I loved Kyoto! While Tokyo is amazing and large, Kyoto still had that great city atmosphere while all the big things you wanted to do being walking distance!
Where to Stay:
I always recommend hostels, but especially in Japan. Japan is just so exuberantly expensive, it is well out of my travelers budget to stay in anything, but a hostel. As I mentioned, lots of things you can do is walking distance, so make sure you find a hostel in the area you want to stay. My sister and I stayed at The Millennials, which was incredibly modern and you had seperate little dividers in the rooms and no bunks so it had great privacy! It was on the pricier side for a hostel, but extremely nice and they did free happy hours (free beer)!
What to Do:
You have to, have to, have to check out Fushimi Inari Taisha. It is famous for its Torii Gates and you just hike through miles of gates and its so beautiful! It was definitely more of a hike than we expected so wear good shoes and bring water. It leads you up to the top of a hill which has incredible views of Kyoto as well!
Japan, in general has a lot of temples. A few of the ones I recommend checking out are Chion In Temple and Shoren IN temple and their corresponding gardens. It is a very cool walk and it was really cool to learn about the history of it all.
Sannen Zaka, Nannen Zaka, Maruyama Koen Park are great for walking around and shopping and checkout of local architecture. My sister and I spent hours walking around these three areas and ended up bringing a blanket and a book and sitting in Maruyama Koen Park and have a relaxing day. Bring bug spray though because we were eaten alive by the mosquitos!
I admit, my sister and I weren’t really a fan of Japanese food besides all the sushi. It was a lot of meat, carbs, and oil, and we both usually eat really healthy, so it did NOT agree with our stomachs at all. But, we did find some really cute dessert places and ate so much green tea macha dessert, the lady recognized us as soon as we walked in everyday lol. You can also pay for a tea ceremony! I really did not care about this at all, it was expensive and I don’t like tea, but my sister absolutely loved it (and tea!).
We also went to a 200 Yen bar, which is a bar where all drinks are 200 yen ($2USD). There is a minimum you have to spend AND I admit, the ‘fancier’ drinks were awful, I recommend just going with a classic like rum and coke or it will be gross. But it was a fun time with people we met in our hostel!
We also took a day trip to Nara Park which was just an area full of deer! It was so cute and we hiked a bit around the area! Nara Park is actually closer to Osaka (which I wasn’t a huge fan of because I didn’t feel it was anything special, you can stay tuned for that post later) but I recommend you check out Nara Park for sure!
You can also walk around the Gion Geisha District. I admit, I did not know that the practice of being a Geisha still existed and I was extremely uneducated on the subject and still am. It was a very cool area to walk around, lots of shops, food, drinks, etc. and we did get to see a Maiko (geisha in practice), but my sister and I felt a little uncomfortable because she was treated more as a spectacle rather than a person. If anyone has any good resources so I can educate myself on this subject, please feel free to share them!
Anyways, I 100% recommend Kyoto! I loved it and would visit again in a heart beat! The dessert, the atmosphere, the architecture, the people I met, all great!