Kaleidoscopic Kyoto lies at the southern end of Lake Biwa, just 50 minutes from Osaka. The cultural and former historic capital of Japan, Kyoto reminds you of Japan’s glorious past. So, you’ll see everything from Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples to imperial palaces, gardens, and traditional houses. Also, it’s home to the geisha culture, vibrant arts and crafts, and lip-smacking cuisine. And while Kyoto keeps one foot rooted firmly in the past, it has a significant LGBTQ community. Although, it’s not surprising given that Japan is big on gay rights. Besides a large number of gay friendly hotels in Kyoto, it’s known for accepting and welcoming attitudes towards the LGBTQ set. What’s more, any stay in Kyoto means a memorable encounter with ‘omotenashi,’ the famous slice of Japanese hospitality. So, whether you stay in a luxurious five-star or a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), you’ll have a memorable stay.
Despite Kyoto’s gay culture not being comparable to that of capital Tokyo, it does have excellent gay bars near the famous geisha district of Gion. Moreover, why so many LGBTQ travelers flock to Kyoto is because it captures the essence of all that Japan is, right from culture to nature. Thus, you get to experience everything from tea ceremonies to sake brewery and tasting tours. Moreover, Kyoto is home to some stunning green gardens and spaces, including the Sagano Bamboo Forest, which is one of The 8 Most Unique Forests In The World. Basically, Kyoto is classical Japanese heritage in a nutshell — with a healthy dose of liberal open-mindedness thrown in. Mesmerizing cultural cred, excellent hospitality, and a welcoming LGBTQ culture make it one of the greatest gay destinations in Japan. To that end, here are the top 11 gay friendly hotels in Kyoto.
Kyomachiya Ryokan Sakura Urushitei
Ryokans are traditional Japanese inns which date back to the Edo era and became symbols of Japanese hospitality and warmth. Combine that with modernity and you get the Kyomachiya Ryokan Sakura Urushitei ryokan, one of the best traditional yet luxurious gay hotels in Kyoto. It lies right in the center of the city and is also a mere 10-minute walk from the live gay and geisha district of Gion. Luxury living and Japanese culture under one roof – what more could you want?
Although modern-day ryokans differ from their historic counterparts, you can still see some traditional touches, and this ryokan is no different. At this first-class ryokan, a hostess wearing a traditional Japanese kimono welcomes you and also serves you tea and sweets personally. We highly recommend that you opt for rooms with meals. Hence, you can experience traditional kaiseki dinners. What’s more, you can enjoy it either in the communal dining hall or in the privacy of your room. Begin your day with a wonderful breakfast, which has both Japanese and Western dishes. At the ryokan, you can even experience a complimentary traditional and elaborate tea ceremony. The highlight here is the ‘onsen’ or communal hot bath experience, which is as modern as it gets.
When you check into your rooms, you’re also handed slippers and yukata, which are traditional Japanese cotton robes. The slippers are to be worn within the ryokan, as you take your shoes off at the entrance. Rooms feature traditional tatami (woven-straw) mat floors, low futons, and dining tables, and low beds. You can also choose modern, contemporary rooms. Nevertheless, all rooms are air-conditioned with private bathrooms and mod-cons, and the best ones overlook the lush gardens.
Hotel Kanra Kyoto
‘Kanra‘ literally means ‘experience Kyoto,’ so it’s no surprise that this gay friendly hotel is also one of the 11 Best Hotels in Kyoto. It sits smack dab in the heart of the Shimogyo Ward and is close to not one but two train stations. In fact, some of the best sights in Kyoto like the Higashihonganji Temple, the Kyoto Tower, and the Kyoto Aquarium are within walking distance.
As soon as you enter the lobby, a seasonal fragrance and a sense of calm engulf you. Every room of this schoolhouse-turned-hotel possesses a wow factor, right down to the hallways filled with plant art and zen rocks. What’s more, the hotel boasts some really nice amenities for a city center hotel. To begin with, we have a small but indulgent spa with room themes of paper, wood, soil, and rock. The first-floor bar/café is perfect for coffee, a cocktail, or even a Japanese dessert. The RIUM kintsugi studio is right next door, where watching traditional pottery repaired with silver or gold-dusted lacquer is a unique experience. An unfailingly helpful staff aside, the hotel has two restaurants, an Italian and a teppanyaki one. We highly recommend opting for a Japanese breakfast instead of a western one.
