Skip to Content

Where to stay in Kyoto: Best areas and hotels for 2022-23

Where to stay in Kyoto? When people ask us what’s the best place to stay in Kyoto for tourists or first-time visitors it isn’t an easy question to answer. 

Choosing the best area to stay in Kyoto depends on many different factors such as budget, travel time, things you want to see and experience, and more.

In this Kyoto travel blog post we list the different areas of Kyoto with their respective pros and cons. It is not possible to describe 1 neighborhood as the best, but on the basis of this information, you can choose the neighborhood that best suits your preferences or plans.

We end this Kyoto blog post by answering some general questions you may have such as the best time to visit Kyoto, how long you should stay in Kyoto, how long in advance you should book a hotel etc.  There you also find a map of Kyoto’s train and subway system.

There is a really good chance that this post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission (for which we are deeply grateful) at no extra cost to you.

Kyoto Essentials 

  • Here you will find cheap flights to Osaka or Tokyo.
  • The JR Rail Pass is of limited use to travel around Kyoto as there are few JR lines within Kyoto’s city boundaries.  
  • If you want to combine a visit to Osaka with your stay in Kyoto you could purchase this sightseeing pass which is also valid on the Keihan line.
  • You might save money with the JR West Pass if you will visit other parts of the Kansai area such as Nara, Kobe, Himeji and Osaka and you don’t have a Japan Rail Pass.
  • If you have less time in Kyoto or you don’t like walking, we would advise you to book a guided tour. This tour will show you the main highlights such as Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Fushi Inari, Arashiyama and Bamboo forest, the Golden Temple, etc in just one day.
  • Last but not least, be sure you have travel insurance. 

The best place to stay in Kyoto

Area Type Price
The Ritz Carlton Kyoto Japan The Ritz Carlton Kyoto Hotel

Downtown

Luxury

$$$$

The OneFive Kyoto shijo

Downtown

Premium Comfortable

$

The Royal Park Hotel Kyoto Sanjo

Downtown

Comfortable

$

Great luxury hotel in Gion Hotel The Celestine Kyoto Gion

Southern Higashiyama and Gion

Luxury

$$$$

Kyoto Granbell Hotel Kyoto Granbell Hotel

Southern Higashiyama and Gion

Premium Comfortable

$$$

Hana-Touro Hotel Gion

Southern Higashiyama and Gion

Premium Comfortable

$

Daiwa Roynet Hotel Kyoto Grande

Kyoto station (Shimogyo)

Luxury

$$$

Hotel Vischio Kyoto by GRANVIA

Kyoto station (Shimogyo)

Premium Comfortable

$$$

22 Pieces 

Kyoto station (Shimogyo)

Comfortable

$$

Nakano-an

Central Kyoto ( around Kyoto Imperial palace)

Luxury

$$$

Great Ryokan in Kyoto Ryokan Mugen ( adult only)

Central Kyoto ( around Kyoto Imperial palace)

Premium Comfortable

$$$

Kyoto Garden Palace

Central Kyoto ( around Kyoto Imperial palace)

Comfortable

$$$

Kyoto Machiya Fukune

Central Kyoto ( around Kyoto Imperial palace)

Machiya (Traditional Vacation Rental)

$$$$

Ryokan Inn Yoshida-Sanso

Northern Higashiyama

Luxury

$$$$

Ryokan Kanade

Northern Higashiyama

Premium Comfortable

Kyoto Nanzenji Ryokan Yachiyo

Northern Higashiyama

Comfortable

$$$

Garden View Bath Designer Machiya

Northern Higashiyama

Machiya (Traditional Vacation Rental)

$$$$

Nagi Kyoto Arashiyama 

Arashiyama

Premium Comfortable

$$$

Riverside Arashiyama

Arashiyama

Premium Comfortable

$$

Marriott Lake Biwa Marriott Lake Biwa

Lake Biwa

Luxury

$$$

Otsu Prince hotel

Lake Biwa

Premium Comfortable

$$

 
Shoren-in temple night illumination Kyoto, Japan-
Kyoto counts over 1600 temples, this is the Shoren-In temple

What’s the best area to stay in Kyoto

Which area should you stay in while you are in Kyoto?

Let’s start by saying there is no best area to stay in. All areas listed below have their advantages and disadvantages. Here’s an overview of the different areas that we cover in this blog post.

The best place to stay in Kyoto depends on what you want to see and do and where your interests lie.

Kyoto lacks the extensive subway and train network of Osaka and Tokyo.  This makes it very important to pick a hotel near one of the stations if you want to explore the city efficiently.

Below we start off with our quick guide where we list the best districts for specific interests such as first-time travelers or families traveling with kids.

Further on in this guide, we discuss the most famous districts in detail.

The area surrounding Nijo Castle is a good place to stay in Kyoto if you want to make use of the 2 subway lines that serve the city.

Where to stay in Kyoto – Quick guide

Best place to stay in Kyoto

Where to stay in Kyoto for the first time

If you are traveling to Kyoto for the first time, we recommend that you stay in downtown Kyoto, near the Keihan Line, Southern Higashiyama, or near Kyoto station.

By staying in downtown Kyoto you are within walking distance of public transport ( Tozai Subway line, the Karasuma Subway Line, Keihan Line, and the Hankyu Line) and lots of shops, food markets such as the Nishiki Market, restaurants, and bars. 

