Age-old Kyoto is Japan’s spiritual heart and brims with a rich culture, whether it is geisha culture, zen gardens, traditional teahouses, or ancient shrines and temples. The city’s Japanese culture is a dizzying old-and-modern blend of onsens, tea ceremonies, matcha (powdered green tea), and manga! To experience the city at its best, it’s important to choose an equally great place to stay. The best hotels in Kyoto are the ones that are charming and traditional in equal parts. What’s more, hotels in Kyoto, Japan include everything from luxury hotels and cozy guesthouses to traditional Ryokan (Japanese inns). Ryokans are famous for tatami (woven-straw mat) floors and traditional local meals and are a unique way of experiencing Japanese culture.
Is there a specific neighborhood to stay while visiting the city? Well, that would completely depend on what your top priority is, like budget, experience, amenities, and so on. Kyoto’s many districts have their own well-defined personas. Downtown, while having lost its old-world charm a bit, is primed for nightlife, shopping, dining, and entertainment. Gion, the city’s Geisha district, and Southern Higashiyama are home to Zen gardens, parks, shrines, and temples. Central Kyoto is a good blend of both old and new, while Northern Higashiyama is the quieter version of its Southern counterpart. Finally, the gorgeous Arashiyama is particularly known for its woodsy outdoors, cherry blossom trees, and the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Forest.
So, what’s the best way to dive into the city’s rich culture? Choose one of these 11 best hotels in Kyoto, Japan and make your stay memorable to boot.
There is no better jumping-off point for exploring all that Kyoto has to offer than the Hotel Granvia in the heart of Downtown. Apart from being directly connected to the JR Kyoto Station, the hotel also lies right next to the massive Porta underground shopping mall that sits right beneath the train station.
The bustling hotel lobby is beautifully done up with glass features and dark mood lighting. One of the huge hotel’s biggest and most popular amenities are the gym and the large outdoor swimming pool. However, it’s the foodies who will absolutely love the place, as they have 14 in-house restaurants to choose from. Don’t miss the buffet spread at Le Temps, where you can dig into everything from American bacon to Japanese dumplings before your day begins.
With more than 500 rooms, the Granvia is one of Kyoto’s largest hotels. Rooms feature neutral hues accentuated by pops of purple and complemented by stylish wood accents. What’s more, the rooms and ensuite bathrooms are very spacious, especially by Japanese standards. Moreover, all rooms are modern and elegant and have comfy ‘Relaxy Angel’ beds, blackout curtains, and Hahonico products.
The Hoshinoya is the ultimate in Japanese hospitality and one of the very best hotels to stay at in Kyoto. It is a luxurious, modern take on a traditional ryokan and is nestled in a 100-year-old riverside villa in Arashiyama on the very fringes of Kyoto.
Did you know that the romantic and tranquil Hoshinoya can only be accessed by a private boat? A serene 15-minute journey along the Katsura River through the lush forests of Kyoto brings guests to this exquisite hotel-ryokan. The renovated structures boast handcrafted paper walls embossed with motifs of a 130-year-old woodblock, latticed lanterns, and scented tatami-mat floors. Winding stone paths are ensconced by blooms of the seasonal Momiji maples and cherry blossoms. Likewise, service here has been given equal thought, right from morning stretching classes to the hot beverages in the library/floating tearoom. What’s more, the hotel even offers in-room massages by Shiatsu therapists and a distinctive Zen-inspired purification program by a Japanese herbalist and acupuncture expert. Last but not the least, dinner is a kaiseki-style affair brimming with Japanese delights.
If you think that will take your breath away, wait till you come to the 25 secluded rooms, each of which boasts views of the Katsura river. The decor is as indulgent as it is swoon-worthy, including fluffy, white duvets, minimalist wood, and curved bamboo seats. Bathrooms are equally luxurious, and the in-room entertainment is a refreshing departure from the usual in the form of a calligraphy set.
Literally meaning ‘experience Kyoto,’ Hotel Kanra Kyoto lies right in the heart of Downtown, a hop, skip and jump from the famed Higashihongan-Ji Temple. What’s more, both Kyoto and Gojo Stations, from where you can travel anywhere in Kyoto by train/bus, are less than five minutes away.
Housed in a renovated schoolhouse, Hotel Kanra boasts an open-plan, chic, and stylish lobby and hallways filled with plat art and one-of-a-kind zen rocks. Give yourself a treat at any of the four rooms in the spa. Foodies will dig the food outlets at the hotel which include the café/bar, as well as an Italian and teppanyaki restaurant. Moreover, the hotel even has a space selling gorgeous handcrafted Japanese items as well as a kintsugi studio where traditional pottery is repaired with silver/gold-dusted lacquer.
