Top 100 Temples & Shrines in Kyoto, Japan

With over 1,600 temples and shrines, Kyoto is unquestionably the spiritual capital of Japan. This list of Kyoto’s 100 best temples and shrines is narrowed down from the 200+ that we’ve visited during our months in the city. From Kiyomizudera to Golden Pavilion to Fushimi Inari, Kyoto is home to some of the best places in all of Japan, which is a big reason why it’s our favorite city in the world.

This list is not meant to serve as a checklist for your trip to Japan. The average tourist is not going to visit 100 temples during their stay in Kyoto–nor should they even try. Our 1-Day to 1-Week Kyoto, Japan Itineraries average about 7 temples per day, and even that’s a bit ambitious.

Rather, this is to serve as a resource if you want to modify one of our itineraries or build your own. Again, we would caution you against trying to do too many of the temples on this list, as “temple fatigue” is very much a real thing, and after a while, these places will all start to blur together. (Trust us–we can barely remember some of the higher-numbered spots without consulting our notes!)

If you’re doing a trip to Japan that focuses mostly on Tokyo and Kyoto, you absolutely should save the bulk of your temple visits for Kyoto. Just for the sake of some perspective, Sensoji is widely considered to be Tokyo’s #1 temple. If we were to rank it on this list, it would be #43. That’s not to say Sensoji is a weak temple; it speaks to the strength of Kyoto’s temples more than anything else.

This is not just true for Tokyo. Same goes with Osaka, Nagoya, Yokohama, Kobe, etc. Unless there’s a specific reason you want to visit a particular temple in any of those cities, just wait to get your ‘temple fix’ in Kyoto, which is the place in Japan for temples and shrines.

Now, a few caveats about our list of the 100 best temples in Kyoto. First, you’ve probably heard that the face of Kyoto changes with each of the four seasons. This is absolutely true, while many of these temples take on beautiful and rich character with each season, some are more akin to Two-Face, looking resplendent in one season and grotesque (okay, not quite that bad) in other seasons. As we visit and revisit temples in different seasons, we’ll update their rankings to reflect this.

Second, our opinions change. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the Golden Pavilion, which is regularly ranked as Kyoto’s #1 thing to see. It was our least favorite stop during our first visit to Kyoto, but time has improved our perception of this popular spot–in large part because we’ve learned how to avoid the hordes of tour buses. We still think it’s overrated, but it has moved its way into our top 10.

We’ve been drafting this list for over a year, and I keep re-shuffling the rankings as we revisit temples or my tastes change. I know the second I publish this, I’m going to re-read it and think I should’ve moved X or Y up or down the list. Once this is up, I’m not revising it based upon how my feelings might change. (He says now, until the inevitable, “what was I thinking?!” in about a month compels me to revisit it.)

Finally, we still haven’t visited every single temple in Kyoto. As mentioned, we’ve visited ~200 of ~1600. That might look like a small percentage of the total number, but keep in mind that well over 1,000 of those temples are private or small neighborhood temples not intended for tourist consumption. Heck, most of the temples between #100 and #200 are not places many tourists will ever visit.

While we’ve visited every single important temple as well as most of those worthy of ‘diversion’ status, every so often, we seem to find a new-to-us hidden gem that’s worthy of inclusion. I will edit this list in the future to account for those. I don’t anticipate there being many, but that’s your warning. After the list, we’ll offer some commentary–including why it’s divided in “half” at #53 instead of #50…

100. Hokanji Temple
99. Goryo Shrine
98. Syokokuji Temple
97. Sudo Shrine
96. Mibudera Temple
95. Shiramine Shrine
94. Honryuji Temple
93. Itsukushima Shrine
92. Gyogan-ji Temple
91. Toyokuni Shrine
90. Jikishi-an Temple
89. Myomanji Temple
88. Ichihime Shrine
87. Nishiki-Tenmangu Shrine
86. Entsuji Temple
85. Seimei-Jinja Shrine
84. Kurumazaki Shrine
83. Takiguchi-dera Temple
82. Jonangu Shrine
81. Rokusonno Shrine
80. Shodenji Temple
79. Kozan-ji Temple
78. Senkoji Temple
77. Hase-Hachimangu Shrine
76. Yogenin Temple
75. Sekizanzenin Temple
74. Kenkun Shrine
73. Saimyo-ji Temple
72. Umenomiya Shrine
71. Entoku-in Temple
70. Konchi-in Temple
69. Jizo-in Temple
68. Suzumushi Temple
67. Manshu-in Temple
66. Nonomiya Shrine
65. Chishakuin Temple
64. Jissoin Temple
63. Shisen-do Temple
62. Honpo-ji Temple
61. Seiryo-ji Temple
60. Josho-ji Temple
59. Genkoan Temple
58. Jakkoin Temple
57. Horin-ji Temple
56. Rokkaku-do Temple
55. Nison-in Temple
54. Hogonin Temple
53. Kaguraoka Shrine

52. Nishi Honganji Temple
51. Higashi Honganji Temple
50. Adashino Nenbutsu-ji
49. Yasaka Shrine
48. Kitano Tenmangu Shrine
47. Gioji Temple
46. Shimogamo Shrine
45. Kamigamo Shrine
44. Jingo-ji Temple*
43. Kifune Shrine*
42. Tenryu-ji Temple
41. Sennyu-ji Temple
40. Myoshin-ji Temple
39. Heian Shrine
38. Bishamondo Temple*
37. Shoren-in Temple
36. Hirano Shrine
35. Unryu-in Temple
34. Hosen-in Temple*
33. Chion-in Temple
32. Yoshida Shrine
31. Renge-ji Temple*
30. Komyo-in Temple
29. Shinnyodo Temple
28. Sanzen-in Temple*
27. Enryaku-ji Temple*
26. Daigo-ji Temple*

