a park with cherry blossoms in Kyoto

Kyoto Hanami Guide: Top 10 Hanami Spots in Kyoto

Kyoto is one of the best and prettiest places for cherry blossom viewing in Japan. Many of the city’s popular flower viewing spots are known for featuring double-flowered and weeping cherry tree varieties. And they make for such stunning photos! Interestingly, many of the hanami spots in Kyoto are also some of the most historically and culturally significant sites in the city.

It’s quite common for cherry blossoms in this ancient Japanese city to bloom around late March. Depending on weather conditions, blooms tend to peak around early April. With spring just around the corner, it’s about time we identify the best spots in the city to enjoy the fleeting beauty of the blooming sakura. If you’re planning on experiencing Kyoto this spring, here are some of the best spots to view the exquisite cherry blossoms.

Ninnaji Temple

While lesser known compared to the other World Heritage-designated sites in Kyoto, Ninnaji Temple has been around since 888. The temple is best known for its varieties of late-blooming cherry blossoms. Its Omuro Cherries are known to start blooming about a week late compared to the more common cherry trees in the country, the Somei Yoshino.

The area looks all picturesque with the trees in bloom. The cherry blossom forests in the temple grounds only reach about two to three meters. This means that hanami viewers will get to see the blossoms closer. If you’re looking for impressive portrait shots, the location would be just perfect.

Entering the temple grounds is generally free. However, people who want to view the blooms during cherry blossom season will have to pay a small fee. Interestingly, there is a Flower Festival that takes place here from March 19-May 8. If you’re going to Arashiyama to visit the famous bamboo groves, Ninnaji Temple is only a few minutes walk from the train station connecting both locations. It’s also within the same bus route going to Kinkakuji Temple.

Philosopher’s Path

One of the best hanami spots in Kyoto where you can enjoy beautiful cherry blossoms is the Philosopher’s Path or Tetsugaku no Michi. The two-kilometer stretch extends from Ginkakuji to Nanzenji. The stone pathway is right beside a canal. Hundreds of cherry trees line the area, which transforms the entire place into a wonderful scene of pale pink blossoms in spring.

If you love taking a long walk to end your sightseeing day in Kyoto, this is one stretch is fantastic. Back in the day, the stretch which started in Higashiyama used to be the walking route of Nishida Kitaro, a famous Japanese philosopher — hence, the name. While walking the stretch, you can also stroll off the path and check out the nearby Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in the area. There are also cafes nearby if you want to stop for refreshments along the way.

Nijo Castle

Another World Heritage site, Nijo Castle has been around since the Edo period and is one of the most impressive Japanese castles. It was constructed by Tokugawa Ieyasu and served as his living quarters whenever he is staying in Kyoto. History buffs are fascinated by the place and cherry blossom enthusiasts find it one of the very best spots to enjoy some cherry blossoms!

The castle grounds boast around 300 cherry blossoms. Interestingly, there are about 50 varieties here. The trees typically bloom in succession between the early days of March to around late April. It’s a great spot to enjoy the delicate blooms while also appreciating the many historical structures and the lovely traditional Japanese garden within its ground.

The castle is also the setting for the Nijo Castle Cherry Blossom festival, which also happens around the same time. Illuminations for the cherry blossoms are featured during festival season and take place around 18:00-21:30. The place offers an ethereal experience with the combination of beautiful cherry flowers and traditional buildings.

Kyoto Botanical Garden

Plant lovers will certainly love experiencing hanami at Kyoto Botanical Garden. Home to about 450 cherry blossom trees, the garden has about 130 varieties. The trees bloom around the middle of March and last until the end of April. It even features a cherry blossom forest that extends north towards the conservatory.

The garden’s conservatory is the largest in Japan with about 4,500 plant species. The garden also features night illuminations of the cherry blossom during spring. They typically last until 21:00. It’s the best time for visitors that want to enjoy the blooms a bit later.

Okazaki Canal

Located near the Heian Jingu Shrine, Okazaki Canal is a waterway connecting to the Lake Biwa Canal. The canal is responsible for bringing water to the city from Lake Biwa which is more than 20 kilometers away.