You can choose from 68 rooms in Machiya-style, which is Kyoto’s traditional architectural style. Depending on which building you’re in, every room varies in design and style. Nevertheless, they’re all calming with tatami mats and sleek bathrooms with cypress tubs. Moreover, each room features traditional Kyoto crafts like a ‘Tamatebako,’ which is a square box with a copper lid with local sweets and crafts. They also have Kyo-yaki-Kiyomizuyaki cups, wherefrom you can drink traditional Marukyu Koyama-en tea.
The Celestine Kyoto Gion
If you’re looking for an amazing gay hotel in Kyoto’s historic Gion district, then look no further than the Celestine Kyoto Gion. The gay friendly hotel lies in the heart of the geisha and gay neighborhood and is perfect for exploring the gardens, rich culture, and the LGBTQ nightlife of Kyoto. In fact, one of Kyoto’s best gay bars Azure is a mere 10-minute stroll. Don’t be disheartened by the hotel’s unprepossessing exterior, for on the inside, it’s a whole other story. Traditional design touches like red-leaved Irohamomiji and Yamazakura cherry trees in the atrium complement the modern décor. Even the rooms have Kiyomizu-yaki pottery cups and Nanbu-tekki ironware teapots, evoking Japan’s traditional and natural beauty.
When you check-in, the staff provides you with a seriously useful mobile phone that’s loaded with local information, calls, and data. The on-site restaurant offers both traditional meals and a breakfast buffet of both Western and Japanese dishes. There’s even a shuttle bus for the main Kyoto train station and an afternoon lounge that turns into an evening bar later on. The highlight is the traditional ‘onsen,’ which is a communal, gender-separate area with a hot bathing pool.
Leave your outdoor shoes at the entrance to the rooms and don traditional wooden-soled slippers. Besides all standard mod-cons, rooms also have soft Imabari towels, en-suite bathrooms, and delightful extras like traditional yukata robes.
Are you looking for a budget accommodation near the gay neighborhood in Kyoto? Then look no further than Hostel Ebi, which lies right down from the street from Kyoto’s gay bars! The extremely cozy and friendly hostel sits right in the heart of Kyoto and is perfect for exploring the city by day and partying by night. In fact, it was named the “2nd Best Hostel in Asia!” So, why not give it a shot? Just like other hostels, Ebi offers choices of accommodations between female-only/mixed dorms and private rooms. Besides free Wi-Fi and personal lockers, the rooms feature immaculate bathrooms with free toiletries.
The heart and soul of this hostel is the minimalist lounge, where you can swap stories with travelers and even enjoy meet-cutes. The shared kitchen is very handy for whipping up quick, cheap, and untimely meals. What’s more, the hostel even shares space with a buzzing Irish pub as well as a slew of Japanese restaurants. Plus, the staff is unfailingly helpful and will give you any information you want, including about Kyoto’s gay scenes.
One of the best gay hotels in Kyoto that’s decidedly “un-hotel” is 22 Pieces. The apart-hotel or rather serviced apartments are a fantastic option if a traditional hotel setup doesn’t exactly appeal to you. The chic, boutique-like place boasts one enviable location – right next to the main Kyoto travel terminal. So, you have every kind of train connection to travel within the city as well as make day trips.
If you’re a discerning gay traveler, then you’ll love the well-designed and boutique 22 Pieces. The concept of the hotel is rather unique. The lobby displays 22 locally-made Japanese objects that range from traditional tea sets to cooking objects to special tools. You can borrow and use them either in your rooms or when you’re out exploring. What’s more, there’s even a movie projector that you can borrow if you want to cozy up and watch movies in your room. Finally, the hotel even has bicycles that can be borrowed for exploring the area on your own. This is perfect because the Kyoto Cycling Tour Project is right next to the station.
All apartments and studios here are very spacious as compared to hotels, and are beautifully decked out. Moreover, all studios have fully-stocked kitchens. This is especially helpful since the property doesn’t have a restaurant. Right from cooking appliances to essentials, they have it all. Hence, you can whip up a range of meals, from quick-fixes to dinner spreads. With the supermarket just down the road, your job is all the easier. Plus, you have all the privacy you can possibly get.
