Where to stay in Kyoto (For Tourists And First Time Visitors)

Are you wondering where to stay in Kyoto? Check out our district comparison and key pro and cons to help you find the best place for your needs. I remember when I visited Kyoto the very first time, I wanted to stay right in the heart of the city but later realised my location was not ideal given the nature of outdoor activities which interest me. In this guide, I'm going to tell you which areas are best and why. Whether you like to party, want to spot Geishas or fancy several hiking trails, at the end of this article you will find where to stay in Kyoto. 

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Where to stay in Kyoto for first-time travellers?

Kyoto is divided into several districts and each of them is appealing 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. To taste what 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. Here is a list of the different type of accommodation you can get in Japan:

Ryokans

Ryokans are found throughout the city, especially in the vicinity of an onsen. Ryokans are not just places to sleep, but an opportunity to experience a traditional Japanese lifestyle. Many Japanese people go to ryokans to escape the 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. 

Japanese ryokan room

Hotels

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 wifi included in the price. Beds are usually comfortable even though they are quite small. The bathrooms are always clean and they come with the great Japanese toilets which the whole world loves so much. Japan has the best customer service in the world and hotels are no different. Rooms can be smoking or non-smoking in Japanese hotels. You can select your preference before check-in. I strongly advise emailing the hotel as well, just to make sure your preference is registered. 

Business Hotels

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 sizes before you book your accommodation.

Guesthouses

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 who actually offer weekly contracts. 

B&Bs

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. 

Exterior Samurai House Nikko

Vacation Rentals

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

A machiya is a traditional wooden townhouse found throughout Japan and they are especially typical in Kyoto. Machiya 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 because Machiya are difficult and expensive to maintain, are subject to greater risk of damage or destruction from fire or earthquakes. There are groups, however, which are taking action to protect and restore Machiya in Kyoto.

Fushimi Shrine Kyoto

Where to stay in Kyoto: Downtown

Downtown Kyoto is the place to be for first-time visitors. This is where you will find the most amount of 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 can visit the Nishiki Market which is amazing for foodie travellers looking to have a fresh bite. There are other food markets around such as Daimaru and Takashimaya. 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-gawa River, on the west by Karasuma-dori, on the north by Oike-dori, and on the south by Shijo-dori. 

Pros for Downtown Kyoto

Downtown Kyoto is great if you wish to position yourself right in the middle of the city. It's fantastic because of proximity to various hotels and restaurants as well as several subway stations. 

Cons for Downtown Kyoto

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. 

Where to stay in Downtown Kyoto

hotel downtown Kyoto
Hotel Granvia Kyoto

Budget: Kyoto Guest House Hannari

Budget: Kyoto Guest House Hannari Kyoto Guest House Hannari is located just 5 minutes from the Nijo Castle. It is located right in the centre of Kyoto the property comes with free wifi in all rooms. Basic breakfast is included in the price. Wake up and indulge in free toast and coffee every morning. Kyoto Guest House Hannari offers an inviting common area where guests can chat and share information. Books and comics in English and Japanese are provided. Private lockers, a TV with a Nintendo Wii and a free-use kitchen are available.

Compare prices and read reviews, check: Booking.com

Mid-range: Urbain Kyoto Kawaramachi

Urbain Kyoto Kawaramachi is a fantastic mid-range hotel right in the centre of Kyoto. The property is just 7-minute walk from Shichijo Station and has a 24-hour reception. Breakfast is included and prices start at £50 per night. The rooms might not be incredibly spacious, but given the location, the value and all amenities, including having a private bathroom and enjoying free breakfast, this property is a great match for most travellers.

Compare prices and read reviews, check: Booking.com

Hotel Granvia Kyoto

Hotel Granvia Kyoto is a luxury hotel located in the downtown of the city. It features a swimming pool, a fitness centre and 9 dining options. Rooms lave large windows so you can enjoy views of the city. Granvia Hotel features a bar and provides in-room dining until midnight. Guests at the Kyoto Granvia can relax in the steam room or the hot tub. The hotel features over 1000 art works. It is close to Kyoto Station’s shopping mall and museum.

Compare prices and read reviews, check: Booking.com

Where to stay in Kyoto: Station Area

There are lots of 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 and train hubs are both right in the station and more often than not, you will find yourself having to take the subway to get to the Kyoto Station anyway, before carrying on to another district. At least this is what happened to us. So the Kyoto station is not really epic for sightseeing, but it's a great location if you wish to visit various areas around Kyoto. 

There are several things to do around. You have the Kyoto Station building, of course, the Higashi-Hongan-ji, Nishi-Hongan-ji and To-ji Temples. There is also the Kyoto Tower nearby, which offers fantastic views of the city. Who doesn't like seeing Japan from above? If you like history, you can check out the Kyoto Railway Museum, which is one of the best in the world. If you are a family with kids, this is a must! 

