Are you wondering where to stay in Kyoto? We have visited Japan and Kyoto many times over the years and wanted to share our experience with you and help you find the best place to stay in Kyoto.
For first time visitors, we strongly recommend staying in the Downtown area. You are right in the heart of the city, with easy public transport to most places you want to visit.
In this article, we will explain which areas are best to stay in and why, whether you like to party, want to see Geishas or fancy several hiking trails.
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Where To Stay In Kyoto? - Summary
Best Kyoto Neighbourhoods:
Best area for first time visitors: Downtown area
Best area for couples: Northern Higashiyama
Best area for nightlife: Central Kyoto
Best area for families: Kyoto Station
Best area for shopping: Downtown Kyoto
Best area for history: Gion, Fushimi Area
Best area for budget: Kyoto Station
|❤️ Best Area for first-timers:||Downtown area|
|💎 Best luxury 5* hotel:||Hotel Seiryu Kyoto Kiyomizu|
|🏨 Best mid-range hotel:||Good Nature Hotel|
|🛏️ Best budget hotel:||Hotel Rakurakuan|
Where to stay in Kyoto for first-time visitors?
Kyoto is divided into several districts, and each of them appeals to a different type of traveller. Japan's old capital city is a popular tourist destination, which means it has accommodation ranging from budget hostels, through traditional ryokans, to luxurious hotels.
The best place to stay in Kyoto is the Downtown area, along Karasuma-dori street. Karasuma-dori street stretches from the Kyoto Station to all the way to the Kyoto Imperial Palace. There are plenty of hotels here to pick from.
Stay close to the Tozai Subway Line (Red) and the Karasuma Subway Line (Green) for easy access to most temples, shrines and other attractions.
Hotel prices are a bit higher in the area, but there are still plenty of budget options. Prices range from around $200 to $600 for 4 nights.
Unless you like to be out partying until late, it's best to avoid the party areas along Kamo river.
Stay in Downtown Kyoto for the best shopping streets
Downtown Kyoto is the place to be for first-time visitors. This is where you will find the most of the shops, restaurants, and bars. Downtown Kyoto is a relatively small area, which means it can be explored on foot.
There are several things to do, but it’s not the main sightseeing destination. You will be close to the Nishiki Market, which is amazing for foodie travellers looking to have a fresh bite.
Pontocho Alley is incredibly atmospheric and a great place for evening photography. You have easy access to the nearby Teremachi and Shinkyogohu shopping arcades.
Downtown Kyoto is a roughly square area bounded on the east by the Kamo River, on the west by Karasuma-dori, on the north by Oike-dori, and on the south by Shijo-dori.
Where to Stay in Downtown Kyoto
Downtown Kyoto is great if you wish to position yourself right in the middle of the city. It's fantastic because of the proximity to various hotels, restaurants, and subway stations.
Because of its key location, Downtown Kyoto can be a little expensive. It is not as close to various attractions, interesting places and districts; hence it doesn't feel as authentic.
Our top hotel picks in Downtown Kyoto are:
- Luxury: Hotel Resol Kyoto Kawaramachi Sanjo
- Mid-range: Matsui Honkan
- Budget: The Pocket Hotel Kyoto Shijo Karasuma
Stay around Kyoto Station for food & day trips
There are many restaurants and shops around the Kyoto station area. In fact, there is a food shop in the basement of the station, which has amazing discounts for food just before closing time. A great place to grab a bargain.
The subway, train, and bus stations are all in the main station, so it's convenient to take public transport to tourist attractions or if you want to get out of the city for a day trip.
The Kyoto Station building by itself is a great place to visit, but other important sites like Higashi-Hongan-ji, Nishi-Hongan-ji and To-ji Temple are just walking distance.
There is also the Kyoto Tower across the street, offering fantastic views of the city.
Where to Stay around Kyoto Station
Most of the hotels are south of the station, along Hachijo-dori and Karasuma-dori street. Budget friendlier options can sometimes be found around Kujo Subway station.
Hotel prices vary between $300 to $1000 and more for 4 nights. Generally, this area books up really fast and well in advance. At the time of writing this article, 80% of all hotels have already been booked 4-5 months in advance.
Our top hotel picks in Kyoto Station Area are:
Stay in Gion for Traditional Japan
Southern Higashiyama has to be the most important sightseeing district in Kyoto. It literally has it all, from impressive temples to preserved narrow alleyways.
