Kyoto is one of the most exquisite places in the world, and by far one of our favorite areas in Japan. Once the capital of Japan, this city is brimming with tradition and culture, colorful shrines and temples, Geisha sightings, lush gardens, bamboo forests, tea ceremonies and much, much more. After all, this bountiful city was the center of Japan’s culture for over a thousand years.
Kyoto is divided into several districts and each of them is appealing to a different type of traveler. With so many hotel and guest houses to choose from, deciding where to stay in Kyoto can be overwhelming! To help with this we’ve made a list of the best places in Kyoto, to help you choose the best area for your next visit, as well as the best accommodation for your stay.
To make this as complete and as useful a resource as possible, we have, in addition to our own, included some recommendations from people we know and whose opinion we trust.
There are five Kyoto districts we recommend you stay: Downtown Kyoto (best for nightlife), Southern Higashiyama (best for first time visitors), Kyoto Station Area (best for day trip and families), Central Kyoto (best for a budget) and Northern Higashiyama (best for important sightseeing), all for different reasons.
1. Downtown Kyoto
Downtown Kyoto covers an area in the center of Kyoto on the west bank of the Kamo River. If you like to eat great food, drink in wonderful bars and stay in some of the best hotels in Kyoto, this is one of the best places to be based. The area is loaded with hotels, shops, restaurants, bars and clubs. It’s not a main sightseeing destination, but there are some good sights scattered about.
Things to Do in Downtown Kyoto:
- Experience some food products that you might never have seen or taste before at Nishiki Market
- Wander along Pontocho alley, admiring the traditional wooden homes and soaking up the atmosphere
- Shop till you drop in Teramachi and Shinkyogoku shopping arcades, the covered arcades are not only fantastic for a huge range of goods, but they’re also ideal ways to spend a rainy day in Kyoto
- Browse in large modern shopping centers such as Daimaru and Takashimaya basement food floor
- Delve into the local pop culture at Kyoto International Manga Museum, the museum houses more than 300,000 Manga comic books from all over the world
Where to Stay in Downtown Kyoto:
The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto – The elegance and sophistication of Ritz-Carlton coupled with a unique Japanese flair for style, is truly a quiet oasis of luxury in the heart of Kyoto. It is situated right alongside the Kamogawa River, offering panoramic views of the Higashiyama Mountain. The rooms are large and beautifully designed; the en suite bathroom comes with a rain shower, a bath tub and a mini LED TV, and the hotel’s many restaurants are all excellent.
Kyoto Hotel Okura – The Kyoto Hotel Okura is a fine hotel with elegant rooms that boasts spectacular views of Kyoto against the backdrop of the Higashiyama Mountains. It’s directly connected to the Kyotoshiyakusho-mae subway station in the middle of downtown. The Sky Restaurant Picturesque serves French cuisine and wines from its own wine cellar, and boasts panoramic mountain and city views.
The Royal Park Hotel Kyoto Sanjo – The Royal Park Hotel Kyoto Sanjo features stylish modern accommodation with free wired internet access. The air-conditioned rooms boast smooth colors, stylish lamps and a flat-screen TV. Each private bathroom features a spacious shower area with a bathtub. The famous temples and Geisha areas of Pontocho and Gion are within walking distance.
Urbain Kyoto Kawaramachi – This is a fantastic mid-range hotel right in the center of Kyoto. The property is just 7 minutes’ walk from Shichijo Station and has a 24-hour reception. The rooms might not be incredibly spacious, but given the location, the value and all amenities, including private bathroom’s and free breakfast’s, this property is a great match for most travelers.
Kyoto Granbell Hotel – Situated right in the heart of the Gion entertainment district, the property features modern architecture with hints of traditional Japanese design, free Wi-Fi available throughout the property with 24-hour front desk and luggage storage. The property also has an onsite restaurant and bar. The rooms are air-conditioned and come with a flat-screen TV with satellite channels and refrigerator.
