Kurashiki is truly one of the largest and best preserved historical districts in Japan. The Bikan Historic area in Kurashiki is a large area of buildings dating back to the Edo Period (17th century). The buildings are well-preserved, and a walk through the streets gives visitors a glimpse into Edo Japan. Many of the buildings are used as shops, museums, and restaurants however, in my opinion, it makes the area more enjoyable. The restaurants are not chain restaurants, so you won't see a MacDonalds ruining the old-world feel of the area. Instead, they are mostly local shops and diners. The shops contain many typical Japanese souvenirs, many of them also contain locally made items and crafts, and the museums are privately owned, so some are a bit small however, I think each of these adds of the charm of the town.
It is less crowded on weekdays, so you can better appreciate the area. Also, if you want to avoid the crowds, go in the mornings just around (or prior to) 9:00 when the stores open or in the evenings when the stores are closing. Although most of the stores are closed in the evenings, it's quite a different experience than the daytime. The streetlights are turned on, and a walk through the historic area is less crowded and also quite romantic. The swans in the river also add to this feeling.
No matter what time of day you visit, the beauty of Kurashiki is truly captivated and a unique part of Japan that is appreciated by many Japanese but often overlooked by foreign tourists.