9 Best Kyoto Food Tours You Have to Discover

By Callum Howe
April 14, 2020
Updated: December 2, 2022

Kyoto, the historic capital of Japan, has been a foodie hotspot for centuries. These hallowed streets have birthed no end of Japanese classics, such as the sophisticated kaiseki cuisine and the wagashi sweets of traditional tea ceremonies. Its world-renowned food culture is nowadays marked by over 100 Michelin-starred restaurants!

But with a language barrier and waiting lists as long as your arm for some restaurants, much of this exciting Japanese food culture can be closed off to foreigners. That’s where these Kyoto food tours come in. With the help of an expert guide, you can unlock the best of the local culinary scene, without worrying about committing some fatal faux pas in Japan's traditional ancient capital.

Street in Higashiyama, Kyoto, with traditional architecture and blue skies

9 Best Kyoto Food Tours You Have to Discover

Here are the best culinary tours that Kyoto has to offer — each of them promising a fun and fascinating day out which will be a highlight of your Japan trip.

  1. Kyoto Sake Brewery Tour in Fushimi Sake District
  2. Evening in Pontocho Food Tour
  3. Kyoto Food Tour of Nishiki Market, Gion, and Fushimi Inari
  4. Kyoto Tea Farm Tour, Tasting, and Lunch in Scenic Wazuka
  5. Arashiyama Food Tour in Kyoto
  6. Kyoto Matcha Green Tea Tour in Uji with Lunch
  7. Kyoto Nishiki Market Tour with 7 Course Lunch
  8. Kyoto Night Food Tour
  9. Downtown Kyoto Local Food Tour

1. Kyoto Sake Brewery Tour in Fushimi Sake District

No Japan trip is complete without sampling some Japanese sake — the nation’s famous rice wine — and there’s no better place to do it than Kyoto’s Fushimi Sake District. Since the Edo period, this has been a hotspot of sake production, with around 40 breweries operating there to this day, thanks to the area's beautifully crystal-clear underground springs.

On this three-hour Kyoto Sake Brewery Tour in Fushimi Sake District, you’ll visit one of the oldest sake producers in Japan, the Gekkeikan Okura Brewery, established in 1637. Touring its historic buildings and museum, you’ll learn all about how the ingredients are carefully balanced to produce an incredible variety of flavors. After the theory portion, you’ll get a chance to put your new knowledge into practice with a tasting of some of the brewery's different bottles.

All that drinking works up an appetite, so you’ll then head along to a local restaurant for lunch. Feel free to order another sake on the side if you feel like keeping the party going!

Book the Kyoto Sake Brewery Tour!

2. Evening in Pontocho Food Tour

Kyoto’s Pontocho Alley is hands-down one of the most beautiful streets in the world; all cobblestones, traditional buildings, and hanging lanterns. However, the lack of English information for many of the traditional restaurants around there can make it somewhat impenetrable for foreigners. But don’t worry, this Kyoto food tour comes to the rescue!

During the Evening in Pontocho Food Tour, your friendly local guide will take you to an impressive four different places across the three-hour tour. You’ll have the chance to try some authentic traditional Kyoto cuisine, such as sumi yakiniku, handmade noodles, and delicious sake — a truly panoramic food of Japan tour. 

The restaurants and shops in Kyoto’s traditional districts can be a little intimidating for the uninitiated, but this culinary tour takes off all the pressure, giving you a window into the rich culture which has thrived on the streets of Pontocho for centuries.

Book the Evening in Pontocho Food Tour!

3. Kyoto Food Tour of Nishiki Market, Gion, and Fushimi Inari

A row of red torii shrine gates with kanji characters on the poles.

While the sheer variety of Kyoto’s foodie scene can be daunting, this Kyoto Food Tour of Nishiki Market, Gion, and Fushimi Inari is a crash course that will turn you into an expert on its dishes and culture within just 4 hours! You’ll start at Nishiki Market — the hub of Kyoto’s food culture for four centuries, and now an amazing place to try the city’s famous street food.

Afterwards you’ll head down to the historic districts of Pontocho and Gion, the latter being the heart of the exquisite kaiseki dining style. A trip down to Fushimi Inari Shrine caps off the journey, with thousands of red torii gates dedicated to the gods of rice, sake, and tea (so you can thank them personally for Kyoto’s amazing culinary culture).

By the time you’re done for the day you’ll have tried 7 kinds of local food, and visited some of the most important sites in the city. You’ll basically be an expert!

Book the Kyoto Food Tour!

4. Kyoto Tea Farm Tour, Tasting, and Lunch in Scenic Wazuka

Japanese tea is an indispensable part of traditional Kyoto cuisine, as the spiritual home of tea ceremony. The place which supplies the region’s tea is Wazuka, a countryside town just a short trip south of the city.

During this Kyoto Tea Farm Tour, Tasting, and Lunch in Scenic Wazuka, you’ll be blown away by rolling green hills covered in tea farms, and enjoy a tour of the Kyoto Obubu Tea Farm’s fields and factory. After seeing how they harvest and produce the Japanese sencha green tea, you’ll get a taste for yourself — in noodle form! A lunch of bright green cha soba noodles will fill you up before you head on to taste nine different tea varieties brewed with artisan methods.