Hirashin Ryokan – A great budget ryokan (traditional Japanese Inn) that offers excellent value for your money. The rooms are relatively large. This ryokan offers air-conditioned rooms and private bathrooms. There is also an onsen (Japanese hot spring bath) on site. Beds are Japanese futon style.
Kyoto Guest House Hannari – Kyoto Guest House Hannari is located just 5 minutes from the Nijo Castle. It is located right in the center of Kyoto and the property comes with free Wi-Fi in all rooms. Basic breakfast is included in the price. Rooms have bunk beds with shared toilets and shared bathing facilities. Bath amenities and clean bath towels are provided. Kyoto Guest House Hannari offers an inviting common area where guests can chat and share information.
2. Southern Higashiyama
Southern Higashiyama is also a great place to be based. It’s near some of the city’s most impressive sights and is also the city’s main geisha district. The streets of Southern Higashiyama are dotted with countless temples and shrines full of photo opportunities.
The Southern Higashiyama runs from Shichijo-dori in the south to Sanjo-dori in the north. The mountains form its eastern boundary and the Kamogawa forms its western boundary. You can spend the whole day wandering around the traditional streets of Sannenzaka and Ninnenzaka that are lined with traditional wooden buildings. The architecture is among the best-preserved examples of the time to be found anywhere in Japan.
Things to Do in Southern Higashiyama:
- Visit Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Kyoto’s most famous temple and a well-known landmark
- Walk through Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka preserved districts, two of Kyoto’s most attractive streets
- Stroll along the scenic Ishibei-koji Lane, the most beautiful lane in all of Kyoto with its small traditional wooden houses and shops
- Learn more about the city’s past at Kyoto National Museum
- Evening stroll in Gion, arguably Japans most famous Geisha district and Kyoto’s traditional entertainment district
- Visit Kennen-ji Temple, the oldest Zen temples in Kyoto with a superb Zen garden
- Geisha spotting in Hanami-koji in the evening
- Visit glorious Chion-in Temple, one of the most and popular temples in the city
- Visit Kodai-ji Temple, one of the finest temples in the Southern Higashiyama Area
- Admire Yasaka-no-to Pagoda, a long pagoda rising overlooking the floating world of Gion below
Where to Stay in Southern Higashiyama:
Gion Hatanaka – A high-end ryokan a short stroll away from the picturesque Gion district, hotel Hatanaka features traditional Japanese accommodation and a spacious public bath overlooking a Zen garden. All rooms have a private bathroom that has a traditional Japanese soaking tub. This incredible luxury ryokan will serve you in-room meals and seasonal local dishes.
Four Seasons Kyoto – A truly sublime luxury hotel in the Southern Higashiyama area of Kyoto, this beautiful hotel is an oasis of calm in a bustling city. The rooms are large and exquisitely furnished with every comfort. The service here exceeds all expectations and staff will help with all aspects of making your trip to Kyoto a magical one. It’s the perfect location from which to explore Gion, and famous sights such as Kiyomizu-dera Temple are also within walking distance.
Hyatt Regency Kyoto – The Hyatt Regency Kyoto is a top choice for a relaxing stay in Kyoto. The elegant rooms are decorated in light natural tones and furnished with a 32-inch plasma TV, a DVD player and a safe. Guests can treat themselves to shiatsu, acupuncture, aromatherapy and other treatments at Riraku Spa. The Hyatt Regency Kyoto has three onsite restaurants, The Grill features French grill dishes, while Touzan serves Japanese cuisine and Trattoria Sette offers Italian food. The hotel is 5 minutes’ walk from Shichijo Station and less than 5 minutes’ walk from Kyoto National Museum and Sanjusangen-do Temple.
Hanakiya Ryokan – Just downhill from Kiyomizu-dera Temple and 10 minutes’ drive from JR Kyoto Train Station. This property offers simple accommodation with a free-use internet station and microwave. Rooms have free Wi-Fi. The air-conditioned Japanese rooms at Hanakiya Kyoto have traditional futon bedding and tatami (woven-straw) floors. Bathrooms and toilets are shared.
