Japan’s cultural capital of Kyoto is a must-visit for anyone planning a trip to Japan. Kyoto is second only to Tokyo for the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, and has more pre-war buildings than all other Japanese cities combined, including 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites.
While Kyoto may seem quaint, with ancient temples and the geisha district, it’s still a large city with 1.5 million residents.
The main attractions are fairly compact, and Kyoto has excellent public transportation options, so getting around is easy.
|❤️ Best Area first timers||Downtown Kyoto|
|💸 Best Luxury Hotel||Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto|
|👪 Best Hotel for For Families||Kyoto Hana Hotel|
|🏨 Best Mid-Range Hotel||Candeo Hotels Kyoto Karasuma Rokkaku|
|🛏️ Best Budget Hotel||Guest House Sawaragi|
|✨ Best Hostel||Hostel Mundo|
Finding the best place to stay in Kyoto will depend on your budget and travel style, and whether you want a traditional Japanese guest house, or one of the more modern Kyoto hotels.
As you decide where to stay in Kyoto Japan, Ryokan, or traditional Japanese style inns, offer a unique cultural experience, and may be easier on the the budget than a luxury hotel.
We will cover off all types of Kyoto accommodation options from Hostels to luxury Kyoto hotels as well as how to decide where to stay in Kyoto Japan 2024, the best Kyoto hotels, best places in Kyoto to visit, the best places to stay in Kyoto, hotels near Kyoto attractions, Kyoto neighborhood guide and many more.
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Downtown Kyoto – Where to stay in Kyoto first time
For first time visitors to Kyoto, downtown Kyoto is the best place to find Kyoto accommodation. While you will be in walking distance to some of the best Kyoto restaurants and shopping, you will also have easy access to the two subway lines of Kyoto, as well as two train lines for day trips from Kyoto.
Downtown Kyoto is not a main sightseeing area, but the central location still make downtown Kyoto hotels an excellent choice. Downtown Kyoto is home to several famous food markets, including the Nishiki Market and Takashimaya Basement Food Floor.
This is also where you’ll find two of Kyoto’s most popular shopping arcades: Shinkyogoku and Teramachi.
Why Stay in Downtown Kyoto
Once the capital of Japan, the city of Kyoto has many tourist destinations to offer. Staying downtown will put you in the middle of all of it. Easy access by public transit to anywhere with everything you need within walking distance.
Downtown is filled with great restaurants and food markets to browse. Shop at the many shops along the street or stop at the popular shopping arcades. Want to see a traditional Geisha? Take an evening walk along Pontocho Alley.
With the Manga Museum and some of the best traditional Japanese cuisine in the city, Downtown Kyoto is a great way to soak in the Japanese culture for first-time visitors.
Things To Do in Downtown Kyoto
- Shop at the Shopping Arcades
Teramachi and Shinkyogoku Shopping Arcades are a unique shopping experience. These two streets in the heart of downtown are covered walkways filled with shops of varying merchandise. At the Shinkyogoku Arcade, you are guaranteed to find the perfect souvenir.
Grab a snack and a coffee at the little patios in the arcade. Teramachi Arcade is a little different as it has Art Galleries, bookshops and fine apparel stores.
Just off Teramachi Arcade is Nishiki Market. Browse the traditional Japanese foods at what is said to be the best traditional food market in the city.
- Dine in Downtown
No matter what flavour you are in the mood for, Downtown Kyoto has it. Looking to have some Raman? Ippudo Raman is the place to go. Looking for the best soba in town?
Honke Owariya is in an old unassuming wooden building. Sit on tatami floormats with low tables and enjoy this truly Japanese atmosphere.
For a more refined traditional dinner, try Kushikura. Sit and watch the chefs prepare your meal and enjoy some fantastic yakitori. In Downtown Kyoto, you are guaranteed a great meal.
