The Navigatio | Travel Tips & Guides & UK Expat Life
Hi! I'm Nele (Nayla), a recent English & Creative Writing Graduate. I am a full-time travel blogger based in Manchester. Lover of coffee, games, books and sharing my tips and tricks for affordable travel!
Kyoto is one of the most recommended cities to visit in Japan. It’s known for its more traditional districts where Geishas entertain people till this day, its beautiful shrines and temples and a stunning bamboo forest. Kyoto has countless things to offer, which makes it difficult to pick and choose when you’re on a tight time schedule. This 2 day Kyoto itinerary takes you to the best of the city in under 48 hours.
Kyoto is a perfect representation of Japan as a country: a busy high-tech metropolitan city filled with ancient shrines and temples. It’s the relationship between old and new that Kyoto fully embraces. Kyoto shows the fine line between these two polar opposites like you can find in the rest of the country.
Once the capital of Japan, Kyoto is now the capital of Kyoto Prefecture. With a population of 1.5 million, Kyoto is also one of the 10 largest cities in the world.
Kyoto has some of Japan’s most beautiful shrines and temples
2 Day Kyoto Itinerary
If you only have two days to visit this beautiful city, you have to pick and choose. You can’t see everything Kyoto has to offer, but you can definitely see some of the most worthwhile highlights. This two-day itinerary helps you see the best of Kyoto in a timely manner.
Day 1: Fushimi Inari Taisha and Higashiyama/Gion
Are two days really too short to visit Kyoto? I don’t think so! You just have to plan it properly. But don’t worry, I’ve got your back. On the first day, we are exploring the 1000 gate shrine (Fushimi Inari), the ancient Geisha districts and Central Kyoto.
7 AM Fushimi Inari Taisha
In the south of Kyoto, you can find Fushimi Inari Taisha. The shrine is known for its thousands of vermilion torii gates that lead you through the magical forest of Mount Inari. Fushimi Inari’s history dates back to 711 and is dedicated to the Shinto god of rice, named Inari.
Opening hours: Fushimi Inari Taisha is always open for visitors. 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Entrance fee: There is no entrance fee at Fushimi Inari. Best times to visit: To avoid the crowds, it’s better to visit early in the morning or later at night. More information?: Find more in-depth information about this shrine in my Fushimi Inari Guide.
Go early to avoid the crowd!
Due to the shrine’s popularity, it does get very crowded. To avoid this, I’d recommend going either early in the morning or later at night. If you go early in the morning, try to get there before 8 AM. This gives you the chance to take some photos without being photobombed by tourists and hike up the mountain without having to queue.
The full 4km hike up Mount Inari takes about 2-3 hours. You can enjoy a beautiful view over Kyoto from Yotsutsuji Intersection, which you will reach 30-40 minutes into the climb. If you are visiting during the summer months, make sure to bring enough water! There are shops and vending machines along the way, but these get more expensive the higher you climb.
1000 of beautiful shrines lead you up to the summit of Mount Inari
After returning from your hike, you can grab a snack or some lunch at the local market that’s located right outside the entrance of Fushimi Inari. Local food vendors set up market stalls selling anything from freshly made mochi to yakitori sticks.
After visiting Fushimi Inari Taisha, you can take the train from Inari Station to Kiyomizu-Gojo Station. This will take approximately 15 minutes and will cost ¥270.
1 PM Walking Route Through Higashiyama and Gion
In the afternoon of the first day in Kyoto, we are going to explore Kyoto’s best preserved historic districts: Higashiyama and Gion.
Walking through Higashiyama feels like you’ve been transported back in time. This is what I imagined ancient Kyoto to be like. Small wooden shops are lining the narrow streets, selling traditional sweets and souvenirs. Higashiyama is filled with beautiful shrines and temples to visit, too.
Higashiyama district in Kyoto – stepping back in time
Gion is located next to Higashiyama and is mainly known for its Geishas. In Gion, you can find shops, restaurants and traditional ochayas (teahouses) where Geishas and Maiko entertain guests till this day.
Free Walking Tour Route
This walking tour takes you to the highlights in these two beautiful districts. Feel free to adjust the route to your wishes, or when you come across something that catches your attention. Here are some of the highlights of the walking route through Higashiyama and Gion.
Higashiyama is busy but definitely worth a visit while in Kyoto
The walking route starts at Kiyomizu-Dera. The most famous part of this temple is its wooden stage, which stands 13 meters above the hillside. You can find many other temples and shrines on the temple grounds of Kiyomizu-Dera. These include Koyasu Pagoda and Jishu Shrine.
Note: The main hall of Kiyomizu-Dera is currently under construction. From February 2017 until March 2020, the hall will be covered for renovations.
Opening hours: 6 AM till 6 PM Entrance fee: ¥400
A beautiful view over Kyoto from Kiyomizu-Dera temple grounds
Koyasu Pagoda and the entrance of Kiyomizu-Dera temple grounds
Kodaiji Temple was built in 1606 in memory of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Visitors can enjoy the zen gardens, temple halls and a bamboo grove that are part of the temple.
Opening hours: 9 AM till 5:30 PM Entrance fee: ¥600
Both Higashiyama and Gion are filled with the most beautiful shrines and temples
Yasaka Pagoda (Hokanji Temple)
If you have seen photos of Higashiyama, you have most likely seen the Yasaka Pagoda. This iconic pagoda looks out over the district and adds so much character to the historic streets.
Opening hours: 10 AM till 4 PM (open irregularly) Entrance fee: ¥400
Paying our respects at one of the many shrines in Gion
The walking route ends in the Shirakawa part of Gion’s district. The street is located next to This scenic part of Gion is much quieter compared to the main Hanami-koji street. If you’re lucky, you might get a glimpse of one of Gion’s Geishas and Maikos.
Hanami-koji street in Gion
7 PM Dinner and drinks near Pontocho Alley
Near the end of the Higashiyama and Gion walking route, you can find Pontocho Alley. Crowned “the most beautiful street in Kyoto“, this street is filled with elite restaurants and clubs. Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to get in without the right Japanese connections, but it’s a perfect place to spot some Maiko and Geishas at night. I’d recommend grabbing some dinner near Pontocho Alley and then wander down the street yourself.
Day 2: Kinkaku-ji and Arashiyama (Bamboo Grove and Monkey Park)
On the second day of this two day Kyoto trip, we head over to the golden pavilion and Arashiyama. In Arashiyama, we will find the famous bamboo grove and Iwatayama Monkey Park alongside many temples, shrines and shops.
9 AM Kinkaku-ji temple
Kinkaku-ji (also known as the Golden Pavilion) is one of the 17 World Heritage Sights you can find in Kyoto. Famous for having its two top floors covered in real gold, this beautiful zen temple is one of Kyoto’s must-sees.
Opening hours: Kinkaku-ji is open from 9 AM till 5 PM every day of the year. Entrance fee: Kinkaku-ji has a small entree fee, which is used to keep everything look nice and tidy. It costs ¥400 for adults, ¥300 for children. If you are visiting with a larger group, you may be able to get a small discount. Best times to visit: As this temple is a popular sight in Kyoto, it tends to get pretty busy. To avoid the crowd, it’s best to visit as soon as it opens or later in the afternoon. More information?: Find more in-depth information about the golden pavilion in my Kinkaku-ji guide.
Kinkaku-ji, one of the 17 World Heritage Sights of Kyoto
From Kyoto Station, you can take bus number 101 or 205 for ¥230 which will get you to Kinkaku-Ji in about 45 minutes. Alternatively, you can take a taxi which will be a lot quicker, but also more expensive. You can also take the train to Kitanohakubaicho Station and walk to the golden pavilion from there.
