Where to Stay in Kyoto – 6 BEST Areas & Top Hotels in Each

A vibrant autumn scene with a bright red pagoda nestled among trees with multicolored leaves, showcasing Japan's fall beauty.

Japan’s historical, cultural, and spiritual heart, as well as the old capital city – Kyoto – is Japan in a nutshell. As a top-tier tourist destination, every experience is at the tip of your fingers. Have you been thinking of a holiday to Japan and wondering where to stay in Kyoto? If so, you’re in the right place! 

The city is made up of 11 wards, each further divided into neighborhoods. To make your life easier, I’ve compared all the neighborhoods and listed the 6 best places to stay in Kyoto. 

If you’re visiting Kyoto for the first time, the best place to stay is downtown Kyoto, offering numerous attractions, restaurants, hotels, and convenient transportation options. 

Accommodations in Kyoto range from luxury hotels to ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) and hostels, as well as other mid-range and budget options, so choosing one can be tricky. To help you decide, I went through nearly all the options and handpicked the best hotels in each of the areas recommended here and arranged them by price.

Whatever you decide, book your stay in advance because Kyoto is a popular destination, and hotels sell out super quickly!

So, where to stay in Kyoto? Let’s find out!

Quick Picks for Your Stay

Take a look at this list of the best hotels in downtown Kyoto:

Here is a map of the 6 best areas of Kyoto I’ll talk about in this post:

A colorful map highlighting the best areas to stay in Kyoto with numbered locations and labels for easy navigations
  1. DOWNTOWN KYOTO: for first-time visitors
  2. GION & SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA: for geisha culture
  3. KYOTO STATION & SHIMOGYO: for budget travelers
  4. CENTRAL KYOTO: for a local experience
  5. NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA: for families
  6. ARASHIYAMA: for nature lovers

1. Downtown Kyoto – where to stay in Kyoto for the first time

An atmospheric street in Kyoto with traditional wooden houses and a five-story pagoda, under a sky with cherry blossoms in bloom

Downtown Kyoto (Kawaramachi area for locals) is the perfect mix of traditional and modern Japan. You’ll appreciate staying here if you love getting around on foot as it’s a compact area full of shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants. Plus, you will pretty much always be in the proximity of train stations to take you to all of the other city attractions. 

People who are on the lookout for good food, craft beers, and sake will be satisfied with the abundance of restaurants, izakayas (Japanese bars), and quirky cafes sprawled throughout downtown Kyoto. 

One of the top spots to explore when you visit Kyoto is the downtown Kyoto Nishiki Market (map), a food market offering a variety of Japanese delicacies and drinks, such as traditional sake. I’d also recommend visiting the Kyoto International Manga Museum and The Cultural Museum of Kyoto, strolling along Pontocho Alley, and shopping at Karasuma-dori Street. 

The vibrant Kyoto downtown area is also ideally located for exploring the Higashiyama ward but also the rest of the city – you can catch a ride from the Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae subway station or the Marutamachi subway station and reach your destination in no time. 

Moreover, if you want to experience sleeping on a tatami bed, Downtown Kyoto is also known to have a large selection of traditional Ryokan accommodations; you can find our top picks here, and I suggest you look into the ones with a private onsen (hot spring).

Here are my top choices for where to stay in Downtown Kyoto:

Luxury hotel
A collage of three hotel photos to stay in Kyoto: a cozy wooden private onsen with garden view, a bedroom with plush seating and large window overlooking greenery, and a traditional Japanese-style common room with tatami mats and low wooden tables.

Minimalist, sophisticated, designer rooms that will make you feel like royalty. With an ideal location downtown close to several convenience stores and restaurants, you can unwind at their on-site onsen, and be served a tasty breakfast in the morning. Some rooms even have views of the Kamo River.

Other accommodation options in Downtown Kyoto

MID-RANGE
A tranquil Japanese bedroom with two single beds with crisp white bedding

The hotel features Japanese-style rooms with a private bathroom and all the necessary amenities, including Wi-Fi and air conditioning

BUDGET
A chic bar area in a contemporary hotel with a vertical garden wall

Offering both private and dormitory rooms and a shared lounge, this hostel is within walking distance of the subway station

airbnb
A spacious Japanese living area with a low wooden table and comfortable couch

A traditional Japanese townhouse offering garden views located a short walking distance away from many cool attractions

Things to do in Downtown Kyoto 

  • Don’t miss the traditional food and shopping market, Nishiki Market
  • Explore the world of Japanese comics at The Kyoto International Manga Museum
  • Go shopping downtown style Kawaramachi Shopping Center (map)
  • Take a beautiful night stroll through the narrow alleyway of Pontocho Alley
  • Check out The Cultural Museum of Kyoto
  • Visit the hexagonal Chohoji Temple (map)

2. Gion & Southern Higashiyama – for geisha culture

A picturesque view of a Kyoto temple with a towering pagoda surrounded by full cherry blossom trees and visitors in traditional attire

Southern Higashiyama is one of the most well-preserved regions in Kyoto. Conveniently located just a few blocks Southwest of downtown Kyoto, this area offers the chance to experience the charm of traditional Japanese culture.

