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
Helen Scarr

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.

1. Hiiragiya Ryokan (柊家)

Ryokan

Exterior of Hiiragiya Ryokan, with a stone courtyard, traditional lamp and plants
Courtesy of Hiiragiya Ryokan / Expedia

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.

2. Matsui Honkan Ryokan (松井本館)

Ryokan

Traditional interior of Matsui Honkan Ryokan, Kyoto, with tatami floor, sliding wooden doors and a low dining table
Courtesy of Matsui Honkan Ryokan / Expedia
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.

3. The Screen

Boutique Hotel, Hotel

Room interior at The Screen, Kyoto, which blends modern and traditional; a low futon bed is on raised tatami opposite a large TV
Courtesy of The Screen / Expedia
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.

4. Kikokuso (京料理 宿屋枳殻荘)

Ryokan

Exterior view of Kikokuso, Kyoto; a traditional Japanese building beside a pond and garden
Courtesy of Kikokuso / Expedia
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.

5. Gion Hatanaka (祇園畑中)

Ryokan

Exterior entrance to Gion Hatanaka, Kyoto, with stone steps leading upwards; the path is lined with green plants and bamboo
Courtesy of Gion Hatanaka / Expedia

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.

6. Shimizu Ryokan (京の宿 しみず)

Independent Hotel, Ryokan

Traditional exterior of Shimizu Ryokan, Kyoto, with bicycles parked outside and a green garden in front
Courtesy of Shimizu Ryokan / Expedia

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.

7. Hotel Kanra (ホテル カンラ)

Hotel

Balcony at Hotel Kanra, Kyoto, with a circular wooden tub, bamboo fence and views across the city
Courtesy of Hotel Kanra / Expedia

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.

8. Kyoto Granbell

Boutique Hotel, Chain Hotel

Small indoor pool at Kyoto Granbell, in a tiled room, beside a zen garden enclosed in glass
Courtesy of Kyoto Granbell / Expedia

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.

9. The Celestine Kyoto Gion

Boutique Hotel

Stylish modern interior of The Celestine Kyoto Gion, with wooden armchairs and cushioned seating surrounding a plant centrepiece
Courtesy of The Celestine Kyoto Gion / Expedia

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.

10. Tsugu by The Share Hotels

Budget Hotel, Boutique Hotel

Room interior at Tsugu by The Share Hotels, with window-side seating, a table, a wall mounted TV and two beds; a wooden mezzanine can be reached via a metal ladder
Courtesy of Tsugu by The Share Hotels / Expedia

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.

11. Node Hotel Kyoto

Boutique Hotel

Interior of the Node Hotel Kyoto, with low lighting, a grey colour palette, a large painting and a modern bar in the background
Courtesy of Node Hotel Kyoto / Expedia

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.

12. The Millennials Kyoto

Budget Hotel

Modern, industrial-style foyer interior at The Millennials Kyoto, with leather sofas, armchairs and low lighting
Courtesy of The Millennials Kyoto / Expedia

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.

13. Fujitaya Kyoto

Bed and Breakfast

Common room interior at Fujitaya Kyoto, with low tables, cushions and seating
Courtesy of Fujitaya Kyoto / Expedia

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.

14. Share Hotels Rakuro

Budget Hotel, Boutique Hotel

Modern room interior at Share Hotels Rakuro, with a lower living area and a raised platform with twin futons
Courtesy of Share Hotels Rakuro / Expedia

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.

15. Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto

Hostel

Room interior at the Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto, with a bed in the foreground and living area in the background with a large window
Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto / Expedia

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.

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

Looking for more? Book into one of the coolest holiday apartments in Kyoto or one of these hostels, and check out the top things to do and see while here. For a unique stay in Kyoto, check out our guide on where to book your stay in Kyoto, Japan, for a local experience, bookable on Culture Trip.

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