Wondering where to stay in Kyoto during your trip to Japan? This guide will show you the best areas and accomodation so you can focus on enjoying the beautiful shrines, temples, and traditional Geisha districts.
Kyoto was probably the place I was most excited about visiting in Japan. Pictures of Fushimi Inari had been my screensaver since I was 13, presenting the dream of visiting Japan one day. Knowing that dream was finally coming true, I made sure to book a hotel within walking distance of the shrine (you bet I would be there at 6 AM before the crowds!).
But while the hotel was great (and indeed, only five short minutes to the shrine I had dreamt about for almost ten years), staying in southern Kyoto wasn’t ideal for seeing many other sights. That’s why I’ve put together this guide to help you find the best places to stay in Kyoto.
Let’s dive in!
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In a Rush? Best Places To Stay In Kyoto
No time to read the entire article? No worries! Here is a quick overview of the best hotels and areas in Kyoto. If you’re visiting for the first time, I highly recommend staying in Downtown Kyoto. If you’re looking for a more traditional vibe, check out Higashiyama (very close to Downtown Kyoto, but a little more expensive).
Kyoto Station is perfect for quick access to travelling around – whether you want to explore Kyoto or go on day trips to Nara, Kobe, or Osaka. And if you’ve already seen Kyoto’s highlights but want to explore the beautiful nature surrounding it, I recommend staying in Arashiyama.
|Area||Best For||Hotel/Ryokan||Book Now|
|Downtown Kyoto||First time visitors||Hotel Resol Kyoto Kawaramachi Sanjo||Check availability|
|Higashiyama||Traditional atmosphere||Hotel – Kyoto Granbell Hotel||Check availability|
|“||“||Ryokan – Miyagawacho Yoshii||Check availability|
|Kyoto Station Area||Travelling around||Hotel Granvia Kyoto||Check availability|
|Arashiyama||Hiking and nature||Nagi Kyoto Arashiyama||Check availability|
Where To Stay In Kyoto – Basic Information
Kyoto is a very varied place. And that’s not just the case for its sights. There are different types of accommodation in Kyoto: from luxury penthouses to traditional Japanese inns. If choosing the best area in Kyoto is tough, let alone the type of place!
Obviously, there are hotels. Hotel rooms in Japan are known to be on the small side. They include all your necessities, and beds are comfortable (but small!). No matter your budget, there’s a hotel in Kyoto suitable for your needs. There also is a wide variety of boutique hotels – these are especially lovely in Kyoto’s atmosphere.
Then there are ryokans. These are traditional Japanese inns. If there’s a city in Japan that’s perfect for ryokans; it’s Kyoto. Especially in its Geisha districts, there are a ton of great options for any budget.
Ryokans come with traditional tatami flooring, and you sleep in futons. They may seem a bit more expensive than hotels initially, but many ryokans have meals included in the price. It’s an incredibly unique experience that you can only get in Japan, and I highly recommend considering it!
Alternatively, there is the option to rent out an entire apartment. Doing so is usually a great idea when travelling with a group.
Because Kyoto is such a popular tourist destination, I urge you to book your hotels on time. Especially during the sakura season, accommodation tends to fill up quickly. I recommend booking at least a few months in advance.
Now, let’s take a look at the best areas in Kyoto.
Best Areas In Kyoto (Map)
There are four areas I recommend considering when choosing the best hotel in Kyoto:
Yellow: Downtown Kyoto, the best place to stay for first-time visitors
Red: Higashiyama, the best place to stay for a traditional atmosphere
Blue: Kyoto Station Area, the best place to stay for travelling around
Green: Arashiyama, the best place to stay for hiking (not recommended for first-time visitors)
Downtown Kyoto – Where To Stay In Kyoto For First Time Visitors
Best for first-time visitors & overall best
Why Stay In Downtown Kyoto?
Downtown Kyoto is by far the best place to stay in Kyoto, especially for first-time visitors. This convenient location gives you easy access to all other parts of the city. It’s also within walking distance from Gion and Higashiyama, but a lot cheaper.