Try your hand at using try your hand at using a chasen (bamboo whisk) to make an authentic cup of matcha, and enjoy the fruits of your labor along with traditional wagashi sweets, typically served during tea ceremonies.

Book the Kyoto Tea Farm Tour!

5. Arashiyama Food Tour in Kyoto

A forest of tall bamboo stalks in Arashiyama with a path through the middle, on which a woman is walking.

Find your zen during the Arashiyama Food Tour in Kyoto, located in the northern part of Kyoto, an area that's famous for being the heart of Buddhist culture. Here you’ll find some of the most significant temples in the country, along with the famous bamboo forest. This outstanding culinary tour is a great way to take in the highlights of the history and culture of Arashiyama, with a generous helping of food thrown in!

Across the two and a half hour tour, you’ll make pit stops to try authentic dishes like deep fried fish cakes, wagashi sweets, and a soy milk "tofu" donut! If a stroll through the bamboo forest after filling up on outstanding traditional Japanese food doesn’t leave you feeling enlightened, nothing will. 

Book the Arashiyama Food Tour!

6. Kyoto Matcha Green Tea Tour in Uji with Lunch

A wooden board with powdered matcha, a scoop, and a traditional tea whisk.

The health benefits of matcha tea are becoming famous across the world. The secret to its healthiness lies in the way it’s grown, then ground into a powder that's packed with antioxidants and nutrients. A Kyoto food tour is the perfect way to discover the history of matcha, and to snag the best cup you’re every likely to have in your life.

Just a short trip south of Kyoto, the town of Uji is known have the best matcha in the world. Join the Kyoto Matcha Green Tea Tour in Uji to learn about the hard work and dedication that goes into making it, before trying your hand at brewing a cup using traditional utensils (instant matcha sachets will never feel the same again!).

As if that’s not enough, you’ll also be treated to some matcha ice cream, a traditional lunch at a local restaurant, and a trip to the town’s gorgeous Byodoin Temple.

Book the Matcha Tea Tour in Uji!

7. Kyoto Nishiki Market Tour with 7 Course Lunch

Variety of colorful pickles at Nishiki Market

Right in the center of downtown Kyoto, this market has been the heart of the old capital’s food scene for 400 years — many of the greatest restaurants through history originated here. Every day is a festival of delightful Kyoto food at Nishiki Market, with locals and tourists descending for the outstanding street food, shopping, and fine dining.

If you dive into this bustling gourmet labyrinth alone, you might well suffer from sensory overload — just where are you supposed to start? It’s far better to go with a local food tour guide, who can help you get the most out of your time there with a choice pick of the best stores, and insights into the food culture the market supports.

But don’t fill up too much on the market’s signature pickles, fish cakes, and tofu. After touring the area’s shops and stalls, you’ll settle down for an extensive seven course lunch! Just like the market itself, the Kyoto Nishiki Market Tour is jam-packed with all sorts of great food.

Book the Kyoto Nishiki Market Tour!

8. Kyoto Night Food Tour

Kyoto Night Food Tour

An otherworldly feeling descends upon the historic streets of Kyoto after sunset — you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time to an age of samurai and geisha. It’s not all somber and silent, though. In fact, Kyoto’s nightlife is as vibrant as it is varied, and this lively, intimate 3-hour Kyoto Night Food Tour showcases the local experience!

Starting in the Gion district, your guide will fill you in on all the things you need to know about this remarkable pocket of culture and history, then take you to a standing bar to eat and drink like a local. 

A walk across the river to Pontocho Alley brings you closer to the vibrant downtown action, where you’ll enjoy more Japanese food and drink at a bar on the famous street — lined with dozens of cool bars and night spots. Who knows, maybe you and your tour-mates will keep the drinking going into the morning hours!

Book the Kyoto Night Food Tour!

9. Downtown Kyoto Local Food Tour

Tour guide and tourist in Kyoto during the Downtown Kyoto Local Food Tour

A panoramic view of the local food culture in just 3 hours, this culinary tour is a perfect way to maximize your time in Kyoto by unlocking the secrets of its bustling downtown district. From modern favorites such as department store food halls and cafes, to historic traditional sweet shops and grocers, your local food tour guide will give you insight into all of these places and the role of their foods on the local scene.

Of course, you’ll get to chow down on some mouthwatering samples yourself, with local seafood, tsukemono pickles, takoyaki, and much more on the menu. With a knowledgeable local food tour guide by your side, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of each of these delicious foods.

Book the Downtown Kyoto Food Tour!

There’s something for everyone among these Kyoto food tours; whether you want to drink yourself merry on top-grade sake, deepen your understanding of traditional tea, or gorge on some traditional Kyoto delicacies. If you’re planning on visiting Japan’s gorgeous cultural capital sometime soon, hop on over to the booking pages to grab yourself a spot on one of these unforgettable experiences!

Still looking for the perfect food adventure in Japan's former capital? Check out our best Kyoto tea ceremony experiences or browse the full list of food tours in Kyoto.

We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan’s food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.
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Callum Howe
Originally from Fife, Scotland, Callum is a literature graduate, freelance writer, and English teacher living in Tokyo. An interest in Zen drew him to Japan, so you can often find him visiting temples around Tokyo and beyond. He loves getting involved with the local music, sports, and arts scenes.
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