The Best Luxury Hotels to Book in Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto is renowned for its beauty, tranquillity and hospitality
Kyoto is renowned for its beauty, tranquillity and hospitality | © Ben McRae / Alamy
Lucy Dayman

While it may have relinquished its capital city status in 1868, Kyoto remains the cultural capital of Japan, as it’s home to no fewer than 17 Unesco World Heritage sites. Traditional Japanese culture abounds here, and you can spend countless days strolling the centuries-old narrow lanes lined with wooden houses, purchasing wares from ancient speciality shops, or else wandering amongst hundreds of Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, tranquil gardens and palaces. Kyoto is rich in culture which is echoed in the wealth of its upscale accommodation offerings, which include a retreat right by the Imperial Palace, a five-star ryokan and a former tea master’s residence. Here is our pick of the best luxury hotels in Kyoto, all bookable with Culture Trip.

1. Tomoya Residence Hotel Kyoto Nijo Takakura, for extended stays

Luxury

A sofa and kitchen in a room at the Tomoya Residence Hotel Kyoto Nijo Takakura
Courtesy of Tomoya Residence Hotel Kyoto Nijo Takakura / Expedia

A mere three blocks from the Museum of Kyoto and Kyoto Gyoen National Garden – the vast, landscaped green space home to the Kyoto Imperial Palace – and walkable to the Heian Shrine and Nijō Castle, Tomoya Residence is perfectly positioned for cultural vultures. The handful of rooms adheres to the luxurious minimalism concept; some feature kitchenettes, while others look out onto the garden. Perfect for extended stays.

2. The Thousand Kyoto, for contemporary comforts near Kyoto Station

Luxury

A bedroom with two beds a sofa and a desk at the Thousand Kyoto
Courtesy of the Thousand Kyoto / Expedia

Right next to the Kyoto Station, this thoroughly contemporary Kyoto hotel is an easy walk from numerous restaurants and bars in central Kyoto and an easy ride from the historic districts and sights in the city. You won’t be disappointed with the three onsite dining establishments with a private tea room; other guest perks include the gym and spa. The stylish rooms combine Japanese motifs such as ikebana-style decorations and blond-wood finishes with all the mod cons you’d expect from a luxury hotel.

3. Sowaka, for contemporary kaiseki cuisine

Luxury

A traditional Japanese style room with large windows a sofa and a bed at the Sowaka in Kyoto
Courtesy of Sowaka / Expedia

A block away from Maruyama Park and Yasaka Shrine in the historic Higashiyama neighbourhood, and sheathed in blond wood and neutral creams, Sowaka is a sensitively restored machiya (townhouse), comprising 23 rooms of different shapes and sizes, spread over two buildings, some featuring traditional paper screen walls and open-air baths. La Bombance Gion, the sister restaurant of the Michelin-star La Bombance in Tokyo, conjures up modern incarnations of the multi-course kaiseki cuisine.

4. Kyoto Yura Hotel, for superb French-Japanese fusion cuisine

Luxury, Chain Hotel

A lounge area with comfortable chairs and coffee tables at the Kyoto Yura Hotel
Courtesy of Kyoto Yura Hotel / Expedia

Close proximity to the historic Higashiyama district and the Yasaka Shrine, with excellent public transport links, and a self-described “East-meets-West” approach to hospitality are just some of the selling points of this Kyoto hotel. French-Japanese fusion cuisine is served at the onsite 54th Station Grill, while the bar, 1867, offers a fine selection of premium Japanese whiskies. Rooms are a blend of contemporary Western comforts and a Japanese design aesthetic.

5. Gion Kyuraku, for a stay in a former tea master's home

Luxury

Outside view of the Gion Kyuraku in Kyoto with traditional Japanese architecture
Courtesy of Gion Kyuraku / Expedia

Sitting in a tiny lane, surrounded by Shinto shrines in a historic district in Kyoto, and nearly a century old, Gion Kyuraku was once a tea master’s residence. A piece of Kyoto history, the hotel has been sensitively restored to its original splendour and repurposed to become a private rental/bed and breakfast-style hybrid housing for up to six guests. Carefully decorated and with a tsuboniwa (a spectacular onsite garden), it places you perfectly for on-foot exploration of some of the oldest streets in the city and shops run by many generations of the same family.

6. Hotel The Celestine Kyoto Gion, for proximity to historical pedestrian streets

Luxury

A large dining table with big windows and bamboo trees in the Hotel The Celestine Kyoto Gion
Courtesy of Hotel The Celestine Kyoto Gion / Expedia

Don’t let the humble facade of The Celestine fool you. Located down a side street in the Gion district, this Kyoto hotel comprises a clutch of luxurious, traditionally-inspired, contemporary rooms and the acclaimed Yasaka Endo restaurant which features seasonal multi-course menus. True to Kyoto style, there’s also a large public bath onsite and a bamboo garden designed by landscape icon Toshiya Ogino. You’re walkable from the handsome pedestrian thoroughfares of Nineizaka and Sanneizaka, lined with traditional wooden architecture, teahouses and shops.