- Visit the Manga Museum
If you are into Japanese comics, The Kyoto International Manga Museum is a must-see. With a collection of over 300,000 Mangas lining the walls, you could spend days reading comics.
Along with their impressive collection, they have demonstrations on how to draw Mangas as well as live performances of kamishibai.
A storyteller tells the story with a scroll of pictures to illustrate the plot. A trip through the world of Manga you will never forget.
Best places to stay in Downtown Kyoto
Cheapest Backpacking Hostels in Downtown Kyoto:
Budget Hotels in Downtown Kyoto:
Mid range Hotels in Downtown Kyoto:
- Hotel Resol Trinity Kyoto
- Candeo Hotels Kyoto Karasuma Rokkaku
- Prince Smart Inn Kyoto Sanjo
- Hotel Gracery Kyoto Sanjo
Family Friendly Hotels in Downtown Kyoto:
- MIMARU KYOTO SHINMACHI SANJO
- R&Run Kyoto Serviced Apartment & Suites
- Mitsui Garden Hotel Kyoto Sanjo
- Hotel Monterey Kyoto
Affordable Luxury Hotels in Downtown Kyoto:
Central Kyoto – Where to stay in Kyoto on a budget
Central Kyoto covers a large area in the center of Kyoto. In fact, downtown Kyoto and the Kyoto Station area are entirely surrounded by what is considered Central Kyoto.
Nijo Castle is one of Kyoto’s most popular attractions, as well as Kyoto Imperial Palace and surrounding gardens, the Kyoto Botanical Gardens, and several onsen and public baths, all found in Central Kyoto.
This is a larger district, there are many Kyoto hotels to choose from in Central Kyoto. Of course, restaurants, markets and shops abound, so you’ll have no shortage of options if you choose to stay here.
Why Stay in Central Kyoto
Containing two of the largest tourist attractions in Kyoto, Kyoto Imperial Palace and Nijo Castle, endless availability to public transit and budget-friendly accommodations, Central Kyoto is a great choice of where to stay when going to Kyoto.
Enjoy the parks and green spaces in the city to take a break from sightseeing. Take a walk through Sento Gosho and admire the walled gardens and beautiful ponds and take in the natural beauty of Kyoto Botanical Gardens.
Temples, shrines, authentic Japanese experiences such as public baths or Onsen and some of the best dining in Kyoto can be found in Central Kyoto. A great place to stay while travelling on a budget in Japan.
Things To Do in Central Kyoto
- Nijo Castle
One of the most visited tourist attractions in Kyoto, Nijo Castle is a must-see travel destination. Consisting of multiple buildings connected by corridors, this 1603 masterpiece was the residence of the first shogun of the Edo Period (1603 – 1867).
Waking across the moat through the East gate brings you to the Ninomaru Palace. As you explore the palace rooms and walk the corridors of this ancient castle, you will hear the boards creak beneath your feet.
Known as ‘Nightingale floors’ they are designed to creak when walked on to alert the occupants of intruders. A trip to Nijo Castle will have you reminiscing about the adventure for years to come.
- Kyoto Imperial Palace
The residence of Japan’s Imperial family until 1868, Kyoto Imperial Palace has been preserved since 1877. Enclosed by large walls and several gates, this impressive palace is still used today for enthronement ceremonies.
Kyoto Imperial Palace grounds are open to the public all year and are free to enjoy. You cannot enter any of the palace buildings, but on the grounds, there is Kyoto Imperial Park, with its own beauty and historic treasures.
Tour Kaninnomiya Mansion, which would be the residence for court nobles and stroll through the beautiful gardens in the park. A great place to explore while in Central Kyoto.
- Kyoto Botanical Gardens
Kyoto Botanical Gardens opened in 1924 and is the oldest botanical garden in Japan. At 240,000 square meters and over 12,000 species of botanical delight, it is a delightful way to spend the day.