After entering the temple grounds of Kinkaku-ji, you will find the golden temple looking out over the lake. Even if it’s busy, you still get the opportunity to take the iconic shot of the temple if you move closer to the fence. The path then guides you around the pavilion, into the Japanese zen gardens that surround Kinkaku-ji. The entire visit takes around 1-2 hours.
12 PM Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
After visiting Kinkaku-ji, it’s time to head over to Arashiyama. This district is pretty touristy but it’s home to the famous Bamboo Grove. This bamboo grove is the first highlight we will visit in Arashiyama.
Opening hours: The Bamboo Grove is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Entrance fee: Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is free to visit. Best times to visit: This is another popular tourist attraction in Kyoto, which means it gets pretty busy. If you want to avoid the crowds, I’d recommend going early in the morning. But for this itinerary, we only have 2 mornings, so we visited the Bamboo Grove in the afternoon.
Arashiyama bamboo grove is one of the most photographed places in Kyoto, alongside Fushimi Inari and Kinkaku-ji. From Arashiyama Station, it’s a 15-minute walk before you stand amidst the tall bamboo shoots. Even though it might get a little busy, it still feels peaceful. The wind sways the large bamboo trees and it really feels like you’re in a different world for a second.
2 PM Arashiyama Iwatayama Monkey Park
From the Bamboo Grove, you can walk through the main street of Arashiyama to get to Iwatayama Monkey Park. From the Bamboo Grove, it takes about 15 minutes to walk to the Monkey Park. Along the way, you will cross the famous Togetsukyo Bridge.
Opening hours: Iwatayama Monkey Park in Arashiyama is open from 9 AM till 4:30 PM. Entrance fee: It cost ¥550 to visit Iwatayama Monkey Park. You can also buy some fruit and peanuts to feed to monkeys inside the park for ¥100 per bag.
The monkeys at Iwatayama Monkey Park
View from Iwatayama Monkey Park in Kyoto
Iwatayama Monkey Park is located on the top of a hill, so prepare for the climb. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the top. The path isn’t too steep and it gives you some of the most beautiful views over the area, especially during cherry blossom season and during autumn.
Once you’ve reached the top, you can find the monkeys. Around 120 monkeys roam around the top of the hill, posing for peoples holiday photos and being well looked after. Yes, they are indeed the same breed of monkeys that you can find on the iconic photos, where the monkeys are bathing in hot springs during the winter.
Signs warn you to not look them in the eye, as they can get a bit aggressive. You can, however, feed the monkeys. And it’s completely safe! Walk into the building, buy yourself a bag of apples, bananas or peanuts (¥100 per bag) and feed the monkeys through the fence. It’s funny to see how in this park the humans are caged in while the monkeys walk around freely!
Feeding the monkeys!
This park is completely animal-friendly. Even though the monkeys are fed by humans, they are still wild and are free to go wherever they please. The workers at the park make sure the monkeys are safe and well looked after.
4 PM Explore more of Arashiyama
Arashiyama is known to be a tourist magnet. You can definitely feel the crazy contrast between the peaceful bamboo grove and the main shopping street in Arashiyama. It’s busy, very touristy and can get a little chaotic. Despite all that, it’s fun to explore it a bit more! The main shopping street has many food stands and places to look at souvenirs.
Arashiyama is also home to many shrines and temples that are worth exploring. Temples as Tenryuji Temple, Daikakuji Temple and Nisonin Temple are found in this district and are definitely worth a visit if you have the time. Please note that most temples close around 4:30 PM / 5 PM, so if you want to have a look inside, make sure to plan it into your itinerary appropriately.
Then there is the Togetsukyo Bridge, a famous landmark in the Arashiyama district. Togetsukyo means “Moon Crossing” and the beautiful surroundings make the bridge seem even more magical. You have to cross this bridge to get to the Monkey Park – so make sure to take some photos!
Crossing the famous Togetsukyo Bridge in Arashiyama
7 PM Dinner in Central Kyoto and Kyoto Tower
In the evening, we take the train back to Central Kyoto for dinner. Kyoto is filled with the most amazing restaurants and eateries. We chose a little ramen restaurant located near the train station.
After dinner, you can check out Kyoto Tower. Even though this tower isn’t as famous as Tokyo Tower, it still offers a beautiful view of the city – especially at night. A viewing platform is located at 100meters and gives you a 360 view of Kyoto. On clear days, you can see as far as Osaka.
Opening times Kyoto Tower: You can visit Kyoto Tower every day from 9 AM till 9 PM (the last entree is at 8:40 PM). Entrance Fee Kyoto Tower: ¥770
How to get to Kyoto?
Being one of the biggest and most popular cities in Japan, Kyoto is easy to reach by using public transport. Don’t worry if you don’t speak Japanese, trains are very easy to navigate in Japan. When visiting Japan, you usually fly to either Tokyo or Osaka. From there, you can make your way to Kyoto…
Tokyo to Kyoto
If you start your Japan journey in Tokyo and want to visit Kyoto, you need to travel on the Shinkansen (bullet train). From Tokyo, it costs around £104 for a single ticket to Kyoto. The bullet train will get you to Kyoto in 2 hours and 20 minutes. One way to save money on train costs is to get a Japan Rail Pass. For more information about this pass and to find out whether if it will benefit your trip, check out my JR Pass Guide.
The Japan Rail Pass – a perfect way to save some money on your Japan trip
Osaka to Kyoto
Kyoto is located close to Osaka, which makes travelling there nice and easy. Use the JR Kyoto Line to get from Osaka to Kyoto in 23 minutes. This journey will cost you ¥560. Alternatively, you can use the bullet train from Shin-Osaka Station to reach Kyoto in as little as 13 minutes for ¥1420. Once again, getting a JR Pass may benefit your trip in order to save some money. For more information, check out my JR Pass Guide.
Where to stay in Kyoto
Ryokans vs Hotels
When travelling through Japan, you might want to stay in a more Japanese-styled hotel (also known as Ryokan). The main difference between a ryokan and a hotel is that you sleep on a Japanese futon in a tatami room rather than in a more western-styled bed and hotel room. Due to Kyoto’s traditional atmosphere, it is probably the best city for staying in a ryokan. Ryokans are a bit more expensive compared to hotels, but the experience itself adds a lot of value to your holiday. It’s something you might want to consider before booking any accommodation. Note: If you book through booking.com, you can select a “ryokan” option in your search preferences.
If you are visiting Kyoto for only two days, it’s best to stay in a hotel close to the city centre. This allows you to get the train from Kyoto Station to any of Kyoto’s districts and it avoids having to carry your suitcases on the local trains to different parts of the city.
During our trip to Kyoto, we stayed in South Kyoto. Mainly because we planned on visiting Fushimi Inari early in the morning, which made us decide to book a hotel close to the shrine. We stayed in Urban Hotel Kyoto, a budget hotel in a quiet area of Kyoto. The hotel is within walking distance from Fushimi Inari Taisha and Inari Station. A bakery is located right outside the hotel, selling freshly baked buns for ¥100, saving you some money on breakfast. You can easily get to Kyoto Central Station from Inari Station in 5 minutes.
Best time to visit Kyoto
You can visit Kyoto any month and have a wonderful time, but some parts of the year that are better fitted for a city trip. Both spring (March-May) and autumn (October-November) are the best times to visit Kyoto. During these months, the weather is mild and temperatures are perfect for walking around. Summer in Kyoto is usually hot and humid, while Kyoto winters are very cold.
During spring, you are able to catch the famous Sakura cherry blossoms. Please note that Kyoto is usually very crowded during cherry blossom season, as many tourists and locals visit Kyoto to see..
