Looking for the best photo spots in Kyoto? You are in the right place! I will help you discover the most beautiful places in Kyoto and make sure you get some wonderful postcards from your trip.
Kyoto is one of the most photogenic cities in Japan with old wooden houses, unique temples, hidden gardens, and some breathtaking locations that you won’t find anywhere else. This is why you want to bring your camera and take some epic photos during your trip.
My guide of the best photo spots in Kyoto is going to ensure that you don’t miss a single photo opportunity! I will share additional photography tips, the best time to see these places without crowds, and help you with picking out the right lens. Let’s get started!
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The overview of the most beautiful places in Kyoto
- Yasaka Kamimachi
- Hoshinocho and Tamamizucho
- Yasaka Kōshin-dō
- Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
- Fushimi Inari Shrine
- Keiryu Bridge
- Kodaiji Temple
- Yasaka Shrine
- Gion district
- Chionin Temple
- Heian Shrine
- Pontocho Alley
- Okazaki-jinja Shrine
- Eikan-dō (Zenrin-ji) Temple
- Tenjuan Garden
- Jikkokubune Canal Cruise
- Nijō Castle
- Kiyomizu-dera Temple
The list of best photo spots in Kyoto and photography tips
No doubt that Yasaka Kamimachi is one of the most Instagrammable places in Kyoto. This stone-paved street is located in the historical area of Kyoto and it is surrounded by typical wooden houses. The cherry on top is the mystical view of Hōkan-ji Temple.
You can take some of the best Kyoto photos at Yasaka Kamimachi, however, the place is packed all day long. If you are planning to wake up for sunrise to avoid crowds, that is not going to save you. However, if you are quick and prepared, you can steal a couple of minutes to yourself and get a fantastic result.
When it comes to equipment, a 50 mm lens looks the best. When I visited Yasaka Kamimachi there were multiple people with tripods completely blocking the street (cherry blossom season at its best!), so I had to give up some space and use a 35 mm lens instead.
I will add the exact photo spot below, so you don’t have to wander around. Even if you choose to take a taxi, the car most probably will leave you somewhere nearby as car access is limited.
Location: Yasaka Kamimachi
Sanneizaka is another Kyoto attraction in the historical part of the town and is just around the corner from Yasaka Kamimachi. This slope is steep and covered with stairs and it creates some of the best picturesque views of Kyoto.
This place is still very busy during the day, however, it might be easier to capture at sunrise since everyone else is busy with Hōkan-ji Temple. I suggest you take a quick snap at the Yasaka Kamimachi and then focus on other spots in the area because there are so many!
You can try to use a 35 mm lens from the top of the stairs and capture the wooden houses surrounding the slope or you can go down the stairs and play with your zoom lens for some epic angles.
If you are visiting Kyoto during cherry blossom season, don’t miss the park surrounding the Koushou-ji Branch Temple Priest’s Kitchen and Living Room Wards. The cherry blossom alley is just the perfect eye candy for your zoom lens.
Ninenzaka is the shortest slope and it is located between Sanneizaka and Hōkan-ji Temple. It is one of the prettiest places in Kyoto and you don’t want to miss it. This slope is on the corner of a cute historical shop with traditional umbrellas and it creates a wonderful backdrop for a photo.
Super busy during the day, but quite easy to take photos early in the morning. A 35 mm lens is an absolute sweet spot to capture the beauty of this slope.
Also, at the end of Ninenzaka, you will find the famous Starbucks coffee shop – not a fan of the menu at Starbucks, but this is your chance to visit a traditional Japanese house. There is a massive line at the opening time, but later in the afternoon, it is basically empty.
Don’t get confused! If you look up the photos of Ninenzaka, you will see the famous view of Hōkan-ji Temple, however, if you follow the maps, you will see that this is not the same location, and the viewpoint is located further away.
Hoshinocho and Tamamizucho
If you are looking for the most underrated places in Kyoto for photos, you will love this street. It has a fantastic view of Hōkan-ji Temple and everyone around is just passing by without taking a photo.
In fact, we were able to take these photos at the busiest time of the day, so this can be your last stop while visiting the old town of Kyoto. If you are around before 9, you won’t even have to worry about people passing by.
It is a long street and you can find the sweet spot that suits your vision and your lens, but I can tell you already that the zoom lens is the absolute best. I loved the distance from Kyo Yuba Kobo restaurant.
