Kyoto is not a big city, but the places to visit are endless. Every once in a while I am thrilled to discover some new beautiful places or areas that I’ve never visited before and explore my surroundings. In this post, I want to share my experiences from a weekend where I went to the northern area of the city, called Kitayama (or in English, the northern mountain). I had a lovely day around there. Kitayama is also the name of the main street, and it’s easy to navigate once you know it. I mainly visited three places that day: the Kyoto Botanical Garden, Stardust, and L’oiseau Blue.
Kitayama - Kyoto Botanical Garden
First, my partner and I went to the botanical garden. He likes gardening, and we thought it would be nice to go there in early November to watch the autumn leaves. We saw some nice maple trees changing their colors—a beautiful sight, especially around the pond. We also enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of nature, together with other visitors (in the average age of 60 😉).
Apparently, it’s quite a big place! There’s a lot to see, and the view changes depends on the season. If you like tropical plants, I recommended buying the combined ticket for the greenhouse too. If you’re not sure about it at the entrance of the garden, you can also purchase it at the greenhouse.
Walk around the many paths this wide garden has to offer and enjoy the wonders of nature. Then, if you’d like to have some lunch, snacks, or drinks in the garden—no problem! There are a few sitting areas where you can eat and drink while enjoying the plants.
The botanical garden in Kitayama is open between 9:00 and 17:00 (last entry at 16:00). Price for the garden: 250 yen; combined with the greenhouse: 400 yen.
Stardust Café in Kitayama
Next, we headed to the 100% vegan Stardust Café (not Starbucks!).
This is the first time I saw a place like it! Imagine you’re in a hobbit house, a Viking inn, or a 19th century British fairy house—that’s the closest I can get in describing the atmosphere there. It’s really well designed: the minute you step into this one-floor, high-ceiling Japanese house, you’ll notice the wood motif, crystals, and candles of the house, as well as the unique dishes you’ll be served with. There’s a small shop, so if you really liked the dishes, you can buy one for yourself.
Lunch has to be pre-ordered (at least 24 hours in advance) and it consists of seasonal vegetables, so it changes every season. We already had lunch, so we just enjoyed coffee and desserts, and I mean REALLY enjoyed it.
We ate a yuzu-peach tart and a berry-mousse cake. These desserts were small, but really one-of-a-kind. I’ve never tasted anything like them.
If you’re a tea person, there are many kinds of tea in this café. We’re not so into tea, so I can’t give a first-hand recommendation, but if you have passed by and tried one, leave a comment below—let us know how it was!
We paid 2,800 yen for our drinks and desserts, which is not cheap. Lunch costs 1,500 yen (for a main dish and drink). This is a good price; but remember to order in advance!
L’oiseau Blue - vegan bakery in Kitayama
You know that feeling when you read a blog and it seems like the life of the blogger is always so great, and everything he/she plans always goes well? Not this time. On their Facebook page it was written that this vegan, gluten-free bakery closes at 17:00 or earlier if everything’s sold out. So, guess what? We arrived there at 15:00 and they were already closed. These things happen, I guess.
But as your loyal vegan-place-reviewer, I was really eager to review this place too, especially because it’s so unique to have a gluten-free bakery. So, I went back there another day to check out their pastries.
I have to say, going there again was totally worth it! The place is owned by a very nice lady who explained to us in Japanese and English about the patisserie. The concept of the place is a vegan and gluten-free/millet-based bakery. The place is small and the variety is limited compared to other bakeries, but there’s still a lot to choose from!
We got ourselves an “airy” bread (fua-fua in Japanese, if you wondered) made of millet, a gluten-free chocolate donut, and two pastries—one with macadamia nuts and the other raisins and walnuts. It all cost us around 1,200 yen, which is a little more expensive compared to other bakeries, but hey—this is the only gluten-free bakery in Kyoto (as far as I know), and actually the prices are not that much higher than that of other bakeries.
If you’re looking for other gluten-free products, there is also gluten-free pasta and couscous for you to purchase.
The bakery is open only a few days a week and for limited hours: when I first checked it was Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 to 17:00. BUT, please learn from my mistake and get there as early as possible, so you won’t be disappointed if they’re sold out and closed. On the second day we went, I actually wrote a Facebook message to the L’oiseau Blue Facebook page to ask if they’re open beforehand. They answered pretty fast and said they were. So, if you don’t feel like making a phone call, you can also check their availability online.
Kamigamo Shrine – BONUS !
Actually we didn’t plan on going here, but after visiting L’oiseau, we saw some torī gates across the bridge and went out on an adventure to find what they were for. Okay, it wasn’t that adventurous, but we did discover a beautiful shrine with little streams flowing in it, a nice view of Kyoto City, and a gorgeous garden we could stroll in. We were actually surprised when we realized how big this shrine is. If you’re going there on the weekend, you might see a traditional Shinto wedding like we did, so prepare your cameras!
Like most Shinto shrines, entry is free of charge.
I wanted to visit Kitayama for quite a while and finally did (twice!). I highly recommend it to you too.
Let me know what you plan to see in Kitayama and how your trip was!
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