Kyoto is arguably one of the most magical cities in the world: a cohesion of ancient Japanese culture and endless modern delights.
Once the capital of Japan, this city is brimming with tradition and culture: colorful shrines and temples, Geisha sightings, lush gardens, and bamboo forests, and tea ceremonies.
With so much to offer, Kyoto has a number of neighborhoods with different attractions and atmospheres, and it can be a bit stressful deciding where to stay in Kyoto, and you’ll need some help picking the best neighborhood to stay based on your interests.
This guide will break down the best neighborhoods in Kyoto based on your travel preferences and the top things to do in Kyoto.
Table of Contents
- Quick Tips
- Top 3 Recommendations for Where to Stay in Kyoto
- Kyoto Neighborhood Guide
- 4 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Kyoto
- 1. Southern Higashiyama – Best Area for First-timers
- 2. Central Kyoto Neighborhood – Staying in Kyoto on a Budget
- 3. Downtown Neighborhood – Where to Stay in Kyoto for Nightlife
- 4. Shimogyo-ku: Great Neighborhood in Kyoto for Families
- Where to stay in Kyoto the first time – Southern Higashiyama
- Where to stay in Kyoto on a budget – Central Kyoto
- Best area to stay in Kyoto for nightlife – Downtown Kyoto
- Coolest place to stay in Kyoto – Southern Higashiyama
- Best neighborhood in Kyoto for families – Shimogyo-ku
In a hurry? Here’s where to stay in Kyoto for first timers
- Visit glorious well-known temples like Sanjusangen-do, Kiyomizu-dera, Kennin-ji, and Chion-in.
- Feel a sense of nostalgia with a stroll along the scenic Ishibei-koji Lane.
- Soak up sweeping city views from Shoren-in Shogunzuka Seiryuden viewpoint.
Top 3 Recommendations for Where to Stay in Kyoto
Looking for a specific place to stay? We have reviewed are our top picks for the best places to stay in Kyoto below! Read on for more information!
Best Hostel in Kyoto: Guest House Ga-Jyun
Situated in Kyoto’s historic core, this guest house is just a short walk from many major attractions. Private rooms in various sizes are available as well as single-gender and mixed dorms.
Breakfast is included and you can use the kitchen to cook your own meals if you wish. You can relax and chat with other guests in several indoor common areas as well as the outdoor seating area. There are coin-operated washing machines, bike rentals, and free Wi-Fi.
Best Hotel in Kyoto: Hana-Touro Hotel Gion
Located close to Gion, the atmospheric geisha area, this hotel opened in 2017. It offers a modern base from which to explore historic Kyoto. There’s an onsite restaurant and you can arrange diverse cultural activities.
All rooms have a private bathroom. There are spacious rooms for two and four, with a choice of western rooms or traditional Japanese sleeping arrangements (with tatami mats). Some rooms have a balcony as well.
Best Airbnb in Kyoto: New House in Kyoto with Area for Family Group
Close to Kyoto Station, this traditional home can sleep up to ten people, perfect for large families and friends travelling together. The sleeping arrangements are Japanese style, in that most people sleep in the same room on tatami mats on the ground.
The main sleeping room doubles as the living room, with a TV, table, and sofas as well. There’s another room that can be used for sleeping and/or eating, and you’ll find comfy floor seats in this room too.
There’s a separate toilet and bathroom and a well-equipped kitchen with a small breakfast bar. Lovely Japanese features can be found throughout the home.
Kyoto Neighborhood Guide
Quick Summary: The Best Places to Stay in Kyoto
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Alongside the old city, Kyoto offers modern and alternative attractions. We even wrote a post on the 11 coolest things to do in Kyoto!
Here are the best neighborhood broken down:
Southern Higashiyama is Kyoto’s prime tourist area. Home to a wealth of sights, it’s often the first place that visitors make a beeline for. Northern Higashiyama is another major tourist area, with fascinating shrines and sprawling green spaces. It’s generally a bit quieter and less crowded than its southern neighbour.
Arashiyama is another major sightseeing area that often features on tourists’ itineraries and Kibune promises natural delights.