The main shopping district of the city can be found around the intersection of Kawaramachi and Shijō Street.

A broad selection of restaurants can be found in Pontocho alley. In the summer locals love to eat along the Kamogawa river for its refreshing breeze.

When it comes to tourist attractions, the Keihan Line is the best rail line in Kyoto. 

That’s why we advise picking a hotel near one of the train stations on this line.

Kyoto lacks a good JR network, your JR pass is not of much use here.  The Kyoto Osaka sightseeing pass is a good alternative and includes unlimited free travel on the Keihan line.  This line offers easy access to a lot of Kyoto’s most iconic sites such as the famous Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine, the Gion district, the Kiyomizu-Dera Temple. The pass is perfect for first time Kyoto visitors.

Read reviews and buy your Kyoto-Osaka sightseeing pass here:
Sightseeing Pass 1-2 days

When choosing to stay in Southern Higashiyama you are staying in the heart of old Kyoto within walking distance of famous tourist destinations such as the Gion area, the Kiomizu-Dera Temple, etc. 

Staying near Kyoto station has the advantage that you will be close to public transport ( trains and buses). It’s also a great location if you want to make day trips to Nara and Osaka. Here you will also find plenty of cheap restaurants.

Where to stay in Kyoto for families 

Visiting an endless series of temples is not the best way to keep both young and old pleased. 

Luckily Kyoto has some other sights that are sure to amaze the younger ones.  Animal lovers can add the Kyoto Zoo and aquarium to their itinerary and most children, and their parents, have the time of their lives in Kyoto’s Railway Museum.

These sights are located in central Kyoto.  The aquarium and the railway museum are close to Kyoto station.  The zoo is in Southern Higashiyama.  

When traveling with kids we advise staying in one of these two areas. Not only are they close to child-friendly attractions, but you are also close to public transportation and other popular sights.

Kamogawa river Gion, Kyoto
In Summer many restaurants have floating terraces on this river

Best area to stay in Kyoto for nightlife 

Kyoto is no match for Osaka when it comes to nightlife. Osaka counts numerous clubs and attracts the younger crowds.  Kyoto’s nightlife is more laid-back and consists of exquisite restaurants and bars.

The places to be are Pontocho alley and Kiyamachi Dori ( Kiyamachi Street). Both are in downtown Kyoto, close to the Gion district.

The dining options range from inexpensive eateries to highly exclusive restaurants that remain closed to tourists unless you know somebody who can introduce you.  The area is a nice place to hang out in the evening as you may spot geisha on the way to their customers.

During summer many restaurants are extended with a floating platform on the adjacent river.  The cool flow of the running river makes the summer heat a little more tolerable. 

The Japanese even introduced a word for this type of dining on platforms on rivers, it is called Kawauka in Kyoto and Kawadoko outside of the city. 

To experience it yourself you best make advance reservations, certainly for Friday and Saturday evenings.

Where to stay in Kyoto with a JR pass

As there are few JR lines in Kyoto the Japan Rail Pass is of limited use to travel around the city. 

If you didn’t activate your JR pass yet and you plan to do a lot of traveling by JR trains after you leave Kyoto, it might be wiser not to activate your pass until the morning you leave Kyoto ( you can activate the pass at the main JR ticket office in Kyoto Station). 

Here you find a complete article about whether buying a Japan Rail pass is worth it for you. 

You could use your JR pass to do day trips to nearby places such as Nara and Arashiyama.  If you plan on doing so it’s best to stay near Kyoto station

Where to stay in Kyoto on a budget

If you are staying on a budget in Kyoto it’s best to look for accommodations around Kyoto stationThis is where you will find the most budget-friendly options. 

There’re also several capsule hotels dotted across central Kyoto. Some of the traditional types where you only have the capsule, while other modern variants offer a very small room. Toyoki Inn, a popular no-frills Japanese hotel chain also operates several hotels in central Kyoto.

If you don’t want to compromise on comfort you can stay near Lake Biwa, about 30-minutes by train outside Kyoto.  Here we stayed at a lovely Marriott hotel. If you prefer a stay in a more traditional Ryokan have a look at Kibune and Kurama.

Golden Temple KinkakuJi, Kyoto, Japan
The Golden Temple in Kyoto

Where to stay in Kyoto Airbnb

When you are visiting Kyoto during a busier season, when Kyoto’s hotel prices are going through the roof, or when you are traveling with a bigger group, it might be interesting to check out the various vacation homes in Kyoto. 

Vacation homes may be cheaper than hotels and you can also find rooms that accommodate larger groups.

Check out vacation homes in Kyoto:
Airbnb’s in Kyoto

or take a look at our post where share the best Airbnb’s in Kyoto.

What are the coolest hotels in Kyoto?

If you want to spoil yourself and are looking for a cool place to stay in Kyoto, check out this post. 

What is the best location to stay in Kyoto-The in-depth guide

Here we share a detailed overview of the most popular neighborhoods to stay in Kyoto.

The best area to stay in Kyoto: Downtown Kyoto

This is our first choice.

If you are staying in downtown Kyoto, you are within walking distance of Southern and Nothern Higashiyama which are home to some amazing Kyoto highlights such as the Kiyomizu-Dera Temple, the Gion district, the Kodai-Ji Temple, the philosopher’s path, the Silver Pavillion, etc. 

