Best Kyoto Tours: Unique Experiences in Kyoto

Best Kyoto Tours: Unique Experiences in Kyoto That You Don’t Want to Miss

Impatient to book some of the best tours in Kyoto? I got you covered! This guide highlights the 10 best Kyoto tours for you to dive into the local traditions and learn more about this unique city.

Kyoto is one of the most beautiful cities in Japan with old wooden houses, unique temples, hidden gardens, and some breathtaking locations that you won’t find anywhere else. It has a long history and traditions that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

Discover unique experiences in Kyoto with top-rated Kyoto tours. Let’s discover local traditions, learn more about history, and join some hands-on experiences in Kyoto. That is the true essence of Japan and you don’t want to miss out!

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10 best Kyoto tours to add to your Kyoto itinerary

Private Dinner with a Geisha

best tours in Kyoto

Rating: 5 | Tour Length: 2 to 3 hours | Check rates and availability

Immerse yourself in quintessential Japanese culture during a private tour and dining experience with a geisha. Considering that Kyoto is the birthplace of geisha culture, this is one of the Kyoto tours that you don’t want to miss.

You can book your experience at a traditional Japanese restaurant or tea house, accompanied by a ‘maiko’ (apprentice geisha) or ‘geiko’ (fully-trained geisha). When it comes to the menu, it consists mostly of vegetables, tofu, and seafood. For a two-hour casual course, the Japanese dinner menu will vary depending on the seasons, but usually includes tempura, seafood, vegetables, etc.

You may choose from four options: 

  • a half Kaiseki course option in a space with a partition at a Japanese restaurant with one maiko
  • a full Kaiseki course option in a private room at a Japanese restaurant with one maiko
  • a full Kaiseki course at perfectly private tea houses only for members with both geiko and maiko
  • two-hour casual Japanese dinner arrangement in a space with a partition at a Japanese restaurant with one maiko.

You also have a two-hour casual Japanese dinner option, but in this case, you won’t see the dance performance, which is one of the highlights of this unique experience in Kyoto.

If you chose options other than the casual dinner, you’ll greet your guide and embark on a walking tour of Gion, a historic geisha district home to traditional Japanese houses.

Other things to note:

  • Private experience
  • Drinks are included only if you book your experience at the private tea house
  • Casual dinner will give you time to chat and connect with your host while formal dinner includes a performance

“This was a uniquely amazing experience that we will remember for the rest of our lives and cannot recommend it enough to others! We opted for the private dinner, which was definitely a splurge, but absolutely worth every penny. If you have any hesitations about booking this activity – don’t! It will be one of your favorite memories of Japan, as it is ours.”

Ramen Cooking Class at Ramen Factory in Kyoto

unique experiences in Kyoto
unique experiences in Kyoto

Rating: 5 | Tour Length: 1.5 hours | Check rates and availability

Is anyone here looking for a hands-on experience and wants to dive into Japanese cuisine? The Ramen cooking class should be at the top of Kyoto tours! And considering how popular Ramen is, this doesn’t get more local than this.

You will learn how to make ramen from scratch at a local ramen factory, including making the noodles, mixing the soup, and adding the toppings. Finish by enjoying your delicious bowl of home-cooked ramen. And repeat these new skills once you are back home to keep the flavors of Japan alive.

This class has a gift-omiyage and you can choose if you want a t-shirt, a ramen bowl, or a Japanese apron. 

Other things to note:

  • Group of a maximum of 15 people
  • A vegetarian option is available. Please contact us post-booking if you want a vegan option

“Fun! Our instructor Nori was great. She was super fun. We learned how to prepare the chicken and how to make the noodles from scratch. I’m ready to make some delicious ramen. Best thing: the result. It was the most delicious ramen that I ate in Japan, and I’m a fan of ramen. Highly recommended!!”

Private Rickshaw Tour of Gion and Higashiyama Area

best Kyoto tours

Rating: 4.5 | Tour Length: 45 – 190 minutes | Check rates and availability

In case you are tired of all the walking, hopping on the Rickshaw might be a fun and easy way to explore Kyoto. Rickshaw is a covered passenger vehicle with two wheels that is pulled by a person who is also going to be your guide for the trip. This is hands downs one of the best tours in Kyoto.

Take a private tour by traditional rickshaw, to discover the neighborhood of Higashiyama. See the main sights of this historic area, and pass through the geisha district of Gion. Discover Japanese culture and history with a knowledgeable guide.

If you want to visit Bamboo Forest instead, take a look here.

