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The Charm Of Arashiyama – 10 Things To Do In The Picturesque Zen Town Of Kyoto

The second stop on our trip to Japan was Arashiyama, a picturesque town on the northwestern tip of Kyoto.

Arashiyama, which is only half an hour's drive from the center of Kyoto, isn’t a destination famous for its own sake, but mainly because of the popular attraction identified with Kyoto – the bamboo Grove. Most tourists who visit Kyoto stay in the city center and go for a short visit to the famous bamboo forest without being aware of all the magical things that this pastoral mountainous area holds. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure we would’ve been on the same famous tourist route if we hadn’t chosen to stay at the Suiran a Luxury Collection Hotel in the center of that town.

Top Things To Do In Arashiyama, Kyoto | Hozu River

Top Things To Do In Arashiyama, Kyoto | Hozu River

As expected from any place with a popular tourist attraction, especially one that’s especially good for Instagram, Arashiyama also fills up with tourists between the late morning hours and until the early evening and loses some of its magical tranquility. Fortunately, during the two days we spent in the city we managed to almost completely escape from the tourists and enjoy the authentic village experience of the town, to drink high-quality coffee on the banks of the Ouzo River, to visit the small temples scattered on the forested hills and to stroll around the magnificent Zen gardens.

I saved you the research and combined a list of the best things to do in Arashiyama, whether you want to spend a few days there or just a short visit in the town.

Top Things To Do In Arashiyama, KyotoTop Things To Do In Arashiyama, Kyoto

1. Suiran a Luxury Collection Hotel


In the midst of our urban vacation, which included the big cities – Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo, we wanted to combine two shorter and more restful holidays. Where we not only “run” from attraction to attraction, but actually absorb the atmosphere of the place while recharging our batteries in a pampering hotel.

The first hotel we chose for our short refreshing vacation in Japan was the Suiran a Luxury Collection Hotel, which combines Japanese luxury and tradition. The first thing that made me love the hotel, and eventually to choose it, was its amazing location on the north bank of the Huzo River, and especially this picture which captured my heart at first sight. Only later, when we arrived at the hotel, did I realize that its location was even more amazing than I had imagined. It’s a short walk from all the interesting things the town has to offer, but it’s far enough away from the hustle and bustle of the town's main street. So it enables you to enjoy the best of all worlds – both peace and tranquility and centrality. Apparently I'm not the only one who was excited about the hotel’s perfect location, after all the hotel is exactly where the Japanese Emperor Go-Daigo chose to build his summer palace and later also Shozo Kawasaki {yes, the same Kawasaki from the famous motorcycles 😉 } chose to build his summer house there.

Top Things To Do In Arashiyama, Kyoto | Staying at the Suiran a Luxury Collection Hotel

Top Things To Do In Arashiyama, Kyoto | Staying at the Suiran a Luxury Collection Hotel Top Things To Do In Arashiyama, Kyoto | Staying at the Suiran a Luxury Collection HotelThe hotel is decorated in the “Ryokan” style {traditional Japanese hospitality house} and has 39 rooms. The rooms themselves have modern Japanese aesthetics, and you can find everything you expect from a five-star hotel – a large and comfortable bed, pampering bathrobes, luxury toiletries, a minibar and a room cleaning service twice a day. The thing I liked most about the room we booked, the deluxe double, was the traditional outdoor tub, which was the most perfect way to start and finish every day at the hotel.

Top Things To Do In Arashiyama, Kyoto | Staying at the Suiran a Luxury Collection Hotel

Apart from a relaxing and well-kept Zen garden, spa and gym, the hotel has a luxurious restaurant and an enchanting café overlooking the river banks. I loved the hotel's breakfast, which combines Japanese and French cuisine {including croissants and fresh breads!}, and the “happy hour” at the hotel's café which serves drinks and snacks free of charge to hotel guests in the afternoon. Simply a pleasure!

Hedonis-Tip: Even if you choose not to stay at the hotel it’s highly recommended to take a break from the activities of the town and sit on the terrace of the café, which is open not only to hotel guests 🙂

Top Things To Do In Arashiyama, Kyoto | Staying at the Suiran a Luxury Collection Hotel

Top Things To Do In Arashiyama, Kyoto | Staying at the Suiran a Luxury Collection Hotel

2. Bamboo Grove

One of the first things I encountered during my research in preparation for our trip to Japan were the famous bamboo pictures of Kyoto… It’s such a special sight that you simply can’t ignore it.

The Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama is one of Japan's most popular tourist attractions, and as such it can very well disappoint you when you reach it. Yep, exactly what you heard… I've heard about many people who have been disappointed by the experience. Don’t get me wrong – it's not because the place itself isn’t amazing; But because instead of seeing the beautiful and calm scene from the pictures you’ll probably encounter masses of people filling the path and trying to take the perfect picture {without success, of course, because there are so many people in the background!}.

Luckily, the first tip we got at the hotel was to take advantage of the proximity of the hotel to the bamboo forest {just a 10 minutes' walk from the hotel}, get up early in the morning and visit there before the place fills up with people.

Wow – I'm almost sure it's the tip that made our trip!

We got to the forest at 7 am and were able to experience the forest just as we imagined it. A large dense forest, full of bamboo trees that reach the sky, through the trees and mists of the morning shone the first sunrays of the day, and we were {almost} alone in peace and tranquility on the long path leading to the endless bamboo trees.

It’s hard to describe the beauty of this forest. And the truth is that it’s also impossible to transmit it in pictures.

Only during the second time we walked through the forest, around noon, we realized how lucky we were to get up early in the morning and walk around before breakfast. The bamboo forest was packed with people taking pictures, and it certainly reduces the charm and atmosphere of the place.

Hedonis-Tip: If you want to experience this place properly, arrive early in the morning. Even if you don’t sleep in Arushima and that means you'll have to get up really, really early.

Top Things To Do In Arashiyama, Kyoto | Bamboo Grove Top Things To Do In Arashiyama, Kyoto | Bamboo Grove Top Things To Do In Arashiyama, Kyoto | Bamboo Grove 


Another great tip we received from the hotel staff was to drink the first cup of coffee for the day at the % Arabica Café.

The tiny Nordic-styled café is a minute's walk away from the Suiran a Luxury Collection Hotel, right in front of the river and near the famous Togetsukyo Bridge {I’ll explain more about it shortly 🙂 }. Apart from the perfect location, which later in the day had a long queue of tourists who wanted to be photographed with a cup of coffee in front of the special view, the coffee at % Arabica is really excellent coffee. The excellent coffee beans are roasted and grounded on the spot, and the result is high quality coffee, which is hard to find in all of Japan.

Hedonis-Tip: If you don’t like to stand in lines, you should arrive in the morning before you visit other attractions.


Top Things To Do In Arashiyama, Kyoto | %ARABICA COFFEE

4. Togetsukyo Bridge

The Togetsukyo Bridge, also known as the ‘Moon Pass Bridge', is one of the most iconic landmarks of Arashiyama, and rightly so.

The bridge, which preserves the Japanese building aesthetics of the 17th century, is one of the best observation points of the town and the wondrous nature that surrounds it from all sides. The seasons in which the view from the bridge is especially breathtaking are during the spring, when the mountain is filled with cherry blossoms and during the autumn, when it’s covered with red, orange and yellow leaves.

The bridge connects the town's main street, which is filled with small shops, restaurants and food stands, and the Sagano area, which gives a less touristy and more rural atmosphere.


Top Things To Do In Arashiyama, Kyoto | Togetsukyo Bridge Top Things To Do In Arashiyama, Kyoto | Togetsukyo Bridge

5. Ōkōchi Sansō Villa

The place that impressed me most in Arashiyama, after the bamboo forest of course, was the magnificent villa of the famous Japanese actor Okoshi Dangaro.

The villa which opened to the public after the actor's death, is situated on a hill at the back of the bamboo forest and provides an amazing view of Kyoto. It includes well-kept Zen gardens and various traditional style buildings which used to be used in the past for living, meditation, tea houses and temples. Today the buildings can be seen only from the outside, but the pleasant walk on the villa's paths, between the gardens and the buildings, creates an experience that shouldn’t be missed {especially since it’s much less touristy than the other attractions in the city}.

The cost of entering the villa is 1,000 yen. It also includes green tea and a snack in the traditional tea room at the entrance to the villa {don’t throw the entry ticket away because you’ll need to give it to the tea house 🙂 }.

Top Things To Do In Arashiyama, Kyoto | Ōkōchi Sansō Villa

<p> data-mce-src=</p><p> data-mce-src=</p><h1>6. מקדש טנריו-ג׳י {Tenryu-ji Temple}</h1><p style=

6. Tenryu-ji Temple

Built 700 years ago, the Tenryu-ji Temple was chosen as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is considered the main temple of the Buddhist Zen in Kyoto.

