The Creative Adventurer

The Ultimate Self-Guided Walking Tour of Historic Gion Kyoto

gion district walking tour

The  Gion district  is one of  Kyoto’s  oldest neighbourhoods. The streets seem to surge with history, but this area is unique because it is one of the last remaining places where you can see real  Geishas  in Japan. Up and down these streets, you can keep your eyes open and see if you can catch a glimpse of a Geisha on her way to a tea house where exclusive guests enjoy an evening of traditional Japanese entertainment.

gion district walking tour

Red Lanterns

gion district walking tour

Kyoto was the Imperial capital of Japan from 794 -1869. As a great metropolis, it required the best entertainment for its dignitaries and foreign guests. Unlike many movie portrayals or common myths,  Geishas  or ‘ Geikos ‘ are not escorts or prostitutes. They are professional entertainers.  Geikos  and  Maikos  are the words for Geishas and Geishas-in-training in Kyoto. Geiko literally translates into “ a woman of art .” Geikos are trained in all the different art forms of traditional Japanese art. They will be proficient in playing music, painting, flower arranging, singing and dancing.

gion district walking tour

Gion is located along the Kamo River and can be easily reached by  public transit . The closest train station is the  Gion Shijo Station  on the  Keihan Line  and  Kawaramachi Station  on the  Hankyu Line . You can also reach the area by bus #100 or #206 and get off at the Gion bus stop. Public transit costs only 230 yen ($2 US). If you choose to take a taxi, you can ask for it to drop you at the first location,  Maruyama Park . However, taxis are pretty pricey (at least $15 US and up depending on your departure location), so I’d advise public transit.

When To Go?

This tour aims to take you around the historic area of Gion while stopping in at the Gion Theatre to see a show in the middle of the tour. This part is totally optional, and you can easily just continue on from there without attending. But I think seeing a performance at the theatre is a great introduction to the art of being a Geisha and gives you an idea of what’s going on behind those closed tea house doors. The performances are at 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm, and I would aim to get a ticket for the 7:00 pm show to give yourself enough time to explore the north-western parts of Gion.

The best time to start this tour is around 5:30 pm, just before dusk. Most of the earlier parts of the journey are best seen when it’s light out, but Gion takes on a different shape when night falls. The red lamps are lit, reflecting off the water like stars in the sky. Any sign of modernity seems to dissipate, and you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Just before dusk, the Geishas will exit their apartments and head to the tea houses for their nightly routines. If you want to see one, this is your best opportunity! Use this  map  at the bottom of this post to help navigate your way around Gion, but since it’s a small area, don’t worry about getting lost!

gion district walking tour

Map of Walking Tour

Maruyama Park

Start your walking tour of Gion inside  Maruyama Park . If you’re lucky enough to visit  Maruyama Park during cherry blossom season , you’re in for a real treat. This park is the best place for cherry blossom viewing in Kyoto. The most impressive sight here is the  ‘shidarezakura ,’ a weeping cherry tree which lights up at night. It’s truly an ethereal sight! The garden feels like a treasure even during the rest of the year. It is even designated as a National  Place of Scenic Beauty .’

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Yasaka Shrine

From the park, walk through the winding pathways to  Yasaka Shrine , which sits just at the end of  Shijō Street . Yasaka is the spiritual centre of Gion and the reason everything around it exists. In the middle ages, hundreds and thousands of people came through this area to make a pilgrimage to the shrine. The neighbourhood was built around it to feed and house all the travellers passing through.

gion district walking tour

A shrine has stood on this site since 656, but the Yasaka Shrine was founded in 1350. It was built to honour  Susanoo-no-Mikoto , a Japanese god who defeated an eight-headed serpent and saved the citizens of Kyoto from many disasters. This temple comes alive in a different way during the evening or at dusk. The hundreds of lanterns hanging outside the temple, each one donated from a local business with their name inscribed upon it, are lit up when the sun goes down. It is a remarkable site to see against the backdrop of the bright, vermilion-painted torii gates.

gion district walking tour

After touring the temple, head down to  Shijo-Dori , Shijo Dori ( dori  means  street ) is the best place to shop in Gion. Here you can find traditional sweet shops, pickles and handicrafts all along this green-roofed and lantern-covered street. This is the most modern area of Gion, with offices and some big-name brands, but any roads that branch off from Shijo will take you right back in time.

gion district walking tour

Hanamikoji South

A few steps down the street along Shijo-Dori, turn right onto  Hanamikoji . Hanamikoji is the real heart of Gion. It is where you’ll find the best-preserved aspects of the city’s architecture and culture. Along this street, it feels as though time has stopped. Hanami-koji means “ blossom viewing lane ” since during the cherry blossom season, this street explodes with blooms and feels like they encompass the entirety of the skyline.

gion district walking tour

Along this street, you’ll find some of the oldest establishments in Kyoto called ‘ ochayas ,’ or teahouses and ‘ Machiya’  or  ‘townhouses.’  The buildings are all designed similarly, reflecting aspects of traditional Kyoto architecture. They are mostly made of wood, with no windows on the streets to protect the identity of their customers. Each has a wooden lattice facade that runs halfway up the house’s exterior and is topped with baked tile roofs. Most of the houses are unpainted, although the ones which cater to Geishas are given a coat of red or scarlet paint to distinguish them from the rest in a subtle way. Elegantly dressed bouncers wait in from of open doorways, secretly ushering in the elite customers and elegant Geishas away from the rabble on the street.

gion district walking tour

About Geishas

There aren’t many options for those wondering how you can experience an evening with a Geisha for yourself. Most Geishas are extremely expensive, even if you can get the contacts to book a dinner with them. They don’t just have a phone line or website where you can make a reservation. You need to know someone who can give you a reference to get you in. Some tourist services offer evening dinners with “geishas,” but often, these aren’t real. More often than not, it’s just a woman in a costume pretending to be a geisha.

gion district walking tour

Remember, if it’s the real thing, it will cost a pretty penny, so if you feel like it’s too good to be true –  it is.  If you manage to get the right introductions to make a reservation, an evening’s entertainment will start at $700 US, and that’s not even including dinner or drinks.

gion district walking tour

The red lanterns that hang outside humble townhouses are used to indicate these are ‘ ochayas.’  Guests will enjoy an evening of entertainment and fine dining hosted by the Geishas and their house mother. They will sing and dance for their guests while food is served. Geishas are also incredible musicians and will often treat their guests to songs played on the  Shamisen  (a smaller and thinner kind of guitar), the  Koto  (the national instrument of Japan played like a horizontal guitar), the  Shakuhachi  (a bamboo flute) and the  Tsuzumi  (a small tribal drum). Geishas delight in playing traditional Japanese drinking games with the most excellent sake with the businessmen.

gion district walking tour


A few steps down the Hanamikoji is  Ichiriki-tei  or  Ichiriki Tea House . This is the most famous tea house in a 300-year-old red-painted house. Ichiriki-tei’s reservations are by invitation only, and the people coming in and out of its doors are sure to be of great importance. It has been the scene of many samurai plots over the years and where prominent governmental figures met and discussed the future of their great city. Although you might not be able to get inside, seeing this iconic building, even from the outside, is truly special.

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Geikos and Maikos

Hanamikoji is the best place to spot a Geisha, so keep your eye peeled. Geisha are more appropriately called  Geikos  and  Maikos . You’ll also see dozens of tourists dressed in fancy kimonos and some fake Geishas posing for pictures. If you’re trying to spot a real Geisha, there are ways to identify them.  Maikos  (Geishas in training) will have decorations like flowers in their hair, while a  Geiko  (a fully trained Geisha) will not. Also, the Maikos  obis  (the belt they wear around their kimono) will stretch almost to the ground.

In contrast, the Geikos obi is neatly folded around her back. The ultimate way to tell the difference is through the shoes. Geikos have flat shoes called ‘ zoris’  while the Maikos wear the iconic mile-high platforms called ‘ okobos .’

gion district walking tour

The Geikos have a much more subdued appearance than their trainee counterparts because these women have already made it and don’t need to show off. To become a real Geiko or Geisha, you must go through years of rigorous training. Most girls start training at the age of 15. Then they attend Geisha schools where they learn all the skills required to entertain their guests. Since they are not making any money, their home mother pays for their schooling, training and clothing. The house mother is also called the ‘ okasan.’

gion district walking tour

After they become full-fledged Geikos, they must pay off their debts to the house mother, who will get them jobs and find them clients. Many girls dream of becoming Geikos despite it being a rather ancient occupation. Geikos are now becoming famous on the internet, and young girls dream of becoming instant-famous. Just like girls in North America look up to celebrities, girls in Japan look up to these elegant professional party girls. If you see a Maiko or Geiko in the streets, be respectful. They don’t mind if you take a picture, but they won’t stop to chat. If they’re on the street, they are on their way to work and don’t have time to dillydally. Let them go their way, and just allow yourself to observe their majestic presence.

gion district walking tour

Patisserie Gion Sakai

Past Ichiriki-tei, stop in at  Patisserie Gion Sakai . Gion is famous for its sweets. Nothing was better for a Geisha to bring a samurai than a sweet treat. Patisserie Gion Sakai is found inside a traditional wooden-style townhouse. While there are various other things to try, I’d go right for the fluffy cake rolls filled with sweet cream. Some of their more traditional flavours include plum, blood orange and matcha.

