An afternoon in Kyoto can be just enough time to see highlights of Japan’s former capital. Kinkaku-ji, Tenryu-ji, and Arashiyama Bamboo Forest offer a variety of different experiences and can be visited in a few hours.
Of the three places, Kinkaku-ji is the most popular and iconic destination that is a can’t-miss in Kyoto. Tenryu-ji is more off-the-beaten-path and is an incredibly beautiful temple that opens into the towering trees of Arashiyama Bamboo Forest.
This guide will help you have the best afternoon in Kyoto by visiting Kinkaku-ji, Tenryu-ji, and Arashiyama Bamboo Forest.
The best afternoon in Kyoto
How many hours do you need for an afternoon in Kyoto?
Budget 5 hours to comfortably visit Kinkaku-ji, Tenryu-ji, and Arashiyama Bamboo Forest.
By bus, it takes roughly 40 minutes from Kyoto Station to Kinkaku-ji. Use Google Maps to track the time and route of the bus.
From Kinkaku-ji to Tenryu-ji takes approximately 50 minutes by bus and train.
Tenryu-ji and Arashiyama Bamboo Forest neighbor eachother. Tenryu-ji’s north entrance leads straight into Arashiyama Bamboo Forest.
From Arashiyama Bamboo Forest to Kyoto Station, take the San-In line for about 20-30 minutes.
How should you sequence your afternoon in Kyoto?
Visit Kinkaku-ji first, then Tenryu-ji, then finally Arashiyama Bamboo Forest.
This sequence is optimal because Kinkaku-ji and Tenryu-ji both close at 5:00PM while Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is open at all hours. Save Arashiyama Bamboo Forest for last so you don’t need to stress about missing the opening hours of the two temples.
Tenryu-ji and Arashiyama Bamboo Forest neighbor each other, so you should visit these two consecutively.
Kyoto’s iconic Kinkaku-ji inspires millions of visitors and photographs a year. This Zen Buddhist temple adorned in gold leaf reflects beautifully in Kyokochi, the mirror pond beneath it.
Originally known as “Rokuonji”, the temple grounds served as the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. After the shogun’s death in 1408, Rokuonji became a Zen temple in accordance with the shogun’s will. The temple burned down numerous times over the centuries. The current Kinkaku-ji structure was built in 1955.
Kinkaku-ji is arguably the most recognizable landmark in Kyoto and is the perfect way to kickstart your afternoon in Japan’s former capital city.
For your second stop during your afternoon in Kyoto, head to Tenryu-ji.
Although a designated world heritage site, Tenryu-ji is a somewhat lesser visited attraction in Kyoto (or at least, lesser visited compared with Kinkaku-ji, Fushimi Inari Taisha, or Kiyomizudera).
In 1339, the shogun Ashikaga Takauji built this regal Zen Buddhist temple in honor of the recently deceased Emperor Go-Daigo. The shogun and the emperor had been close until the shogun turned against the emperor in a power bid. The shogun hoped to reconcile with the emperor’s spirit through constructing Tenryu-ji.
Like many historical structures in Kyoto, Tenryu-ji burned down and was reconstructed many times over the centuries. However, the temple gardens remain largely preserved in their original design.
Tenryu-ji as seen today was built during the Meiji Period (late 19th century).
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
Depart Tenryu-ji from its north exit to step into Arashiyama Bamboo Forest.
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest has two main entrances: one off of Arashiyama street and the other just left of the north exit of Tenryu-ji. The former tends to be the most congested, so it’s more convenient and less crowded to explore the bamboo grove from the exit near Tenryu-ji. The bamboo near Tenryu-ji is also thicker and photographs more impressively.
The 500m pathway through the towering bamboo draws countless visitors annually, so save Arashiyama Bamboo Forest for the end of your afternoon in Kyoto as crowds start to thin out.
9:00AM – 5:00PM
¥500 for adults
8:30AM – 5:00PM (last admission is 4:50PM)
¥500 for adults for the garden only
Additional ¥300 for entrance to the temple buildings
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
No admission fees