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Five Freebies: Kyoto

Geisha are elegant and composed as they travel through Kyoto's Gion area
Photographer: Himanshu Pandya

Make the most of your time – and money – in Kyoto with our pick of free attractions

Five blocks long, the 400-year-old NISHIKI MARKET shopping street is lined with over a hundred shops and restaurants, and is also known as ‘Kyoto’s Kitchen’. Absorb the lively atmosphere of this dynamic retail market at which you will find seasonal food and Kyoto’s specialties, such as pickled veggies, dried seafood and sushi. While only a few eateries have small sit-down arrangements, there are also plenty of free samples and skewers to be eaten on the move.

2 Visit KYOTO STATION, considered one of the largest in the world, for its striking architecture. The futuristic 15-storey structure of immaculate glass and steel features a museum, restaurants, a theatre and even a sky garden with a pleasant view of the city; you could be at leisure here all day.

3 Take a quick tour inside NISHIJIN TEXTILE CENTRE to explore Kyoto’s history of textile production, the legacy of the kimono and the craftsmanship of elaborate weaving. A kimono fashion show, a demo of silk weaving on traditional looms, and a look-see at silk worms producing shiny thread are on the menu.

4 Find yourself a quiet corner in one of Kyoto’s 1,000-plus TEMPLES AND SHRINES. With fewer visitors and locals, afternoons are a great time to visit the magnificent grounds and Zen gardens. Many of the city’s best gardens can be found within temple grounds. The vast Fushimi Inari-Taisha complex offers five shrines, a hundred stone foxes, miniature shrines and graveyards. With a grove of over 2,000 trees, the Kitano Tenman-go shrine is ‘‘in bloom” in early March, and it is also one of Kyoto’s ‘autumn colour spots’.

5 Walk into the lush green world of the unique ARASHIYAMA BAMBOO GROVE. Stand among the towering stalks as they sway in the wind in a subdued cacophony.