Location: Hoshinocho and Tamamizucho
Located in the heart of the old town, you will find one of the best hidden photo spots in Kyoto – Seiryu-en Garden. And yes, there is no one around! Even during the peak season at the busiest time of the day.
From what I have seen, it looks absolutely amazing during the fall, however, it is worth a stop all year round. Especially if you want to escape the crowds in the old town of Kyoto. There is a sign that says no commercial photo shoots, but we were there taking photos with a tripod and no one said anything about that.
We rented a kimono, which is an absolute must when visiting Kyoto and you can do it here. But the rentals open late which means that you will be hunting for photo spots at the peak hours. So for this reason, you simply have to visit spots like Seiryu-en Garden, Hoshinocho, and Tamamizucho. We also choose to head to Toji and it was a great decision since it was pretty empty, but you will read about it further in this article.
Keep in mind that the opening time is from 9 am to 6 pm, but the entrance is completely free.
Location: Seiryu-en Garden
And the last location in the old Kyoto is Yasaka Kōshin-dō. What makes it special is the colorful kukurizaru, which are small colorful balls containing the wishes of worshippers and the typical orange shrine waiting for you at the entrance.
These balls are all over the temple which makes it one of the best photo spots in Kyoto and it’s not to be missed. If you are visiting early in the morning, please remember that it opens at 9 am.
All the locations above are located in the old town of Kyoto and can be covered in one early morning. Depending on the time that you spend in each location, Yasaka Kōshin-dō can be your last stop considering the opening time. And you might even have the time for breakfast.
Location: Yasaka Kōshin-dō
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
If you are looking for popular Instagram spots in Kyoto, Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is at the top of the list. This natural bamboo forest covers an area of roughly 16 square kilometers and contains thousands of bamboo plants that tower over visitors, creating a sense of tranquility.
When it comes to photography, this is not going to be an easy task as the place is packed from sunrise to sunset. However, if you have a wide-angle lens and a lot of patience, you can make the crowds look smaller than they actually are.
It can be a bit tricky to find, however, I will leave the exact location below, so you don’t have to wander around. Also, make sure you start with the indicated location and walk the path from there.
Location: Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
Kinkaku-ji is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is considered one of the most beautiful temples in Japan. It is also known as the Golden Pavilion due to the gold leaf covering the upper two floors of the temple.
While visitors are not allowed to enter the temple itself, they can walk around the grounds and take in the views from various angles. I believe we can safely agree that it is one of the top places in Kyoto to take pictures at sunset.
It is open from 9 am to 5 pm and the entrance fee is 500 JPY. If you are visiting during the summer and sunset is after pm, I still suggest you go to the Golden Pavilion before closing time.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
I am sure that we all can agree that Fushimi Inari Shrine is one of the epic Kyoto photography spots. It is one of the most famous and iconic shrines in Japan, known for its thousands of torii gates that line the paths leading up the mountain.
And obviously, it is another super crowded spot. However, it was quite easy to get the shot as people create queues and let you snap a quick photo. Also, the path is very long so you can find some corners with not many people around.
The Shrine is actually massive and most of the tourists leave after visiting the main spot, so if you decide to hike up, you can find a place all to yourself.
From what I have seen 50 mm lens is the sweet spot and creates an amazing effect. I did try the zoom lens but eventually didn’t like the result. But feel free to play around and find what you like the best.
Location: Fushimi Inari Shrine
I am sure you have seen a lot of pictures from Kyoto with a cute boat floating around the channel. Well, if you want to recreate the same photo, head to Keiryu Bridge. Even if you don’t have it on your itinerary, but might end up on this bridge, so don’t miss out.
The boats are frequent and from what I have seen, it comes almost at the same time from both sides, which means that you have 2 chances to take the right shot. And if you are visiting during cherry blossom season, head to Kyoto City KYOCERA Museum of Art – the area next to the channel is full of blooms!
Location: Keiryu Bridge
Kodaiji Temple hosts some of the best Kyoto Instagram spots, so it is a must when hunting for photo locations. It is a well-known temple in Kyoto, however, some tourists choose to skip it and trust me, they are missing out.
The temple complex includes several buildings, including the main hall, the mausoleum of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and the tea house. Kodaiji Temple’s gardens are equally impressive, with a pond garden, a rock garden, and a bamboo grove.