Central Kyoto boasts two of Kyoto’s major attractions: Nijo Castle and the Imperial Palace of Kyoto Gosho. There are a number of smaller attractions sprinkled throughout the area, but probably none that would draw you here if it weren’t for the two star sites. Northwest Kyoto is similar in that it has a couple of Kyoto’s main attractions, but – in general – little else worth writing home about.
While Downtown Kyoto may be lacking in sightseeing spots, it makes up for it with its diverse leisure activities, restaurants, bars, shops, and accommodation options. Pontocho is known for its lively nightlife.
Shimogyo-ku, the area around Kyoto Station, is a terrific place for shopping. For tastes of the old, traditional Kyoto visit the weaving area of Nishijin and the geisha area of Gion.
Editor’s Note: For more inspiration, check out our post on Kyoto’s top 20 hostels!
4 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Kyoto
While many places in Kyoto offer heaps to see or do, being interesting doesn’t necessarily mean that an area is the best base for your stay in Kyoto. As with any major city, some areas are more attractive than others when it comes to planning where to stay.
Whether you’re looking for the cheapest sleep in Kyoto, a Kyoto area that’s perfect for families, the best place for first-time visitors to fully appreciate Kyoto, or something else entirely, here are some of the best neighbourhoods in Kyoto for your stay.
Southern Higashiyama is home to many of Kyoto’s most famous and popular tourist destinations. If you haven’t been to Southern Higashiyama, you haven’t been to Kyoto!
Staying here means that you’ll be within easy walking distance of many major sites, while still being able to easily walk to Downtown Tokyo if you fancy a change of scenery for dinner or want to hit the shops or nightlife.
As well as being the best Kyoto neighbourhood for first-time visitors, Southern Higashiyama is also among Kyoto’s coolest neighbourhoods.
Top Things to Do in Southern Higashiyama
– Visit glorious well-known temples like Sanjusangen-do, Kiyomizu-dera, Kennin-ji, and Chion-in.
– Step away from the typical tourist trail and explore lesser-visited temples such as Kodai-ji, Shoren-in, and Entoku-in.
– Feel a sense of nostalgia with a stroll along the scenic Ishibei-koji Lane.
– Learn more about the city’s past at Kyoto National Museum.
– Admire Yasaka-no-to Pagoda.
– Take pictures of the curious and unusual Yasui-kompira-gu Shrine.
– Pack a picnic and head to the lush Maruyama-koen Park.
– Watch a spell-binding performance at Minamiza Kabuki Theatre.
– Soak up sweeping city views from Shoren-in Shogunzuka Seiryuden viewpoint.
– Experience a traditional massage.
– Shop for traditional goods in the small stores along Chawan-zaka.
– Be wowed by the cherry blossom at Shimbashi (in season).
– Try and spot geishas in Hanami-koji .
– Wander around Gion in the evening and immerse yourself in the mysterious air, with geishas, old wooden buildings, and shady-looking characters aplenty.
– Sip a drink in a quaint tea shop along Ninen-zaka.
Best Hostel in Southern Higashiyama: Imano Kyoto Kiyomizu Hostel
With single-gender dorms and beds with privacy curtains and an individual reading light, there’s no need to feel shy at Imano Kyoto Kiyomizu Hostel. There’s an onsite café/bar and laundry facilities, and guests can benefit from free airport transfers. Wi-Fi is free too and guests can take part in a traditional tea ceremony to learn more about the local culture.
Best Hotel in Southern Higashiyama: Hotel Ethnography – Gion Shinmonzen
Located in the heart of the fascinating geisha district of Gion, Hotel Ethnography – Gion Shinmonzen has a variety on en-suite rooms for two or three. All rooms have a TV and a fridge and everyone can enjoy a free buffet breakfast each morning before heading out to explore Kyoto.
Best Airbnb in Southern Higashiyama: Gion Nadeshiko 502 – Amazing Place!
A cute apartment for two in the cultural area of Gion, you just need to step outside to find fascinating sights and a range of places to eat and drink. The apartment has a pocket Wi-Fi, which you can take out sightseeing with you, a washing machine, and a well-equipped kitchen. Do note, though, that it’s on the fifth floor and there’s no elevator.
With the greatest choice of accommodations in the city, Central Kyoto is one of the cheapest neighbourhoods to stay in Kyoto.
