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One of Japan’s most popular destinations, quaint Kyoto is famous for its countless temples and traditional streets and buildings. The former capital of Japan, it’s a must-visit city for any traveler interested in religion, culture or local heritage.
Beyond temples, Kyoto is full of friendly locals, traditional wooden houses and beautiful gardens, making Kyoto the most charming major city in Japan.
But your Kyoto experience can differ hugely depending on when you visit.
Kyoto has four very distinct seasons and a huge program of events throughout the year, so you should plan your trip accordingly.
Planning a trip to Kyoto, but unsure about exactly when you should visit? This guide is for you.
We’ve assembled details and facts about events, weather and busy periods, so you can decide the perfect time to take your trip!
For those in a hurry, here’s our quick answer…
The best time to visit Kyoto is early April, even though the city is very busy. If you want to see Kyoto doused in the hues of cherry blossoms, it’s the only time to do it.
Cherry blossoms are one of Japan’s most iconic sights. And Kyoto is one of Japan’s most iconic cities. Combining these two things gives you one of the most magical experiences that Japan has to offer.
During April, Kyoto has around 13 hours of sunlight per day, giving you plenty of time for sightseeing – whether that’s temples, museums, parks or day trips. April’s temperatures also offer great conditions for city adventures, with averages of around 14ºC.
Unless you particularly want to avoid large crowds of other tourists, this is the time to visit Kyoto. Yes, it’s full of other sightseers – but that’s because early April in Kyoto is one of the best attractions that Japan has to offer.
The Weather Seasons in Kyoto
Kyoto has four very distinct seasons, which all offer different types of weather and different events. Here’s a brief introduction to those four seasons:
Summer: June to August
Summer is Kyoto’s hottest season, with occasional temperatures of around 38ºC. If you don’t like high temperatures, you should avoid Kyoto in summer, especially in July and August.
Aside from hot temperatures, summer also brings lots of humidity and rain. June and July are particularly rainy, so expect to be wet in these months, whether it’s because of high humidity or summer’s frequent downpours.
If you want to experience good weather while you’re in Kyoto, it’s best to avoid June, July and August.
That said, Kyoto’s summer does offer some interesting and exciting events. One of the best is Gion Festival, which is one of the biggest, most famous festivals in the whole of Japan. With endless processions, it’s a great insight into Japanese culture, both ancient and modern. Other big events include the pottery extravaganza of Gojozaka Festival, and Daimonji, a fire festival of beautiful illuminations.
Fall: September to November
Fall is a brilliant period to spend some time in Kyoto. With pleasant temperatures averaging around 20ºC, the weather is perfect for strolling around the city and exploring all of Kyoto’s iconic temples. It can be a little wet, particularly in September and October, but this period is way less rainy than summer.
The real highlight of fall is the romantic hues of autumnal colours which descend upon the city. Throughout Japan, fall offers beautiful shades of red, orange and yellow, but Kyoto is particularly special. With the backdrop of several temples and great open spaces, Kyoto is a fantastic place to spend fall in Japan.
One of the most exciting events in Kyoto’s fall is Jidai Festival, which features traditional costumes in historical reenactment parades. Fall also offers Kurama Fire Festival, which takes place in the mountainous village of Kurama, and features hundreds of flaming torches. It’s one of Japan’s most unique events.
Winter: December to February
With average temperatures of around 6ºC, Kyoto is cold in winter. Despite these low temperatures, it can be a good time to visit, as there’s little chance of rain.
There’s also little chance of snow, so those hoping for a guarantee of a white winter in Kyoto may be disappointed. That said, if you’re lucky, and snow does indeed descend upon Kyoto in winter, it makes the city look fantastic.
Traditionally, winter is a season of illuminations. Kyoto embraces this in December’s Arashiyama Hanatouro, when thousands of lanterns light up sections of Kyoto, making the city even more magical than it usually is. New Year’s is also a great time to be in Kyoto – Japanese people love celebrating the coming of a new year, and celebrate in ways both modern and traditional.
Spring: March to May
Cherry blossom season! If you want to enjoy cherry blossoms in Japan, Kyoto is one of the best places to do it. Not only are there countless amounts of cherry blossoms, but Kyoto’s charm is the perfect backdrop for enjoying all of Japan’s fabulous springtime flora.
The weather is also fantastic for exploring the city, with a perfect combination of pleasant temperatures, low humidity and relatively slim chance of rain (though May can be a little wet). Temperatures sit at an average of around 15ºC.
