Nijo Castle is one of the most accessible UNESCO spots in Kyoto, being just a short walk from Nijojo-mae Station. The former residence of the Tokugawa shoguns, the sprawling castle grounds are surrounded by a wide moat and massive stone walls. Spanning over 275,000 square metres, Nijo Castle is one of the biggest historic sites in all of Kyoto.
Established in 1626, Nijo Castle was built by a combined effort from all the feudal lords in Western Japan at the time. Since then, multiple buildings have been damaged by fires or storms, and extra effort is taken by the city to preserve and restore this cultural site. Nijo Castle is designated as a Historic Monument of Ancient Kyoto, making it one of the prefecture's most significant sites.
Within the castle grounds is Ninomaru Palace, a 3,300-square meter complex made almost completely out of Hinoki cypress wood. The palace interior is adorned with gold leaf-plated decor and exquisite wood carvings, making it a fitting place to entertain powerful political visitors during the shogunate's ruling period.