Gion is exactly the neighborhood you imagined if you read/saw “Memoirs of a Geisha” – it is a well-preserved Old Town where you can encounter real (or costumed)geishas!

The traditional geisha district of Kyoto, Gion, is located in the North part of the Higashiyama ward. Look out for women dressed in brightly colored kimonos on the wooden Tatsumi Bridge (map) and go for an evening stroll along the tiny alleyways in the neighborhood. 

Gion is an ideal place to explore some of the city’s most beautiful shrines and temples. You have to visit the Yasaka Shrine (map), a Shinto shrine and one of Kyoto’s trademarks, and Kiyomizu-dera (map), a Buddhist temple that boasts the most stunning views. And, of course, there’s the unmissable Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine (map). 

Gion and Southern Higashiyama are some of the best areas to partake in a traditional tea ceremony, but don’t worry—you can also choose to dine in one of the many high-class restaurants around Hanamikoji Street. 

Aside from the small traditional wooden houses (machiya), temples, and winding alleyways, Southern Higashiyama and Gion are jam-packed with sightseeing and major attractions. Bound to the east by mountains, you’ll find something new around every corner in this part of Kyoto.

Luxury hotel
A collage of three hotel photos to stay in Kyoto: an elegant lounge with a bonsai centerpiece, a spacious suite with bedroom and dining area, and a chic bar setting with modern stools and atmospheric lighting.

The best hotel for 5-star luxury in Southern Higashiyama is a 15-minute walk from Gion’s geisha district. You can relax in the public bath, stay connected with the free Wi-Fi, eat an incredible breakfast, and enjoy a hearty meal in the on-site Japanese restaurant. Plus, you can use the hotel’s business facilities.

Other accommodation options in Gion & Higashiyama

mid-range
A bright and airy Japanese dining space with a beige couch

A 3-star aparthotel offering accommodations with private bathrooms, each with a hot tub, and a kitchenette with the necessary appliances

budget
A minimalist white seating area with built-in benches and soft cushions

A budget hotel with capsule rooms and mixed dormitories, plus shared bathrooms, a kitchen, and a tour desk

airbnb
A comfortable hotel room with a large bed covered in a vibrant red and black patterned quilt

Furnished in traditional Japanese style, this home can accommodate up to 8 people, offering comfortable beds and basic cooking facilities

Things to do in Gion & Southern Higashiyama

  • Admire the views from the veranda of Kiyomizu-Dera temple
  • Stop to see the geishas at Tatsumi Bridge
  • Visit the Yasaka Shrine
  • Watch the cherry blossoms at Maruyama Park (map)
  • Take part in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony 
  • Pay a visit to the Fushimi Inari shrine

3. Kyoto Station & Shimogyo – for budget travelers

A bustling area near Kyoto Station with modern architecture, people walking, and bare trees against a backdrop of blue sky.

The Kyoto Station area, or Shimogyo Ward, is located directly South of central Kyoto. It’s the best place to stay in Kyoto for budget travelers because the hotels and accommodations in this area are more affordable than its neighboring districts. It’s also a great choice if you want to be near the train station and have easy access to numerous train lines. 

Although its urban atmosphere might not be the traditional Kyoto you are expecting, you’ll find yourself enjoying the close proximity to Kyoto Train Station since the railway station is the gateway to Kyoto. You can hop on a train or a bus easily, straight to your destination. I highly recommend you get a Japan Rail Pass (JR Rail Pass) if you want to get around the city – I wouldn’t recommend driving as traffic can get pretty bad. 

The Kyoto Station building is not just a landmark but also an attraction. It’s a great example of modern architecture and futuristic design, and it’s also home to several department stores, malls, and restaurants. 

NOTE: this is the best place to stay in Kyoto if you’re planning to take day trips to other Japanese cities. You can take the bullet train from Kyoto station to cities like Osaka, Hiroshima, and Himeji. 