Other things to note:

  • Private
  • Not suitable for pregnant women and people with back problems
  • Selfies sticks are not allowed, but photo stops are included
  • Each rickshaw is 21.1 inches (74 centimeters) wide, so sometimes it might be more comfortable to book individual rickshaws for each passenger

“Excellent overview of the areas seen. The guide gave us interesting information along the way and advised us of other areas to visit. Well worth the expense as with my mobility problems I could not otherwise have had the pleasure of seeing so much of the local area.”

Kyoto: Tea Ceremony Ju-An at Jotokuji Temple

Kyoto tours
Kyoto, Japan tour

Rating: 4.9 | Tour Length: 70 minutes | Check rates and availability

Experience the true art of tea drinking by taking part in this tea ceremony at Jotokuji temple. Learn about the ancient ritual of tea drinking and its social significance in Japanese culture.

Start your tour of the Temple with a traditional purification ritual, a completely unique and insightful experience for Western visitors. Afterward, you will get the chance to sample matcha at the Grand Tearoom and try one of the most unique experiences in Kyoto.

The Tea Master will guide you throughout, showing and explaining every step of the way. Throughout the ceremony, you will be taught the fine art of drinking matcha tea and learn about the importance of the ceremony.

Other things to note:

  • Group of a maximum of 9 people
  • You will have the chance to visit the Jotokuji temple
  • For those not comfortable sitting on the floor in the traditional position seats and stools can be provided

“I really loved this activity. The host seemed energetic and encouraging and explained many interesting details about the tea ceremony. It was a great combination of telling the history, showing the process, and getting us involved to try it ourselves. I totally recommend this activity!”

Traditional Tea Ceremony wearing a Kimono in Kyoto MAIKOYA

top tours in Kyoto
tours in Kyoto, Japan

Rating: 5 | Tour Length: 1.5 hours | Check rates and availability

If you want to take the tea ceremony to the next level, you will love this Kyoto tour. Wear a traditional kimono to enhance your experience and take some unforgettable photos of your trip.

Before starting your ceremony, you will take your time to pick out the right kimono and the locals will be there to help you put it on. Trust me, it is a process.

You will get to learn about tea ceremony history, Kyoto, and tea ceremony etiquette. During the tea ceremony, you will not only observe how to make matcha green tea but you will also be guided by the tea master on the process of making your own. 

Other things to note:

  • Group of a maximum of 10 people
  • Children under 7 can not enter the tea ceremony venue. If you have a child under 7 in your party, you can not make the reservation for this experience
  • Ladies will be treated to get their hair and makeup done to match their kimono and traditional Japanese look

“A unique and fun experience. If you truly want to learn about Japanese tradition and culture, I definitely recommend this tour. The tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and kept the tour funny. This is a great experience.”

Insider Sake Brewery Tour with Sake and Food Pairing

best rated tours in Kyoto

Rating: 5 | Tour Length: 3 hours | Check rates and availability

Uncover the little-known sake culture of Fushimi, Kyoto, on a brewery tour of the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum. Savor the nuances of sake during a guided tasting paired with traditional Japanese snacks.

At the museum, you will learn more about sake culture and drinking traditions. After that, you will be sampling 10 types of sake with a local expert and enjoy some otsumami – Japanese snacks perfectly paired with the flavors of sake.

This educational experience in Kyoto is something you won’t be able to try anywhere else in the world. If you are a sake lover, it is an absolute must.

Other things to note:

  • A vegetarian option for snacks is available, please advise at the time of booking if required
  • Not suitable for pregnant women and people under 20
  • Skip the line ticket for the museum is included in the price

“Both the brewery tour and the subsequent tasting were very insightful and fun. We learned a lot about sake and also really appreciated that you can receive all presentation materials afterward via mail. Highly recommendable, both for sake beginners as well as for more advanced drinkers.”

2-Hour Maiko Makeover and Photo Shoot

unique tours in Kyoto

Rating: 4.5 | Tour Length: 2 hours | Check rates and availability

You know what they say, “You can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” This is a unique experience in Kyoto where you get to become a Maiko for a couple of hours and fully embrace every aspect of the preparation process.

The professional staff will apply your makeup, use a wig, and dress you extravagantly to look like the real Maiko. They’ll also show you the proper Maiko poses for beautiful pictures and you will get 5 shots available by download.

If you don’t want the full makeover, you can also rent a kimono and take your own photos around Kyoto for the entire day. Click here to see more. It is another one of the best tours in Kyoto.

