A Romantic Getaway
- Indulge in a Wake-Up Pastry
Malebranche looks a bit like a wedding chapel from the outside. Inside, it’s a glass case of beautifully presented sweets: madeleines, cupcakes, Swiss rolls and other sweets to get your morning started. Grab a few with tea for a walk.
- Stroll in the Gardens
Japan has some of the world’s most carefully tended gardens, and Kyoto’s 59-square-acre Botanical Gardens is no exception. View bonsais, lotus ponds and patches of peonies, but don’t miss the conservatory, where over 4,000 plant species thrive.
- Explore Higashiyama’s Charming Alleys
One of the best-preserved neighborhoods in Kyoto, the historical district of Higashiyama sits at the foot of a mountain range and is covered in quaint buildings.
- Dine in an Artist’s Home
A local architectural gem, Sodoh is the former residence of Takeuchi Seiho, a renowned painter of the Japanese nihonga tradition. The rustic villa welcomes guests for lunch on its peaceful, wood-beamed grounds.
- Admire One of Japan’s Most Majestic Temples
One of Japan’s most celebrated temples and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kiyomizu-dera gets its name — literally “pure water” — from the waterfall on the property, which is built into a steep cliff. Legend has it that visitors who walk to the sacred stones on the property will find true love.
- Have an Authentic Kyoto-Style Meal
Reserve a private room at The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto restaurant, Mizuki. The chef prepares kaiseki — a multicourse dinner that is traditional to Kyoto. Courses at the carefully paced dinner range from miso grilled salmon to deep-fried tofu topped with bonito (fish) flakes.
- Find a New Sense of Peace
On the inside, Kodaiji Temple is covered in shiny gold lacquer. Out back, you’ll find its main attraction, an elaborate Zen rock garden consisiting of a large field of raked gravel, evocative of the ripples in the ocean — and reverie inducing.
- Get Caffeinated
The Japanese are known to buy up some of the world’s best coffee beans. The discerning baristas at Slow Jet individually brew hand-dripped cups of top-shelf product to order.
- Bike through the Forests of Arashiyama
Back in the 900s, the verdant neighborhood of Arashiyama was where royals went to unplug from society. Today, it’s still a beautiful retreat of towering trees. At the concierge desk, book a bike tour of the area with one of the hotel’s guides.
- Escape Civilization
Few places embody the tranquility of Kyoto better than Mo-An, a rural-seeming wooden teahouse with views of Mount Daimonji where you can enjoy a lunch of spicy noodles. Have your concierge call ahead to see what workshops are currently being offered there, which may include tea ceremonies.
- Take in the City
Kyoto Station challenges your old-school impression of Kyoto. On the city’s 1,200th anniversary, an architect outfitted it with steel beams that create clean, modern lines. Walk to its rooftop garden at night for a clear-shot view of the lit-up Kyoto Tower.
- Have It Your Way
Call ahead with any specific requests to Chimoto, a Japanese restaurant with impeccable service and river views. Covered in mats and featuring paper walls, it serves seasonal cuisine, including sashimi and other local delicacies.
- Pass Through Endless Gates
One of Kyoto’s most photographed sites, the revered Shinto shrine of Fushimi Inari-taisha is known for its 10,000 or so bright red gates at the base of a mountain. Walking through all of them takes about two hours, and it’s not uncommon to spot foxes on your journey.
- Visit One of Japan’s Most Important Museums
Along with world-famous artists including Salvador Dali, Monet and Renoir, many Japanese masters view work at the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, one of the country’s oldest institutions. Don’t miss the pond, a peaceful place to enjoy a cup of tea.
- Make Your Own Sushi
At Awomb, you can browse modern art and share lunch. The experimental kitchen serves platters of raw fish, veggies and seaweed that you can roll into your own bites of sushi.
- Shop for Design-Forward Souvenirs
For the sort of simplistically engineered chairs, bowls and tea towels you associate with Japan, head to Kyoto Design House. The owners produce a line of traditional yet modern goods that are all crafted by local artisans.
- Celebrate Big
A la Versailles, the dining room of Kitcho is gilded. The third-generation chef designs every dish that exits the kitchen — such as crab with vinegar jelly and perfectly tender mushrooms — to be a work of art.
- Enjoy Real-Deal Kabuki
The 17th-century Japanese drama of Kabuki, which entails colorful actors portraying tales of betrayal and seduction, began in Kyoto. Minamiza still presents traditional forms of this stagecraft in English in an epic curtained theater.