Traveling around Kyoto from downtown Kyoto is easy since you are in proximity of 4 metro and train Lines ( Tozai Subway line, the Karasuma Subway Line, Keihan Line, and the Hankyu Line)

You can see the locations of the train & subway stations in the above map. We also show the locations of our suggested hotels along with some of the major tourist attractions.

In addition, the region also counts plenty of shops, restaurants, and bars.

Pontocho Alley Kyoto, Japan
Pontocho Alley, is a good place to stay and eat in Kyoto

Main attractions in and around downtown Kyoto

  • Nishiki Market, Kyoto’s largest traditional food market
  • Pontocho Alley
  • Within walking distance from Southern and Nothern Higashiyama as well as the Imperial Palace and Nijo Castle
  • Teramachi and Shinkyogoku Shopping Arcades

Pros and cons

  • Close to the Nishiki-Market, Pontocho Alley and Southern Higashiyama
  • In close proximity to public transport that brings you to most of Kyoto’s highlights
  • Lots of shopping possibilities
  • One of the best places for nightlife with plenty of restaurant and bars
  • Less charming area to stay if you are looking for the old Kyoto atmosphere
  • Although hotel prices tend to be cheaper than in Gion, the prices can still be expensive because you are staying in the heart of Kyoto

Conclusion

Downtown Kyoto is the best area to stay in Kyoto if you like to stay in the center of Kyoto within walking distance of a lot of Kyoto’s main attractions. The area offers a lot of great restaurants and bars and by staying here, you will be close to public transport.

Hotels in downtown Kyoto

Luxury Hotel 
The Ritz Carlton Kyoto Hotel

The location of the Ritz Carlton Kyoto is excellent.  The hotel is within walking distance of Pontocho alley the Gion area and lots of other great attractions.

You will stay in a large well-appointed room. The hotel also has a large swimming pool.

The great attention to detail separates this hotel from others.

Read reviews and book:

Booking.com

Agoda

Premium Comfortable hotel
The OneFive Kyoto shijo

The OneFive Kyoto Shijo lies in a great location within walking distance from public transport and lots of restaurants.

You will stay in a large room, by Japanese standards, with comfortable beds.

Friendly and helpful staff. Some clients found that breakfast didn’t have enough variety. 

Large rooms for Japanese standards and helpful staff.

Read reviews and book:

Booking.com

Agoda

Comfortable Hotel
The Royal Park Hotel Kyoto Sanjo

The Royal Park Hotel Kyoto lies near the river walking distance from the Gion district, two metro stations, and lots of restaurants.

You will stay in a comfortable large room for Japanese standards.

Some guests say breakfast has too few choices for Westerners but there is a very good French bakery next door.

Excellent price value.

Read reviews and book:

Booking.com

Agoda

Southern Higashiyama and Gion

Geisha Walking, Kyoto, Japan
Gion is the best district to spot a geisha

Southern Higashiyama is another excellent place to stay in Kyoto, especially for first-time visitors.

The district is home to the famous Gion geisha district and counts a majority of the city’s sights.  This is the traditional side of Kyoto with narrow lanes lined by wooden houses in the architectural style of the late Edo period. 

The region is very well preserved and when staying here you can enjoy its charm early in the morning and late at night without the crowds that flood the streets during the daytime.

Numerous temples and Shrines are scattered across Southern Higashiyama.  The popular tourist route leads from the Yasake Shrine towards the Kiyomizu-Dera temple but to truly appreciate the beauty of the district you better wander of in one of the narrow side alleys. 

With some luck, you may also bump into a maiko, an apprentice geisha.

Seeing a maiko or geisha is often on first-time travelers’ wishlist.

An expensive but great place to stay if you want to experience traditional Kyoto and all that it has to offer at night. 

Main attractions in and around Higashiyama

  • Kiyomizu-Dera Temple
  • Gion area
  • Yasaka Shrine
  • Chion-in Temple
  • Kodai-Ji Temple
  • Kyoto National Museum

Pros and cons

  • Within walking distance of a lot of Kyoto’s highlights
  • Traditional Japanese atmosphere
  • You increase your chances of seeing a Geisha if you are staying in Gion
  • Perfect location to discover everything Kyoto has to offer day and night
  • More variation of Ryokans if you are planning on staying in a Ryokan in Kyoto
  • Very touristic and crowded area
  • Since this is one of the most popular areas to stay in Kyoto, hotel prices tend to be higher than in other areas

Conclusion

Southern Higashiyama is the best place to stay in Kyoto if you want to experience traditional Kyoto and want to be within walking distance of many popular sights.

So should you stay in Gion? By staying in the Gion geisha district it feels like you are taking a step back in time. The Japanese Edo period seems to live on today when you walk the traditional stone-paved streets.

By staying in Gion you will also increase your chances of seeing a geisha.  Another aspect of traditional Japanese culture.

The downside of staying in Gion is that it’s very busy and crowded and that hotel prices tend to be more expensive than in some other areas. 

Maruyama Park Kyoto
Southern Higashiyama also has excellent parks to enjoy Hanami

Hotels in Higashiyama

Luxury Hotel 
Hotel The Celestine Kyoto Gion
Great luxury hotel in Gion

This fabulous hotel lies in the heart of the Gion area, a perfect location for sightseeing. Despite being located in the heart of Gion the hotel is very quiet at night.