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Hanamikoji North

After the show, head north along Hanamikoji; many of the houses along the Hanamikoji north of Shijo-dori are old merchant houses. These charmingly preserved townhouses represent the architectural style of ancient Imperial Kyoto. They have been here for centuries and once would have served the ancient samurais. These days not all the shops on the street cater to knights of the empire. You can find some well-priced restaurants along one of Kyoto’s famous laneways.

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Maiko Lessons

Along Hanamikoji north, see if you can spot one of the  Maiko Lesson Boards . These boards aren’t identified with large signage, so they’re a little hard to spot, but they can be found if you know what you’re looking for. Look for a large green board with a chart covered in vertical, white Kanji letters. This is their agenda for the day, saying which classes they need to attend with what teachers are around town. Maikos will stop here throughout the day to see where to head to class since their classes can be found all across Gion in unassuming townhouses instead of one schoolroom. The entire life of Geisha is one of secrecy and illusion, and even their classes reflect this.

gion district walking tour

Gion Tatsumi Bridge

At the end of Hanamikoji, you’ll come to the  Gion Tatsumi Bridge . This bridge is one of the most iconic places for a picture across the  Shirakawa Canal . On either side of the canal, you’ll find willow trees whose leaves hang over the water and onto the street, creating a soft, green canopy. Truly one of the most spectacular places in Kyoto. During the day, this bridge can be overrun, but at night you are likely to find it all to yourself.

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Tatsumi Daimyojin Shrine

On the other side of the bridge, you’ll find the  Tatsumi Daimyojin Shrine.  This tiny neighbourhood shrine, almost completely obscured in darkness at night, is frequented by many local Geishas. Besides the shine is a stone inscribed with a poem by the famous poet  Isamu Yoshii.  It was made to honour the artist since he greatly loved Gion. The poem reads:

No matter what is said it is Gion I love. Even when I sleep beneath my pillow the water flows…

gion district walking tour

Shirakawa Canal

Walking along the Shirakawa Canal is a great place to wander, away from the hustle and bustle of the main street. Some of the city’s most exclusive eating establishments are located along this canal. If any celebrities are visiting the city, you’ll surely spot them here. While the canal is gorgeous to view during the day, there is something extraordinary about seeing it at night, when the trees are alight, and the sparkling stars reflect across the water. Only your footsteps on the stone sidewalk echo across the street.

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Kyōto Minami-za Theatre

Head back down towards Shijo-Dori now that night has fallen. Turning back onto the part of this street that we haven’t yet explored, check out the  Minamiza Kabuki Theater .  At night this theatre is a beacon of light in the darkness. The Minamiza is the best kabuki theatre in Kyoto. It was founded in 1610, but the one you see standing here today is a reconstruction from 1929. Kyoto is the birthplace of kabuki, and there is no better place in the world to see kabuki as a first-timer or experienced veteran. Kabuki is much like European opera but with a Japanese twist that includes more drama, colours and spectacle!

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Temple of Chugen-ji

Near the Kabuki theatre, down the cobblestone streets next to the  Kamo River , we find the tiny  Temple of Chugen-ji . You’ll discover ‘ Jizo,’  a Buddhist guardian saint, inside this temple. But this Jizo enshrined here is extra special. During the great floods of 1228, the people of Gion prayed to Jizo to save their town from the rising waters. People claimed they saw Jizo physically saving people from the flood and saw him stop the rain. This temple is dedicated to the god who saved the town; perhaps without his intervention, it wouldn’t be here today.

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Kamo River Bridge

Head across the Kamo River Bridge and take a moment to look across the water. The Kamo River has served over the years as a place of great importance for the people of Kyoto. The river was diverted in the 8th century to ensure the new course past the town’s new capital Heian Capital (now called Kyoto). The river was not only a place for the locals to get their drinking water. Still, it was where many of the local fabric makers would come to dye their beautiful fabrics. Pottery makers would begin to get supplies for their work, two iconic symbols of Kyoto craftsmanship.

gion district walking tour

Pontocho Alley

Across the bridge, you’ll come to  Pontocho Alley . This narrow alleyway, marked with a simple wooden sign, runs parallel to the Kamo river. The fancy restaurants overlook the river bank on the right, and the less pricey, more authentic restaurants are off to the left. Although this street feels a bit dingy during the day, at night, it comes alive with paper lanterns, neon signage, and music pouring out of the nearby clubs. There are a few elite theatres around here where Maikos and Geikos perform, so if you didn’t spot one on the other side of the river, this might be your chance to see one here.

gion district walking tour

Torisei Shijo Kiyamachi

If you’re looking for somewhere to eat, head to  Torisei Shijo Kiyamachi , where they serve traditional  yakitori . They have a great selection of different kinds of yakitori (food on skewers cooked over a charcoal grill) for reasonable prices. Plus, you have a great view of the cooks at work which is like having dinner  and a show!

gion district walking tour

Kiyamachi Dori

Making your way down the southern part of Gion, take a walk down  Kiyamachi Dori . Kiyamachi Dori is another historic street in Gion. The road is located along the embankment of the  Takase River , which was actually a man-made canal made in 1586 when a wealthy merchant decided to dig it out. He wanted to create a new waterway to bring in stone and other materials from Fushimi into Kyoto. Although the canal was taken out of service in 1920, it still makes for a scenic walkway; at night, a vast stretch of the street is dazzlingly illuminated. This is the perfect and most peaceful place to end your tour in this historical area of Kyoto.

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With this guide, you can head out and explore Gion on your own, at your own pace and venture off from the large tour groups, which can make what should be a quiet, relaxing stroll into a fierce and crowded experience. Plus, you can follow your instincts when you go on your own; if something looks interesting, go off the path and check it out! You might be surprised by what you find around the next corner.

gion district walking tour

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Inside Kyoto

A Kyoto Travel Guide

  • Kyoto Walking Tour 4: Gion Evening Walk

Discover the world of the geisha in this atmospheric evening walk in Gion, the “Floating World” of Kyoto.

Gion at Night, Kyoto

This private Kyoto walking tour is great for those who want to explore the world of the geisha, Kyoto’s famed Gion entertainment district (the so-called “Floating World”).

The Tour Itinerary

For those who want to immerse themselves in Japan’s traditional entertainment district (the “Floating World”), this is the way to do it without spending a fortune. Your guide will take you through the most scenic streets of two different geisha districts and explain the world of the geisha to you. Along the way, if you’re lucky, you might spot a geisha on the way to an appointment.

Ponto-cho, Gion, Kyoto

Your Own Private Tour Guide

Don’t forget this is a private walking tour, just for you and your friends and family. There will be no-one else on the tour with you, so you have the guide to yourself. We have some of Kyoto’s best English-speaking guides, helping you maximise your time and enjoyment of the city and also get a deeper understanding of the history and significance of each place you visit. The tour price is for the whole group, not per person!

  • Time: Two hours
  • Cost: ¥35,000 for 1 to 6 people per private group. The cost is NOT per person
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Highlights: Hanami-koji Lane (geisha district), preserved houses, the chance of geisha sightings, an explanation of the world of the geisha, Shimbashi (the most scenic street in all Kyoto), and Ponto-cho (another scenic geisha district)
  • Starting time: 5pm from October to April, 5:30pm from May to September (tour not offered on Sunday evenings or from Dec 29 to Jan 3).

Hanamikoji, Gion, Kyoto

How To Book A Kyoto Private Walking Tour

Please send us an inquiry using the form below. We will then quickly respond to you by email confirming availability and any other requirements you may have. You can pay either in advance online using your credit card, or you can pay at the conclusion of the tour in cash. Japanese Yen, US Dollars or Euros are acceptable for cash payments.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why hire a private guide.

You don’t need a guide to enjoy Kyoto, but having a guide will add a lot of depth to your understanding of the city. A guide will also free you from having to think about the logistics of getting around and making the most efficient use of your time. A guide can also help you enjoy local restaurants without any communication difficulties.

Hiring a guide for a tour on your first day will give you the confidence to explore on following days on your own and a guide can give you some advice about what to see later in your trip.

Who Runs These Tours?

My company Chris Rowthorn Tours provides these tours. We have been running licensed tours in Kyoto for 10 years. I have spent years finding and training the best guides in all of Kyoto. Licensed, professional bilingual guides who love Kyoto as much as I do. But, don’t take my word for it, have a look at reviews of Chris Rowthorn Tours on TripAdvisor .

Is The Price Per Person?

No! This is the PER GROUP price, i.e., it’s the price for a private group of 1 to 6 people. For example, if there is one person booking a four-hour walking tour, the price is ¥40,000 total. If there are six of you, the price is still ¥40,000 (making it much cheaper per person). The tour group is private. That means there is only you and your family or you and your friends on the tour and no one else. Please note that we do NOT put different individuals or groups together, even upon request.

Do I Get A Discount If We Are Less Than 6 People?

The price is for a private group for 1 to 6 people. There are no discounts if there are less than the maximum number of people.

