As one of Japan’s oldest cities, Kyoto captivates travelers around the globe with its stunning blend of rich history, exquisite culture, and awe-inspiring natural beauty. Between temples, gardens, and traditions, there’s so much to do, see, and experience throughout the city and its districts. There’s one big question you’ll want to answer as you plan your vacation: where to stay in Kyoto? Picking the right home base can help you make the most of your trip.
What Is the Best Neighborhood to Stay in Kyoto?
There are plenty of places to find accommodations in Kyoto. However, some areas in the city are ideal for tourists to stay. Depending on what you plan to do during your stay, Downtown Kyoto, Central Kyoto, Kyoto Station, Higashiyama, or Arashiyama are the best locations in the city to set up your base.
Downtown Kyoto is one of the most vibrant and modern parts of the city. Staying downtown places you within walking distance of shopping centers like the Shijo district and Nishiki market, as well as the famous Pontocho Alley, which includes atmospheric dining options right along the Kamogawa River. Higashiyama, Kyoto’s most famous sightseeing area, is also nearby. Because downtown Kyoto is such a hot spot for tourism and has easy access to the city’s subway lines and two key train lines, it’s very popular for travelers. So, accommodations are usually a little more expensive here.
Around the downtown area is Central Kyoto. This district offers guests a combination of old and new sights; Kyoto Imperial Garen and the Nijo Castle are settled near modern amenities like restaurants and convenience stores. Though Central Kyoto isn’t often seen as a popular area for tourists to stay, it has quite a few accommodations that are more affordable than the downtown area. Many hotel options here are also close to subway stops, so you won’t have to travel far to reach any corner of the city. Walking or biking are other transportation options.
Aptly named, Kyoto Station is home to one of Japan’s largest railway depots. It’s a showcase of contemporary Japanese architecture, as well as one of the best spots for convenient transportation anywhere in the region. Hopping on a train can take you into the city for day trips or to further out excursions to the Himeji Castle or the Fushimi Inari shrine. Since there aren’t really any sights to see near the station, this spot is best suited for those looking to take trips to the city’s different districts quickly. Safe accommodations are even available within the station itself, as are restaurants and shopping centers.
Higashiyama means “eastern mountains,” which is exactly where this district lies. It is one of Kyoto’s most beautifully preserved areas. Guests flock to Higashiyama for a glimpse of the traditional, as narrow lanes dotted with shrines, temples, and merchant’s shops lend to atmospheric strolling. The district is split into two parts: Northern Higashiyama and Southern Higashiyama.
Northern Higashiyama is filled with gorgeous greenery and stunning tourist attractions like Ginkaku-ji and the Philosopher’s Path. However, this part of the district doesn’t have any hotels or accommodations. So, if you plan to stay in Higashiyama, you’ll need to head south. Southern Higashiyama holds some of Kyoto’s best landmarks. The Gion neighborhood is by far the most popular. This famous geisha district is known for its teahouses and authentic architecture. While you can find accommodations here, they are some of the most expensive in Kyoto.
Located near the bottom of Kyoto’s western mountains is Arashiyama. Travelers looking to experience the breathtaking natural wonders of Japan should seek accommodations in this district. Though staying in Arashiyama isn’t as common as other areas, it is surrounded by unforgettable bamboo groves, rolling green hills, and mesmerizing mountain peaks. Though far from Downtown Kyoto, Arashiyama is filled with its own sights, including Iwatayama Monkey Park and the Togetsukyo Bridge.