You will stay in a small but comfortable room.

After a day of sightseeing, you can relax in the onsen.

Guests love the breakfast that has both Japanese and Western options.

The hotel also offers a free shuttle to Kyoto station.

Read reviews and book:

Booking.com

Agoda

Premium Comfortable hotel
Kyoto Granbell Hotel
Kyoto Granbell Hotel
Kyoto Granbell Hotel

When staying in the Kyoto Granbell Hotel in Gion you will be staying in a great location close to different sightseeing spots and restaurants and bars and several subway stations.

Guests can sample Japanese dishes or enjoy homestyle western food during the buffet breakfast.

There is also an onsen in the basement.

Highly recommended

Read reviews and book:

Booking.com

Agoda

Premium Comfortable Hotel
Hana-Touro Hotel Gion

When staying in the Hana-Touro Hotel in Gion you will be staying in the heart of Gion within walking distance of many famous shrines, the geisha district, and plenty of restaurants and shops.

Despite being located in the heart of Gion the hotel is very quiet at night.

Guests that stayed here also loved the room and the helpful and attentive staff. Note that the hotel doesn’t offer breakfast but there are plenty of breakfast options nearby. 

Read reviews and book:

Booking.com

Agoda

Kyoto train station, Japan
Kyoto station is not just a station, it’s an impressive modern complex that houses an observation platform, a theater, a museum as well as several shops and restaurants.

Kyoto station ( Shimogyo )

By staying near Kyoto station you are staying near Japan’s second-biggest train station. The station is a major transportation hub, not only for trains but also for buses and subways.

The Shinkansen as well as the Haruka airport express stop in Kyoto station.  This makes the area a good spot to stay for day trips as well as your last or first day in Japan.

Around Kyoto station are several large shopping malls selling everything from clothing to electronics.  You can also choose from plenty of good and cheap restaurants.

The area is perfectly safe.

The downside of staying near Kyoto station is that the most important sightseeing spots aren’t within walking distance so you will have to take public transport to reach them.

Main attractions in and around Kyoto station

  • Kyoto station
  • The To-Ji Temple famous for its 5 story pagoda
  • Kyoto Tower
  • Kyoto Railway Museum
  • Kyoto aquarium

Pros and cons

  • Better price value than in downtown Kyoto or Southern Higashiyama
  • Plenty of cheap restaurants
  • Perfect for shopping
  • Lots of transportation options
  • Perfect for day trips to Nara, Osaka, etc
  • Most important sightseeing places aren’t within walking distance
  • You will need to take public transport to travel around Kyoto

Conclusion

Kyoto station is the best location to stay in Kyoto if you want to stay near a big transportation hub from where you have plenty of possibilities to travel in and around Kyoto.

The downside is that you will need to rely on public transportation to visit a lot of Kyoto’s highlights. 

Hotels near Kyoto station

Luxury Hotel 
Daiwa Roynet Hotel Kyoto Grande

The Daiwa Royal Hotel Grande Kyoto lies a 5 minutes walk from Kyoto station. You will stay in a clean and spacious room. Lots of clients loved the breakfast buffet.

The staff is very helpful and speaks good English. 

Read reviews and book:

Booking.com

Agoda

Premium Comfortable hotel 
Hotel Vischio Kyoto by GRANVIA

Hotel Vischio Kyoto by GRANVIA lies near Kyoto station. You will stay in a comfortable room. Breakfast is excellent and offers a wide selection of Japanese and western specialties.

The hotel also has a great onsen where you can relax after a busy day of sightseeing.

Some clients find the hotel staff not so friendly and they don’t speak very well English. 

Read reviews and book:

Booking.com

Agoda

Comfortable Hotel
22 Pieces 

The 22 Pieces hotel lies in a quiet area 5 minutes’ walk from Kyoto station.

You will stay in a large room for Japanese standards with a comfortable bed.

The staff is attentive and courteous. Some clients didn’t like the fact that the hotel doesn’t offer housekeeping on a daily basis.

The hotel doesn’t have a 24-hour front desk and doesn’t offer breakfast.

Default text here

Read reviews and book:

Booking.com

Agoda

Kyoto Gosho Imperial Palace, Japan
The Kyoto Gosho, Imperial Palace

Central Kyoto ( around Kyoto Imperial Palace)

The area we refer to as Central Kyoto is located North of downtown. 

The most important sight is the Imperial Palace (Kyoto Gosho) with its beautiful palace gardens (Kyoto Gyoen).

Central Kyoto counts more budget options since you’re a little further out of downtown. There are also many restaurants.

By staying here you are close to the Nijo-Castle and the Daitoku-Ji Temple.

You will need to use public transport to travel to other parts of Kyoto so we advise picking a hotel not too far from the Tozai or Karasuma subway line. 

Main attractions in and around central Kyoto

  • Kyoto Imperial Garden
  • Kyoto Botanical gardens
  • The Nijo-Jo Castle
  • Daitoku-Ji Temple
  • Kyoto Manga Museum

Pros and cons

  • Lots of hotels to choose from
  • Not too far away from downtown
  • Further away from Kyoto’s main attractions
  • You will need to take public transport to travel around Kyoto

Conclusion

You will find many hotels in Central Kyoto.  This is a good location to stay if you’re looking for a reasonably priced hotel that is not located too far from downtown Kyoto.  The region is connected to other parts of the city by the Karasuma and Tozai subway lines. By staying close to Nijo-Jo Castle or the Imperial Palace you will also be close to the subway lines and you won’t waste too much time when visiting the other sights in the city.