How Do I Pay For My Private Kyoto Walking Tour?

Payment is in cash at the conclusion of the tour or by credit card in advance of the tour (we can set up credit card billing). If you choose to pay in cash, please note that we accept yen cash or the equivalent amount in US/Euro cash.

Can I Cancel A Tour After Booking It?

You can cancel a tour with no penalty up to 48 hours before the scheduled start of the tour. If you cancel between 24 and 48 hours of the scheduled start, we charge you 50% of the price of the tour. Cancellations made fewer than 24 hours from the scheduled start of the tour incur a full 100% charge.

What’s Not Included In The Tour Price?

The tour fee covers the price of the guide. Transport to and from the tour and during the tours, drinks and snacks along the way, and temple/garden/entrance fees are not included in this price (these costs are usually minimal). Please note that for full-day tours and six-hour tours, the guide will join you for lunch and we ask that you cover the cost of the guide’s lunch and their transport during the tour (usually a minimal expense).

How Do We Meet With Our Guide?

Your guide can meet you in the lobby of your hotel, ryokan, guesthouse or at any other convenient spot. They can also drop you off there if you wish at the conclusion of the tour.

Will My Guide Speak Fluent English?

My guides all speak high-level international-standard English and most have studied abroad. They have all passed the Japan National Guiding License, which includes a very strict English language section.

Do We Stop To Eat?

On two- or four-hour tours, you most likely will not stop for a proper sit-down meal (although, since it’s a fully private tour, if you chose to do so, you could). On six- and eight-hour tours, you will most likely stop for lunch en route. You might also stop for a drink at a teahouse or coffee shop en route. Please remember that these are fully private tours – the choice is up to you!

Where Can I Rest Along The Way?

Please do not feel that you have to walk at a certain pace for the entire tour. Or, for that matter, that you have to walk the complete distance or even finish the tour. Because these are fully private tours, you can rest as often as you wish: on park benches, in teahouses, at temple gardens, in restaurants and so on. And, if you tire of walking, you can always jump in a taxi.

Is It Easy To Find A Restroom?

Restrooms are very easy to find in Japan. Almost all attractions like temples have them, as do parks and shopping malls.

How Do We Get Home At The End Of Our Tour?

It is your choice: Your guide can escort you back to your lodgings or can simply explain the best way to get there on your own. Or, if the day is not yet over, your guide can point you in the direction of additional sightseeing. Please keep in mind that if you choose to have your guide accompany you to your lodgings, this will be on the clock, so that you will have to leave some of the sights a little early to make it back before the end of the tour.

Kyoto Walking Tours

  • Kyoto Walking Tour Overview
  • Kyoto Walking Tour 1: Northern Higashiyama Highlights and Secrets
  • Kyoto Walking Tour 2: Tofuku-ji Temple to Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine
  • Kyoto Walking Tour 3: Classic Southern Higashiyama
  • Kyoto Walking Tour 5: Arashiyama

Check Hotel Availability

Destination, check-in date, check-out date.

Kyoto Vacation Checklist

  • For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Kyoto guide
  • Check Kyoto accommodation availability on and - often you can book with no upfront payment and free cancellation
  • You can buy shinkansen (bullet train) tickets online from Klook - popular routes include Tokyo to Kyoto , Kyoto to Osaka and Kyoto to Tokyo
  • Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Kyoto
  • See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
  • Buy a data-only SIM card online for collection when you arrive at Kansai International Airport (for Osaka and Kyoto) or Tokyo's Narita Airport . Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router
  • Compare Japan flight prices and timings to find the best deals
  • If you're making frequent train journeys during your visit, you might save money with Japan Rail Pass – see if it's worth it for you
  • A prepaid Welcome Suica card makes travelling around Kyoto easy – here's how
  • World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world

Kyoto District Map

gion district walking tour

  • Central Kyoto
  • Northwest Kyoto
  • Northern Higashiyama
  • Southern Higashiyama
  • Downtown Kyoto
  • Kyoto Station Area
  • South East Kyoto

Disclosure: is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to and World Nomads provides travel insurance for travellers in over 100 countries. As an affiliate, we receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. We do not represent World Nomads. This is information only and not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.

Odyssey Magazine

Kyoto: Gion District Hidden Gems Walking Tour

Hidden behind the traditional façade of the historic Gion district in Kyoto lies a world waiting to be discovered. As visitors wander through the narrow streets and ancient alleyways, they are greeted by a tapestry of sights and sounds that paint a vivid picture of Japan’s cultural heritage.

From the graceful movements of geishas to the centuries-old temples whispering tales of bygone eras, each step on this walking tour reveals a new layer of Gion’s mystique, promising an unforgettable journey into the heart of Kyoto.

Just The Basics

Kyoto: Gion District Hidden Gems Walking Tour - Just The Basics

  • Gain historical insights and cultural understanding of Kyoto’s Gion District
  • Encounter geisha and maiko for an authentic experience
  • Explore hidden temples and shrines with a knowledgeable guide
  • Immerse in Kyoto’s rich heritage and traditions on a 2-hour personalized tour

Here's some more nearby activities we've reviewed

  • Dinner With Maiko in Traditional Kyoto Style Restaurant Tour
  • KYOTO Highlights With English Speaking Driver
  • KIX Airport To/From Kyoto City
  • Kyoto: Private Customizable Day Trip by Car

Tour Overview

Kyoto: Gion District Hidden Gems Walking Tour - Tour Overview

Set out on a captivating journey through Kyoto’s enchanting Gion District with a two-hour walking tour that delves into the heart of traditional Japanese culture and history.

This immersive experience offers historical insights into Kyoto’s past, allowing visitors to gain a deeper understanding of the city’s rich traditions. One of the tour’s highlights is the opportunity for geisha encounters , where participants can catch a glimpse of these iconic figures and learn about their role in Japanese society.

Walking through Gion’s streets, guests will discover the district’s fascinating past and present, exploring historic temples and shrines along the way. A knowledgeable guide will provide insider tips and recommendations, making this tour a must-do for those seeking to unravel the mysteries of Kyoto’s captivating heritage.

Booking Information

Kyoto: Gion District Hidden Gems Walking Tour - Booking Information

To secure your spot on the Kyoto: Gion District Hidden Gems Walking Tour, visitors can easily make reservations online through the tour operator’s website. Payment options include the flexibility to reserve now and pay later, allowing travelers to keep their plans adaptable. The tour offers free cancellation up to 24 hours in advance for a full refund, enhancing travel flexibility .

It’s recommended to check availability for different starting times to suit individual schedules. Understanding the cancellation policy and the tour’s travel flexibility is essential for a hassle-free booking experience. By booking online, visitors can secure their place on this enriching tour while enjoying the convenience of various payment options and the assurance of a cancellation policy that supports their travel needs.

More Great Things To Do Nearby

Tour Duration and Guide

Kyoto: Gion District Hidden Gems Walking Tour - Tour Duration and Guide

Visitors embarking on the Kyoto: Gion District Hidden Gems Walking Tour can expect a captivating experience guided by a knowledgeable local guide, immersing them in the rich history and culture of traditional Japan.

The tour, lasting 2 hours , offers in-depth tour insights and local expertise , providing a detailed understanding of Kyoto’s history and traditions. The guide’s expertise enhances the experience, offering insider tips and recommendations while exploring Gion’s streets and learning about local customs.

With a small group size, participants can enjoy a personalized experience and interact closely with the guide. This tour is highly recommended for those seeking to explore the hidden gems of Gion, spot geisha and maiko, and gain a unique perspective on the city’s landmarks and culture.

Cultural Experience Highlights

Enjoy the captivating cultural highlights of the Kyoto: Gion District Hidden Gems Walking Tour, where traditional Japan comes to life through historic temples , geisha encounters , and insightful explorations of Gion’s past and present. The tour offers a deep dive into traditional customs and local traditions , providing a unique insight into the rich heritage of Kyoto. Here’s a snapshot of what you can expect:

Review Summary

Kyoto: Gion District Hidden Gems Walking Tour - Review Summary

With a rating of 4.5/5 based on 104 reviews, the tour’s review summary highlights its value, knowledgeable guide, and unique experiences that visitors highly recommend.

The night tour offers insights into landmarks and culture, making it an ideal choice for those keen on delving into Kyoto’s geisha culture. Visitors appreciate the small group size, which allows for a more personalized experience.

The guide’s expertise in sharing information about the geisha district and local customs has garnered positive feedback. This tour is particularly recommended for individuals wanting to learn more about the city while seeing the enchanting ambiance of Gion at night.

It promises a memorable journey through the hidden gems of Kyoto’s historic district.

Notable Tour Highlights

Kyoto: Gion District Hidden Gems Walking Tour - Notable Tour Highlights

Discover the enchanting allure of traditional Japanese culture as you stroll through the historic Gion district, uncovering hidden gems and exploring iconic temples and shrines along the way.

