A complete guide to where to stay in Kyoto first time (+ the best areas and hotels for sightseeing, cherry blossom season, near the Kyoto Station, and the finest ryokans).
Kyoto, the imperial capital of Japan for over a thousand years, is one of the country’s most popular destinations. The city is famous for its many ancient temples and shrines, including the iconic Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion) and Fushimi Inari Taisha with its thousands of vibrant red torii gates.
Home to 1.5 million residents, Kyoto is divided into 11 wards, each offering its own unique charm and character. The most central one is Downtown Kyoto, which is a mix of both traditional and modern Japan. Conveniently located within walking distance of many iconic sights such as Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Nijō Castle, Downtown Kyoto is the top choice for tourists.
If you already have booked your trip, but are not sure where to stay in Tokyo, my guide is here to help you. It will take you through the best areas for first-timers, including where to stay for cherry blossom season and the best ryokans.
Where I stayed in Kyoto
During my stay in Kyoto, I opted for a central area, near Kyoto Station, as I was planning two day trips by train. Downtown Kyoto, which is within walking distance of Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Nijō Castle, was the perfect option for me. Moreover, I was just a short stroll away from Ponto-chō Alley with its many restaurants and bars.
My favourite place to stay in Kyoto: The Gate Hotel
Why: perfect central location with many dining options nearby, spacious rooms
What I like: cosy lounge with bonfire and free drinks, great city views
If you’re visiting Kyoto for the first time, I strongly suggest selecting Downtown Kyoto as your base. The area offers convenient proximity to several metro stations, as well as Kyoto Station for day trips. Also, you’ll be within walking distance of Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Nijō Castle and Gion, the city’s famous geisha district.
Most popular hotel in Kyoto
Looking for an excellent hotel in a central location? Then look no further than Cross Hotel, one of the most popular hotels in Downtown Kyoto.
Cross Hotel – Most popular
Cross Hotel is ideally located in the heart of Downtown Kyoto, just a short walk from 2 metro stations. Rooms boats warm wooden decor mixed with Kyoto-style architecture. The breakfast buffet offers both Asian and Western food options, including grilled meat, salads and fruits. The hotel’s restaurant, KIHARU Brasserie, features a Western menu, inspired by seasonal local ingredients.
Why book – great location for sightseeing, a 5min walk to Sanjo and Kawaramachi stations
Tips for booking a hotel in Kyoto
Public transportation – tourist attractions are spread throughout the city, so you’ll find yourself relying on public transportation frequently. I recommend staying close to a metro station, such as Karasuma (for easy access to Kyoto Station, Karasuma metro line and Hankyu line) or Kawaramachi (for Keihan and Hankyu lines).
Visiting Kyoto for the first time? Then take a look at my complete itinerary for 3 days in Kyoto, which includes the best temples to visit as well as my favourite places for soba noodles.
Hotel vs ryokan – if you want to experience staying in an authentic ryokan, Kyoto is a great place to do that. The city offers numerous ryokans, some of them dating to the late Edo period. I recommend staying a night or two and then moving to a hotel for added comfort. At the end of this blog post, I’ve listed some of the best ryokans with hot springs (onsens) in Kyoto.
Where to stay in Kyoto (first time)
- Karasuma-dori – best area for sightseeing (Candeo Hotels Karasuma Rokkaku – best hotel)
- Kyoto station – for one night and transport links (Onyado Nono Hot Spring – best hotel)
- Gion – for cherry blossom (Granbell Hotel – best hotel in Gion)
- Best ryokans in Kyoto with onsen (Seikoro Ryokan – best ryokan with onsen)
Karasuma-dori – best area to stay in Kyoto first time
Despite its smaller size compared to Tokyo, Kyoto is a big city with many attractions spread out over significant distances. And given that you’ll often rely on public transportation, selecting the right place to stay in Kyoto is crucial.
