Where to Stay in Kyoto, Japan

This guide covers where to stay in Kyoto, with recommendations for the best area of the city. We also weigh pros & cons of various styles of accommodations: Japanese lodging (machiya & ryokan), luxurious or budget-friendly hotel rooms, top Airbnbs, and more. (Updated March 14, 2024.)

No matter how long you’re staying in Kyoto, you won’t have enough time. There are such a high number of compelling temples, shrines, and other points of interest that it’s impossible to see it all during a single visit. Accordingly, we’ll make specific recommendations concerning where to stay within Kyoto, with specific and generalized hotel recommendations, plus pros & cons of staying at a ryokan or Airbnb rental.

Over the past decade, we’ve spent several months (literally) in a multitude of Kyoto accommodations: hotels, ryokan, machiya, and Airbnb rentals. We didn’t just throw this list together by browsing TripAdvisor to see what’s popular or quickly tour them for inspections–we’ve actually stayed in these accommodations overnight on our own dime. This comes from our own firsthand experiences, both good and bad, with hotels and other rentals in Kyoto, Japan.

Let’s start with location, as this is going to be important regardless of the style of accommodations you choose. If you’re visiting Kyoto for 2 days or less, I’d start by recommending that you extend your visit. But seriously, in that case, you should determine which region of the city appeals to you most, and choose a place that is convenient to those points of interest.

In 2 days or less, you are not going to be able to see it all, so it’s best to not even try. Instead of criss-crossing the city, wasting time in the process, pinpoint an area. See as much as humanly possible in that area, and save everything else for a future trip.

In this case, my recommendation is staying near Inari (more on that below), which provides convenient access to Fushimi Inari, and relatively easy access to Higashiyama. Speaking of which, staying in Higashiyama is also a great–albeit slightly more expensive–option. There are several excellent hotels in this area, as well as other rentals. We’d strongly recommend Southern Higashiyama over Northern Higashiyama.

If you’re staying 3 days or longer, choosing a location near a transportation hub makes more sense, as this enables you easy access to all of the areas of the city. The obvious pick here is Kyoto Station, which is Kyoto’s main artery for transportation. Not only is it easy to get anywhere in the city from here, but it’s easy to get to Osaka and Tokyo from here.

We also are really fond of staying just north of Kiyomizu-Gojo Station in the south part of Gion. We’ve done this three times now, staying in different units of the exact same Airbnb complex, which is pictured above. We’ll likely return to this Airbnb, as it works perfectly for our needs.

For one, the Gion area is lovely, and being at its southern edge is cheaper and away from the touristy area where the hordes flock. Second, it’s convenient to the Keihan Line, which is our favorite railway line in Kyoto. Finally, it’s an easy walk to the Higashiyama District. As discussed below, we also like staying near Fushimi Inari for similar reasons.

This is probably going to be a controversial opinion, but we’re not huge fans of staying in Downtown Kyoto with the exception of the section closest to Kamo River. We’ve done downtown before and it’s not that we actively dislike the location–it’s centrally-located and there are great options–it’s that we felt like we were paying a significant premium for zero upside.

I’m not trying to be contrarian, as I know many other resources list Downtown Kyoto as the #1 top area to stay. To be sure, there’s nothing wrong with Downtown Kyoto. Its central location is in the heart of the city and around tons of restaurants, nightlife, shopping, as well as subway and train lines.

However, ask yourself why you’re visiting Kyoto. As the name itself suggests, Downtown Kyoto is more industrial and urban. That should make sense, as it’s a living, breathing city of 1.5 million people. So if you want a similar vibe you’d find in Tokyo or Osaka–but lesser–by all means, stay in Downtown Kyoto. If you’re visiting for the unique culture and atmosphere, opt elsewhere.

Speaking of unpopular opinions, Arashiyama is a touristy and traditional part of Kyoto with a decent amount of accommodations. However, we don’t enthusiastically recommend first-timers stay in this area because it’s really far from everything else and public transportation to and from Arashiyama just isn’t convenient. To each their own, but we wouldn’t stay in Arashiyama–or really anywhere to the west of Kyoto Station.

Okay, now let’s break down the various types of places to stay, starting with hotels…

Our Favorite Hotels in Kyoto

Beyond location, one thing you have to consider with regard to hotels is whether they are Japanese or western style accommodations. While this is true no matter where you go in Japan, the two most popular tourist spots in Japan are Tokyo and Kyoto.

