Wondering how to plan a day trip to Nara? This is where I step in! I will help you plan your one day Nara itinerary and share a lot of useful tips to make your trip fun, easy-going yet filled with the best attractions of Nara.
Nara is the former capital of Japan and a popular tourist destination visiting the Kansai area. It is famous for its resident population of free-roaming deers, which are considered to be sacred and protected by the local government. Considering that it is easily accessible by train from nearby cities such as Kyoto and Osaka, makes it a perfect day trip option.
In this Nara travel guide, I will share useful travel tips for visiting Nara and put together a one-day itinerary so you can maximize your time and see the essentials of this charming town.
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Is Nara worth visiting?
One of the main attractions of Nara is Nara Park, which is home to over 1,000 wild Sika deer that roam freely throughout the park. Visitors can feed and interact with the deer, making for a unique and memorable experience.
Another popular attraction in Nara is Todai-ji, a Buddhist temple complex that houses the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana. The temple complex is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it features many other impressive buildings and sculptures.
Additionally, Nara has many other temples, shrines, and museums that offer a glimpse into Japan’s rich cultural and historical heritage. Honestly, there was so much to see in Nara that I just didn’t want to leave.
So yes, Nara is certainly worth visiting and should be added to your Japan itinerary. Now, let’s discover what to do in Nara for one day.
How to get to Nara?
Best Passes for your day trip to Nara
Nara is easily accessible from many major cities in Japan, including Kyoto and Osaka. This is another reason why you should make a day trip to Nara and see this unique place. Here are the best ways to get to Nara.
Nara is well-connected to the rest of Japan by train. From Kyoto, you can take the JR Nara Line or the Kintetsu Kyoto Line to Nara Station. From Osaka, you can take the JR Yamatoji Line or the Kintetsu Nara Line to Nara Station. The journey takes around 40-50 minutes from both cities.
There are also direct bus services from Kyoto and Osaka to Nara. From Kyoto, you can take the Keihan Bus or the Kintetsu Bus to Nara. From Osaka, you can take the Kintetsu Bus or the Nankai Bus to Nara. The journey takes around 1-1.5 hours depending on the traffic.
How to get around Nara in a day?
Walking is the best way to explore Nara and this one day Nara itinerary can be easily covered on foot. Another popular way to get around Nara is by bicycle. There are many rental shops throughout the city that offer bikes for rent at reasonable prices. Cycling is a great way to explore the city’s attractions while enjoying the beautiful scenery. A taxi is always an option, in case you get tired, but that can be pricey.
In short, how to visit Nara in one day? Bring your walking shoes or rent a bicycle.
Where to find deer in Nara?
If this is your first time visiting Nara, I believe you might be wondering where to find deer in Nara. And the answer is – everywhere around Nara Park and its surroundings. However, they can freely roam around the city. I know it might seem weird, but that is the reality of Nara.
From what I have seen, they tend to stay away from big streets and gather in the green areas of the city. And if you follow this one day Nara itinerary, you will meet a lot of deers on your way.
Best things to do in Nara in one day
Nakatanidou is hands down the most famous mochi shop in the city and a must during your day trip to Nara. It is 10 minutes walk away from the train station and can be easily added to your itinerary.
You might be wondering what makes it so special. Well, the mochi pounding show happening right in front of your eyes is one of the coolest experiences in Nara. And it is completely free, however, you are more than welcome to purchase some of their delicious mochi.
The show takes place several times a day – every 15 minutes during the peak season and every 30 minutes during the low season – but you can always ask when is the next show. During the show, skilled mochi makers pound the rice with the kine while shouting in unison to create a rhythmic and entertaining performance.
The shop is open from 10 am to 7 pm, so you can either make it your first or last stop of the day. But if you are arriving around 10 am, you should certainly start your day with some freshly made mochi to kill hunger.
After the show, it is time to see your first tourist attraction in Nara and visit Kofukuji Temple. Your day trip to Nara will multiple important temples and Kofukuji Temple can’t be excluded.
Kofukuji Temple was founded in 669 by the powerful Fujiwara clan and it is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The temple was constructed in a blend of Chinese and Japanese architectural styles, and they are adorned with beautiful artwork, including Buddhist statues and paintings.
The temple complex includes several buildings and structures, including the Central Golden Hall (Chu-kondo), the Eastern Golden Hall (To-kondo), the Northern Octagonal Hall (Hoku-endo), and the Five-Storied Pagoda (Goju-no-to). You want to make sure you see it all and capture some photos on your way. Especially the massive pagoda.
The temple grounds are free to enter and open 24 hours a day. The National Treasure Museum requires a 600 yen entrance fee and the Eastern Golden Hall is 300 yen. Or you can get the combined ticket for 800 yen. These places are open from 9 am to 5 pm.
Make friends with locals
This ultimate Nara in a one-day itinerary wouldn’t be complete without meeting the locals and making some new friends. And yes, I am talking about the deer. The official residents of Nara and one of the highlights of your trip.