The best place to stay in Kyoto for first-time travellers is Downtown Kyoto, particularly along Karasuma-dori. It is a very central area, within walking distance of public transport (Tozai and Karasuma metro lines and Keihan and Hankyu lines) and lots of shops and restaurants. Also, it is easy to reach places like Nijō Castle, Kyoto Imperial Palace and the iconic Gion district on foot.
Downtown Kyoto, also known as Kawaramachi, is a nearly square district located in the city’s very centre. The area is bounded by the Kamo River to the east, Karasuma-dori to the west, Oike-dori to the north, and Shijo-dori to the south. Even though it’s a modern urban area, Downtown Kyoto retains some of its historical charm. You can find traditional machiya (wooden townhouses) and historical streets such as Ponto-chō.
For shopping make your way to Teramachi-dori and Shinkyogoku Street, famous covered walkways filled with hundreds of shops. Shijo-dori, a shopper’s paradise, is home to numerous boutiques department stores, specialty shops, and international brands. In the area, you’ll also find the Nishiki Market, the oldest food market in Kyoto.
Why stay near Karasuma-dori for sightseeing
- the best area for first-timers, a great base for sightseeing and a short walk away from Nijō Castle, Kyoto Imperial Palace and the famous Gion district
- a short stroll to Ponto-chō, a historic picturesque alleyway, home to many teahouses, restaurants, and bars
- convenient access to Tozai and Karasuma metro lines, as well as Keihan (for Fushimi Inari Shrine) and Hankyu lines
- easy access to Kyoto Station (through the Karasuma metro line), convenient for day trips to Osaka, Nara, and Himeji Castle
Hotels near Karasuma-dori (Best for couples)
Hotel Grand Bach – Most popular
Hotel Grand Bach is conveniently situated in the heart of Kyoto, putting you within easy reach of many famous attractions, including Nijō Castle and Gion, the geisha district. Walking distance to numerous shops, restaurants and the famous Ponto-chō Alley. The hotel’s interior design is inspired by the German composer Johann Sebastian Bach, after whom it is named. Even Bach’s music is playing in the corridors during the daytime. For breakfast, you can choose between a Japanese or Western-style set meal.
Why book – 5min walk to Kawaramachi and Karasuma stations, public onsen, free late-night snacks and beverages
Mitsui Garden Hotel Kawaramachi Jokyoji – Best rated
For a unique experience stay at Mitsui Garden Hotel Kawaramachi Jokyoji. Adjacent to the historic Jokyoji Temple, the hotel blends modern comfort with the tranquillity of its temple surroundings. You can even attend a Buddhist ceremony, held every morning in the main hall of the temple. For breakfast, you can pick from four Japanese sets, each prepared with seasonal, high-quality ingredients.
Why book – 5min walk to Kawaramachi and Karasuma stations, Spa with public onsen
Hotels near Karasuma-dori (Best for families)
Candeo Hotels Karasuma Rokkaku – Most popular
For a unique stay that combines modern comforts with the charm of machiya (traditional Kyoto townhouses), stay at Hotels Karasuma Rokkaku. Indulge in an authentic Japanese experience in the lounge and the library, which have been converted from an original traditional Kyo-machiya. The wellness centre features a large bath, hot tub, dry sauna (for men) and a mist sauna (for women).
Why book – 5min walk to Karasuma station, public onsen, daily special bento boxes for breakfast
Hotel Intergate Shijo Shinmachi – Best rated
Hotel Intergate Shijo Shinmachi is conveniently located within walking distance from Nijō Castle and the famous Gion district. Rooms are spacious, featuring a modern Japanese décor. The breakfast menu offers a variety of local delicacies, seasonal ingredients, and vegetable-rich options.
Why book – 5min walk to Karasuma station, public onsen, free drinks and snacks all day at the lounge
Luxury hotels near Karasuma-dori
Ace Hotel – Most popular
Conveniently located in the city centre, Ace Hotel provides easy access to key attractions like Nijō Castle and the Kyoto Imperial Palace. The hotel features several restaurants, including Kōsa (local seasonal cuisine), Piopiko (tacos and cocktails) and Mr. Maurice’s (Italian cuisine). You can also enjoy delicious Afternoon tea (on the 3rd floor) and excellent coffee (at Stumptown Coffee Roasters).