Visitors and locals alike love the sight of the blooming weeping cherry blossoms. The pale pink blooms are magically reflected onto the clear canal waters. The sight draws people from all over Kyoto and Japan. You can even get on one of the cherry blossom viewing boats that traverse the waterway. If walking is more you’re speed, you can just take a stroll on the path along the canal instead and take in the views.


If you don’t mind having to make your way through crowds of people, Kiyomizu-Dera is a great spot to enjoy some beautiful cherry blossom blooms. On a regular day, the temple is already crowded as it is. You can only imagine how hectic it could get in spring.

However, those who have had the chance to stroll the temple grounds during hanami season will readily tell you it’s worth it. The temple does transform into a picturesque scene when its background gets filled with pink blooms. A favorite spot among visitors is looking out at the balcony. The view of the city along with the cherry blossoms underneath is nothing short of magical.

You can also check out the cherry trees along the temple’s famous pond. However, since it can really get crowded, you will likely have to get in a queue to get anywhere. Evening illuminations are also featured during flower viewing season usually lasting between 6 PM-9 PM.

Maruyama Park

A popular destination for local outings, access to Maruyama Park is free, even during cherry blossom season. The place has about 680 cherry blossom trees. Night illumination featuring the blooms can be witnessed here, usually starting from unset until 24:00. The park is also known for having pop-up food stalls, so expect that there are going to be bustling crowds of people around.

Perhaps the most important symbol of the park is the shidare-zakura. The tree has been around for more than 80 years old. It has even earned the moniker “Night Cherry Blossoms of Gion”. This sakura variety is known to bloom a little later than the rest. Often, it starts blooming around late March. The park also features other varieties of cherry trees, which visitors can typically enjoy until the middle of April.


No matter the time of the year, Arashiyama is a scenic spot where visitors can enjoy its beautiful natural scenery. Since ancient times, the area has always been known as one of the best cherry blossom spots in the prefecture. You’ll gasp in wonder as the whole mountain transforms into dreamy hues of pink as the cherry blossom trees bloom.

Hanami viewers especially love how there are different ways to enjoy the blossoms here. For instance, visitors can get on one of the trolley trains to enjoy the view. Boat tours traversing the river are also available. All these experiences are unique to Arashiyama. The place boasts over 1,500 trees, along the Katsuragawa River, near the Togetsu-Kyo Bridge. It gets even more magical at night, especially with the illuminations.

Heian Jingu Shrine

Boasting one of the biggest torii in the country, Heian Jingu Shrine is one of the best hanami spots in Kyoto. The nationally designated site boasts a garden with an impressive area of 30,000 square meters. Known for its scenic beauty, it is also popular for its weeping cherry trees. Interestingly, many of these trees have been around since the shrine was first built in 1895!

Already stunning during the day, the shrine is a site to behold at night with its illuminations. The pond reflecting the weeping cherry trees is a sight to behold. This Sakura variety is known for blooming a little later than other varieties. So, if you find yourself in Kyoto a little later in spring, you won’t have to worry about missing hanami and just head over to Heian shrine.

Shinbashi in Gion

Gion is one of the most beautiful places in Kyoto, cherry blossom season or not. It’s famous for its geisha and well-preserved traditional shops that line its narrow streets. However, Shinbashi-Dori, one of its most popular streets, transforms come spring. During cherry blossom season, you’ll often see cherry blossoms along its flagstones.

Certain sections may prove more popular than others. However, the place offers lots of wonderful cherry blossom views no matter which part you stroll. The area gets illuminated at night and what’s even better is you can enjoy all the sights for free! The area along the river is lined with bars and restaurants, which is perfect if you ever feel the need for a quick bite while enjoying the sights. Fair warning though, they can get expensive!

A lasting experience

Hanami viewing, no matter where you are in Japan, is an experience not to be missed. But Kyoto, during cherry blossom season, is just magical. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, the beauty and atmosphere of the numerous hanami spots in Kyoto are sure to leave a lasting impression. So, get a picnic blanket, pack some snacks, grab a camera, and get ready to immerse yourself in the magic of cherry blossom season in Kyoto!