Walk through the Bamboo Garden, experience the Bonsai Exhibit and visit the Lotus Pond. Take in the sweet smell of the rose garden and wander the lane lined with large camphor trees and an even larger canopy.
With such an expansive area, there are maps available, so you do not miss a thing. A wonderful way to experience nature from all corners of the earth in one space.
Best places to stay in Central Kyoto
Cheapest Backpacking Hostels in Central Kyoto:
Budget Hotels in Central Kyoto:
Mid range Hotels in Central Kyoto:
- M’s Hotel Sanjo Omiya
- Urban Hotel Kyoto Nijo Premium
- The Hedistar Hotel Kyoto Nijo Comic & Books
- ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel Kyoto, an IHG Hotel
Family Friendly Hotels in Central Kyoto:
Affordable Luxury Hotels in Central Kyoto:
Northern Higashiyama – Where to stay in Kyoto with family
Across the river from downtown Kyoto are the Higashiyama districts. If you want to know where to stay in Kyoto with family, Northern Higashiyama is an excellent choice.
There are many great Kyoto attractions in North Higashiyama, including dozens of temples, shrines, museums and gardens. Art aficionados will appreciate Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts, and the National Museum of Modern Art.
The open spaces and sparser crowds of Northern Higashiyama are perfect for families visiting Kyoto with children, yet still within walking distance to nearby districts. There are fewer Kyoto hotels in this district, but still many options, including home rentals and ryokan.
Why Stay in Northern Higashiyama
When travelling with children of any age, it is nice to be away from the main hustle and bustle but close enough to visit. Northern Higashiyama gives you that and a little more.
Not as busy as other areas of Kyoto, and the plethora of beautiful gardens to walk through, interesting and unique temples to visit and a host of museums in the area.
You can plan on the kids being busy, along with taking home some of the best vacation memories of a lifetime.
Visit the Kyoto Zoo and spend the day with the animals for an enjoyable day for everyone. Northern Higasiyama is the best place in Kyoto to stay when travelling with family.
Things To Do in Northern Higashiyama
- Visit the Temples
Northern Higashiyama is known for the preservation of its history. Philosopher’s Path is a well know pathway lined with cherry trees that follows the Biwa Canal.
While enjoying the natural beauty of the surroundings, there are additional pathways along the 2 km route that will lead you to some of the most exquisite temples and shrines in Japan.
See the magnificence of the World Heritage site Ginkaku-ji Temple and pass through the stone guardians, a giant pair of mice to see the beauty of Otoyo-jinja Shrine.
At the end of the path, relax and enjoy Eikan-do Temple. Tucked into a peaceful wooded hillside, this substantial temple dates back to 856.
Visitors are encouraged to climb to the temple roof and enjoy an expansive view of Kyoto. A picture-perfect way to visit the shrines and temples of Kyoto.
- Take in a Museum
Museums are a wonderful way to learn about a country’s traditions and culture. Visit one of the oldest art museums in Japan. Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art has been in operation since 1933.
Featuring two stories of exhibition halls, visitors can stroll through the building viewing the artwork at their own pace.
Experience a tea ceremony at Nomura Museum or be impressed by the modern art collections at the National Museum of Modern Art. It will be a fun and awe-inspiring day when you spend a day at the museum.
- Spend the Day at the Zoo
No matter where you are in the world, there is nothing like a day at the zoo. Kyoto City Zoo is a small zoo in Northern Higashiyama that will make a fun break for the kids from the shrines and temples.
Say hello to the lions and tigers and tell the Japanese Macaques how beautiful they are. The kids will love participating in live animal shows where they get to interact with some animals.
Take them to the small amusement park that is included on the grounds of the zoo. A fun day for the kids and adults alike.