Pros for Kyoto Station Area

The proximity to so many shops and restaurants available right in the train station is great. You can get bargains for dinner and you have plenty of epic food to enjoy, available in restaurants located right in the station. You can get on a train or subway and visit the district which interests you. 

Cons for Kyoto Station Area

The area is not very pretty. It's a bit built up with concrete and nothing traditional Japanese. If you wish to enjoy a more traditional atmosphere in Kyoto, then perhaps this is not the best place for it. Practical, yes, pretty, no. 

Where to Stay in Kyoto Station Area

Hotel Kyoto Station
Kyoto Century Hotel

Budget: HARUYA Hostels Terrace

Located an 8-minute bus ride from JR Kyoto Station, Hostel Haruya Terrace is a 100-year-old Japanese traditional townhouse with free WiFi access. There are a library lounge and a shared kitchen at the property. Rooms start from as little as £13 per night

Compare prices and read reviews, check: Booking.com

Mid-range: Hotel Glad One Kyoto Shichijo

Hotel Glad One Kyoto Shichijo is a great mid-range option for any traveller interested in being close to the Kyoto Station. At the hotel, every room is fitted with a desk, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom. All guest rooms will provide guests with a fridge. Prices start at £60 per night. 

Compare prices and read reviews, check: Booking.com

Luxury: Kyoto Century Hotel

Kyoto Century Hotel is located right across from the Kyoto Station. The hotel features 5 different dining options and massage treatments. All rooms at Century Kyoto feature a TV with satellite channels, refrigerator and electric kettle. The private bathrooms have a bathtub, shower and hairdryer. Free toiletries including toothbrushes, shampoo, conditioner and body soap are provided.

Compare prices and read reviews, check: Booking.com

Where to stay in Kyoto: Southern Higashiyama

Southern Higashiyama has to be the most important sightseeing district in Kyoto. It literally has it all, from impressive temples to preserved narrow alleyways. It is also the city'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. I especially love it because of its atmospheric streets which look absolutely fantastic during night time. Really great if you like photography. The Southern Higashiyama runs from Shichijo-dori in the south to Sanjo-dori in the north. The mountains form its eastern boundary and the Kamo-gawa forms its western boundary. It is here that you will find Gion, the famed Geisha quarters. 

A large majority of things to do in Kyoto can be found here, in Southern Higashiyama. 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 lanes. Don't forget to check out the Kyoto National Museum. Why not try a tea ceremony here, to learn more about the Japanese way of life

Pros for Kyoto Southern Higashiyama

It's obvious that for first-time tourists and travellers the Southern Higashiyama is the best place to stay in Kyoto. As it is in such great location, your accommodation will very likely be quite expensive. However, for a few days at least, I would try a hotel here so you can experience Kyoto in all its greatness. 

Cons for Kyoto Southern Higashiyama

If budget travelling is your thing, Southern Higashiyama might not be the best choice. Prices will be quite high and certain restaurants as authentic as they look might be more tailored towards tourists. This can only mean one thing: tourist traps. An option could be to position yourself right in between Southern Higashiyama, Central and Downtown Kyoto.

Where to stay in Southern Higashiyama

Hotel Kyoto Gion
Gion Hatanaka

Budget: Laon Inn Gion Nawate

Laon Inn Gion Nawate is an excellent choice for budget traveller. 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. Prices start at £46 per night.

Compare prices and read reviews, check: Booking.com

Mid-range: Kyoto Inn Gion The Second

Situated in Kyoto, a 12-minute walk from Samurai Kembu Kyoto, Kyoto Inn Gion The Second provides rooms with air conditioning and free WiFi. This 3-star hotel offers a 24-hour front desk. The property is located in the Higashiyama Ward district and Kiyomizu-dera Temple is 1 km away.

Compare prices and read reviews, check: Booking.com

Luxury: Gion Hatanaka

Just a short stroll from the picturesque Gion district, hotel Hatanaka features traditional Japanese accommodation and a spacious public bath overlooking a zen garden. Free Wi-Fi is available. This incredible luxury ryokan will serve you in-room meals and seasonal local dishes.

Compare prices and read reviews, check: Booking.com

Where to stay in Kyoto: Central Area

This is a huge area right in the middle of Kyoto. There are lots of good hotels around and you aren't too far away from downtown and subway lines. You will have to travel in order to see the main tourist attractions. There are several things to do around, including the beautiful Kyoto Imperial Palace. The botanical gardens are also nearby, alongside various shrines, gardens and ponds and the Nijo-jo Castle. 

