Top 10 Best Buddhist Temples in Kyoto

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Kyoto is a paradise for a series of wonderful Buddhist temples worldwide. Today, Toplist has handpicked an awesome list of the best Buddhist temples in Kyoto, ... read more...

  1. Top 1

    Kiyomizu-dera Temple

    Welcome to Kiyomizu-dera Temple, an ancient treasure that's been rocking since 778 AD! Perched atop the eastern hills of Kyoto, Kiyomizu-dera, meaning "Pure Water Temple," invites you into its embrace with open arms and stunning vistas.

    What immediately captures the eye is the temple's gravity-defying wooden stage, extending like a friendly hand from the main hall. This platform offers a breathtaking lookout, revealing Kyoto's picturesque landscape. Roofs were painted in hues of red, and lush greenery stretched as far as the eye could see.

    Each visit becomes more special because of how the temple changes with the seasons. In spring, delicate cherry blossoms bloom, painting the temple surroundings a soft pink. Come autumn, vibrant maple leaves ignite the landscape in fiery hues, creating a mesmerizing sight that captures the heart.

    Pilgrims and visitors ascend the steep incline to the temple, their hearts filled with excitement and reverence. Devotees seek blessings and guidance from the revered Kannon statue inside the temple. They also purify their souls by drinking from the sacred Otowa Waterfall, believed to grant health, longevity, and success in studies or relationships.

    Kiyomizu-dera Temple is not only one of the best Buddhist temples in Kyoto but also a living testament to the enduring spirit of Japan. A visit to Kiyomizu-dera is a journey through time, a chance to connect with the past, present, and future. This is a place where history, spirituality, and natural beauty converge, offering solace and inspiration to all who wander its hallowed grounds.

    Address: 1-294, Kiyomizu, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, 605-0862, Japan

    Phone: +81 75-551-1234


    Photo by jpellgen (@1105_jp) on Flickr (
    Photo by jpellgen (@1105_jp) on Flickr (
    Video by @Wanderlust Wellman

  2. Top 2


    Among the best Buddhist temples in Kyoto, the second place belongs to Kinkaku-ji (or The Golden Pavilion), a special gold-plated temple shining splendidly in the peaceful scene of Kyoto. First things first, picture this temple. No, seriously, imagine a whole three-story building covered in gold! It's like something out of a fantasy movie, but guess what? It's real, and it's stunning.

    Originally built as a retirement villa for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in the 14th century, the temple was transformed into a Zen temple upon his death. Over the centuries, Kinkaku-ji has survived numerous fires and reconstructions, each time emerging more resplendent than before.

    The magic starts the minute you lay eyes on the Golden Pavilion itself. It's like the sun decided to chill out on Earth for a bit and made this place its home. Reflections dance on the water surrounding the temple, giving you the ultimate show. The gardens here aren't just some side act; they're part of the main show. Think ponds, islands, and rocks, all carefully arranged to make your jaw drop.

    Stroll through these lush green spaces, and you'll feel like you've entered a whole new world of tranquility. And, for a taste of Japanese tradition, savor a cup of matcha tea at the temple's teahouse. That’s when you contemplate the beauty surrounding you and let the tranquility of Kinkaku-ji wash over you.

    Kinkaku-ji is a whole experience. Whether you're a history buff, a nature lover, or just someone who appreciates the good things in life, this place has something for everyone. And, you know, many people come from all over the globe just to witness this golden glory. Now, buckle up for a golden adventure that'll leave you speechless!

    Address: 1 Kinkakuji-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto, 603-8361, Japan

    Phone: +81 75-461-0013


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    Photo by
    Video by @Jason Jose
  3. Top 3


    Officially known as Jisho-ji, which translates to the "Temple of Shining Mercy," this temple sits pretty in the Sakyo ward of Kyoto. Its first name sounds good. But everyone calls it Ginkaku-ji because, well, it's catchier, and it’s like the understated sibling of the famous Golden Pavilion. In reality, this place might not shine with actual silver like its name suggests, but trust me, it's a total showstopper.

