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Favorite things to do in Kyoto

Footbridge at Shinsen-en Sacred Spring Garden
The footbridge at Shinsen-en at Kyoto's Sacred Spring Garden.Christian Kober / Corbis file
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Spending a Night in a Ryokan
Kyoto is one of the best places in Japan to experience the traditional inn, where you'll sleep on a futon in a tatami room and be treated to a beautifully presented multicourse kaiseki feast. Though expensive, it's the utmost in simple elegance.

Dining on a Tofu Vegetarian Meal in a Garden Setting
, vegetarian meals served at Buddhist temples, are one of Kyoto's specialties. There are a number of rustic restaurants with outdoor garden seating throughout Kyoto.

Visiting a Japanese Garden
Kyoto has a wide range of traditional gardens, from austerely beautiful Zen rock gardens used by Buddhist priests for meditation to the miniature bonsai-like landscape gardens of the ruling classes.

Strolling Through Eastern Kyoto
Temples, shrines, gardens, shops, traditional neighborhoods -- these are highlights of a day spent walking through this historic part of Kyoto. You won't find a slice of old Japan like this in other Japanese cities.

Shopping for Traditional Crafts
Traditional arts and crafts thrive in Kyoto, where skills are passed down from generation to generation. You'll find small specialty shops selling everything from fans to wooden combs.

Seeing How the Upper Class Lived
Kyoto has more imperial palaces and villas than any other Japanese city. Walk through the shogun's digs at Nijo Castle and if you have time, visit the Kyoto Imperial Palace, Katsura Imperial Villa, or Shugakuin Imperial Villa with their splendid gardens.

Exploring Gion
Kyoto's traditional pleasure quarter is fascinating for its austere architecture, hushed atmosphere, and the sight of heavily made-up geishas in traditional kimono hurrying to their evening appointments. Get an insider's look at this world at Gion Corner, where you can see performances of traditional dance, puppetry, and other cultural presentations.

Watching Cormorant Fishing Along the Oi River
There's no more romantic way to spend a summer's evening than drifting down the river in a wooden boat decorated with paper lanterns, watching the fishermen and their cormorants at work. It's simply magical.

Taking an Evening Stroll Through Pontocho
A small, narrow pedestrian lane, Pontocho is lined with a dazzling collection of brightly lit hostess bars, restaurants, and drinking establishments. If it's a warm night, end the evening by sitting for a while along the banks of the nearby Kamo River, a popular spot for Kyoto's young couples.

For a complete listing of what to see and do in Kyoto, visit the online attractions index at

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