Kyoto is often referred to as the cultural heart and soul of Japan's history. This quieter capital city was once the largest in the country until it was surpassed by both Osaka and Tokyo. The city itself currently sees a population of roughly 1.5 million people, but its natural beauty has yet to be diminished by human activity. Tourist photos show how beautiful Japan is as a whole, but Kyoto is a true gem.

Of great historical significance, Kyoto has been subject to several major wars as well as fires. There are many things to do in this city, and its history is seen in the temples and shrines that are still standing to this day, something that Kyoto is well known for. There are many places to explore in this culturally -centered destination, and around every corner is another stunning backdrop.

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Each Season Brings New Flora And Fauna

No matter which season you see Kyoto in, the visual is still just as beautiful. This is Benten-dō Temple, otherwise known as Benton Hall, located in Daigo-ji.

This Buddhist temple is used to worship the goddess of creativity and music, Benzaiten, who is one of the Seven Lucky Gods. In a fitting landscape, the shrine can be found on its own separate island, accessible by a bridge. The maple trees and Ginko that surround the temple give it a magical feel, and it's easy to see why it's such a popular place for tourists during the autumn season. The lake this temple sits on is also quite stunning, creating a serene and peaceful atmosphere.

Japan is known for its cherry blossoms but in Kyoto, there are so many that the fallen petals blanket the ground in various hues of pink. The boat ride pictured here provides the best view from the river, and the best time to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom is at the end of March and beginning of April.

The Streets Still Reflect The City's Traditional Architecture

Simply walking down the street in the city of Kyoto is enough to give visitors a feel for its culture and tradition. Along the way, visitors will find various small markets full of local vendors, including Nishiki Market.

This market is roughly five blocks long and is home to over one hundred shops as well as restaurants. It's known as a food hub in Kyoto, not only providing access to fresh and unique ingredients, but also providing tools of the trade. Nearly the entire market is locally produced or grown, making it the heart of Kyoto's food scene.

Hot springs and baths are a big part of Japan's culture, especially in traditional locations such as Kyoto. It's a way to relax and de-stress after a long day, and there are many places to soak away your troubles within a short train ride from Kyoto. The closest is Kurama Onsen, which has both indoor and outdoor baths and is only 30 minutes outside of the city.

Related: What You Shouldn't Visit In Tokyo, Japan

The Surroundings Around Kyoto Are Breathtaking

Being Japan's highest mountain, it's not surprising that there are many places a traveler can get a full view of this humbling landmark. It's also one of the most popular in Japan, and visitors can get an unobstructed view from Kyoto. In fact, many photos taken of the grand peak are from this picturesque city. The best time to see the mountain - as it can often be cloudy - is in the early morning or late afternoon.

In west Kyoto, visitors will find Arashiyama. Known as the "Storm Mountains", Arashiyama is home to a massive bamboo grove (pictured), five temples, a bathhouse, two historical villas, and the Rakushisha Poet's Hut.

Next: 15 Things Travelers Need To Know About Japan Before They Visit