Pros for Kyoto Central Area

This is literally the middle of the city and there are great hotels around. There are several nearby subway stations for your ease. 

Cons for Kyoto Central Area

The area is not as popular because there aren't many specific tourist attractions around. It has many office buildings around. Apart from the Imperial Palace and the Nijo-jo Castle, you do have to travel a little to get to important tourist attractions. 

Where to stay in Central Kyoto

Luxury Townhouse
Anenishi-an - Entire Townhouse

Budget: Nine Hours Kyoto

Nine Hours Kyoto is a capsule hotel. The custom-designed capsules at 9 Hours Kyoto Teramachi include a light-based alarm clock, specialised pillow and high-grade linens. Room wear and slippers are provided. Showers and toilets are shared, and the hotel offers its own Japan-made bathing amenities. Guests can stay in beds next to one another by reserving a two capsule room. Prices start at £13.

Compare prices and read reviews, check: Booking.com

Mid-range: JAPANING HOTEL Kyoto Hachijyoguchi

JAPANING HOTEL Kyoto Hachijyoguchi is a great option for travellers interested in budget whilst still enjoying a private bathroom and proximity to main tourist attractions in Kyoto. All air-conditioned units include a fully equipped kitchenette, allowing guests to prepare their own meals. A microwave and kettle are also offered.

Compare prices and read reviews, check: Booking.com

Luxury: Anenishi-an

Anenishi-an is not your ordinary 5 star hotel, but a whole townhouse which can accommodate 6 people. So if you are travelling in a group then this is an amazing option where you can live in a traditional Japanese house whilst enjoying all amenities. 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.

Compare prices and read reviews, check: Booking.com

Where to stay in Kyoto: Northern Higashiyama

Northern Higashiyama is a great place to stay especially if you like a greener area. You probably need to rent a bike to get around, especially for going shopping or eating in various restaurants. Worry not, there are always restaurants around. Don't expect to find many hotels in the areas but you will find some authentic ryokans and guesthouses. 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. 

Pros for Kyoto Northern Higashiyama

The obvious choice is because you like nature. This area is greener than the rest. It's also fantastic for peace and quiet. 

Cons for Kyoto Northern Higashiyama

You will need to travel a little to enjoy Kyoto's more authentic spirit. There are not many accommodations around, which makes the place less touristy but also less desirable. 

Where to stay in Northern Higashiyama

Luxury northern
Ryokan Inn Yoshida-sanso

Budget: Kyoto Quest Apartment 29 Kyoto Quest Apartment 29

This is a budget apartment which is also fitted with a kitchen. This means you can enjoy Kyoto on a budget whilst sometimes making your meals. Situated 400 m from Heian Shrine and 900 m from Samurai Kembu Kyoto, Kyoto Quest Apartment 29 offers accommodation in Kyoto. The apartment is 1.6 km from Imperial Palace.

Compare prices and read reviews, check: Booking.com

Mid-range: Heian No Mori Kyoto

A 10-minute walk from Heian Jingu Shrine, Heian No Mori Kyoto features a public bath and Japanese and buffet restaurants. All rooms come with private bathroom. The accommodation is located just a few minutes walk from the Philosopher's Walk. 

Compare prices and read reviews, check: Booking.com

Luxury: Ryokan Inn Yoshida-sanso

Ryokan Inn Yoshida-sanso was initially a royal residence which has not been transformed into a beautiful inn which features a tea salon and beautiful Kyoto cuisine. You can enjoy Japanese style rooms, free wifi and a dining room. Rooms overlook 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

Compare prices and read reviews, check: Booking.com

Where to stay in Kyoto: Arashiyama

Arashiyama is not the most popular place to stay in Kyoto because it's positioned on the outskirts. You can find some seriously fine accommodation around here, but if you want shopping, nightlife and many restaurants, this may not be the first choice. There are several things to do in Arashiyama, including indulging in some local street food, photographing the Arashiyama bamboo forest and exploring its nearby temples. In my opinion, Arashiyama is fantastic if you plan to visit Kyoto for its nature and mountains as opposed to city attractions. Perhaps not the best choice for first-time travellers, but definitely a zen place to be in. 

Pros for Kyoto 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. 

Cons for Kyoto Arashiyama

If you wonder where to stay in Kyoto because it's your first visit to the city, then Arashiyama is a little far from all great tourist attractions. You will have to commute every morning and evening back to your hotel, which can easily become a bit tedious and pricey too. 

Where to stay in Arashiyama

Hotel Arashiyama
Suiran, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Kyoto

Mid-range: GuestHouse SagaArashiyama

This is a new hotel located right in the heart of Arashiyama. IT is a holiday home just about 500 m away from the Bamboo Street. You can get free bikes and can enjoy free wifi in the property. Prices start at £141 per night. 

