Obviously, Kyoto attracts a lot of tourists every year. With the rich history, many temples, shrines and its friendly citizens, it can be sometimes hard to avoid visiting only the tourist spots of the old capital.
A popular spot to hang out for locals and university student is on the border of the Kamogawa (literally “duck river”). But don’t get intimidated, even though the crowd around here is a bit younger, everyone is very welcoming. It’s perfectly safe at any time of the day, like pretty much everywhere in Japan, so don’t worry about going there with children. You can also benefit from the fact that you can drink outdoor in Japan. So go grab a Suntory premium, one or two onigiris and kick back with the locals while watching baby ducks swimming around.
Pontocho district is a great area to walk around in the evening and late at night. The trick here is to avoid Kawaramachi Sanjo, the main road where you will find a lot of tourist trap and restaurant. If you just walk on the outskirt of this road you will find many hidden shops. Keep in mind, the narrower the alleys are, the better the location will be. A good way to approach your evening is to try as many small restaurants as possible. Places that only serve one type of dish tend to be more delicious and cheaper. When you think of party and drinking, Kyoto is not the first city that comes to mind, but there plenty of welcoming small izakaya to drink with the locals. Don’t be shy to engage in a conversation with other patrons, people are used to it since the bars are so small.
Biking is also great to avoid tourist between each destination. With Google map, you cannot get lost. In Japan, you are allowed to bike on the sidewalk so you don’t have to worry about traffic. But be mindful of pedestrian and don’t be shy to use that bell on your bike. Most hotels offer bike service, sometimes even for free.
Keep in mind that Kyoto is very popular with tourist for good reasons. The most popular attraction has an incredible history and amazing architecture. I’m not saying you should avoid tourist spot, just try to experience everything the old capital has to offer. Take your time, explore off the beaten track, and pay attention to all the small details around you.