If you’re considering a trip to Japan and unsure about when and where to go, then consider spending spring in Kyoto. Undoubtedly the most anticipated time of year, a Kyoto spring is abuzz with seasonal events, traditional festivals, and outdoor activities in celebration of the new season.
The best time to visit Kyoto in spring is between late March and early April. If you’re lucky enough to visit during these 2 weeks, you can join the locals in hanami, a centuries old practice of “flower viewing” that’s all about savoring the ephemeral beauty of the cherry blossoms.
In this guide, I’ll take you through the top 18 things to do in Kyoto in spring that includes the best cherry blossom spots in the city.
- Weather During Spring in Kyoto
- When can you see cherry blossoms in Kyoto? 
- 18 Top Things to Do in Spring in Kyoto
- 1. Kiyomizu-dera Temple
- 2. Gion & the Higashiyama District
- 3. Philosopher’s Path
- 4. Nijo Castle
- 5. Toji Temple
- 6. Maruyama Park
- 7. Hirano Shrine
- 8. Togetsukyo Bridge
- 9. Hozugawa River Boat Ride
- 10. Keage Incline
- 11. Daigoji Temple
- 12. Heian Shrine
- 13. Ninnaji Temple
- 14. Kinkakuji Temple
- 15. Kyoto Gyoen (Kyoto Imperial Palace Park)
- 16. Fushimi Inari
- 17. Kamigamo Shrine
- 18. Kitano Tenmangu Shrine
- 10 Additional Places to Visit in Kyoto in the Spring
- Best Time to Visit in Spring in Kyoto
- What to Wear in Spring in Kyoto
- Tips for Spending Spring in Kyoto
Weather During Spring in Kyoto
The transformation of Kyoto in spring is both beautiful and mild, as the cold of winter gradually gives way to the warmth of the impending summer. Throughout the season, the temperature varies from lows in the upper-30s(°F) to highs in the upper-70s(°F).
- March: average high of 53°F (12°C) / average low of 36°F (2°C). Most days in March will be cold but generally comfortable with a moderate chance of rain. Late March marks the beginning of the cherry blossom season where the early bloomers will start to make their appearance.
- April: average high of 62°F (17°C) / average low of 44°F (7°C). April is peak cherry blossom season and undisputedly the best time of year to see the sakuras in full bloom. You can generally expect clear skies and warmer days that are perfect for hanami picnics in the city’s parks and along the riverbanks.
- May: average high of 75°F (254C) / average low of 57°F (14°C). By May, temperatures inch into the 70s, bringing wam, sunny days before the official start of rainy season. You won’t see any cherry blossoms this month but lush greenery in its stead.
Spring in Kyoto is an absolute treat, especially in March and April when the cherry blossoms paint the city’s sites in shades of pink. Be sure to bring warm layers for the colder days as well as a waterproof jacket (or an umbrella) to comfortably enjoy all that the city has to offer, rain or shine.
When can you see cherry blossoms in Kyoto? 
In 2024, cherry blossom season in Kyoto is expected to start in late March and peak in early April. For the most up-to-date and accurate forecast, check the Japan Guide cherry blossom tracker or the Sakura Weather Map around February. You can also reference the official sakura forecast from the Japan Meteorological Corporation, which will provide real-time updates and comprehensive information at the start of the season.
Do note that the cherry blossoms are notoriously fickle to plan around as they’re susceptible to changing climate conditions. Because the season changes every year and full bloom lasts only a week, getting the exact timing will be difficult especially if you’re planning your trip months in advance. Remember, while past forecasts can guide us, actually seeing the cherry blossoms requires flexibility and a bit of luck.
As a guide, here are the 2023 dates for cherry blossoms in Kyoto:
Flowering: March 17
Full Bloom: March 24
18 Top Things to Do in Spring in Kyoto
🌸 Best Cherry Blossom Spots in Kyoto in Spring
1. Kiyomizu-dera Temple
Kiyomizudera is my #1 recommended place to visit in Kyoto regardless of the season.
Established in 780 AD, it’s one of the oldest, most impressive, and most picturesque temples in the whole city. Even walking to the temple is enchanting, which you can experience for yourself along the charming streets of Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka.
In spring, the temple’s 1,5000 cherry blossom trees burst into bloom, creating a mesmerizing canopy of pink petals. As you walk along the wooden terrace, you’ll find breathtaking views of the temple structure that are perfectly framed by the sakura trees. You can also come back to Kiyomizudera at night to catch the night illuminations so you can see the temple and surrounding cherry blossoms beautifully lit up. Be sure to reference the official Kiyomizu-dera Temple website for this year’s dates and times.
2. Gion & the Higashiyama District
The Higashiyama District is a historical gem that is known for its stone-paved lanes, traditional wooden structures, and well-preserved tea houses that reflect the classical aesthetic of Japan.