The large and well-kept Zen gardens of the temple are beautiful and are a breeding ground for thousands of species of special plants, but honestly, we enjoyed the Zen Gardens of the Ōkōchi Sansō Villa because the temple was already full with tourists when we arrived and this somewhat reduced the Zen experience of the place. I guess that if we started the day at the temple we would have enjoyed it more, but since our number of mornings in the area was limited, we had to make do with a slightly more touristy experience in this temple.

 Top Things To Do In Arashiyama, Kyoto | Tenryū-ji Temple Top Things To Do In Arashiyama, Kyoto | Tenryū-ji Temple

7. Bengal Cat Cafe

After the amazing experience we had at the cat-café in Bangkok, I dreamed of visiting a cat-café where this strange / special concept was first invented – Japan!

In one of the quiet alleys of the main street of Arashiyama, we accidentally ran into the first cat-café of our trip – a café for Bengal cats. There was also a café for owls next to it, but as much as I was curious about meeting real owls, I have to admit that they make me a bit nervous, so we decided to go for the feline option.

This café was very different from the one we visited in Bangkok. It was designed in a special style of a small rainforest but it didn’t have the café atmosphere. Although you get a drink when you buy an entry ticket {entrance costs 600 yen} that gives you 30 minutes with the kittens, but there are no tables and chairs there, and the drinks are taken independently from a machine.

If you like cats, and especially if you’ve never seen Bengal cats in real life, you should take a half-hour break in this strange place. Just keep in mind that in this café, like all the other cat-cafés I've visited, you’re not allowed to pick up the cats which can be a bit of a bummer {especially when they are active cats like the Bengals}.

Hedonis-Tip: I saw more cafés from the same chain in other places in Kyoto and Tokyo. If you’re short in time, keep your visit for a different branch.





Since we chose to spend some of our time in the town for resting in the pampering hotel we booked {because that was the goal for these two days 🙂 }, we didn’t manage to do all the interesting activities that could be done in Arashiyama. Here are 3 things that we didn’t have time for, but you should really try:



8. Iwatayama Monkey Park

On the other side of the Togetsukyo Bridge, in the Sagano region, is Kyoto's famous Monkey Park, where 120 Japanese macaque monkeys live freely. The park is considered one of Kyoto's most experiential parks since it allows a close acquaintance with the special monkeys in their natural habitat, and rumor has it that the view from the park is simply amazing.

Hedonis-Tip: If you plan on visiting the park, I recommend you read this post.



Top Things To Do In Arashiyama, Kyoto

9. Boat Ride on the Huzo River

Huzo River Boat Tour offers a two-hour boat ride in wooden boats for up to 25 passengers. As the boat sails down the winding river toward the Togetsukyo Bridge, the boat passes the forested landscape of the mountains. The company operates throughout the year, even in the winter {the seats are heated and the boat is covered with nylon to prevent the cold from penetrating}!

Hedonis-Tip: Most of the reviews I read about this boat ride were excellent, but take into account that this is a two-hour boat ride, and some people said it felt too long.


Top Things To Do In Arashiyama, Kyoto | Hozu River Top Things To Do In Arashiyama, Kyoto | Hozu River


10. Dress In Traditional Geisha Clothes

One of the things I regret the most that I didn’t do in Arashiyama was to dress up in geisha clothes and walk around town with them, which is the perfect background for photographs with the traditional clothes.

The only reason I didn’t do it when we were in Arashiyama was that I thought it would be better to do it in Gion, Kyoto's famous geisha district. The decision to skip dressing like a Geisha in Arashiyama proved to be wrong for three reasons: 1. It’s more expensive to dress up as a Geisha in the center of Kyoto. 2. It’s more difficult to find a place to take pictures in Kyoto’s center because it’s packed with tourists. 3. Our schedule in the center of Kyoto was much more packed and we ended up not having time to take pictures at all 🙁

Oh well, there’s always next time 😉

Hedonis-Tip: If you want to dress up as a Geisha, find a store online and set an appointment for the morning. After that you can visit all the traditional places in town with an outfit which suits the atmosphere!

Top Things To Do In Arashiyama, Kyoto Top Things To Do In Arashiyama, Kyoto



What do you think about the concept of a “vacation within a vacation”?
And which of the things you've read in the post make you want to visit Arashiyama the most?
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