A small consideration for spring: this is Kyoto at its busiest. Kyoto is one of Japan’s most popular destinations at any time of year. But in the last week of March and the first two weeks of April (when the blossoms are at their best), Kyoto is insanely busy.
Aside from the beautiful blossoms, other spring highlights include the lantern extravaganza of Higashiyama Hanatoro and the geisha-fest of Miyako Odori.
Kyoto Weather Charts
Busy Seasons in Kyoto
High season in Kyoto is spring, from March to May, when tourists from around the planet descend upon the city to indulge in the bloom of the city’s cherry blossoms.
Here are the best things to do in Kyoto in spring:
- Cherry blossoms: you haven’t enjoyed the best of Japan until you’ve enjoyed its cherry blossom season. Yes, it’s busy with countless tourists, but this is one of the world’s best natural wonders. Enshrouded in the pink of endless pretty petals, Kyoto looks – and feel – even more special than usual.
- Higashiyama Hanatoro: one of Kyoto’s most stunning festivals, this occasion sees Kyoto’s Higashiyama district adorned by around 2,500 lanterns. With illuminations, performances and bamboo lanterns, it’s both quaint and grand in a way that only Kyoto can get right. This festival occurs in March.
- Miyako Odori: one of Japan’s most exciting geisha festivals, this dance performance season lasts for almost the entirety of April. If you’re interested in traditional Japanese performance, this is unmissable.
Kyoto’s low season is during summer, from June to August. With high temperatures, even higher humidity, and lots of rain, it’s not a pleasant time to visit the city. But if you want to avoid crowds – and grab yourself some bargains – summer can be a good time to visit.
Though Kyoto is relatively quiet in the summer, there are still plenty of interesting events for those who do visit during the summer months:
- Gion Festival: one of the biggest, best festivals in the whole of Japan, this celebration includes two big processions of spectacular floats. There are also traditional foods and drinks, traditional costumes and the exhibition of heirlooms from family homes.
- Gojozaka Festival: Japan’s largest pottery market, this ceramic extravaganza takes over Kyoto for four days in August. Even if you’re not interested in pottery, it’s an interesting insight into one of Japan’s traditional crafts.
- Daimonji: another August event, this features lit lanterns floating on Kamo river, along with huge bonfires illuminating the mountains surrounding the city.
Kyoto has a very long shoulder season, from September to February. During these six months, Kyoto has way less tourists than the busy cherry blossom period, but much more pleasant weather than the hot and humid summer months.
Some highlights during these six months include:
- Oshogatsu: the Japanese new year, Oshogatsu is one of the country’s most traditional periods, so celebrating it in the country’s most traditional city is a very wise choice. The family-centred holiday features traditional foods and drinks and the charm of quiet streets. Kyoto’s temples, full of celebrating locals, are even more interesting during this time of year.
- Jidai Festival: this October event is one of Kyoto’s most famous festivals. With around 2000 people marching in traditional dress, a two-hour parade and recreations of historical characters, it’s a multi-sensory introduction to many key aspects of Japanese history.
- Arashiyama Hanatouro: if you like winter illuminations, you’ll love this. In December, many parts of Kyoto’s Arashiyama area are lit up by beautiful displays of light. Kyoto in December already offers off-the-scale charm – but this event makes the city even more alluring.
When to Visit Kyoto? Depending on the Type of Traveler You Are
The Best Time to Visit Kyoto for Shopping
The best time to visit Kyoto for shopping is from October to January. Temperatures are tolerable, rainfall is low, and there aren’t too many other travellers.
If you visit close to Christmas, you can enjoy buying and browsing traditional Japanese gifts – and you can watch as Japanese shoppers buy their own! In many parts of the world, the pre-Christmas period is a great time to shop. In Japan, that’s the case too.
If you’re looking for a bargain, January often has lots of great sales.
The Best Time to Visit Kyoto for a Honeymoon
If you’re traveling to Kyoto for a honeymoon, it’s best to visit the city at its most romantic. You have two options: the cherry blossom season of spring and the crisp autumnal period of fall.
If you visit during the former, you’ll be greeted by the iconic sight of Japan’s cherry blossoms. Japan’s most romantic period, Kyoto is the perfect city to experience the cherry blossom season if you can tolerate the endless crowds.
If you’d prefer a leafy experience without countless other tourists, you’ll likely prefer fall, when the crisp leaves of autumn are greeted by a more laid-back Kyoto.
The Best Time to Visit Kyoto for Culture and Museums
If you want to experience all of Kyoto’s temples and museums, visit between September and February. During this period, you’ll be able to enjoy these places without the chaos of too many crowds, meaning less queues and more time to really indulge in the places you’re visiting.
