The best things you can do for free in Kyoto

Despite Japan’s reputation as an expensive destination, sightseeing in Kyoto doesn’t have to break the bank. The city has a wealth of stunning temples and shrines, historic neighborhoods, lively markets and breathtaking landscapes that can be enjoyed for free.

Explore the enchanting Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

One of Kyoto’s most photographed spots, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is a genuinely enchanting place. Around 500m (1640ft) long, it runs between Tenryū-ji temple and the Ōkōchi Sansō estate. The light takes on a mystical green hue as it filters down through the soaring stalks lining the pathways, and even with the inevitable crowds, it’s a soothing and otherworldly experience.

Amble along the Path of Philosophy

The Path of Philosophy is a short but sweet walk alongside a flower-lined canal in northeastern Kyoto. It was named for Kitarō Nishida, a famous philosopher from Kyoto University who was known to take regular contemplative strolls here. The route runs past serene temples, picturesque shrines and charming cafes, and takes around 30 minutes.

Snag free samples at Nishiki Market

Also known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen,” this traditional food market in the city center dates back more than 400 years. You can find all sorts of local cuisine on offer, from pickles, tofu and seafood to tea, Japanese sweets and sake, and there are plenty of free samples to try. Go early – the market’s narrow street gets pretty crowded.

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Browse colorful wares at the Tō-ji market

Another free market worth visiting is the lively Kobo-ichi flea market at Tō-ji temple. Held on the 21st of every month, it has a huge variety of new and secondhand goods for sale, including clothing, pottery, antiques, toys, artwork and plants, plus food and drink stands. Even if you don’t buy anything, the colorful stalls are interesting to browse.

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