Over the last decade, the number of luxurious western chains has exploded in Kyoto. New Hyatts, Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton, and other boutique brands have all popped up in recent years. Here are some of our favorite hotels in Kyoto organized by area…

Best Higashiyama/Gion Kyoto Hotels

Park Hyatt Kyoto – Our favorite hotel in Kyoto and one of the best hotels we’ve ever experienced anywhere. It’s a top-tier property with subtle beauty, exquisite uses of woods, tranquil spaces, well-appointed rooms, and a great location for anyone looking to spend time in Higashiyama. Read and see more in our full Park Hyatt Kyoto Review

Hyatt Regency Kyoto – Prior to the opening of the Park Hyatt Kyoto, this was Kyoto’s flagship Hyatt. A very good hotel by the Regency brands standards, with many of the same upsides–nice rooms and dining, and a good (albeit less desirable) location in Higashiyama. Not nearly as good as the Park Hyatt Kyoto in any regard, but it’s also a fraction of the price.

Four Seasons Kyoto – Located near the Hyatt Regency Kyoto, which is a good location for that hotel but not so much for a flagship luxury property charging exorbitant rates. It has all the usual trappings of a Four Seasons, but it’s hard to recommend this over the Park Hyatt Kyoto (above) or Ritz Carlton Kyoto (below).

Westin Miyaka Kyoto – Another option in this same general area, albeit not nearly as strong. It was woefully out of date at one point, but a multi-year overhaul has the hotel looking nicer.

Best Downtown Kyoto Hotels

Hotel Okura Kyoto – This is our top pick for a downtown Kyoto hotel because it combines convenience with unbeatable prices. While Kyoto Hotel Okura is a tad dated (it epitomizes 1990s luxury–and that’s not necessarily a bad thing), it is well-maintained and still feels fresh. Most notably, it’s directly connected to Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae Station.

Ritz-Carlton Kyoto – This is one of the nicest Ritz Carlton hotels in the world, and is located right on bank of the Kamogawa River. The rooms are large and luxurious, offering views of the river and Higashiyama Mountains in the distance.

The other upside to both of these Downtown Kyoto hotels is that they’re both about as far to the east as possible while still technically being in the Downtown Kyoto area. If you’re going to stay in this part of the city, that’s the way to go. Being near the Kamo River is really a ‘best of both worlds’ option. You’re within walking distance of the city-center or Gion and Higashiyama, have easy access to a ton of restaurants, and numerous train or subway stations.

Best Kyoto Station Hotels


Kyoto Century Hotel – Or as I call it “Lamp Shrine Inn,” is one specific hotel at which we’ve stayed that really sticks out to me as being good, both in terms of location and quality (the top photo of the giant lamp is its lobby…hence the moniker). It’s about a 5-minute walk from Kyoto Station, which is about as close as you can get. Like many hotels in Japan, the exterior is fairly nondescript, but the inside is nice and the rooms are a cross between Japanese and western styles.

Hotel Granvia Kyoto – Directly above Kyoto Station, the Hotel Granvia is an exceptional option for those with a Japan Rail Pass who want to use Kyoto as a home base while also exploring Nara, Kobe, Osaka, Himeji, and elsewhere. That’s actually a great idea, and while this hotel itself is nothing special, it’s rooms are sufficiently spacious and there’s a ton of dining nearby. The convenience is unparalleled.

In addition to these hotels, more luxury “retreats” are starting to pop up around the outskirts of Kyoto. Arashiyama is a popular location for secluded luxury resorts. Top picks here include Suiran, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Kyoto and Hoshinoya Kyoto.

Over in Northwestern Kyoto, you’ll find the Aman Kyoto and Roku Kyoto nearby one another in the foothills of Mount Daimonji in a beautiful forested area. These are bona-fide destination resorts, with sprawling campuses that are far removed from the hustle and bustle of Kyoto. In our view, that’s precisely the problem with many luxury hotels in Kyoto–they aren’t truly in Kyoto. (Both of these are north of the Golden Pavilion, which itself is pretty far from everything else.)

In addition to these luxury retreats, there’s the trendy and modern Ace Hotel in the Karasuma Oike district. Not too far from that is Hotel the Mitsui Kyoto, adjacent to Nijo Castle on the site of the Mitsui Family’s residence, a historic property the family maintained for over 250 years. These are a bit too far west of Downtown Kyoto for our liking.