Why book – 2min walk to Karasuma Oike station, outstanding breakfast with a garden view, rooftop bar
Good Nature Hotel – Best rated
Boasting Japan’s largest green wall, Good Nature Hotel provides a memorable and sustainable experience. The modern rooms feature natural wood flooring, along with amenities such as organic shampoo and organic cotton towels. There are 10 restaurants at the hotel, including Velrosier (a Michelin two-star restaurant), Takayama (a Michelin one-star restaurant) and RAU Patisserie & Chocolate. There is also a Good Nature Market, where you’ll find selected natural-made items and organic foods.
Why book – 2min walk to Kawaramachi station, 2 Michelin-starred restaurants, small organic market on-site
Apartments near Karasuma-dori
Mimaru Shinmachi Sanjo – Most popular
If you’re looking for a Kyoto experience with the comforts of home, stay at Mimaru Shinmachi Sanjo. The property offers spacious, traditional yet modern apartments in a central location, just steps away from a FamilyMart. There are several types of apartments to choose from, including a Pokémon apartment!
Why book – 10min walk to Karasuma station, quiet location, completely furnished kitchen
Mimaru Suites Shijo – Best rated
Mimaru Suites Shijo offers roomy, apartment-style suites with a kitchenette big enough for light cooking and laundry facilities. The location is central, yet quiet, perfect for sightseeing and near plenty of shops and restaurants.
Why book – 10min walk to Karasuma station, happy hour with beer and sake
Where to stay near Kyoto station
Located in the heart of the city, Kyoto Station is one of the largest railway stations in Japan. It is a major transportation hub with access to metro and buses, making it easy to explore the city. Also, Kyoto Station serves as a gateway to the Shinkansen network, convenient for day trips to destinations such as Osaka, Hara and Himeji Castle.
Usually, I don’t stay near train stations in big cities, particularly in Europe, due to safety concerns. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that things are different in Kyoto (and in general in Japan). The area around Kyoto station is entirely safe and serves as an excellent base if you have limited time in the city.
Furthermore, Kyoto Station features a vast shopping complex with several malls, including Porta Underground Shopping Mall, The Cube Shopping Mall and JR Kyoto Isetan.
Kyoto Station is also the place where to stay with a JR pass. However, it’s important to note that the city has a limited JR network with only two JR lines, so your JR pass won’t be useful here. Although you can use the JR line to get to several attractions (Kyoto Imperial Palace, Nijō Castle, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and Fushimi Inari Shrine), you’ll also need to rely on the metro and buses as well.
Why stay near Kyoto Station
- many tourist buses and hop-on-hop-off tours start from Kyoto Station, making it easy to explore the city’s attractions
- easy access to numerous tourist attractions via buses and metro (use the Karasuma Metro line for Kyoto Imperial Palace and JR Kyoto line for Nijō Castle, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and Fushimi Inari Shrine)
- the Haruka Express train connects Kyoto Station directly to Kansai International Airport in Osaka
Mitsui Garden Hotel – Best mid-range
Mitsui Garden Hotel is conveniently located within a short stroll from Kyoto Station, making it an ideal base for exploring the city. The breakfast features a large variety of traditional Japanese dishes, including grilled fish, dashi egg rolls and their speciality, Japanese-style omelette with nutritious rice.
Why book – 3min walk to Kyoto Station, quiet location, 24-hour front desk, free soft drinks at the lounge
Onyado Nono Shichijo Natural Hot Spring – Best mid-range with onsen
For a more traditional Japanese experience, consider staying at Onyado Nono Shichijo Natural Hot Spring. The hotel features rooms with tatami mat floors and a public onsen. The wellness area boasts several types of baths, including a silky bath, stone bath, rock bath, dry sauna, nano steam sauna and others.