The tour highlights include:

  • Immerse in Geisha Culture : Witness the elegance and artistry of geisha and maiko in the geisha district.
  • Explore Historic Landmarks : Visit ancient temples and shrines that hold centuries of history and tradition.
  • Learn Gion’s Past and Present : Explore the fascinating stories that shaped Gion’s unique identity.
  • Understand Kyoto’s Traditions : Gain a detailed understanding of Kyoto’s rich history and cultural heritage through expert insights.

These engaging tour highlights offer a deep dive into the captivating world of geisha culture and the historical significance of Kyoto’s landmarks.

Customer Feedback

Kyoto: Gion District Hidden Gems Walking Tour - Customer Feedback

Customers have praised the tour for its knowledgeable guides and unique experiences in Kyoto. The tour guide expertise has been highlighted in many customer reviews, with guests appreciating the in-depth knowledge shared during the tour. Customer satisfaction is evident through positive feedback on the guide’s ability to provide detailed information about the history and culture of the Gion district. The small group size allows for a personalized experience, enhancing the overall satisfaction of visitors to Kyoto. The night tour , in particular , has been highly recommended for those seeking a different perspective and unique encounters in the city.

Practical Tour Information

Kyoto: Gion District Hidden Gems Walking Tour - Practical Tour Information

For practical tour information on the Kyoto: Gion District Hidden Gems Walking Tour, visitors can expect a two-hour immersive experience delving into the rich traditions and cultural heritage of Kyoto’s renowned geisha district, Gion.

Visitors can indulge in local cuisine at quaint eateries along the tour route, sampling traditional delicacies like Kyoto-style sushi and matcha sweets.

Shopping enthusiasts will find a variety of unique souvenirs and traditional crafts in the charming shops scattered throughout Gion, perfect for picking up authentic mementos.

The tour guide will offer insider shopping recommendations, pointing out the best places to purchase local specialties such as handmade ceramics and traditional textiles.

As the tour winds through the historic streets, visitors will have the opportunity to explore hidden gems, including specialty tea houses and artisanal workshops.

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Common questions

Kyoto: Gion District Hidden Gems Walking Tour - Common questions

What Are Some Common Misconceptions About Geisha Culture in Kyoto’s Gion District?

Many misconceptions surround geisha culture in Kyoto’s Gion district. Common ones include equating geishas with prostitutes, when in reality they are skilled entertainers. Understanding the cultural practices and traditions can help dispel these misunderstandings.

Are There Any Specific Etiquette Rules or Customs Visitors Should Be Aware of When Interacting With Geisha and Maiko?

When visiting Kyoto’s Gion district, travelers should respect geisha etiquette by refraining from touching or photographing without permission. Appreciate maiko customs by observing traditional performances and savor local delicacies with reverence.

How Has the Gion District Evolved Over the Years and What Impact Has Modernization Had on Its Traditional Charm?

The Gion district has undergone a transformation due to urban development, balancing preservation efforts with modernization. While some worry about authenticity with commercialization , careful planning has helped maintain Gion’s traditional charm amidst evolving times.

Can Visitors Expect to See Any Traditional Performances or Ceremonies During the Walking Tour?

Visitors can anticipate witnessing traditional performances and ceremonial rituals during the walking tour in Kyoto’s Gion District. Immerse in the enchanting world of geisha culture and experience the rich history of this area firsthand.

Are There Any Recommendations for Unique Souvenirs or Local Delicacies to Try in Gion That Are Not Typically Mentioned in Tourist Guides?

Visitors exploring Gion can find unique souvenirs like handmade ceramics or traditional textiles. For local delicacies, try yatsuhashi , a sweet treat , or pick up some matcha tea. These hidden gems offer a taste of authentic Kyoto.

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To sum it up, the Kyoto: Gion District Hidden Gems Walking Tour offers a unique and immersive experience for visitors looking to explore the rich culture and traditions of Japan.

With a knowledgeable guide leading the way, guests can discover hidden treasures, historic temples, and fascinating stories that bring the enchanting Gion district to life.

This tour promises to be a memorable journey through time and a must-do for anyone seeking to uncover the captivating beauty of Kyoto.

gion district walking tour

Kyoto Gion Walking Guide: Top 10 Must-See Areas for First-Time Visitors

The Kyoto Gion district is a famous “hanamachi” geisha district and an excellent place to experience the atmosphere of ancient Kyoto. Starting from Gion -Shijo Station on the Keihan Railway, you can enjoy the beautiful scenery and casually stroll around Gion Shopping Street, Hanamikouji Street, and Yasaka Shrine . Here are ten fascinating spots to visit on a walking tour of the area.

What is the Kyoto Gion area like?

How to get to the kyoto gion area, walking around kyoto gion, 1. kamogawa riverbed, 2. gion shopping street, 3. hanamikouji street, 4. gion kobu kaburenjo theater, 5. kenninji temple, 6. yasui konpiragu, 7. yasaka shrine, 8. shirakawa (ipponbashi), 9. tatsumi bridge and tatsumi daimyojin, 10. shinbashi dori and shirakawa minami dori, the gion neighborhood is fun to walk around, book an authentic maiko and geisha experience in kyoto gion.

What is the Kyoto Gion area like?

Gion ’s Yasaka Shrine was formerly known as “Gionsha” with extensive grounds covering the current location and the entire Kamogawa area. As a result, the area around the shrine came to be known as “ Gion .” Modern Gion has a dual-character, serving as a tourist destination with its old-fashioned atmosphere and a “hanamachi” (literally "flower district") the Japanese term for districts where Maiko and Geisha live and entertain teahouse guests. Visiting tourists can easily experience the atmosphere of Kyoto, and enjoy the best food at local restaurants. In the hanamachi, “ozashiki asobi” and other geisha games afford guests the opportunity to witness the dancing and artistry of Maiko and Geisha while dining. However, entry to such tea parlors is very strict, with most would-be patrons immediately turned away. Even Japanese people cannot enter without an introduction from a current patron. Below we will share a few spots where you can nevertheless enjoy this ancient tradition for yourself.

How to get to the Kyoto Gion area

The closest station to Kyoto Gion is Gion -Shijo Station on the Keihan Railway. Exiting the station via the 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 7th exits will lead you to Shijo Dori and Gion Shopping Street, which leads to Yasaka Shrine . To get to Gion -Shijo Station from Osaka, take the Keihan Main Line Limited Express for 45 to 50 minutes from Temmabashi Station or Yodoyabashi Station (one-way fare 420 yen). From JR Kyoto Station , take the JR Nara line to Tofukuji and change to the Keihan train (about 20 minutes, 290 yen one way). You can also ride the Hankyu Line from Kyoto Kawaramachi Station and then walk about 5-10 minutes to Gion .

Here are ten noteworthy tourist sites near Gion -Shijo Station, along Hanamikouji Street, and around Yasaka Shrine .

1. Kamogawa riverbed

To start your tour, head to Kamogawa from any of Gion -Shijo Station’s exits. The Kamo River is about 23km long and flows from north to south through Kyoto. The riverbed has a promenade that’s perfect for running and walking. There are also small benches in the shaded area under the nearby bridge, where you can relax while watching the river flow past.

  • Address Kyoto

Admission: Free

2. Gion Shopping Street

Shijo Dori, the main street that runs from Kamogawa to Yasaka Shrine , is known as “ Gion Shopping Street,” and is home to a myriad of restaurants and souvenir shops . The covered sidewalk makes it a beautiful place to walk, even in bad weather.

Chugenji Temple is said to be beneficial to the eyes (worship time: 7:00 - 20:00)

All along the street, there are well-established tea shops, cafés, and sweet shops where you can eat Japanese sweets , including the Saryotsujiri tea shop, famous for its green tea parfaits. A well-known destination, the sidewalk is crowded with people waiting in line to enter during peak tourist season .

  • Address Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, 605-0074

Hours: Vary by store

3. Hanamikouji Street

As you walk toward Yasaka Shrine on Gion Shopping Street, you’ll see a charming side street on your right. This is the famous Hanamikouji. The stone-paved road is lined with buildings unique to Kyoto known as “Kyomachiya,” many of which feature vermilion “bengaragoushi” lattices and “inuyarai” protective fences below their eaves. When the sun sets, the shops and street lights create a magical atmosphere. Geisha and Maiko entertain guests in Gion ’s ancient teahouses, the most prestigious of which, Ichirikitei, bears an impressive presence. There are many private streets along Hanamikouji, with numerous “no photography allowed” signs posted. You may be able to see Maiko and Geisha walking down the road, but it’s advisable to walk quietly and maintain the dignity of Kyoto by not taking photos, and instead committing these unique images to memory.

  • Address Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0074

4. Gion Kobu Kaburenjo Theater

If you walk south on the main street of Hanamikouji, you’ll eventually arrive at Gion Kobu Kaburenjo Theater, renowned for its spring “Mito Odori” and autumn “Onsenkai” Maiko and Geisha dance performances. Although in 2020 it is currently closed for earthquake-resistant repairs, the theater’s beautiful exterior is worth a visit even if you can’t enter.

gion district walking tour

“ Gion Corner” is part of Yasaka Kaikan, adjacent to Gion Kobu Kaburenjo. There you can experience traditional performing arts such as “Kyomai,” a dance that originated in Kyoto; “Gagaku,” one of the oldest forms of music in the world; and “Kyogen” social satire, all in about one hour. Performances are held twice daily at 6:00 and 7:00 pm (Friday to Sunday and holidays only from December to the second week of March), and tickets can be purchased at the front counter. It's an excellent place to visit between walks and get in touch with traditional arts .

