The Best Luxury Hotels in Kyoto, Japan
Kyoto is renowned for its beauty, tranquillity and hospitality | © Ben McRae / Alamy
While it may have relinquished its first city status in 1868, Kyoto remains the cultural capital of Japan, as it’s home to 17 Unesco World Heritage sites. Legacy rules over development, here, and history is written throughout the streets. This is all reflected in its luxury hotel offerings, which include a retreat right by the Imperial Palace, a five-star ryokan and a former tea master’s residence.
Tomoya Residence Hotel Kyoto Nijo Takakura
Courtesy of Tomoya Residence Hotel Kyoto Nijo Takakura / Expedia
In the Nijo neighbourhood, where history and culture are proudly brandished – and practically sitting on the doorstep of the Imperial Palace – Tomoya Residence couldn’t have a more apt position. The rooms feature modern upscale hotel comforts but retain a sense of old-world Japanese refinement, where luxurious minimalism is the key ideology, and everything has a purpose, message and place.
Courtesy of the Thousand Kyoto / Expedia
Few hotels find the equilibrium between showcasing the history of the city while offering a contemporary experience that exceeds expectations, but the Thousand Kyoto is one such establishment. You won’t be disappointed with the three onsite dining establishments that include a private tea room, or the gym, spa and banquet hall. The artfully curated rooms weave Japanese motifs such as ikebana-style decorations and hinoki-coloured light wood finishes with all the add-ons you’d expect from a luxury hotel.
Courtesy of Sowaka / Expedia
Designed to explore the intersection between preservation and innovation, Sowaka is a hotel-ryokan hybrid that blurs the lines between history and future in an elegant yet playful way. History lovers will find repose in this renovated machiya (townhouse) with 23 unique rooms that all pay homage to the origins of the home. Restaurant La Bombance Gion, sister eatery of the Michelin-star La Bombance in Tokyo, serves modern incarnations of the multi-course kaiseki cuisine.
Kyoto Yura Hotel
Luxury, Chain Hotel
Courtesy of Kyoto Yura Hotel / Expedia
Embracing the essence of Kyoto’s love of luxury, Yura Hotel takes a self-described “East-meets-West” approach to hospitality. French-Japanese fusion cuisine, with bamboo forest views, are served in the 54th Station Grill, while the bar, 1867, offers a fine selection of premium Japanese whiskies. Rooms also stay true to the cultural hybrid approach with Western comforts and Japanese motifs blending design flavours to craft a varied yet harmonious selection of accommodation options.
Courtesy of Gion Kyuraku / Expedia
Nearly a century old, Gion Kyuraku was once a tea master’s residence, making it one for those hungry for authenticity. A piece of Kyoto history, the hotel has been meticulously restored to its original splendour and repurposed to become a private rental/bed and breakfast-style hybrid housing up to six guests. Carefully decorated, and with a tsuboniwa, a spectacular private onsite garden, it’s a fantasy home conveniently positioned in the city centre.
Hotel The Celestine Kyoto Gion
Courtesy of Hotel The Celestine Kyoto Gion / Expedia
Down a side street in the Gion district sits the Celestine, a hotel that’s arguably humble from the outside, but that unassuming facade is a trick. From the traditionally inspired, modern-designed rooms to the multi-course menus at the onsite Yasaka Endo restaurant, the interior is a lavish luxury hotel with all the finishes. Staying true to the classic Kyoto style, there’s also a large public bath and cosy bamboo garden designed by landscape icon Toshiya Ogino.
Sitting on the cusp of the urban limits, where Kyoto meets the mountains, is Arashiyama Onsen, a hot spring hub that’s home to the upscale relaxation of Arashiyama Benkei. Bathing in naturally mineral-rich waters is the main objective, and it’s made clear from the get-go, with the facilities built around the baths. The interior design pays tribute to the ryokan legacy of Kyoto with traditional Japanese-style rooms that combine Western comforts with Japanese design.
Courtesy of Hotel Granvia Kyoto / Expedia
Kyoto hotels don’t come more central than Hotel Granvia, located inside the city’s main train station. The striking architectural style of the building encases you in elegance, and certain rooms – which range from singles to suites – offer direct views of Kyoto Tower. The hotel offers halal food in two of the eight restaurants, Le Temps and Ukihashi.
Courtesy of Aoi Hotel / Expedia
Aoi Hotel, in central Kyoto, is a great choice for any kind of traveller, but it’s especially suited to families. Though luxurious, it’s reasonably priced and includes extras such as kitchenettes, refrigerators and onsite laundry. In the rooms, you’re greeted by traditional Japanese screen prints and lovely river views.
Courtesy of Hotel Kanra / Expedia
Near Kyoto Station and with gorgeous views of Kyoto Tower, Hotel Kanra gives you easy access to all the best parts of the city. The decor perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the city: minimalist design that’s both sleek and welcoming. There’s also a shop where you can purchase Japanese pottery and witness artful repairs carried out using ancient techniques.
Courtesy of Hyatt Regency Kyoto / Expedia
Welcoming you with a lush bamboo grove straight out of a painting, the Hyatt Regency Kyoto entwines traditional Japanese beauty into every aspect of your stay. A maiko (apprentice geisha) performs a traditional dance for guests every evening, while rooms feature Japanese wooden bathtubs and sliding screen doors. A spa, fitness centre and six restaurants round out the hotel offering.
Suiran, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Kyoto
Courtesy of Suiran / Expedia
Surian, in scenic Arashiyama, combines the tranquillity of a natural Japanese setting with the modern conveniences for which Marriott hotels are known. The Meiji Era-inspired building houses a gourmet restaurant and an onsen (a traditional Japanese bath), and wide windows open onto traditional Japanese gardens and the picturesque Hozu River. Free train station pick-up, a full-service spa and concierge services are also included.
The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto
Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton / Expedia
The Ritz-Carlton sits on the scenic Kamo River, the jewel of Kyoto. Many of the luxury rooms and suites feature gorgeous views and private Zen gardens. Curated activity programmes offer personalised hiking, meditation and culinary experiences. A spa, indoor pool, four restaurants and a day care are all on the premises.
Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto
Courtesy of Four Seasons Kyoto / Expedia
In the quaint historic district of Higashiyama, this intimate hideaway transports you to a bygone time. The 800-year-old garden, which the complex is built around, was mentioned in an epic poem called The Tale of the Heike that dates back to the 12th century. Experience tea ceremonies, Michelin-star sushi and ancient healing spa treatments, all without leaving the grounds.
This is an updated version of an article originally by Brooke Larsen.
These recommendations were updated on March 12, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.