Why book – 7min walk from Kyoto Station, 24-hour front desk, great Spa with onsen, free noodle soup
The Thousand – Best luxury
For a luxury stay, book a room at The Thousand. Situated only a 3min walk from the station, the hotel is a great base for a short stay of a couple of nights. The rooms feature a soothing design, reminiscent of a tea house, inspired by the traditional Machiya townhouses. There are two restaurants to choose from – Kizahashi (seasonal Japanese cuisine) and Scalae (Italian restaurant).
Why book – 3min walk from Kyoto Station, 24-hour front desk, great Spa
Gion – where to stay in Kyoto for cherry blossom
Cherry blossoms, known as “sakura” in Japanese, hold a special significance in Japanese culture. It is usually celebrated in the spring, from late March to early April. Kyoto, the former imperial capital, is one of the most popular and iconic places to view cherry blossoms in the country.
The city is home to numerous picturesque sakura spots. Some of the most popular are Maruyama Park, Philosopher’s Path, Nijō Castle, Kyoto Imperial Palace and Ninna-ji Temple.
If you look at a map, you’ll notice that many of the famous cherry blossom spots are along the Kamo River, both on the east and east sides. That’s why in my opinion, Gion is the best area to stay in Kyoto for cherry blossom season.
Located on the eastern bank of the Kamo River, Gion is the most famous historic district in Kyoto. The neighbourhood is known for its traditional wooden machiya houses, geisha culture, and preserved atmosphere of old Japan. It is also home to Maruyama Park, an iconic sakura spot featuring a magnificent weeping cherry tree.
Find out more in my complete Kyoto cherry blossom guide (including festival dates and the best sakura spots).
Why stay in Gion for cherry blossom
- most convenient location to visit the popular sakura spots and sightseeing at the same time
- in proximity to some of the popular cherry blossom locations – Maruyama Park, Kiyamachi-dori and Kyoto Imperial Palace (within walking distance), Nijō Castle (15min via Tozai metro line), Philosopher’s Path (20min by bus)
Granbell Hotel – Best mid-range
Granbell Hotel is the perfect base for your cherry blossom getaway. It is conveniently located within 5min walk to Keihan line and Karasuma metro line, and just 10min walk to Maruyama Park with its huge weeping cherry tree. The public onsen is encompassed by a Japanese garden, allowing you to simply relax and unwind. The breakfast buffet features Japanese and Western meals including Obanzai, which is popular Kyoto cuisine.
Why book – 5min walk to Gion-Shijo and Kawaramachi stations, public onsen with a garden
Dhawa Yura – Best luxury
For a luxury stay, book a room at Dhawa Yura Hotel. This intimate boutique hotel features cosy modern rooms with a tatami seating area by the window. Breakfast is fantastic and you can choose between American or Asian options. There is also a restaurant, Grill 54th, where you can enjoy a delicious meal in the evenings.
Why book – 2min walk to Sanjo Station, great Spa, free drinks and snacks in the lounge
Where to stay in Kyoto (Best Ryokans)
A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn, where you can get a taste of Japanese culture, hospitality, and aesthetics. They are typically housed in historic buildings with classic Japanese architecture. Guest rooms are floored with tatami mats (traditional straw mats). Instead of Western-style beds, you’ll find futon beds, which are mattresses placed directly on the tatami mats.
Ryokans are often located in serene, scenic areas or have beautiful gardens, allowing you to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Many ryokans also have private onsens (hot springs), where you can soak and unwind after a day of exploring Kyoto.
In my opinion, what truly sets staying in a ryokan apart is the traditional multi-course meal known as kaiseki. These meals are carefully prepared and presented to highlight the flavours and freshness of seasonal ingredients.
Make sure not to skip this lovely Tea Ceremony at Jōtoku-ji Temple. You’ll discover the art of tea and learn everything about this ancient ritual. Also, you’ll have the opportunity to taste some high-quality matcha tea!
If you have a couple of days to explore Kyoto, I suggest a 1-2 night stay in a ryokan for an authentic experience, followed by a modern hotel for more comfort.