Best places to stay in Northern Higashiyama
Cheapest Backpacking Hostels in Northern Higashiyama:
Budget Hotels in Northern Higashiyama:
Mid range Hotels in Northern Higashiyama:
- Hotel Wing International Premium Kyoto Sanjo
- Rinn Gion Yasaka
- Kyoto Granbell Hotel
- Rinn Gion Shirakawa
Family Friendly Hotels in Northern Higashiyama:
- Gion Elite Terrace
- Hotel ZIZI Kyoto Gion
- Gozan Hotel & Serviced Apartment Higashiyama Sanjo
- Kyoto Hana Hotel
Affordable Luxury Hotels in Northern Higashiyama:
- Dhawa Yura Kyoto – Banyan Tree Group
- Kyoto Nanzenji Ryokan Yachiyo
- THE HOTEL HIGASHIYAMA by Kyoto Tokyu Hotel
- The Westin Miyako Kyoto
Southern Higashiyama – Where to stay in Kyoto for nightlife
The other district of Higashiyama is the southern half, is an extremely popular place to stay in Kyoto. Like its northern counterpart, Southern Higashiyama has many temples to fill your Kyoto itinerary.
There’s also the Kyoto National Museum, and several quaint lanes which are both interesting and extremely photogenic.
Photographers visiting Kyoto can stroll these lanes for days, snapping shots of these historic walkways. Perhaps the most famous area of Southern Higashiyama is the Gion entertainment district, or the geisha district.
Visitors wanting to catch a glimpse of the geisha will surely be visiting the Gion district. There is also good nightlife in Southern Higashiyama, not to mention plenty of restaurants, shopping and entertainment.
Why Stay in Southern Higashiyama
For the tourist that wants to experience the Japanese culture throughout the day and night, Southern Higashiyama is the place to stay.
Tour beautiful and ornate temples taking you back in time, stop for a traditional Japanese massage at Hiyoshido Traditional Massage and find the perfect amulet shopping at Kiyomizu-dera Temple. Take a relaxing stroll down the beautiful pathways of Ishibei-koji Lane and take in the natural magic of Nene-no-Michi Lane.
When the sun goes down, experience the traditional entertainment district of Gion. A congested village of elite restaurants, member-only bars and geisha houses. Experience firsthand ‘Japan’s Floating World’ in Southern Higashyama.
Things To Do in Southern Higashiyama
- Visit the Temples and Shrines of Southern Higashiyama
There are a plethora of temples and shrines to see in Southern Higashiyama. View over 1000 images of Kannon, the buddhist goddess of mercy at the Sanjusangen-do Temple.
Make a wish in a most interesting way at Yasui-compile-gu Shrine. Located in the middle of the shrine, you will see what looks like a paper igloo. This is known to the Japanese as the “enkiri/enmusubi stone.”
It represents the binding of good relationships and the severing of bad. Purchase a piece of paper and write your wish on it.
Crawl through the hole clutching the paper, starting at the front for a binding of a good relationship or starting at the back for the severing of a bad relationship.
You then glue your paper on the mound with thousands of other people’s wishes. A bizarre fun way to make a wish come true.
- Be a Giesha for a Day
It is fun to watch a geisha, but how much fun would it be to dress and be one for a day? At MAICA in the Miyagawa district, you can do that.
They will dress you and apply the traditional geisha makeup. With various packages being offered you can tour Gion sightseeing spots and have a professional photographer take pictures of your unique adventure as a Geisha.
- Experience Gion
The Gion district is more than just teahouses and bars. During the day take a walking tour starting at Maruyama Park. In cherry blossom season, see the beauty of ‘shidarezakura,’ a weeping cherry tree in all its blossom beauty.
Visit the spiritual center of Gion at Yasaka Shrine. This shrine has stood here since 656 AD. When the the sun sets, the red lanterns glow in Gion. You are transported back to a time of gangsters and geishas.
It is at this time you may get to see a traditional geisha. Being entertained by a real Geisha is expensive and not easily done. There are tour companies that can arrange a night of entertainment with a geisha, but it will not be cheap.
