If you are traveling in Kyoto, among your visits of the numerous temples and shrines, don't forget to go to Nijo-jo, once Kyoto imperial castle. Located in the heart of the ancient Japanese capital, it spreads over 66 acres and is home to beautiful Japanese gardens, and two large main buildings: Honmaru and Ninomaru.
The castle itself is quite large, and the visit reveals stunning Tamami rooms with beautiful paintings of the Edo period. It's forbidden to take pictures indoor, but you'll come across banquet halls and even the Shogun's private apartments where his wives lived.
Walking in the gardens of Nijo castle is very nice: the lawn, trees and plants are well maintained. As a bonus, an alley strewn with sakura (cherry trees) is of course to visit during spring when they blossom. The entire site is part of UNESCO World Heritage since 1994.
How to get to Nijo Castle
By train -- JR Sagano line, track #32 or 33, stop at Nijo station (4 to 6 minutes, ¥190 / ~US$ 1.70 from Kyoto station) and 4 minute walk
By subway -- From Kyoto Station, Karasuma line, change at Karasuma Oike / K08, then Tozai line, stop at Nijojo-mae / T14 (10 minutes total) and 2 minute walk
By bus -- #9, 12, 50 or 101 - Nijojomae stop (20 minutes, ¥230 / ~US$ 2.10 from the station) and 2 minute walk
Location reachable with the JRP : order your Japan Rail Pass (from ~US$ 282)
¥600 (~US$ 5.50)
Get your Japanese Yens free of charge
Open daily from 8:45am to 5pm (last entry at 4pm)
Closed on Tuesdays from July to August and December to January, and from December 26 to January 4
How long / when to visit
Allow one to two hours for the visit
The vast alley littered with sakura (cherry trees) is very popular in spring