Higashiyama is beautiful to explore any time of year but is especially stunning during cherry blossom season. In spring, the sakura trees frame its streets, creating a postcard-perfect scene that is absolutely breathtaking. It’s also worth visiting at night where you can see thousands of paper lanterns light up the streets as part of the Higashiyama Hanatoro Festival.
Within Higashiyama, you’ll find Gion – Kyoto’s most famous geisha district. Here, you can experience the timeless elegance of geisha culture by attending Miyako Odori (geisha dance performance held in April) or get a taste of Kyoto nightlife on Kiyamachi Dori (Street).
📍 Address: Hanamikoji Street (heart of Gion)
⏰ Hours: open daily 24/7 l evening hours during early – mid March
🎫 Fee: Free
🌸 Spring Events: anytime during the season & April for Miyako Odori
3. Philosopher’s Path
The Philosopher’s Path, also known as Tetsugaku-no-michi, refers to a walking route located in Kyoto’s Higashiyama district. It gets its name from the Japanese philosopher Nishida Kitaro who used to walk this path daily for meditation.
In spring, this 2km long path is lined with beautiful cherry blossoms, making it a must-visit spot for hanami. The path begins at Ginkakuji (the “Silver Pavilion”) and takes about 30 minutes to complete.
📍 Address: Philosopher’s Path
⏰ Hours: open daily 24/7
🎫 Fee: Free
🌸 Spring Events: anytime during the season
4. Nijo Castle
Nijo Castle is a 17th century castle that is renowned for its well-preserved structures, expansive palace estate, and beautifully manicured gardens. The castle is one of the most-popular cherry blossom spots in spring, with more than 400 sakura trees that burst into bloom.
Nijo Castle is also home to the annual Nijo-jo Sakura Festival where you can enjoy traditional ceremonies and workshops under the breathtaking cherry blossom trees. The festival usually takes place in mid-April and is a favorite among locals. In the evening, the castle also offers special night illuminations and digital art where you can see the cherry blossoms in a new light.
📍 Address: Nijō Castle
⏰ Hours: open daily from 8:45 AM – 4:00 PM l 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM
🎫 Fee: ¥1,300
🌸 Spring Events: Nijo-jo Sakura Festival (daytime) l NAKED FLOWERS 2023: Cherry Blossoms at Nijo Castle (evening) ** be on the look out for 2024 dates around February
5. Toji Temple
Toji Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is renowned for its towering pagoda, the highest in Japan.
In spring, this temple is a must-visit for its beautiful cherry blossoms that bloom all around the temple grounds. The temple also lights up at night, where the combination of pink flowers, soft light, and the night sky creates a breathtaking spectacle.
6. Maruyama Park
Maruyama Park is the most popular hanami spot in the city. During the day, join the locals and picnic whilst enjoying the scenery of cherry blossoms in full bloom. You can also visit the park at night to see the shidarezakura, a weeping cherry tree that is illuminated at night.
📍 Address: Maruyama Park
⏰ Hours: open daily 24/7
🎫 Fee: Free
🌸 Spring Events: anytime during the season
7. Hirano Shrine
While you might not visit Hirano Shrine during other times of year, this shrine is a great place to see cherry blossoms in spring.
During cherry blossom season, the shrine’s 400 cherry trees bloom and transform the place into a pastel wonderland. The highlight is the Annual Cherry Blossom Festival (Oka-sai), a celebration of spring that takes place in April. The festival consists of a religious procession during the day and a lively party at night, offering a unique blend of religious ceremony, cultural performances, and communal festivities, all set amidst the enchanting glow of the sakura trees.
8. Togetsukyo Bridge
Don’t stop at the famed bamboo forest when in Arashiyama! This region on the western outskirts of Kyoto transforms into an enchanting cherry blossom hotspot that unquestionably deserves a place on your spring itinerary.
While you’re here, be sure to check out the serene Togetsukyo Bridge where you can soak in the breathtaking views of cherry blossoms along the river. The view of the bridge with cherry blossoms in the foreground is one of the most iconic images of Kyoto in spring.
📍 Address: Togetsu-kyo Bridge
⏰ Hours: open daily 24/7
🎫 Fee: free
🌸 Spring Events: walk across the Togetsu-kyo Bridge anytime during the season
9. Hozugawa River Boat Ride
You can also take a Hozugawa River Boat Ride, where you’ll journey down the river and get a different perspective of the cherry blossoms in bloom.
The boat ride takes place on traditional boats, where you’ll spend a leisurely 2 hours, admiring the untouched scenery. If you just can’t get enough of the mountains and rivers, you can combine your boat ride experience with a 25-minute train ride on the Sagano Scenic Railway.
