11 Stunning Sakura-Watching Spots in Kyoto to Make a Bucket List

Wondering where to catch the most beautiful cherry blossoms in Kyoto? Here are our 11 favorite spots to celebrate springtime in your own way.

―By Nguyen Oanh

The scenic land of Kyoto is a paradise on Earth for cherry blossom lovers. As experts predict that the sakura season blooms at the end of March and lingers for two more weeks to Mid-April, it’s time to be on the edge of your seat and get ready for some serious shots of nature. 

To arm you up before the cherry blossom season comes this year or next, we round up eleven best spots to watch cherry blossoms in Kyoto in this handy collection!

Some Essential Notes to Get Yourself Ready Before Enjoying Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto

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The sakura season in Kyoto usually begins in the last week of March and hits the peak around the first two weeks of April. In 2021, it’s forecasted in full bloom on April 4th and lasts for around two weeks. Surprisingly, 2021 was also the year when Kyoto welcomed the earliest cherry blossom season in over 1200 years. 

Depending on the weather condition, cherry blossoms in Kyoto may fickle. To get the best view of the blooms, plan your trip around the two-week window of bloom, pack some long trousers, full-body skirts, layer it with a coat, and end up with a scarf around your neck. This type of dressing keeps you warm when the temperature drops and shows your elegant dressing etiquette when in Kyoto.

As an ancient capital itself and a bustling region of nature, Kyoto is one of the best places for cherry blossom viewing in all of Japan. The cherry blossoms in Kyoto are not only nestled behind the gigantic shrines but also sprinkled all over the enriched mountains beside the thriving bamboo grove. 

11 Most Popular Places to Watch Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto

Nijo Castle

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The World Heritage Site of Nijo Castle wins our hearts over and over again. Not only is it a cultural and peaceful place to admire cherry blossoms to the fullest, but Nijo Castle also plays host to the annual night illumination. We still remember the night we strolled under the 3D illuminative displays and held our hands under the lights, thousands of sakura blooms in our hands under the light effect. 

This is definitely a bright side to behold! The mapping shows have been a part of Nijo Castle, giving the site a great identity that sets itself apart from other places to view cherry blossoms in Kyoto! You can get to the castle in no time by taking an exit from the Nijojo-mae Station via the Tozai Subway Line.

Daigoji Temple

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Daigoji is another World’s Heritage Site to watch cherry blossoms in Kyoto to jot down your bucket list! Reaching the temple is easy! All you need to do is take a 15-minute walk from Daigoji Station. The cherry blossom season approaches and showers the ancient temples in 1000 cherry trees in various kinds and colors. 

The whole season lasts for about three weeks. We personally love to capture some shots at the cherry blossom tunnel right at the façade of the pagoda, the Sanpoin garden, and the most incredible site is the Reihokan Museum. This is where a weeping range of cherry trees turns into an inviting scene to welcome you for discovery inside.

Maruyama Park

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One of the coolest places to enjoy cherry blossoms in Kyoto is Maruyama Park. The park is nothing close to any attraction we visited before! It appears in a delightful landscape where the manicured garden is a thing. The park is an assortment of walking trails snaking through a whirlwind of cherry blossoms of all kinds. 

Spend at least an hour at the park because you’ll never want to leave. Take an easy stroll for a pleasant time! Bring some snacks along and unwind at the benches, or snap some shots around the recreation shelters. 

Everything about this park is stepping out of a fairytale. No matter which corner you look at, they all seem too beautiful to be true. Picnic is allowed at Maruyama Park and can be easily reached if you ride a 20-minute bus ride from Kyoto Bus Station. 

Tenryuji Temple

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Nestled in the heart of the poetic Arashiyama district just outside of Kyoto downtown is the one and only Tenryuji Temple. This holy shrine becomes a big draw for locals and tourists alike who fall in love with not only the cherry blossoms but also the magnificent mountain-scape. 

Tenryuji Temple is unlike any other places we’ve visited before. The mild Katsura river veins through the lush gardens peppered with thousands of pink and white cherry blossoms. The smell of nature and the medley songs of the birds turn the scene into a mystical landscape of a fairytale chapter. 

Arashiyama district is a mashup of the bamboo grove and cherry blossoms. The black canvas of Arashiyama is sprinkled with the palettes of the green trees, pink blossoms, white clouds, and high blue sky, all give you a book of memoir you won’t forget!

