Downtown Kyoto

There are few streets in Asia that rival this narrow pedestrian-only walkway for atmosphere. Not much to look at by day, the street comes alive at night, with wonderful lanterns, traditional wooden exteriors, and elegant Kyotoites disappearing into the doorways of elite old restaurants and bars.

Ponto-chō is also a great place to spot geiko (geisha) and maiko (apprentice geisha) making their way between appointments, especially on weekend evenings at the Shijō-dōri end of the street. Many of the restaurants and teahouses can be difficult to enter, but more and more reasonably priced, accessible places can be found. Even if you have no intention of patronising one of the businesses here, it makes a nice stroll in the evening, perhaps combined with a walk in nearby Gion.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Downtown Kyoto attractions

1. Kyoto City Hall

0.41 MILES

Built in 1927, this imposing building takes up one block on the corner of Kawaramachi-dōri and Oike-dōri.

2. Kennin-ji

0.42 MILES

Founded in 1202 by the monk Eisai, Kennin-ji is the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto. It is an island of peace and calm on the border of the boisterous Gion…

3. Ebisu-jinja

0.43 MILES

This small shrine near Kennin-ji honours Ebisu, the god of prosperity. Naturally, it's a popular spot with local businesspeople. The Tōka Ebisu festival…

4. Nishiki Market

0.43 MILES

The covered Nishiki Market (Nishiki-kōji Ichiba) is one of Kyoto’s real highlights, especially if you have an interest in cooking and dining. Commonly…

5. Yasaka-jinja

0.46 MILES

This colourful and spacious shrine is considered the guardian shrine of the Gion entertainment district. It's a bustling place that is well worth a visit…

6. Yasui Konpira-gū

0.51 MILES

This interesting little Shintō shrine on the edge of Gion contains one of the most peculiar objects we've encountered anywhere in Japan: the enkiri…

7. Museum of Kyoto

0.53 MILES

This museum is worth visiting if a special exhibition is on (the regular exhibits are not particularly interesting and don’t have much in the way of…

8. Maruyama-kōen

0.58 MILES

Maruyama-kōen is a favourite of locals and visitors alike. This park is the place to come to escape the bustle of the city centre and amble around gardens…