Presumably, these hotels are lovely. However, many of them are in isolated locations that makes touring Kyoto a challenge. While there’s something to be said for a secluded spot and luxury escape, we’d argue that Kyoto is not the place for it. With so much to see and do, you want to be in the heart of the action in Kyoto. Stay at an exclusive resort removed from distractions elsewhere.



A ryokan is a traditional style of Japanese accommodation that originated during the Edo period, when such inns served wayward travelers en route from place to place. They exist today as something between a remnant and an homage to the past.

They typically feature tatami-matted rooms, traditional yukata for guests to wear, and common spaces for guests to interact with other patrons and the owner. They also sometimes (but not always) feature communal baths (the idea of this was extremely awkward to me at first, but I’ve come around). Due to the more spacious nature of the ryokan, it’s typically something you’ll only find outside of Tokyo.

Now, it wouldn’t surprise me if some of you took one look at the above photo and instantly ruled out the ryokan. Perhaps the bedding looks uncomfortable or the idea of sleeping on the floor turns you off. Or, maybe you are like me and don’t like the idea of going full frontal in front of a bunch of strangers.

Well, let me “reassure” you: the bedding is about as comfortable as a normal hotel mattress in Japan and…well, at least you won’t get hurt falling out of bed? Also, the public nudity thing is something you get over quickly once you realize no one cares about what you look like naked. (Or perhaps that’s just me…) In any case, many ryokan have private bathroom options for “shy” tourists.

In all seriousness, before you rule out the ryokan, give it serious thought and look at some of the options. We consider the ryokan to be one of the quintessential Japanese experiences, and it’s definitely worth trying to get over some of your hesitations for this. If the idea of a ryokan is a non-starter, you probably should stick to an American chain in Kyoto. Japanese preferences favor firm mattresses, and we’ve had some that make ryokan pads feel like floating in a floor-level cloud by comparison.


Machiya are traditional wooden townhouses that are iconic to Kyoto and probably what you picture when thinking of a traditional Japanese townhome. Machiya were popular with Kyotoites in the last century, up until around the post-World War II development boom in Japan that resulted in more ugly concrete towers (to put it charitably).

Many machiya survive today, and there has been a concerted effort in recent years to restore and redevelop machiya, and even build new structures in this classic style. Machiya continue to serve as homes to Kyoto residents, while others have been converted to vacation rentals, shops, and restaurants. There’s even a Starbucks in one converted machiya!

Machiya interior design is quintessentially Japanese. Inside, you’ll find tatami mat floors, minimalist decor, fusuma doors/screens separating rooms (which sometimes serve dual purposes), and exposed wood. The design of machiya is deceptively simple, but like most Japanese design, there are many pleasing details that make the spaces lovely and inviting.

We’ve stayed in a variety of machiya throughout Japan, and highly recommend the experience. In Kyoto, most machiya are found in Gion and Higashiyama, which are great areas of the city. (You’ll also find some in Arashiyama, but we don’t recommend that part of Kyoto quite as enthusiastically.)

Best of all, you can book machiya via Airbnb or your preferred hotel booking site. In both cases, you’ll pay a bit of a premium over non-machiya accommodations, but we’d argue that it’s worth the money for the unique, distinctly Japanese experience. We’d recommend going the Airbnb route over booking a machiya hotel. Speaking of which…

Airbnb Rental

Pretty much whenever we travel internationally, we check out prices on Airbnb–particularly if we are visiting during a busier season. In Japan, we’ve visited during sakura season (cherry blossoms), fall foliage, and Golden Week, and have thus encountered high hotel prices. Instead of paying those rates, we looked to Airbnb.

We prefer Airbnb to booking hotels because it gives us the option for a much larger room, usually an entire apartment. Japanese hotel rooms (that are not Western chains) tend to be very small, and using Airbnb is the best way to avoid this issue. A lot of Airbnb flats are “ryokan style” in terms of the guest quarters, which also provides a slice of authentic culture. (If this isn’t for you, just made sure to get an Airbnb with proper beds–a variety of styles are available.)

Obviously, the lower price is the biggest selling point of Airbnb. It’s also nice that many rentals can accommodate larger parties without an extra per person charge (as is common in Japan). Plus, Airbnb hosts often include free MiFi so you can use the internet on the go. We’ve had some fun experiences staying at unique Airbnb locations throughout Japan and really cannot recommend it highly enough.

We’ve had several excellent Airbnb experiences in Kyoto, including a few month-long stays (one near Kyoto Station, another near Fushimi Inari, and two more in the Gion/Higashiyama area). For a longer trip with side trips elsewhere in the Kansai region, we’d recommend being near Kyoto Station or in Gion.

