First Time in Nara: The Essential Don't Miss List

There are certain places you simply must visit. If you have limited time, see these first. We recommend getting a Nara Kotsu 1-Day or 2-Day bus pass for convenience.

Todaiji Temple

As you approach the huge main hall through the formal garden, you get a real sense of how magnificent Nara was in its heyday. The sheer size of the building and its Great Buddha are awe inspiring. | History & Culture | Nara Park

Isuien Garden

Just a few minutes from Todaiji Temple, Isuien Garden is the prime example of garden design in the area. From tea houses and moss gardens to borrowed scenery, it has all the elements for a beautiful stroll. | Nature & The Outdoors | Nara Park

Nara Park

Formerly part of Kohfukuji Temple, the sprawling green parklands that connect the major shrines and temples are home to around 1200 deer. Dotted with small tea houses and ponds, it’s beautiful in all seasons. | Nature & The Outdoors | Nara Park


At Kobaien, ink known as Nara Sumi has been made the same way for about 400 years, following the methods pioneered at Kohfukuji Temple. The workshop and shop are wonderfully atmospheric. | Arts & Crafts | Nara Park

Kasugataisha Shrine

The walk through the woods lined with stone lanterns gives you an idea of what to expect, before you reach the grand entrance. With its vermillion and white halls and cloisters hung with bronze lanterns, Kasugataisha Shrine is striking. | History & Culture | Nara Park

Yakushiji Temple

Yakushiji is a spectacular and imposing complex, laid out symmetrically with grand halls, two pagodas and covered walkways. There are many stunning examples of Buddhist art, along with motifs from the Silk Road. | History & Culture | Nishinokyo

Hasedera Temple

Known as the temple of flowers, Hasedera Temple is beautiful in all seasons, with peonies, hydrangeas and autumn colours. With its grand platform jutting out over the valley, it's reminiscent of Kyoto's Kiyomizudera Temple, without the crowds. | History & Culture | Hase


At the top of Sanjo-dori Street, crowds gather several times a day, to watch two men pound mochi rice into dumplings with amazing speed and intensity. It's a must-see Nara entertainment, and the resulting sweets are also delicious. | Edible Gifts | Nara Park

Jikoin Temple

This is Zen serenity at its best. A temple designed for tea ceremonies, you immediately forget your cares as you sip matcha and gaze at the perfect gardens. | History & Culture | Yamato Koriyama

Horyuji Temple

More than a World Heritage site, Horyuji is a veritable town, with temples, accommodations and a world class museum. Don't miss the world's oldest wooden building and the "Mona Lisa" Buddha. | History & Culture | Horyuji Temple

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