Hotels in Central Kyoto

Luxury Hotel 

Nakano-an

The Nakano-an is a lovely clean Japanese townhouse close to Nijo-Jo Castle. There is a good bakery and a convenience store nearby. Around the corner, you will find a bus stop. Very friendly and helpful staff. 

Read reviews and book:

Booking.com

Agoda

Premium Comfortable Hotel 
Ryokan Mugen ( adult only)
Great Ryokan in Kyoto

Ryokan Mugen lies in a quiet area not too far away from the Imperial Palace and Nijo castle.

You will stay in an authentic but comfortable room. 

Very friendly and helpful staff.

Exceptional ryokan.

Read reviews and book:

Booking.com

Agoda

Comfortable Hotel
Kyoto Garden Palace

The Kyoto Garden Palace lies 1 minute from Kyoto Gyoen Garden and is also close to other tourist attractions.

You will stay in a spacious comfortable room.

The friendly and helpful staff speak English. 

Great place to stay in Kyoto

Read reviews and book:

Booking.com

Agoda

Machiya in Central Kyoto

Kyoto Machiya Fukune

This highly-rated vacation rental is in an excellent location in central Kyoto. It boasts authentic Japanese charm with modern amenities such as WiFi.

Relax in the open-air bath in the charming courtyard and prepare your own meals in the kitchenette.

Housekeeping and concierge services are available upon request.

With 2 bedrooms the house can sleep up to 5 adults.

Read reviews and book:
Agoda

Northern Higashiyama

Northern Higashiyama is less crowded and is, with its many parks, a greener place to stay.

The western border of the district is made up of a continuous chain of temples. 

The temples are connected by the Philosopher’s path.  The path is about 2 kilometers long, it starts at the Nanzen-Ji temple and leads all the way up to the Ginkaku-Ji temple, also known as the Silver pavilion. 

A stroll along this path is an experience not to be missed, certainly in early April when the cherry trees are in full bloom.

Kyoto’s museum district, Ikazaki-koen, is in the center of Northern Higashiyama.  It’s an open area with several small green parks, sports fields and, off course, museums.  The most popular museums are the Municipal Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art.

Northern Higashiyama also counts several restaurants, the majority of them around the museum district.

The downside of staying in Northern Higashiyama is that there are fewer hotels in this area but you can find some nice traditional ryokans. 

You will also need to rent a bike or take the bus to go downtown.

Ginkakuj Silver temple Kyoto, Japan
The Silver Temple marks the end of the philosopher’s path.

Main attractions in and around Northern Higashiyama

  • The silver pavilion Ginkaku-Ji
  • The Philosopher’s Path
  • The Nanzen-Ji Temple
  • Okazaki-Koen, Kyoto’s Museum District

Pros and cons

  • Less crowded than Southern Higashiyama
  • Nice Ryokans
  • Fewer hotel options
  • Not within walking distance from downtown Kyoto

Conclusion

Northern Higashiyama is the perfect place to stay in Kyoto if you are looking for a less touristy and quieter area. Although there are fewer hotels, you can find nice traditional ryokans. The downside of staying in Northern Higashiyama is that you will need to rent a bike or take the bus to go downtown.

Hotels in Northern Higashiyama 

Luxury Hotel 
Ryokan Inn Yoshida-Sanso

The Ryokan Inn Yoshida-Sanso is a traditional Ryokan that lies in a stunning location close to the Philosopher’s Path. Very friendly and helpful staff.

The ryokan serves a delicious Japanese breakfast.

Expensive but worth the price.

Read reviews and book:

Booking.com

Agoda

Premium Comfortable Hotel 
Ryokan KANADE

The Ryokan Kanade is a new ryokan. You will stay in a comfortable spacious room.

You can enjoy a free rooftop onsen. The hotel is run by friendly English-speaking staff.

Although the ryokan isn’t close to the city center, you will find different bus stops nearby.

Check reviews and book:

Booking.com

Agoda

Premium Comfortable Hotel
Kyoto Nanzenji Ryokan Yachiyo

This ryokan lies in a great location near the zoo and within walking distance of many tourist sites. There is also a subway nearby.

Guests love the garden-view rooms. The ryokan offers also rooms with a private onsen bath.

The ryokan offers a Japanese breakfast.

Great stay in a traditional ryokan in Kyoto.

Read reviews and book:

Booking.com

Agoda

Machiya in Northern Higashiyama

Garden View Bath Designer Machiya – KYORAN RUANTEI

This impeccable vacation house is outfitted with a full kitchen and 2 bedrooms, one with a queen size bed, and the other is a traditional Japanese tatami room with futons.

It can accommodate up to 8 adults.

It has all modern luxuries while still showcasing the traditional and refined Japanese style.

Read reviews and book:
Agoda

Arashiyama

Kyoto Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
The Bamboo groves in Arashiyama

Arashiyama, one of Kyoto’s most splendid suburbs, isn’t the best choice for first-time travelers to stay in Kyoto. 

