Kyoto served as the seat of the imperial court for over a thousand years before the title went to Tokyo. This former capital offers a trip back in time to when 2,000 traditional wooden homes (machiya), shrines and temples, a shogun’s castle, and imperial villas and castles were the norm. Here one can also find the historic monuments that make up Kyoto’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It’s easy why a visit to Kyoto alone could easily take up to three days of sightseeing. Here are the best places to stay in Kyoto.

best places in kyoto japan

Room and Board in Kyoto

Booking.com offers all sorts of room and board in Kyoto, each the best of their kind. They offer:

  • Seikoro Ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn
  • Hotel Kanra Kyoto, a boutique hotel
  • Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto, a luxury hotel
  • Ishicho, a family hotel, and
  • Len Kyoto Kawaramachi, a cheap hotel

Where To Stay In Kyoto

best places in kyoto japan, best places around kyoto

Currently, Kyoto has a mix of the old and the new. Its population has burst to well over a million residents, and it is composed of 11 wards. Scattered throughout are a wonderful variety of craft and artisan shops and Kyoto’s unique brand of cuisine: Buddhist vegetarian and kaiseki.

Beginning from the northern part of Kyoto is downtown central Kyoto (Nakagyo-ku), a metropolitan area brimming with departments stores, shops, and restaurants. It also has a residential district. Just south of this are Shimogyu-ku ward with sleek and modern Kyoto Station. Northwest of the station is Ukyo-ku ward, where Arashiyama and famous temples can be seen. Meanwhile, east of the station is a Higashiyama-ku, a hilly ward filled with even more restaurants and temples that satisfy palates hungering for vegetarian tofu dishes.

Part of what makes Kyoto so alluring to tourists is how walkable it is. Unlike maze-like Tokyo, Kyoto is arranged in blocks. Their highly pedestrian-friendly streets are filled with signages both in Japanese and in English. If the distance is too great for walking, Kyoto also has many options for public transportation, such as the Karasuma Line running from Kyoto Station to Nakagyo-ku, and public buses that go either point to point or in a loop. Furthermore, bikes may be rented. Since central Kyoto is level, riding bikes is easy and popular. Do take note that the areas outside of central Kyoto tend to be hilly, and street parking in metropolitan areas is prohibited. Park your rented bikes at designated lots.

best places in kyoto japan, best places around kyoto

Shimogyo – For sightseeing

Shimogyo

What makes Shimogyo-ku so ideal for sightseeing are not that there are sights per se, but that it connects to so many other potentials for sightseeing, which is why you’ll find many modestly priced hotels in the area. Here at the site of Kyoto Station are many other forms of public transportation, such as buses, the Karasuma subway line (leading to downtown Kyoto), and trains to Fushimi Inari Shrine, Arashiyama, and Nara.

A bonus is that Kyoto Station itself may be considered a destination if you’re looking for public spaces (like a rooftop park), restaurants, or a department store.

Ukyo for family trips

UKYO

Don’t skip out on this area just because it’s largely residential. Children especially enjoy visiting because of the film studios from the Edo era that can be found in Toei Kyoto Studio Park. For sights that both kids and adults alike can enjoy, you can also go to the famous Zen rock garden in Ryoanji temple and beautiful Arashiyama. This area also has boarding options with fun activities, such as the reasonably priced Kyoto Utano Youth Hostel with its Shunko-in Temple and guesthouse meditation.

Nakagyo for a taste of the local

Nakagyo

Nakagyo is the very essence of traditional Japan. It is home to residential neighborhoods lined with ryokans, machiya townhomes, and the great Nijo castle. For those who are still looking for modern elements, it also has restaurants, department stores, roofed shopping arcades like the Nishiki Food Market, and hotels that can cater to every price category. Nakagyo is truly a place to come back to again and again.

Sakyo and Higashiyama For walkers

HIGASHIYAMA

Trekkers, hikers, and strollers will enjoy these districts filled with lanes and rolling hills. Sometimes, tourists will have no choice but to walk because the streets are inaccessible by bus. However, don’t let that deter you. Pleasant hikes are everywhere, especially along Kiyomizu to Ginkakuji, a path that will take you through parks, temples, shrines, teahouses, and even the famed Philosopher’s Path. Come and go at your leisure!

Arashiyama for romance

ARASHIYAMA

This neighborhood practically has the imperial court seal of approval. From 794 to 1192, Arashiyama was the playground of aristocrats, and it was designed to match the elegance of its former visitors. Nature abounds in the most astonishing ways, what with all the autumn maple leaves, cherry blossoms, and bamboo groves. Here among other temples is the Tenryu-ji, a World Heritage Site. Tourists have the option of riding the Sagano Scenic Railway to Kameoka, where on the way back they flow along the Hozu River on a traditional flat-bottomed boat. Romantics can choose to go all out and board at the riverside Hoshinoya Kyoto.

Pontocho for nightlife

PONTOCHO

When the sun sets, Pontocho is just coming alive. Known in the past as a geisha enclave, it is now reputed for its riverside bars and restaurants. Beginning from the west of this narrow alley is bar-ridden Kiyamachi, situated alongside a canal and popular with university students. Meanwhile, east are restaurants where guests can sit in verandahs overlooking the Kamo River in summer. Further east is Gion. If you’re lucky, you can see a geisha amidst the crowds of restaurant and bar goers.