Thinking it’s all busy shops and trains? Don’t worry, you also have three temples within walking distance from Kyoto station in which to seek solace. There’s the Higashi Hongan-ji Temple (map), the Toji Temple (map), and the Nishi Hongan-ji Temple (map). 

The Kyoto Tower (map) is another notable landmark in the area, and the Kyoto Aquarium and Kyoto Railway Museum also warrant a visit. 

Shimogyo and Kyoto Station are not short of accommodation. In this area, you’ll find some of the best places to stay in Kyoto. Plus, many of them are at a cheaper price than the other areas! Here are the best ones:

Luxury hotel
A collage of three hotel photos to stay in Kyoto: a family room in an apartment hotel with playful cartoon bedding, a sleek modern living area with a dining table, and a comfortable double room with minimalist decor.

An elegant hotel featuring a restaurant, a bar, a sauna, and an indoor pool. Guests can benefit from a 24-hour front desk, a currency exchange, and room service and enjoy the comforts of their spacious rooms. The staff is very friendly and helpful, and if you have any specific requests you can always turn to the concierge. 

Other accommodation options in Kyoto Station Area & Shimogyo

mid-range
A modern twin bedroom with crisp white bedding and a grey headboard

One of the best mid-range hotels in Kyoto, with a daily buffet breakfast and clean and comfortable rooms

budget
A traditional Japanese sitting room with tatami mats, a low wooden table, and floor cushions

A cozy guest house with soundproof rooms, providing access to shared bathroom facilities and private parking at an extra cost

airbnb
A tranquil outdoor private onsen (hot spring bath) on a wooden deck

A comfortable room with 2 single beds, a private open-air bath, and a balcony overlooking the Kyoto Tower

Things to do in Kyoto Station Area and Shimogyo

  • Marvel at the beautiful panoramic view of Kyoto 1 at Kyoto Tower
  • Visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site To-ji Temple
  • Shop for big brands at the Kyoto Station Mall (map)
  • Check out the detached Japanese garden at Higashi Hongan-ji
  • Learn about Japan’s railway history at Kyoto Railway Museum
  • Pay a visit to the Kyoto Aquarium
  • Stop by the Nishi Hongan-ji Temple
  • Hunt for souvenirs at the Umekoji Park Handicraft Market (map)

4. Central Kyoto – where to stay for a local experience

An ornate Japanese temple gate adorned with intricate gold details and carvings, set against a clear blue sky

Central Kyoto is the heart of Kyoto and takes up a huge space on the map of the city. This district has a mix of both new and old Kyoto. It really has something for everyone as it borders all of the other areas I have talked about so far, with the Kyoto Imperial Palace at its heart. 

You’ll see well-preserved traditional Japanese homes on one side and giant office buildings on the other, with a few parks and temples sprinkled throughout. 

One of the best areas to stay if you want to avoid the tourist traps and are looking for a more authentic, local experience is Central Kyoto. Here, you will find a more modern, everyday Japanese style, with many restaurants nearby and a tea house here and there. It’s also super walkable!

As the name suggests, Central Kyoto is in the middle of the city so you’ll get to cover a lot of the attractions here, including the Imperial Palace (map) and Nijo Castle (map). I recommend sightseeing while the sun is up, and when the sun sets, enjoy what Central Kyoto’s nightlife has to offer. You’ll certainly feel the local vibes of Kyoto here.

Luxury hotel
A collage of three hotel photos to stay in Kyoto: an airy living room with floor-to-ceiling windows showcasing a zen garden, a serene bedroom with simple elegance, and a public bath area with a view of a tranquil illuminated garden.

The Mitsui Garden stands out from other luxury hotels with its modern yet traditional decor. While here, you can relax in the public bath on site and enjoy a Japanese breakfast prepared from local ingredients. Other perks offered by this boutique hotel include luggage storage, dry cleaning services, air conditioning, and massage services for an extra charge.

Other accommodation options in Central Kyoto

mid-range
A cozy modern Japanese living space with a round wooden table

A modern hotel with a restaurant, a 24/7 front desk, air-conditioned rooms, and a very good breakfast

budget
A compact and tidy twin bedroom in a Japanese hotel with clean white bedding

Each guest room at this hotel has a private bathroom stocked with free toiletries, a desk, and air conditioning

airbnb
A warmly lit Japanese-style room with tatami flooring and a wooden low-rise table

A 2-story traditional wooden house with antique furnishings, a Japanese living room, and a bedroom with 3 beds

Things to do in Central Kyoto

  • Explore the old Emperor’s residence at Kyoto Imperial Palace
  • Stroll around the Japanese gardens surrounding Nijo Castle
  • Experience a traditional public bathhouse (onsen) at Goko-yu Sento (map)
  • Visit the Kitano-temmangū Shrine (map)
  • Venture to Northern Kyoto to see the prominent Kinakaku-ji Temple (map)

5. Northern Higashiyama – where to stay in Kyoto with family

An iconic red torii gate of a Japanese shrine, with a pagoda in the background amidst autumn foliage under a vibrant sunset sky.

