunately, we lost a lot of time as a recent landslide in the area forced us to turn back and go a longer route.
Kiyomizu-dera’s biggest attraction is its wooden stage. Here you can enjoy stunning views of cherry blossoms or maple trees (depending on the season) plus views of Kyoto.
Behind the main hall are other shrines and the Otowa Waterfall. Around the entrance of the main hall are many other structures, like Sanjunoto Tower (a three storied pagoda below).
With our landslide delay, we opted to admire the temple from the outside, but we didn’t go inside as we’d be too rushed.
Turning back towards home, we walked down the charming, but busy paths of the Higashiyama District. The narrow lanes of the Higashiyama District give a feel for traditional Kyoto and are filled with wooden building, shops and cafes.
Visiting this popular shopping street in Kyoto with kids is a fun, non-temple activity. Kids will love the bright colors, the unique toys and souvenirs and plentiful ice cream for sale.
Maruyama Park is one of the best places to see cherry blossoms in Kyoto in spring. This beautiful park is a great place to go in Kyoto for kids. They can burn off some energy chasing pigeons and watching the carp in the pond. There are plenty of spots to stop for a snack or feed your baby.
Our next stop was the Chion-in Temple, but after a few pictures we headed on our way. The kids were getting pretty tired by this point, so we opted to take a break from our temple hopping and give them a nap.
Our self-guided walking tour of Kyoto from Shimbashi Dori to the Chion-in Temple was about 4.6 miles (7.5km) and took us about 3.25 hours.
Day 2 PM – Shoren-in Temple
After the kid’s well-deserved nap, we walked back to the Shoren-in Temple. Visiting the Shoren-in Temple was a two-part tour: one part was indoors where you had to take your shoes off and the other was a beautiful garden walk.
The garden had a small trail to follow through it, including a modest bamboo forest. This is a wonderful spot for a family-friendly walk in Kyoto.
One of the most fun activities for kids in Kyoto is in the garden. They can ring a very large bell with a large battering ram on a rope (with their parent’s help of course!).
If visiting an onsen was on your list, look into this family friendly onsen in Japan.
Day 3 – Kurama to Kibune Hike
Almost halfway through our 7-day Kyoto itinerary with kids, we decided to get out of town and enjoy the scenic Kurama to Kibune hike.
Getting to Kurama on the Eizan Railway is half the fun! The train ride from the Demachiyanagi subway station to Kurama is an interesting trip through the northern suburbs of Kyoto. Before long, the train leaves Kyoto and enters a beautiful mountain valley.
Once at the Kurama station, we entered the Buddhist Temple complex to begin our hike. The hike to the main temple Kurama-dera was very steep upwards – way too steep for small kids without assistance. We were grateful for our backpack carriers!
The Kurama to Kibune hike is a beautiful walk through dense, old growth forest. Thankfully, there are many small temple buildings and shrines along the way which give you an excuse to stop and rest.
Kibune is a charming little mountain town with a few shops and restaurants.
From here you have the option of hiking back up the mountain and down to Kurama station. An easier option is to take a bus from Kibune to Kibuneguchi Station, where you hop back on the Eizan Railway back to Kyoto.
The hike from Kurama to Kibune was just over 2 miles (3.2km) and took us around 2 hours to complete (including stops).
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
Our first stop of the day was the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest; an easy, flat walk through a dense bamboo grove.
To be honest, the eastern side of the walk wasn’t that great. The bamboo forest wasn’t deep enough and you could see through to the other side (which kind of ruins the effect).
But the western side of the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest was awesome – really a special place. It’s an easy, stroller-accessible family walk which was one of our favorite things to do in Kyoto with children.
Most people turn back when the Kyoto bamboo forest path ends, but we continued south into Kameyama Park. There is an amazing viewpoint of the Katsura River running through the mountain valley. The park also has little covered areas with benches and a large kid’s play area.
At the southern-most end of the park you meet up with a beautiful, stroller friendly river walk. The river itself is stunning with its blue color and the maple covered mountain on the opposite side.
Once at the end of the river we walked across the bridge to a little island for lunch. There are plenty of covered places to stop for lunch on the island.
Monkey Park Iwatayama
Next we took the steep 20 minute hike up to the Monkey Park Iwatayama.
At the top of the hike there is a small enclosed area where you can feed the monkeys from inside a building with fenced windows. Outside of the enclosed area, the staff monitor the monkeys and chase the aggressive ones away.
We usually shun attractions where you feed wildlife, but sometimes we make compromises to entertain our kids and teach them about nature.
There is a playground near the top of the hike, so if your kids don’t want to leave the monkeys, you can use the playground as bait.
Strollers are not allowed on this hike. Parking is available at the ticket counter.
Today we hopped on a bus and headed for the Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion) Zen temple which was modeled after Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion.
Despite getting there before it opened, there were already several hundred of school kids waiting to get in, so we elected to do the Daimonji hike first.
The trailhead is conveniently located behind the Ginkakuji temple. The round-trip hike to the Diamoniyama viewpoint is 2.5 miles long (4km) and takes roughly 40 minutes.
The hike was, as we have found on all our Kyoto hikes, very enjoyable with dense trees and birdsong the whole way. Depending on the day, you can get some pretty incredible views of Kyoto from the top!