25. To-ji Temple
24. Taizo-in Temple
23. Kurodani Temple
22. Honen-in Temple
21. Rurikoin Temple*
20. Enkoji Temple
19. Jojakko-ji Temple
18. Tofukuji Temple
17. Eikando Temple
16. Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple
15. Kennin-ji Temple
14. Kodai-ji Temple
13. Daitokuji Temple
12. Sanjusangendo Temple
11. Ryoanji Temple
10. Ninnaji Temple
9. Kokedera Moss Temple*
8. Daikakuji Temple
7. Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji Temple)
6. Silver Pavilion (Ginkakuji Temple)
5. Nanzenji Temple
4. Yoshiminedera Temple*
3. Kiyomizudera Temple
2. Kuramadera Temple*
1. Fushimi Inari Shrine

Okay, let’s break this down a bit. Basically, there are two halves of this list–temples #1 through #52, and #53 through #99. (We also threw #100 on the list because it’s a beautiful icon of Kyoto, but you can’t go inside.)

The higher-numbered half of the list consists of temples and shrines that most tourists will naturally skip, as they are not prominent recommendations in guidebooks or online resources. Unless you have a specific reason (e.g. history, seasonal beauty, literature, etc.), don’t seek these spots out.

If you happen to be strolling past them on your Kyoto itinerary, there’s nothing wrong with stopping at any of them–everything in the top 100 is some degree of “good.” To be sure, a few are even considered hidden gems. (For example, even though we dislike it, Shisen-do Temple is a favorite among a few private tour guides for off-the-radar locations.) We’d caution against doing too many of these, as it will hasten temple fatigue.

The better half of the list consists of temples and shrines that will appeal to visitors. There are several National Treasures of Japan, numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites (including #52), and plenty of jaw-dropping beauty and craftsmanship. Any one of these spots in the top 52 could be your ‘surprise favorite’ temple or shrine in Kyoto. Above that, the average visitor is probably better off visiting museums, villas, gardens, etc.

While you are unlikely to regret visiting any of these, time and endurance likely will preclude visiting all of them. From there, obviously things get progressively better. Everything inside the top 36 we can honestly say that we really like.

We love everything in the top 25, and the vast majority of those we’ve visited multiple times. For the temples we love, we’ve included links to our full posts on those temples, each of which include numerous photos, our review, thorough info, and more. Those are great resources if you want to further research Kyoto’s best temples!

The next breakdown doesn’t come until the top 4. Those are highlights not just of Kyoto, but all of Japan. Places we find to be so incredible that our words and photos do not do them justice. We’ve done all of these numerous times and, in the case of Fushimi Inari, countless times.

You might notice two of the top 4 have asterisks next to them, as do a few other temples. Unfortunately, this is used to denote spots in Kyoto that are not exactly easy to access, either due to the commute or because they are only open seasonally or have special admission requirements.

In the case of both Yoshiminedera and Kuramadera, this is because they are mountain temples located on the outskirts of the city. No strenuous hiking is required to access either, but both require long train or bus rides–that are absolutely worth the effort.

Ultimately, you’ll barely be able to scratch the surface of this list during a trip to Kyoto, irrespective of length of stay. That’s for the best, as (again) you want to avoid temple fatigue. While it’s known for temples and shrines, Kyoto has a diverse array of dining, shopping, museums, and other entertainment options. Doing a lot of temples is great, but be sure to mix these into your schedule for a more well-rounded and satisfying experience in Kyoto!

If you’re planning a trip to Japan that includes Kyoto, we recommend starting by consulting our Ultimate Guide to Kyoto, Japan to plan all aspects of our vacation. You should also check out our other posts about Japan for ideas on other places to visit! 

Your Thoughts

If you’ve visited Kyoto, which of these temples have you visited? How would you rank the ones you’ve experienced? Which would you recommend to a first-timer visiting Japan? Thoughts or tips of your own to add? Do any of these Kyoto temples or shrines appeal to you? Any questions about any of the spots on this list? (We know there’s zero explanatory text and we don’t have posts for most of them, so feel free to ask!) Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!

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1 reply
  1. Nathaniel
    Nathaniel says:

    I know you said we won’t be able to scratch this list but that hasn’t stopped me from trying! I’m on a month long stay in Kyoto right now and I have loved using this list as a way of setting up things to do when I’m not working. I’ve managed to get to 14 of your top 25 temples and shrines and another 5 in the top 52 they have not disappointed. Today I did the 1 day Fall leaves tour and feel like I can take things slower moving forward to avoid fatigue but who knows, I might need more suggestions eventually.

    One temple that I think deserves an honorable mention that isn’t on this list anywhere is Daihoon-ji. It may be smaller than a lot of temples and to be honest its grounds aren’t something that will blow anyone away compared to many other temples on this list. That said, it is the oldest in Kyoto having survived the Sengoku Jidai period and now it is over 800 years old. Additionally it has a Kyudo range next to it with a very skilled sensei. For those reasons, I think it is worth visiting and if you feel the temple fatigue, you can take it out on a bow and arrow.


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