Guests at the Kanra can choose from 68 rooms done up in Machiya, which is Kyoto’s traditional architectural style. Each room varies in style and design depending on which building you’re in. Every room features a granite step, a lovely paper lantern, and even a see-through wooden paneled relief wall. Rooms have sleek bathrooms, tatami-mat workspaces, and lots of elegant wood furniture. A hint of culture in the form of traditional Kyo-yaki-Kiyomizuyaki cups and ‘Tamatebako’ boxes with local sweets and crafts lend the room heart.
Nothing says Japan more than staying in a ryokan, and Seikoro is easily one of the best ryokan hotels in Kyoto. Dating back to 1831, this 22-room establishment is easily the oldest ryokan in Kyoto.
The entire hotel radiates a traditional Japanese aesthetic in the form of a verdant garden, woven elements, and bamboo furnishings. The ryokan experience begins right at the doorstep where shoes are exchanged for slippers and guests are offered ‘yukata,’ which are traditional Japanese robes. A 175-year-old history is evident in the sepia-toned family wall photographs, traditional Japanese paintings, and a treasure trove of antiques. What’s more, there’s also a quaint tearoom and communal baths on-site.
The spartan but spacious and modern rooms feature tatami-mat floors and floor cushions along with contemporary additions like free Wi-Fi, and flatscreen TVs. Furthermore, there’s no one better than the staff at Seikoro to take you through the truly authentic ryokan-living experience. They explain the room and its amenities, even detailing the proper way to wear the yukata. What’s more, they always serve guests a little something later, which usually is green tea and a local pancake delicacy.
If you’re looking for a luxurious but intime Kyoto hotel, the Suiran is your answer. The former 19th-century private villa-turned-property lies on the banks of the lovely Katsuma River in Arashiyama.
The hotel comprises two Meiji Era-inspired villas and a low-rise structure that sit amidst lovely tinkling waterfalls, tufts of Japanese pines, and crunch-filled pebble paths. houses a gourmet restaurant and an onsen, and wide windows open onto traditional Japanese gardens and the picturesque Katsuma River. Suiran might be a luxury hotel, but its pleasures and amenities are much simpler. They’re more along the lines of the Japanese idea of ‘shibui,’ which refers to simple, unobstructed beauty. So, experience lying on a two-century-old stone plinth for gazing at the moon, unwind in the verdant gardens or saunter along the riverbanks while listening to the water gushing by. Epicureans can take comfort in the delish a la carte breakfast and swanky Japanese meals in the formal restaurant. The waterside cafe, on the other hand, is perfect for a sundowner.
Rooms at Suiran combine contemporary comforts with traditional Japanese aesthetics like black lacquer furnishings, tatami-mat floors, and even wooden onsens. Ground-floor rooms are truly private and have gardens, while the terraced first-floor ones are an excellent choice during spring and fall.
if you want to stay in a ryokan on a budget in Kyoto, then Gion Hatanaka is your best bet. Located in the geisha district of Kyoto, this elegantly appointed ryokan lies very close to most of Kyoto’s top sights and attractions.
The traditional tatami-mat rooms are cozy yet spacious, much like a single-family home. All rooms feature a small area with low seating. Also, all rooms have glassed-in patios that overlook the towering green bamboo gardens. What’s more, guests can also choose room packages coupled with many dining and recreation options. One such very popular one is dinner and entertainment by maiko-san, who’s an apprentice geisha. Dining is an altogether different experience at Gion Hatanaka. The staff sets up the dining tables and every individual course is explained to the guests as they’re taken through them. Furthermore, the ryokan even has a turndown service where the staff comes in to set up the futons or mats to sleep.
The ultra-cool Millennials located in the bustling entertainment district of Pontocho is easily one of the coolest accommodations for young travelers in Kyoto. This capsule hotel, where one sleeps in small ‘pods’ or ‘capsules’ for the night, is gorgeous designed, affordable, and, well, stylish to boot.
Millennials functions much like a high-end hostel with minimalistic decor and has everything from an amazing games room and a chic lounge to a delish complimentary breakfast. However, its pods are definitely something to talk about. The beds, which usually occupy most of the space in the pod, are remote-controlled! So, it becomes a recliner sofa with more breathing space for moving around. Plus, once can even access the large storage area beneath the bed. Furthermore, the pod beds at Millennials are a bit longer than what are usually standard in Japan. So, if you’re a slightly taller person than usual, you needn’t worry about the size of your bed either.
Apart from great comfy pods, Millennials also has an in-house bar that serves free beer-on-tap everyday between 5:30 pm and 6:30 pm. Use this extremely popular happy hour to chug some good beer and know your fellow travelers!
Four Seasons Kyoto
If you have the urge to splurge in Kyoto, you needn’t look beyond the fantasy-fulfilling Four Seasons Kyoto. The hotel lies in the historic temple district of Higashiyama and is reminiscent of old-world Japan with its picturesque setting next to an 800-year-old ikeniwa (pond garden).