  • Address 570-2 Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, 605-0074

Hours: Temporarily closed for renovation Admission: Please refer to official website

5. Kenninji Temple

From Gion Kobu Kaburenjo, go back to Hanamikouji and head a bit further south until you reach Kenninji Temple . The oldest Zen temple in Kyoto, it houses the national treasure screen painting “Fujin Raijinzu” depicting the Shinto wind and thunder gods. There is also a Karesui-style Japanese rock garden with such serenity will make you forget it’s located in the heart of the city. On the second Sunday of every month, guests can participate in zazen meditation starting from 7:30. Anyone is welcome, there is no participation fee, and no reservation is required (Please note that the service may be canceled due to various circumstances so be sure to check before visiting.)

  • Address 584 Komatsucho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, 605-0811

Hours: 10:00 - 17:00 Admission: Adults 600 yen, middle school and high school students 300 yen, elementary school students 200 yen

6. Yasui Konpiragu

Head east along Kenninji and you will see the “torii” gate of the Yasui Konpiragu Shrine , which is said to be beneficial for cutting off bad relations and vices and forming good connections. The shrine is dedicated to Emperor Sutoku and named for Konpiragu Shrine in Sanuki (modern-day Kagawa Prefecture), where Sutoku rid himself of greed and desire. Likewise, the shrine is believed to stop the evil that hinders good relationships between men and women.

gion district walking tour

It is said that the hole in the center of the shrine ’s 1.5-meter high and 3-meter wide votive “ishi” stone is filled with divine power. First, worshippers visit the main shrine and write a wish or prayer on a card called a “katashiro.” Next they go through the hole in the ishi from the front to back and vice versa while reciting their wish before putting the katashiro on the ishi to rid themselves of bad sexual relations, sickness, drinking problems, gambling addiction, and other afflictions.

  • Address 70 Shimobentencho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, 605-0823

7. Yasaka Shrine

Next return to Shijo-dori and head due east. After about a 10-minute walk from Yasui Konpiragu to a main street called Higashioji Dori, and you will see the large vermilion West Tower Gate of Yasaka Shrine across the T-intersection. Yasaka Shrine is also called “ Gion Shrine ” and is symbolic of the neighborhood. In addition to the main shrine and the dance stage, various gods are enshrined throughout the vast complex. One shrine is dedicated to the god of plague control, Bigozensha (Utsukushi Gozensha) enshrines the god of beauty , and Okuninushisha is for the god of marriage. Be sure to stop by and take a stroll through the grounds.

  • Address 625 Gionmachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, 605-0823

8. Shirakawa (Ipponbashi)

When you return to Higashioji Dori and walk north, you’ll eventually reach a small river – the Shirakawa, which is connected to the Kamo River . Willow and cherry trees growing along the Shirakawa River give the area a scenic atmosphere throughout the year. If you have time, we recommend a stroll upstream.

Ipponbashi is so narrow!

In particular, “Ipponbashi,” a simple footbridge with no balustrade, is a popular spot for beautifully posed photos because it offers a unobstructed view of the subject.

  • Address 478 Umemiyacho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0061

9. Tatsumi Bridge and Tatsumi Daimyojin

Following the Shirakawa west, the atmosphere becomes increasingly elegant. Walk along the willow-covered cobblestone street, cross the Shinbashi Bridge, and you arrive at a small bridge called Tatsumibashi. Just next to it is the Tatsumi Daimyojin Shrine . Spanning the Shirakawa, Tatsumi Bridge creates a picturesque scene with its vermillion-colored railing. It is also a popular location for wedding photos, especially in spring , when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.

gion district walking tour

Tatsumi Daimyojin, across the street, is worth a visit. It's a small, but beautiful shrine with Shirakawa-dori as its backdrop.

  • Address Gion, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, 605-0084

10. Shinbashi Dori and Shirakawa Minami Dori

The road forks around Tatsumi Daimyojin with Shinbashi Dori to the north and Shirakawa Minami Dori to the south featuring a footpath rich in Kyoto atmosphere. It’s a must-see on a trip to Gion ! There are many traditional townhouses on Shinbashi Dori. In consideration of the privacy of customers, large blinds are hung so passers-by cannot see inside. Even teahouses are devoid of large signs, maintaining the serene atmosphere.

gion district walking tour

Shirakawa Minami Dori’s cafés take full advantage of the scenery. With the gentle murmur of the Shirakawa and smoothly swaying willow trees beckoning tourists, merely walking along this short street is thrilling.

gion district walking tour

The cherry blossoms planted along the Shirakawa River will be in full bloom in spring , further adding to the magical atmosphere. After passing Shirakawa Minami Dori and continuing west, you will return to Gion -Shijo Station.

Gion is one of Kyoto's leading tourist destinations and Japan's largest hanamachi. You can enjoy beautiful streets like Hanamikouji and Shirakawa Minami Dori, and while excellent restaurants are plentiful, take into consideration that many are open only to regular customers. Gion isn’t such a large area, and with so many highlights, it’s ideally suited for a half-day of sightseeing on foot. Be sure to visit and enjoy the walk! *The above article is based on information from June 2020

Make your trip extra memorable by booking one of these recommended experiences on our partner site, Voyagin!

  • Area Gion, Kawaramachi, Kiyomizu-dera Temple
  • Category Historical Places

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gion district walking tour

Gion & Higashiyama Tour

Gion & higashiyama tour.

Our main tour since 2015


Join us on our main tour!

.st0{fill:none;} 2h 30min tour, available in english.

During the walk with us , you will explore some of Kyoto’s most beautiful Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, experience the enchanting geisha quarters of Gion, and stroll through the beautifully preserved Higashiyama district.

Our knowledgeable guides will help you discover the real Kyoto , providing insights into the city’s ancient culture, religious life, and local foods. You’ll learn fun facts and stories that go beyond what you’ll find in a typical guidebook, offering a unique Kyoto cultural experience.

After the tour , your guide will be available to answer questions and provide recommendations for things to do in Kyoto. Whether you’re planning a Kyoto day trip or creating a longer Kyoto itinerary, our tour is a must-include for a comprehensive understanding of this marvelous city.

Meeting Location

In front of the Izumo no Okuni statue on the bank of the Kamo River. Next to Keihan Gion Shijo station, or 3min walk from Hankyu Kawaramachi station across the bridge.

We will meet in front of the statue.

If the schedule below is not showing, please reload the page. Sometimes if it says a tour is Fully Booked, try and refresh and see if there’s any open slots.

Things To Note

What’s a “free tour”, you ask?  Well, it’s a fun way to explore a city, where you get to learn about its history, culture, food, current happenings, and the way people live there. It’s become a top pick for travelers visiting any city.

Now, the term “free tour” might be a bit puzzling.  “Free” here doesn’t mean you don’t pay anything. It’s more like a “pay-what-you-want” tour.  You decide how much to tip the guide at the end based on how much you enjoyed the tour. It’s a cool system that puts you, the traveler, in control and helps improve the quality of the tour.

We just want to make sure you understand this “free” concept and appreciate the hard work of our guides. This way, we can ensure that you have the best experience possible.

How much should you pay? That’s totally up to you!  We suggest deciding based on your experience and what you can afford.

Our guides are locals who work hard every day to boost their knowledge and make the tours fun and engaging. We’re confident they’re the best guides you could ask for in any destination.

Most travelers usually tip between ¥1000 and ¥2000 per person.  But remember, it’s your call! You can give more or less depending on how much you enjoyed the tour.

Check out our other tours!

Kyoto pub crawl.

gion district walking tour

Fushimi Inari Night tour

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  • Destinations
  • Tours in Kyoto

Kyoto Free Walking Tour in Gion District!

Kyoto Free Walking Tour in Gion District! Japan — #1

Overview of the tour in Kyoto

Embark on an unforgettable journey through the heart of Kyoto with our Free Walking Tour, meticulously designed to showcase the perfect blend of historic landmarks and modern marvels. We will delve into the rich cultural tapestry of Kyoto, visiting iconic sites like the historic Minami-za Theater, the picturesque Hanami-Koji Street, and the majestic Yasaka Shrine, steeped in centuries of tradition. Ascend to the serene Maruyama Park, offering panoramic views of the cityscape and the iconic Yasaka Pagoda. Next, we'll explore the tranquil grounds of the renowned Chion-in Temple, home to awe-inspiring architecture and serene gardens. Traverse the charming streets of Shirakawa-Minami Dori, lined with traditional machiya houses, before immersing ourselves in the vibrant atmosphere of Pontocho, Kyoto's famed dining and entertainment district. Finally, we'll return to our starting point, where we bid you farewell, leaving you with cherished memories of your exploration of Kyoto's timeless beauty.

