The Best Hotels in Kyoto, Japan, for Every Traveller

The traditional ryokan Kikokuso in Kyoto
The traditional ryokan Kikokuso in Kyoto | Courtesy of Kikokuso / Expedia
Photo of Helen Scarr
13 January 2021

Kyoto is one of Japan’s most unique cities, with its 1,100-year history as Imperial Japan’s capital. If Osaka is the foodie’s city, then Kyoto is the cultural hub with a wealth of Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and tranquil gardens. There’s no better way to experience Kyoto’s culture than by staying in one of the many traditional ryokans (inns) and hotels. Here is our guide to the city’s best places to stay.

Hiiragiya Ryokan (柊家)

Hiiragiya Ryokan

Hiiragiya first started business in 1818, and has been passed down the family for six generations. One of the most famous luxury ryokans in Kyoto, its guests over the years include ancient samurai, Japanese royalty, and, more recently, celebrities including Elizabeth Taylor. The Japanese style rooms have wooden-beamed ceilings, paper screens, and tatami flooring. Combined with the view of the Oriental garden from some rooms, and Kyoto’s historical streets from others, it’s easy to forget the hustle and bustle and immerse yourself in ancient Kyoto.

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Matsui Honkan Ryokan (松井本館)

Kyoto is the best city in Japan for staying in ryokans, as you are truly removed from the modern urban environment. Matsui Honkan Ryokan is a great choice if it’s your first time in one of these traditional guesthouses, as it gives you the full traditional Japanese experience, from sleeping on roll-up beds to wearing yukata robes (traditional Japanese pyjamas) and eating kaiseki (multi-course) breakfasts. But you can enjoy this in the comfort of modern conveniences, as well as your own bathroom and toilet, instead of a public one like the traditional ryokans.
Everything you need to know

At a Glance

Free WiFi
Breakfast available (surcharge)
Concierge services
24-hour front desk
Multilingual staff
Smoke-free property

The Screen

Located centrally, The Screen offers the comfort of a luxury hotel with the individuality of a boutique establishment. Each of its 13 guest rooms has been fashioned by a different designer. Some are classy and sophisticated, while others combine tradition and innovation. Find a perch on the rooftop terrace to watch the sunset. With its location near the Kyoto Imperial Palace, The Screen is a great base from which to explore Kyoto.
Everything you need to know

At a Glance

Free WiFi
Breakfast available (surcharge)
Restaurant
Concierge services
24-hour front desk
Dry cleaning/laundry service
Multilingual staff
Bar/lounge
Smoke-free property

Kikokuso (京料理 宿屋枳殻荘)

Kikokuso
With a convenient location on the verge of downtown Kyoto, this family-run ryokan has been operated for 130 years. It is currently owned and managed by a husband and wife team. Extremely sweet hosts, they will make you feel at home immediately with their grandmotherly and grandfatherly attitude. The ryokan has five rooms, one of which has a private bathroom while the other four share a communal bathroom, which has a traditional rock bath. The machiya (wooden townhouse) that houses the ryokan is a gorgeous, traditional one, with red bridges that form a walkway around a beautiful Japanese garden. One of the most old-fashioned ryokans in Kyoto, Kikokuso is a place you must visit for the old-school, un-commercialised ryokan experience.
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Gion Hatanaka (祇園畑中)

Housed in a beautiful wooden townhouse, Gion Hatanaka is a lovely old-fashioned ryokan where you can have a fantastic Japanese experience. Like traditional ryokans, most of the rooms in Hatanaka share a public bathing facility, separated by gender, where you can experience the relaxation of Japan’s bathhouse culture. Limited rooms with private bathrooms are also available. With its close vicinity to Gion, the geisha-training district, Hatanaka often has Maiko shows, where you can watch Maikos perform their traditional dances and songs.

Everything you need to know

At a Glance

Free WiFi
Breakfast available (surcharge)
Dry cleaning/laundry service
Multilingual staff

Shimizu Ryokan (京の宿 しみず)

Though smaller than some of the grand ryokans on this list, Shimizu is clean and well-maintained, and the owners are super friendly and warm. All rooms in Shimizu have a private bathroom, making it a great choice if you’re uncomfortable bathing with strangers. Located within 10 minutes of Kyoto Station, this cosy ryokan is a great base from which to explore Japan. They also offer a bike rental service.

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At a Glance

Free WiFi

Hotel Kanra (ホテル カンラ)

This chic, modern designer hotel is a great place to relax and still be close to the city centre. Each of their uniquely designed guest rooms perfectly combine Japanese and Western culture. The most basic rooms have a Western bed and tatami mat area. Some rooms have private gardens, outdoor baths, or an additional floor, in the style of a loft or basement, adding to the sense of space and privacy. Although it is located just outside of the city centre, Hotel Kanra is close to a metro station, and the hotel has a bike rental service that allows you to experience this wonderful city on bike.