Kyoto Inn Gion The Second – Situated in Gion district, just 5 minutes’ walk from Hanamikoji-dori, Kyoto Inn Gion The Second provides rooms with air conditioning, free Wi-Fi and a 24-hour front desk. A shared lounge is available for guests to relax in. The property offers free luggage storage and free safety deposit boxes at the lobby. Several restaurants, convenience stores and a supermarket are located within 5 minutes’ walk from the property.
Kyoto Hana Hotel – A new hotel with a very modern, light, and airy feel. The rooms are spacious with comfortable beds and have everything you need. Staff are kind, helpful and speak English well. The location is excellent too, close to the Sanjo subways station and within walking distance of many shops and temples.
Laon Inn Gion Nawate – It is an excellent choice for the budget traveler. All rooms feature soundproofing, air conditioning and are carpeted. Each room has a flat-screen TV, refrigerator and electric kettle. The private bathroom features a bath, shower, slippers, towels and free toiletries including toothbrushes.
Guest House Rakuza – A lovely traditional Japanese guesthouse in the heart of the Miyagawa geisha district. The accommodation provides a shared lounge and luggage storage space for guests. The rooms are fitted with a shared bathroom, while some feature a river view.
3. Kyoto Station Area
Kyoto station is the main transportation hub for Kyoto city and staying in this area gives you easy access to the entire city as well as day trips to surrounding sights such as Nara, Osaka, Himeji or the spectacular Byodo-in Temple in Uji. To get around Kyoto use the bus stop’s right in front of the station or the Subway.
There are plenty of restaurants and shops in the area. The downside is there are not a lot of sights in this area, except for the Kyoto Station building itself, so you will have to travel to do your sight seeing in Kyoto.
Things to Do in Kyoto Station Area:
- Visit Higashi Hongan-ji Temple, one of the few temples within walking distance in this area
- Explore the Kyoto Station Building, it’s an attraction in its own right and it’s packed with shops, restaurants and things to see
- Marvel at the towering pagoda of To-ji Temple, one of the most iconic landmarks of Kyoto. At 57 meters in height it is also the tallest pagoda in Japan
- Learn more about train transportation and the history of the railroad in Japan at Kyoto Railway Museum
- Immerse in the great view of the city from Kyoto Tower
Where to Stay in Kyoto Station Area:
Hotel Granvia Kyoto – The hotel is located within the Kyoto Train station, making it the city’s most convenient hotel for transport connections. The hotel features a bar and provides in-room dining until midnight. The rooms are on the large side with super comfortable bed’s, free Wi-Fi, a flat screen TV and large windows for you to enjoy views of the city. There are countless restaurants nearby. The hotel also has a large indoor swimming pool and fitness center can be used for an additional fee.
Hotel Kanra Kyoto – This beautiful hotel mixes the best of Japanese design with a Western-style boutique hotel. The result is a truly beautifully designed hotel that is an experience in its right. Rooms are in a modern Japanese style, large and extremely comfortable with a flat screen TV, fridge, and excellent Wi-Fi. The 24-hour front desk provides concierge services and free luggage storage. Its location is in a quiet part of town, but you can walk to Kyoto Station in about 15 minutes.
New Miyako Hotel Kyoto – The New Miyako Hotel Kyoto is a large popular mid-range hotel on the south side of Kyoto Station. The hotel offers a beauty salon, a convenience shop and 6 dining options. The air-conditioned rooms are equipped with a flat-screen TV and a refrigerator. Buffet restaurant Le Plaisir caters for international dishes, while Shisen serves Chinese Sichuan cuisine. Restaurant Kyoyamatoya boasts a history of over 100 years, serving Japanese seasonal dishes. The Kyoto Subway Station is just 5 minutes’ walk from the hotel.
Daiwa Roynet Hotel Kyoto Ekimae – A mid-range hotel directly connected to JR Kyoto Station that ticks all the right boxes. It’s clean, neat and although the rooms are small, they are comfortable and well equipped. The bathrooms are very nice and surprisingly have both a shower and bathtub. A coin-launderette is on-site and dry-cleaning services are offered at the 24-hour front desk. Breakfast is a little basic, but there are plenty of good eateries around the hotel.