Gion is Kyoto's main geisha district. In all honesty, this is probably the best place to be based in Kyoto if you wish to experience everything the city has to offer.
We especially loved it because of its atmospheric streets, which look absolutely fantastic during nighttime. Really great for photography.
If you stay in Gion, you will be walking distance from the majority of things to do in Kyoto. Apart from Gion, you can also visit several dazzling temples, including Kiyomizu-dera Temple.
For the evening, grab your camera and photograph those beautifully preserved streets and houses. Don't forget to check out the Kyoto National Museum. Try a tea ceremony here, to learn more about the Japanese way of life.
Where to Stay in Gion
It's obvious that for tourists and travellers, Gion is the best place to stay in Kyoto. However, Gion is very expensive and gets busy with tourists all year around.
Hotel prices usually start from $1000 for 4 nights. There are many apartments and traditional ryokan style accommodation options in Gion and the Kiyoicho area.
Your closest train station is Gion-Shijio. There are no subway stations in this area. Sanjo-Keihan Station on the Tozai Line (Red) is about 10-15 mins walk away.
Our top hotel picks in Gion are:
Stay in Northern Higashiyama for Japanese Style Ryokans
Northern Higashiyama is a great place to stay, if you like a calm, quiet, green area. It's a good idea to rent a bike to get around, especially for going shopping or eating in various restaurants. Worry not, there are always restaurants and good food close by.
This area is home to a multitude of temples, so it's a fantastic place to spend a day visiting those beautiful Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples with perfectly trimmed gardens.
Where to Stay in Northern Higashiyama
In Northern Higashiyama, there are mostly ryokans and guest houses, although, some new hotels have been built along Sanjo-dori street in recent years.
Prices range from $300 to $1000 for 4 nights. Some of the ryokans mentioned below are really good value for the price. We recommend that you stay one or two nights in a traditional ryokan when visiting Kyoto.
The Sajno-Keihan and Higashiyama Subway stations (Tozai Line) are within walking distance and provide good connection to other parts of Kyoto.
Our top hotel picks in Northern Higashiyama are:
- Luxury: Kiraku Ryokan
- Mid-range (Temple stay): Machiya Temple Stay
- Budget: Sanjo Iho-an (whole house)
Stay in Central Kyoto for Best Hotels
Central Kyoto is just a short walk away from Downtown Tokyo, separated by Tatsuikecho street. There are plenty of restaurants, izakayas and bars in this neighbourhood.
Further away from Kyoto's main attractions, Central Kyoto still has a lot to offer. Nijō Castle, Kyoto Gyoen National Garden and the Kyoto Sentō Imperial Palace are all within easy reach on foot or by bike.
While this area is more modern and built up, you can still spot the occasional traditional style Japanese house.
Where to Stay in Central Kyoto
Central Kyoto is a great area to stay because there are so many hotels, hostels, and apartments to pick from.
Prices range from $300 to $1100 for a 4-night stay. Hotel rooms are slightly larger than in other parts of the city. Budget options are more difficult to find however.
You are close to the Marutamachi Station on the Karasuma Line (Green) and the Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae Station on the Tozai Line (Red). These two lines can take you to the best parts of Kyoto.
Our top hotel picks in Central Kyoto are:
Stay in Arashiyama for the bamboo forest
In my opinion, Arashiyama is a fantastic place if you plan to visit Kyoto for its nature and mountains. Perhaps not the best choice for first-time travellers as it's very far from the city centre and the famous tourist attractions.
Arashiyama is a very popular destination and tourist usually take a day trip to see the bamboo forest. It is very busy from morning until late all year around.
Where to Stay in Arashiyama
Arashiyama looks fantastic. There are so many walking opportunities and the nearby mountains are perfect for hiking lovers. I can't wait to return and enjoy a relaxing night in a superb ryokan.
If you wonder where to stay in Kyoto because it's your first visit to the city, then Arashiyama might not be the best choice. It's far from the main attractions and the subway takes about 2 hours to get to the centre. Arashiyama Station and the Randen tram line is typically very busy as well.
There are not many hotels in this area. On the other side of Katsura River, there are a few new hotels opened recently. Prices vary depending on the style and location of the accommodation. Arashiyama is definitely not a budget friendly area.