Although Central Kyoto only has two major attractions of note, you’ll still stumble across smaller places and hidden gems that are sure to capture your imagination. Plus, it’s easy to get to and from Kyoto’s prime sightseeing hotspots.
Top Things to Do in Central Kyoto
– Be wowed by the impressive Nijo-jo Castle, a large Edo-era fortress that was built by Shogun leaders.
– Stroll through the beautiful gardens of Kyoto Imperial Palace (Kyoto Gosho) and see the official city home of the Emperor.
– Relax in the beautiful Kyoto Botanical Gardens, a lesser-visited place of serenity and nature.
– Bathe with the locals at Goko-yu Sento or Funaoka Onsen.
– Admire more than 20 temples and lovely Japanese gardens at Daitoku-ji.
– Explore the surroundings of the attractive Shimogamo-jinja Shrine.
– Delve into the local pop culture at Kyoto Manga Museum.
– Wander through the atmospheric ruins of Sento Imperial Palace (Sento Gosho).
– Marvel at Kyoto’s biggest wooden building, Higashi Honganji.
– Learn more about Japan’s mysterious geishas at Sumiya Pleasure House.
– Experience life in a local market at Nishiki Market.
– Enjoy peace and quiet at Kamo-gawa riverside.
Best Hostel in Central Kyoto: Hostel Mundo Chiquito
Within a ten-minute walk of both the Imperial Palace and Nijo-jo Castle, Hostel Mundo Chiquito enjoys a terrific location in Central Kyoto.
The traditional-style house has mixed dorms and private rooms. Services and facilities include bike rental, free Wi-Fi, a communal kitchen, a common room, and a garden.
Best Hotel in Central Kyoto: Stella Gosho
A budget-friendly accommodation in Central Kyoto, Stella Gosho has private air-conditioned rooms for two, three, and four. Most rooms have their own toilet but showers are largely shared.
You can use the shared kitchen to prepare drinks and snacks and Wi-Fi is available throughout. There are laundry facilities.
Best Airbnb in Central Kyoto: Apartment near Kyoto Imperial Palace
Sleeping up to three guests, this private apartment has a double bed and a single sofa bed in the main living area/sleeping space. There’s a small kitchen with a stove, fridge, and all necessary cookware, and the balcony is a pleasant spot to sit and enjoy a drink or al fresco meal.
Downtown Kyoto is a popular place to stay because it’s one of the best places to stay for nightlife. Although it’s not a prime sightseeing area it is also one of the best parts of Kyoto for modern comforts, leisure, and shopping.
Additionally, you’ll find heaps of places to eat, accommodation to suit varying budgets, and lively markets. Making it even more appealing, the well-known tourist area of Southern Higashiyama can easily be reached by foot.
Top Things to do in Downtown Kyoto
– Shop till you drop in the hugely popular Teramachi and Shinkyogoku Shopping Arcades; the covered arcades are not only fantastic for finding a range of goods, but they’re also ideal ways to spend a rainy day in Kyoto.
– Give your credit cards a workout in large modern shopping centres such as Daimaru and Takashimaya and sample a huge selection of dishes in their expansive food courts.
– Browse in speciality stores like Zohiko, Ippodo, Rin Vintage Store, and Morita Washi.
– Get up close and personal with nocturnal birds of prey at Owl Family Kyoto.
– Visit the peaceful Rokkakudo Temple, a lovely sanctuary in the heart of the business area.
– Try eel (unagi) at the charming and olde-world Kane-yo restaurant.
– Take a cooking class to learn how to reproduce your favourite Japanese meals back at home.
– Wander along Pontocho alley in the daytime, admiring the traditional wooden homes and soaking up the atmosphere.
– Head to Pontocho in the evenings to experience some of Kyoto’s liveliest nightlife.
Best Hostel in Downtown: Comics and CapsuleHotel COMICAP Kyotoshinkyogoku
A clean, cosy, comfortable, and sociable hostel, Comicap is truly unique for its hundreds of comics. Comics are everywhere, from the lounge and the lobby to the dorms.
There are private capsule-style pods in addition to long sleeping platforms with curtains to separate the sleeping spaces. Other perks include laundry facilities and free Wi-Fi.