Do you want to experience traditional Japanese living bang in the middle of the city? Then we’d recommend the amazing ryokan Auberge Azabu, which sits right in the heart of the Shimogyo Ward. The gay friendly hotel is perfectly located for both exploring Kyoto’s best attractions as well as enjoying its gay nightlife, which is a mere 20-minute walk away.
That said, the hospitality at Auberge will blow you away. The ryokan sits in a renovated, century-old structure and is owned by a lovely husband-wife duo with a strong connection to France. The fusion makes its way into the food, which is the best French-inspired Japanese fare you’ll have in the entire country. You’re also treated to a wonderful continental breakfast every day. Moreover, the ryokan has a very boutique style to it, so expect to see lots of clean lines, warm woods, and green foliage just about everywhere.
The rooms at the ryokan will leave you equally impressed. They’re modern with wooden floors instead of tatami mat ones, but the low futon beds do make an appearance. Bathrooms are chic and minimalist, and one of the most spic and span ones you’ll ever have seen. Mood lights, mod-cons, and sleek furnishings make your stay as comfortable as memorable. The best of the lot, however, is the twin or deluxe room which has fabulous views of the lush green gardens.
Ace Hotel Kyoto
Craft coffee, DJs, and tacos blend brilliantly with tea ceremonies, shrines, and temples at the gay friendly Ace Hotel, which is one of the hippest gay hotels in Kyoto. The first ‘Ace’ Hotel in Asia, this one is centrally located with many of Kyoto’s sights within walking distance. With the hotel offering lightweight tokyobikes and a subway station nearby, this is the perfect base to explore this culture-rich Japanese city.
The hotel sits in a landmark modernist 1926-built structure that was formerly Kyoto’s oldest shopping center and also the Kyoto Central Telephone Exchange! On the inside, it radiates a Western-meets-Japanese aesthetic with industrial-chic ambiance and Japanese bric-a-brac and curios. The cavernous, music-filled lobby is its beating heart, complete with rugs, sofas, and long wooden tables for socializing. Three restaurants and an outpost of the famous Stumptown coffee take care of all and any cuisine cravings. The rooftop bar is a particularly buzzing space, while the green courtyard garden is the perfect place to enjoy a walk. Rounding up the amenities is a 24-hour gym.
Most of the hotel’s 213 guestrooms lie in the new building, while there are 27 rooms in the original building. Nevertheless, all rooms feature scene-stealing design details like high ceilings, large windows, vintage records, turntables, tatami mattresses, and sun-like paper lantern wall lights. The black slate bathrooms radiate elegance and feel more like home than a hotel.
The Millennials Kyoto
There’s nothing you won’t like about the ultra-cool Millennials, one of the best gay friendly hotels in the bustling Pontocho entertainment district of Kyoto. This Instagram-worthy hotel is a capsule or ‘pod’ hotel that Japan is so famous for. Here, you sleep in small ‘capsules’ or ‘pods’ for the night. In fact, it’s considered as one of the 11 Best Capsule Hotels in Kyoto!
The well-designed Millennials is stylish, gorgeous, and highly, highly affordable as compared to regular hotels. In fact, it’s actually a high-end hostel. So, you’ll find everything from a delicious complimentary breakfast to a chic hangout lounge and even a fun-filled games room. They’re all excellent mingling spaces to strike conversations with interesting travelers from around the world. The in-house bar is an absolute delight, and even dishes out free beer-on-tap everyday between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. So, there are no points for guessing the most popular time at this hostel!
That said, the pods at Millennials are like nowhere else. For one, they’re the most plus, cloud-like mattresses, unlike those at most hostels. Moreover, they’re controllable by remotes! So, the mattress, which occupies most of the pod space, transforms into a recliner sofa. That gives you more space to move around and even access the roomy storage area underneath the bed. What’s more, the pod beds here are a bit larger and longer than the usual standard in Japan. So, if you’re a slightly taller person or even need more space for wriggle room, then you know you’re covered.
Hotel Granvia Kyoto
There’s no better base than Hotel Granvia for exploring Kyoto. Directly connected to the JR Kyoto Station Complex, it’s one of the most well-located hotels in Kyoto that’s gay friendly. What’s more, it’s also the largest hotel in the city, with a whopping 537 rooms! Gorgeous glass features and dark mood lighting dot the lobby, which is always noisy, busy, and on the move. The hotel lobby is always busy and noisy, with dark mood lighting and beautiful glass features. You have the choice of as many as 14 restaurants serving every cuisine from Japanese to American. The large indoor swimming pool is definitely the heart and soul of the hotel. If you’re a fitness fanatic, then the gym is the perfect place for you.
