Temples in Kyoto: Ginkakuji and Kinkakuji

Temples, temples, and more temples! That pretty much sums up our time in Kyoto. If you enjoy stunning architecture and beautiful gardens this is the place to go. Before Ried and I left for Japan, I was researching Kyoto and quickly realized there was no way we would be able to see every single temple in the 5 days we planned to spend there. I made a list of the top ones we wanted to see, and our 5 day stay there gave us more than enough time to get to them all. I’ll be doing multiple blog posts on our temple tour of Kyoto as there are way too many to write about all at once!

The two temples I want to highlight today are Ginkakuji (the Silver Pavilion) and Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavilion). We actually went to these temples on two separate days as they are not anywhere near to each other – despite being sort of related  (Ginkakuji was modelled after Kinkakuji when being built). Kinkakuji’s top two floors are covered in gold leaf (hence the ‘Gold Pavilion’). Ginkakuji isn’t actually covered in silver, despite the name. A side note: I found www.japan-guide.com to be a helpful resource for giving me a quick overview of the temples’ histories.


What will impress you the most at Ginkakuji temple isn’t the temple itself but the beautiful grounds it is situated on. You walk along a path that takes you through a moss garden and a sand garden. The gardens are extremely well kept – sand perfectly raked, little ponds and bridges throughout, etc.  I couldn’t get enough of this place. It has a very peaceful atmosphere and the way the path is built makes it so that you are never too crowded with other people. We did not go inside the Silver Pavilion, I don’t actually think we were even allowed to, but the architecture is stunning and adds to the Zen ambience you get here. Ginkakuji isn’t as popular as Kinkakuji, but I highly recommend it if you love Zen gardens.


Kinkakuji is definitely a place to go to first thing in the morning so as to avoid a crowd. Ried and I got there around 8:30am (it opens at 9:00am). We were right near the front of a very long line and this allowed us a first glimpse of Kinkakuji before everyone else got in. That means we were able to get pictures without a people in the background. Definitely worth a bit earlier of a morning!

Kinkakuji was BREATHTAKING. There is a path that takes you full circle from the entrance of the temple grounds, through the garden and by the temple, and back out the entrance. We did the loop twice – that’s how much I loved this place. I walked through the doors into the grounds and I was in awe. The temple itself is gorgeous. The sun reflects off the gold leaf walls and it is striking against the large, calm pond it sits by. The Zen gardens here are also amazing – moss, rocks, and perfectly raked sand. I don’t think pictures do this place any justice. I could have stared at it for hours.

Should You Go?

Would I recommend taking the time to see Ginkakuji and Kinkakuji? I think the answer is pretty obvious from my post – absolutely! If you enjoy walking through beautiful gardens with stunning architecture surrounding you, you’ll love visiting these two temples.



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