Best Hotel in Downtown: Sai Hotel
A charming and quiet hotel in Downtown Kyoto, Sai Hotel has compact rooms for two and four. Some rooms have beds, whereas others have sleeping spaces with traditional tatami mats.
All rooms are en-suite and come with a TV, a fridge, a kettle, and access to free Wi-Fi. Sai Hotel is especially noted for its friendly staff members who will really go out of their way to make sure to have a great time in Kyoto.
Best Airbnb in Downtown: Free Festival Experience with Room
An ideal accommodation in Downtown Kyoto for families or groups of friends, this quirky room can accommodate up to four people. Guests share facilities, including bathrooms and a kitchen, with other tenants of the building.
The major bonus of staying here is its proximity to Kyoto’s awesome nightlife. It’s also just a short walk away from the closest station. There’s free Wi-Fi here too.
Although there are several parts of the city that would be great for families, Shimogyo-ku is our pick for the best Kyoto neighbourhood for families because of the amount of dining and shopping options close to hand in addition to its close proximity to the train station.
Families arriving by train (the most common way to arrive in Kyoto) won’t have to trawl the kids around to reach their accommodation, and you have transportation right at your fingertips for conveniently getting around Kyoto’s places of interest.
The diverse eateries nearby ensure that everyone is happy at mealtimes too.
Top Things to do in Shimogyo-ku
– Enjoy views of Kyoto from the 15th-floor viewing terrace in Kyoto Station.
– Watch the latest movies at the modern cinema in the train station.
– Admire the modern architecture of Kyoto Station, one of the biggest train stations in all of Japan.
– Go to the top of Kyoto’s tallest building, Kyoto Tower, for a bird’s eye view of the city.
– Marvel at the towering pagoda of To-ji Temple and explore the beautiful temple’s grounds.
– Have a fun-filled family day out at Kyoto Aquarium.
– Sample an array of food in the myriad restaurants in the station itself and also in the surrounding streets.
– Learn more about train transportation and the history of the railroad in Japan at Kyoto Railway Museum.
– Watch the Aqua Fantasy musical fountain show in the evening.
– Take a day trip to nearby destinations, such as Nara, Osaka, and the small villages and hamlets on the outskirts of Kyoto.
Best Hostel in Shimogyo-ku: Piece Hostel
A trendy boutique hostel, Piece Hostel Kyoto is just a two-minute walk from Kyoto Station. There’s an onsite café-bar as well as laundry facilities, bike rentals, and a tour desk.
Freebies include breakfast and Wi-Fi. Guests can chill on the terrace or in the lounge, and cook their favourite meals in the shared kitchen. There are mixed dorms with pod-style beds and private double rooms.
Best Hotel in Shimogyo-ku: Hotel Station Kyoto West
A short walk from the station, guests can choose between western-style rooms or traditional Japanese rooms. Each room is en-suite, and all rooms have a fridge, a TV, free Wi-Fi, and air-conditioning.
Rooms are available for up to six people, making this a top choice for families and groups of friends. There’s an onsite buffet restaurant and the building has an elevator.
Best Airbnb in Shimogyo-ku: Bicycle+Wifi Traditional House
Experience traditional Japanese living with a stay in this delightful house. There are eight beds spread through two rooms, with a combination of tatami mats and a sofa bed.
The two-floor home has a bathroom and a kitchen, and there’s ample seating in front of the TV in the living room and at the dining table. Other features include a washing machine, free bicycles (six), and pocket Wi-Fi.
Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in Kyoto
Kyoto is traditionally a city known for its ancient cultural influences. However, Kyoto is also brimming with cool coffee shops, breweries, vintage stores, and other trendy delights.
We wrote this no nonsense neighborhood guide to help you pick the best place to stay in Kyoto based on your travel preferences? Do you want the nightlife? The tradition? The convenience?
We recommend Guest House Ga-Jyun in the historic core as the best hostel in Kyoto. For those wanting more privacy, stay at Hana-Touro Hotel Gion, an atmospheric hotel surrounded by plenty of diverse, cultural activities.
If all else fails, we recommend Southern Higashiyama as the best place to stay in Kyoto for your first time. If you’re a night owl, base yourself in Downtown Kyoto. Finally, this isn’t the cheapest city, so those on a budget will want to stick to Central Kyoto.
Let us know in the comments if we missed anything!
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