Heian Shrine

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The grand shrine of Heian is tucked away at the foot of a mountain on the east of the Kamo River. If you’re wondering where to visit in Kyoto and enjoy cherry blossoms at the same time, then Heian Shrine should be where your heart is! 

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The huge complex is embellished with a few cherry trees, while the garden is where the striking scene of cherry blossoms hypnotizes visitors. The best experience for us to enjoy at Heian is taking a long walk down the trail where 300 cherry trees line up along the path, making it one of the most romantic places for couples to indulge in when visiting Heian. 

The best way to arrive at Heian Shrine is to ride bus No.5 or 100 from Kyoto Station in less than 30 minutes.

Philosopher’s Path

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Spend half an hour strolling down the Philosopher’s Path when spring arrives, and all your burdens are lifted off your shoulder! The assortment of smells, chirping birds, and falling cherry petals nestled on your hair make your trip to Kyoto a memorable milestone. 

This leisurely paved way is located on the Northern side of Kyoto’s Higashiyama district and lasts for about two kilometers. The path is torn in two by a canal, while a range of boutique stores, cafes, and bistros dominate two sides of the path. 

The best way to reach the path is to ride the Tozai Subway line to Keage Station from Kyoto Station for twenty minutes.

Hirano Shrine

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Ride the bus No.50 from the JR Kyoto Station for half an hour before getting off at the Kinugasako-mae stop and walk for five minutes until you reach the main gate of Hirano Shrine.

Hirano Shrine is a top spot in Kyoto to view cherry blossoms. It’s hard to overlook this iconic destination as the nighttime illuminations and sakura party is one of the most celebrated events in all of Japan. 

During the day, the Northern sunlight pierces through the clouds of cherry blossoms and is absorbed into the gigantic red Torii gate. The sunny scene during the day becomes the biggest hook inspiring photographers to get some shots done. 

Meanwhile, nighttime turns Hirano into the Japanese edition of Oktoberfest with beers, fried fritters, and snacks taking over the walking paths. 

Keage Incline

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Located just three minutes walking from Keage Station, Keage Incline has a truly unique beauty that lies in the abandoned railway cutting through the cherry blossom forest. Little do you know that Keage Incline breaks the record as the world’s longest railway track that runs 582 meters long. 

They say there are a total of 90 cherry blossoms running along the railroad. The charming beauty attached to this site is never-before-seen. Take a spring stroll under the trees as the green leaves blanket the railway, and mountain ranges block the distant horizon. 

Keage Incline should be the last thing you forget, as it refreshes your experience after visiting the parks and temples.

Kyoto-gyoen National Garden

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Next in line, we have Kyoto-Gyoen National Garden as a must-visit cherry blossom paradise in Kyoto. Nestled in the grounds of the Imperial Palace, Kyoto-Gyoen is a vibrant gathering hub where you can put down your tarp under the cherry trees, watch people riding bikes or spend a relaxing afternoon along with other seniors picnicking. 

The cherry blossoms bloom in full and show off their strings of treasures when the chilly breeze of springs sweeps through. The garden is within walking distance from the Karasuma Imadegawa bus stop, to which you will ride bus No. 59 from Keihan Sanjo Station. 

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

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Kiyomizu keeps making global headlines thanks to the pure appearance and the holy spirit that covers the whole site. Famous for its 13-meter-high wooden platform piercing through the main hall. We love to laze around the platform opening out the sea of cherry blossoms at the front. 

Hidden behind this whirlwind of cherry blossoms is a weeping scene of the Kyoto skyline. You can get to Kiyomizu temple by riding the bus No.100 or 206 from Kyoto Station and get off at the Kiyomizu-michi bus stop to walk uphill to the main gate of the temple.

Gion-shirakawa River

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And finally, we have the Gion-Shirakawa River to cap off our list of where to view cherry blossoms in Kyoto! Take a short walk for five minutes from Gion Shijo station and you will end up at an enchanting, off-the-radar spot of Kyoto. 

Take a slow stroll along the canal and take in the scenic beauty of the cherry blossom clouds floating above your head. Nestled beside the cherry trees are a line of restaurants and tea houses. So take a step back, pop into one of these dining establishments, and watch the cherry blossom sprung outside the wooden patio!

Only if we would be in Kyoto right now to admire the cherry blossoms with you! As the pandemic is still taking the world by storm, bookmark this list and inspire your wanderlust again once the borders are open again!

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