A Laid-Back Osaka To Kyoto Day Trip Itinerary For The Family

It’s our fifth day in Japan. We’ve already spent four amazing days in Osaka with the kids, and it’s time to explore other cities nearby. Kyoto is among the favorite one-day trip options outside Osaka because of its rich history and culture. It was actually voted as “The World’s Best City” for 2 years by the readers of “Travel+Leisure.”

Travelling with kids is challenging. If you are looking for a more relaxed Osaka Kyoto itinerary for your family, then please read on. In this article you will learn how to travel to Kyoto from Osaka via buses and trains. You will discover fun activities and attractions you and your children can enjoy. Finally, I will also share some personal tips and the gems we found that can enhance your overall travel experience.

Mario with Kids - Osaka to Kyoto day trip Itinerary
There is a colossal Mario figure showcased outside the Takashimaya building.

An Overview Of Our Osaka Kyoto Itinerary With Kids (Expectation vs Reality)

This itinerary is designed for parents who want to have a laid-back day in Kyoto. But that wasn’t the original plan. You see, my wife and I have prepared something great for our one-day trip to Kyoto with the kids. Here’s what we expected to do there as a family:

  • Breakfast at hotel.
  • Travel to Kyoto from Osaka.
  • Kimono and Yukata rental and photoshoot.
  • Walk around the old streets of Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka.
  • Explore Kiyomizu-dera Temple.
  • Have coffee at the first tatami-floored Starbucks.
  • Return Kimono and Yukata.
  • Food escapade at Nishiki Market.
  • Dinner at Menya Inoichi.
  • Travel back to the hotel in Osaka.

But things, more often than not, don’t go according to plans when you’re travelling with your children. Here’s the actual Osaka to Kyoto day trip itinerary we ended up with:

  • Breakfast at hotel
  • Travel to Kyoto.
  • Food trip and shopping at Nishiki Market.
  • Shopping and photo op at Nintendo store, Kyoto.
  • Travel back to Osaka.
  • Dinner at Umeda Food Hall.
  • Go back to the hotel.

In the end, we just couldn’t find the time, strength, and energy to execute the master plan for our short trip to Kyoto. Do I sound disappointed? The truth is, we are genuinely thankful that things didn’t go as we envisioned it. We really enjoyed this version of our itinerary because it gave us the rest we needed. Super Nintendo World was the main reason we visited Japan. The past four days in Osaka have been fun, but it is also depleting. This trip is more about getting recharged, especially for me and Lalaine.

Food Hall in Nishiki Market
Food hall inside Nishiki Market.

A Recharging Osaka to Kyoto Day Trip Itinerary

I recommend you put this plan into action after an exhausting day. Perhaps on the third or fourth day of your Japan itinerary. The idea is to alternate the relaxing day and the stressful day. This will help you enjoy your family vacation more.

Osaka to Kyoto Day Trip By Train

We travelled to Kyoto via buses and trains. If you also plan to do so, I highly recommend you get the Kansai Thru Pass. This pass will give you unlimited rides to metro trains, subways, and buses within the Kansai region. An example of cities included in the Kansai region are: Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, Wakayama, and Kayasan.

Osaka to Kyoto train route: (estimated travel time: 2 hours)

  • Bus ride from Ichioka Bus Station to Osaka Station. (30 minutes)
  • Walk from Osaka Station to Osaka Umeda Station. (15 minutes)
  • Train ride from Osaka Umeda Station via Hankyu-Kyoto Line to Karasuma Station. (60 minutes)

Day 4 of our Japan trip was supposed to be a relaxing one. Yet, it turns out to be the most tiring thus far. Based on the original schedule, we should have already boarded the train to Kyoto by 9 AM. But here we are at 11:41 AM, just started walking to Ichioka Bus Station (IBS) to ride the bus going to the Osaka Station (OS).

Hotel She, Osaka Deluxe Double Room

Get Discounted Rates on Deluxe Double Room at Hotel She, Osaka

Hotel She, Osaka in Osaka (Minato), is within a 5-minute drive of Kyocera Dome Osaka and Dotonbori. This hotel is 5.2 km from Universal Studios Japan and 3.8 km from Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan.

Osaka Station City

Ideally, we should be taking the train to Kyoto upon arriving at the OS. But instead, we got distracted. We didn’t realize that the OS was linked to one of Japan’s biggest shopping and entertainment centers, Osaka Station City. We were stunned. The next thing we know is we wasted another hour exploring the department stores.

Lunch at McDonald’s

There’s a Capcom Café we want to try. But because we’re desperate to make up for the lost time, we ended up having a quick bite at McDonald’s. It’s already 1:57 PM, and we’re still an hour away from Kyoto.

Karasuma Station via Hankyu Line
At Karasuma Station in Kyoto.

Transfer to Osaka Umeda Station

The JR Line in OS is not included in the Kansai Thru Pass. We have to take out an additional ¥580 per person from our transportation budget to get to Kyoto. But if we want to save money, we can walk for 15 minutes and take the Hankyu Line at the Osaka Umeda Station (OUS). We know we don’t have much time, but we chose to transfer to OUS anyway.