For a short 2-3 day trip, the Fushimi Inari area is absolutely perfect. I don’t like visiting Kyoto for fewer than 3 days, but if we ever have another short stay in Kyoto, I’d book the Fushimi Inari Airbnb we’ve used in the past once more.


Of course, you don’t necessarily need to rent this same unit–the general location is good enough. I like this area because Kiyomizu-Gojo and Inari are both on the Keihan Line (separated by 4 stops), making it convenient to accomplish everything along the spine of the Higashiyama mountains, starting with Philosphers’ Path and ending with Kiyomizu-dera Temple. You can then do Fushimi Inari late at night, or early the next morning.

This works because Fushimi Inari is one of the few spots in Kyoto that is open 24/7. If you have limited time in Kyoto, doing Fushimi Inari early in the morning or late in the night is pretty much a must. Not only does it allow you to extend your day, but the experiences at Fushimi Inari without crowds are second to none. (We have done Fushimi Inari at sunrise and late at night many times.)

I think that about covers the pitfalls and our recommendations for where to stay in Kyoto, and which kind of accommodations might appeal most to you. I’m guessing I made the decision of where to stay in Kyoto slightly more complicated, but hopefully I didn’t overcomplicate the decision for you. I will say that some “complication” is good here, as it’s easy to make a bad choice when it comes to Kyoto (we did on our first visit!) On the plus side, it’s pretty easy to make a good decision once you have a bit more info–and hopefully this post has set you on the right path!

If you’re planning a trip to Japan that includes Kyoto, we recommend that you start by consulting our Ultimate Guide to Kyoto, Japan to plan all aspects of our vacation. You should also check out our other posts about Japan for ideas on other places to visit! 

Your Thoughts

Have you visited Kyoto? If so, where did you stay? Would you recommend it? Any thoughts or tips of your own to add? Questions about specific hotels, ryokan, or Airbnb rentals? If you have experience staying in Kyoto, please share in the comments–more viewpoints will help other readers! If you don’t have experience, feel free to ask any questions you might have in the comments!

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24 replies
  1. Lance Brown
    Lance Brown says:

    Were looking for an Airbnb for Kyoto in March for 4 days. Can you pinpoint the area north of kiyomizu-Gojo station? That location sounds perfect – but not sure how wide or narrow of an area you are talking about. Thanks for your help!

  2. Shannon W
    Shannon W says:

    I was reading this pretty idly but I yelled AHA! when I realised we’d stayed in the exact AirBnB room before – I too would definitely return, although I must agree that it was very comfortable and spacious for two people, I’d most likely stick to that number as the ideal amount. Despite the building being renovated at the time, the owner was profusely sorry and extremely helpful, so I would certainly recommend it (even though my aesthetic preferences are the exact opposite of the host’s! hahaha)

  3. Lei
    Lei says:

    Hello Tom,

    Thank you for your post this is very informative. Really impressed with what I have learned.
    My partner and I are visiting Japan in March for 7 days and my task is to look for our accommodation, he did the other parts of the vacation. We would like to stay in Kyoto for 3 days and then to Osaka and maybe include Kobe if we still can.
    We are keen on trying the Ryokan but we would like to have private room,toilet and bath. Is there such options? What do you recommend and which area do you recommend we stay to have the maximum access to the most visited areas of the place.

  4. Corene
    Corene says:

    This post was wonderfully helpful! Thanks so much. We have SPG points, and were considering the Westin just for the cost savings. The number of points goes up in sakura season, but the points & cash amount does not, so we booked this hotel for 5 nights at 6000 points & $110USD per night. It seemed like great value given the prices I am seeing for this & other hotels. And now I feel even better about this given your recommendation of the area! I have just recently begun planning our trip for March/April 2019 & am so enjoying your posts & pictures! Thanks again Tom. Cheers.

    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      Nice! The location of the Westin is especially good during sakura season. The hotel is maybe a 5 minute walk from the Keage Incline, one of the best cherry blossom spots in all of Kyoto (actually, the hotel has a number of sakura trees outside its entrance, too).

  5. Candice
    Candice says:

    Hi Tom! We’re looking to stay in Kyoto for 3 nights where we’d like to stay at a ryokan for a night. Any recommendations on which area to go for a hotel and any recommendations for a ryokan for a night? Thanks!
    P.S. I follow you a lot on your Disney site but I’m so glad I found this site!

