Things to Do in Nara: Explore Japan’s Ancient Capital

todai-ji temple in nara japan

Looking for things to do in Nara?

Get ready to dive into a world of enchanting history, culture, and natural beauty. In this guide, we’ll reveal the hidden gems of Japan’s ancient capital, leaving you eager to embark on your Nara adventure.

Let’s get started!

1. Todai-ji Temple

Todai-ji Temple

As soon as you step into the Todai-Ji Temple, you’re welcomed by an architectural marvel – The Great Buddha Hall, the world’s largest wooden building. Inside it, a 15-meter-tall bronze Buddha radiates an indescribable aura. The temple complex is vast, adorned with beautiful gardens that make your visit a sensory delight.

Pro travel tip: Make sure you explore the temple grounds to find hidden treasures like smaller temples and beautiful sculptures.

2. Nara Park

a woman feeding deer at Nara Park

Nara Park is famous for its free-roaming, sacred deer, considered messengers of the gods in the Shinto religion. Feeding these deer, or simply watching them laze around, is a unique experience that blends wildlife with spirituality.

Pro travel tip: Deer crackers are available for sale in the park, but feed them responsibly and with respect.

3. Kofuku-ji Temple

Kofuku-ji Temple

Once the family temple of the Fujiwara clan, the Kofuku-Ji Temple stands as a symbol of Nara’s illustrious past. Its five-story pagoda is the second tallest in Japan and serves as an iconic backdrop to your Nara photos.

Pro travel tip: Visit the temple’s National Treasure Museum to see a collection of Buddhist statues that are considered national treasures.

4. Kasuga Taisha Shrine

Kasuga Taisha Shrine

Hidden in a dense forest, the path to Kasuga Taisha Shrine is lined with thousands of stone lanterns, making it a serene and otherworldly experience. The shrine itself, with its vermilion pillars and intricate carvings, is an impressive sight.

Pro travel tip: Try to visit during one of the Lantern Festivals (Setsubun Mantoro in February or Obon Mantoro in August) when all the lanterns are lit.

5. Nara National Museum

Nara National Museum sign with deer

The Nara National Museum is a treasure trove of Japanese Buddhist art. Exhibiting statues, scrolls, and relics, it offers a deep dive into Nara’s rich cultural history.

Pro travel tip: Don’t miss the collection of treasures from the Shoso-in Repository, which includes artifacts from the 8th century.

6. Yoshikien Garden

Yoshikien Garden

Yoshikien Garden is a peaceful retreat in the heart of Nara. Its three distinct gardens – a moss garden, a pond garden, and a tea ceremony flower garden – each offer a different perspective of Japanese landscape art.

Pro travel tip: Enjoy a complimentary green tea service offered to foreign visitors in the tea house.

7. Mount Wakakusa

view of Mount Wakakusa in Nara with deer

Mount Wakakusa, with its gentle slopes and panoramic views of Nara city, offers an enjoyable hiking experience. The mountaintop view during sunset is nothing short of spectacular.

Pro travel tip: Visit in January for the Wakakusa Yamayaki Festival, when the hill’s dead grass is set ablaze in a dramatic spectacle.

8. Heijo Palace Site

Heijo Palace Site

Once the heart of Nara, the Heijo Palace Site transports you to an era of emperors and ancient politics. The reconstructions of the former palace buildings and archaeological exhibits offer a window into the 8th-century Japanese architecture and culture.

Pro travel tip: Make sure you visit the Excavation Site Exhibition Hall that exhibits various excavated artifacts.

9. Culinary Delights and Local Food

Nara’s food scene is as delightful as its sights. From the locally brewed sake to the Nara-specific Kakinoha-zushi (sushi wrapped in persimmon leaves), your palate is in for a treat.

Pro travel tip: Visit a local Izakaya, a Japanese pub, for an authentic dining experience.

10. Higashimuki Shopping Street

Higashimuki Shopping Street
Source: そらみみ

Lined with shops selling everything from souvenirs to traditional Japanese crafts, the Higashimuki Shopping Street offers an unrivaled shopping experience. The street food here is a must-try!

Pro travel tip: Look out for the locally made ‘uchiwa’ fans – a perfect souvenir from Nara.

Conclusion

From ancient temples to delectable food, and shopping streets to beautiful gardens, Nara wraps you in an embrace that’s warm, inviting, and steeped in history.

The things to do in Nara offer more than just sights; they offer experiences, each unique, just like the city itself.

So, when you’re looking for places to visit in Japan, be sure to include this ancient capital and uncover the magic of Nara for yourself. Happy travels!

Frequently Asked Questions

When is the best time to visit Nara?

The best time to visit Nara is during spring (March to May) when cherry blossoms are in bloom, or autumn (October to November) when the foliage is vibrant. Both seasons offer pleasant weather and stunning scenery.

Is it easy to navigate around Nara?

Yes, Nara is easy to navigate, thanks to its compact size and well-connected public transportation system. Walking, biking, and using buses or trains are all convenient options to explore the city.

How many days should I spend in Nara?

We recommend spending at least two days in Nara to fully experience the historical and cultural attractions, as well as the beautiful natural surroundings. However, you can extend your stay if you want to explore more in-depth or at a leisurely pace.

Can I feed the deer in Nara Park?

Yes, you can feed the deer in Nara Park. Special deer crackers called “shika senbei” are available for purchase in the park, and these are safe for the deer to eat. Please avoid feeding them human food or other items, as it can be harmful to their health.

Are there any unique souvenirs to buy in Nara?

Nara offers a variety of unique souvenirs, such as traditional crafts, pottery, textiles, and woodcraft. You can also find local delicacies like Nara-zuke pickles and Kakinoha-zushi (persimmon leaf sushi) to take home as tasty mementos.


For more information and resources to help you plan your perfect trip, check out our links and guides below.

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About Ronaldo Stewart

Wantigo was born out of a deep passion for exploring new places and experiencing different cultures. With a keen sense of adventure and an insatiable thirst for knowledge, I’ve traveled far and wide, immersing myself in the beauty and wonder of the world.

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