Kyoto, Japan

Visitors come to Kyoto seeking its past: the more than 1,000 temples that dot its breathtakingly beautiful surrounds, the geishas that shuffle through the Gion district on teetering okobo platforms, elaborate ceremonies in traditional tea houses. However, they find a city that’s modernising fast, with a slew of hip kaiseki restaurants, a burgeoning craft-beer and single-origin coffee scene and architecture that’s a futuristic contrast to the historic wooden buildings in the town. Escaping to its rural surrounds is richly rewarded though, with lofty bamboo forests to wander through and riotously hued foliage.

When to go

The sakura are at their pinkest from March to April; the maple leaves are at their loveliest in October.

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Getting there

  • Planes

    International hub Osaka Airport (www.osaka-airport.co.jp) is the closest to the city; frequent flights arrive here from Tokyo and KLM flies from London Heathrow via Amsterdam; arrivals from the US stopover in Hong Kong. You could also fly into Kansai (www.kansai-airport.or.jp), whose claim to fame is that it’s never lost a single piece of luggage.
  • Trains

    Arrive at futuristic Kyoto Station or Randen Arashiyama Station. The speedy Shinkansen bullet trains will get you here from Tokyo in around two-and-a-half hours.
  • Automobiles

    If you’re driving from Tokyo, the journey to Kyoto takes around five hours; you may need to factor in tolls.