The beautiful and spectacular Kyoto Imperial Palace lies in a huge park north of downtown Kyoto. It was the residence of the Imperial Family before the capital was relocated to Tokyo in 1868. The palace itself is closed to the public but the park is open all year round and is a very famous and popular spot for family picnics, especially at weekends.
The park features many historical sites including ancient temples and visitors can join an English-language tour to the Imperial Palace which can only be viewed from the outside. The tour operates several times per day with advance booking only.
The entire palace complex is encircled by an earthen wall and covers 27 acres. It has five gates with the southern gate as the main entrance to the grounds. The palace itself was destroyed by fire a few times and the current palace was rebuilt in 1855 using timber and cypress-bark roofing as main materials in keeping with traditional methods. The most important building of the palace is the Shishinden Imperial state chamber which was used for important ceremonies including enthronement ceremonies. The stunning gardens still follow the original design.
How to book a tour
The English tour runs during the week only at 10:00 and 14:00 and does not operate on national holidays. To book the tour, contact the Imperial Household Agency at the Kyoto Office. For busy times of year like spring and autumn, you might need to book the tour a couple months in advance while at other times you might just be able to book it on the morning of the visiting day.