Downtown Kyoto has a wide variety of restaurants and shops, and there’s a vibrant nightlife scene. Staying here is a no-brainer.
Cons: There is limited space in downtown Kyoto, and it’s definitely on the more modern side of Kyoto. If you’re looking for a more traditional vibe, you may want to stay in Gion/Southern Higashiyama instead.
Where To Stay In Downtown Kyoto?
So what are the best hotels in downtown Kyoto? I’ve handpicked my five favourites below.
This fantastic hotel is right in the middle of downtown Kyoto. The beautifully designed rooms (very modern-Japan) are a good size, and the hotel offers fantastic value for money. There is a bus stop and metro station nearby, and you can reach Gion and Higashiyama by foot in 10-15 minutes.
Kyoto Hotel Okura (5*)
The location of Kyoto Hotel Okura is almost unbeatable. Within walking distance from the main attractions in downtown Kyoto and Pontocho street. Many of the spacious rooms (for Japanese standards) have a view over the Kamo River. On top of that, there is a Sky restaurant with fantastic views of the city and the Higashiyama mountains.
The Mitsui Garden Hotel provides comfortable rooms with all necessities included. But where it stands out is its extra facilities. The hotel comes with a Japanese garden which you can enjoy from the large public bath – a perfect place to relax after a day of exploring the city. There is a station within walking distance to make your way around the city easily.
Ryokan – Matsui Honkan (4*)
And as Kyoto is THE perfect city to experience staying in a ryokan, I’ve added one in this area to the list too. It sits right in the middle of downtown Kyoto, only two minutes from Nishiki market and Pontocho Street. You can really experience what it’s like to stay in a real Japanese inn here.
Southern Higashiyama – Where To Stay In Kyoto For Traditional Atmosphere
Best for culture lovers & the traditional Japanese atmosphere
Why Stay In Southern Higashiyama?
When you think of Kyoto, you probably imagine southern Higashiyama. It’s filled with temples, shrines, tea houses, and traditional buildings. This part of Kyoto is incredibly well preserved; it’s like time stood still (apart from the souvenir shops and tourists, of course 😉 ).
You’ll find many people dressed in kimono, and you may even be able to spot a Geisha on her way to work. If you’re looking for the best traditional atmosphere, this is where you should stay.
Southern Higashiyama also has the most ryokans in the city – making it perfect for a memorable stay.
Cons: Because this is such a beautiful and traditional part of Kyoto, prices tend to be higher than in other areas. On top of that, there isn’t much to do at night. But luckily, you can reach downtown Kyoto on foot.
Where To Stay In Southern Higashiyama?
Because Higashiyama is the perfect place to look for a ryokan to spend the night, I’ve included my top three favourites below. But for those who’d like to stay in a hotel instead, I’ve also added two of the best hotels in the area.
Ryokan – Miyagawacho Yoshii (3*)
Located next to the river and only 3-minutes to Gion Shijo train station, this ryokan has an almost unbeatable location. The interior is traditional Japanese, but it comes with comfortable beds – making it the perfect option. The inn serves a Japanese breakfast, and every room has a private wooden bathtub or spa bath.
Ryokan – Kyomachiya Hotel Mifuku (3*)
While this ryokan is close to Kiyomizu-Dera and Gion, it’s located in a quiet area. A very atmospheric traditional inn with tatami-mats and a zen garden. There are options for rooms with futons or with western beds.
Holiday Home – Kiraku Kyoto Gion (5*)
Instead of renting a ryokan or hotel, you can also go for a holiday home. When staying in Kiraku Kyoto Gion, you can enjoy the entire property for yourself. This authentic but modern accommodation has tatami floors and a private outdoor hot tub. While there is a kitchen at the property, you also get an a la carte breakfast every morning.
Kyoto Granbell Hotel (4*)
Of course, there are also some fantastic hotels in Higashiyama and Gion. And Kyoto Granbell Hotel is one of the best ones around. A couple of minutes from the station, luxury rooms with a modern Japanese style, and a relaxing public bath with a zen garden complete the picture. The hotel also offers a maiko show twice a week.