Why stay in ryokan in Kyoto
- ryokans offer a unique and authentic Japanese experience, allowing you to sleep on tatami mats and wear yukatas (traditional robes)
- you have the chance to taste the famous kaiseki, a traditional multi-course meal, in addition to a Japanese breakfast
- experience the pleasure of soaking in an onsen (with mineral-rich therapeutic waters)
Seikoro Ryokan – Most popular 4-star ryokan
Founded in 1831, Seikoro Ryokan is a classic Japanese inn that has retained many of its original features and traditions. The ryokan features a public onsen and a beautiful garden. The rooms are designed in a traditional Japanese style, featuring tatami, futons and private wooden bathtubs.
Why book – 2min walk to Kiyomizu-Gojō Station, delicious Japanese breakfast and kaiseki
Yado Kiramachi – Best location for sightseeing
Yado Kiramachi is a traditional ryokan, tucked into a quiet stone-paved alley in the heart of Downtown Kyoto. This ryokan provides a peaceful retreat to escape the bustling city. Staying here is like staying in a traditional Japanese home from centuries past.
Why book – 5min walk to Karasuma Station, public onsen with a garden, authentic Japanese breakfast
Izuyasu Ryokan – Closest to Kyoto Station
Founded in 1839, during the late Edo period, Izuyasu Ryokan is full of history and charm. The Japanese-style rooms with their shoji paper screens, futon beds and zen atmosphere will transport you to the Kyoto of the past. This ryokan offers delicious kaiseki cuisine that is in line with the 24 solar terms (a traditional system that divides the solar year into 24 segments).
Why book – 7min walk to Kyoto Station, relaxing public onsen
Ryokan Yoshi Ima – Best 3-star ryokan
Yoshi Ima is a family-run ryokan in the heart of Gion, the geisha district. The place features traditional architecture and its history dates back to 1747. There is an ancient Japanese garden with 150 years-old lime trees and a tea house, where you can attend a tea ceremony. The rooms are decorated in Japanese style with tatami (woven-straw) flooring, futon bedding and shoji paper screens. The traditional breakfast features Kyoto specialities and fresh seafood.
Why book – 5min walk from Sanjo and Gion-Shijo stations, public onsen, garden with a tea house
Faqs about where to stay in Kyoto
The best area to stay in Kyoto for tourists is Downtown Kyoto, particularly around the Shijo-dori and Karasuma-dori. This central location provides easy access to public transportation (Tozai, Karasuma and Keihan lines), numerous dining options and is within reach of many famous attractions (such as Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Nijō Castle).
Kyoto is a city with a rich cultural heritage, numerous historical sites and beautiful temples. You’ll need a couple of days to see everything, so I highly recommend staying a few nights there. Furthermore, Kyoto is a perfect base for day trips to Osaka, Nara, and Himeji Castle.
If you’re visiting both cities for the first time, I recommend at least 2-3 full days in Tokyo and 3-4 full days in Kyoto. Kyoto served as Japan’s capital for over 1,000 years and has more historical and tourist attractions than Tokyo. Moreover, from Kyoto, you can take a day trip to Osaka, Nara (famous for its free-roaming deer) and Himeji Castle (a must during the cherry blossom season).
If you’re interested in traditional Japanese culture, historical sites and temples, stay in Kyoto. Osaka is a better option for travellers looking for vibrant nightlife, street food, shopping and entertainment. There is less to do in Osaka, so it’s best to stay in Kyoto and take a day trip to Osaka (20-minute journey by train).
Best hotels to stay in Kyoto, Japan
|🔝 Most popular hotel||Cross Hotel||9.1 | 3,200+ reviews|
|🏩 Best mid-range hotel||Candeo Hotels Karasuma Rokkaku||8.7 | 2,190+ reviews|
|💎 Best luxury hotel||Good Nature Hotel||9.1 | 1,790+ reviews|
|💖 Best hotel for couples||Mitsui Garden Hotel Kawaramachi Jokyoji||8.8 | 1,090+ reviews|
|👨👩👧👦 Best hotel for families||Hotel Intergate Shijo Shinmachi||8.8 | 1,670+ reviews|
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