Picturesque Higashiyama (東山区) is one of the best-preserved historic districts in Kyoto and, as such, makes for a perfect place to experience the traditional feel of the old capital city. Literally meaning “east mountain”, Higashiyama is interposed between the Kamo River and the Higashiyama mountain range, and stretches all the way from Sanjo-dori in the north, to Shichijo-dori in the south.
Exploring the district can take up most of a day (or multiple days if you’re like us and decide to stop every 5 minutes for snacks and photos). Thankfully, many of the must-see sights are grouped together in close proximity. Of particular interest are the winding lanes and preserved historic streets between Maruyama Park in the north and Kiyomizudera (“Pure Water Temple”) in the south. Lined with beautiful traditional wooden buildings that house shops, restaurants and cafés, one can easily spend hours meandering around, sampling the local delicacies and absorbing the culture. We even chanced upon an adorable Studio Ghibli merchandise store!
Maruyama Park itself is also worth a visit, offering an oasis of relaxation amidst the busy sightseeing district. If you’re up for a bit of a walk, venture beyond Maruyama Park and towards Chorakuji Temple to explore some of the lower walking trails of the Higashiyama mountain range.