While staying in Higashiyama doesn’t have to break the bank, Kyoto Inn Gion The Second is a great budget-friendly option. This lovely inn comes with comfortable beds, private bathrooms, and available breakfast in the morning. There are supermarkets nearby, and it’s only a 10-minute walk to get to Kiyomizu-Dera or Pontocho.
Kyoto Station Area – Where To Stay In Kyoto For Travelling Around
Best for travelling around & day trips
Why Stay In The Kyoto Station Area?
Kyoto Station is THE transport hub in the city. It’s the place that connects the city with the rest of Japan. If you’re planning to make a few day trips when staying in Kyoto (to visit Nara for the day or travel to Osaka, for example), this is a fantastic place to stay.
But even for seeing all the sights in Kyoto, the station area is a great choice because it has many transport options. You get easy access to the subway, metro, busses, and taxis from the main trains and shinkansen. From here, you can easily travel to all of Kyoto’s main sights without any hassle.
On top of that, there are a wide variety of restaurants and shops nearby.
Cons: While staying near the station has many benefits, Kyoto is very much a metropolitan city. Most people visit the city for its traditional atmosphere, and you’ll miss that when staying near the station.
Where To Stay Near Kyoto Station?
Hotel Granvia Kyoto (5*)
It’s impossible to stay closer to Kyoto Station because this hotel is INSIDE the station. This stunning hotel hosts luxury rooms, swimming pool, steam room, hot tub, and a restaurant.
And luckily, there are a lot of different types of rooms that match a variety of budgets.
Only 3 minutes from Kyoto Station, the Mitsui Garden hotel gives you easy access to all the sights in the city. The rooms have some traditional Japanese hints and come with all necessities.
Walking distance from Kyoto Station and almost next to Kyoto Tower, this hotel has a great location. There is an on-site laundrette, and all rooms come with all basic necessities. It’s super easy to travel anywhere in the city from here or take a day trip to Osaka or Nara.
Arashiyama – Where To Stay In Kyoto For Nature & Hiking
Best for nature lovers & hikers
Why Stay In Arashiyama?
Arashiyama is a little trip from most other parts of Kyoto, but it’s stunning. It is known for its bamboo forest that shares the area’s name. Located near the mountains, Arashiyama is ideal for hikers.
If you’re visiting Kyoto for the first time, I don’t recommend staying in Arashiyama. It’s tough to travel back and forth every day to see the main sights; other areas are much better. But Arashiyama is perfect if you want to focus on hikes and see the city’s quieter part.
Cons: As mentioned, Arashiyama is quite far from the city centre and other main sights. That’s why it’s not a good place for first-time visitors, but it’s better for someone who is already familiar with Kyoto’s main sights and wants to focus on nature and hiking.
Where To Stay In Arashiyama?
All stylish rooms are very spacious for Japanese standards. This boutique hotel is located in a quiet neighbourhood, only a 10-minute walk to some of the main points of interest in the area.
The beautiful minimalist rooms in the GrandWest Arashiyama make for the perfect quiet stay in this part of Kyoto. The style is very authentic Japanese, but with all the modern touches you need. It’s close to the bamboo forest, monkey park, and the Togetsukyo bridge.
Best Times To Visit Kyoto
The best times to visit Kyoto are in October and November. The temperatures are mild, perfect for walking around the city, sightseeing, and hiking. It’s outside the rain season, you’ll avoid the crazy humidity of the Japanese summers, and you avoid the cold winters. On top of that, the colourful autumn leaves make for a beautiful backdrop for photos.
While spring is also an excellent time to visit Japan when it comes to temperature (and, of course, the beautiful cherry blossoms), it does get incredibly crowded. Japan is flooded with tourists who want to experience sakura season during the spring, ramping up the hotel prices and forming long queues in front of restaurants and sights. It’s also tough to time the cherry blossoms properly – it very much depends on the weather conditions!