If you travel during this period, you should try to time your visit so that you’re also in Kyoto during one of the city’s better festivals – there’s no better introduction to Kyoto’s culture and heritage than enjoying a festival in the city.
Our top festival picks during this period are New Year’s (which is of course in January!), October’s Jida Festival and December’s Arashiyama Hanatouro.
The Best Time for Sightseeing and Outdoor Activities in Kyoto
If you really want to indulge in the best of Kyoto’s outdoors, early April is the only time. Kyoto is at its most aesthetic and alluring when it’s covered in the pink cherry blossoms of this period. Yes, it’s busy, which isn’t great for sightseeing, but it’s the best time to enjoy a stroll through Kyoto’s parks and natural areas.
If you want to avoid crowds, you should visit during the September-February period. This is the best time for relaxing sightseeing. You won’t see the cherry blossoms, but you will see more of the sights.
The Best Time to Visit Kyoto on a Budget
The winter months of November and December have few tourists, both local and international, and relatively cold temperatures. Because of these factors, you’ll be able to get good deals on accommodations, attractions and food and drink.
If you want to visit Japan on a budget, it’s very important to visit during a less busy period. Though November and December are our top picks here, January and February can also be pretty inexpensive times too.
Japan is an expensive country, especially during peak periods, when you’ll struggle to travel on a budget.
The Best Time to Visit Kyoto with Kids and Families
The best period to visit Kyoto with your kids is early fall. During this time, there aren’t too many crowds and temperatures aren’t too low. Although winter temperatures are tolerable for adults, kids might find them uncomfortable – and you might find their subsequent whining uncomfortable.
If you visit during this period, queues will also be relatively short, so you can quickly and easily enjoy all of the best kid-friendly attractions. The best nearby attractions for kids include Kyoto Aquarium, Universal Studios and Nara Deer Park.
You should also consider visiting Kyoto in May, when the entirety of Japan celebrates the annual holiday of Children’s Day. With exciting attractions and events – and lots more kid-friendly fun – it’s a perfect time to visit Kyoto with your little ones.
The Best Time to Visit Kyoto for Beaches
Though Kyoto isn’t really a beach destination, you can indeed take a day trip from the city to enjoy some of Kyoto’s nearby golden shores. If that’s your plan, it’s best to visit in the summer. But because June and July can both be very rainy, you should aim to plan any beach trips for August.
Outside of the summer months, April and May can be okay, with relatively high temperatures and relatively low levels of rain.
The Best Time for Hiking
Kyoto offers some excellent day hikes, including Mount Atago, Mount Daimonji and several treks in Arashiyama.
Wherever you’re hiking, you always want to find a good compromise between moderate temperatures, low rainfall and beautiful foliage. For a great combination of all of these things, you have two options in Kyoto:
- the fall months of October and November.
- the spring months of March and April.
One small side-note: Be careful of short daylight hours if you choose to walk in the fall. If you hike outside of these months, the weather can be poor, offering high humidity, high temperatures, high rainfall or a combination of all three.
Kyoto Weather Month by Month
This is Kyoto’s coldest month, with average temperatures of around 5ºC. Aside from low temperatures, January in Kyoto is pretty tolerable, as this month – along with December – is Kyoto’s driest period.
Though snow is possible, it’s unlikely. If you are lucky enough to experience Kyoto under a smattering of snow, it’s a magical time – Kyoto’s temples and shrines are even more beautiful blanketed in a carpet of snow.
You’ll experience an average of just over 10 hours of daylight per day.
Make sure you pack lots of warm layers, including a very warm coat. You’re unlikely to need any waterproofs.
January is one of the best times to visit Kyoto if you’re interested in tradition – Japanese New Year has lots of charming traditions and customs, making it an even more immersive way to experience the already heritage-filled city.
- Average Temperature: 3°C / 37°F
- Average Low Temperature: -1°C / 30°F
- Average High Temperature: 8°C / 46°F
- Average Rainfall: 56mm / 19 days
February is very similar to January, but average temperatures creep up to 6ºC, and the rainfall becomes marginally heavier. There’s very little chance of snow. Because February has similar weather to January, it requires similar clothes – but there’s a small chance you’ll also need a waterproof coat.
In February, you’ll experience around 11 hours of sunlight per day. This, combined with a relative lack of tourists, makes February a good time to visit if you want to avoid the chaos of countless crowds.