One of the pros of staying in this region is that it is a charming and quaint area, closer to nature and without a doubt more open than downtown Kyoto.  The district is famous for the Bamboo Grove and the iconic Togetsukyo Bridge. It also houses some amazing temples and it is a popular day trip from Kyoto.

By staying in Arashiyama you will be able to beat the crowds by visiting the most popular highlights early in the morning. 

The downside of staying in Arashiyama is that, once you have seen all that it has to offer, you will need to take public transport to visit the other main highlights of Kyoto.  If you are looking forward to discovering Kyoto by night, staying in Arashiyama probably isn’t the best choice.

The district has some very good ryokans but you won’t find many restaurants and shopping opportunities.

Main attractions in and around Arashiyama

  • Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
  • The Tenryu-Ji Temple 
  • The Jojakko-Ji Temple
  • The Adashinno Nenbutsu-Ji Temple
  • Togetsukyo Bridge
  • Monkey Park Iwatayama

Pros and cons

  • Beautiful green area
  • Perfect if you want to explore this area early in the morning since there will be fewer crowds
  • You have to rely on public transport to visit other highlights of Kyoto
  • Not so many restaurants
  • Not a lot of nightlife
  • Less well located if you want to discover Kyoto by night
Saga Toriimoto Street, Arashiyama, Kyoto, Japan
Saga Toriimoto Street, one of the best-preserved streets in Arashiyama

Conclusion

Staying in Arashiyama is a great choice if you want to stay in a green area that gets quiet when all the day tourists are gone.  A drawback is that you won’t find a lot of restaurants.  Downtown Kyoto is a 30-minute train ride away.

The main advantage of staying in this region is that you can visit the highlights before the day tourists flood the streets. We advise not staying longer in Arashiyama than what you need to visit this district.

Hotels in Arashiyama 

Premium Comfortable Hotel 
Nagi Kyoto Arashiyama 

The Nagi Kyoto Arashiyama lies in a quiet neighborhood close to the JR train station and all the main attractions in Arashiyama.

You will stay in a comfortable room with comfy beds.

Some clients didn’t like the breakfast package which contained sandwiches.

Modern boutique hotel in a quiet neighborhood.

Read reviews and book:

Booking.com

Agoda

Comfortable Hotel
Riverside Arashiyama

The Riverside Arashiyama is a great apartment to stay in. It lies within walking distance to the main tourist attraction in Arashiyama and the Hankyu Arashiyama station ( not the JR station).

The hotel doesn’t serve breakfast but you will find plenty of shops, cafés, and restaurants in the neighborhood.

The rooms are spacious and comfortable. 

Modern and clean self-service apartment in a popular area in Kyoto.

Read reviews and book:

Booking.com

Agoda

Kifune Shrine in Kibune, North Kyoto
The Kifune Shrine in Kibune

Kibune and Kurama

Kibune and Kiruna are two small rural towns located North of Kyoto. They are popular for the Kurama Onsen which are set in a forested environment. You can soak in the outside hot pools and relax as you enjoy the beautiful environment.

It won’t come as a surprise that you can also find various temples in the area. One of the most popular ones is Kurama-dera. This mountain temple has always been popular amongst locals and has only more recently seen an upflux of foreign visitors. It is set in a beautiful forested environment and if you have the time to hike to it from the town of Kibune we highly recommend doing so. You can follow the sacred path that meanders through the giant cedars. The road to the temple is just as beautiful as the temple itself.

In Kibune you can visit the Kifune Shrine, a much-photographed scenic shrine.

Kibune and Kurama are absolutely worth a visit but that doesn’t necessarily make them a good location to stay. You have a good chance of finding some nice Ryokans for less than what you would pay in Kyoto but you do have to keep in mind the daily 30-minute commute on the Eizan line.

Main attractions in and around Kibuna and Kurama

  • Kurama Onsen
  • Kurama-Dera Mountain Temple
  • Yuki-jinja Shrine
  • sandō (sacred path) from Kibune to the Kurama-Dera temple
  • Kifune Shrine

Pros and Cons

  • Beautiful ryokans for less than in Kyoto or Higashiyama
  • Less touristic area
  • A daily 30-minute one-way train ride to Kyoto
  • The Eizan line is not covered by the JR pass

Conclusion

Kibune and Kurama can be good alternatives during peak season when prices in Kyoto are sky-high.

Still, we prefer to book early so that you can find an affordable hotel in Kyoto over a stay in these rural towns if you can.

Where to stay in Kibuna and Kurama

We didn’t find any hotels in this area.

Here we share a 3-bedroom villa in the middle of nature perfect to relax.

Check prices and availability:
Booking.com

discover lake biwa eastern shores with a local guide in hikone
Hikone castle at Lake Biwa.

Lake Biwa

When we visited Kyoto during the cherry blossom period hotel prices went through the roof. That’s why we looked for a cheaper option and so we ended up staying at the shoreline of Lake Biwa.

This is the biggest lake in Japan which lies only a 20-minute train ride away from Kyoto station.

Around Lake Biwa, there is plenty to see and do. 

The two most popular sights are Hikone Castle, a national treasure, and the lake has its own floating Torii gate similar to the one at Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima island.

After the busy cities of Tokyo and Osaka, it felt good to escape the crowds in the evening.  We stayed in the Lake Biwa Marriott hotel which was a true oasis of luxury and peace.

