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During most of the Nara Period (710-794), Nara served as the capital of Japan and was known as Heijo-kyo. The Heijo Palace extended about one kilometer wide and one kilometer long and served as the site of the emperor's residence and government offices. For its great historical and cultural importance, the palace site is included as one of the World Heritage Sites of Nara.

Although the palace once stood as the majestic center of the ancient capital, all of its original buildings were eventually lost, with the exception of a single hall that was moved in the 8th century and now stands at Toshodaiji Temple. When the capital was moved away from Heijo-kyo in 784, Heijo Palace and a large part of the city were abandoned as officials and other citizens flocked to the new capital. The temples on the outskirts of the former capital, however, retained their importance, and the city of Nara eventually resumed its growth around these temples, while the palace grounds were used for nothing but rice fields.

In more recent times, interest in rediscovering and celebrating Nara's past has revitalized the area. The lack of development on the grounds of the former Heijo Palace made it particularly easy for conducting archaeological research, which has been ongoing since the 1950s. Visitors to Heijo Palace nowadays will still find a rural atmosphere, but the government has gone to considerable lengths to showcase the history of Heijo Palace for visitors with historical reconstructions and museums.

Several major structures of the former palace complex have been reconstructed in recent decades. Foremost among them is the Former Audience Hall (Daigokuden), the largest building on the palace grounds, which was reconstructed for the occasion of the 1300th anniversary of Nara Capital in 2010.

The large audience hall was used for important ceremonies and meetings. Its ceiling is decorated by the four animals of the direction on the compass and the twelve animals of the lunar calendar. A throne stands in the center of the hall. The building is called the "former" audience hall, because it was replaced by the "latter" audience hall in the second half of the Nara Period. The latter audience hall's foundations are visible to the east of the former audience hall.

Three more full-scale reconstructions are the Suzaku Gate and Daigoku Gate, two gates leading to the audience hall, and the East Palace Garden (Toin Teien), which features a pond, streams and bridges, and was used by the imperial family for banquets. Also partially reconstructed were the offices of the Imperial Household Agency (Kunaicho).

The Suzaku Hiroba is a square just outside the Suzaku Gate that features an attractive museum with artefacts and displays about the Nara Period and the former palace grounds. There are also various sightseeing facilities, such as a tourist information center, a restaurant, a cafe, a souvenir shop and a virtual reality theater with an observation deck that overlooks the palace grounds.

Furthermore there are various building foundations scattered across the palace grounds, some of which are highlighted by bushes, poles or low walls to indicate the former locations of other palace structures, such as the imperial living quarters and administrative offices.

At the northeast corner of the palace grounds stands the Excavation Site Exhibition Hall, where exposed excavation sites are left open to be viewed by the public. At the western end of the grounds is the Nara Palace Site Museum, a moderately sized, very informative museum with artifacts, models, photographs and maps on display, including several wooden tablets that were widely used as an alternative to more expensive paper during the Nara Period.

Getting there and around

Heijo Palace is located a 15 minute walk east from Yamato-Saidaiji Station, which can be easily reached from Kintetsu Nara Station by Kintetsu trains (5 minutes, 210 yen, frequent departures).

Alternatively, the palace grounds can be reached by bus number 14 bound for Yamato-Saidaiji Station from both JR Nara Station (about 25 minutes) and Kintetsu Nara Station (about 15 minutes). The Excavation Site Exhibition Hall is located near Heijokyuseki ({, 250 yen) bus stop, the Imperial Audience Hall is located near Sakicho (I, 290 yen) bus stop, and the Nara Palace Site Museum is located near Nijocho (, 290 yen) bus stop. There are two buses per hour.