When travelling through Japan, Nara should definitely be on your to-visit list. As it’s one of Japan’s famous day-trips and closely located to both Kyoto and Osaka, it would be a shame to miss it. Famous for its hundreds of deers roaming around the city, its beautiful Japanese gardens and many beautiful shrines that date back to when Nara was Japan’s first capital. This Nara itinerary will help you plan a perfect day in this gorgeous little city.
*This Nara itinerary contains affiliate links. This means that when buying/booking anything through these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
How To Get To Nara
Nara is located right close to both Kyoto and Osaka, making it a perfect destination for a day trip. By using the train, you can get to Nara within an hour from both cities.
Kyoto to Nara by Train
If you want to visit Nara while staying in Kyoto, you can use the JR Nara Line or the private Kintetsu Line.
If you are a Japan Rail Pass holder, you can use the JR Nara Line with your JR Pass. From Kyoto, it takes between 40-70 minutes to get to Nara pending on which train you use. You can either use the JR Nara Line Local or the JR Nara Line Rapid Service. If you can get the Rapid Service, I’d highly recommend it, as it is 25 minutes quicker. For those who do not hold a JR Pass, this trip will cost you ¥710.
If you don’t hold a JR Pass, you can also choose to use the private Kintetsu Line to get to Nara from Kyoto. This train journey will cost you ¥620 and will get you to Kintetsu-Nara station within 35 minutes. Reasons to pick this line over the JR line is because it’s much quicker, it’s cheaper (if you do not use a JR Pass) and Kintetsu-Nara is located more centrally compared to JR Nara Station.
For accurate times and prices for Kyoto – Nara trains, please checkHyperDia.
Osaka to Nara by Train
Visiting Nara for a day trip from Osaka is also possible. Two train lines connect Osaka with Nara: The JR Yamatoji Line and the Kintetsu Nara Line.
If you are using a JR Pass to travel to Nara, you can use the JR Yamatoji Line. From Osaka Station, it takes about 50 minutes when using the JR Yamatoji Rapid Services. If you do not hold a JR Pass, this trip will cost ¥800. Are you travelling from JR-Namba Station in Osaka? Then you can get the local train to Shinimamiya Station for ¥150 and then continue your journey on the JR Yamatoji Line to Nara with your JR Pass.
If you are not using a JR Pass, you can use the Kintetsu-Nara Line to get to Nara. From Osaka-Namba Station, you can get the Kintetsu Line to Kintetsu-Nara for ¥560. This train will get you to Nara in 38 minutes. Reasons to pick the Kintetsu-Nara Line over the JR Pass (when you’re not using a JR Pass) is because it’s cheaper, quicker and will get you to a more central point in Nara. Kintetsu-Nara Station is located closer to the Deer Park compared to JR Nara Station.
For accurate times and prices for Osaka – Nara trains, please checkHyperDia.
Nara Itinerary | One Day in Nara
10:00 AM Arrive in Nara
This itinerary starts with arriving in the beautiful city of Nara. Whether you’re travelling from Kyoto, Osaka or some other city, I’d highly recommend to not arrive later than 10 AM. Because it’s only a day-trip, you want to make sure you have enough time to see everything.
If you arrive in Nara at the JR Nara Train Station, walk over to the Tourist Information Centre. It’s located right outside the station and you can pick up a little booklet with information about the deer park, the shrines and temples. Inside the tourist information centre, you can also find a Starbucks. Grab a coffee and you’re ready to start exploring Nara!
Wearing all black on such a sunny day was A MISTAKE!!!
11:00 AM Visit Kohfukuji Temple
After walking through some beautiful little streets that really make you feel like you’ve been transported back in time, you will arrive at Kohfukuji Temple.
The temple features multiple buildings, all with their own history and stories. The five-storied pagoda is one that stands out from the crowd immediately.
Then there is the main temple, Central Golden Hall. 300 years ago, a fire destroyed most of this temple, but it has been reconstructed it to its original size. It opened to the public in October 2018.
Moving towards the side, you can find the Southern Octagonal Halls. These buildings date back to over a thousand years. I could barely grasp the age of these incredible temples and other buildings. It is so amazing that we got to stand next to them in person.
12:30 PM Explore Nara Deer Park
Nara Deer Park is probably what Nara is most famous for. 1200 deer roam around freely throughout the park, posing for tourist’s Instagram stories and begging them for some sweet deer crackers. Yes, you can buy a pack of crackers for ¥100- ¥150. Make sure to not feed them anything else – you wouldn’t want them to get sick!
There are stands all across the park that sell the crackers.
You might be aware of how bowing in Japan is a form of showing respect. A funny fact to keep in mind while visiting Nara Park is that the deer actually bow back when you bow for them. We tried it a few times, and indeed! The deer bowed back!
3:00 PM Visit Todai-ji Temple
We then moved on to Nara’s prime, Todai-ji Temple. It is one of Japan’s most famous temples according to Japan-Guide.Com. And with good reason. The Todai-ji Temple was build back in 752 and its main hall (the Daibutsuden) is the world’s largest wooden building.
Entree of Todai-ji
It is almost impossible to grasp the size of the Daibutsuden. This building is massive, and to know that it is fully made out of wood is incredibly. At first, we thought the entrance of Todai-ji was the largest wooden structure in the world and we were already impressed by its size. Only to realise that the actual Daibutsuden was located a little further – it blew our minds!
To enter the building, you pay an entree fee of ¥600 for the museum or ¥1000 for the museum and the hall. Inside the hall, you can witness Japan’s largest Buddha statue in bronze.
The world’s largest wooden structure: Daibutsuden
4:30 PM Walk back towards the station, visiting shops along the way
After visiting Todai-ji, we slowly started making our way back to the entrance of the park. There are many shops to nose around in and get a few souvenirs from. I find it so important to support the local communities while travelling, especially the lovely people who own their shops in places like Nara.
6:00 PM Dinner
When arriving back onto Noborioji street, on which we entered the deer park earlier that day, we had a look around for a place to have dinner. There are tons of restaurants to choose from, and we ended up going to the CoCo Curry Ichibanya. We were kinda obsessed with that place when we travelled through Japan. Best Japanese curry I’ve ever had!
7:00 PM Take the train back to Osaka/Kyoto
Because most sights close quite early in Nara, we took the train back to Osaka after dinner. We then still had time to either go to an arcade for the evening or grab a couple of drinks in a bar near the hotel.
Kofukuji’s main temple: The Central Golden Hall
Nara Travel Essentials
Hotel in Kyoto / Osaka: Because Nara is quite close to both Osaka and Kyoto, it’s a good idea to make a day-trip to Nara while staying in either Osaka or Kyoto. This way you’ll avoid having to carry your suitcases to Nara for a short stay, having to wait for the check-in time for the hotel and waste a lot of time. It’s much easier to get on a train in the morning and get a train back in the evening. Especially if you have a JR pass. In Osaka, we stayed at the Sonezaki Luxe Hotel and in Kyoto we stayed at the Kyoto Urban Hotel.
JR rail pass: If you are planning to travel around Japan during your trip, getting a JR rail pass is the perfect way to save a lot of money. Especially if you want to travel between Tokyo and Kyoto (or Osaka), I’d 100% recommend you to get a pass! To find out if a JR Pass if worth the money for your itinerary, please check my JR Pass blog. If you buy yours through this link, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you (I’d very much appreciate it if you enjoyed reading this blog!). Get your JR pass here.
Pocket WiFi: This ain’t just handy for Nara, but for your entire Japan trip. Pocket WiFi is a must. This little device connects you to the internet wherever you are and barely takes up any space. We got ours from Japan Wireless (16 full days for just over £60).
