To the locals, it is Kyo-no-daidokoro, or “Kyoto’s Kitchen,” and the Nishiki-koji Ichiba market arcade has existed on this central site since 1615, serving the inexhaustible appetites of the imperial court and the high-end ryotei restaurants. A visit here is a must, as the full span of Kyoto food culture is represented in the family-run businesses that line the narrow, covered alleyway that runs for 300 meters between Takakura Road and the Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine. Highlights include the local pickles at Uchida Tsukemono (free samples available); the knives and kitchenware at the legendary Aritsugu; the gourmet vegetables on offer at Kanematsu; and the inexpensive, freshly grilled shellfish at Daiyasu.
This is one spot where eating while walking is tolerated in Japan, though many of the shops also provide takeaway bento boxes. And if you fancy a sit-down meal, the oyako donburi (rice topped with chicken and egg) at Maruki Shokudo canteen is excellent. Also recommended is Yaoya no Nikai, a restaurant above Kanematsu that serves a set lunch made with locally sourced heirloom vegetables such as Shogoin daikon, Kujonegi leeks, and Kamonasu eggplants. Stalls open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The best time to visit Nishiki in is the morning or afternoon.