    Originally planned as a blinged-out version of its golden counterpart, the Kinkaku-ji, Ginkaku-ji took an unexpected turn when its intended owner, shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa, passed away. Instead of being covered in shimmering gold leaf, the temple's wooden structure was left exposed, gradually taking on a silvery hue over time. Rather than diminishing the temple's beauty, this unplanned transformation only added to its mystique and made it harmonious with its surroundings. So, the name “Silver Pavilion” was born.

    The main building here stands tall with two stories, taking inspiration from its showier sibling, Kinkaku-ji. But what steals the show are the gardens. Ginkaku-ji's serene gardens, with moss-covered rocks and manicured shrubs, are designed in that classic round style that's a feast for the eyes. And don't miss that pond in the corner; it's the perfect spot to catch the moon shining beautifully on the Higashiyama peaks.

    Ginkaku-ji serves as a reminder that true beauty often lies in simplicity and the harmonious coexistence between humanity and nature. Its serene atmosphere and understated elegance captivate many visitors around the world. It invites everyone to slow down, reflect, and appreciate the tranquility that surrounds them.

    If you're considering swinging by, the entry fee is 500 yen. They're open from 8:30 am to 5 pm between March and November and from 9 am to 4:30 pm from December to February. So, plan your zen moment accordingly!

    Address: 2 Ginakuji-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8402 Japan

    Phone: +81 75-771-5725


    Photo by Reginald Pentinio on Flickr (
    Photo by Reginald Pentinio on Flickr (
    Video by @Jason Jose
  4. Top 4

    Nishi Hongan-ji

    Amidst the vibrant world of Kyoto's temples, Nishi Hongan-ji is impressive for its architectural grandeur and spiritual significance. This sprawling complex, nestled in the northwestern corner of the city, serves as one of the two head temples of the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism, which is a branch that emphasizes compassion and universal salvation.

    These buildings are massive and ornate, with intricate designs that'll have you staring in awe. The main hall, Amida-do, is a stunner with its massive wooden roof and intricate carvings. A golden statue of Amida Buddha, the symbol of boundless compassion, watches over the serene space.

    Beyond the main hall, a maze of courtyards, gardens, and corridors awaits. The Goei-do Hall, with its elegant wooden structure and a pond, is a haven of tranquility. If you're into historical ninja vibes, keep an eye out for the hidden escape tunnels. Yep, this place has secret passages. How cool is that?

    Nishi Hongan-ji isn't just a temple; it's like a living history book. The entry is free, and they're open from 5:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., so whether you're a culture geek, a spiritual seeker, or just someone looking for a peaceful escape in the middle of Kyoto's hustle, this place has got your back. Explore and soak in the good vibes!

    Address: Hanayacho-sagaru, Horikawa-dori, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto, 600-8501, Japan

    Phone: +81 75-371-5181


    Photo by Christian Kaden on Flickr (
    Photo by Christian Kaden on Flickr (
    Video by @Japan Virtual Walk
  5. Top 5

    Chion-in Temple

    Picture a temple that's so big and old that it'll make you feel like a tiny speck in the grand scheme of things. That's Chion-in Temple, one of the best Buddhist temples in Kyoto. It's perched up on a hilltop in Kyoto, overlooking the city like a wise old sage.

    Chion-in has a rich history that goes back centuries. It's been burned down, rebuilt, and even moved once or twice. But through it all, Chion-in Temple has always been a beacon of faith and tradition for the people of Kyoto. Today, Chion-in is a sprawling complex of temples, shrines, and gardens, each with its own unique story to tell.

    One of the first things you'll notice is the Sanmon Gate, a colossal structure that's not just an entrance but a symbol of strength and grandeur. It's the largest wooden gate in Japan, standing tall and proud and welcoming visitors with its majestic presence.

    But who is the star of the show? That'd be the colossal bell in the temple's bell tower. This behemoth weighs over 70 tons and takes a bunch of monks to ring it. The sound echoes through the ground and feels like it reaches your soul. The gardens here are also awesome. They're like a breath of fresh air amidst the hustle and bustle of Kyoto. Stroll around and take in the tranquility—they're a perfect spot for some peaceful contemplation.