Ibis Styles Kyoto Station – Just steps from the south exit of Kyoto Station, the Ibis Styles is a neat and convenient business hotel with some of the best rates in Kyoto. The hotel features free Wi-Fi and coin launderette for guests’ convenience. Each room comes with a fridge and a flat-screen TV with pay-per-view channels. The en suite bathroom has a bath tub and free toiletries.
Ryokan Shimizu – Located just 7 minutes’ walk from JR Kyoto Station, Ryokan Shimizu is a good place to experience a ryokan without breaking the bank. The property provides air-conditioned Japanese rooms with free Wi-Fi and a private bathroom. Rental bicycles are available at an additional charge. Guests at Shimizu Ryokan can experience traditional Japanese-style sleeping arrangements, with futon bedding on a tatami (woven-straw) floor.
Sakura Terrace – Located 6 minutes’ walk from Kyoto Station’s Hachijo-Higashi Exit. The rooms feature an interior in neutral colors, an LCD TV with cable channels, a fridge, free Wi-Fi throughout the property, and a free use launderette. Hotel Sakura Terrace offers a restaurant and a bar counter. Spacious public baths, male-only saunas and female-only ceramic-bed sauna is available.
4. Central Kyoto
Covering a huge area in the middle of the city. This district is a mix of both old and new, with the greatest choice of accommodation in the city, that aren’t too far from downtown and the subway lines. Although Central Kyoto only has two major attractions of note, you will still stumble across smaller places and hidden gems that are sure to capture your imagination.
The downside with staying in Central Kyoto is that you will probably have to travel to the main sightseeing districts as well as the restaurants and nightlife of downtown.
Things to Do in Central Kyoto:
- Visit Kyoto Imperial Palace, the Emperor’s official residence in Kyoto
- Relax in the beautiful Kyoto Botanical Gardens, one of the city’s hidden treasures
- Be wowed by the impressive Nijo-jo Castle, a former Kyoto residence of the Shogun
- Go for a walk or have a picnic at Kyoto Imperial Palace Park, a green sanctuary in the middle of the drab plain of Kyoto
- Stroll through the attractive Shimogamo-jinja Shrine, is second only to Fushimi Inari Shrine as Kyoto’s best and most beautiful Shinto Shrine
- Wander through the atmospheric ruins of Sento Gosho
- Bathe with the locals at Goko-yu Sento or Funaoka Onsen
Where to Stay in Central Kyoto:
Kyoto Brighton Hotel – A reasonably priced luxury hotel, located in the heart of Kyoto, 5 minutes’ walk from Kyoto Imperial Palace. Kyoto Brighton Hotel is often overlooked but deserves more attention for its excellent restaurant, large rooms and capable staff. All guest rooms are non-smoking and soundproofed. The bathroom comes with a deep bathtub where guests can relax after a long day. The hotel boasts 5 dining options where guests can enjoy carefully prepared meals with Japanese traditional techniques. A concierge service is provided, and free shuttle services are offered to/from Karasumaoike Subway Station every 20 minutes.
Anenishi-An – Anenishi-an is a holiday home featuring a terrace. The property can accommodate 6 people and has free Wi-Fi throughout. If you are travelling in a group then this is a good option where you can experience live in a traditional Japanese house. Guests can relax in the living room where there is a dining table and a view of the Japanese-style courtyard. The bathtub is created from Japanese umbrella-pine and the bathroom is equipped with a high-tech toilet.
Mitsui Garden Hotel Kyoto Shijo – The Mitsui Garden Hotel Kyoto Shijo is a slightly upscale business hotel located just a bit west of the city center, but within walking distance of Shijo subway station. The property offers modern accommodation with a public bath, a restaurant and rooms with free Wi-Fi. Guest rooms offer both air-conditioning and heating facilities. Each room is equipped with a fridge, an electric kettle and a flat-screen TV. Massage services are available upon request. Laundry and dry-cleaning services are offered. The on-site restaurant serves Japanese dishes and a daily buffet breakfast.