📍 Address: Hozugawa River Boat Ride Destination Point
⏰ Hours: 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM
🎫 Fee: ¥4,500 boat ride ($30 on Klook)
🌸 Spring Events: take the Hozugawa River Boat Ride (Hozugawa Kudari) & the Sagano Romantic Train anytime during the season
10. Keage Incline
I wouldn’t normally put Keage Incline on a list of best things to do in Kyoto but spring is a different story.
Keage Incline is a disused railway line that has since been converted into a lovely walking path. In spring, the cherry blossom trees lining the path burst into bloom, creating a stunning tunnel of pink blossoms. See for yourself why this is one of the best spots for hanami in the city!
And afterwards, consider taking a boat ride along the Okazaki Canal for even more cherry blossom viewing.
📍 Address: Keage Incline l Lake Biwa Canal Museum
⏰ Hours: open daily 24/7 l select times in spring
🎫 Fee: free l ¥1,500 for boat ride
🌸 Spring Events: cherry blossom tunnel in peak bloom l Okazaki Canal Boat Rides
11. Daigoji Temple
The Daigoji Temple is another UNESCO World Heritage site in Kyoto that is notable for its ancient five-story pagoda, which is the oldest wooden building in the city.
During spring, the temple grounds come alive with vibrant shades of pink as its 700 cherry trees reach their peak bloom, usually in early April. The temple grounds also has plenty of space for a picturesque hanami (cherry blossom viewing) picnic.
12. Heian Shrine
Heian Shrine is a stunning Shinto shrine that is famous for its vast garden (“Shin’en’‘).
Home to hundreds of cherry trees, Shin’en is best known for a strain of double-petaled cherry trees called yaebeni shidare whose blooms are a more vibrant pink compared to other varieties. The cherry blossoms at Heian Shrine often bloom towards the end of the season, offering a last burst of color after the others have gone.
You can also come back to the shrine in the evening to attend the Annual Sakura Otoyo Concert, where you can experience live music while strolling under the illuminated weeping cherry trees.
📍 Address: Heian Shrine
⏰ Hours: 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM l approximately 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
🎫 Fee: free l ¥600 for the garden
🌸 Spring Event: towards the end of the season in April & annual Sakura Otoyo Concert
13. Ninnaji Temple
Ninnaji Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is not only home to a stunning Five-Storied Pagoda but also to a unique variety of late-blooming cherry trees called Omuro Sakura.
The distinctive short stature of these trees coupled with the striking pink blossoms creates a stunning visual akin to a cherry blossom carpet. Typically, these trees bloom around mid-April, providing a grand finale to cherry blossom season in Kyoto.
14. Kinkakuji Temple
Kinkakuji (also known as the “Golden Pavilion”) is another popular spot to visit when in Kyoto. Recognized for its unique gold leaf decoration, the temple is particularly eye-catching during spring, when cherry blossoms are in full bloom and the clear blue sky provides a contrasting backdrop. The surrounding gardens also provide a tranquil environment that’s perfect for taking leisurely strolls on a lovely spring day.
As you walk the temple grounds, you might get lucky and find the right angle to catch the temple surrounded by sakura trees in bloom.
15. Kyoto Gyoen (Kyoto Imperial Palace Park)
Kyoto Gyoen refers to the park that surrounds the Kyoto Imperial Palace. While there are cherry trees throughout the park, it’s best known for the shidare-zakura (weeping cherry tree) located on the northern side. It’s well-worth a visit during spring and, best of all, it’s free!
📍 Address: Kyoto Gyoen National Garden
⏰ Hours: open daily 24/7
🎫 Fee: free
🌸 Spring Events: shidarezakura anytime during the season
🍃 Best Things to Do in Kyoto in Spring
16. Fushimi Inari
Fushimi Inari is one of Kyoto’s iconic destinations, best known for its iconic red torii gates. As the season turns, the vibrant greenery surrounding the shrine starts coming to life, creating a striking contrast with the red gates. While the shrine isn’t known for cherry blossoms, it does hold a number of festivals in April and May that you can attend.
17. Kamigamo Shrine
The Kamigamo Shrine is one of the city’s oldest Shinto shrines..
This UNESCO World Heritage Site not only home to cherry blossoms but also the famous Aoi Matsuri festival. This historical festival, dating back over a thousand years, is one of Kyoto’s three major annual festivals, celebrated in the month of May. Here, you can get a glimpse into Japan’s history as you watch the large procession of people dressed in Heian Era clothing walk from the Imperial Palace to Kamigamo Shrine.
18. Kitano Tenmangu Shrine
The Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is famous for its display of plum blossoms, making it great to visit in winter and spring. While the famous Baiksai Blossom Festival takes place in February, you can still appreciate the blooming of the plum trees through early March.