Kyoto in February has two significant events. The first is Setsubun Festival, in which ceremonial shrine events mark new beginnings. The second (and somewhat less traditional!) event is the huge Kyoto Marathon, with almost 14,000 participants.
- Average Temperature: 3°C / 37°F
- Average Low Temperature: —°C / 32°F
- Average High Temperature: 9°C / 48°F
- Average Rainfall: 67mm / 17 days
In March, higher temperatures begin to make Kyoto warmer, brighter and more beautiful, as the cherry-blossom season begins to take hold of the iconic city. Average temperatures of around 9ºC herald the beginning of Kyoto’s most beautiful period.
By March, Kyoto experiences around 12 hours of daylight per day. But as the daylight hours pick up, so too does the rain, so you should pack a raincoat. You should also pack some warm clothes for colder days – and especially for the still-cold nights.
March is one of Kyoto’s most exciting months. Not only does it mark the beginning of the cherry blossom season, but it’s home to many exciting and unusual Kyoto events, including the enchanting light festival of Higashiyama Hanatoro and the doll festival of Hina Matsuri.
- Average Temperature: 6°C / 42°F
- Average Low Temperature: 1°C / 33°F
- Average High Temperature: 12°C / 53°F
- Average Rainfall: 109mm / 17 days
This is Kyoto at its absolute busiest. During this period, countless crowds descend upon Kyoto to view the city as it is best viewed – through the lens of endless cherry blossoms. If you want to see Kyoto enshrouded by Japan’s most famous flower, the beginning of April – along with the end of March – is the only time to visit.
If you aren’t interested in the cherry blossoms, it’s best to avoid this period, as it’s extremely busy.
Temperatures in April are excellent – at an average of 14ºC, they’re perfect for sightseeing, though you should be prepared for some rain. Make sure you carry a raincoat!
April offers around 13 hours of sunlight per day, perfect for plenty of sightseeing.
Aside from cherry blossoms, April also offers the geisha dances of Miyako Odori.
- Average Temperature: 12°C / 53°F
- Average Low Temperature: 7°C / 44°F
- Average High Temperature: 19°C / 66°F
- Average Rainfall: 149mm / 14 days
In May, Kyoto begins to get significantly wetter and significantly warmer. One of the city’s wettest months, May offers temperatures averaging around 19ºC.
Make sure you pack light clothes along with a good waterproof coat. With around 14 hours of daylight per day, along with hot temperatures, you’re unlikely to need any thick layers.
Kyoto residents celebrate several festivals in May, including Mifune Boat Festival, the stunt-loaded shrinefest of Fukakusa Matsuri and Aoi Matsuri Festival, one of Kyoto’s oldest festivals.
- Average Temperature: 17°C / 62°F
- Average Low Temperature: 11°C / 51°F
- Average High Temperature: 23°C / 73°F
- Average Rainfall: 145mm / 13 days
As summer descends upon Kyoto, temperatures reach an average of around 19ºC while rain begins to get heavier again, as June is Kyoto’s second-wettest month. Along with wet and warm weather, you should expect around 14 hours of daylight per day.
June isn’t very busy at all, so if you want to experience the city without lots of tourists, this can be a great time – but you’ll have to tolerate hot, humid, wet weather.
June’s annual highlights include the bamboo-cutting festival of Takekiri Eshiki.
- Average Temperature: 21°C / 69°F
- Average Low Temperature: 16°C / 60°F
- Average High Temperature: 27°C / 80°F
- Average Rainfall: 233mm / 15 days
July is Kyoto’s wettest month, and offers often uncomfortable levels of humidity. Hot, sticky and wet, this is one of the worst months to experience Kyoto, though the lack of tourists does mean less queues and better bargains on accommodation.
You’ll get around 14 hour of sunlight per day and average temperatures of around 27ºC.
Pack a very light waterproof layer along with light clothes.
Kyoto’s July highlights include Gion Festival, one of Japan’s biggest celebrations. It also hosts one of the country’s most bizarre events in the shape of Hiwatari Matsuri, which features mountain priests walking across smoky piles of burning ashes.
- Average Temperature: 26°C / 78°F
- Average Low Temperature: 21°C / 69°F
- Average High Temperature: 31°C / 87°F
- Average Rainfall: 203mm / 14 days
Kyoto’s hottest month, August is humid, but rainfall is much lower than the other summer months of June and July. With average temperatures of around 29ºC, make sure you bring cool, breathable clothes.
If you can handle the heat and humidity, this is a pretty good time to visit – there aren’t huge amounts of tourists, there are 13 hour of daylight per day and you can get some good deals.