Other things to note:

  • Not suitable for pregnant women
  • Contact lenses need to be removed during the makeover
  • The package includes studio photography, so you’ll have souvenir photos to show your family and friends

“This was so much fun! All of the details were expertly tended to. My host was so kind and skilled and made me feel comfortable. The makeup looks a little strange until you put on the kimono and hairpiece but then the result is transformative and breathtaking. The photographer have excellent instruction and made me feel like I was doing a great job which resulted in stunning photographs. I loved it, I would definitely recommend it.”

Kyoto: Samurai Class, Become a Samurai Warrior

guided tours in Kyoto

Rating: 4.8 | Tour Length: 1 – 1.5 hours | Check rates and availability

And just like Geisha culture, Samurai is a big part of Japanese history. This unique experience in Kyoto offers to study the art of Samurai by practicing the stylized movements that make up the Samurai technique as you handle a sword and uncover the discipline of Kenbu.

You will also watch a short documentary about Samurai, learn how to bow, and even get a mini photoshoot in your Samurai suit. They even offer you a certificate of achievement, so you can prove to your friends and family that you are skilled Samurai now. Or at least aspiring to be.

Other things to note:

  • Wear comfortable clothes, visiting in a single hoodie and tights is not suitable for costume changes
  • Two different locations are available depending on the tour length 
  • Not suitable for kids under 5

“A very good and satisfying experience in Kyoto! We enjoyed the whole class and learned a lot about the samurai from our experienced instructor! It is a highly recommended and value-for-money activity! Don’t miss it!”

All-Inclusive 3-Hour Food and Culture Tour in Gion

Local experiences in Kyoto
Local experiences in Kyoto

Rating: 4.5 | Tour Length: 3 | Check rates and availability

Are you a foodie? You cannot miss this local food tour in Kyoto where you will visit 2 local Kyoto standing bars and take a journey through the famous Gion district’s labyrinth of entertainment areas.

At the two restaurants, you will be able to try many different things and enjoy tapas-style Japanese dinner. Two drinks are included in the price as well. Between restaurant stops, there will be an exploration of Kiyamachi, Pontocho, and some other commercial and nightlife streets.

Other things to note:

  • Group of a maximum of 6 people
  • Kobe Beef option is available on top of the usual food and drink. This option is for bookings at least 10 hours in advance

“We had a very nice tour with our guide Ferdinand. The food selection had a wide range and we got to know things we would have tried without the guidance. We learned a lot from Ferdinand about life and the food in Japan.”

Zazen Meditation Experience at Kosho-ji Temple

must do experiences in Kyoto
Photo credit: LINKTIVITY Inc. via GetYourGuide

Rating: 4.3 | Tour Length: 1 hour | Check rates and availability

If you are tired of the busy streets of Kyoto and crowded attractions, join a meditation experience in Kyoto and find a way to relax. You will also get a chance to visit an important Buddhist Temple and learn directly from a local Buddhist teacher.

Even if you have no experience with meditation, this is a great opportunity to learn more about it. Soto Zen is one of the largest Japanese Buddhist organizations, and the Kosho-ji Temple is the oldest Soto Zen temple in Japan.

Other things to note:

  • Bring long pants and avoid tight clothing and mini skirt
  • Children under the age of 12 are not allowed to participate

“The meditation experience was very authentic. It provided an opportunity to see Japan outside the main tourist path. The temple & surrounding are beautiful. Highly recommend.”

Want to rent a kimono in Kyoto?

Renting a kimono is one of the best experiences in Kyoto and such a fun way to explore the city. If you are wondering how it works, make sure you read how to rent a kimono in Kyoto.

Further reading for the best tours in Kyoto

Travel tips for Kyoto:

Travel tips for Osaka:

Travel tips for Tokyo:

Or read more about Kyoto | Osaka | Tokyo | Himeji | Nara | Uji | Japan

Other useful tips for visiting Japan

🏠 Need a place to stay? Browse Booking or Agoda
💃 How about fun experiences? GetYourGuide, Viator, and Klook have it all
🚗 Considering renting a car in Japan? Use Rentalcars
🚂 If you need transfers, bus or train tickets, check 12Go
🔒 Don’t forget about travel insurance from HeyMondo

In conclusion…

popular tours in Kyoto

This is the end of the best tours in Kyoto and I am sure you have found one (or more!) that you will join during your time in Kyoto. Make sure you secure your spot and book now because these top-rated tours sell out fast!

I would love to hear your thoughts, so if you have any feedback or additional tips, leave a comment below. Also, check out my Instagram for regular travel videos and travel inspiration. Or explore other destinations on this travel blog.

Pin it for later and save these unique experiences in Kyoto!

Best Kyoto Tours: Unique Experiences in Kyoto That You Don’t Want to Miss
Best Kyoto Tours: Unique Experiences in Kyoto That You Don’t Want to Miss

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