- Nightlife in Southern Higashiyama
Looking for a relaxing drink at a casual bar or a roaring night of clubbing and dancing you can find it here in Southern Higashiyama.
Enjoy an enchanting dinner and drinks at bar k-ya Main or whoop it up at Whoopees to a live band or DJ playing all your favourites.
Best places to stay in Southern Higashiyama
Cheapest Backpacking Hostels in Southern Higashiyama:
Budget Hotels in Southern Higashiyama:
Mid range Hotels in Southern Higashiyama:
Family Friendly Hotels in Southern Higashiyama:
- NOHGA HOTEL KIYOMIZU KYOTO
- Stay SAKURA Kyoto Kiyomizu Gojo
- Kyonoyado Kiyomizu Gojo Kuretakeso
- Hyatt Regency Kyoto
Affordable Luxury Hotels in Southern Higashiyama:
Kyoto Station Area – Where to stay in Kyoto for tourists
South of downtown Kyoto is the Kyoto Station area. As the name implies, the location is centered on the main Kyoto train station, making this the best place to stay in Kyoto for those planning many day trips around the countryside.
Restaurants and shops are plentiful here as well, however, there are fewer Kyoto tourist attractions in this area.
Because of this, you may find more Kyoto hotels for budget travelers, but keep in mind transportation costs if you decide to stay here.
What you save on a hotel you may end up spending on train tickets to see all the Kyoto attractions. There are a few temples in the Kyoto Station area, however much of this district is more modern.
Why Stay in Kyoto Station Area
A major transportation hub for trains and airport passengers, this area is perfect if you are exploring a large area of Kyoto. Easy access to the Shinkansen, ‘The Bullet Train,’ and several other train lines will get you anywhere you want to go.
Tourists love this area of Kyoto not for the attractions but for the modern conveniences and the ease of getting to anything they want to see.
At the Kyoto Station Building, you better get there a little early so you can peruse the shops and have a meal at one of the many restaurants that are offered here.
Within the Kyoto Station area are temples and museums to visit, and do not forget to take in the view of the Kyoto Tower. A great place to start and end the day sightseeing in Kyoto.
Things To Do in Kyoto Station
- The Kyoto Station Building
When you arrive in Kyoto by train, The Kyoto Station Building will be the first thing you experience in Kyoto. Not just a train station, it is a sightseeing attraction in its own right.
As you step into the building, you will be welcomed not by traditional Japanese architecture but by a modern building with a sweeping atrium overhead. The building has two tourist information centers to set you in the right direction.
On either side of the train station are the areas of Karasuma and Hachijo. Karasuma leads to downtown and also has the Kyoto Tower to get your first breathtaking view of Kyoto.
Hachijo gives you access to hotels and the Toji Temple. Shop at the many shopping stores and walk the Skyway. Walking above the station and giving you a great view of the city. Your first and last stop on a memorable vacation.
- Dine in the Kyoto Station Area
Dining while on vacation is not just a meal but an experience, and the Kyoto Station area has some great examples of that. Start your day with coffee at Kurasu Kyoto.
Stop for pancakes at Chibo Kyoto Avanti Branch Shop before heading out for a day of sightseeing. End the day with a serving of ‘unagi’ (eel) at Warajiya, which has been serving unagi for over 400 years.
Kyoto Station has a plethora of restaurants throughout for a craving of any kind. Grab a hearty meal at Donguri Kyoto Ekimae, located just in front of the Station Building for a great ending to a great day.
- Visit the Temples
As you enter the city through the Station building, looking to the south, you will see the spires of To-ji Temple. A five-story pagoda that you can see from many places in Kyoto.
If you are in Kyoto on the 21st of any month, make sure you make a trip to the flea market that is held there. Walking out of the North gate of Kyoto Station, you cannot help but see Higashi-Hongan-ji Temple.
This massive temple which is free to enter, has one of the largest wooden buildings in the world.
