Biking Is The Best Way To Get Around Kyoto To Make The Most Out Of Your Trip

Despite the image many of us have of Kyoto as a compact, ancient town that we can wander through easily, it's actually a large city with a population of almost 1.5 million. Because it was the capital of Japan for over 1,000 years, Kyoto has built up an impressive roster of sites. Inside Kyoto lists 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the city, including the incredible Kiyomizu-dera and Kinkaku-ji temples, and Nijō Castle. Two more places visitors flock to are the brightly colored Fushimi Inari Shrine and the famous bamboo groves at Arashiyama (per Japan Guide.)

However, these sites are not exactly close together, so you're going to need a way to get around that isn't just your own two feet. To get from Kiyomizu-dera in the east of the city to Arashiyama in the west is over seven miles. Having said that, walking definitely is a top way to see some parts of Kyoto. U.S. News & World Report writes that lots of areas in the city are pleasant for walkers and highly recommends taking a stroll along the tree-lined Philosopher's Walk. But there's a better way to cover long distances in this beautiful city. 

Cycling and the subway

One of the best ways to get around Kyoto is by bike. Inside Kyoto calls the city one of the world's best for cycling, thanks to it being mainly flat and having good roads (it's legal to ride on the sidewalk in Japan too.) The World Pursuit agrees, listing renting a bike as the top thing to do in Kyoto, with free bike parking at many tourist hotspots and reasonably priced parking in other places. A word of warning though: You can't park your bike just anywhere, so look out for these parking lots.

The subway is also an excellent way to get around Kyoto, according to Inside Kyoto. The only problem is, the system is somewhat limited as it has only two lines. Some of the most useful stops for tourists will be Higashiyama (near the spectacular geisha district) and Karasuma-Oike in the downtown area, which is full of shops, restaurants, and nightlife venues. The system is easy to use and prices are very reasonable, with a one-day ticket for unlimited rides costing ¥800 (a little over $6.25 as of this article's publication).

Other transportation options

Another popular way to get around the city is to make use of the extensive bus network, which will take you to places the subway won't. You can reach the popular Kiyomizu-dera Temple by bus, as well as many other attractions, according to Inside Kyoto, which has a guide to using the buses in the city. Japan Guide recommends picking up a map of the network in English at one of the tourist offices.

Inside Kyoto also recommends taking a taxi in Kyoto, especially if you're traveling in a group of three or more when it can be more economical and faster than taking the bus. The only caveat to this is if you're traveling during the world-famous cherry blossom season when streets can become gridlocked and taxis and buses get snarled in the traffic. There are also trains running through Kyoto too, though these are perhaps best reserved for traveling to nearby cities, like lovely Nara, according to Inside Kyoto. The takeaway here is, cycling is the most pleasant way to get around the city, but there are plenty of other options if you don't feel like taking to two wheels.