Cash: You might have read it in other Japan guides, but here’s your daily reminder: Japan is a very cash-based country! Even though many shops do accept credit and debit cards, you want some cash in Nara. This is because the entree fee for temples and shrines usually has to be paid in cash and so are the deer crackers.
In the north of Kyoto stands a beautiful Zen temple covered in gold leaf. This temple goes under many different names including Kinkaku (meaning golden pavilion), Rokuon-ji Temple or Kinkaku-ji Temple. It is one of the absolute highlights of Kyoto. One you cannot miss, especially during your first visit to this ancient yet modern city. In this guide, I’m sharing everything you need to know about visiting this beautiful place to make your visit the best it can be.
About Kinkaku / Rokuon-Ji Temple
The golden pavilion is one of the 17 World Heritage Sites you can find in Kyoto. The Zen Buddist temple is a popular tourist attraction, so to avoid disappointment, expect it to be a bit busy. Most notably are the temple’s top two floors, which are completely covered in gold. On top, a beautiful phoenix looks out over the water. And yes, it’s all real gold!
The golden pavilion’s history
Originally, the area hosted a villa named Kitayama-dai. When in 1397, Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu took a liking to the place, he bought it. He then built his own villa, called Kitayama-den. After his death, the villa was turned into a Zen temple as the garden surrounding the temple represent the pure land of Buddha. Over the years, the ancient villa has been burned down multiple times but was always rebuilt. The current pavilion was built in 1955. In 1994, the temple officially became a World Cultural Heritage Site.
Inside the temple
The design of the temple successfully illustrates three important Japanese styles of architecture. The first level is built in the 11-century shinden style. The second level represents the warrior aristocracy in the samurai style. The temple on the top level was built in the Chinese style. Inside the top level, relics of Buddha are kept safe.
Kinkakuji opening hours
The golden pavilion is open every day from 9 AM till 5 AM and is open every day of the year.
Best time to visit Kinkakuji
Because of the popularity of Kinkaku-ji, it is recommended to go as soon as it opens or later in the afternoon. It’s hard to catch the temple without any people standing in the way, but that doesn’t make the temple any less special. Try to get there a few minutes before 9 AM, so you can be one of the first people inside the gates. Or you can choose to go later in the day. If you’re planning on going later in the day, I’d recommend not to arrive any later than 4 PM. This gives you an hour to see the temple and its gardens.
You are still able to get some good photographs of the temple, even when it’s crowded. The fence that keeps people from the lake is a perfect place to avoid any other tourists photo-bombing your snapshots.
Kinkakuji Entree Fee
Kinkaku-ji has a small entree fee, which is used to keep everything look nice and tidy. It costs ¥400 for adults, ¥300 for children. You can get some discounts if you’re visiting with a larger group.
Entree tickets to Kinkaku-ji
How long do you spend at Kinkakuji
When visiting Kinkaku-ji, you get to see the golden pavilion and you get to walk through the beautiful zen garden of the villa. It took us about an hour to take photos of the pavilion, walk through the garden and spend some time at some of the shops and temples at the end of the route.
Please note that you can’t actually visit inside the temple. The path guides you along the lakeside on which Kinkaku-ji has been built.
How to get to the golden pavilion
Kyoto’s golden pavilion is located quite far from the city centre. You can get there by bus or by train. From Kyoto Station, you can get bus number 101 or 205 for ¥230 and you will get to Kinkaku-Ji in about 45 minutes. Please note that busses can get crowded during the day, especially on weekends.
We took the train to get to Kinkaku-Ji. From Kyoto Station, we took the train to Kitanohakubaicho. From there, it is about 10 minutes on foot to get to the golden Zen temple. What I liked about this route, is that you get to walk through some lovely neighbourhoods and it allows you to look into the less touristy side of Kyoto. For accurate train times, you can use Hyperdia’s website or app.
Alternatively, you can get a taxi from Kyoto station and get to Kinkaku-Ji in less than 15 minutes. This is, however, way more expensive.
It really helped that we had our pocket wifi with us. With Google Maps, we were able to easily navigate through Kyoto’s streets to get to the entrance of Kinkaku-Ji.
Where to stay when visiting Kyoto
Because Kinkaku-Ji is located quite far from other Kyoto highlights, I wouldn’t recommend staying near the golden pavilion. It would be better to find a hotel in the city centre and use public transport to get to Kinkaku-Ji.
During our trip to Kyoto, we stayed in the budget Urban Hotel Kyoto. It is located near Fushimi Inari Taisha, has a train station you can reach by foot in 5 minutes and is very affordable. Nex to the hotel, you will find a bakery that sells fresh buns for ¥100, saving you some money on the hotel breakfast!
Japan is known for many things. Sushi, sumo wrestling, calligraphy, karaoke and of course, kimonos. These beautiful and iconic robes come in countless eye-catching colours and patterns. What if I tell you, you can wear one when you’re in Japan! And renting a kimono isn’t even that expensive. When we travelled through Japan for two weeks, we rented a kimono for the day in Kyoto. Today, I’m sharing my experience and some tips in case you ever want to do the same thing.
What is a kimono?
The kimono is probably one of Japan’s most famous products. The word “kimono” is literally translated to “something to wear“. Traditionally, these beautiful robes were hand sown into the classic T-shape. Made of silk fabric, the kimonos were dyed with stunning colours and embroidered with symbols and pattern to match the owner’s personality.
These iconic pieces of fashion are worn at ankle length and the long sleeves fall against the wearer’s hips (or even to the ground, depending on the type of kimono). Kimonos are tied with a sash called Obi. The Obi is tied into a knot at the back, keeping the kimono tightly together.
When do the Japanese wear kimono?
Kimono used to be the general form of clothing worn by the Japanese. This started to change during the Meiji Era (1868-1912). Japan saw influences from western fashion like suits and dresses and started to implement these into their own culture. The kimono is now worn during more special occasions such as weddings, graduation ceremonies and festivals.
What types of kimono are there?
There are quite a few different types of kimono out there. It all depends on the style, the colour, the fabric and pattern. The most common types of kimono that are hired out are regular Kimonos and Yakuta.
We rented regular kimonos as we traveled to Kyoto in November
Yakuta are casual kimonos made from light, cotton fabric and are a lot easier to move around in due to their lighter weight. They’re perfect for warmer months. If you’re planning to do a lot of walking while wearing your kimono, a yakuta might be the right option for you. Because this style of kimono is usually only worn in summer, you can only rent them if you visit during the summer months. You can find more information about the differences between a yakuta and kimono in this article.
Where to rent a kimono in Kyoto?
There are countless places to rent kimonos from in Japan. Whether you’re visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka or another city – there will be a place to hire one. It’s quite common for tourists to rent a kimono for the day, you’ll see lots of them walking around. A quick Google search will give you the best prices and most reviewed rentals around you.
We decided to go with a company called Yumeyakata in Kyoto. I was recommended this shop by a friend of mine who visited Japan a couple of years ago. Yumeyakata’s kimono rental is located not far from the ancient geisha districts, Gion and Higashiyama. From Gojo Station, it’s about 3 minutes on foot.
What is the experience like?
I had never worn a kimono before this rental experience and I was a little bit intimidated! But the lovely staff at Yumeyakata made the entire experience super easy and I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all. We arrived at the store at 10 AM and showed our reservation at the desk. One of the staff members then showed us to their kimono collection.
Picking our kimono
The shop has over 500 beautiful kimonos to choose from, plus hundreds of colourful obis and accessories. One of the staff members showed me the aisle I could choose from. Kimono sizes all depend on your height, and because I’m quite tall, I was guided to the 170+cm kimonos. It was definitely a challenge to decide which one I wanted to wear because there were so many to choose from. I wasn’t quite sure what colour obi fitted with the colours of my kimono, but a staff member helped me pick a fitting one.