Entering the main hall, taking in the beauty of the gold leaf architecture, you can soak up the atmosphere of this spectacular Japanese Temple. Take the time and enjoy the moments of spiritualism and calmness in these works of art.
Best places to stay in Kyoto Station
Cheapest Backpacking Hostels in Kyoto Station:
- Wise Owl Hostels Kyoto
- Tabist Seiki Kyoto Station
- Tabist Sparkling Dolphins Inn Kyoto
- Dormitory & Private Hostel THE NEXT DOOR
Budget Hotels in Kyoto Station:
Mid range Hotels in Kyoto Station:
- hotel androoms Kyoto Shichijo
- Hotel Anteroom Kyoto
- Daiwa Roynet Hotel Kyoto-Hachijoguchi
- Hotel Elcient Kyoto
Family Friendly Hotels in Kyoto Station:
- Comfort Hotel Kyoto Toji
- MIMARU KYOTO STATION
- Kyoto Hot Spring Hatoya Zuihokaku Hotel
- BON Kyoto Station
Affordable Luxury Hotels in Kyoto Station:
Arashiyama – Where to stay in Kyoto for access to the famous Bamboo grove
If you prefer to stay outside of the city, Arashiyama is about 30 minutes west of Kyoto and has some pretty important attractions, so even if you don’t stay here, you’re likely to visit at least once.
The Arashiyama bamboo grove is “Insta-famous” and is one of Kyoto’s top sights.
Of course, there are temples and onsen here, and Kameyama-koen Park is a great hilltop escape from the bustle of the city, and visitors can often see monkeys here. Tenryu-ji is the most famous temple in Arashiyama, and offers amazing views of the surrounding mountains.
Why Stay in Arashiyama
Tucked along the base of the Arashiyama Mountains, which translates to ‘Storm Mountain’ is the district of Arashiyama.
A scenic and historical district with a plethora of attractions, Arashiyama has a charming beauty all its own. World-famous Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is an experience you will be talking about for years to come.
Visit Tenryu-ji Temple and enjoy the wonderful views, as well as one of the finest gardens in Arashiyama and appreciate the serene quietness of Rakushisha Poets Hut. When you stay in Arashiyama ,you can experience a quiet beauty you cannot get anywhere else.
Things To Do in Arashiyama
- Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Walking through the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is an experience that well, just has to be experienced. Touching all five senses as you walk through the forest of these towering stalks of bamboo is something people from all around the world come to experience.
There are two temples on the grounds, Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine and Kinkaku-ji Temple to explore. To get to the shrine, you must pass through what is called a ‘torii tunnel or gate.’
This gate transports you from this realm to the spiritual realm and into one of the most photographed tourist attractions in the city. Take a walking tour or wander off on your own. Whichever way you choose it will be an adventure you will never forget.
- Tenryu-ji Temple
Registered as a world-historic site, Tenryu-ji Temple is one of the most important Zen temples in the district. Tenryu-ji Temple was built in 1339 by the shogun Ashijaga Takauji.
Although the original buildings have been rebuilt due to fires and the ravages of war, they still date back to the Meiji Period (1868 – 1912).
The gardens are the original design and you will be inspired by their beauty as you tour this most important piece of Japan’s history.
- Bath and Spa at Tenzan-no-yu Onsen
Take a day and relax at Tensan-no-yu Onsen. One of the few Onsens that actually have a natural hot spring bath. After a refreshing bath in the natural spring, step into the spacious sauna.
If you are there at the right time Japanese comedians will come in and entertain you. They will sprinkle scented water on the rocks and fan the scent onto you.
What a unique and relaxing experience after days of vigorous sightseeing.
Best places to stay in Arashiyama
Cheapest Backpacking Hostels in Arashiyama:
Budget Hotels in Arashiyama:
Mid range Hotels in Arashiyama:
Family Friendly Hotels in Arashiyama:
Affordable Luxury Hotels in Arashiyama: