The 13 Best Kyoto Cherry Blossom Viewing Spots

Kyoto is spectacular at any time of the year, but during cherry blossom season especially so. With our guide, get the lowdown on the 13 best Kyoto cherry blossom viewing spots.

Photo Credit: Zooka Yung via Flickr CC

Photo Credit: Zooka Yung via Flickr CC

Cherry blossoms, or sakura, are one of the primary reasons Japan is flooded with tourists from across the globe in the springtime. Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) usually takes place from late March or early April, the start of sakura season (in Kyoto anyway), and lasts for around a month. During this time, what seems like the whole of Japan grabs a bento and a bottle of sake and heads off to the parks and gardens to lie back and appreciate the blooming flowers in the way that their beauty deserves. 

Kyoto, as Japan’s most romantically traditional destination, predictably boasts some of the country’s most spectacular hanami spots. To help you choose the right one for you, we’ve compiled a handy guide to the best of the best. 

If you’re totally new to cherry blossoms, why not first have a read of our Beginner’s Guide to Cherry Blossom Season in Japan?

1. Hirano Shrine

Photo Credit: かがみ~ via Flickr CC

Photo Credit: かがみ~ via Flickr CC

Established in the year 794, Hirano Shrine can be found in the north-west of Kyoto. The shrine has been in the care of Japan’s imperial household for as long as anyone can remember and is considered one of the most beautiful hanami destinations in Kyoto. The cherry trees here are in no short supply, colouring the canopy in a beautiful pink hue. Each year, a cherry blossom festival at the shrine is one of the biggest draws of the season, but throughout the blossoming period crowds flock here, predominantly from the nearby university, to while away the hours eating, drinking and taking it easy in the shade of the trees.  

­ 6:00 – 17:00

­ Mon-Sun 

­ 075-461-4450

¥ Free

­ Hirano Miyamoto-cho 1, Kita-Ku, Kyoto

­ Official Website (Japanese)

2. Kiyiomizudera Temple

Photo Credit: Sue Ann Simon via Flickr CC

Photo Credit: Sue Ann Simon via Flickr CC

Kiyiomizudera Temple, literally translating as the “Pure Water Temple” was founded in the year 780 and is now listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. Its wooden stage, thirteen meters above the hillside below, acts as the perfect platform from which to gaze out over the cherry blossoms in all their glory. Whilst you’re there, head to the Jishu Shrine, located just behind the main hall, which, according to legend, can help those who pay their respects to find their soul mate.  

­ 6:00 – 18:00

­ Mon-Sun

­ 75-551-1234

¥ 400 

­ 294 Kiyomizu 1-chome, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto

­ Official Website

3. Ninna-Ji Temple

Photo Credit: Shibuya246 via Flickr CC

Photo Credit: Shibuya246 via Flickr CC

Another World Heritage Site can be found in the north-west of Kyoto, Ninna-Ji Temple. The temple was founded in the year 886 and was originally built as a summer home for the Emperor. Two of its main attractions are the massive San-mon and Cho-mon gates guarded on either side by fearsome lion-dogs. Ninna-Ji Temple is known by some as “The Cherry Blossom Temple” due to the impressive volume of cherry trees the site is home to, which, unsurprisingly, make it another great hanami choice.  Nicely, accommodation is also available at the temple should you want to spend the night. For other options, take a look at our pick of the 12 Best Kyoto Hotels.

­ 9:00 – 17:00

­ Mon-Sun

­ 075-461-1155

¥ Free

­ 33 Omuroouchi, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto

­ Official Website (Japanese)

4. Kamo River

Photo Credit: Chris Gadis via Flickr CC

Photo Credit: Chris Gadis via Flickr CC

The Kamo River, locally known as Kamogawa, splits the city in two whilst giving it endless miles of brilliant walking paths. Find along the river some great restaurants as well as, in the autumn, some excellent hanami locations. Walk along the river at your leisure and these spots aren’t hard to find. You’ll probably hear the crowds before you even come close to seeing the blossoms themselves. Don’t be put off, however, there’s plenty of room for everyone. 

Address: Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture

5. Kyoto Botanical Garden

Photo Credit: Andrea Williams via Flickr CC

Photo Credit: Andrea Williams via Flickr CC

Just east of the Kamo, find Kyoto Botanical Gardens. With open fields, beds of flowers, tropical plants, a greenhouse and, importantly for us, ample numbers of cherry trees, this is where you can take your nature appreciating to the next level. The best thing about Kyoto Botanical Garden is the duration the cherry blossoms last for, which is, traditionally, much longer than most. So, if you arrive in town a little late for the main event, hop on down to the botanical gardens and you may just be in luck.  

­ 9:00 – 17:00 (gardens)

      9:00 – 16:00 (greenhouse)

­ Closed Dec 28th – Jan 4th

­ 075-701-0141

 ¥  200/adult, 150/student

­ Hangi-cho, Shimogamo, Sakyo-Ku, Kyoto-shi

­ Official Website (Japanese)

6. Haradani-en Garden

Photo Credit: T.Kiya via Flickr CC

Photo Credit: T.Kiya via Flickr CC

Haradani-en Garden can be found atop a hill just above Kinkakuji Temple. A privately owned garden with thousands of cherry trees, again, that bloom for longer than most, this is another good option for the latecomers or those that want to maximise their yearly sakura dose. Though a bit difficult to reach because of its location, the rewards are worth it. Feast your eyes on one of Kyoto’s finest hanami spots and a whole host of other floral delights at the same time. 

­ 9:00 – 17:00

­ Mon-Sun

­ 075 461 2924

¥ 1,200/adult, 1,500 on weekends and holidays

­ Okita-Yama, Haradani Inui-cho, Kita-Ku, Kyoto

­ Official Website

7. Okazaki Canal

Photo Credit: Kimon Berlin via Flickr CC

Photo Credit: Kimon Berlin via Flickr CC

Okazaki Canal, running from the south to the east of Heian Jingu is a spectacular man-made waterway at any time of the year, but during sakura season especially so. When the sun goes down, the canal is beautifully illuminated, making the blossoms reflect off the water and dazzle onlookers. Take a cruise boat all the way to Nanzenji Temple for the full effect, but a simple walk along the water’s edge is just as nice.

Address: Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture

8. Maruyama Park

Photo Credit: stillthinking_t via Flickr CC

Photo Credit: stillthinking_t via Flickr CC

Kyoto’s most popular park during hanami season, Maruyama Park, with its wide open spaces dotted with large areas of cherry blossom trees is another good choice. Whilst perhaps not as striking as some of the other locations we’ve listed, the park won’t run out of space, is pretty relaxed with regard to drinking and noise and is, undoubtedly, still very beautiful. The biggest crowd pleaser at the park is the large weeping cherry blossom tree which is spectacularly lit up at night. Plus, Yasaka Temple and Chion-in Temple are both nearby and always worth a look in.

 

­ 24/7

­ Mon-Sun

¥ 1,200/adult, 1,500 on weekends and holidays

­ Maruyama-cho, Higashiyama-ku

9. Philosopher’s Walk

Photo Credit: C-San via Flickr CC

Photo Credit: C-San via Flickr CC

Named after a Kyoto University philosophy professor who had a particular fondness for the route, the Philosopher’s Walk, or Tetsugaku-no-Michi, is a path between many of Kyoto’s best temples and shrines which comes alive during sakura season. The cherry trees that flank the path are lit up at night and there is always a good number of people in the area, all of which help to create a lively atmosphere.   

Address: Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture

10. Shosei-en Garden

Photo Credit: Annie Guilloret via Flickr CC

Photo Credit: Annie Guilloret via Flickr CC

A short walk from Kyoto Station, jump off the train and straight into Shosei-en Garden, another of the cities best hanami spots. Belonging to Higashi-Hongan-Ji Temple, it is an immaculately well-maintained garden with much to appreciate besides the blossoms. With a number of ponds and even a couple of cafes, the park is fitted out with everything you could need to enjoy your hanami experience.  

­ 9:00 – 16:00

­ Mon-Sun

¥ 500 donation is recommended

­ Aidanocho-higashiiru, Shimogyo-Ku, Kyoto-shi

11. Daigo-Ji Temple

Photo Credit: Jpellgen via Flickr CC

Photo Credit: Jpellgen via Flickr CC

A temple of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism, Daigo-Ji Temple is now one of the city’s UNESCO world heritage sites, a testament to the uniqueness of this place. As an important cultural heritage site, drinking and boisterousness is discouraged here during cherry blossom season, but it’s well worth a visit all the same.   

­ 9:00 – 17:00

­ Mon-Sun

­ 075-571-0002

¥ 1,500/adult

­ 22 Higashioji-cho, Daigo, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto

­ Official Website

 

12. Arashiyama

Photo Credit: Annie Guilloret via Flickr CC

Photo Credit: Annie Guilloret via Flickr CC

Arashiyama is a district to the west of Kyoto, famous for its dense bamboo groves and the taste of traditional Japan it offers. During cherry blossom season, head down to Togetsukyo Bridge at the foot of the Arashiyama mountains, to one of the area’s many temples or to the riverside Nakanoshima Park for spectacular blossoms and some great spots to set up camp for hanami.

Address: Arashiyama, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture

13. Gion

Photo Credit: Christian Kaden via Flickr CC

Photo Credit: Christian Kaden via Flickr CC

The soul of Kyoto, as they say, Gion is a central district packed full of traditional Japanese culture. From paper lanterns, traditional Japanese houses, ochaya (tea house) and Geisha, to, of course, sakura, it is one of the most picturesque and authentically Japanese areas in the countryAt night, when the trees are illuminated, you won’t want to be anywhere else. 

Address: Gionmachi, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto

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