Lovebirds seeking the best things to do for couples in Nara will find a multitude of romantic attractions around town. Known as Japan’s first capital, this city charms visitors with its age-old temples and lantern-strewn shines. 

    Nara is a great place for couples looking for a tranquil holiday in Japan. From cherry blossom-covered mountains to scenic sunset hikes, this guide covers the city's most charming and romantic sights. Of course, Nara's tranquil holy places are great places to visit, so we’ve also included a few must-sees in our list.

    1

    Nara Park

    Wild deer roam in the city’s main park

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    Nara Park is the city’s main green space where you can take your love interest on a date. The large leafy expanse hosts an eclectic collection of interesting sites, from the ancient Todaiji Temple to the insightful Nara National Museum.

    Most couples come to Nara Park for leisurely, hand-in-hand strolls. A network of picturesque trails passes by numerous temples, gardens, and ponds. Grab some crackers (shika sembei) from a local vendor to feed the wandering deer. The park becomes extra romantic in the lead up to Valentine’s Day when its key sites get illuminated in a soothing blue hue.

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    2

    Todaiji Temple

    Ancient temple with a giant Buddha statue

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    Todaiji Temple is one of the most impressive shrines in Japan. It offers a tranquil backdrop to enjoy a romantic stroll. The site is famous for its gigantic bronze Buddha statue, which sits upright at a whopping 15 metres tall. Housed within the Great Hall, the 500-tonne effigy is one of the largest bronze statues in the world.

    After admiring the temple, couples should take a moment to meander around its immaculately manicured grounds. Wild deer wander freely through the gardens, while the reflective Kagamiike pond sits just past the gates. The temple is surrounded by Nara Park, arguably the most romantic green space in the city.

    Location: 406-1 Zoshicho, Nara, 630-8211, Japan

    Open: Daily from 7.30 am to 5.30 pm

    Phone: +81 (0)742-22-5511

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    3

    Yoshikien Garden

    Traditional Japanese garden in Nara

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    Yoshikien is a lovely Japanese garden located right outside Nara Park. While the enormous Nara Park boasts state-run museums, towering ancient temples, and free-roaming wildlife, Yoshikien is all about admiring authentic Japanese landscaping. Couples who aren’t serious horticulture fans will still adore a romantic walk through these gorgeous gardens.

    The beautifully manicured grounds split into 3 distinct themes: a pond, moss, and a teahouse garden. Cross the wooden footbridge to the other side of the stream to explore the adjacent Isui-en Garden, which surrounds the Neiraku Art Museum. In autumn, the entire area comes alive when the foliage transforms into brilliant earthy hues.

    Location: 60-1 Noboriojicho, Nara, 630-8213, Japan

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 4.30 pm

    Phone: +81 (0)742-22-5911

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    4

    Kasuga Taisha

    Ancient shrine that hosts traditional morning prayers

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    Kasuga Taisha is an awe-inspiring, 1,300-year-old srhine in the centre of Nara Park. The vibrant, vermilion-coloured venue used to be rebuilt every 20 years under Shinto tradition. However, the current structure has been standing since the late 19th century.

    Couples should arrive in time for the 9 am morning prayer service (Ethe chōhai), which is held in the ceremony hall. The insightful ritual allows participants to pray for good fortune – what better way to seek blessings for a long-lasting relationship or happy marriage? Another must-see event for lovebirds is the bi-monthly Mantoro Lantern Festival, which sees hundreds of candle-lit lamps lighting up the interior.

    Location: 160 Kasuganocho, Nara, 630-8212, Japan

    Open: Daily from 6 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +81 (0)742-22-7788

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    5

    Mount Yoshino

    One of the best cherry blossom sites in Japan

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    Mount Yoshino is one of the best spots in Japan to gaze upon a sea of bright pink cherry blossom trees. The famous local phrase, “a thousand trees in a single glance” (hitome senbon) comes from Yoshino. At last count, some 30,000 cherry blossoms grow around the region.

