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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 UNESCO 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.

Three 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 as the site of 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.

In front of the audience hall used to be a spacious plaza surrounded by a corridor and an additional gate, the South Gate (Minamimon). The South Gate is currently being reconstructed for completion in spring 2022, while there are future plans to also reconstruct the connecting corridor that surrounds the entire complex.

Two more full-scale reconstructions from the 1990s are the Suzaku Gate (Suzakumon), the main gate of the palace to the south, 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

Hours

9:00 to 16:30 (entry until 16:00)

Closed

Mondays (or following day if Monday is a national holiday), December 29 to January 3

Admission

Free

Heijokyu Izanai-kan

Hours

10:00 to 18:00 (until 18:30 from June to September)
Admission ends 30 minutes before closing

Closed

Second Monday of February, April, July and November (or following day if that Monday is a holiday), December 29 to January 1

Admission

Free

Hotels around Nara

Top rated in Nara
Budget:
    • Guest House Oku
      Budget-friendly
      A 5-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station, Guest House Oku is located a 15-minute walk from JR Nara station. Guest House Oku features a total of 3 guest rooms and free WiFi throughout the property. All rooms come with air conditioning. A toilet and shower is available for guests. You will find luggage storage space at the property. Kofuku-ji is 900 metres from Guest House Oku, while Todaiji Temple is 1.4 km away. Kansai International Airport is a 95-minute limousine bus ride away.
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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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    • Mountain Home Lodge in Deer Park
      Budget-friendly
      Situated in Nara, near Nara Park, Kasuga Taisha and Kofuku-ji Temple, Mountain Home Lodge in Deer Park features free WiFi. Each unit is fitted with air conditioning, private bathroom and a kitchen including a microwave, fridge, stovetop and a toaster. If you would like to discover the area, hiking is possible in the surroundings. Todai-ji Temple is 2.4 km from the lodge, while Heijo Palace Ruins is 6 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 39 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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    • Guesthouse Tamura
      Budget-friendly
      Renovating a Japanese-style private house with a 100-year history, Guesthouse Tamura offers an accommodation in Fushigazushi-cho, Nara. Kintetsu Nara Station is a 13-minute walk away, while Kasuga Taisha Shrine is a 20-minute stroll. Every room comes with a shared bathroom. Some rooms feature tatami (woven-straw) flooring and Japanese futon bedding. You will find luggage storage space at the property. Vegetarian meals can be offered upon request. Kofuku-ji is 8 minutes on foot from Guesthouse Tamura, while Nara Park is a 20-minute stroll away. Osaka Itami Airport is 38 km from the property.
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    • Guesthouse Naramachi
      Budget-friendly
      The 100-year old Guesthouse Naramachi offers simple Japanese-style accommodation just a 5-minute walk from JR Kyobate Train Station. The property is completely non-smoking. It offers massages, bicycle rental and free Wi-Fi throughout. The World Heritage registered Nara Park is a 10-minute walk away. Guests at Naramachi can choose a private room with tatami (woven-straw) flooring and Japanese futon beds. All rooms are air-conditioned, and bathrooms and toilets are shared. Bath towels, washclothes and Yukata robes can be rented. JR Nara Train Station is a 20-minute walk, and Kofuku-ji Temple is a pleasant 10-minute walk away through the traditional streets of Nara. Gangoji Temple and three public baths are available within a 5-minute walk. Various types of bicycles can be rented. A free-use kitchenette is provided, with a microwave, fridge and electric kettle. At time of booking, you must inform the hotel what time you plan to check in. If your check-in time changes, please update the hotel. Guests who require parking must inform the hotel at time of booking.
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    • Hotel ̗t
      Mid-range
      Hotel ̗t offers rooms in Nara near Nara Prefectural Art Museum and Nara National Museum. The 3-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms with a private bathroom and free WiFi. The hotel features family rooms. All rooms in the hotel are fitted with a kettle. The units in Hotel ̗t are equipped with a flat-screen TV and a hairdryer. Popular points of interest near the accommodation include Kofuku-ji Temple, Todai-ji Temple and Kasuga Taisha. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 38 km from Hotel ̗t.
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    • Kotonoyado Musashino
      Luxury
      Kotono yado Musashino offers accommodation in Nara, and is located a 11-minute drive from Nara Station on the Kintetsu Nara Line. Free WiFi is provided throughout the property and free private parking is available on site. Every room includes a flat-screen TV. You will find a kettle in the room. Rooms include a shared bathroom. For your comfort, you will find slippers and a hair dryer. There is luggage storage space at the property. The ryokan also offers free use of bicycles. Kofuku-ji is 1.1 km from Musashino, while Kasuga Taisha is 300 metres from the property. The nearest airport is Osaka Itami Airport, 39 km from the property.
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    • Guest House En
      Budget-friendly
      Guest House En is set in Nara, within 2.5 km of Todai-ji Temple and 2.7 km of Kasuga Taisha. Featuring a shared lounge, the 2-star guest house has air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi, each with a shared bathroom. The guest house features family rooms. Guest rooms in the guest house are equipped with a kettle. The units will provide guests with a microwave. Popular points of interest near Guest House En include Kofuku-ji Temple, Naramachi and Gangoji Temple. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 38 km from the accommodation.
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    • Onyado Nono Nara Natural Hot Spring
      Luxury
      Featuring natural hot spring baths on site, Onyado Nono Nara Natural Hot Spring is set in Nara, just a 3-minute walk from JR Nara Station. Free WiFi is available throughout the property, and private parking is available on site. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant. Kofuku-ji Temple is 15 minutes on foot. All rooms include a flat-screen TV and electric kettle in the room. Rooms have a private bathroom fitted with a bath or shower and bidet. For your comfort, you will find slippers, free toiletries and a hairdryer. Extras include a fridge and toothbrushes. There is a 24-hour front desk at the property. Free luggage storage service is provided. Todaiji Temple is 10 minutes by car from Onyado Nono Nara Natural Hot Spring, while Nara Park is a 20-minute stroll from the property. Osaka Itami Airport is 37 km away.
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