At Yumeyakata, you are dressed by a professionally qualified kimono dresser. After choosing our kimono and obi, we were guided upstairs. Men and women are dressed on different floors, for privacy reasons.
One of the dressers came up to me and I handed my kimono and obi to her. She didn’t speak English and my basic Japanese was nowhere near good enough to speak with her either. But with some hand gestures and smiles, we got there. She was very patient with me and made sure I was comfortable at all times. I had no idea a kimono had this many layers and parts to it. The folding techniques that were used were incredibly fascinating to look at.
After I was dressed, I was given a little handbag for my phone and other valuable items that I didn’t want to leave at the store. My clothes and backpack were stored safely in the back. I then was send back downstairs, where I got to pick some traditional Japanese socks and sandals to complete to look.
Richard was already waiting downstairs, wearing his kimono and we spent the next two hours walking around the area. The kimonos are definitely not the easiest pieces of clothing to walk around in if you’re not used to them. It was, however, really fun to explore some parts of Kyoto wearing Japan’s traditional clothing. We even got some compliments from people we met during our little walk.
Returning the kimono
Even though we rented the kimonos for the entire day, we only wore them for a couple of hours. Because we had planned to walk through Higashiyama and Gion during the afternoon, and my lacking skill of being able to move properly while wearing kimono, we decided to bring them back right after lunch.
When we returned to the shop, the same lady that dressed me also helped me undress. I was given my clothes back and got dressed in the back of the room.
How long did it take it put on the kimono?
From walking into the rental place until walking out of it wearing a kimono took about an hour. It took roughly 20 minutes to pick the kimono and obi, then another 20 to get dressed and a few more minutes in between everything. It definitely didn’t feel too long or tedious, especially because it was our first time.
After returning the kimono, undressing took a lot less time. In about 5 minutes, they had taken off my kimono and I was able to put on my own clothes again.
How much does it cost to rent a kimono?
It obviously depends on what company you’re renting from, how long you’re renting the kimono for, the type of kimono and what extras you want to purchase. Usually you can find all the prices listed on the website of the company you want to rent from.
We paid ¥5000 (£34 / €38) for two kimonos to rent for a full day, but you can rent kimonos for as cheap as ¥1900 (£13 / €15). It’s worth checking if the shop has any discounts or deals on. We got a ¥1000 discount because we rented two kimonos as part of a couples deal.
What do Japanese people think of foreigners wearing kimonos?
Wearing a kimono as a foreigner is a really unique and fun experience, and after having done it myself, I definitely feel more “connected” to the Japanese culture. One worry I had before booking this experience was what the locals would think of it. I obviously didn’t want to insult anybody or start a conversation online about cultural appropriation. Which is why I’ve done my research!
Of course, I cannot speak for an entire nation or for a culture that I am not a part of, but from what I’ve read on forums about the topic, I’m quite confident to say that the Japanese are very accepting of foreigners wearing kimono. It’s exciting to see foreigners engage appropriately with their culture and appreciate this form of art. While we walked through the streets of Kyoto wearing kimono, a lot of locals smiled at us and were incredibly friendly towards us. No sneers or weird looks, which makes me believe these forums were absolutely right.
Here are the Reddit and Quora threads that gave me a lot of helpful insights on the topic, in case you’d like to read the replies for yourself.
Things to keep in mind
Renting and wearing a kimono wasn’t something we had done before visiting Japan, and there are some things we had to keep in mind! Here are some things that we noticed or found useful when renting our kimonos in Kyoto.
1. Early slots might cost extra
It is common for kimono rental shops to charge extra for early appointments. Usually, if you want to pick an appointment before 10 AM, you will get charged an additional fee. Of course, this means that you get to wear your kimono for longer, but if you’re planning to only wear it for a few hours, it might not be worth it.
2. Don’t take anything more than necessary
Because you’ll only get given a small bag for your phone, purse and other valuables, don’t take anything more than necessary. This is difficult if you’re on a trip through Japan, but keep in mind that you will have to leave everything else at the shop. Of course, they will do their best to keep it safe, but better to be safe than sorry.
3. Use the bathroom before putting on a kimono
Needless to say, going to the bathroom while wearing a kimono ain’t the easiest thing to do. It’s better to avoid it by using the restroom before your appointment at the kimono rental.
4. Wear easy clothes
Plan your outfit accordingly! Make sure you wear something that’s easy to take off and put on. It saves a lot of time and hassle for the dresser and yourself.
5. Be careful with “flipped” selfies!
Kimonos are worn in a very specific way. The collar of the kimono is worn left-over-right. In Japan, the dead are dressed for their funeral in kimonos with a collar worn right-over-left. Because selfie cameras often “flip” the image, please be careful that your kimono doesn’t look like the collar is worn right-over-left!
Travelling with valuable trading cards (like Magic the Gathering or Pokemon) can be a bit stressful. Especially if you’re travelling by plane. You want to make sure they stay safe and don’t get damaged. My boyfriend and I recently travelled from Eindhoven to Manchester with 2000+ Magic The Gathering cards in our carry on suitcase. We learned a thing or two about travelling with trading cards on the way.
Check-in or carry on?
It obviously depends on how many cards you are taking with you. Generally, I’d highly recommend to take them with you in your carry on bags. Check-in luggage is usually handled quite roughly. In the past, some of my items have broken in check-in luggage. You really don’t want to risk that! It’s better to keep your valuables as close as possible. With carry on bags, you can make sure your luggage isn’t being thrown around.
We barely got them closed haha!
Because you will have to get your carry on luggage scanned at the airport, it’s better to take your MTG cards (or other trading cards) out along with your electronics and liquid bag. We travelled with 2000+ cards and we put them in a shoebox. When we put them in one of the baskets to get scanned at the airport security. We simply opened the box for the security guard to see the cards.
One problem trading cards could have while going through airport security is that the X-ray sees closely stacked cards as a big, black blob on the screen. They can’t distinguish it from things that could be harmful. It’s better to take them out and carry them in a seethrough plastic deck box. Make sure to always put your most valuable MTG cards in the middle of your box. It’s just a bit of extra safety. In case you need to verify what they are, you can show the security guard without having to take them out. Especially if your cards are valuable, you wouldn’t want to take them out in a rush to show someone who might not understand the value of them.
We got a plastic seethrough dragonshield box to travel with our more valuable cards.
Even if you’re only carrying a few cards, they can still show up strangely on the X-ray. Especially when they’re sleeved. It’s best to take them out and show the security guards. Tell them they are valuable collectables and ask them to be careful. It’ll save you a lot of hassle.
How to pack your Magic Cards safely?
Packing your Magic Card safely in your backpack or suitcase is incredibly important when travelling by plane. Of course, it’s safer to keep your cards with you in your carry on luggage, but the plane still moves around!
We put our most valuable cards in the middle of the seethrough deck box, to keep them extra safe. The deck box was then placed into the shoebox in which we carried our other (less valuable) cards. We tried to stack a lot of cards into the shoebox so there wouldn’t be any room for unwanted movement once we closed our suitcase.
As you can see, we put the shoebox at the top of the suitcase. We put soft clothes at the bottom so they would work as shock resistance when moving the suitcase around.
If you have a deckbox that isn’t completely full, grab some bulk to fill the box. You want to make sure the cards can’t wiggle around in the box. It’s better to fill it up, so there’s no room for movement. If you don’t have any bulk, fill it with something like a flannel or toilet paper.
