Kyoto was the capital of Japan before power was transferred to Tokyo in 1868. Kyoto has over 2000 shrines and temples and has the most surviving historic buildings of any city in Japan.
During WWII the US spared Kyoto from much conventional bombing and the city remained intact (cities such as Tokyo were almost completely burnt to the ground). Kyoto was considered as a target for the atomic bomb but thankfully it was not selected.
Kyoto is a large city and in addition to its historical sites it has a high concentration of universities. It is considered to be a intellectual town (and also has a reputation for snobbery). Kyoto is a town where the old ways have not been forgotten and many traditional Japanese arts flourish here. It is one of the few places in Japan where you can still see real Geisha hurrying off to their evening appointments at dusk.
Kyoto's shrines and temples are amazing and there are many fine examples of Japanese gardens, castles and tea houses around the city.