Our top hotel picks in Arashiyama are:
Stay in the Fushimi Area for the Fushimi Inari Taisha
The Southern part of Kyoto is not the most popular. There aren't many things to do, apart from visiting the Fushimi Inari Shrine.
You will have to take the overground train (Keihan Main Line) to other parts of the city, which can be expensive and rather tedious to do for several days.
There is quiet nightlife and the streets are more residential. However, it could be a great place for a night or two if Fushimi Inari is the main attraction on your list.
Where to Stay in the Fushimi Area
Stay in the Fushimi Inari area if you plan an early morning or late night visit to the Fushimi Inari Shrine. These are perfect times to take pictures because there are very fewer tourists around.
There are limited number of hotels and guest houses are available. Prices vary between $150 to $1100 for 4 nights. Most of the accommodations are along the Shidan Kaido street.
The main overground train station is Fushimi-Inari Station. There is also a JR line, which you can access via the Inari Station. There are no subway lines in the Fushimi area.
Our top hotel picks in Fushimi Area are:
- Japanese Style Town House ($$$): Rinn Fushimiinari
- Japanese Style House ($$$): Inari Ohan
- Mid-range: SO Kyoto Fushimi Inari ($$)
To taste what it is like to be in Kyoto, I strongly recommend trying a ryokan with an onsen. A ryokan is a traditional Japanese Inn some dating back for hundreds of years. An onsen is a Japanese hot spring, where you can relax after a long day of sightseeing.
Types of Accommodation in Kyoto
Ryokans in Kyoto
Ryokans are found throughout the city, especially in the vicinity of an onsen. Many Japanese people go to ryokans to escape daily stress. There is a great element of hospitality when you decide to stay in a ryokan.
You can sleep in a traditional room with tatami floors and futon beds, Japanese style baths and local cuisine. We recommend staying in a ryokan which offers breakfast and dinner.
Dinner is usually huge, incorporates several types of food, and it's guaranteed to be delicious. Ryokans tend to be expensive and most tourists stay for one or two nights just to experience this exquisite Japanese accommodation.
Because of their emphasis on traditional style and atmosphere, ryokan may seem a little rigid. On the contrary, ryokans are incredibly relaxing and rather addictive.
We have shared our experience in the oldest Ryokan in the world. We stayed here in 2022.
Hotels in Kyoto
When searching for a place to stay in Kyoto, most people tend to settle for hotels. Hotels in Japan are clean but small. Breakfast can be included depending on the type of hotel you are after. Most rooms come with air conditioning, a TV and free Wi-Fi included in the price.
Beds are usually comfortable even though they are quite small. The bathrooms are always clean, and they come with Japanese toilets, which the whole world loves so much.
Japan has the best customer service in the world, and hotels are no different. Most rooms are now non-smoking, since Japan joined the rest of the world in banning smoking in public spaces.
Business Hotels in Kyoto
Business hotels can be capsule hotels or just normal hotels with smaller rooms than usual. These hotels have very basic rooms. They cost less, but space can be a bit challenging.
Business hotels are usually quiet, well looked after and have the same amenities as any other hotel. If you travel solo, business hotels are great.
As a couple or family, space can be limited, and you can find yourself in a situation where you can't open your suitcase as there is not enough space on the floor.
We recommend checking the room and bed sizes before you book your accommodation.
Japanese Guesthouses in Kyoto
Guesthouses in Japan are also called "gaijin houses" or "foreigner house". This is an inexpensive type of accommodation for those who need to stay in Japan for longer periods and want to avoid the hassle of renting and furnishing a normal house. There are several guesthouses that offer weekly contracts.
Japanese B&Bs in Kyoto
Bed and breakfasts are usually family-run accommodations which offer traditional rooms and include breakfast, dinner or both. B&Bs in Japan are a bit cheaper than ryokans, but they also have fewer facilities. Often, these might have shared bathrooms.
Vacation Rentals in Kyoto
Vacation Rentals are similar to Airbnb in a sense. You can get an apartment and have access to various facilities such as a kitchen, which can come in handy when you visit an expensive place like Japan.
There are also vacation rentals which can offer you the chance to stay with a host so you can further experience Japan with the aid of a local.
Machiya Rentals in Kyoto
A machiya is a traditional wooden townhouse found throughout Japan. These are especially typical in Kyoto.