This activity includes:

  • Yasaka-jinja Shrine
  • Maruyama Park
  • Minamiza Theater
  • Hanamikoji Street
  • Pontocho Park
  • English Speaking Guide

Kazu Ashida — Guide of Kyoto Free Walking Tour in Gion District!, Japan

Meeting point

Hankyu Kyoto Kawaramachi Station, 2-B Entrance

The meeting point is the 2-B entrance of Hankyu Railway Kyoto Kawaramachi Station. There is a 2-B entrance on the ground at the southeast corner of the intersection of Shijo-dori and Kawaramachi-dori. The landmark is a large store called EDION. The Japanese guide in charge will be waiting for you, holding a red cloth or other landmark.

Things to note

Tours will continue as scheduled, even in the event of bad weather. However, please note that if the guide determines that it is dangerous to proceed due to thunderstorms, heavy snow, or other natural disasters on the day of the tour, we may prioritize the safety of all participants and cancel the tour.

Free Cancellation

You are free to cancel a booking anytime. We kindly remind you to cancel bookings you cannot arrive for. Being reported as absent decreases your customer level points and the benefits you can enjoy.

Kimono Tour in Kyoto

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1 Day Itinerary in Higashiyama and Gion

Best Walking Map of Higashiyama and Gion

gion district walking tour

Did you know you didn’t need to rely on the complicated public transportation to see the best bits of Kyoto ? Check out the most efficient route to get around the city with no time wasting!

Isn’t it hard to decide where to visit in Kyoto as there are so many attractions to see with a limited time? Today, I’d like to introduce a great route which you can go on foot and see over 10 must-visit top tourist sites in Kyoto.

On this article, we focus on the east side of Kyoto Station, Gion and Higashiyama areas. These areas are especially known for the well-preserved old townscape and numbers historic sites. If you plan well in advance and use time wisely, it is possible to see very best of this beautiful areas in a day!

Also these areas are hugely known as great photo spots. The nostalgic and historical townscape attracts photographers from all around the world, and Instagrammers lately.

Make sure to bring your camera ready and let’s capture the photogenic “traditional Kyoto” scenery.

So let’s start the best walking tour in Higashiyama and Gion areas and hunt for the best highlights there.

*Please note that this article contains affiliate links.

gion district walking tour

1. Kiyomizudera Temple (清水寺)

Let’s start from the most famous symbol of the city. The temple is great to visit all year round. The trees surrounded reflects each season’s colors and display amazing scenery.

Take a picture of the magnificent wooden terrace, and see numbers of historical buildings in the site.

>>Read more about Kiyomizudera Temple

gion district walking tour

2. Ninenzaka & Sannenzaka

These two slopes have served as an approach to Kiyomizudera Temple for over 1,000 years. The slope itself has been preserved in very well condition and popular tourist sites.

There are numbers of shops, restaurants and cafes lined, and it’s a great spot to shop and dine traditional food and items.

>>Read more about Ninenzaka & Sannenzaka

gion district walking tour

3. Yasaka Pagoda & Best Photo Spot

Before heading to the pagoda, make sure to stop by and take a “Instagrammable” picture. The spot is one of the most famous photo spots in Kyoto.

Yasaka Pagoda was founded in 592. The spectacular pagoda actually allows you to enter and go up till 2nd floor if you are curious about how the construction is made.

>>Read more about Yasaka Pagoda

4. Ishibekoji Alley & 5. Kodaiji Temple

Ishibekoji Alley is a tiny, rustic stone paved alley surrounded old wooden buildings. It’s one of the most historical streetscapes you can find in Kyoto.

Off the Ishibekoji Alley, there is another alley called Nene no Michi, where also a charming street view can be captured. Let’s stop at the middle of this alley to visit Kodaiji Temple.

The temple is known for owning beautiful Japanese gardens, especially its stone garden is highly praised as it’s composed impressively with sand and ripple marks. It’s another great photo spot!

Read more about Kodaiji Temple & Ishibekoji Alley

6. Yasaka Shrine & Maruyama Park

As you head towards north and enter Gion area, there is a big red torii gate of Yasaka Shrine. This main gate is another photogenic spot you should stop by for a picture. The shrine’s main hall was built with a special construction called Gion Zukuri which can be rarely seen today.

Next to the shrine, there is Maruyama Park, the most historical park in the city. The vast park consists a pond, Japanese garden and cherry trees which flourish and attract a large number of visitors every spring.

>>Read more about Yasaka Shrine & Maruyama Park

7. Hanamikoji Alley & 8. Tatsumibashi Bridge

After walking 1 or 2 blocks towards west from Yasaka Shrine, there are iconic sights of Hanamikoji Alley and Tatsumibashi Bridge. They are the most famous view in Gion area.

Hanamikoji Alley is the busiest street in the area, which connects to Kenchoji Temple (建長寺). The stone paved alley is filled with restaurants, bars and some shops offering traditional activities and entertainments.

Let me also mention that Gion area is best known as the “district of Maiko & Geisha”, where you have a chance to see them in beautiful kimono dress.

>>Read more about Gion

gion district walking tour

9. Kamogawa River & Pontocho

At slightly further west, there is the city’s main river Kamogawa River running north-south, which is a popular spot to walk and relax. Also it’s a great spot for cherry blossom viewing in spring.

Numbers of cafes and restaurants are lined by the riverbank. Sit on the terrace seat and enjoy delicious food/drinks with the pleasant view of the river.

In summer time, the open-air terraces are extended and special terraces called Noryoyuka/Kawayuka open for limited time.

Various kinds of restaurants and cafes are available by Kamogawa river. Click the link to check the recommended spots to dine in the area!

>>Read more about Kamogawa River

All these attractive spots are situated within 2.5 km and walking distance. After getting around these spots, there are only a few top tourist sites left in the city!

10. Gion Kagai Art Museum

Kyoto Gion Geisha

The Gion Kagai Art Museum offers a comprehensive cultural experience, showcasing the Kagai district through exhibits and activities. Guests can explore Gion Town, geiko, and maiko, and tour the historic Kaburenjo main building, a renowned cultural site. They can also watch traditional Kyomai dance performances by geiko or maiko in a traditional Japanese-style theater and take photos with them.

Moreover, visitors can immerse themselves in a serene Japanese garden, witness enchanting lantern illuminations, and savor a thoughtfully curated menu featuring local sake from Kyoto and Japanese whisky. With a focus on captivating both local and international visitors, the Gion Kagai Art Museum promises an immersive exploration of the Kagai district’s distinctive heritage!

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Make your trip to Kyoto the most memorable one! Japan Wonder Travel offers the best private tours across Japan including Kyoto. You can see the best highlights and explore the city in depth in one day! Check out the link below and see various kinds of private tours offered in Kyoto today!

<<Kyoto 8h Custom Highlight: Private Walking Tour with Licensed Guide>>

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If you stay in Kyoto, how about taking a side trip to the next Shiga Prefecture for the exclusive experience to stay at a temple? This is the one and only way to stay overnight luxuriously.

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I'm writing by my motto: helping travelers spend their limited time experiencing something priceless in Japan. My articles won't let you down! Living in Tokyo and traveling many popular and hidden sites all over Japan, I deliver well-selected and latest tourist information to you from the perspective of “100% Japanese local”. My specific interests are island hopping, eating countless bowls of ramen, watching anime and reading manga. Enjoy Japan Web Magazine for recommended food spots, hidden gems Japanese Otaku (geek) culture, and everything about Japan :)

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Kyoto's Gion Area - A Walking Tour

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Gion, with its shrines, temples and beautiful streets is one of the places where one can immerse in the atmosphere of traditional Kyoto. Check out this walking guide to the Gion which includes must-see sightseeing spots along the way.

Shinji Takaramura

Famed for being one of the most mesmerizing districts in Kyoto , Gion is an area of stunning temples, maiko meeting places and local eateries that are perfect to while away a day in the ancient capital.

Girljin’s Guide to Gion Part 1; A Walking Tour

Kyoto’s magic lies in its ability to preserve the old and welcome the new. The Kyoto Station Building is a testament to this as a perfect example of modern Japan in the old capital.

But for me, the true beauty of Kyoto is found where cobbled streets and picturesque machiya are accompanied by the sound floating from open windows behind bamboo blinds, of geiko practicing their koto. Gion offers the perfect location for exploring Old Kyoto and the ocean of cultural history from a millennium spent as the powerhouse of Japan.

Gion Shijo - The Route Begins

Girljin’s Guide to Gion Part 1; A Walking Tour

Gion is part of the Higashiyama or ‘Eastern Mountain’ area of Kyoto. It’s one of the famous geisha (called ‘geiko’ in Kyoto) districts in the city, stretching from Yasaka Shrine in the east to the Kamo River in the west, and from the Shirakawa Canal in the north to Kenninji Temple in the south. Here’s my favorite route for exploring the area and some must-see sights along the way.

Hanamikoji Street - A Step Back in Time

Girljin’s Guide to Gion Part 1; A Walking Tour

Starting at Gion Shijo Station, walk east on the street called Shijo-dori towards Yasaka Shrine. Around halfway along Shijo-dori, turn right onto Hanamikoji . This street is famous in Kyoto as one of the best preserved in the city. Traditional wooden machiya house cafes and sweet shops, kaiseki restaurants and inimitable boutiques, and although it can be very touristy, its beauty more than makes up for that.

