Where to stay in Kyoto


Kyoto, once the imperial capital of Japan, is a city steeped in history and culture. From ancient temples to traditional tea houses and geisha districts, each neighborhood offers a distinct experience for travelers. When choosing a place to stay in Kyoto, one should consider the proximity to historical sites, access to public transportation, types of accommodations available, and the overall atmosphere of the area. Some areas can be bustling with tourists and activity, while others offer a tranquil escape from the fast pace of travel. This guide aims to provide an honest snapshot of each significant district, helping you to choose a base that aligns with your interests and travel style.

  • Southern Higashiyama

    • πŸ›οΈ historic
    • 🎭 cultural
    • πŸŒ… scenic
    • temples
    • πŸ“Έ touristy
    • 🧘 quiet

    Southern Higashiyama is renowned for its preserved historic streets and some of Kyoto's most famous temples like Kiyomizu-dera. This area promises a walk through time, suited for those seeking a cultural journey. It's more peaceful than Downtown but still draws significant crowds to its attractions. Accommodations here can be pricey, and dining options may close early. Some may find the area's tourism focus detracts from its authenticity.

    Gion is located within Southern Higashiyama.
  • Gion

    • 🎭 cultural
    • πŸ›οΈ historic
    • geisha
    • πŸ“Έ touristy
    • πŸ’΅ expensive

    Gion is Kyoto's most famous geisha district, offering an evocative stroll down cobbled streets lined with old wooden buildings. It’s fantastic for photographers and cultural enthusiasts and is central enough to reach other areas comfortably. The downside is that it can become overcrowded with tourists, sometimes making the area feel less authentic. Accommodations are often luxury ryokans that come with a higher price tag.

    Gion is a part of Southern Higashiyama.
  • Kyoto Station / Shimogyo

    • convenient
    • πŸš† transport
    • πŸ™οΈ modern
    • 🀼 crowded

    The area around Kyoto Station in Shimogyo-ku is a bustling hub of activity, offering unrivalled transport links to the rest of the city and beyond, which is ideal for travelers planning numerous day trips. This area hosts a range of hotels, from luxury to budget-friendly, and numerous eateries. However, it lacks the traditional charm found in other districts, and can feel quite impersonal and crowded, especially around the station itself.

  • Arashiyama

    • 🌳 nature
    • πŸŒ… scenic
    • 🎭 cultural
    • πŸ“Έ touristy
    • remote

    Arashiyama on the western edge of Kyoto is most famous for its bamboo grove and the picturesque Togetsukyo Bridge. This area offers a blend of natural beauty and cultural sights. It's perfect for those who enjoy being close to nature and don't mind being further from the city center. Hotels and ryokans here provide a resort-like feel. Note that it can get very crowded with day-trippers, and in the evening, options for dining and activities can be limited.

  • Downtown Kyoto

    • 🍷 nightlife
    • πŸ›οΈ shopping
    • 🍝 food
    • πŸ™οΈ central
    • convenient
    • πŸ‘« busy

    Downtown Kyoto is the heart of the city, buzzing with activity both day and night. This area is perfect for those who value convenience and want many dining, shopping, and entertainment options at their doorstep. Accommodations range from budget guesthouses to high-end hotels. It's also well-connected via public transit, making exploration easy. However, it can be noisy, and one may struggle to find a truly 'authentic' experience amidst the commercialization.

  • Northern Higashiyama

    • πŸŒ… scenic
    • πŸ§˜β€β™‚οΈ tranquil
    • traditional
    • 🧘 quiet

    Northern Higashiyama is a picturesque area with scenic pathways lined by stone walls and secluded temples. It's less visited than its southern counterpart, providing a more tranquil experience. It's perfect for those who don't mind a bit of a walk and want to immerse in Kyoto's traditional aesthetics. Accommodations can be sparse and may consist mostly of ryokans and boutique hotels. Dining options are not as abundant here, and getting to other parts of Kyoto might be more time-consuming.

  • Central Kyoto

    • 🏘️ residential
    • local
    • 🧘 quiet
    • affordable

    Central Kyoto, largely a residential and business area, mixes modernity with history. This district doesn't have the same tourist appeal but offers a quieter, more local experience. Staying here might require a bit more travel to reach Kyoto's famous sites, but good public transport links make this easy. Accommodation is often more affordable, and you'll find a variety of local restaurants and shops, although nightlife is limited.

  • Fushimi

    • 🏑 suburban
    • shrine
    • πŸ§˜β€β™€οΈ peaceful
    • less accessible

    Fushimi is a bit removed from the hustle and bustle of Kyoto's main tourist areas, famous for the Fushimi Inari Shrine and its thousands of vermilion torii gates. It has a more suburban feel, allowing for a quieter stay. The downside is that it can be less convenient for accessing Kyoto's other attractions without relying on public transportation. Lodging is limited and typically consists of smaller, traditional guesthouses or hotels catering to business travelers.