The inviting lobby peppered with seasonal flowers, shoji paper lanterns, cypress wood, and marble beckons you to step into the different world of Four Seasons. A huge glass window at the far end acts as a frame for the ancient ikeniwa. It makes for the very picture of perfection along with a teahouse, maple and cherry blossom trees, and stone bridges. The amenities are equally top-notch and plush, right from the subterranean swimming pool to the Zen spa with its tanba salt scrubs to the pine saunas. Two restaurants, the seafood-central Sushi Wakon, and the sun-drenched, pond-overlooking Brasserie are perfect for satiating any cravings that you might have. If you’re the kind who wants to explore on your own, the hotel even offers to rent bicycles from the front desk.
Guests at the Four Seasons can choose from 123 rooms all decked out with dark hardwood floors and fusuma screens shot with imperial purple and pale blue. For those who want the very lap of luxury, go in for the signature suites that not only have terraces but fabulous views of the surrounding foliage too.
Design hotels are far and few in Kyoto, Japan, and even then, very few manage to impress as the Hotel Mume does. The hotel lies in a chic building in a picturesque Gion neighborhood and boasts excellent service as well.
What’s so special about Mume is that it has just seven rooms, which is as intimate as it gets. All rooms are designed around the traditional Japanese nature-inspired concept of “ka-cho-fu-getsu” (flower, birds, wind, and moon). The Moon rooms feature dark woods and rich golden hues, while the spacious Wind rooms have Asian motifs. The Bird ones have Oriental overtones and boast red vintage Chinese furnishings. For absolute luxury, choose the Flower suite which has bathing views of the Shirakawa River and the Higashiyama mountains.
Apart from the stunning accommodations, the hotel also has a boutique-chic cafe-bar. Plus, breakfast puts everything from freshly-baked bread to homemade jam to all sorts of egg dishes on the table.
Villa Sanjo Muromachi Kyoto
The Villa Sanjo Muromachi makes for a stylish and luscious hideaway right in the very heart of Kyoto’s Downtown.
The entire property has a distinctly Japanese aesthetic to it, thanks to the natural stonework, light-wood paneling, and beautifully clean lines. The place is peppered with handcrafted wallpapers and ceramic showpieces, making staying here a truly immersive experience into Kyoto culture. Guests can choose from 12 rooms that effusively blend contemporary comforts and traditional Japanese aesthetics. Moreover, every room features deep-soaking tubs in roomy bathrooms, intricate local ceramics, Japanese rice paper, and gorgeous local textiles. If you feel like indulging a bit, book the Maisonette Twin Room which has its own private garden.
The lack of a restaurant doesn’t diminish the Sanjo Muromachi experience in any way. That being said, the hotel lays out an exceptional breakfast spread, which can also be enjoyed in the room itself. Plus, the bar serves an array of sakes as well.
Arashiyama Benkei is easily one of the finest riverside ryokans in Kyoto. The Heian era (9th-12th century) structure was originally used as a country estate for court nobles on a holiday. Today, it is one of the best places to stay in Ararshiyama and has wonderful views of the ArashiyamaMountains and the Hozu-gawa River.
As a traditional ryokan, Arashiyama Benkei offers the choicest of rooms featuring beautiful tatami mat floors with futon style bedding. Three rooms boast excellent views of the river, while the others overlook the stunning manicured gardens. What’s more, the ryokan also provides guests with yukatas, making sure that they get to completely immerse themselves in the Japanese experience.
Apart from the fantastic rooms, the ryokan also serves up delicious kaiseki (Japanese cuisine). Moreover, it even offers the choice of both indoor and outdoor onsens. Go in especially for the open-air onsen, which is perfect after a day of walking around Kyoto.
Recommended Restaurants / Bars in Kyoto:
- Hachimonjiya: This 30-year-old bar has seen famous international and Japanese musicians, artists, writers and the like under its roof for years now. Sip on sangria, sake, and beer as you look through owner Kai Fusayoshi’s spectacular photo books that document life in Kyoto for more than 50 years.
- Kurakura: Traditional Japanese-style dining establishments called izakayas are a must-eat at during your visit to Kyoto. One of the best izakayas to eat in Kyoto is Kurakura which has tatami-mat floors, delicious local delights, and the traditional rice beer sake.
Recommended Activities In Kyoto:
- Kyoto Walking Tour: Are you interested in knowing all the rarer and lesser-known aspects of Kyoto? Delve into the city’s culture and history on this one-of-a-kind 5-hour guided walking tour.
- Gion Night Walk Tour: Are you staying in Kyoto’s famous geisha district of Gion? Then you shouldn’t miss this exciting tour that’ll give you a glimpse into the day of the life of a geisha.