Northern Higashiyama will completely stimulate people who are interested in learning more about the Japanese history, art, and culture of Kyoto. Compared to Southern Higashiyama, Northern Higashiyama is less crowded, with a more relaxed atmosphere, and is located directly East of downtown Kyoto. 

The area is very serene and relaxed, which is why I recommend it to people who are traveling with family; if you’re visiting Japan with young kids or with a toddler. You’ll have plenty to do at all times, and if you want to get downtown, you can always take the local bus. 

In the center of Northern Higashiyama, you will find Kyoto’s museum district (Okazaki-koen). Visit Kyoto City KYOCERA Museum of Art (the Kyoto Municipal Museum), then take the kids to Kyoto City Zoo

The gorgeous Kamo-gawa River borders Northern Higashiyama to the West, while to the East, a long line of temples stands at the base of the green Higashiyama mountain range. This makes it the best area to stay if you’re planning to tour Kyoto’s art and history landmarks.

Luxury hotel
A collage of three hotel photos to stay in Kyoto: a luxurious hotel lounge with classical chandeliers and rich textiles, a contemporary bedroom with clean lines and a large bed, and a view of an indoor atrium with lush green plants and modern sculpture.

A 5-star boutique hotel with suites in classic, minimalist Japanese design. Room service and cleaning services are available. A breakfast buffet will fuel you as you start your day, while you can slow down at night with cocktails at the on-site bar and restaurant. Follow it with a massage or workout at their wellness center.

Other accommodation options in Northern Higashiyama

mid-range
Exterior view of a modern hotel in Kyoto with a grey facade

This 3-star hotel is completely non-smoking and offers free Wi-Fi, a concierge service, and a 24-hour reception

budget
A simple, traditional Japanese bedroom with twin beds with white bedding

A small guesthouse with private rooms and shared dorms, offering a free shuttle service to the nearby public bath

airbnb
A mid-century modern inspired sitting area with wooden floors and black armchairs

A traditional wooden house that’s been fully renovated, with a garden, a double bed, and a traditional bathtub

Things to do in Northern Higashiyama 

  • Appreciate beautiful Japanese art at the Kyoto City KYOCERA Museum of Art
  • Take a serene walk down the Path of Philosophy
  • Spend a fun day with the kids at Kyoto City Zoo
  • Visit the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts and the Kyoto National Museum
  • Go hiking at Mount Hiei
  • Admire the views at Keage Incline (map) during the cherry blossom season

6. Arashiyama – where to stay in Kyoto for nature lovers

A serene path through the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in Kyoto, Japan, with a person holding a traditional red umbrella in the distance

Situated at the foot of the Arashiyama Mountains, Arashiyama is a rural neighborhood on the outskirts of Kyoto, approximately 30 mins by train from Kyoto Station. This is the place to stay in Kyoto for people who want to be in a neighborhood surrounded by nature. It’s quiet and peaceful, far from the action of the city. 

Away from the busy city center, you’ll get to take leisurely walks through bamboo forests, zen gardens, temples, shrines, and parks, almost constantly surrounded by trees and the occasional monkey.

The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest (map) and the Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama are must-visits during your stay here. I’d also recommend a visit to Tenryu-ji Temple (map), a Zen temple with gorgeous sprawling gardens. 

Arashiyama is a feast for the eyes and one of the most beautiful places to stay during the cherry blossoms and fall seasons. Imagine marveling at the beauty of the pink flowers up close or walking under the crimson leaves in fall. You’ll feel the cool breeze on your skin during these seasons, which is definitely perfect weather for relaxing outdoor walks and sightseeing.

Luxury hotel
A collage of three hotel photos to stay in Kyoto: a casual communal dining area with wooden furniture and pendant lighting, a minimalistic hotel room with twin beds and raw concrete walls, and a cozy seating area perfect for evening relaxation.

A mix of modern comfort and traditional Japanese-style suites. You’ll get to sleep in spacious and relaxing rooms, some equipped with a kitchen. A very convenient location in Kyoto, within walking distance to Hankyu Arashiyama Station. Moreover, you can dine in their bar and restaurant that serves local, Italian, and American cuisine. 