Actually, if you cannot manage to visit the famous bamboo forest in Kyoto, this can be a great alternative. The bamboo grove is practically empty and looks stunning in the photos. A zen garden is an absolute must as well!
It is open from 9 am to 5 pm and the entrance fee is 600 JPY.
Location: Kodaiji Temple
Yasaka Shrine is one of the Insta-worthy places in Kyoto, offering a glimpse into Japan’s rich cultural history and providing a beautiful and serene setting for contemplation and reflection. The colors of the Yasaka Shrine are fantastic and will give a nice pop to your photos.
The shrine complex includes several buildings, including the main hall, which is designated as an Important Cultural Property of Japan. The main hall is decorated with intricate carvings and paintings, and it contains several important Shinto artifacts.
It does get pretty crowded, especially around the entrance, so early morning is the best time to avoid the crowds. And bring your 35 mm lens with you.
Location: Yasaka Shrine
And while visiting Yasaka Shrine, you will have the opportunity to explore the famous Gion district. Gion is known for its traditional teahouses, called ochaya, where geisha and maiko entertain guests with traditional music, dance, and conversation.
Shimbashi Street is probably the highlight of Gion for photography lovers, especially during cherry blossom season. However, it will require another early wake-up call as it stays busy during the day.
Apart from Shimbashi Street, there are no other photo locations, but it is filled with cute corners and geishas around. If you are lucky, you might even see a maiko. So simply forget about location hunting and get lost in Gion. Let the beauty find you.
Location: Shimbashi Street
The main hall of Chionin Temple is one of the largest wooden structures in Japan and Chionin Temple is also known for its impressive Sanmon gate, which is the largest surviving structure of its kind in Japan. Without a doubt, it is one of the top-rated sights in Kyoto.
If you are looking for a unique perspective, you can cross the street located right in front of Chionin Temple and walk until the end of the park. With a zoom lens, you will get a fantastic shot.
And just like many other epic Kyoto photography spots, Chionin Temple is unmissable during cherry blossom season and fall. The colors around the temple get spectacular.
Location: Chionin Temple
Heian Shrine is an important cultural and religious site in Kyoto and attracts visitors from around the world. It is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in Japanese history, architecture, and culture.
The main buildings of the shrine are painted in vibrant vermilion and are surrounded by beautiful gardens and ponds. One of the most notable features of Heian Shrine is its massive torii gate, which stands over 24 meters tall and is made of steel. Daigoku-den is also impressive, with its ornate decorations and intricate woodwork.
Considering other famous landmarks in Kyoto, this one is easy to implement in your Kyoto itinerary, and with a bit of patience, you can certainly take some photos on the way.
Location: Heian Shrine
If you are wondering where to take photos in Kyoto, Pontocho Alley is an absolute must! The street is lined with traditional wooden buildings, many of which house restaurants, bars, and teahouses.
Pontocho Alley is known for its lively atmosphere, especially in the evening when the lanterns hanging outside the restaurants and bars are lit up, creating a charming and romantic ambiance.
If you can’t take a good photo after the sun went down, you can always try late morning instead. It is still beautiful, but you can forget about the crowds.
Location: Pontocho Alley
And if you are getting tired of visiting the traditional and historical temples of Kyoto, head to Okazaki-jinja Shrine. This temple has a rabbit theme, so you will find rabbit sculptures all over the place, which makes it one of the secret photography spots in Kyoto.
The temple is quite small so it gets filled up with locals very early, but don’t get discouraged, because everyone has a packed Itinerary and they are busy moving to their next Kyoto attractions.
Location: Okazaki-jinja Shrine
Eikan-dō (Zenrin-ji) Temple
Planning to visit Kyoto in the fall? Eikan-dō (Zenrin-ji) Temple, then Eikan-dō (Zenrin-ji) Temple is one of the best places to take photos in Kyoto. The temple is known for its stunning fall foliage, which draws visitors from around the world each year.
Even if you are visiting Kyoto during other seasons, it is worth seeing. The complex is big and the highlight is definitely the red pagoda located on the top of the temple. From the main pond, you can take some wonderful photos.
Even though we visited in spring, some trees were red and gave fall vibes already. It is open from 9 am to 4 pm and the entrance fee is 600 JPY (1000 JPY during fall).