Wander a few of the side streets to snap some pictures with a quieter atmosphere. This is what the majority of visitors to Kyoto come to experience - tiny winding streets, pretty pagodas and maybe even the odd maiko hurrying from one appointment to the next.

Kenninji Temple - Sacred Dragons in a Serene Setting

Girljin’s Guide to Gion Part 1; A Walking Tour

Follow Hanamikoji-dori to the end, where you will enter the temple grounds of Kenninji Temple . It serves as one of the head temples of the Rinzai Sect of Japanese Buddhism, and is ranked third among the five great Zen temples of Kyoto.

Girljin’s Guide to Gion Part 1; A Walking Tour

Picture from Find Zen And Beauty At Kenninji, Kyoto's Oldest Zen Temple

The main feature of this temple is a huge image of twin dragons painted on the ceiling of the Dharma Hall. Many other beautiful works of Japanese art are displayed inside the temple.

From Kenninji, head further east via Yasui Konpiragu, a small but lovely shrine that is often overlooked by tourists and so offers a perfect opportunity for pictures.

Find Zen And Beauty At Kenninji, Kyoto's Oldest Zen Temple

Higashiyama - The Epitome of Old Kyoto

Girljin’s Guide to Gion Part 1; A Walking Tour

From here, continuing east it is easy to combine your day with a stroll through the wider Higashiyama area towards Kiyomizudera Temple .

Allow yourself to get lost amongst the beautifully preserved streets, awash with classic architecture boasting souvenir shops and tea houses. Be sure not to miss the charming Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka streets and the famous temples and shrines of the area - Kiyomizudera, Kodaiji, Chion'in and Shoren'in, all of which are easily accessible along a whimsical walking route.

There’s even a Starbucks housed in an old machiya in Ninenzaka that is so sympathetically renovated it took ten years to acquire planning permission and finish construction.

The World's First Tatami Starbucks! Kyoto Ninenzaka Yasaka Chaya

Kiyomizudera Temple - A Must-See in Kyoto

Girljin’s Guide to Gion Part 1; A Walking Tour

To make your way to Yasaka Shrine , from Higashiyama find Ishibekoji-dori, a quaint little side street with a mysterious feel and follow it. From Yasui Konpiragu Shrine head north towards Yasaka Shrine through the small street running parallel to Higashioji-dori.

If you’re looking for souvenirs, make your way to the Malebranche Gion store, a famous chocolatier and patisserie in Kyoto famed for its Cha no Ka biscuits made with Uji matcha, a type of green tea made near Kyoto. Dropping by this store to get a delicious present is also a wonderful opportunity to see inside a traditional machiya house.

Yasaka Jinja - Also Known as Gion Shrine

Girljin’s Guide to Gion Part 1; A Walking Tour

When arriving at Yasaka Shrine , take a moment to look back along Shijo-dori and into the heart of the city. The view is spectacular and another great example of the juxtapositioning of old and new, as the pretty lantern-lined street stretches off to meet multi-story department stores across the Kamo River.

Take your time to explore the grounds of the most famous shrine in Kyoto, walking through Maruyama Park with its stunning koi fish pond and garden of cherry blossom trees. From here you can easily reach the towering Chion'in Temple and climb the steps to the rear for a different view of this majestic temple.

Shirakawa Canal - Gion’s Most Picturesque Stream

Girljin’s Guide to Gion Part 1; A Walking Tour

Exit Maruyama Park via Chion'in Michi, which will take you directly into north Gion via Shinbashi-dori, Kyoto’s most famous antiques street. This runs straight to the Tatsumi Bridge that is a hotspot for Kyoto visitors dressed in beautiful kimono to stand amidst a backdrop of the Shirakawa Canal and its striking scenery.

Following the canal along Shirakawa-Minami-dori, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in a Kyoto from years gone by. Kawabata-dori lies at the end of this street and will lead directly back to Gion Shijo, bring you full circle on my ideal walking tour of Gion.

Mind Your Manners and Enjoy Your Walk in Gion

Girljin’s Guide to Gion Part 1; A Walking Tour

Picture from A Dreamlike Townscape: Come Walk The Streets Of Gion At Night This is just a taster of what glorious Gion has to offer. My best advice... Get lost. Take turnings that aren’t signposted to fully immerse yourself in the traditional atmosphere.

But be courteous, don’t trespass into private property and if you happen to see a maiko making her way to or from an appointment, do not try to touch or stop her and only take photos from a distance without impeding her progress.

Enjoy your walk through Gion, where you can fully immerse in the charm of traditional Kyoto.

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GION Walking Tour Map by Maikoya

Here's the gion geisha walking tour map.

Gion Geisha Walking tour Map by Maikoya

We have also Kyoto geisha districts map at our museum if you want to swing by.

Gion Geisha Map Maikoya

Gion is walking distance from Kiyomizu Dera, Yasaka Shrine, Yasaka Pagoda, and the Pontocho Restaurants Area. So, plan on visiting these places on the same day.

Where is Gion in Kyoto?

Things to do in gion kyoto, #1 ichiriki chaya tea house.

Ichiriki Chaya in Gion Kyoto

#2 Kenninji Temple

Kenninji Temple, Gion

#3 Gion Corner

#4 yasui konpiragu shrine & the love stone, #5 yasaka-no to pagoda.

Yasaka no Pagoda Gion- Hokanji Temple

#6 Miyagawacho Neighborhood

Geisha walking in Miyagawacho

#7 Shirakawa Dori

Gion Shirakawa

#8  Yasaka Shrine

#9 patisserie gion sakai, #10 minamiza kabuki theater, shijo dori & shopping in gion.

After walking on the streets of Gion you can relax at one of the matcha cafes on Shijo Street (Shijo Dori) or check out some souvenir shops. Some most popular gifts are kimono-style hairpins, kokeshi dolls, and Kyoto's famous yatsuhashi sweets.

Gion Walking Map

Gion Map

    Ochaya, Okiya, Restaurants and Ryotei in Gion

Gion Ochaya, Okiya, Ryotei

History of Gion

Annual dance events in gion.

Geisha Show Miyako Odori

Gion Matsuri Festival

Things to do in gion at night, things to do near gion.

There are plenty of things you can get amused by wandering across Gion. You can visit  Kiyomizu Dera ,  Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine , or get lost in  Shijo-dori . The cultural choice of Gion differs much.


Sitting on the southern edge of the Gion district, Kiyomizudera is one of the city’s most sacred destinations and well worth a trip to Gion just to visit. The temple was founded in 780, and is located on the eastern Otowa Waterfall in the wooded hills, its name - which translates in English to "Pure Water Temple," came from this waterfall. Kiyomizudera offers guests unparalleled views of the surrounding foliage transforming with the passing seasons.

Kodaiji Temple (高台寺)

Fushimi inari taisha shrine, gion geisha photo ban.

Recently there are many incidents where tourists engage in irresponsible behavior in Gion which include

  • Blocking the way of the geisha to take a photo
  • Chasing and bothering the geisha
  • Touching the geishas kimono, hair, accessories
  • Trying to take a selfie with a geisha
  • Taking the photo of a geisha when she is with a guest
  • Littering on the streets of Gion
  • Eating fast food while walking in Gion
  • Smoking or drinking alcohol on the streets of Gion
  • Sitting on the streets of Gion

Please remember!

The geisha are human beings, they are not objects. You have to respect the privacy of the geisha. You have to understand that you endanger yourself and the geisha on the narrow streets of Gion when you come too close. You have to understand that geishas are likely on their way to work and they should not be late. You also have to understand that the geisha may be accompanied by their private client whose privacy must be respected.

Gion in Travel Books

References & additional readings.

Gion Manner Retrieved from

Downer, L. (2003). Geisha of Gion-A memoir of Mineko Iwasaki.

Coronavirus and Geisha in Kyoto Retrieved from

Ookini Zaidan Geisha Association

How to get to Gion

This is the Gion area map that shows the beginning point of where most people start their walking tour.

This is the Gion Map of our Geisha Museum and Geisha Show Venue

gion district walking tour

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Free day and night walking tours of Kyoto

  > News > Article  

  • Mar 20, 2020

Gion Walking Tours: What to Do in Gion, Kyoto

gion district walking tour

Looking for the best Gion walking tours? Gion is the entertainment capital and the most popular geisha district in Kyoto, Japan.

Gion, Kyoto is filled with restaurants, bars, shops, machiya (“traditional townhouse”), as well as some shrines, temples, and iconic streets, so spending an entire day exploring the district will be so worth it.

Consider joining Gion walking tours to make the most of your stay in Kyoto, Japan.

1. Gion Free Walking Tours


If you are looking for free things to do in Kyoto , you can find a lot of them in Gion. In Gion alone, you can spend an entire day visiting some culturally and historically relevant places.

A host of travel services and local tour guides in Kyoto offer free walking tours where they’ll bring you to historic tourist attractions in the city. We, at Kyoto Localized, have a free walking tour that you can join in. And part of our Gion walking tour route is Gion Shirakawa, Yasaka Shrine, and Yasaka Pagoda. You can book your Kyoto free walking tour spot here now.

