Reading: The Tale of Layla and Majnun by Nizami
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and the surrounding area. We particularly liked how tranquil the forest was and it was pleasant to walk around Arashiyama itself. (May we recommend Gyatei, which offers a wide range of traditional Japanese food, for lunch?)
Nonomiya Shrine, which was surprisingly nice. It had all sorts of colorful paper cranes decorating the area and seemed like a popular stop among tourists and locals alike. From what we could tell, there seemed to be a sort of beauty pageant that took place there or a Geisha dress up sort of deal? We couldn't tell from the scarce advertisements.
Togetsu Bridge, which crosses the Katsura River, offers especially peaceful views and if you walk along the banks of the Katsura River, you can easily find a place where you could rent boats to go about the river. If you're interested in an arduous hike, you can climb up the mountain right by the Togetsu Bridge to visit a monkey park.
Yasaka Jinja. Yasaka Jinja itself was very beautiful and I highly recommend visiting it. It sprawls over a large chunk of land and has every aspect of a shrine you could want from beautiful paper lanterns to amazing pieces of architecture. At the time we were there (mid-July) there was even a street festival being set up on one of the side streets next to it.
Fushimi-Inari Shrine, which is famous for its long rows of torii gates. We liked how this shrine was decorated and how it offered multiple paths to hike along and how all the paths lead us to another shrine. We also visited Kiyomizu-dera and Kinkaku-ji, which I both highly recommend if you have the time to visit them. However, I wanted to share a few shrines that are lesser known but still worth visiting in this post. We usually walked around the areas surrounding a lot of the shrines and I feel like those alleyways and rambling streets were one of the best things about Kyoto. They hid a plethora of cute cafes and shops to stop by.
PS While you're in Kyoto, you should also take advantage of the nama yatsuhashi selection. Nama yatsuhashi is a mochi based crepe-like dessert often stuffed with red bean of fruit preserves and Kyoto is famous for it!