10 Additional Places to Visit in Kyoto in the Spring
If you’re looking to fully embrace Kyoto’s springtime charm, here are 10 additional spots that are worth checking out. While maybe not as famous or picturesque as those listed above, they’re great options to consider if you have the time:
- Nishiki Market – food market that’s perfect for sampling local specialities and seasonal treats (including strawberry & sakura mochi)
- Toei Uzumasa Eigamura (Kyoto Studio Park) – Edo period film set that provides great photo ops during cherry blossom season
- Arashiyama Bamboo Forest – Kyoto’s famous bamboo grove that’s an easy 15-20 minute stop whilst sightseeing around Arashiyama
- Kodaiji Temple – Zen temple with a rock garden and lone, weeping cherry tree
- Kamogawa River – another popular cherry blossom spot near Kyoto Station
- Yasaka Koshindo – colorful temple near Kiyomizudera that’s decorated with thousands of colorful balls called “kukurizaru,” which house the wishes of worshippers who visit the temple
- Jonan-gu – a less-frequented temple that’s home to a camelia and weeping plum festival in February and March
- Shogunzuka Mound – located near Keage Incline, this park has panoramic views of Kyoto that’s especially beautiful during cherry blossom season
- Nagaoka Tenmangu Shrine – shrine with stunning views of azaleas in April
- Kyoto Botanical Gardens – a popular nighttime cherry blossom spot. I didn’t include the Botanical Gardens in the list above because there are so many outdoor places to see the cherry blossoms at night that are better.
Best Time to Visit in Spring in Kyoto
While the spring season is beautiful in Kyoto, the best months to visit are:
- March for fewer crowds and the Higashiyama Hanatouro lantern festival. In early March, you can catch the plum blossoms at Kitano Tenmangu while cherry blossoms will start showing up towards the end of the month.
- April for peak cherry blossoms, especially during the first 2 weeks of the month. Numerous hanami parties, outdoor festivals, and evening illuminations will take place during this time of year. Notable festivals in April are Miyako Odori dances in Gion, Okasai Festival at Hirano Shrine, and the Annual Sakura Otoyo Concert at Heian Shrine. Be sure to come back to the most popular temples like Kiyomizudera and Toji Temple for the night illuminations.
- May for fewer crowds, warmer weather, and lush green landscapes. The Aoi Matsuri festival takes place every May 15th at Kamigamo Shrine.
💡 Golden Week in Japan takes place in spring. This is a collection of four national holidays within seven days at the end of April and beginning of May. It is one of the busiest holiday seasons in Japan and many Japanese people take paid time off during this period, leading to crowded attractions, fully booked accommodations, and increased travel costs. If you don’t like large crowds or you’re budget conscious, avoid visiting this time of year.
What to Wear in Spring in Kyoto
The key to staying warm and comfortable in Kyoto is layers!
Since the temperature can range widely throughout the day, layers are your best bet to staying comfortable. Opt for light clothing like t-shirts, tank tops, and lightweight sweaters for the day, and couple them with a coat or water-resistant jacket for unexpected rain and colder evenings.
While not 100% necessary, it will be nice to have a scarf as an added layer to keep you warm and maintain modesty when visiting temples.
Tips for Spending Spring in Kyoto
- 🏨 Book in Advance: Kyoto’s spring season is the busiest time of year, attracting tourists from around the globe. Booking your accommodation and activities in advance ensures a hassle-free experience and secures your spot for the most popular activities.
- 🌙 Experience at Night: Kyoto springs are as beautiful at night as they are during the day, with the illuminated cherry blossom trees offering a magical view of the flowers. Be sure to include time in your trip to go back to the popular temples so you can experience the night illuminations.
- 🌸 Make Time for Hanami: Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing, is a cornerstone of the Kyoto spring experience. Take the time to revel in the serene beauty of the blossoms in full bloom while picnicking under the trees.
- 👘 Rent a Kimono: Embrace the traditional spirit of Kyoto by renting a kimono. It’s a lovely way to experience a small part of Japanese culture and it makes for great photos too!
- 🌅 Start Early: Starting your day early allows you to beat the crowds and enjoy a more peaceful exploration of the city’s popular sites and attractions.
- 🗓️ Recognize that Your Itinerary Will Change: Depending on when you visit in spring, the activities and sights you’ll want to prioritize may change. For instance, late March and early April are best for cherry blossoms, while May is best for fewer crowds and warmer days.
Final Thoughts: Visiting Kyoto in Spring
Kyoto in Spring is an experience unlike any other.
Especially during the sakura season, the city’s historical buildings and 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites transform the city into a breathtaking landscape of pink cherry blossoms. Not only are the sakuras beautiful to look at, but the whole city comes alive with seasonal festivals, street food stalls, and lively crowds taking part in hanami picnics.
Although the city will be crowded, spring is truly a magical time and unquestionably the best time of year to visit Kyoto.
I hope you found this spring Kyoto itinerary helpful in planning your next trip to Japan!