Other accommodation options in Arashiyama

mid-range
A hotel lounge with a large, comfortable brown sofa and green plants

A lovely boutique hotel boasting modern rooms with air conditioning and a flat-screen TV, plus it’s pet-friendly

budget
A minimalist Japanese-style kitchen with a wooden dining table

A hostel with Japanese-style bedrooms, a 2-minute walk from the train station with a bar and free Wi-Fi

airbnb
 cozy Japanese bedroom featuring twin beds with black covers and pale pink sheets

A 2-floor, private guest house that has both modern style and tatami bedrooms, 2 toilets, and laundry facilities

Things to do in Arashiyama

  • Take a walk through the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
  • Admire the art installations at Kimono Forest (map)
  • Visit the Arashiyama Monkey Park
  • Visit a quaint hermit cottage at Rakushisha Poet’s Hut (map)
  • Check out the UNESCO World Heritage Temple Tenryu-ji
  • Walk across Togetsukyo Bridge (map)
👑 Luxury price:US$350
💵 Mid-range hotel:US$200
🛏️ Budget:US$100
📍 Best area:Downtown Kyoto
🛎️ Best luxury hotel:Solaria Nishitetsu Hotel
🧳 Best mid-range hotel:Hotel Resol Kyoto
👛 Best budget hotel:Piece Hostel Sanjo

FAQs about where to stay in Kyoto

The writer of the post cycling in front of a traditional Japanese temple's spacious courtyard, shaded by lush green trees

🏨 What is the best location where to stay in Kyoto?

The best place to stay in Kyoto is downtown Kyoto, where you’ll find the Nishiki, the famous market, the Kyoto International Manga Museum, and The Cultural Museum of Kyoto. Explore the Pontocho Alley and stay at amazing hotels like Solaria Nishitetsu Hotel and Hotel Resol Kyoto.

🇯🇵 Is it better to stay in Kyoto or Osaka?

Stay in Kyoto if you want to learn about the history and culture of Japan and be closer to the region’s traditional attractions. Osaka is the better area to stay if you want an urban experience, cheaper prices, or are on a time limit, as it’s closer to the airport. 

🏯 What is Downtown Kyoto called?

Downtown Kyoto is also called Kawaramachi district. It is a mix of traditional and modern Japan. It has several temples and shrines, but you’ll also find plenty of cafes, bars, and restaurants in Downtown Kyoto/Kawaramachi.

📅 How many days do I need in Kyoto?

3 days are ideal to stay in Kyoto. You’ll get to explore the major attractions, take some day trips, and enjoy kaiseki-ryōri traditional dining.

🚶🏽 Is Kyoto a walkable city?

Exploring Kyoto on foot is possible seeing as the city is very walkable. However, if you don’t feel like walking, there are plenty of trains, subways, buses, taxis you can use to get around the city.

🚈 Where to stay around Kyoto Station?

The best hotels near Kyoto Station are Dusit Thani Kyoto and Comfort Hotel ERA.

🏨 What are the coolest hotels in Kyoto?

Some of the coolest hotels in Kyoto include Hotel She, Kyoto, Kyoto Granbell Hotel, and Cross Hotel Kyoto.

👨‍👩‍👧‍👧 Where to stay in Kyoto for families?

The best area for a family stay is Northern Higashiyama, and the top family-friendly hotels are Dhawa Yura Kyoto and Hotel Legasta.

🪙 Where to stay in Kyoto on a budget?

The top spots for budget travelers visiting Kyoto are the area around Kyoto Station and Shimogyo Ward, and the best budget hotel here is Fujitaya BnB.

Conclusion

The writer of the post jumping in front of the vermilion torii gate at the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan

That’s the end of my guide on where to stay in Kyoto. Hopefully, you’ve already decided on an area and picked a hotel (or maybe you opted for a traditional ryokan).

However, if you’re still undecided, here are my top 2 choices for staying in downtown Kyoto:

  • Solaria Nishitetsu Hotel – one of the best luxury hotels in Kyoto, with an on-site public bath and an amazing restaurant
  • Hotel Resol Kyoto – a lovely hotel with air-conditioned rooms and 24-hour front desk, situated near a subway station

Don’t take too long to decide where to stay in Kyoto! I recommend booking 4-6 months in advance during the peak seasons of spring (March-May) and fall (September-December). Hotels during those seasons run out really fast! 

Thinking of continuing your trip to Japan? Check out my accommodation and travel guide for Tokyo and Osaka.

Do you have any questions about where to stay in Kyoto or visiting Japan in general? Comment below, and I’ll get back to you!

Happy travels, 

Kate 


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