I’ll start by saying that between Tokyo and Kyoto, between modern and traditional, I prefer traditional, especially when it comes to travel. Kyoto was my favorite city between all the cities we visited in Japan. Kyoto had a different vibe, very authentic.
We were staying at a lovely narrow Airbnb around 10 minutes walk from Kyoto Station. On our first day in Kyoto, and after a deadly overnight bus ride from Mt Fuji, we visited:
Toji Temple is located in the Kyoto Station area and it is a UNESCO world heritage site. The main building locates a museum inside, displaying Buddhist statues as well as local religious paintings. It also counts with a 5 story pagoda we witness a group of people was drawing for a class. It also is the scenario of a huge flea market with local produce and numerous woodworks.
Kinkaku-ji, with its Golden Pavilion, is a Zen temple standing in front of a large pond. The whole area is very beautiful, with many wooden buildings with multiple stores in them, but the Golden Pavilion is outstanding. Its two top floors are actually covered in gold leaf.
Arasiyama forest is located in a touristy area with multiple stores and food stands. The actual forest includes the popular Bamboo Groves, whose pathways make for a great view of the impressive height of the bamboo and it creates a peaceful and harmonic atmosphere. Right outside the forest, you can also enjoy a boat ride on the Hozu River.
At night, coming back to the Kyoto Sation area, we had dinner at Arata Restaurant.
It was very vibrant, crowded with locals and had many rice and ‘pancake’ options.
Our favorites were kimchi rice and the Okonomiyaki (Both in the picture attached). Very tasty!
I hope these recommendations were useful.