Kyoto Ryokan

Find Your Favorite Kyoto

by Robert Schrader on February 21, 2019

Choosing the best area to stay in Kyoto is difficult for a number of reasons. First among them? Kyoto is way bigger than you’d imagine if you’ve never been there, and simply imagine the city as a charming settlement of temples and shrines.

On the other hand, you shouldn’t leave the location of where to stay in Kyoto to chance. Depending on how long you spend in Kyoto and what you want to do, there’s definitely a best neighborhood to stay in Kyoto—the city’s many wards, for all their diverse charms, are not equal to one another.

What if you’ve already decided where in Kyoto you want to stay? I’ll be devoting a portion of this post to the best hotels in Kyoto in all its districts, from historical Higashiyama, to lush Arashiyama and far beyond, so there’s a reason for you to continue reading as well.

Need more help planning your trip to Kyoto, where to stay and otherwise? Commission a custom Japan itinerary today!

Kyoto’s Best Neighborhoods

Higashiyama

 

To the majority of travelers, historical Higashiyama is the best area to stay in Kyoto, since most of Kyoto’s main attractions are here. From Kiyomizu-dera in the south of the district, to Gion geisha district in the center, to Nanzen-ji  along its northern edges, Higashiyama hosts most places that come to mind when you think of Kyoto. On the other hand, lodging in Higashiyama can be expensive, whether you choose an intimate ryokan guest house (more on those in a moment) or an innovative hotel such as RC Hotel Kyoto Yasaka.

Arashiyama

 

Arguably, Arashiyama is Kyoto’s second-most famous district, if only because of popular Sagano Bamboo Grove. Unfortunately, Arashiyama accommodation is significantly more lacking than the tourist attractions here, which is unfortunate if you enjoy scaling the mountain where Iwatayama Monkey Park sits, or walking over the Hozu River via Togetsuyu Bridge. Properties like Nagi Kyoto are your best bet if you won’t stay here—most travelers get here via the JR Sagano Line, spend a few hours here and go back to where their Kyoto hotel is.

Shimogyo

 

Some travelers are put off at the idea of staying in hotels near Kyoto Station, for fear they’ll be far from the action—or zen, as might be appropriate to say in Kyoto. On the other hand, there’s a practical appeal to properties such as Ryokan Kyoraku, beyond being cheaper than what you find in Higashiyama or Arashiyama. But Shimogyo (as the area just to the north of Kyoto Station and Kyoto Tower is called) is definitely one of the best areas to stay in Kyoto, and places you not only at the starting point for most Raku Bus lines within Kyoto’s city center, but just minutes from the train tracks, where you can use your Japan Rail Pass to enjoy Kyoto day trips.

Other Kyoto Neighborhoods

 

If you’re not caught up in being close to Kyoto’s best cherry blossom spots or the most beautiful gardens in Kyoto, and aren’t lured by the convenience of being near Kyoto Station, the best area to stay in Kyoto becomes a more open-ended question. Some travelers barely deviate from the norm, staying in Nagakyo near Kyoto Imperial Palace, as one example. Another place you might stay is Fushimi, a sake-producing part of Kyoto south of Fushimi Inari Shrine, where properties such as UU Inn Kyoto await.

Types of Kyoto Accommodation

Kyoto Ryokans

I won’t comment on the topic of best ryokan in Kyoto, other than to say Gion Hatanaka often takes the top spot in rankings (and not just mine). No more which of these traditional Japanese guest houses you can home during your days in Kyoto, however, one thing is for certain: This is the king (or emperor, as it were) of accommodation in Japan’s one-time capital.

Kyoto Hotels

With these being said, there are plenty of Kyoto luxury hotels that aren’t ryokan, even though many of them boast tradition design elements. Whether you choose Hotel Kanra Kyoto in Shimogyo just minutes from Kyoto Station, or head into Gion (the geisha-filled part of Higashiyama ward) and stay at Kyoto Granbell Hotel, you don’t need to stay in a guest house to feel welcome in Kyoto.

Kyoto Apartments

Finding a Kyoto Airbnb is quite difficult now, thanks to the controversial regulations the Japanese government imposed on the apartment rental giant in mid-2018. With this being said, you can find some apartments in Kyoto, even if many are not very home-y, and most don’t offer much of a cost savings when compared to hotels or ryokan.  Properties like Stay Inn Kyoto exemplify the sort of ambience and price you can expect if you decide to rent an apartment in Kyoto—in other words, far from the best place to stay in Kyoto.

Other Kyoto Accommodation

Some travelers will decide on the best area to stay in Kyoto, and then choose an accommodation type. If you decide you want to stay in Higashiyama, for example, but want to transcend the typical, you could book a stay at Kyoto Nanzenji Ryokan Yachiyo, which is admittedly pricey. It’s also not a “temple stay” in the sense you’d find at Mt. Koya in Wakayama prefecture—if a shukubo is what you’re looking for, you’re not going to find many options in Kyoto.

My Favorite Things to Do in Kyoto

No matter where to stay in Kyoto appeals to you most, you’re not going to be spending much time in your ryokan. Among other activities I’ve mentioned thus far, you can follow the temple trail through Higashiyama, find zen amid the gardens and forests of Arashiyama or explore secondary Kyoto districts like convenient Shimogyo and sake-producing Fushimi.

 

As you plan your trip to Kyoto, take advantage of the resources I’ve created about the city, beyond this discussion about the best are to stay in Kyoto. In addition to the other articles I’ve linked, you can check out my captivating Kyoto itinerary, or my guide to what to do (and how long to stay in) the larger Kansai region.

The Bottom Line

The good news? You’re now almost certainly sure of the best area to stay in Kyoto on your upcoming trip. The bad news? You’ve learned so much about all the things to do in Kyoto you’re planning five more! Well, that’s pretty good news as well—Japan’s erstwhile capital never gets old. Regardless of where to stay in Kyoto, whether you’re seeking a luxe ryokan in historical Higashiyama, or spacious, modern accommodations near Kyoto Station in Shimogyo, Kyoto is a place you’ll want to call home again and again.

About The Author

is the author of 100 posts on Japan Starts Here. Robert created Japan Starts Here so the web would have a beautiful hub of Japan travel information and inspiration. He also runs the popular website Leave Your Daily Hell.

 
 

Japan Starts Here is information—and inspiration—for all your trips to Japan. My name is Robert and I'm happy you're here!

 
 
 
 

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