During our trip in the Netherlands, we were given these second hand folders for our MTG collection. We filled them up with some clothes and put them on top of the shoebox. It just provided a little more safety for the shoebox and it filled up our suitcase so nothing could move around and get damaged.
Extra safety while flying with MTG cards
If you’re worried about the airport security, you might want to consider buying fast track check-in. Some airports have a special place for fast track security. There is usually a bit more space and you don’t feel rushed by a massive queue behind you. It’s just a bit less stressful.
Don’t pack your deck boxes in the bottom of your suitcase/backpack. Make them easily accessible to be pulled out at the security check. Treat it like an electronic device. Take it out at security and show one of the security guards this is an item that needs to be checked separately.
Found a good Magic shop in Eindhoven during our trip.
Always tell the security guards that these cards are valuable and ask them to be careful if they have to inspect them. Most people are very understanding about it if you ask them nicely and explain the situation. People might not be aware of the value of these cards.
Get to the airport early and expect to be pulled aside to explain what you’re carrying. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
I hope this helps you travel safely with your trading cards in the future. If you have any other tips you think I should add, please leave them in a comment below.
When I grew up in a little village in the south of the Netherlands, Eindhoven was my main big city. 20 minutes by car (or 50 by bus) and you’d be right in the city centre. It naturally became the place where my friends and I would go shopping, watch the latest films in the cinema and hang around drinking energy drinks as all moody teenagers do. It’s a city close to my heart but sadly, its potential is often overlooked by tourists who are visiting the Netherlands. HELLO, there is more to this country than Amsterdam! As Eindhoven is basically my hometown, I’ve taken it upon myself to become a bit of an advocate for the city – to show the world what this amazing city has to offer. That’s why I’m sharing my favourite things to do in Eindhoven in this local travel guide!
Why visit Eindhoven?
Even though the city is often missed by tourists, Eindhoven bursts with energy and creativity! It may not be the most popular destination to visit in the Netherlands, but it’s lively, exciting and filled with tons of quirky places to explore. Plus, it’s a LOT cheaper compared to cities like Amsterdam and Utrecht!
Being the design capital of the Netherlands, Eindhoven has some stunning pieces of architecture and is home to the annual Dutch Design Week. The city is definitely growing more popular and has started to attract more and more independent shops, cafes and unique new businesses. Rather than diving into very touristy cities like Amsterdam, Eindhoven gives you a glimpse of the real Dutch lifestyle.
Eindhoven is also home to the famous Dutch football team PSV. I’m personally not really into football, but having moved from Eindhoven to Manchester, I’m kinda forced to know a little bit about the sport. As I’m not incredibly knowledgable (or passionate) about the topic, I’m not going into too much football detail – but make sure to visit the PSV museumand stadium when in Eindhoven if you’re a fan!
How to get to Eindhoven?
By plane: Eindhoven Airport is the second largest airport in the Netherlands, and it seems to always be expanding! When visiting the Netherlands, I usually fly to Eindhoven. Even though it’s nowhere near as big as Amsterdam Airport, it still serves well over 1.6 million passengers yearly! Many budget airlines fly to Eindhoven, which is another win – I can usually get flights for as little as £15!
Right outside the airport you can find the bus stop. Bus 400 or 401 takes you to Eindhoven Central within 15 minutes. You can buy a ticket on the bus or inside the airport.
By train: Visiting Eindhoven by train is super easy, as the main station is located right inside the city centre. From Amsterdam, it takes approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes and a single ticket costs €20-€22. You can buy tickets online through Trainline or buy a ticket at the service desk at any train station in the Netherlands.
Worried about train travel in the Netherlands? I’ve written a complete guide on how to buy tickets, how to use them and where to get discounts in this Dutch Train Travel Guide.
Culture in Eindhoven
Now, let’s get into the best things to do in Eindhoven. Being crowned the design capital of the Netherlands and hometown of Philips, Eindhoven has quite a rich history. A lot of that history is still seen today. Nowadays, Eindhoven is filled with even more innovation, design, and creativity!
St. Catherine’s Church
This beautiful neo-gothic Catholic church is one of the prime buildings in Eindhoven. Right outside the main shopping street (The Demer), you can find the St. Catherine’s Church. It a little oasis for peace and quiet in the middle of a busy city centre. Take 15-30 minutes out of your day to visit this stunning piece of architecture and have a little wander inside.
Address: Catharinaplein 1, 5611 DE
Van Abbe Museum
I remember visiting the Van Abbe Museum for my art history classes back in high school. To my surprise (being a teenager forced to visit museums for a class she didn’t particularly enjoy), I had a wonderful time! The museum is filled with modern and contemporary art and is located in the centre of Eindhoven. While researching some background information about the museum, I found out that it’s actually one of the first public museums for contemporary art to be established in Europe! Pretty cool, ey?
Address: Bilderdijklaan 10, 5611 NH
One thing I love about Eindhoven is its cool and futuristic buildings. Blob is probably my favourite! On 18 September Square, you can find it stand out from the more traditional buildings. Blob was designed by Massimiliano Fuksas and inside the building, you will find some shops and a lunchroom.
Address: Nieuwe Emmasingel 12, 5611 AZ
Eindhoven is the hometown of world-famous electrical company Philips, it’s the city’s main claim to fame. The impact Philips has had on the world is immense, and it’s awesome to see that it all started in a small city like Eindhoven.
To learn all about Philips and how it turned into the global company it is today, you can visit the Philips Museum. For more information about opening times and entree prices, check out their official website here.
Address: Emmasingel 31, 5611 AZ
As well as being the hometown of Philips, Eindhoven has also been home to DAF (Europe’s largest truck manufacturers) since it opened back in 1928. Back when the company opened, they still made cars too! In this popular museum, you can learn all about the companies history, their products, and rare prototype vehicles. For more information, entree prices and opening times, check out the official DAF museum website here.
Formerly owned by Philips, Strijp-S used to be Eindhoven’s industrial park. It used to be known as “the forbidden city”, as only Philips employees had access to the grounds. Since the start of the 2000s, this neighbourhood has been transformed into a growing hub for creative companies, independent shops, and Instagram-able eateries. A perfect place to explore the more creative (and maybe a little more hipster) side of Eindhoven.
Fitting in perfectly with the creative side of the city, Strijp-S has a shopping centre filled with unique and independent shops. Urban Shopper is located in what was previously used as a Philips factory hall. It stayed true to the heritage with its industrial look.
You can find anything from fashion and design to books and furniture here! Even if you’re not planning to buy anything, it’s worth wandering around.
As you might guess from the name, Soul Kitchen is a restaurant in Strijp-S, Eindhoven. But it’s more than just a restaurant. You can read a book from their exchange library, play music, meet new people, play some of the boardgames and of course, have a bite to eat. One thing I LOVE about Soul Kitchen is that it is used as an education centre for young adults who dream of working in hospitality. I’m all for giving people the means to follow their passion!
If you’re a bit of an interior-freak like yours truly, Gusj Market is a must-visit in Eindhoven. It is filled with unique furniture and smaller decorative pieces. Some pieces are on the expensive side (especially for a millennial running a travel blog for a living), but it’s such a great place for home inspiration! It’s like walking through a real live Pinterest board.
Just outside Gusj, loving the industrial look!
Ice cream, patisserie, tea, coffee and probably the most Instagram friendly interior in the whole of Eindhoven (PINKS – LOTS OF PINKS!). What is not to love? Oh, and they have a variety of vegan sorbet, coconut, and almond based flavours and shakes.
Natlab is an independent cinema located in Strijp-S. The name (translated: Physics Laboratory) was given to this cinema as the building was formerly used as Philip’s laboratory. Einstein once gave a lecture here! It now offers a meeting place for film fanatics to watch anything from famous blockbuster films to low-budget documentaries.