Compare prices and read reviews, check: Booking.com

Luxury: Suiran, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Kyoto

Suiran is luxurious hotel located next to Katsura River. It has a beautiful Japanese Garden and each room has a beautiful bathroom with bath and free toiletries. Guests can relax at the spa, purchase souvenirs at the gift shop, or soak in the private open-air bath with an advance reservation. Room service, 24-hour front desk and a concierge service are also available on site.

Compare prices and read reviews, check: Booking.com

Where to stay in Kyoto: Kurama and Kibune

Want to visit Kyoto as part of your honeymoon? Or maybe you really like secluded spots? Kurama and Kibune are a pair of tranquil rural villages located 30 minutes train ride away from the North of Kyoto on the Eizan Line. They are surrounded by forested mountains and you can find the Kurama-dera Mountain Temple, the Yuki-jinja Shrine and the Kurama Onsen here. Kibune is also home to the Kibune-jina shrine. 

Pros for Kyoto Kurama Kibune

The silence, beautiful forested mountains and the luxurious ryokans make a perfect romantic getaway for those who want to enjoy a wonderful night or two. 

Cons for Kyoto Kurama Kibune

The area doesn't have much accommodation options. Being far from Kyoto centre, you can miss out on the nightlife in the city, as well as shopping and eating opportunities. This is a place for short-term relaxation and not an alternative to Kyoto for tourists or first-time travellers.

Where to stay in Kyoto: Fushimi Area

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 commute to other parts of the city which can be quite 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 visit. 

Pros for Kyoto 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 fewer tourists around. 

Cons for Kyoto Fushimi Area

It is too far away from Downtown Kyoto which means you need to commute to visit any tourist attractions or enjoy the traditional Kyoto atmosphere. 

Where to stay in Fushimi Inari?

Hotel Fushimi
Sakura Terrace

Budget: Maison Fushimi

Enjoy a Japanese style room on a budget. This property has several rooms with shared bathroom. Maison Fushimi provides a laundry service, as well as business facilities like fax and photocopying. All units in the guest house are fitted with a coffee machine. Some rooms include a kitchenette with a microwave and a toaster. The units will provide guests with a fridge. Some rooms come with private bathroom for an extra fee. Prices start at £26 per night.

Compare prices and read reviews, check: Booking.com

Mid-range: Hotel Anteroom Kyoto

Minimalist design and art works are featured at Hotel Anteroom Kyoto's rooms, restaurant and art gallery. It offers free Wi-Fi, as well as free-use internet PCs and bicycles. Kujo Station on the Karasuma Line is an 8-minute walk away, and JR Kyoto Station is only 1 station away.

Compare prices and read reviews, check: Booking.com

Mid-range: Sakura Terrace

Guests at Sakura Terrace will enjoy a complimentary welcome drink at the bar counter. The rooms have neutral colours and come with TV and fridge. All toiletries will be provided. Kyoto Tower is a 10-minute walk from the hotel, while Toji Temple is a 15-minute walk. The property is a 1-minute walk to the bus stop for Kiyomizu-dera Temple/Gion area, and a 3-minute walk to the bus stop for Kinkaku-ji Temple. 

Compare prices and read reviews, check: Booking.com

When 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. 

Planning an extensive trip? Read how to enjoy 2 weeks in Japan! Don't forget to also check where to stay in Tokyo or where to stay in Osaka

Kyoto Gion Shrine Temple Night

 

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. 

8 Comments

There are already 8 Comments on this post. Click here to tell us your thoughts or questions.

What a wonderful detailed post! Just sent to a friend who is visiting in January! Love your photos!

Thanks for this great guide. It's really helpful, whether planning a stay for the first time or re-visiting. I've been to Kyoto quite a few times and know it can be a bit confusing to get to grips with the various districts and best places to stay in the city.

Super helpful ! Especially because I think organizing a trip to Japan can be so overwhelming! I went to Tokyo a few years ago and I would love to explore further. tbh !
Thanks for sharing :-)

Thank you so much - this is a lifesaver! We are traveling to Kyoto in October and had no clue where to start looking. Checking out these accommodations and hope to stay in one of them :)

Japan has always been on my bucket list ! First, I would love to go to Japan for the Cherry blossoms & to see Kyoto but there are incredible amount of sights to see. It's good to know that the accommodation in Kyoto gets booked pretty quickly and even months in advance. This means that you really need to plan ahead ;-).

Great post! I am trying to plan our future trip to Japan and would love to spend some time in Kyoto! :)

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Wow. This is such a great an comprehensive guide. I'd love to go to Japan, and really immerse myself in the culture.

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