2. Gion Geisha Tours


Japan has less than 2,000 geisha or professional female entertainers today, and about 100 of them and 100 maiko (geisha apprentice) are in Kyoto. Gion is called the geisha district of Kyoto because it’s where you can see most of them. So there’s no other perfect place in Kyoto to get the best geisha experience than Gion.

Lots of geisha tours in Kyoto will bring you to a formal gathering where you can see them up close or interact with them. It could be in izakaya (“traditional pub”), ochaya (“traditional teahouse”), or ryotei (“luxurious traditional restaurant”) where these geisha and maiko serve their clients. Note that Gion geisha tours can be expensive, so you might want to find Gion geisha walking tours instead.

3. Gion Evening Tours


If you’re looking for ideas on what to do in Gion at night, exploring Gion street at night is the best way to go. Note that different local tours have different things to do in Gion district at night — which could be food crawling, bar hopping, or just a night of drinking.

At Kyoto Localized, we offer free walking tours in Kyoto. What we have in our Gion evening walk itinerary is Yasaka Shrine, where its magnificent lanterns light up at night. We will also do some geisha sightings around the Gion area. You can join our Kyoto Gion night walking tour for FREE here .

4. Self-Guided Gion Walking Tour


Pressed for time? Don’t feel bummed out. If you’re visiting Kyoto for a limited time, you can still see a huge part of Kyoto by doing a self-guided Gion walking tour. All you need is a Gion map and you’re ready to explore Gion. Some iconic tourist spots in Gion are Shirakawa Bridge, Gion Corner, Hanamikoji Dori Street, Yasaka Shrine, and Yasaka Pagoda.

To visit multiple spots in Kyoto in less time, you can sign up for our half-day walking tour too. Our itinerary will take you to places like Shirakawa Bridge, Heian Shrine, Nanzen-ji Temple, and Keage Incline.

Kyoto is the heart of Japan and has a rich history and culture. Our walking tours will show you why. On our Walking Tours, you will learn about the Old and New Kyoto, tradition, religion, history, food, and culture. Free Walking Tours in Kyoto | Kyoto Walking Tours. Book your free walking tour of Kyoto today.

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gion district walking tour

Walking tours of Belfast 2024 to be conducted by Historical Society

Event location: , event date: .

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BELFAST — Join Megan Pinette, Belfast historian, on 1 hour + walking tours of the downtown historic district. Learn about the early settlers, waterfront industries, fires, and landmark buildings. Find out which downtown building has been moved twice and survived three fires.

Tours will be held on each Friday in July and August, starting time is 1 p.m. The group will meet at The Park on Main, next to the Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce, 33 Main Street.

A donation of $10 per person is requested in support of the Belfast Historical Society & Museum. 

There will be no rain dates.

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    Go off the beaten track in Kyoto and explore the ancient Gion District on a walking tour with a local guide. Discover hidden treasures and learn about the history of Kyoto's iconic geisha district. Starting off in the bustling Sanjo area of Kyoto, you will meander through the ancient, narrow, cobbled streets of Gion, Kyoto's centuries-old entertainment area. See the area come alive in the ...

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    2h 30min tour. Available in English. Tip based. During the walk with us, you will explore some of Kyoto's most beautiful Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, experience the enchanting geisha quarters of Gion, and stroll through the beautifully preserved Higashiyama district. Our knowledgeable guides will help you discover the real Kyoto ...

  11. Kyoto Gion Night Walk Small Group Guided Walking Tour

    This short guided walking tour will have you experiencing the Gion night scene in just three hours! This is perfect if you only have a couple of hours to spare. Enjoy the enchanting nightlife of Gion, Kyoto's historic geisha district. As the sun sets, the streets come to life with beautifully illuminated lanterns, elegant restaurants, charming ...

  12. Kyoto Free Walking Tour in Gion District!

    Overview of the tour in Kyoto. Embark on an unforgettable journey through the heart of Kyoto with our Free Walking Tour, meticulously designed to showcase the perfect blend of historic landmarks and modern marvels. We will delve into the rich cultural tapestry of Kyoto, visiting iconic sites like the historic Minami-za Theater, the picturesque ...

  13. Gion District Walking with an Expert Local Tour Guide in Kyoto

    Embark on a scenic walk from Yasaka Shrine to Kiyomizu-dera through Kyoto's historic Gion district. Discover ancient temples, traditional teahouses, and the timeless beauty of old Kyoto. Explore the heart of Kyoto on a guided walking tour that takes you from the iconic Yasaka Shrine to the historic Kiyomizu-dera.

  14. Kyoto Gion District small group walking tour. 2024

    Whoud you prefer a walking tour for 20 or 30 people? This is a small group tour with a maximum of 7 people, so it's easy to talk to the guide, and the guide can pay attention to each person. On this tour, you will explore the Gion neighborhood with a Japanese guide who was born and raised in Kyoto. This tour is more than just a group of participants following a guide and admiring the scenery ...

  15. 1 Day Itinerary in Higashiyama and Gion

    7. Hanamikoji Alley & 8. Tatsumibashi Bridge. After walking 1 or 2 blocks towards west from Yasaka Shrine, there are iconic sights of Hanamikoji Alley and Tatsumibashi Bridge. They are the most famous view in Gion area. Hanamikoji Alley is the busiest street in the area, which connects to Kenchoji Temple (建長寺).

  16. Kyoto's Gion Area

    Kyoto's Gion Area - A Walking Tour. This service includes sponsored advertisements. Gion, with its shrines, temples and beautiful streets is one of the places where one can immerse in the atmosphere of traditional Kyoto. Check out this walking guide to the Gion which includes must-see sightseeing spots along the way. Latest update : 2018.04.04.

  17. Gion Walking Tour

    The walking tour lasts about 45-60 minutes, just enough to learn what you may be wondering about the mysterious world of geisha and the historic Geisha neighborhoods. ... Walking in the historic Gion geisha district will undoubtedly give you a feeling of time travel where every street has many stories to tell. Gion Ochaya, Okiya, Ryotei Disclaimer

  18. GION Walking Tour Map by Maikoya

    Gion Kyoto geisha district is Japan's most popular geisha neighborhood. In Gion you can find traditional old buildings with lantern-lit yards and upscale town-house-style restaurants that look like a scene from a fairy tale. There are currently 70 geishas and 30 maikos (apprentice geisha) working at 60 teahouses in Gion.

  19. Gion Walking Tours: What to Do in Gion, Kyoto

    Looking for the best Gion walking tours? Gion is the entertainment capital and the most popular geisha district in Kyoto, Japan.Gion, Kyoto is filled with restaurants, bars, shops, machiya ("traditional townhouse"), as well as some shrines, temples, and iconic streets, so spending an entire day exploring the district will be so worth it.Consider joining Gion walking tours to make the most ...

  20. Sanctions finished off Russia 2024! Streets of Moscow Today

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  21. Walking tours of Belfast 2024 to be conducted by Historical Society

    Event Date: Friday, July 5, 2024 - 1:00pm. Megan Pinette leads a Walking Tour in 2015. (Photo courtesy Belfast Historical Society and Museum) BELFAST — Join Megan Pinette, Belfast historian, on 1 hour + walking tours of the downtown historic district. Learn about the early settlers, waterfront industries, fires, and landmark buildings.

  22. Old Moscow Districts Private Walking Tour

    Moscow is a huge city and you can easily get lost if you don't know where you're going. Avoid the hassle of asking for directions or using a map while exploring with this Old Moscow private walking tour. Spend time at the Red Square, Alexander Garden, Cathedral of Christ the Savior, and GUM, and get personalized recommendations from your guide about places to visit on your own.

  23. 10 Best Walking Trails in Moscow

    Length: 18.5 mi Est. 6h 57m. #8 - Baevo Swamps Loop. Length: 6.9 mi Est. 2h 30m. #9 - Moscow Arts and Culture Walking Tour. Length: 3.2 mi Est. 1h 20m. Although there are many more Moscow attractions that should make this list the tour was designed so that the landmarks will be within a walkable distance.

  24. 10 Best Trails, Walks, and Paths in Moscow

    Looking for the best walking trails in Moscow? Whether you're getting ready to hike, cycle, trail run, or explore other outdoor pursuits, AllTrails has 17 picturesque trails in the Moscow area. Discover hand-curated trail maps, along with reviews and photos from fellow outdoor enthusiasts. Explore one of 7 easy walking routes in Moscow, with child-friendly routes for your next family outing.

  25. 10 Best Trails and Hikes in Moscow

    Looking for the best hiking trails in Moscow? Whether you're getting ready to hike, bike, trail run, or explore other outdoor activities, AllTrails has 17 scenic trails in the Moscow area. Enjoy hand-curated trail maps, along with reviews and photos from nature lovers like you. Explore one of 7 easy hiking trails in Moscow or discover kid-friendly routes for your next family trip.

  26. Russia begins trial of Evan Gershkovich on espionage charges

    Ksenia Khavana, a US-Russian dual national, went on trial last week in Ekaterinburg on treason charges for sending a pro-Ukrainian group $51.80 on the first day of Moscow's invasion. Judge ...