6 Best Free Walking Tours In Kyoto, Japan: History Lessons From Locals

free walking tours in kyoto

Kyoto is one of the most historically important cities in Japan. From the infamous Gion area where you can still see the age-old tradition of geishas and maikos as they go about their daily work to the iconic Kinkaku-ji, the golden temple, and tea ceremonies, traditional dances and much more. Kyoto is bursting at the seams with tradition and culture. There is so much to see and do that it can be a little confusing. So, whether it’s your first time or your fiftieth time in Japan, let us guide you around with these free walking tours around Kyoto. Did we mention that they are free? What are you waiting for? Read on and you too can discover the enticing city with these best free walking tours in Kyoto, Japan.

1. Enjoy free walking tours of either Gion and Hirashiyama or Fushimi Inari

Double torii path at Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, Kyoto, Japan
Source: Photo by user Basile Morin used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Since 2015, this informative and fun walking tour has been sharing information about Kyoto to hundreds of happy visitors. It’s an opportunity to learn lots of fun facts and stories that have been told as local legends. There are two main tours to choose from, the Gion & Higashiyama Tour which lasts for about 2.5 hours, and the Fushimi Inari Night Tour which is for 2 hours. Both of these tours are popular as the company has been referred to in tour guide books. You do not need to reserve. Instead, search online to find the time and meeting point for your chosen tour and simply turn up. Easy.

Kyoto Free Walking Tour

Website: Kyoto Free Walking Tour

2. Discover six local highlights with Kyoto Localized tours

Sanmon, Chion-in - IMG 5072
Source: Photo by user Daderot used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

Both day and night tours are available so you have to flexibility to choose when would be best for you. We actually recommend doing both because it is a unique way to see the difference between night and day in Japan. The tour will last for a total of three hours and although it is free, tips are always welcomed. The daytime tour will stop at Gion Shirakawa, Maruyama Park, Chionin Sanmon, Yasaka Pagoda, Sannei Zaka and Kiyomizu Temple. The night tour includes stops at Yasaka Shrine, Gion District, the statue of Izumono Okuni, Kawa River and the impressive Minami-za Kabuki Theater.

Kyoto Localized

Website: Kyoto Localized

3. Hear first-hand about the history of the Imperial Palace with Kunaicho Tours

Architectural Detail - Imperial Palace - Kyoto - Japan - 02 (47934801207)
Source: Photo by user Adam Jones used under CC BY-SA 2.0

These tours are offered in English, Chinese, and Japanese. The tour will last for 50 minutes and take in the principal sights of the Imperial Palace. It is worth noting that none of the palace rooms can be entered but we still love the architecture from the outside. You do not need to book the tour in advance, instead, you will need to arrive at the meeting point before it starts so that you can register. If you are interested in history or design this walking tour should be an absolute-must.

Kunaicho Tour

Website: Kunaicho Tour

4. Create a tailored tour for your group with Kyoto Free Guide

Posted by Kyoto Free Guide on Friday, 18 August 2017

We love that you can create your own booking with the Kyoto Free Guide Tour and design a tour that visits all the places that you personally want to see. The lovely guides will help shape your tour to make sure that you get the most from the experience. All you need to do is send a request to the company with a brief outline of where you’d like to stop and hey presto! These tours are fun, unique and informative. A great way to see Kyoto and hear about its unique history.

Kyoto Free Guide


5. Have fun in Kyoto with a private tour for up to five people with GGKH

Kiyomizu-dera Temple. Kyoto Japan.
Source: Photo by user Bernard Spragg. NZ used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

GGKH, also known as the Goodwill Guide on Kyoto Handicraft and Historical Sites, is a registered volunteer group. They first started operating in 2012 and now have over 40 dedicated and knowledgeable guides who are eager to show tourists around Kyoto. It is worth noting that although the tour is free, there is a charge to ensure that the volunteer has their expenses covered. They request that reservations and requests be made two weeks in advance so that you can receive the best service. Group size is up to five guests so this is perfect if you’re looking for a private tour.


Website: GGKH

6. Become friends with a local university-age guide on a tour with Good Samaritan Club

Posted by Good Samaritan Club on Sunday, 4 January 2015

These dedicated university-age students love to show visitors around Kyoto and they do so in such a welcoming and friendly manner. There are about 100 active volunteers in the group. The group has been active since 1961. Again, your dedicated guide will help you to plan where to go, what to see, and even where to eat! You’ll love the recommendations provided by a local. Reservations are open from one month in advance of your desired date so you have plenty of planning time.

Good Samaritan Club

Website: Good Samaritan Club

Book your incredible free walking tour today

All of these free walking tours are of exceptionally high-quality and they’re free. This means that the volunteers, more than anything, are keen to help you have the best day ever. So, what are you waiting for? Discover the best time with a free walking tour in Kyoto, Japan today. Just remember to share your Instagram stories with us.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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A full-time global wanderer and volunteer. Strong compass leading to random and remote pockets of Earth; exploring jungles, abandoned villages and the open seas. Passionate about documenting on my...Read more

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