The downside of staying at Lake Biwa is that you will need to commute back and forth every day.  Trains run late but still, it is not ideal if you want to explore Kyoto after dark.

Main attractions in and around Lake Biwa

  • Lake Biwa
  • Lake Biwa’s floating Torii gate
  • The canal of Omihachiman
  • Hikone castle

Pros and cons

  • More spacious hotel rooms
  • More reasonably priced hotels especially during peak season
  • Less touristic area
  • Only about a 20-minute train ride from Kyoto station by JR
  • Less suitable if you want to visit Kyoto at night
  • You will need to take public transportation to get to Kyoto

Conclusion

Staying near Lake Biwa can be a great alternative if Kyoto’s hotel prices go through the roof.

Especially if you have a JR pass since it’s only a 20-minute train ride to Kyoto station.

This is also the downside when staying here. Except if you want to relax a few days near Lake Biwa you will always need to take public transport to get to Kyoto. 

Hotels in Lake Biwa

Luxury Hotel 

Marriott Lake Biwa

We loved our stay in the Marriott Lake Biwa hotel. The hotel has both traditional and Japanese-style rooms.

The extensive breakfast buffet has a selection of western and Japanese food.

The hotel provides a free shuttle from and to Katata station from where you can hop on the train to Kyoto station.

Read reviews and book:

Booking.com

Marriott

or read our full review of the Marriott Lake Biwa hotel here.
Agoda

Premium Comfortable Hotel 
Otsu Prince hotel

The Otsu Prince hotel lies along the waterfront of Lake Biwa near a shopping mall, a park, and a supermarket. You will stay in a big room with comfortable beds. Breakfast offers a lot of choices.

The hotel offers a free shuttle bus to the Otsu station. 

Good value for money.

Read reviews and book:

Booking.com

Agoda

Kyoto travel tips 

Let’s end this where-to-stay-in Kyoto guide by answering some general questions you might have. 

What are the different types of accommodation in Kyoto

Ryokan, Minshuku, and Machiya. All these are traditional Japanese-style accommodations that can be found in Kyoto. In addition to that, there are Western-style hotels and loads of business hotels in Kyoto.

So let’s have a look at the various options and see where they differ so you know what to expect when you book your hotel in Kyoto.

Western-style hotels

Western-style hotels are exactly that. Large international chains such as Marriott and Hilton have hotels in all of Japan’s larger cities.

They will have some Japanese touches, including the refined Japanese service, but will feel very familiar with what you’re used to in other countries.

Breakfast is usually a combination of Western and Local dishes and while the majority of the rooms will be western you will find some traditional Japanese rooms as well.

Business hotels

Business hotels cater to Japanese business people and mostly offer small no-frills rooms.

There are a number of local chains active in this Segment: Daiwa Roynet, APA hotels, and Toyoko Inn. They’re often in good locations near major subway and train stations.

Things to keep in mind are that the walls are often thin and breakfast may only consist of Japanese items.

Overall they can offer good value for money.

Ryokan, Japan
Ryokan,

Ryokans

Ryokans are, of all traditional accommodations, the most well-known.

A ryokan can best be described as a traditional Japanese Inn.

A ryokan can be a small family-run accommodation as well as a large hotel-like accommodation.

It can be situated in a small charming property or a larger, more modern, building.

Yet, even the modern ones will showcase the traditional atmosphere and appearance.

What all ryokans have in common is that the rooms are tatami-matted traditional rooms.

The ryokans will usually also have communal, segregated by gender, onsen-style baths.

A stay in a ryokan will normally include breakfast as well as a multi-course kaiseki dinner. The service is normally of paramount importance and this makes them ideal to experience Japanese hospitality.

Minshuku

Opinions differ as to what a Minshuku is.

While some will describe it as a low-budget ryokan others say that minshuku just refers to a small family-run ryokan. The truth lies somewhere in between.

Being family run they offer a more personal experience but it also means that they sometimes cannot offer the high quality of service of the more exclusive ryokans.

Minshuku usually only have a handful of rooms and sometimes it is just one or two rooms in their own house that a family rents out.

The rooms are Japanese-style tatami rooms, similar to those found in ryokans, just slightly more basic.

Dinner and breakfast may be included or offered but it is not a given.

Minshuku often promote themselves as ryokans as that term is widely known while minshuku isn’t.

Machiya

A machiya is a traditional wooden townhouse.

They can be found all over Japan.

In the bigger cities, they have however mostly disappeared with the exception of Kyoto.

Machiya typically used to be stores.

The houses look small as they are narrow but are much larger than thought because they are so deep.

The front of the machiya used to be the shop and the owners used to live in the back. Inside you will usually also find one or more courtyards.

Today the houses have been restored and converted into shops, restaurants, as well as vacation rentals.

The interior is traditionally Japanese although some have been updated to include some western comforts such as beds. (futons are however always present)

Machiya are vacation rentals which means that you almost always have the full house to yourself including a kitchen to prepare your own meals. In some cases, breakfast can be provided.

When is the best time to visit Kyoto 

You may ask yourself when to go to Kyoto. The good news is that the weather is quite moderate, it is possible to visit Kyoto all year round, although summers get very hot and humid.

A visit is much more enjoyable during the pleasant spring and autumn months when the temperatures range between 20 and 30 degrees Celcius.  The best months are generally seen as March, April, May, October, and November.