    Chion-in Temple is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and while there's no entry fee for the grounds, some areas might have a small charge. Throughout the year, the temple also hosts all sorts of festivals and events, from traditional tea ceremonies to lively parties. These events are a great way to learn about Kyoto's rich history and meet some of the locals.

    Address: 400 Rinka-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, 605-8686, Japan

    Phone: +81 75-531-2111


    Photo by Espen Faugstad on Flickr (
    Photo by Espen Faugstad on Flickr (
    Video by @TokyoStreetView-Japan The Beautiful
  6. Top 6


    Welcome to Sanjusangen-do in Kyoto, where a jaw-dropping spectacle awaits you! This place boasts not just history but a whole lot of "whoa, that's amazing" moments. Its name, meaning "Hall of a Thousand Doors," hints at the extraordinary sight that awaits visitors—a seemingly endless row of 1,000 statues of Kannon, the bodhisattva of compassion.

    The Sanjusangen-do is a long, narrow wooden building with a gabled roof. The interior is dimly lit, and the air is filled with the smell of incense. The statues are lined up on either side of the aisle, all painted in bright colors. The effect is very impressive, and it is easy to see why Sanjusangen-do is one of Kyoto's most popular tourist destinations.

    But it's not just the statues that steal the show; the hall itself is pretty impressive. Traditional Japanese architecture meets modern design with those long wooden beams and elegant simplicity that somehow make the space feel both vast and intimate.

    Here's the deal: you can't take pictures inside, but trust me, the memory of those statues and the serene atmosphere sticks with you. The story behind each statue and the temple's history will keep you hooked.

    Sanjusangen-do isn't your typical temple—it's a fusion of history, spirituality, and art that creates an incredibly unique experience. It's like stepping into a massive art show that's been wowing visitors for centuries—definitely worth a visit!

    Address: 657 Sanjusangendomawari, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0941, Japan

    Phone: +81 75-561-0467


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  7. Top 7


    Founded in the 14th century, Tenryu-ji holds a special place as one of Kyoto's most prestigious Zen temples. As soon as you step onto its grounds, you're greeted by lush gardens that seem to whisper stories of centuries gone by. The temple's history is steeped in resilience, having faced fires and reconstructions yet standing tall as a symbol of endurance and resilience.

    The temple's main hall, Hojo, showcases exquisite Japanese architectural beauty and Zen aesthetics. But the real magic lies in its gardens—the Sogenchi Pond Garden is a masterpiece that reflects the surrounding Arashiyama mountains, creating a marvelous landscape that'll steal your breath.

    Stroll through these carefully curated paths adorned with maple and cherry trees, and you'll understand why Tenryu-ji is not just a place; it's an experience. The sound of water flowing, the rustle of leaves, and the distant chants from the temple create a peaceful and spiritually enriching ambiance.

    One of the coolest things here is the iconic bamboo grove just outside the temple's boundaries. It's like walking through a fairy tale—tall, swaying bamboo stalks create a mesmerizing symphony with the wind.

    Entry to Tenryu-ji comes with a fee, but trust me, it's worth every penny. They welcome visitors from early morning until late afternoon, giving you plenty of time to soak in the serenity and capture some beautiful moments. Whether you're a nature lover, a seeker of spiritual solace, or just someone looking for a slice of calm in Kyoto's hustle, Tenryu-ji promises an enchanting escape that'll leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

    Address: 68 Saga Tenryuji Susukinobabacho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto 616-8385, Japan

    Phone: +81 75-881-1235


    Photo by,_Kyoto-_DSC06083.JPG
    Photo by,_Kyoto-_DSC06083.JPG
    Video by @The_Kyoto
  8. Top 8


    Nanzen-ji is a serene Zen temple nestled amidst the lush greenery of Kyoto's eastern hills. With its tranquil gardens, towering aqueducts, and elegant architecture, Nanzen-ji offers a sanctuary for reflection, spiritual exploration, and cultural immersion.