  6. roudaut
    roudaut says:

    hello thanks for your details could you please provide the name of the ryokan and airbnb address/ links please?

    Thanks a lot for your kind help

    • Chrissy
      Chrissy says:

      Thanks for the reply Tom! The place looks great, and it’s reassuring to know you’ve been here and enjoyed it. It’ll be our first choice when we visit Kyoto.

    • Dean Lewin
      Dean Lewin says:

      Thanks for the recommendation Tom, I have just booked this property for our trip later this year. Any recommendations in Tokyo? Not near Disneyland as we will book into the Disneyland Hotel mid-week.

    • Wallis
      Wallis says:

      Thanks for these great recommendations! For the airbnb that you stayed in (and gave us the link to) – Is this a rental for just one family? Or are there multiple rooms within the apt with multiple families maybe sharing that one bathroom?

  7. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    I’ve been loving your return to posting over here. Any thoughts/plans to post more comprehensive “Japan on a Budget” or “Europe on a Budget” type posts? I know you mentioned something in your Tokyo posts over at DTB about possibly putting something together about the cost of a Tokyo Disney trip, but I wondered if you might consider/be considering doing something similar for your other trips. I’d be curious about a rough per person cost on the trip you all took to Europe last fall, or this last trip to Japan. Just food for thought. 🙂

    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      Yeah, absolutely! Posts like that are something I want to start tackling once I get more comfortable with these places. Even though I’ve taken multiple trips to both, I still don’t have nearly as much experience with Japan or Europe as I do the Disney parks. Once I have that experience (hopefully, later this year), I plan to go after more ‘challenging’ aspects of planning.

  8. Brian Crawford
    Brian Crawford says:

    We love staying in ryokans and you’ve nailed the public nudity issue. No one cares, although one time an elderly Japanese told me I needed to lose a little weight! He was joking….anyways, my boys and I have always felt comfortable and my wife and daughter have always enjoyed their baths on the female side. In fact, bathing is one of the highlights of any ryokan stay. My wife and her family often bath three times during the day. Once in the morning, then again before dinner and once again after dinner! We usually stay at a ryokan that offers a traditional multi course Japanese meal as well. It’s a unique Japanese experience to try all the different foods (and you know presentation is half the experience) and to enjoy them in your yukata. Love your posts on Japan…they are great! I’m learning a lot despite having been to Kyoto several times! Good stuff.

    • Comfort
      Comfort says:

      Now when you say “bath” are you refering to bathing like one would do at home with soap and shampoo? Or is it more like some kind of communal spa like scenario? I guess what I am also asking is, what is so great about these baths that your family would want to bath three times a day? I am really interested in these Ryoken as it seems like a real Japanese experience that isn’t common or possible anywhere else.

  9. Hesham
    Hesham says:

    Been to Kyoto before, stayed next to the station, makes a great place to grab some grub late at night after a full day of walking.

    I never heard anything about down town Kyoto, could you shed some light on why it’s not advisable to stay there, don’t think I ever felt unsafe in Japan at any time.

    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      Sorry! I did not mean to imply it’s unsafe, as that’s not even remotely the case. Rather, it’s not the main draw of Kyoto. In our experience, the highlights of Kyoto are elsewhere.

      I mentioned our recommendation of staying outside of downtown because I think people normally associate downtowns with being the hub of activity, and the best spot to stay for convenience. Kyoto is an exception to this, in my opinion. (I’ve also never felt remotely unsafe anywhere in Japan.)

  10. Comfort
    Comfort says:

    Thanks again for the helpful post. It is nice to get a succinct breakdown of the different types of places to stay. I love the idea of staying at a Ryoken, but I have two kids so the communal bath kind of sounds terrible, if it were just me it would be awkward but fine. I think I will take your advice and look for somewhere close to the transportation hub.
    One question I do have is on average (I know it can vary) but how many shrines/temples do you try to get to in one day at Kyoto?

    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      You might try searching hotels.com or a comparable site for ryokan with private bathrooms–or Airbnb in the ryokan style. It’s a fun experience.

      You can hit a lot of shrines/temples in one day if you want, and this in large part because there are hundreds (if not thousands) in Kyoto. Literally, every block. In terms of *major* ones…I’d say aim for about 5-7 points of interest in a single day. Any more than that and you are either going too fast, or are going to have temple-overload. (Fushimi Inari is an exception to this–you could spend 3-4 hours there if you do the entire mountain loop.)

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