It is the fourth part of my trip to Japan, which led me to Nara. Just know that I also wrote travel guides of Hiroshima, Osaka, and Kyoto, so if you have not read these articles yet, what are you waiting for, Gwen? If you have read them already, good job, and I love you!
I spent two weeks in August 2019 in Japan, and it was awesome! Because I loved this country so much (also because I am a kind person), I decided to share the itinerary I followed and the activities I did. I decided to go to Nara while I was visiting Kyoto! I stayed three days in Kyoto, but I decided to spend one of these days in Nara as the cities are super close. I went there on an early Saturday morning, leaving from Kyoto Station and taking the train for 45 min (JR Nara Line).
This itinerary is intentionally starting on a Saturday, so make sure to check if monuments are open or not before your visit, as some monuments can be closed on certain days. Opening and closing hours can also vary from summertime to wintertime.
All the opening hours you will see throughout the article will be during summertime (June through August).
Here are some currency exchanges just for you to have a little guidance on the worth of the Japanese Yen (¥ / JPY):
$10 = ¥1,038
€10 = ¥1,254
£10 = ¥1,411
I hope you guys will enjoy this article! Do not hesitate to contact me if you have further questions or if something is not clear for you as always.
Tōdai-ji was built in 752 and is the most famous and visited temple of Nara. You should visit the temple early in the morning, as you might encounter many tourists during the day. This Buddhist temple is known to be the home to a monumental Great Buddha sitting in bronze (18 meters high and weighing 250 tons). You will also find a large wooden gate called Nandaimon Gate, watched over by two fierce-looking statues. Do you know who else is fierce? You by reading this article!
Fun fact: The temple became so powerful that at the time, the capital was moved from Nara to Nagaoka in 784 in order to lower the Tōdai-ji’s influence on state affairs.
Address: 406-1 Zoshicho, Nara, 630-8211
Opening Hours: It is open every day from 7:30AM to 5:30PM.
Depending on where you are when leaving the temple, walk 5-10 minutes to go to…
Isuien Garden (依水園)
Isuien is a Japanese garden and easily the most beautiful in Nara! It is the perfect representation of the luxury enjoyed by wealthy merchants in the Edo period (1603-1868). The garden is divided into two parts. The larger one features private villa and teahouses mainly, while the other part is a strolling garden, where these wealthy merchants were enjoying relaxing walks and talking about their affairs.
Wee tip: The main entrance takes you around the Neiraku Museum, which is included in the ticket price, so do not hesitate to have a look at its art (mainly Japanese pottery)!
Address: 74 Suimoncho, Nara, 630-8208
Hours: It is open every day, except on Tuesdays, from 9:30AM to 4:30PM (with last admissions at 30 min before closing).
University and High School Students: ¥500
Primary and Middle School Students: ¥300
You can walk 20 minutes across Nara Park to go to…
Kasuga Taisha (春日大社)
Kasuga Taisha is a Shinto shrine built in 768. It is considered one of the most sacred sites in all of Japan! The shrine is dedicated to the protective deity of Nara. It has also been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. You will be amazed by the buildings vermillion colour and attention to detail, plus the wonderful stroll around its Botanical Garden (you might encounter some deers there!). There is a museum on the shrine grounds, featuring a treasure hall that showcases beautiful shrine’s relics.
Address: 160 Kasuganocho, Nara, 630-8212, Japan
Hours: The main sanctuary is open from 6AM to 6PM. The museum is open from 10AM to 5PM (with last admissions at 4:30PM), while the Botanical Garden is open from 9AM to 5PM (with last admissions at 4:30PM too).
Main Sanctuary: ¥500; it is free for junior high school students & under
Museum: ¥500 for adults, ¥300 for university & high school students, ¥200 for junior high school students & under
Botanical Garden: ¥500 for adults, ¥250 for children
You might be hungry! Let’s walk around 20 minutes to go to…
At first, when looking at the facade of the restaurant, you might wonder: “Is this it?”. And yes, it is IT indeed! Never judge a book by its cover, as the food is delicious and service top-notch there! You will have the choice between three menus (if vegan or vegetarian, you need to let the restaurant know as soon as you make your reservation). The quality, presentation, uniqueness, and talent of the only person working there (yes, the chef is also the waiter) is outstanding, and he even takes the time to explain each meal to you when he serves it! It is just one of the best meals you will ever have!