How to get to and around Nara

Hours and Fees

The reconstructions and museums of Heijo Palace

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Admission

Heijokyu Izanai-kan

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Admission

Hotels around Nara

Top rated in Nara
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    • Hilo Hostel
      Mid-range
      Located less than 1 km from Nara Station, Hilo Hostel provides rooms with air conditioning in Nara. This 3-star hostel offers a shared kitchen, luggage storage space and free WiFi. The property is non-smoking and is set 18 km from Iwafune Shrine. Higashiosaka Hanazono Rugby Stadium is 21 km from the hostel, while Nippon Christ Kyodan Shijonawate Church is 22 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 53 km from Hilo Hostel.
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    • Mountain Home Lodge in Deer Park
      Budget-friendly
      Mountain Home Lodge in Deer Park is situated in the Nara Park district of Nara, 3.3 km from Nara Station and 20 km from Iwafune Shrine. Complimentary WiFi is available throughout the property. Each unit is fitted with air conditioning, private bathroom and a kitchen including a fridge, microwave, stovetop and a toaster. If you would like to discover the area, hiking is possible in the surroundings. Higashiosaka Hanazono Rugby Stadium is 23 km from the lodge, while Nippon Christ Kyodan Shijonawate Church is 25 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 55 km from Mountain Home Lodge in Deer Park.
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    • Yuzan Guesthouse
      Budget-friendly
      Conveniently located a 5-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station and a 8-minute walk from JR Nara Station, Yuzan Guest House Annex offers cosy accommodation with a shared kitchen. Free WiFi access is available throughout the property. Each room is simply decorated and comes with air conditioning and heating facilities. Guests can choose to stay in Japanese-style rooms featuring tatami (woven-straw) floor and futon bedding. Bathroom facilities are shared. At Guest House Yuzan Annex you will find a small garden, a terrace and a shared lounge. Free luggage storage is also available upon request. Guests can make a 10-minute stroll to the Nara Park, located in the city central area. Todaiji Temple and Heijo Palace are both a 10-minute drive away while Kansai International Airport can be reached with a 80-minute drive. Meals are not served on site.
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    • NARA Visitor Center and Inn
      Budget-friendly
      The Nara Visitor Center and Inn is situated in the heart of Nara, just a 3-minute walk from Kofuku-ji Temple and Naramachi. The Todai-ji Temple and Deer Park are a 10-minute stroll away, while Nara Station on the Kintetsu Line is a 7-minute walk. JR Nara Station is 14-minutes away on foot. All guest rooms feature air conditioning and heating, and are equipped with a fridge and flat-screen TV. Japanese samue nightwear are available to all staying guests. Some units come equipped with an en suite bathroom with a shower, while some Japanese-style rooms come with an en suite shower. Japanese-style rooms feature tatami (woven-straw) floors and Japanese futon bedding. The property offers free WiFi access and a 24-hour front desk. Luggage storage is available. There is a public bath on site, where guests will find free toiletries and hairdryers. A coin launderette, a shared kitchen and free-use internet PCs are offered on site. The on-site tourist information desk offers information in English, Chinese and Korean. Services offered at the desk include transport and meal tickets at a discount, currency exchange, bike hire at a charge, cultural activities at an additional charge, such as Japanese calligraphy lessons, and tour arrangements. Some cultural activities such as origami folding are offered free of charge.
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    • SLOW HOUSE NARA
      Budget-friendly
      Featuring 2-star accommodation, SLOW HOUSE NARA is located in Nara, 1.3 km from Nara Station and 19 km from Iwafune Shrine. The 2-star guest house has air-conditioned rooms with a private bathroom and free WiFi. The accommodation provides a shared kitchen and luggage storage space for guests. At the guest house, each room comes with a desk. At SLOW HOUSE NARA every room is equipped with bed linen and towels. Higashiosaka Hanazono Rugby Stadium is 22 km from the accommodation, while Nippon Christ Kyodan Shijonawate Church is 23 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 54 km from SLOW HOUSE NARA.
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    • Hotel Rokune
      Mid-range
      Located in Nara, Hotel Rokune provides 3-star accommodation with private balconies. Featuring a terrace, the 3-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi, each with a private bathroom. The property is non-smoking and is set 700 metres from Nara Station. All units are equipped with a fridge, microwave, a kettle, a bidet, a hairdryer and a desk. At the hotel every room is equipped with bed linen and towels. Hotel Rokune offers 3-star accommodation with a hot tub. Iwafune Shrine is 17 km from the accommodation, while Higashiosaka Hanazono Rugby Stadium is 21 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 52 km from Hotel Rokune.
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    • Hotel Naranohamori
      Mid-range
      Featuring 3-star accommodation, Hotel Naranohamori is situated in Nara, 19 km from Iwafune Shrine and 22 km from Higashiosaka Hanazono Rugby Stadium. The 3-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms with a private bathroom and free WiFi. The property is non-smoking and is set 2 km from Nara Station. The units in the hotel are equipped with a flat-screen TV. At Hotel Naranohamori all rooms are fitted with bed linen and towels. Nippon Christ Kyodan Shijonawate Church is 23 km from the accommodation, while Shijonawate City Museum of History and Folklore is 23 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 54 km from Hotel Naranohamori.
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    • The Deer Park Inn
      Budget-friendly
      Located within Nara Park, The Deer Park Inn offers free Wi-Fi throughout the property and a chance to feed the many deer roaming around the park. Kintesunara Train Station is an 8-minute taxi ride away. Rooms feature air conditioning/heating and free toiletries. Bathrooms and toilets are shared with other guests. Meals are not served on the property, but guests can use the communal kitchen to prepare their own meals. Luggage storage is available for free and a coin launderette is available at a surcharge. Kasuga Taisha Shrine is located a 7-minute walk away, while the Todaiji Temple is located within a 15-minute walk from the property. Guests can also take a 13-minute walk to access the Nara National Museum or a 17-minute walk to see the beautiful Isuien Garden.
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    • Nara Guesthouse Kamunabi
      Budget-friendly
      Set in Nara, 2 km from Nara Station, Nara Guesthouse Kamunabi offers accommodation with a garden, private parking, a shared lounge and a restaurant. Offering a bar, the property is located within 20 km of Iwafune Shrine. The accommodation features a shared kitchen and luggage storage space for guests. With a shared bathroom fitted with a shower and free toiletries, rooms at the guest house also feature free WiFi, while some rooms also feature a balcony. At Nara Guesthouse Kamunabi, the rooms are equipped with air conditioning and a safety deposit box. The accommodation offers a continental or American breakfast. The area is popular for cycling, and bike hire is available at Nara Guesthouse Kamunabi. Higashiosaka Hanazono Rugby Stadium is 23 km from the guest house, while Nippon Christ Kyodan Shijonawate Church is 24 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 55 km from Nara Guesthouse Kamunabi.
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    • Nara Hotel
      Luxury
      The century old Nara Hotel features classic Japanese architecture and elegant rooms with free WiFi. Located on Nara Parkfs beautiful hills, it overlooks the ancient capitalfs historic sites. The cosy rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows and warm colours. They come with an LCD TV with satellite channels, a minibar and a bathrobe. From Nara Hotel, the center of Nara Park is a 10-minute walk, Isuien Garden is a 15-minute walk and Todai-ji Temple is a 20-minute walk. Nara Station is a 10-minute bus ride away and connects to Kyoto in 45 minutes, while Kansai Airport is a 100-minute bus ride. Guests can explore the ancient city with Hotel Narafs rental bicycles. They can relax with a massage or browse in the hotelfs gift shop. French cuisine can be enjoyed in a mixture of classic Japanese and French d?cor at dining room Mikasa, while Restaurant Hanagiku serves seasonal Japanese dishes. Guests with a dinner-inclusive plan can choose either French or Japanese dinner. Freshly baked pastry and park views are offered at the Tea Lounge.
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