The only way to make one of the most beautiful places in Japan even more stunning? The cherry blossoms. And we’ve got all the best places in Kyoto to see them.
According to the 2023 cherry blossom forecast, the blossoms in Kyoto are expected from around late March and to be in full bloom by early April.
Most of our spots are in Higashiyama, which is also where many of Kyoto’s most famous sites are located. For less crowds, we recommend venturing to some of the places on the northern edge of the city.
The Kamo-gawa runs right through central Kyoto and like many rivers in Japan, come spring the cherry trees lining the banks spring into bloom. Also alongside the river are paths for strolling, which will no doubt be filled with cute couples. This area is especially nice towards the end of the season as petals begin to fall and float along the river.
Check out these other top Kyoto experiences.
With both early- and late-blooming cherry blossom trees, Nijō Castle is a great option if you’re avoiding peak season. Thanks to some serious replanting efforts in the 1960s and 70s, there are over 500 trees and 50 different species to admire. During peak season, there are evening illuminations from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Kyoto Gyoen National GardenFree
Kyoto Gyoen, which surrounds the Imperial Palace and the Sentō Imperial Palace, has over 1,000 cherry trees. These include both early- and late-blooming trees, and a real variety of mature examples to enjoy.
Of particular note are the weeping cherry trees, which are famed for their beauty. According to local legend, the trees were so beautiful, a passing emperor ordered his carriage to turn and go past them again. This variety of sakura is now nicknamed mikurumagaeshi (“turn of the royal carriage”).
Pro-tip: Take your sakura strolls up a notch by renting a kimono in Kyoto.
What is today known as the Philosopher’s Path was once the walking route of famous Japanese philosopher Nishida Kitarō. He would meditate on the Meiji-era canal path as he made his way to Kyoto University each day. It’s a fantastic way to start off the day in Higashiyama during Kyoto cherry blossom season.
Pro tip: The Philosopher’s Path is one of the most popular spots, so early morning is your best bet for a peaceful walk.
Prepare yourself for crowds, but brave them because the views are worth it. This temple is already a contender for Kyoto’s top attraction on a regular day, but Kiyomizu-dera really comes into its own when filled with cherry blossoms. From the temple’s balcony, you can look out over the city and the blossoms beneath you.
There are evening illuminations from March 25 to April 2 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
This public park is Kyoto’s most popular hanami spot, and a local favorite. It’s definitely more lively than peaceful. Don’t miss the Gion Shidare-zakura, a weeping cherry tree grown from the seed of its 200-year-old predecessor. The tree will be illuminated from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. between March 24 and April 9.
Pro-tip: Remember to book accommodation in Kyoto early during the cherry blossom season.
Shimbashi Street is considered one of the prettiest stretches in Gion — picture cherry blossoms strewn across flagstones. It follows the course of the Shirakawa Canal. The most popular section is between Nawate-dōri and Kawabata-dōri, but you can’t really go wrong whichever end you find yourself in. During the evening, the blossoms are illuminated and you can peer into the (expensive!) bars and restaurants that line the river.
Gion, of course, is one of Kyoto’s famous geisha (geiko, in the Kyoto dialect) districts. Find out how and where to see the geiko and maiko in Kyoto.
Heian Shrine¥600 (day price); ¥2,500 (evening concert)
Heian Shrine is another very popular spot, thanks to the weeping cherry trees, whose reflections appear in the shrine garden’s pond. This variety blossoms slightly later than most — great if you’ve caught the end of the season. The shrine grounds are free to enter, but you do have to pay ¥600 to enter the garden with the cherry trees; this is just behind the main buildings.
This year, there will be a special concert in the evening to go together with the illuminated trees. Prices start from ¥2,500.
Okazaki CanalFree to view; ¥1,500 for boat ride
Okazaki Canal is a very, very popular spot and even has seasonal boat rides beneath the blossoms. This area is always filled with keen photographers and selfie-snappers. You can stroll along the paths and watch boats go by; they’re actually not extortionate, costing around ¥1,500 per person.
The canal runs past Heian Shrine from south to east, and connects the Kamo River with Lake Biwa’s canal network.
The Keage Incline, which was used to transport boats between canals, is a beautiful spot with some picturesque old tracks. A relatively steep incline, it was in use from 1891 to 1950. In 1977, it was restored as a site of industrial heritage, becoming a National Historical Site in 1996.
Daigo-ji Temple¥1,500 during spring
General Hideyoshi once held a famous hanami party on the grounds of Daigo-ji, and the temple has been a popular spot ever since. The blossom-filled landscape garden dates to 1598 and was expanded for the famous hanami event. It’s an excellent place for enjoying a variety of Kyoto cherry blossoms. The entrance fee is higher than most places, which means it may be a little quieter, too. And the temple is worth exploring — parts of it date all the way back to 1115.
Great for late-blossoming varieties of sakura, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is more than picturesque when surrounded by spring blooms. Ninna-ji has open grounds, which are usually free to enter; however, during cherry blossom season, there is an entry charge of ¥500. Between March 18 and May 7, the temple hosts a flower festival, which also includes exhibitions.
Ninna-ji is on the same bus route as the Golden Pavilion from central Kyoto. It can also easily be visited alongside Arashiyama, as it is a short walk from a station on the Keifuku Kitano Line, which runs between Arashiyama and Kitano.
Kyoto Botanical Gardens¥200
A little farther north than you might have been planning to go, Kyoto’s Botanical Gardens are a great spot for all sorts of flora, but cherry blossoms especially. They have over 500 trees, including weeping cherries and Somei-yoshino trees, which are best for picnicking beneath. Happily, the cherry blossom illuminations will be taking place this year, from March 25 through April 9.
It costs ¥200 to enter and you can walk from Kitayama Station.
A short train journey away, the west side of Kyoto is usually associated with it’s bamboo grove, but the river here means there are plenty of stunning cherry blossoms, too! The Katsura River is lined with blossoming trees and you can take a rowboat out to enjoy it from the water.
Pro-tip: Combine a visit to Arashiyama with a ride on the Sagano Romantic Train, which travels past several blossom-rich vistas. Book tickets online in advance, to ensure you can get a seat.
Coming from Osaka? This one-day bus tour departing from Umeda hits Arashiyama, Kiyomizu-dera, the Golden Pavilion, and more.
While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. This article was first published in March 2018. Last updated in March 2023.