A day trip to Nara in Japan: The most beautiful temples and our tips

Posted on

Tame deer as well as impressive temples and shrines – and that in combination. This is what makes Nara what it is. Nara was once the capital of Japan, so the city center is still home to a wealth of must-see temples and shrines.

How the deer fit in, you wonder? Very simple: you live there. And has been for centuries. Therefore, the curious animals will keep you company while sightseeing in Nara. Nara is the perfect destination for a day trip from Osaka or Kyoto. We tell you our best tips for Nara in this blog article.

1. Nara: That awaits you in the temple city Nara is one of the highlights of every Japan tour. Similar to Kyoto, you will also find countless temples and shrines in Nara in a relatively small area. So in Nara you can immerse yourself in historic Japan and that’s what makes a visit so exciting.

Away from the temples and shrines, we found the traditional Japanese Gardens in Nara particularly worth seeing. Japanese gardens combine all the clichés that you have in mind: symmetrically cut trees, paths through the moss and of course a pretty tea house in the center.

Nara is only a stone’s throw from Kyoto and Osaka away. If in doubt, we would rather recommend you to do the day trip from Osaka like we did. The reason: There are already so many temples to see in Kyoto alone. The contrast between Nara and modern Osaka is much greater.

How to get from A to B in Nara? Most Temples and shrines in Nara are walking distance to each other. In principle, you can walk everywhere. We did the same ourselves, with the exception of the last way back to the train station. We were pretty tired and took a taxi. So as a guide: We have about 2019 over the entire day in Nara Kilometers covered on foot.

Alternatively, the bus network is quite well developed in Nara : There are several bus routes, with the yellow bus routes no. 1 and 2 being the most used for tourist purposes. These lines run once in a circle and stop at the most important sights (bus line no. 2 clockwise bus line no. 1 anti-clockwise).

One day ticket for all bus lines costs 30 Yen . It is best to buy this directly after your arrival in Nara at the train station. If you only want to cover one or the other route by bus, you can also buy your ticket directly on the bus (single journey 500 Yen).

2. The most beautiful sights: temples, shrines and gardens in Nara In this chapter we will show you which temples, shrines and gardens we visited in one day in Nara. We have listed the sights in the order of our visit so that you can also use them as a guide. You can also find all of our tips drawn on a map at the end of the article.

Deer in Nara Park Nara Park is actually a huge area that contains some of Nara’s most important attractions. However, we would like to mention Nara Park separately. In the many green spaces of Nara Park, you will meet the deer that Nara is so famous for.

The deer make themselves either in Groups comfortably under the shade of the trees or they are looking for something to eat. Of course, the deer now know that visitors are feeding them. You can buy animal feed at the park entrances. Caution: the deer are very, very trusting. Once they sniff the crackers, the deer will chase you until you pull them out.

FYI: At almost all of the sights we’re about to list (except the gardens), you will you also meet deer. They are everywhere and are part of the cityscape of Nara.

Tōdai-ji Temple The most famous temple in all of Nara, which probably everyone pays a visit to, is the Tōdai-ji Temple. The special feature of this temple: It is built of wood. More precisely, the Tōdai-ji Temple is actually the largest wooden building in the world. Crazy, isn’t it?

Due to its popularity, the crowd at the Tōdai-ji Temple is of course enormous. School classes, travel groups & Co.: You will look in vain for contemplative peace here. However, you should not miss the temple. The structure is spectacular to behold.

Inside Tōdai-ji Temple, a 15 Meter high Buddha, which is also very worth seeing. Overall, however, the area can be visited fairly quickly.

Information on visiting the Tōdai-ji Temple Opening hours: 7: 30 until 17: 18 Watch

Entry: 600 Yen

Isuien Garden Probably the most famous Japanese garden in Nara is the Isuien Garden. All the ideas you have of a Japanese garden become reality here: a path through the moss, a path over a river, a lake in which the plant world is reflected and a tea house where you can enjoy your matcha.

Contrary to our expectations, the rush during our visit was limited, so that we were able to enjoy the garden in peace.

The ticket also includes a visit to the including the associated museum, which, however, is obviously not supposed to be worthwhile. (We spent the time in the neighboring garden instead – more on that in a moment.)

Information on visiting the Isuien Garden Entry: 900 Yen
Opening hours: 9: 30 until 17 Watch

Yoshikien Garden Right next to the entrance to Isuien Garden is also the entrance to lesser known Yoshikien Garden. Well, well, we thought so, so we paid a visit to both gardens.

The Yoshikien Garden is a little smaller than the Isuien Garden, but in our opinion no less worth seeing. A beautiful Japanese garden awaits you here as well. The wooden tea house is also a great photo opportunity.

Since the entrance is free anyway and both gardens are next door to each other, we would recommend you to visit both gardens at the same time. Who knows how soon you’ll see Japanese garden art again.

Info on visiting the Yoshikien Garden Entry: Free if you show your passport Opening hours: 9 to 15 Clock

Kasuga Taisha Shrine Our visit to the Kasuga-Taisha shrine in the late afternoon was one of our personal highlights in Nara. With hundreds of moss-covered stone lanterns, the shrine is definitely one of those memorable places of our Japan trip. The shrine is located in a forest, so there are also a lot of deer here, which often look out from between the stone lanterns.