After our hike, the Ginkakuji Temple (also known as Higashiyama Jisho-ji) was still just as busy as before.
The best feature of the Ginkakuji Temple was the sand cone at the beginning of the walk. The monks maintain a perfectly sculpted cone of sand meant to symbolize Mt Fuji (if only we could have made it to see Mt Fuji from these great spots for real).
The sculpted cone was approximately 5 feet tall with not a single grain of sand was out of place! The gardens are amongst the most beautiful we’ve seen in Kyoto and even the hundreds of school kids couldn’t ruin the zen-like feeling.
The gardens are visited by following a dedicated path which goes up into the trees. Note, this path is not stroller friendly.
Walk the Philosopher’s Path
Following our visit to the Ginkakuji Temple, we stopped for some matcha (green tea) ice cream, a popular Japanese flavor. We then took a short family-friendly walk to the Philosopher’s Path.
The Philosopher’s Walk is so named as it was used by Japan’s most famous philosopher to meditate during his daily commute.
The Philosopher’s Path follows a picturesque canal and is a perfect family-friendly walk. Alongside the canal are trees that would make it stunning during Kyoto’s cherry blossom season or when the fall colors are in full swing.
The Philosopher’s Path is a large stone path which takes approximately 30 minutes to walk and can be accessed easily from the Ginkakuji Temple.
Day 6 AM – Daigoji Hike
On day 6 of our 7-day Kyoto itinerary with kids, we planned to hike up to the temple complex on the mountain behind the Daigoji Buddist temple.
The Daigoji hike was one of the hardest Kyoto hikes on our trip. The trail starts out as mostly steps then turns into switchbacks. There were plenty of benches (or fallen over trees) to stop at along the way for a rest.
The temple complex was fun to explore and we found some benches to stop at for a snack. There was a great view at the highest temple and we were fortunate to see many maple trees just starting to turn their fall colors.
Day 6 PM – Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji)
As is often the case traveling with small children, both of ours fell asleep unexpectedly in their backpack carriers during the hike. This made a midday nap unlikely, so we changed our plans for the rest of the day.
Given it was a warm sunny day, we felt it was the perfect day to visit the Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji).
Kinkakuji is one of the most popular things to do in Kyoto. It was incredibly busy, so we were happy to take our pictures, do the quick stroll through the gardens and make our way home. We were glad we made the trip, but we were also happy we hadn’t planned an entire day around it.
Near the entrance of the Golden Pavilion there are toilets and benches to give the kids a snack. The path through the grounds is not great for strollers because of the stairs and crowds, but if you do bring one make sure it is a lightweight one.
Day 7 AM – Nishiki Market
No hiking for today! The forecast was for rain today and truthfully, after carrying our kids around so much our legs needed a break. We decided to let the kids play before heading to the covered Nishiki Market.
On our walk to the market, we crossed the Kamo River by using the path of stepping stones, found just north of the Nijo bridge. This is a unique and super fun thing to do in Kyoto with kids.
The indoor Nishiki Market was a ton of fun, making it a perfect rainy day activity in Kyoto. It was a mix of everything from delicious food stalls, to vegetable stores, to stores selling souvenirs to stalls with live fish, octopus, etc.
It is stroller friendly, but the dense crowds may be an issue.
Day 7 PM – Kodomo Mirai Kan
After a well-deserved nap, it was still pouring rain so we treated them to a visit to an indoor play area. Komodo Mirau Kan is a very fun thing to do on a rainy day in Kyoto with kids!
During our 7-days in Kyoto with kids, we struggled to find suitable play opportunities for a crawling 14-month old. We were very excited to discover Kodomo Mirai Kan; a free indoor play place for kids 6 and under.
Our kids were the only foreigners there, but they were welcomed and had fun playing with the local kids.
Where to Stay in Kyoto with Kids
When starting to plan your family trip, it can be hard to decide where to stay in Kyoto. It’s a reasonably large city and it’s main attractions are geographically spread out.
But, this uncertainty can be turned into an advantage by giving you a wide variety of neighborhoods to choose from. Our advice is to find a Kyoto hotel or vacation rental in a location within easy walking distance of the subway.
We stayed in a two-bedroom Kyoto vacation home rental near the Sanjo-Keihan subway station. From here, we were able to easily get around Kyoto and see all the main sights and hikes.
When looking for a family-friendly hotel in Kyoto, we recommend using Booking.com. We use them ourselves as we find their Top Picks for Families very useful.
If you prefer to cook some of your own meals and do some laundry, try getting a Kyoto vacation home rental as we did.
As you can see, we loved our time in Kyoto. It’s a great city for families who love culture and the outdoors. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
More Japan with Kids
- 5 Family Friendly Hikes in Kyoto
- 7 Family Friendly Walks in Kyoto, Japan
- 6 Playgrounds for Visitors to Kyoto
- How to Spend 4 Days in Tokyo
- 5 Playgrounds for Visitors to Tokyo
- Feeding your Baby in Japan
- Okunoshima, Japan’s Rabbit Island with kids
As you can see, we loved our time in Kyoto with kids. It’s a great city for families who love culture and the outdoors. We hope you find this 7-day Kyoto itinerary with kids useful and that you enjoy your family vacation as much as we did!
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