With beige colors and pops of purple, the rooms are definitely upbeat, complete with stylish wood accents and lots of space, unlike a Japanese hotel. Moreover, all rooms are unique in design, layout, and size. Comfy ‘relaxy angel beds,’ spacious bathrooms, and blackout curtains ensure a fitful sleep and a comfortable stay.
Mosaic Hostel Kyoto
Budget living in Kyoto doesn’t get any better than at Mosaic Hostel Kyoto, which lies a mere block away from the main Kyoto travel terminal. It’s perfect for exploring the Top 10 Things To Do In Kyoto by day and partying at its gay bars at night which lie a mere 10-minute ride away. When it comes to accommodations, you can choose from budget dorms and private rooms, both of which are spacious. Apart from free Wi-Fi, both rooms feature spotless and well-maintained bathrooms. In fact, some of the dorms and private rooms are designed like those in a ryokan. So, you’ll find everything from tatami mat floors to futons.
Since this is a hostel, all the fun begins after you’ve stepped out of the rooms. To begin with, there’s a rooftop terrace with comfy seating and potted foliage that’s a nice place to relax. It has comfy bean bags, lounge chairs, and even hammocks, and you’ll find people happily chatting away or someone strumming a guitar. The second most-buzzing spot on the property is the trendy café, which features flags from all over the world. It’s where you can tuck into a hearty breakfast in the morning while swapping travel stories with fellow roommates. The shared kitchen is ideal for whipping up quick, untimely meals, while the bicycles on rent are helpful for venturing out on your own.
The absolute highlight, however, is the unending roster of activities at this hostel. Right from drinking parties and cultural workshops to jam sessions, you can experience Kyoto’s culture all under one roof. It’s no wonder that Mosaic is considered as one of the best gay hotels/accommodations in Kyoto.
Solaria Nishitetsu Hotel Kyoto Premier
There’s nothing like staying on the banks of the Kamo River, and the Solaria Nishitetsu Hotel Kyoto Premier is one of the best riverside gay hotels in Kyoto. Staying here is an absolutely romantic experience with sunsets et al, with views of the river and Kyoto’s eastern mountains. What’s more, it’s within a stone’s throw of the many fantastic restaurants and bars on the liveliest street in Kyoto, Pontocho Street.
The hotel is all-Japanese, right from the outside to the inside. The lobby’s best feature is the designer garden, which you can gaze at from the cushy Japanese-style seating all over. The dining room overlooks a stunning vertical garden and enjoys lots of natural light, and serves a sumptuous buffet breakfast with both Japanese and Western items. The efficient and helpful staff will even hand you your own personal phone with unlimited data and calling to help you navigate Kyoto. The highlight is the onsen experience, with both indoor and outdoor baths overlooking the lush and peaceful gardens.
200 rooms all have cozy local touches like traditional Japanese ‘karakami’ paper on the wall and locally-made teacups. Besides the room having high-tech features and mod-cons, the bathrooms are large and stocked with bespoke, award-winning Japanese toiletries, and cosmetics.
Get Some Culture in Kyoto:
- Kansai Rainbow Pride – The Kansai Rainbow Parade which takes place in neighboring Osaka is Japan’s largest LGBT parade outside Tokyo. It’s surprisingly family-friendly and features a parade, parties, stage shows, and fun activities in the park.
- Kansai Queer Film Festival – This gay film festival takes place in various venues across Osaka and Kyoto both.
Best Gay Bars / Clubs in Kyoto:
- Azure – This men-only bar is the most popular gay bar in Kyoto. This cozy, charming Japanese-style space is the heart and soul of Gay Kyoto.
- Atlantis – The laidback Atlantis by the Kamogawa river is the perfect place to sip on delicious drinks and strike conversations with beautiful people.
Best Gay Saunas in Kyoto:
Even though it has a lively gay scene, Kyoto doesn’t have a gay sauna yet. But, we’re hoping that’ll change in the future, with even neighboring Osaka having gay saunas!