Kyoto is a city in Japan which is steeped in a rich culture, traditions, and history making it one of the most sought-after destinations to visit and explore. Kyoto is like a walk into mysterious places of unimaginable natural beauty coupled with a plethora of architectural wonders just waiting to be admired. This awe-inspiring destination is characterized by atmospheric temples boasting picturesque gardens and majestic mountains as their backdrop. The city is home to over 2000 temples and shrines providing travelers with a spiritual awakening and a newfound appreciation for life. Kyoto is also known for is fields and streets lined by the sweet aroma of the blooming cherry blossoms which bloom in spring and as the seasons change so do the colorful hues which welcome displays of reds, orange, yellow and green. Calling all nature lovers, Kyoto beckons to be discovered by unlocking the top 10 gardens and park of this magnificent city. Check them out below.
1. Murin-an Villa
Murin-an Villa is Kyoto’s best-kept secret and it is teeming with charm and character. Hidden behind a plain wall, it’s easy to overlook and pass by this picturesque garden. Located along the foothills from Nanzen-Ji Temple, this garden is the perfect place to escape the crowds and unwind. This tranquil oasis boasts a serene pond which is surrounded by lush trees and vegetation. The garden is a snapshot of the essence of Kyoto, which embraces its rich history and blends with modern ingenuity. Murin-an Villa features two architectural villas, one is a traditional wooden two-story house, and the other is a western style brick building. Experience the Japanese culture by visiting the gardens traditional tea house which has been tastefully furnished with tatami-mat floors, stepping stones, a beautifully landscaped lawn and a three-tier waterfall.
Address: 31 Kusagawa-cho, Nanzen-ji, Sakyo-ku
Operating hours: 8:30am-5pm
2. Saiho-Ji Temple
The garden of Saiho-Ji Temple is an exuberant, colorful display of green and yellow varieties and boasts nearly over 120 types of mosses growing in the forest. This lush green paradise is locally known as Koke-dera which fittingly means Moss Temple, as the bamboo groves are covered in thick and soft moss. Saiho-Ji Temple was one of the first Zen meditation gardens featuring pockets of relaxation around the garden.
Address: 56 Matsuo-Jingatani-cho, Nishikyo-ku
Operating hours: Appointed times
3. Haradani-en Garden
Japan is synonymous with the natural spectacle of the seasonal cherry blossoms which paint the terrain in a canvas of vibrant colors. To experience the absolute beauty of these trees, be sure to make a visit to Haradani-en Garden which is nestled along the hills above Kinkakuji. Haradani-en Garden is an envision of beauty and boasts a wide selection of plantations like 24 species of cherry blossoms, Japanese maples, plum trees and much more. All the hustle and bustle of the city life disappears, and you ease into the tranquil beauty of the natural surroundings.
Address: 36 Okita-yama, Haradani Inui-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto
Operating hours: 9am-5pm
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4. Tenryu-ji Temple
With the majestic mountain range as your backdrop, treat yourself to a mesmerizing visit to the picturesque gardens of Tenryu-Ji Temple. The beautiful landscape is a captivating palette of greens, red, orange and yellow and it is a must-visit attraction on your visit to Kyoto. The highlight of your visit to the gardens is the towering bamboo groves providing visitors with an other-worldly experience in Kyoto. The Tenryu-Ji Temple gardens also feature a central pond which is surrounded by pine trees, the Arashiyama mountains and rocks.
Address: 68 Susukinobaba-cho, Saga Tenryu-ji, Ukyo-ku
Operating hours: 8:30am-5:30pm
5. Hojo Garden at Tofuku-ji Temple
Tofuku-Ji Temple is arguably one of the most attractive temples in Kyoto and it is home to a beautifully landscaped garden where nature and tranquillity reside in perfect harmony. There is a sense of spirituality which has gone into the designing of the garden as the South Garden is designed to reflect Chinese Mythology where the white sand is the front of the sea, the five hillocks are the five important Zen temples in Kyoto, and the four rocks are the legendary island. The North Garden is a stunning moss-covered checkerboard patterned wonder made to depict the idea of Buddhism spread across Asia. The West Garden also has a checkerboard pattern formed out of Azalea, while the East Garden features seven stone columns to represent the Big Dipper.
