Kyoto Itinerary | Itinerário de Kyoto
The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
If this is the first article that you read in my blog, it is worth mentioning that I work for Marriott International and one of our brands is The Ritz-Carlton. The views on this post are my own and do not reflect those of Marriott International.
I want to visit every Ritz-Carlton property in the world. Big dream! I am happy to share that I have stayed in a few and the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto was on my bucket-list. It was definitely one of the best hotels I have ever stayed!
When we got to the front desk, they quickly introduced us to our concierge, Ekaterina, and she took us to our bedroom. The check-in took place in our bedroom and Ekaterina explained to us all about the hotel and later on brought us some tips for day-trips and other excursions in the city. The service was impeccable and extremely personalized.
Photos below are from Kyoto, this is not the view from the hotel, but the hotel is also by the water.
The bedroom was very nice, with Asprey amenities, with some local amenities, such as facial soaps from Shabonya, and with a Nespresso and a Tea machine. The room is very spacious, with drawers and closet space. We also had some green tea waffles when we checked in and they were delicious.
We had breakfast included, which was a plus. The breakfast had the traditional "american continental breakfast" with elevated offerings, such as Ispahan granola from Pierre Hermé and homemade yogurts. There was also an option to order Japanese breakfast, but you had to pre-order and we ended up not doing it.
The hotel also has other restaurants, that we did not try, and a pool, steam room and sauna. The gym has brand new equipment and has a very good size. I didn't work out - I did not have time for that!
Overall, the experience was remarkable and went above my expectations. The service was incredible, from doorman, to breakfast servers, to concierge...Everybody went above and beyond for us. Tsutomo, from the Front Desk, personally delivered a box of Pierre Hermé's Ispahan granola to my room, after I told him I was completely in love with the granola I had for breakfast. It was a nice surprise!!!
Otafuku is a hidden gem. In one of the busiest streets in Kyoto there is a tiny door, and if you walk down the steps you get to Otafuku. Think about the coffee shops of 1920s (although I don't know how they looked like, I feel that this place transported me back in time): one person behind the counter, preparing amazing coffee, 6 tiny tables, with locals smoking their cigarettes, and some stools by the counter, where the curious people, such as myself here, seat and try to have a conversation with the barista.
They roast their own blend, made with beans from South America, Indonesia, and Africa. They were super happy when I said I was from Brazil and they made me sign their World Map, so that I could show them where I was from.
- Hours: 10AM - 9:30PM
- Prices: Cash only - 400 Yen for a house blend
- Funny fact: people are still allowed to smoke inside the coffee shop, which adds to the charm of the place. I don't like cigarettes, but it didn't bother me when I was there, I felt it was part of the experience.
1. Arashiyama - the famous Bamboo Forest
It is super easy to get there. You don't really need to do a guided-tour, except if you plan to be there super early in the morning to avoid the crowds (and snap a few pictures without 100 people behind you, or waiting for you to get your perfect shot). As you can see, it was super crowded when I went...and I think that's the rule - it will always be like that, except super early AM or late afternoons. Check Google Maps to see how to get to Arashiyama station and from there it is super easy to walk!
Our concierge also recommended a famous restaurant that serves eel and has a Michelin star...but the line was insane, so we ended up not trying! Apparently you can get reservations if you plan ahead...clearly, I did not!
Another thing to do in the area, if you have some time, is to visit the Iwatayama Monkey Park. You can see monkeys that are native to Japan - the Snow Monkeys.
When you are walking through Arashiyama you will also see the picture perfect Katsuga River. I feel in love with it. So calm and wide, with crystal clear water. I think I could probably spend hours there, by the river, just enjoying the views and reading a book.
2. Fushimi Inari-Taisha
I regretted not going to the Bamboo Forest super early in the AM, so I decided to join a 6:30AM bike tour provided by The Ritz-Carlton hotel to its guests.
The bike-tour destination was the famous Fushimi Inari-Taisha - it gets so crowded that if you are not there by 7AM you can't really take the photos that I took. It is such a special place, with great energy. What I love about the early mornings is that the places are so quiet, and you can really stop and appreciate the view.
3. The Golden Pavillion
A must in Kyoto. This is one of the places that photos speak louder than words. So just appreciate the photos and add it to your list! It is crowded, touristy, but there is no place like this. It is stunning.
- Hours: 9AM - 5PM
- Admission: 400 Yen
4. Nijo Castle
On our way back from the Bamboo Forest we stopped in one of the train/metro stations and decided to walk. We were not planning to stop by Nijo Castle but it was a nice surprise and addition to our visit. It is worth checking it out if you have time! When you enter the castle you will see that the main attraction is the Ninomaru, where the Ninomaru Palace is located. You will probably spend 1 hour there if you do it pretty fast, but you can definitely spend more time. Apparently they will start charging a different price in 2019 for you to have access to Nijo + Ninomaru.
- Hours: 8:45 to 17:00 (admission until 16:00), entry to Ninomaru from 9:00 to 16:00
- 600 yen (from April 2019, an additional 400 yen will be charged for admission to the Ninomaru Palace)
4. Kiyomizu-dera Temple
The temple is one of the most colorful ones I saw in Kyoto. It is on the top of a hill and it is fun to walk all the way up there because you pass through Higashiyama District and see a lot of souvenirs on your way.
- Hours: 6:00 to 18:00 (until 18:30 on weekends and holidays from mid April through July and everyday in August and September)
- Admission: 400 Yen
I don't have pictures from this temple because nobody can take photos inside. The temple is pretty impressive - it has one thousand life-size statues of the Thousand Armed Kannon, and 124 of them were from the original temple, rescued from a fire in 1249; the remaining statues are from the 13th century.
- Hours: 8:00 to 17:00, admission ends 30 minutes before closing time. Please check website to see seasonal hours.
- Admission: 600 Yen
Gion is one of the most famous areas in Kyoto. It is the place for you to go if you want to spot a Geisha. Gion has many restaurants and I recommend getting reservations made by your hotel's concierge because a lot of places don't take reservations online and don't have english-speaking servers/managers. Charlie and I went to one restaurant recommended by The Ritz-Carlton Concierge and it was incredible - it had only 6 seats and the cook and servers did not speak English - you had to pick fish, pork or steak and they would cook for you a series of meals.
Shopping in Kyoto
There are two local stores that I highly recommend. One makes the famous matcha face soaps - Shabonya - and the other store makes Furoshiki, pieces of cloth that Japanese people use to wrap their lunch boxes, among other things (they even make bags with it!).
I got to know Shabonya while staying at The Ritz-Carlton. In the room they had this cute amenity, a facial soap wrapped in a delicate paper. I asked them where the soap was from, and then they told me it was from Shabonya, a local store. I visited and I feel in love with it. They have an incredible assortment - all soaps are natural and made with the finest ingredients. I bought a couple to give to friends, because I thought it would be a pretty original gift, and bought some for me, because I deserve it as well =)
Furoshiki - Musubi
Furoshiki: "type of traditional Japanese wrapping cloth traditionally used to transport clothes, gifts, or other goods".
I went to a store in Kyoto that only sells these wrapping cloths for furoshiki - the store was called Musubi. The fabric and patterns are infinite and you will definitely find great gifts for your family and friends. I prefer to bring unique gifts to people instead of the traditional souvenirs. A tea towel, for example, cost me $5 and I bought two, for my sister and my mom - I am sure they will love it!