Eindhoven has some of the best independent cafes and restaurants out there, you just need to know where to find them! Here are some of my all-time favourites.
Coffeelab (Coffee and lunch)
I’m not gonna lie. I wish my apartment looked like the interior of Coffeelab. Coffee, plants, and furniture that might as well have been stolen straight out of my Pinterest “Home Inspiration” board. All cakes, sandwiches and other bites are homemade (and a lot of them are vegan!). Coffeelab is located right outside the train station and it’s by far my favourite place for coffee in the whole of Eindhoven! If you’re travelling by train, definitely make sure to stop here for your daily caffeine kick.
Inspired by LA’s downtown gourmet market, Eindhoven opened its own food market in 2017. Bringing 21 individual eateries to the heart of the city centre. What I love about this place is that there is literally something for everybody. From sushi to special Dutch bitterballen, the Gourmet Market has it all. Add that to the cosy atmosphere and you’ve got yourself a lovely, unique dinner experience.
Address: Smalle Haven 2-14, 5611 EJ
The best place in Eindhoven for… burgers! Guess you didn’t see that coming ;). Not only is the food to die for, but the interior is also on point. With a cosy atmosphere, lovely staff and some board games to play – De Burger deserves a place on this list! (Vegetarian options available – hooray!)
Address: 5 Kerkstraat, 5611 GH
XU Noodle Bar
This family-owned restaurant in Eindhoven is THE place for everything noodle. Inspired by generations-old family recipes, XU Noodle Bar is my favourite Asian-styled restaurant in the city. Their dishes are both tasty and affordable (most dishes are under €10), a win-win! The ramen I had are definitely the tastiest ramen I’ve had since returning from Japan.
Address: Emmasingel 37, 5611 AZ
Mood is on the more expensive side, but worth every penny (or… you know… every euro cent. Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it…). If you’re looking for something a little bit different, Mood might be the perfect option for you. Their menu is a mixture of classical French dishes with a twist of Asian cuisine.
On top of the NH Hotel Eindhoven, you can find the best view across the city: Vane Skybar. Even though the restaurant and bar on the top of this 5* hotel are a little pricey, the view is stunning!
You can get to Vane by entering the NH Hotel on Vestdijk street. Take the elevators to the 13th floor and ta-da, you’re in the restaurant! A pair of stairs will take you up to the roof, where the bar is located. We visited it the bar during the day, and luckily the sun made the view absolutely stunning, but I can only imagine how lovely it would look at night!
Eindhoven’s nightlife in Stratumseind
Stratumseind is THE place to go clubbing in Eindhoven. I’m not much of a clubbing gal myself, as I much prefer a beer at a pub, but hey, each their own. If you want to have a taste of the Eindhoven nightlife, Stratumseind is the place to go. Tons of clubs, bars, and fast food places for when you’re done partying.
Craving a beer in the pub, like yours truly? You can find O’Shea’s Irish Pub just around the corner of Stratumseind. (Address: Jan van Lieshoutstraat 9, 5611 EE)
As mentioned before, Strijp-S has some really cool places to shop, but there’s more! The main shopping street, two shopping centres and a little hideout for more authentic boutiques – Eindhoven’s got it all!
Piazza and the Bijenkorf
Close to BLOB and the 18 September Square, you find Piazza. It’s a small shopping centre with a variety of shops, restaurants, and cafes. One shop that I’d highly recommend you check out is De Bijenkorf. This high-end department store that sells anything from clothing, shoes, and cosmetics to books, toys, and home-ware.
Right outside of BLOB, you can walk through a little street called Nieuwe Emmasingel. You can find some of my favourite shops on this street, mainly because it’s a little bit different from the main shopping street. My two big recommendations on this street are Bookstore van Piere and Home Stocks.
Main shopping street – the Demer
From Piazza, you can walk straight onto the Demer – Eindhoven’s main shopping street. Here, you can find mainstream shops like Mango, Pull & Bear and Apple. Some shops I’d recommend you check out if you’re not very familiar with Dutch stores are HEMA, Blokker, and Etos.
A local market is held every Tuesday on the Demer and the Market in Eindhoven – keep this in mind when planning your shopping trip! It can get quite busy, but it’s fun to see all the market stands.
Heuvel Shopping Centre
If you’re looking for more mainstream fashion shops, you can visit Heuvel. It’s located near the Market (which is basically next to the Demer) and you can find more than 80 shops inside.
Kleine and Grote Berg
The Kleine Berg, Grote Berg, and Bergstraat create a cozy little triangle of streets in Eindhoven. The three streets are mainly known for their exclusive boutiques. If you’re looking for a little bit more character compared to the usual H&M-Zara shops, this would be a great place to start!
Eindhoven’s creativity and eye for innovation and design are seen back in two of its biggest annual events. Both GLOW light art festival and the Dutch Design Week are held in Eindhoven and attract hundreds of thousands of people from across the world. If you’re planning to visit Eindhoven in October or November, you might want to keep these in mind!
A trip to Japan can turn out to be pretty expensive. Let’s face it, it’s not the cheapest country in Asia to visit… But you don’t have to rely on re-mortgaging your house in order to make your dream-trip to Japan. As I’ve mentioned in my Japan Budget Breakdown, we spent about £2000 on 16 days in Japan without really watching our spending. One thing we did to reduce the cost is to get a Japan Rail Pass. Today, I’m going into a bit more detail about this pass and how you can plan your itinerary around getting this pass in order to save a lot of money.
What is the Japan Rail Pass?
First things first. What is this JP Pass? The Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) is a railway pass that is available for tourists who are visiting Japan provided by the Japan Railways Group. Because trains can be quite expensive in Japan, this is a perfect solution for visitors who are planning on visiting multiple cities or want to cover longer distances on their trip. These railcards can be used on any JR Line in Japan and are only available for foreign tourists for one, two or three weeks.
NOTE #1: You have to buy the JR Pass BEFORE arriving in Japan. You will receive a letter in the post, which will be able to exchange that letter for your passes when you are in Japan. You can buy your passes here.
NOTE #2: To find out which train and bus lines you can use with your JR Pass, please check this article by Japan Guide. It has a complete list on which lines are included and which ones are excluded.
Do I really need one?
Yes, they’re expensive. And no, they might not be the best thing to buy depending on your itinerary. But if you are planning to visit multiple cities during your trip, you will most likely need a JR Pass if you’re looking to save some of those sweet dollah bills.
To find out whether it will be worth getting a JR Pass, you can check your itinerary on HyperDia. Find out how much individual tickets will cost for the trips between the major cities you are planning to visit. Add those prices up and compare it to the price of a JR Pass for one or two weeks. If it’s cheaper, it’s a no-brainer to order a Japan Rail Pass.
Shinkansen Kyoto – Tokyo
How to save more money using the JR Pass?
As you might have noticed while checking the prices on Hyperdia, a single ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto on the Shinkansen will cost you ¥13.000-¥14.000 (£95-£101). Add a return to that and you’ll have the price of a 7-day JR pass. You can also use the JR Pass on any JR line (which there are quite a few of inside the larger cities like Tokyo and Kyoto). This can save you quite a bit of money too if you use it correctly. If you plan to even more cities (like Osaka, Nara, etc.), it’s more than worth getting the JR Pass.
MONEY SAVING TIP #1: Adjust your itinerary to fit all the big train journeys in one week rather than two. Our 16-day itinerary looked like this:
Instead of spending 7 continuous days in Tokyo (+ two travel days), we broke it up into two smaller parts. One at the start of our trip, and one at the end. This also gave us the opportunity to stay in two different areas of Tokyo. It made it easier to explore different parts of the city!
Mount Fuji from the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto TIP: sit on the right-hand side if you’re travelling from Tokyo to Kyoto to see Mount Fuji on a clear day.
Because we planned the big train journeys in the middle of our trip, we only had to buy a JR Pass for 7 days (rather than 14). This saved us over £100 per person! It took a little bit of planning, but it was definitely worth it. The trip didn’t feel rushed at all, either. 4 days in Kyoto, 2 in Osaka and one in Nara was enough for us to explore the cities.
MONEY SAVING TIP #2: Once you have activated your JR Pass, keep it with you at all times and use it wherever possible. You can use it on ANY JR train line. That means you can use it for smaller journeys inside the cities, too. Check your journey on HyperDia to find out if you will be travelling on a JR line and use it instead of paying for a ticket.
How to use the JR Pass in Japan
When you want to start using your JR Pass, you have to active it. You do this by exchanging the letter you’ve received into the actual JR Pass. Find the nearest JR Exchange Office to receive your pass. You can find your nearest exchange point in this handy list on the JR Pass Website. You don’t have to activate it on the exact day you start using it, you can go to one of these points and tell them you want to use it a few days from now.
Once you’ve received your JR Pass, you can start using it to travel on your chosen days. You can either just get on the next train on any JR line, or you can book a seat in the Shinkansen. I’d highly recommend reserving a seat! It is completely free of charge and gives you a seat for sure. Especially for longer journeys (like Tokyo to Kyoto) and during busier seasons (like cherry blossom season) it is much better to reserve a seat. You wouldn’t want to stand the entire journey!
NOTE #3: You cannot use the automatic ticket gates when using the JR Pass. You have to show your JR Pass to one of the guards next to the automatic ticket gates. Sometimes, they ask you for your passport to make sure you are not using a false/stolen JR Pass.
To reserve a seat, you simply walk into one of the ticket offices you can find at any larger station. You then ask the person behind the counter to reserve a seat on your required train and you will get a little ticket stating the train time and your seats.
When it’s time to get on the train, you walk to the ticket gate and show your JR pass and reservation ticket. You can then access the platform to find your seats once the Shinkansen arrives. There is usually an overhead space for backpacks. Plus, you can put your larger suitcases at the start/end of the cabin.
How to travel before/after using the JR Pass
If you’ve planned your itinerary around your JR Pass, you will need a different way of travelling through the cities before and after having used the JR Pass. Even if you are travelling with your JR Pass, you will sometimes not be able to use it. All you need is a Suica/Pasmo Card. (The name varies depending on which region you buy the card from, but you can use them all across Japan).
Suica/Pasmo Card: This smartcard can be used to travel on most public transport (trains, metros, buses, etc.) across Japan. You can buy one of these Suica Cards and load money onto them at any train station, using either cash or a debit/credit card. Besides using them to travel, the card also functions as a little electronic wallet. Use it to buy drinks or snacks in vending machines. And also to pay for taxis and locker storage at stations. For more information about these smart cards, please check out East Japan Railway’s website.
Where do I buy the JR Pass?
You can order the Japan Rail Pass online or you can buy it from a travel agency. If you want to buy the JR Pass, I’d really appreciate it if you could buy it through one of the links in this blog post (or the banner below). By buying it through any of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This really helps me to continue posting free travel guides and tips. Thank you!
Last month I finally spent a day in Sheffield! Even though I have been living in Manchester for almost five years, I’ve never taken the short train journey to explore this city. Luckily, my lovely friend Laura lived in Sheffield for 3 years and took the day to show me her favourite spots. Who would be better to show me the best places to visit in Sheffield? Today, I’m sharing them with you!
Laura lived the expat life in Sheffield for 3 years and recently moved back to the Netherlands. Follow her adventures on her blog here!
9:00 AM | The Train to Sheffield
From Manchester, it takes about an hour to get to Sheffield by train. The journey takes you through the Peak District. No need to bring a book or iPad to entertain yourself, the view is beautiful! Sheffield’s train station is located on the edge of the city centre and it doesn’t take more than 5-10 minutes to walk to the heart of Sheffield.
TIP: Save some money on your train tickets by booking in advance! I usually book my tickets with Trainline. (Not sponsored or affiliated with them, I just really like using their service because it saves me so much money since I’ve not got a railcard anymore).
10:00 AM | Arrive in Sheffield Station
Laura picked me up from the station and started our tour immediately. She took me to our first stop of the day: Cholera Monument. After leaving the station through the East exit, we walked to the top of the hill for a beautiful view over the city. Cholera Monument, a memorial to the victims of the cholera epidemic of 1832, is located at the top.
11:00 AM | Visit the Winter Gardens
We walked back through the station towards the city centre. Our first stop was the Winter Gardens. Located not far from the station (about 5-10 minutes on foot) you can find this urban glasshouse. It’s actually the largest of its kind in the whole of Europe – and it’s filled with cool plants and even cooler shops!
12:00 PM | Visit the Millennium Gallery
Right next to the Winter Garden lies the Millennium Gallery. I wasn’t very familiar with Sheffield’s history in the steel industry, which is why I loved visiting this gallery so much! This gallery has a metalwork collection of 13,000 pieces, alongside tons of awesome craft and design pieces.
Laura and I found this awesome digital art project, I think we must have spent at least 30 minutes taking pictures of it.
1:00 PM | Lunch at Tamper Sellers Wheel
For lunch, Laura took me to one of her favourite eateries in the city: Tamper Sellers Wheel. This Kiwi cultured cafe serves tasty New Zeeland-styled bites and the best coffee in town. And man, I totally get why Laura loves this place so much – it was delicious! Plus they serve a hella good coffee.
1:45 PM | Walk through the city towards the University of Sheffield
Our afternoon started with a little walk further into the city centre. Sheffield is filled with the most amazing street art and murals. They are literally found on every street and each and every one of them is Instagram-worthy.
We also stopped to take a quick snap of the Women of Steel. This bronze sculpture commemorates the women of Sheffield who worked in the steel industry during the two World Wars. Sheffield used to be known as Steel City due to its past production in steel. I love a bit of GIRL POWER and I love that Sheffield celebrates the strength and determination of these strong women.
Laura then showed me some really cool shops that I wish we had in Manchester. I’m such a sucker for a good independent shop selling basically anything – give me some cool, quirky stuff and you’ve got my money! My favourites were Moonko and Vulgar.
2:30 PM | Visit the University of Sheffield
Laura studied at the University of Sheffield while living in the UK and it was awesome to see it in person. The university has more than 25.000 students and sits in the top 5 best universities in the UK. Laura took me to the Arts Tower for a view across the city and a ride on one of the last remaining paternoster lift!
4:00 PM | Visit the Botanical Gardens
Even though I adore exploring urban areas, a little break in some green spaces is never a bad idea. Laura took me to the beautiful botanical gardens in Sheffield, and really is a must-visit! Not only are the 19 acres of land filled with the most beautiful plants, but it also has a picturesque indoor glass house. Entree is completely free, too!
Note: Sheffield’s botanical gardens close earlier during the winter, so make sure to go on time when visiting in different seasons. You can find the opening times on their website.
6:00 PM | Dinner
Because there were a few events going on inside the city, most dinner places were completely booked out. We ended up at Pizza Express, but had some tasty pizzas to end our day with!
7:30 PM | Train back home
Many thanks to Laura for being an amazing tour guide and all-round fabulous person! Please go check out her blog over here to follow her adventures. If you’re looking for some more cool places to check out in Sheffield, Laura wrote a blog post about Sheffield that’s perfect for you, check it out here.