Early in the morning, there are a few deers around Kofukuji Temple, however, you will see more of them as you get closer to your next attraction.
Nara visitors can interact with the deer by feeding them special deer crackers, which are sold at several locations throughout the city. The deer are quite friendly and accustomed to human presence, and they often approach visitors in search of food.
During your day trip to Nara, you will be surrounded by deers, but it is important to make friends early in the morning. Also, I don’t think I need to point it out, but please respect animals otherwise you will end up hurt.
Todai-ji Temple is probably the most popular attraction and one of the things to see in Nara in one day. It is another UNESCO World Heritage Site and it was founded in 728 by Emperor Shomu.
The Daibutsuden is the temple’s main hall and one of the largest wooden buildings in the world. It houses a massive bronze statue of Buddha, known as the Daibutsu, which stands 15 meters tall and weighs over 500 tons. The temple complex also includes several other buildings and structures, including the Nigatsu-do Hall and the Hokke-do Hall.
Nandaimon Gate is another important part of the temple that you will spot on your way to the Daibutsuden. This is where you will meet a lot of deers and the brave ones won’t hold back to ask you for food, so leave some crackers for everyone.
While you can roam around the temple for free, visiting the main part will cost you 500 yen. The Todaiji Temple is open from 7.30 am to 5.30 pm from April to October, and from 8 am to 4.30 pm from November to March.
Visiting Nara Park is one of the best things to do in Nara for one day. The park is massive and can take you more than a couple of hours to explore. Especially if you are planning to feed deer and take some photos. This is also a great activity for families with kids.
Nara Park is also a popular spot for cherry blossom viewing in the spring, when the park’s thousands of cherry trees burst into bloom, creating a stunning display of pink and white flowers.
One day in Nara itinerary must include Nara Park and this is where you will spend a lot of your time considering that it is a highlight of Nara.
If you still have some energy and time left, add Ukimido to your one day Nara itinerary. Ukimido, also known as the “Floating Temple,” is a small temple located on a tiny island in the middle of a pond in the eastern part of Nara Park in Japan.
The unique feature of Ukimido is that it appears to be floating on the surface of the pond due to its reflection in the water. The temple is surrounded by a beautiful landscape of trees and water, making it a popular spot for photography. And it gets particularly beautiful during fall foliage.
Naramachi is the historical district of Nara and most of the time it is often left behind. You might touch it as you walk from the train station to the mochi shop, but there is more to see, including the Gango-ji Temple and Naramachi Koshinoie (Grid House).
The narrow streets of Naramachi are lined with traditional wooden houses, many of which have been converted into shops, cafes, and museums. This is the perfect place to buy some souvenirs or grab a bite at the Gyokuro Sushi.
Higashimuki Shopping Street
Your one day in Nara ends with Higashimuki Shopping Street as it is just around the corner from Naramachi. Depending on your arrival time, you can also visit this in the morning if the shops are already open.
The shopping street is home to over 70 shops, offering a wide range of goods such as clothing, accessories, souvenirs, and traditional Japanese crafts. Many of the shops specialize in local Nara products, such as deer antler goods and sake from local breweries.
Where to eat in Nara?
Depending on your own speed, you will need to eat sooner or later, so here are some recommendations for the best restaurants in Nara.
- 月日星 お漬物バイキングと茶粥、炊きたてご飯 – offers an exceptional pickle buffet and it is located between Kofukuji Temple and Todai-ji Temple. Simplicity at its best!
- Tonkatsu Ganko Nara at the Higashimuki Shopping Street serves the best tonkatsu in Nara.
- Gyokuro Sushi in Naramachi is one of the best dining options in the historical part of Nara for sushi and sashimi lover.
- Karamell is a perfect solution to satisfy your sweet tooth and enjoy the traditional Japanese cafe.
Further reading for one day Nara itinerary
Travel tips for Kyoto:
- 25 Best Photo Spots in Kyoto That You Must Visit
- How to Rent a Kimono in Kyoto: Detailed Process with Prices
- Complete Kyoto Itinerary: How to Spend 3 Days in Kyoto
- 18 Best Free Things to Do in Kyoto + Kyoto Budget Tips
- 13 Best Ryokan in Kyoto with Private Onsen That Will Blow Your Mind
- Where to stay in Kyoto? Hotel Review of Mimaru Kyoto Nijo Castle
- 15 Best Places to Photograph Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto
Travel tips for Osaka:
- 15 Best Photo Spots in Osaka That You Can’t Miss
- 12 Best Ryokans in Osaka with a Private Onsen
- 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:
- 13 Best Tokyo Tours: Fun and Unique Experiences in Tokyo
- 13 Incredible Hotels With Tokyo Tower View In Tokyo
- 15 Epic Hotels with a Mount Fuji View in 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
This is the end of your Nara one-day itinerary and if you were wondering what to do in Nara for one day, I bet I have cleared up all your doubts. I am sure you will have a wonderful time visiting all these beautiful places in Nara.
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.