Location: Eikan-dō (Zenrin-ji) Temple
Nanzen-ji and Tenjuan Garden
Nanzen-ji is known for its beautiful gardens, traditional architecture, and numerous sub-temples. My personal highlight was Tenjuan Garden, which was a perfect escape in the busy city and one of the best hidden photography spots in Kyoto.
While visiting the temple is free, Tenjuan Garden has a 300 JPY entrance fee. It is a true hidden gem of Kyoto and such a peaceful oasis – you don’t want to miss it. Especially if you are looking for cute photo spots in Kyoto without crowds.
Once you are done with the garden, make sure you visit Nanzen-ji temple itself as well. It is open from 9 am to 4.30 pm every day.
Location: Tenjuan Garden
Jikkokubune Canal Cruise
The Jikkokubune Canal Cruise is a popular tourist activity in Kyoto, Japan. The cruise takes visitors along the Hori River, which runs through Fushimi Shishizhou. And while it is an absolute must during cherry blossom season, you can see the beauty all year round.
You certainly want to take photos of the boat itself and then join the cruise to see the beauty of the river as well. You can jump on the boat every 20 minutes starting from 10 am and the adult price is 1200 JPY while children pay 600 JPY.
Considering that Jikkokubune Canal Cruise is located further away from famous landmarks in Kyoto, there are not many tourists around, however, locals line up to see sakura rain at the end of cherry blossom season.
Location: Jikkokubune Canal Cruise
Nijō Castle is a historic castle built in the 17th century as the residence of the Tokugawa when they visited Kyoto. Today, it is a popular tourist attraction and is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
If you are looking for the best photo spots of the castle itself, you don’t even need to enter the castle. Just wander around the canals surrounding the castle and find some of the best angles. If you have enough time, visiting the castle will take you a couple of hours.
Location: Nijō Castle
Toji is one of the lesser-known Kyoto Instagram spots and I absolutely loved it, so I can safely say it is a true gem of Kyoto. The main attraction is the tall wooden pagoda, but there is so much more to see.
The water pond in front of the pagoda creates a picture-perfect setting and is one of the best places where to take photos in Kyoto. There are few tour groups around, but they make a quick stop at the Toji, which means that you can take photos any time of the time.
As I mentioned earlier, we visited Toji when we rented a kimono and it was the best decision. We could take photos with our tripod without bothering anyone else.
It is open from 8 am to 5 pm and the entrance fee is 500 JPY.
Looking for the best views in Kyoto? Then Kiyomizu-Dera Temple is the perfect solution for your Kyoto photography. One of the most impressive features of Kiyomizu-Dera Temple is its Main Hall, which was built in the 17th century and is designated as a National Treasure of Japan.
The Main Hall features a large veranda that juts out from the cliff, offering stunning views of Kyoto and the surrounding mountains. I have to warn you that this is one of the famous Kyoto Instagram spots, so it is packed all day long. If you can make it for sunrise, it is the best time to visit Kiyomizu-Dera Temple.
It is open daily from 6 am to 6 pm; closing time is extended to 6:30 pm on certain days during the summer, and until 9 pm during the night illumination. The admission fee is 400 JPY.
Location: Kiyomizu-Dera Temple
Bonus! Best Kyoto cherry blossom spots
- Keiryu Bridge
- Shimbashi Street
- Keage Incline
- Philosopher’s Path
- Kiyomizu-Dera Temple
- Kawazu-Zakura Cherry Trees in Yodo
- Jikkokubune Canal Cruise
- Yawaragi no Michi
- Kyoto Botanical Garden
- Sagano Sight-Seeing Tram
- Maruyama Park
Recommended gear for photography spots in Kyoto
- Nikon D850 FX-Format Digital SLR
- Nikon Nikkor AF-S 14-24 mm f/2.8G ED
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G
- Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D
- Tamron SP 70 – 200 mm f/2.8 di VC G2
Further reading for the best photo spots in Kyoto
Travel tips for Osaka:
- 15 Best Photo Spots in Osaka That You Can’t Miss
- Osaka Itinerary: How to Spend 3 Days in Osaka
- 10 Best Food Tours in Osaka for Foodies
- How to Plan a Day Trip to Himeji: Travel Tips and Things to Know Before Visiting
Travel tips for Tokyo:
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
This is the end of the best photo spots in Kyoto and I’m sure that after reading this article you are impatient to get to Kyoto and create some unforgettable postcards. I believe these photography tips will help you take epic photos and find the locations of the best photo spots in Kyoto.
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.