Our supposed “laid-back” Osaka to Kyoto day trip itinerary has slowly become distressing due to hurry. We paused for a while. Took a deep breath. And reminded ourselves that it’s about the journey, not the destination. By 2:21 PM we were on board and arrived at Karasuma Station (KS) by 3:10 PM.

Edi Tempura at Nishiki Market
The ginormous ebi tempura at Nishiki Market is a must-try!

Food trip at Nishiki Market

Today’s weather is chilling. The first thing we did upon arriving in Kyoto was to get a cup of hot coffee. After that, we then headed to the Nishiki Market to have a food escapade.

The Nishiki Market is a 400+ year old marketplace famous for its food and goods. Also known as Kyoto’s Kitchen, this place boasts a staggering 130 vendors crammed into an approximately 400 meters long passageway. Nishiki Market sells a variety of fresh and preserved foods, including duck dishes, Japanese sweets, and different types of pickles. You can also find excellent and unique cookware, dinnerware, elegant ceramic wares, condiments and paper goods.

Inside Nishiki Market - Osaka to Kyoto day trip itinerary
Inside Nishiki Market.

But what amazed me about this place the most is its cleanliness. I have never seen a marketplace so tidy!

Looking at our original plan, I hoped that we could at least have coffee at the tatami-floored Starbucks. But you know what? Spending our time here wasn’t so bad after all. We found most of the food we were looking for: ice cream, sushi, maki, gyoza, tempura, plus a lot more. This place is overflowing with food! Moreover, Lalaine got her dream come true of owning a pair of customized chopsticks.

Nishiki Market is something I’d recommend to everyone thinking of doing a one-day Kyoto itinerary from Osaka.

Nintendo Store at Takahashimaya building.
Inside the newly opened Nintendo store in Takahashimaya building in Kyoto.

Shopping and photo op at Nintendo Kyoto

It’s 4:51 PM, and we’re already out of the marketplace. I’m not really sure where to go next until I saw a group of people carrying Nintendo plastic bags. I checked Google Maps and there is in fact a Nintendo store nearby. It was recently opened, and it is located on the 7th floor of the Takashimaya department store.

One thing you should take note about this place is that this is a TIMED ENTRY store. Meaning, you cannot just go in anytime you want. You need to get a free entry ticket at Shijo-dori Underpass before visiting the store. Our time of entry was 5:30 PM. This setup may not appeal to travelers who are rushing through their itineraries. Since we have no other agendas, the kids and our inner-children immensely enjoyed their moment there.

Nintendo’s store in Kyoto offers a great selection of official Super Mario merchandise plus more. They also have products from other famous franchises, such as The Legend of Zelda, Splatoon, Animal Crossing, and Pikmin. If you or your children are fans of these characters, then visiting the Nintendo store is a great addition to your Osaka to Kyoto day trip itinerary.

One tip before you leave the store: go up one floor to get a photo opportunity with Mario. Most visitors were not aware of this during our time there.

Mario photo op at Nintendo store in Kyoto.

Dinner at Umeda Food Hall

By 8:18 PM we were back at Osaka Umeda Station from Karasuma Station. Most restaurants in Japan were already closed around this time. Thankfully, we found Umeda Food Hall in the second basement of the station.

Umeda Food Hall has 1,000 seats to be shared among diners, and 18 restaurants ready to satisfy your cravings. You can choose from a wide variety of specialty dishes around Italy, Korea, Taiwan, and of course, Japan. They also have dessert shops that offer crêpes, ice cream, and coffee to conclude a wonderful meal. Please note that bringing in food and drinks bought outside is not allowed.

For some reason the food hall setup is exactly what we needed tonight. We all have different cravings – considering we just came from a food trip at the Nishiki Market. I crave gyudon and gyoza, while Lalaine for ramen and tempura, and the kids for chicken karaage and plain rice. We’re grateful that we got all we wanted at the Umeda Food Hall.

Our dinner at Umeda Food Hall.
Our dinner at Umeda Food Hall.

Our Day 6 to 8 itinerary

Thank you for reading all the way here. I hope you enjoyed our simple one-day family itinerary from Osaka to Kyoto. For day 6, we are going on another day trip. But this time from Osaka to Kobe. Then after that, we will spend our days 7 and 8 at Rinku Town in Izumisano. Those articles are still being written at the moment. Please consider following me on Twitter (now X), Facebook, or Instagram to get notified once those posts are up.

Also, don’t forget to download our one-week in Japan sample itinerary to see the overview of our trip. It is made with Google Sheets, thus you can also use it as a tool to plan your next family vacation.

Jed Chan

Jed Chan is the principal creator of TheLearningDadBlog.com, a website dedicated to providing helpful resources on fatherhood. He is a passionate learner who would normally immerse himself in topics of his interest. Jed carefully studied the subjects of finance, e-business, and parenting before becoming a full-time stay-at-home dad.

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