You can visit the Kasuga-Taisha shrine for free. For the interior of the shrine, which consists of several red structures and many, many lanterns, 500 Yen due. We were pretty lucky: that day we were almost the last ones to get access. So we were able to explore the area (almost) completely on our own. It’s supposed to be very busy in here during the day.

We can therefore only warmly advise you to visit the Kasuga-Taisha Shrine in the afternoon as well. (Note – opening times vary depending on the season. We were at 16 12:00 p.m. at the ticket office of the inner shrine.) Afterwards, it is recommended to walk to Nigatsudo Temple to admire the sunset. We’ll tell you more in a moment.

Information on visiting the Kasuga Taisha Shrine Opening hours: Depending on the season between about 6: 00 (or 6: 30) and 17 (or. 18) Watch. The interior of the shrine closes earlier.

Admission: Free; Inner Shrine 30 Yen

Nigatsu-dō Temple In our opinion, the perfect place to relax Watching the sunset in Nara is the Nigatsu-dō Temple. It is located on a hill above the Tōdai-ji Temple (and actually belongs to it).

During the day it is supposed to be very busy here, but during our visit at sunset it was very few local people. The temple hall itself has already closed by then, but the atmosphere is at least as magical. We can only warmly recommend that you tackle the short hike and see the view from up here. For us, the visit to the Nigatsu-dō Temple was the perfect end of the day to our trip to Nara.

Information on visiting the Nigatsu-dō Temple Entrance fee: For free

Opening hours: The temple grounds are open 24 hours a day. (The hall itself already encloses 16: 18 Watch.)

3. Other places worth seeing and tips for Nara Mochi Master Nakatanidou Ever tried mochi? You either love or hate the small, sticky Japanese rice cakes with their strange consistency. If you want to test them, then Nara is the right place to do it: namely, in the city center there is a mochi bakery called Nakatinadou, which is well-known throughout the country.

The works here fastest mochi masters in the world. One thing to know: the mochi batter is pounded with a hammer during preparation – and this happens at a crazy fast speed that makes you worry about the fingers of the mochi master.

At Nakatinadou you can watch the production of Mochis all day long during opening hours. It may take a while to get a glimpse of the main attraction, namely the beating of the mochi batter.

In general, the shop is of course quite touristy, but the mochis are tasty really good for that. We even got supplies. A word of advice: don’t eat too fast and drink enough. In fact, there are always people who Smother Mochis.

Nara Old Town (= Naramachi) The former trading district is called Naramachi and is something like the old town of Nara. One wooden house follows the next in the small alleyways. There are always boutiques, galleries or small shops in the houses.

We would have imagined Naramachi to be more lively – during our visit it was very quiet. So if you’ve had enough of the hustle and bustle of the temple, then Naramachi is the place for you.

Okumura Commemorative Museum We came across this place quite by accident and immediately got stuck. In front of the door is advertised with “resting place free of charge” and our tired legs could use a break.

The inconspicuous Okumura Commemorative Museum is located at the gates of the famous Tōdai-ji Temple. “Museum” is a bit of an exaggeration considering the size of the exhibition. With some exhibits you can learn something about earthquakes and earthquake-proof construction. However, a lot of it is only written in Japanese.

The main motive for stopping by here is certainly the free tea and the quiet atmosphere. Precisely because it It was very hot outside when we visited, so we really enjoyed the stopover.

4. Map: All sights at a glance So that you can get a better overview for your day trip to Nara, we have listed all the sights and highlights are plotted on this map.

5. How to get to Nara Nara has two train stations: Depends on which train you you control either the Kintetsu Nara Station or the JR Nara Station on. There is not a very big difference, although Kintetsu Nara Station is a little closer to the tourist attractions (15 Walking distance to Tōdai-ji Temple).

We recommend you to check the route from your hotel (in Kyoto or Osaka) via Google Maps and, if necessary, to search for a suitable connection via Hyperdia.

From Osaka There are several options to get to Nara from Osaka. If you have a Japan Rail Pass (further information here: Japan Travel Tips), then you will probably take the Yamatoji Line (JR). The journey is included in the Japan Rail Pass.

A slightly faster alternative, which is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass, is the Kintetsu Nara Line. As the name suggests, it takes you to Kintetsu Nara Station and thus a little closer to the old town of Nara than the JR trains.

Our hotel tip for Osaka: Moxy Osaka

From Kyoto If you have a Japan Rail Pass, the best way to get from Kyoto to Nara is by JR train (Miyakoji Line). The ride with it is included in your pass. Be careful not to take a local train that stops at unnecessarily many stops.

Without a Japan Rail Pass, the Kintetsu Kyoto Line is the route of your choice. The fastest connection will take you in approx. 17 Minutes from Kyoto to Nara – actually to Kintetsu Nara Station and thus (as already described above) somewhat closer to the tourist highlights than the JR trains.

Our hotel tip for Kyoto: The General Takatsuji Tominokoji

Transparency: Invitation & Affiliate Links
We were picked up by All Nippon Airways (ANA) invited to Japan – thank you very much for this great opportunity! So that you are familiar: The outward and return flights as well as the program for the first 5 days (Tokyo, Hakone, Osaka) were financially taken over by ANA. We were free to organize the program – we were on our own the whole time. We decided to extend our stay in Japan at our own expense.

This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we will receive a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. A thousand thanks from both of us!

Have you ever been to Nara? Which temples and shrines were your highlights? Do you have any other tips for Nara? We look forward to your comment!