During these months the climate is quite moderate and you can mostly enjoy beautiful days.

However, this means it’s also peak season in Kyoto. The best Kyoto accommodations tend to be very expensive and sell out months in advance for this period.

Therefore we would advise you to book your hotel months in advance. Further, in this Kyoto blog post, you will find more info about when is the best time to book your accommodation.

How long should you stay in Kyoto? 

This will be different for everybody and this makes it hard to answer. 

Kyoto is the cultural heart of Japan, the city counts a dazzling 1600 temples.  The city is somewhat more slow-paced and can be a relief after its hyper-energetic neighbor Osaka and the always bustling capital of Tokyo.

We recommend staying at least 2 days.  This is the very minimum, it is doable to see all the highlights in 2 days, although that will be busy days. It’s better to add at least one day and if the above sounds like music to your ears definitely add 1 or 2 more if you can.

We have a detailed Kyoto itinerary for 2 and 3 days that brings you along a lot of highlights of this enchanting city.

How far in advance should I book a hotel in Kyoto?

Prices for Kyoto hotels quickly become very expensive during the popular Sakura season (the cherry blossom period in spring) as well as in November for the colorful autumn foliage.

We learned it the hard way during our first trip to Kyoto.  In November we were looking for a stay in April and prices ranged around $ 800/night for 3-star hotels.  We ended up staying a few days in Osaka as well as a few days near Lake Biwa, 20 minutes by train from Kyoto.  

If you are planning to travel to Kyoto during these peak seasons you better book around 6 to 7 months in advance. This is not necessary for the shoulder and low season.

If you don’t find a reasonably priced hotel, you could also base yourself in Osaka or stay in a hotel a bit more outside Kyoto as we did. 

Dotonbori Osaka at night
Osaka, the vibrant neighbor of Kyoto

Should you stay in Osaka or Kyoto?

We stayed both in Kyoto and Osaka. Both cities are only 30 minutes apart by JR train. 

If you don’t like to change hotels every 2 or 3 days, you could easily base yourself in Osaka or Kyoto and make day trips to Kyoto and vice versa. 

But should you then stay then in Osaka or Kyoto? This depends completely on your personal preference. Below we give you an impression of both cities.

Staying in Kyoto

If you are looking for history, older architecture, shrines, etc. then you’re in the right place in Kyoto.

By staying close to Kyoto station you can limit the time needed to commute to Osaka as well as to other popular nearby places such as Nara.

If this is your first visit to Japan, we advise reading our useful tips before traveling to Japan.

Staying in Osaka

Osaka is completely different from Kyoto. This is where you need to be if you are looking for a lively city atmosphere, lots of shopping possibilities, and vibrant nightlife.

It’s also possible to do day trips to Nara and other nearby places.

As already said, hotels in Osaka tend to be cheaper which may be interesting if you are traveling during peak season when the hotel prices in Kyoto go through the roof.

You can travel between both cities for free with a JR Pass.  The Shinkansen travels in between both cities in 14 minutes.  It leaves from Shin-Osaka station. Regular JR trains take 30 minutes and travel in between Kyoto station and Osaka station.

Kyoto’s Public Transport

Bad news for those who have a JR pass. You won’t be able to use it as much as you could in Tokyo. JR operates some trains in Kyoto but their local network is not nearly as extensive as in the capital. In addition, the lines are not ideal to get to tourist attractions.

Below is a map that shows Kyoto’s two subway lines along with the private and JR train lines.

The dashed lines are JR lines (blue for the Shinkansen, grey for the local lines). The colored lines are private trains and the subway lines can be recognized by the K and T for respectively the Karasuma and Tozai subways.

To give you an idea of how this map compares to our map of the different regions: The Kyoto downtown area is more or less a square with the Karasuma Oike station, where both subways cross, in the upper left corner, the Shijo station in the bottom left corner, and the pink train line that heads to Sanjo station forms the right border.

Many popular temples in the Higashiyama ward and along the Philosopher’s path are far from train and subway stops. However, that does not mean that you do not benefit from staying close to a station. In most cases you can start your journey with a short train ride so that you only need to walk the last part.

Trains to the picturesque Arashiyama, Kibune, and Kurama suburbs also leave from central Kyoto. Not to forget the bustling city of Osaka which is also only a 20-30 minute ride from Kyoto station. JR trains to Osaka leave from Kyoto station.

Conclusion

Kyoto only counts 2 subway lines and your Japan Rail Pass is of limited use as JR only operates the Nara and the Sagano line within the city’s limits.  These 4 lines combined serve only a small part of the city but they do have stops near many of Kyoto’s highlights.

The Keihan Main Line is a privately operated rail line that also serves a lot of Kyoto’s attractions. 

The JR pass is not valid on these trains but they do have their own pass which can be useful if you want to spare your feet while exploring the city.

In Kyoto, even more than anywhere else, it is best to choose a hotel near the metro or train that you will use the most.

Downtown Kyoto is a good location if you want to make most of the limited JR trains that cover Kyoto. The Karasuma subway line also serves the station.

Central Kyoto is where the east-west and north-south subway lines cross and is therefore also a relatively good choice to start exploring the city in all directions.

When staying in Gion and Southern Higashiyama you are relatively close to the Keihan Main Line.