Everything you need to know

At a Glance

Free WiFi
Breakfast available (surcharge)
Concierge services
24-hour front desk
Dry cleaning/laundry service
Multilingual staff
Terrace
Bar/lounge
Smoke-free property

Kyoto Granbell

The Kyoto Granbell opened in 2017 and is located in the Gion district of the old capital. The modern but cosy bar and lounge area (open until 3am) makes for an ideal spot to plan out your day of sightseeing with a complimentary cup of coffee. Rooms are decorated in a traditional style with a contemporary twist, such as the spiral bedside lamps. Rent a bicycle from the hotel to cover more ground during your stay in Kyoto.
Everything you need to know

At a Glance

Free WiFi
Restaurant
In-room accessibility
24-hour front desk
Dry cleaning/laundry service
Bar/lounge

The Celestine Kyoto Gion

The Celestine Kyoto Gion is a slice of luxury in the historic centre of the city. A stunning Japanese garden, designed by Toshiya Ogina, is hidden in the centre of the hotel and can be viewed as you move around the lobby and corridors. Wear the indoor slippers and yukata on a visit to the large public bath, which is open into the early hours of the morning, if you fancy a midnight dip.
Everything you need to know

At a Glance

Free WiFi
Restaurant
In-room accessibility
Concierge services
24-hour front desk
Dry cleaning/laundry service
Bar/lounge

Tsugu by The Share Hotels

Tsugu offers a range of traditional or Western-style rooms, including lofts sleeping up to six people for family or group stays. The industrial-style hotel regularly hosts pop-up shops in their showcase area on the first floor, selling Japanese crafts and products. An intimate coffee and wine ushiro (cafe and bar) provides homemade meals using vegetables grown locally and serves home-roasted coffee. The hotel’s events page lists the entertainment regularly on offer, including music and coffee evenings, coffee workshops and live jazz sessions.
Everything you need to know

At a Glance

Free WiFi
Breakfast available (surcharge)
Multilingual staff
Smoke-free property

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  • Node Hotel Kyoto

    One for the art lovers, Node Hotel oozes cool, sophisticated style. The muted purple-grey colour scheme used throughout the hotel has a calming effect – if you can tear yourself away from staring at the acclaimed artworks on display at every turn. Enjoy a farm-to-table breakfast after a night spent relaxing on your oversized bed in the luxury loungewear provided. You’ll end your stay agreeing with the hotel’s mantra, that art really is an essential part of life.
    Everything you need to know

    At a Glance

    Free WiFi
    Breakfast available (surcharge)
    Concierge services
    Smoke-free property

    The Millennials Kyoto

    If you’ve ever wanted to try sleeping in a ‘pod’ for the night, book in to The Millennials. Each sleeping area contains a reclining bed that can be controlled from an iPad you are given at check-in. An 80-inch screen allows video or streaming services from your device. The hotel bar’s daily happy hour serves free (yes, free) draught beer from 5.30pm. When it’s time to wake up in the morning, there’s no need for a noisy alarm – the pod’s automatic lights and reclining bed will ease you into your day.
    Everything you need to know

    At a Glance

    Free WiFi
    Express check-out
    Multilingual staff

    Fujitaya Kyoto

    Fujitaya offers traditional, communal-style living, just one metro stop away from Kyoto station. The hotel holds takoyaki (fried octopus) and temakisushi (hand-rolled sushi) parties for all guests, so you can meet fellow travellers while learning Japanese cooking methods. Fujitaya’s cultural events also include calligraphy workshops and Japanese confectionary school. The hotel is no-frills, but guests are immersed in Japanese culture from the moment they arrive. Book direct with the hotel for free bicycle hire during your stay.
    Everything you need to know

    At a Glance

    Free WiFi
    Smoke-free property

    Share Hotels Rakuro

    Home to a restaurant specialising in fried chicken, the concept of Share Hotel is to create a space for locals and tourists to mix in. Minimalist Japanese rooms with low-lying beds will help you fit right in with the Kyotans. Buff up on your knowledge of the city in the hotel library, whose bookshelves have been carefully filled by lecturer and Kyoto expert, Ryo Wakamura, then head up to the rooftop terrace for views of the Imperial Palace and the city’s surrounding mountains.
    Everything you need to know

    At a Glance

    Free WiFi
    Breakfast available (surcharge)
    Restaurant
    24-hour front desk
    Bar/lounge
    Smoke-free property

    Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto

    The best thing about staying at the Four Seasons in Kyoto is the ancient garden. Believed to have once been owned by the samurai Taira no Shigemori, the hotel’s 800-year-old Shakusuien, a pond garden, contrasts beautifully with the contemporary aesthetic indoors. The Four Seasons captures Japan’s old-meets-new vibe. Sip Kyoto sake or a seasonal cocktail on the waterside terrace before dining at the on-site Michelin-star restaurant, Sushi Wakon.
    Everything you need to know

    At a Glance

    Free WiFi
    Breakfast available (surcharge)
    In-room accessibility
    Full-service spa
    Express check-out
    Concierge services
    24-hour front desk
    Dry cleaning/laundry service
    Multilingual staff
    Terrace
    Bar/lounge
    Smoke-free property

    This is an updated version of an article originally written by Elizabeth Lee.

    These recommendations were updated on January 13, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.