Ana Crowne Plaza Hotel Kyoto – A good mid-range hotel located right across from Nijo castle. It’s an elegant hotel with a variety of onsite facilities and excellent service. The rooms are getting a little dated but are large, comfortable and clean. The Rose Room serves an assortment of authentic French cuisine. Japanese teppanyaki can be enjoyed at NIJO, while Karin restaurant offers Chinese dishes. The lobby bar features views of a traditional Japanese garden with waterfalls. The hotel provides a free shuttle bus service to Kyoto station every 15 minutes. Guests can enjoy a swim in the indoor pool or unwind in the sauna rooms at extra charge.
Hotel Sunroute Kyoto – This is one of the best hotel values in the city, located just south of the downtown shopping district on Kawaramachi-dori. Hotel Sunroute Kyoto offers an onsite Italian restaurant overlooking the Kamo River and free Wi-Fi access throughout the property. The air-conditioned rooms come equipped with a flat-screen TV, a refrigerator and an en suite bathroom with a shower. The property also offers luggage storage at the 24-hour front desk. The 24-hour coin-operated launderette is very convenience.
The Palace Side Hotel – An inexpensive traveler’s hotel next to the Imperial Palace, 3 minutes’ walk from Marutamachi Subway Station. It offers massage services, a coin-operated launderette and rooms with free wired internet. The hotel has a shared kitchen for guests’ convenience. Bicycle rental and luggage storage is available at the 24-hour front desk. Cafe Fermata serves daily breakfast, with a spread of local and Western dishes. The Palace Side Hotel is a decent choice for budget travelers who want to be based in midtown
5. Northern Higashiyama
Northern Higashiyama district is a good place to stay, especially if you like greener area. It is beautiful and relatively quiet part of town. It has just as many stunning old temples, shrines and Japanese Zen gardens as its neighbor Southern Higashiyama and yet the crowds are mostly absent.
It’s a fantastic place to spend a day visiting the old temples and beautiful Zen gardens. However, you will need to travel a bit to get to downtown for eating and shopping. While there aren’t that many options for accommodation in Northern Higashiyama, there are some nice ryokans (traditional Japanese Inns) and guesthouses in this area.
Things to Do in Northern Higashiyama:
- Take a walk along the path of Philosophy
- Visit Ginkaku-ji Temple (Silver Pavilion), the temple did not get its name from being covered in silver but rather to contrast it from the Golden Pavilion temple
- Explore several museums dedicated to Japanese art, such as the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art and the National Museum of Modern Art
- Visit Nanzen-ji Temple, one of the best temples in the Northern Higashiyama district
- Be impressed by Heian-jungu Shrine, one of the most important and visually impressive Shinto shrines in Kyoto
- Visit one of the many amazing temples and shrines, such as Honen-in Temple, Enko-ji Temple, Manshu-in temple and the rarely visited Konkaikomyo-ji Temple
Where to Stay in Northern Higashiyama:
Ryokan Inn Yoshida-sanso – Was initially a royal residence, this historic ryokan is a beautiful place to have your traditional Japanese Inn experience. Located in a secluded area of Kyoto with lovely views of the mountains to the east of the city you can escape the hustle and bustle of Downtown here. The traditional multi-course Japanese dinner is a must-try experience. The rooms overlooking Kyoto’s eastern mountains and have a serene interior with sliding shoji paper screens, a tatami (woven-straw) floor and a seating area with a table and chairs. Wi-Fi is available throughout the ryokan.
Heian No Mori Kyoto – Just 10 minutes’ walk from Heian Jingu Shrine, Heian No Mori Kyoto features a public bath and Japanese and buffet restaurants. All rooms are air conditioned and come with private bathroom. The property offers bicycle rental, and the Philosopher’s Walk within walking distance.
We hope that this brief guide on where to stay in Kyoto will help you find the best neighborhood in which to stay during your next trip here.
If you are looking for an overview of what to see and do in Kyoto, check out our ‘Things to See in Kyoto’ article.