Hojo Garden at Tofuku-ji Temple
Address: 15-778 Honmahi, Higashiyama-ku
Operating hours: 9am-4pm (April-October); 8.30am-4pm (November- early December); 9am-3:30pm (early December-March)
6. Shugakuin Imperial Villa
Shugakuin Imperial Villa is one of the largest imperial villas in Kyoto offering panoramic views over the city and designed in the mid-17th century by Emperor Go-Mizuno. The Shugakuin Imperial Villa is dotted with a collection of architectural wonders to be explored. Scattered around the villa, you will find a selection of tea houses granting travelers an insight into the traditions and culture of the city. The villa’s garden has been designed with impeccable taste featuring small bridges over tranquil ponds, picturesque pathways lined with pine trees and rice plantations. During the Autumn time, the surrounding is turned into hues of orange and yellow, making it the ideal time to visit the Shugakuin Imperial Villa.
Shugakuin Imperial Villa
Address: Shugakuin Yabusoe, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 606-8052, Japan
Operating hours: 9am-3pm
7. Ryoan-ji Temple
The Ryoan-Ji Temple is home to one of Japan’s most famous rock gardens, attracting visitors from far and wide to visit its splendor. The garden is a collection of pebbles in a rectangular plot enclosed by low earthen walls peppered with 15 rocks laid out in small groups on moss patches. Insider tip: from different vantage points, at least one of the rocks is hidden from the viewer, shedding light on the exquisite mastermind behind the design of the garden. The park also features a restaurant where visitors can savor the local delicacy of Yudofu which is boiled tofu served in a traditional Japanese garden.
Address: 13 Ryoanji Goryonoshitacho, Ukyō-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 616-8001, Japan
Operating hours: 8am-5pm (March to November); 8:30am to 4:30pm (December to February)
8. Taizo-in Subtemple at Myoshin-ji Temple
Myoshin-Ji Temple is a collection of temples and sub-temples with a plethora of gardens, Japanese art and zen-like spaces. Taizo-in is a small Zen Buddhist temple located in Myoshin-Ji Temple featuring quiet and tranquil grounds boasting picturesque gardens and treasures of Japanese art. The garden was designed by the famous Kano Motonobu and it is teeming with charm and character providing visitors with a chance to experience and learn about the Zen culture. Visitors can opt to experience the tea ceremonies calligraphy, Zen meditation and even choose a temple stay.
Taizo-in Subtemple at Myoshin-ji Temple
Address: Kyoto-shi, Ukyo-ku, Hanazono Myoshin-ji-cho 35
Operating hours: 9am - 5pm
9. Stroll garden at Okochi-Sanso Villa
This garden and temple is such a popular landmark in Kyoto that visitors need to book a reservation before visiting. Included in the fee to enter the park, guests will enjoy a nice Japanese delicacy coupled with a hot matcha tea which can be enjoyed in the stunning tea room. The estate was once owned by a famed actor and now it’s available for the public to bask in the untimely natural beauty of the gardens and colorful scenery. Follow the marked path to a vantage point where visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the city as well as a tiny Shinto shrine.
Stroll garden at Okochi-Sanso Villa
Address: 8 Sagaogurayama Tabuchiyamacho, Ukyō-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 616-8394, Japan
Operating hours: 9am-5pm
10. Subtemples of Daitoku-ji Temple
When you visit the Daitoku-ji Temple, you will find temples within temples providing visitors architectural marvels to enjoy and explore. The temple is steeped in history and it has a selection of meditation gardens, creating a zen-like atmosphere. Within the vicinity of the temples, there are sub temples: Daisenin has a beautiful rock garden, Ryogenin has five different dry landscaped gardens while Kotoin is famous for its maple trees.
Subtemples of Daitoku-ji Temple
Address: 53 Murasakino Daitokujicho, Kita, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 603-8231, Japan
Operating hours: 9am-5pm
Discover the natural splendor of a city filled with surprises around every corner.
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