    The temple's most striking feature is the Nanzen-ji Aqueduct, a wooden structure that gracefully spans the canal. Originally built to transport water for the temple's tea ceremonies, the aqueduct has become iconic in Nanzen-ji and Kyoto.

    Trust me, they're not your run-of-the-mill gardens. The Hojo gardens, with their carefully arranged rocks and moss, are like natural art. Strolling through these paths feels like a journey into tranquility, with the sound of water flowing and the scent of nature in the air.

    Beyond the gardens, the temple complex offers a wealth of cultural and spiritual experiences. Explore the calm Zen halls, each with its own unique atmosphere and history. Admire the intricate carvings and artwork that adorn the temple buildings. Immerse yourself in the meditative sounds of chanting during morning and evening services.

    If you're thirsty, there's a teahouse where you can sip on matcha tea and contemplate the beauty surrounding you. It's the perfect way to end your Zen adventure at Nanzen-ji. Nanzen-ji is where the past and present converge, where tradition and innovation intertwine. After a visit to Nanzen-ji, you're bound to leave with a sense of calm and a connection to the beauty surrounding this Kyoto sanctuary.

    Address: 86 Nanzenji Fukuchicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8435, Japan

    Phone: +81 75-771-0365


    Photo by A S on Flickr (
    Photo by A S on Flickr (
    Video by @Anna Film Production
  9. Top 9


    In northwestern Kyoto, Ryoan-ji Temple is renowned for its mesmerizing Zen rock garden, a captivating masterpiece of simplicity and tranquility. The temple focuses on the teachings of Zen Buddhism, inviting visitors to contemplate the ephemeral nature of existence and find harmony within.

    As you enter, the first thing that catches your eye is the famous rock garden. Imagine this: Many rocks were carefully placed amidst raked gravel, creating a scene like a puzzle for the mind.

    The rocks, seemingly shifting in position, evoke the impermanence of all things and the elusive nature of truth. The raked gravel, representing the vastness of the ocean, symbolizes the interconnectedness of all beings. As you contemplate the garden's enigmatic beauty, you may find yourself questioning your perceptions, letting go of preconceptions, and embracing the uncertainty of life.

    But wait, there's more! The temple grounds aren't just about the rock garden. There's a pond with lotus flowers, creating a restful backdrop that adds to the temple's beauty. Taking a stroll around these grounds feels like stepping into a world where time slows down.

    They say simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, and Ryoan-ji is living proof of that—no flashy colors or intricate carvings—just a quiet elegance that leaves a lasting impression. The entry might require a small fee, but trust me, the experience is worth every yen.

    Address: 13, Ryoanji Goryonoshitacho, Ukyo-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, 616-8001, Japan

    Phone: +81 75-463-2216


    Photo by Kansai Man on Flickr (
    Photo by Kansai Man on Flickr (
    Video by @TokyoStreetView-Japan The Beautiful
  10. Top 10

    Byodoin Temple

    Dating back to the 11th century, Byodoin Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that holds its own special spot in Kyoto's cultural scene. The iconic Phoenix Hall is the star of the show—a stunning building that looks like it's straight out of a fairy tale.

    As you approach the Phoenix Hall, its intricate details come into focus. The delicately carved Phoenix birds adorning the roof ridges symbolize rebirth and spiritual awakening, while the hall's interior is adorned with exquisite paintings and sculptures depicting scenes from Buddhist mythology.

    But let's talk about the garden—seriously, it's like walking into a picture-perfect scene. The peaceful pond reflects the Phoenix Hall, creating a surreal, almost magical mirror image. With cherry blossoms in the spring and fiery foliage in the autumn, this garden is a treat for the eyes in any season. The temple houses ancient treasures, including exquisite Buddhist sculptures and artifacts that whisper tales of the past. It's like a living museum, preserving the essence of a bygone era.

    Byodoin Temple is more than just a visual spectacle; it's a sanctuary for the soul, a place where one can escape the distractions of daily life and connect with the profound beauty of Pure Land Buddhism. They're open from morning until early evening, allowing you to soak up the beauty and history at your own pace.

    Address: Renge-116 Uji, Kyoto 611-0021, Japan

    Phone: +81 774-21-2861


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