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Top 5 Areas To Stay In Kyoto

By Brice Guilbert
03 September 2020
Top 5 Areas To Stay In Kyoto

Edited by Poppy Reid 

Many people who visit Japan want to see the country’s more traditional side for an authentic experience. With hundreds of gorgeous temples, shrines and castles, not to mention great food and vibrant city life, Kyoto attracts visitors from around the world. Most visitors stay for a couple of days, perhaps stopping off between other cities like Tokyo, Osaka and Hiroshima - so of course, you’ll need somewhere to stay. The location of your hotel or ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) can have as much impact on your trip as what you get up to. So, in this large and versatile city, where are the best places to stay. Here are five fantastic locations in Kyoto that cater to different needs and budget. No matter what your aim is when visiting Kyoto, and even if you're only here for 24 hours, you’re bound to find something right for you.



Gion

Probably the most famous geisha district in Japan, arriving at Gion feels like stepping into an area where time has frozen in old Japan, where the hustle and bustle of modern city life seems far away. For a truly authentic display of Japanese lanterns, winding streets, and many chances to spot real geisha going about their daily business, Gion is perfect for those who want a taste of the traditional. If you plan on staying in Kyoto in the summer, book early to get a front-row seat to one of the biggest festivals in the country, the Gion Matsuri, in July. Being able to see the parades, try street food, and join the festivities is ten times better when your hotel is just a few minutes’ walk away.

For dining, Gion offers Kobe beef at Moriya Gion, a pricey but premium-quality delicacy from the nearby city of Kobe. Try grilled food such as the Osaka pancake, okonomiyaki, at Oagari, or for some affordable ramen noodles bursting with flavour try Ramen Non. Gion is part of Southern Higashiyama, which is right at the heart of some of Kyoto’s best sightseeing spots. Staying in Gion gives you easy access to the incredible Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Yasaka Shrine, and Sannen-zaka Street, known for its cosy restaurants and teahouses.

 

Arashiyama

The favourite of many who visit Kyoto, Arashiyama is the heavenly countryside town just outside Kyoto city. You could easily spend a full day or two in this area alone taking in the local sights. Staying at Arashiyama gives you the peace and quiet that you might not find in the city. If you visit in autumn, you’ll see the stunning sights of the leaves changing colour, as well as enjoying the cooler and clearer weather that comes after summer ends. Of course, this is also a busy season for hikers, so it’s better to book in advance.

Try local tempura at Arashiyama Yoshimura, or soba noodles at Kameyama-Ya. If you’re in Arashiyama in summer, don’t miss out on the seasonal “unagi,” or eel, at Unagi-ya Hirokawa. You might also want to pick up the local souvenir nama-yatsuhashi, a delicious folded rice cake that the area is known for. Nearby sightseeing includes the famous Monkey Park, a sort of zoo except the monkeys are wild. Food can be bought on site and you can spot these adorable furry friends any time of the year. Another must-see in Arashiyama is the bamboo grove, a quiet and charming road through a tall forest of bamboo that you won’t forget in a hurry.

 

Kyoto Station

Staying near the central station of Kyoto is ideal for those who want to save most of their budget for dining and sightseeing and hope to travel around by mainly bus and by train. Kyoto Station itself is surrounded by restaurants, cafes, and bars serving everything from ramen to kushikatsu, and is a stress-free location for those visiting the city for the first time. In the area you’ll find plenty of shopping, ideal for those looking for a more modern atmosphere. The CUBE and AEON Mall are both department stores that are open until late and are walkable from the station. You’ll also find the less known but nevertheless impressive Kyoto tower, a 100-metre high observation deck where you can get a pleasant view of the city, ideal for the evening after a day of sightseeing. There are countless things to do in this neighbourhood!

Kibune

Kibune is a place to refresh and try an authentic ryokan inn. Located north of Kyoto city, you’ll feel like you’ve discovered a hidden mountain town. Ryokans in this area aim to give their guests a peaceful stay and respite from the heat in summer; autumn is also a good time to be here when the leaves change. The most noteworthy spot in the area is Kifune Shrine, where legend says a goddess took a boat from Osaka and stopped where the shrine begins. The shrine itself is dedicated to the god of water and rain, and he is believed to protect those going to sea. For those looking for a more nature-orientated stay, Kibune is perfect for its short hiking trails and walks.

Restaurants and hotels make up the rest of the town, and in some eateries you can enjoy the sound of the river flowing nearby as you eat, a pastime that is locally called “kawayuka.” If you’d like to splash out, you can enjoy a kaiseki meal at Kyoto Kibune River Terrace between May and September. Kibune is ideal for those who want to stay in Kyoto but also want to experience nature.

 

Kawaramachi

Kawaramachi is where you can get a taste of the more vibrant, modern city life that Kyoto has to offer. Unlike some of the other areas on this list, you can easily stay in Kawaramachi on a budget as well as have easy access to other parts of the city. With theatres, bars, and shopping, it’s a great place to spend an evening in the city. Next to Kawaramachi Station is Pontocho, perfect for an evening of dining. Venture down this alley to discover yakitori (skewered meat) restaurants, small izakaya bars brimming with locals, and options offering more traditional Kyoto cuisine. You can also experience “kawayuka,” or the cooling effect of listening to water while eating, on the east side of Pontocho which looks over the Kamogawa River. For the daytime, you can discover Japanese history at the Kyoto Samurai and Ninja Museum or shop until you drop at Teramachi Street.

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