August’s events include the pottery extravaganza of Gojozaka Festival along with endless fire-based celebrations, perfect for experiencing Kyoto at its most traditional.
- Average Temperature: 27°C / 80°F
- Average Low Temperature: 22°C / 71°F
- Average High Temperature: 32°C / 89°F
- Average Rainfall: 147mm / 11 days
As Kyoto’s temperatures begin to decrease, the rainfall begins to pick up once more. Average temperatures are at around 24ºC, but September is the city’s third-rainiest month. The month offers around 12 hours of daylight per day.
You won’t need heavy clothes but you’ll definitely need something waterproof.
If you don’t mind the rain, but are looking to avoid crowds, September can be an okay time to visit Kyoto.
September’s Kyoto highlight is Hassaku-sai Festival, which offers sumo, rituals and Buddhist dance.
- Average Temperature: 23°C / 73°F
- Average Low Temperature: 18°C / 64°F
- Average High Temperature: 28°C / 82°F
- Average Rainfall: 201mm / 15 days
In October, temperatures, rainfall and daylight hours all drop, leading to average temperatures of 18ºC, around 11 hours of daylight per day and very tolerable levels of rain.
October also offers a relative lack of crowds, making for a great time to visit if you’re trying to avoid large groups of other tourists.
Despite the lack of tourists, October still offers plenty of attractions and events. One of the best of these is Judai Festival, with its excellent historical reenactment parades. Other highlights include Kurama Fire Festival and the autumn harvest event of Zuiki Festival.
- Average Temperature: 16°C / 60°F
- Average Low Temperature: 11°C / 51°F
- Average High Temperature: 22°C / 71°F
- Average Rainfall: 127mm / 12 days
Rainfall and temperatures drop once more in November, humidity is low and there aren’t too many crowds. For all of these reasons, November can be a pretty good time to enjoy all of Tokyo’s attractions without too many queues.
November is also a beautiful month in Kyoto, as autumnal colours fall from the trees to dominate the cityscape. The daylight hours begin to shorten, but you still get about 10 hours of daylight per day in Kyoto.
Though temperatures average a tolerable 13ºC, nights can be cold, so make sure you pack some warm clothes for evening adventures.
One of November’s highlights is simply strolling through the city amid the blazing hues of Kyoto’s red and orange leaves. Some of November’s best events are the fascinating geisha dances of Gion Odori.
- Average Temperature: 10°C / 50°F
- Average Low Temperature: 5°C / 41°F
- Average High Temperature: 16°C / 60°F
- Average Rainfall: 80mm / 12 days
Temperatures are significantly colder in December, but it’s a very dry month, so it can be a pleasant time to visit Kyoto if you’re okay with cool weather. Temperatures average around 7ºC. If you experience the unlikely but possible event of snow in Kyoto, it’s a very special experience.
You’ll need warm clothes but you’re very unlikely to need anything waterproof.
With almost 10 hours of daylight per day, there’s still enough time for lots of exploration.
December in Kyoto is beautiful. With lots of illuminations and the excitement of a Japanese Christmas, it can be a fantastic month to spend time in the city. The anticipation of New Year’s also makes Kyoto very special, with lots of interesting temple-based customs and traditions.
- Average Temperature: 5°C / 41°F
- Average Low Temperature: —°C / 32°F
- Average High Temperature: 11°C / 51°F
- Average Rainfall: 54mm / 15 days
Kyoto is unique, charming and enchanting. One of Japan’s most quaint cities, it’s full of temples, traditional buildings and rich history. Friendly, warm and welcoming, its huge heritage as Japan’s former capital is matched only by the kindness of its people.
But depending on when you visit, your experience can hugely vary. From historical parades to geisha festivals to the bright pink of cherry blossoms, different months offer different experiences – and wildly different types of weather.
Our top pick is April. Though it’s Kyoto’s busiest period by far, it’s also Kyoto’s most beautiful period by far. Kyoto is one of the greatest cities to experience Japan’s iconic cherry blossom season. If you want to see Kyoto at its most attractive, early April is the only time.
But whenever you go, you’ll adore the city. Traditional, rustic and welcoming, it’s picture-postcard Japan at its best. A trip to Kyoto feels like a step back in time – a step back to somewhere simpler, more charming and more welcoming.
Paul is a handsome and hilarious travel writer and travel journalist from the UK. He’s hiked, hitchhiked and laughed his way through more than fifty countries, and he’s always looking for a new place to call home. Originally from Newcastle, he’s lived all over the UK, spent more than three years in Asia, and most recently lived in Vietnam. Here’s his website.