    The springtime bloom lures scores of loved-up couples from Japan and abroad for its vibrant hues. But if you can’t make it during cherry blossom season, Mount Yoshino is still a worthy excursion. Ancient pilgrimage routes and mystical mountain temples lie scattered about, while lush gardens invite leisurely high-altitude strolls. Autumn sees ochre-tinged foliage envelope the landscape.

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    6

    Mount Wakakusa

    Scenic hilltop right outside the city

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    Active couples should hit Mount Wakakusa, a lofty hiking spot just outside Nara. Although the grass-smothered mountain only reaches around 350 metres in height, it offers breathtaking views of the city and parklands below. The sight is even more awe-inspiring during spring when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.

    If you happen to arrive on the 4th Saturday of January, don’t miss the Wakakusa Yamayaki festival. Locals light dead grass on the hillside alight and blast fireworks into the sky. Watching the Nara Fire Bridge extinguish the blaze is all part of the fun.

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    7

    Waplus Nara

    Kimono rental store for a memorable photo op

    Waplus Nara gives travellers the chance to rent and pose in an authentic Japanese kimono. Friendly and English-speaking staff help customers slip into their gorgeous, ankle-length costumes. Small group presentations provide insight into its history, production, and contemporary use.

    There’s an in-house studio for an instant photo-op, complete with famous Japanese backdrops like Mount Fuji. Some customers prefer to wear these lavish silk garments around town, visiting sites like Nara Park in full traditional garb. An onsite souvenir shop sells a wide range of Japanese curiosities. If you’re happy to spend big, you could even purchase a brand new kimono of your own.

    Location: 6-4 Kyoroman Building 2F, Aburasaka Jikatacho, 630-8246, Nara, Japan

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 7 am

    Phone: +81 (0)742-23-1900

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    8

    Sarusawa Pond

    Reflective pond by a prominent city temple

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    Sarusawa Pond is a tranquil artificial lake just outside Kofukuji Temple, one of Japan's most important shrines. Framed by drooping willow trees, the romantic pond is popular for pre-wedding photoshoots in Nara. A sunset pic from across the pond towards Kohfukuji Temple makes for an Instagram-worthy shot.

    Strolling the footpath encircling the pond is a pleasant way to pass an afternoon. Take a minute to rest on one of the many waterfront benches to see if you can spot turtles basking in the sun. If you’ve got more time, go for a walk around the Edo-era village of Naramachi to admire merchant townhouses and history museums.

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    9

    Mount Kasuga Primeval Forest

    Pristine preserved woodlands outside Nara

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    The Mount Kasuga Primeval Forest is a prime destination for nature-loving couples looking to explore pristine woodlands. Also known as the Kasugayama Hill Primeval Forest, the verdant, tree-studded region has been fiercely protected since a royal decree prohibited logging in the 9th century. As a result, enormous evergreen oaks and beech trees tower high into the sky.

    Far below the canopy, endangered reptiles like clouded salamanders and tree frogs frolic. While you’re there, pop by Kasuga Taisha, an important 8th-century shrine. If you fancy a secluded place to stay the night, Mikasa Ryokan is a popular choice.

    Location: Nara Park, Kasuganocho, Nara, 630-8212, Japan

    Phone: +81 (0)742-27-8677

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    10

    Naramachi

    A traditional old neighbourhood near Nara Park

    Naramachi is an endearing Edo-era village full of traditional townhouses and charming converted restaurants. Couples will adore strolling along these age-old streets, popping into cafes for a cuppa or a local restaurant for ramen. If you fall in love with the district, consider extending your stay by checking in to a traditional ryokan (inn).

    Must-visits in Naramachi include the Mechanical Toy Museum, which has fun interactive exhibits, the 6th-century Gango-ji Temple, and the Naramachi Koshino Ie townhouse, with its lovely wooden lattice exterior. Harushika Sake does brewery tours and tastings if you fancy a tipple. On the whole, though, Naramachi is all about wandering around and soaking up the scene.

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    photo by 663highland (CC BY 3.0) modified

    Harry Stewart | Contributing Writer

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