Kyoto is famous for its traditional inns, known in Japan as ryokan. Nowadays, they often come with luxurious spas, incredible multi-course meals, and beautiful bamboo and tatami accents. Experience the best of them through this list of the eight top ryokan in Kyoto.
Matsubaya Ryokan, Kyoto. | Courtesy of Matsubaya Ryokan/Hotels.com
What makes this ryokan stand out is its convenience and versatility. Located just steps from Higashi-Hoganji Temple, Matsubaya Ryokan offers both Japanese and Western-style accommodation. It’s located in the peaceful area around Matsubaya, making it a great option for couples. Whether lounging in one of the comfy guest rooms or strolling through the garden, guests can experience true relaxation.
Kinse retains the elaborate design of an Edo-era pleasure house | Courtesy of Kojiro and Seanacey / Airbnb
Kinse Inn is a former ageya (an elite Edo-period pleasure house) and ryokan repurposed into a guesthouse and café. The ground-floor café has vaulted ceilings and stained-glass windows, remnants of Japan’s Westernization period in the early 1900s. The upstairs guest area has a more Japanese feel, with paper lanterns and calligraphy scrolls decorating the rooms. There is even a small Japanese bath. The entire second floor is available to rent privately, so guests can fully immerse themselves in this unique space with over 250 years of history.
Ryokan Sumiya Kihoan is perfect for a couples’ retreat, or anyone looking to pamper themselves. Choose from a traditional guest room with a mountain view or your own private hot spring bath. The full-service spa offers Ayurvedic and other therapeutic treatment options. The architecture and the grounds immerses visitors in classic Japanese design and practices, like Zen garden and tea ceremony. Sumiya Kihoan is ideal for wandering, relaxing, and everything in between.
Venture into Kyoto’s most photogenic locale when you stay at this scenic ryokan. Arashiyama, located just west of urban Kyoto, is a gorgeous natural wonder, complete with picturesque mountains, rivers, architecture and animal life. Togetsutei’s rooms offer spectacular views, private gardens and luxurious amenities. When you’re not out exploring the wonders of Arashiyama, you can also enjoy Togetsutei’s spa, onsen, and gift shop.
Celebrated for its long history as a geisha district, Gion still retains much of its ancient architecture and celebrated charm. While the location is one of the best features of this ryokan, there’s a lot more to love. Guest rooms overlook their own private gardens and include private baths. A special course invites a maiko (apprentice geisha) to dine with you. Plus, Yasaka Shrine is just across the street!
Higashiyama is yet another picturesque neighbourhood. With twisting, narrow streets flanked by old wooden buildings housing artisanal shops, stepping into this neighbourhood is akin to entering another time period. Kyokoyado Yasaka Yutone is small, making it more intimate and exclusive than most other ryokan. Each of the seven guest rooms is equipped with a Western-style bed, private tubs, and a basket brimming with amenities fit for a spa. There is also a luxurious restaurant and a library lounge.
Established in 1831, Seikoro Ryokan offers guests a cozy but contemporary setting located in the neighbourhood of Higashiyama. Seikoro is elaborately decorated with artistic touches that combine traditional Japanese aesthetics with more modern touches. Guests can choose between sleeping on comfy futons or plush beds. Facilities include a restaurant, café, and a lounge. There is also a lush courtyard and a communal bathing area.
Ryokan Yoshida-sanso is an exceptional inn situated near the Kyoto Imperial Palace and was once the residence of a prince. Yoshida-sanso now aims to make its guests feel like royalty through its impeccable service and facilities. Guests can choose to stay in a traditional room in the main building or in their own private cottage where they are served seasonal meals overlooking a gorgeous, secluded garden. This beautiful and historic property also has a bar and lounge when you feel like mingling.