However, machiyas are quickly disappearing. Many argue that their destruction has a serious adverse effect on the historical, and traditional atmosphere of Kyoto.
The reason for their disappearance is that Machiyas are difficult and expensive to maintain, are subject to a greater risk of damage or destruction from fire or earthquakes. There are groups, however, which are taking action to protect and restore Machiyas in Kyoto.
We recommend staying one or two nights in one of these houses. It's worth the experience and they look lovely.
When is the best time to visit Kyoto?
Finding where to stay in Kyoto might be difficult if you decide to visit during peak time. Accommodation in Kyoto gets booked pretty quickly and sometimes even months in advance. I do recommend getting something as soon as possible. The cherry blossom festival in Spring and the Koyo festival in the Autumn are extremely popular.
The best time to visit Japan is towards the end of Autumn and the beginning of December. That's usually when you will find cheaper accommodation and the tourist attractions will be less crowded.
I hope you found this article about where to stay in Kyoto useful, and you are ready to enjoy Japan.
If you have any questions or wish to add something to the guide, please leave a comment in the comments section below.
- The perfect Kyoto itinerary
- Top things to do in Kyoto
- Day trips from Kyoto you won't want to miss
- How to enjoy the Fushimi Inari Shrine
- Visit the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
Frequently Asked Questions
What part of Kyoto is best to stay?
Kyoto is a city known for its rich history, stunning temples, and traditional Japanese culture. When it comes to choosing the best area to stay in Kyoto, it depends on your preferences and the experiences you're seeking. Here are a few popular neighbourhoods in Kyoto we love and recommend, especially for first-time visitors:
- Downtown Kyoto (Shijo-Kawaramachi): This area offers a vibrant city atmosphere with a mix of modern and traditional elements. It's close to most attractions, it's known for its shopping streets, department stores, and a wide range of dining options. It also provides convenient access to attractions like Nijo Castle and the Kamogawa River.
- Kyoto Station Area: This area is convenient for transportation as it is near the city's main transportation hub, Kyoto Station. It provides easy access to various attractions in the city and serves as a great base for day trips to nearby areas.
- Higashiyama District: Higashiyama is well-known for its preserved historic streets and traditional atmosphere. It's home to iconic attractions like Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Gion District, and Yasaka Shrine. Staying in Higashiyama allows you to immerse yourself in Kyoto's traditional culture.
- Arashiyama: Located on the outskirts of Kyoto, Arashiyama is known for its scenic beauty and the iconic bamboo grove. It offers a more tranquil setting, with attractions like the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Tenryu-ji Temple, and the famous Togetsukyo Bridge.
- Gion District: Gion is Kyoto's traditional entertainment district and is renowned for its geisha culture. Staying in Gion provides an opportunity to experience the old-world charm, witness geisha performances, and explore the charming streets lined with teahouses and traditional shops.
Whichever area you pick, please remember that hotels book up very fast in Kyoto. Book your accommodation as early as you can, at least 3-4 months in advance.
Is Kyoto a walkable city?
Yes, it is very walkable. In fact, we recommend that you walk (or cycle) as much as possible to enjoy the traditional Japanese streets, temples, and gardens.
It's important to note that Kyoto is a relatively large city, and some attractions are spread out on the outskirts of the city. While the central area is more walkable, you may need to use public transportation to reach some of the more "out of the way" attractions.
That said, Kyoto has an excellent public transportation system, including buses, subways and trains, which can be used to complement your walking adventures. These transportation options can help you reach destinations that are farther away or outside the central area of Kyoto.
Is 2 days enough in Kyoto?
While two days in Kyoto can give you a taste of the city's highlights, it is often considered a relatively short amount of time to fully explore and appreciate everything Kyoto has to offer.
Kyoto is a city rich in history, culture, and numerous attractions, so ideally, a longer stay would allow you to delve deeper into its treasures.
However, if you have only two days, you can still make the most of your time and experience some of Kyoto's key sights. Prioritize the places that interest you the most and plan your itinerary accordingly.
Is 3 days enough in Kyoto?
For most tourist, 3 days is enough to see most of the important sights and attractions. Three days in Kyoto can provide you with a good introduction to the city and allow you to visit some of its major attractions.
While Kyoto is a city rich in cultural and historical sites, it is also geographically compact and well-connected, making it possible to cover a lot in a short period.