Introducing Kyoto

A city steeped in history and intrigue, Japan's ancient capital wears many guises. From ancient shrines and temples made of gold, to brightly-clad cosplayers in the International Manga Museum – nothing quite prepares you for the contrasts of Kyoto. A paradise for foodies, fashionistas and fearless explorers, this is a city buzzing with adventure.

Things to do

Wander the well-trodden paths of historical Gion: from the famous Yasaka Shrine, you can walk all the way up to Kiyomizu-dera Temple, taking in the historical and spiritual landmarks that define the old city. The views from the temple hillside are nothing short of jaw-dropping, particularly in spring and autumn when the blossoms appear and the leaves turn.

Interspersed with Kyoto's rich history is a current of chic modernity and contemporary fashion. Explore the boutiques around Shijō Street – starting with designer department stores at the Shijō-Kawaramachi intersection. Continue down towards Yasaka Shrine for smaller fashion stores and local crafts. For the young at heart, get your manga portrait drawn at the International Manga Museum. Or head to the games arcades and try your luck at 'Pachinko', Japan's low-stakes cross between slot machines and pinball.

From the plum and cherry blossom festivals in spring to the Kurama Fire Festival in autumn, Kyoto knows how to deliver a spectacle. The trio of large festivals, Jidai Matsuri, Aoi Matsuri and Gion Matsuri, draw large crowds from across the region each year. And with good reason – Kyoto's 'great three' festivals are as vibrant and exciting as the traditions they celebrate.

Top Tip from SLH

When in Kyoto, experience the graceful tradition of tea ceremony. Head to Gion for tatami-floored teahouses and savour the ‘way of tea’.