7. Arashiyama Benkei, for soaks in onsite hot springs

Luxury

A large room with big windows, a small table and chairs on the balcony at the Arashiyama Benkei in Kyoto
Courtesy of Arashiyama Benkei / Expedia

Sitting on the western outskirts of Kyoto, where the city meets the mountains, Arashiyama Benkei is a hot spring hotel offering upscale relaxation at the onsite onsen. Bathing in naturally mineral-rich waters is the main draw here. At the same time, the interior design pays tribute to the ryokan legacy of Kyoto with traditional Japanese-style rooms which combine Western comforts with Japanese design. Good public transport connections mean easy access to Nijō Castle, Heian Shrine and the centuries-old alleyways of Higashiyama.

8. Hotel Granvia Kyoto, for catching the morning bullet train

Hotel

A large, minimal-chic room with big windows, a bed and a sofa at the Hotel Granvia Kyoto
Courtesy of Hotel Granvia Kyoto / Expedia

If you’re looking to check into your room the minute you step off the shinkansen (bullet train), Kyoto hotels don’t come more convenient than Hotel Granvia, located on top of the main train station in the city. The striking architectural style of the building spreads to the elegant rooms inside, some of which – ranging from singles to suites – offer direct views of Kyoto Tower, while others allow the trainspotter in you to watch the trains come and go. The hotel offers halal food in two of the eight restaurants, Le Temps and Ukihashi.

9. Aoi Hotel Kyoto, for proximity to the Yasaka Shrine

Hotel

A room with a bed and large window at the Aoi Hotel in Kyoto
Courtesy of Aoi Hotel / Expedia

This Kyoto hotel, located across the river from the ancient heart of the city and an easy walk from the Yasaka Shrine and Hanamikoji Street (historic geisha and shopping district), is a great choice for any traveller, but it’s especially well-suited to accommodating self-caterers. Though luxurious, it’s reasonably priced and includes extras such as kitchenettes, refrigerators and onsite laundry. In the rooms, you’re greeted with traditional Japanese screen prints; opt for an east-facing room for river views.

10. Hotel Kanra Kyoto, for minimalist comforts near Kyoto Station

Hotel

A bedroom with two beds and a seperate living room area at the Hotel Kanra in Kyoto
Courtesy of Hotel Kanra / Expedia

Near Kyoto Station and with incredible views of Kyoto Tower, Hotel Kanra gives you easy access to all the best parts of the city. The decor perfectly encapsulates the Japanese aesthetic: minimalist design, both sleek and welcoming; the rooms are all clean lines and soothing neutral shades. There’s also a shop where you can purchase Japanese pottery and witness repairs carried out using ancient techniques.

11. Hyatt Regency Kyoto, for traditional Japanese decor

Hotel

A room at the Hyatt Regency in Kyoto with a large bed, big windows and a desk area
Courtesy of Hyatt Regency Kyoto / Expedia

Welcoming you with a bamboo grove seemingly straight out of a painting, the Hyatt Regency Kyoto incorporates traditional Japanese culture into every aspect of your stay. A maiko (apprentice geisha) performs a traditional dance for guests every evening, while rooms feature Japanese wooden bathtubs, kimono tapestry walls, paper lanterns and sliding screen doors. The location of the hotel on the edge of Higashiyama means you are within easy walking distance of the main sights. A spa, tablets for ordering room service and six excellent restaurants round out the hotel offerings.

12. Suiran, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Kyoto, for an onsite onsen

Hotel

Surian, located in 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.

13. The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto, for some of the best views in the city

Hotel

The Ritz-Carlton sits on the banks of the Kamo River, and the views from its rooms are second to none. The rooms and suites boast numerous Japanese design touches, and massive windows flood them with plenty of natural light; book an east-facing room for Higashiyama Mountain vistas, or else opt to overlook the Zen gardens. Curated activity programmes offer hiking, meditation and culinary experiences. A spa, indoor pool, and four superb restaurants seal the deal.

14. Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto, for a tranquil stay in historical Higashiyama

Hostel

In the heart of the historical district of Higashiyama and just steps away from the Kyoto National Museum, this intimate hideaway transports you to a bygone time. The 800-year-old garden, which the complex is built around, was mentioned in a poem called The Tale of the Heike dating back to the 12th century, while the elegant rooms are a blend of dark-wood floors, marble bathrooms and mod cons such as coffee makers. Experience tea ceremonies, Michelin-star sushi, and ancient healing spa treatments without leaving the grounds.

This is an updated version of an article originally by Brooke Larsen.
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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