Wee tip: You should make a reservation prior to your visit to Nara for lunch at 1PM to have enough time to visit the three first attractions.
Address: 42 Boyashikicho Ishihara Bldg. 1F, Nara 630-8271
Hours: For lunch, the service is either at 12PM, 12:30PM, or 1PM. For dinner, the service is either at 6:30PM, 7PM, or 7:30PM.
Course A: ¥3,800
Course B: ¥4,600
Course C: ¥5,400
Let’s walk 5-10 minutes to enter…
Nara Park (奈良公園)
Nara Park is simply THE most famous attraction in Nara, period. It was established in 1880 and is one of the oldest parks in Japan. The park, which spans 660 hectares, is known for its hundreds of free-roaming deer and world-renowned attractions. You can feed the deers with special crackers that are being sold literally everywhere in the park. Some deers have even learned to bow in front of people to ask to be fed! Be careful though, some of them might come across as “aggressive” if you are tempting them with food, but they really are the loveliest animals. It is a great activity to do as a family or with a group of friends!
Fun fact: In the Shinto religion (most ancient religion in Japan), deers are deemed as the messengers of the gods.
Address: Nara Park, Nara
Hours: It is open 24/7.
Price: Entrance to the park is free! A pack of crackers is worth around ¥150.
Learn Kawaii wagashi making over matcha
Are you passionate about pastry or cooking in general? Do you want to prepare super kawaii Japanese sweets? Well then, this AirBnB experience is the treat you need! You will learn more about the ingredients, materials, and tools for making wagashi and shaping your own Japanese sweets. In the end, the host will serve you matcha tea along with the sweets you made through the experience! Also, this activity is organized by Nara Wellness Tourism, a non-profit organization, which means 100% of what you pay goes directly to them (Airbnb is not charging any fees to them for these experiences).
Address: Confectionary Toraya, 31 Tsurufukuincho, Nara, 630-8393
Hours: 4PM to 5PM.
After this lovely activity, walk 5-7 minutes to go to…
Kōfuku-ji is among Japan’s oldest and most prominent Buddhist temples, dating back over 1,300 years. During most of the Nara and Heian Periods, the temple used to belong to the Fujiwara family temple, one of the most powerful Japanese aristocratic clan ever. The temple holds the second largest pagoda in Japan and has been classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
The temple itself is open until 5PM, but the temple grounds are open 24/7, which is why I am making you visit it after the wagashi making activity.
Address: 48 Noboriojicho, Nara, 630-8213
Hours: The interior of the temple is open every day from 9AM to 5PM. The temple grounds are open 24/7.
Price: Entering the temple grounds is free. Regarding the interior:
Central Golden Hall: ¥500
National Treasure Museum: ¥700
Eastern Golden Hall: ¥300
Combined ticket (National Treasure Museum + Eastern Golden Hall): ¥900
If you want to have dinner in Nara, you should definitely walk around 15 minutes to go to…
Surugamachi no Okonomiyakiya
I already said it in another article, and I will say it again: Okonomiyaki is THE best dish ever created on this wee Earth, and fight me if you disagree! Even if you think it is not, you should definitely have dinner at Surugamachi no Okonomiyakiya! The owner and waiters are super nice, and the food is really tasty. The dishes are also pretty affordable, and there are vegetarian options available! Do not hesitate to ask for help and advice regarding food there! The owner speaks English and will be happy to recommend popular and tasty dishes!
Address: 606-8 Sanjocho, Nara 630-8244
Hours: It is open every day from 12PM to 9PM.
Price: Between ¥750 and ¥1,000.
Sadly, it is the end of this incredible trip to Nara! I did not spend the evening in the city, as my accommodation was in Kyoto and I needed to go back there (plus, I was exhausted from all the activities I did during the day). I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I enjoyed writing it, and do not hesitate to comment and share it with your friends, family, lovers, pets…
My next article will be about Hakone, a Japanese city known for its hot springs resorts (onsen) and views of the iconic volcano Mount Fuji! If you enjoy the content of my blog, do not forget to follow A Gourmet Vagabond on WordPress and my social media channels, to be updated about new upcoming articles and other fun stuff!
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