Kyoto is a popular city with a wide range of tourist accommodation. It’s also larger than many first time visitors think and there’s no single area that’s close to all tourist sites. This makes it more difficult for the first time visitor to choose where to stay.
The key things to look for are accessibility to transport and sights, proximity to restaurants, and something to do in the evening. It’s worth thinking first about the location of your accommodation, as this can affect how you feel about your trip, before you start searching for somewhere to stay.
Here’s a quick guide to the 3 most popular accommodation areas of Kyoto for first-time visitors, with key features of each.
This is the area around JR Kyoto station, both to the north side and the south side.
- Convenient for catching long-distance trains both east and west, and with excellent access from both Kansai and Itami airports.
- Convenient for the Karasuma subway line and Kyoto buses, and for day trips by JR and Kintetsu railways.
- There is a wide range of accommodation in all price ranges, with the south side of the station being more budget-friendly.
- There are plenty of shopping and dining options within the station itself, and in nearby streets.
- Attractions within walking distance include Kyoto Tower, the Umekoji Railway Museum, and the Hongan-ji temples.
This is the area roughly between Shijo, Karasuma-Oike, Kyoto Shiyakushomae and Kawaramachi stations, and nearby streets.
- Convenient for the Karasuma and Tozai subway lines, and Kyoto buses to get around the city, and the Keihan and Hankyu lines to go to Osaka, Uji and Arashiyama.
- Very good access from Kyoto station, and some airport buses stop in the area.
- There is a wide range of accommodation in all price ranges, including ryokan and machiya.
- This is Kyoto’s main shopping area with department stores along Shijo Street. There are also many dining and entertainment options in this area.
- Attractions within walking distance include Teramachi arcade, Nishiki market and Pontocho, with the Kyoto Imperial Palace and Nijo Castle also possible.
This is the area around Shijo Street running from Gion-Shijo station to Yasaka shrine, and the streets running off this. Check carefully when somewhere is advertised as Gion, as it can be loosely used to describe the wider Higashiyama area.
- In eastern Kyoto, but still within walking distance of downtown Kyoto and convenient for sightseeing in the wider Higashiyama area.
- Served by the Keihan line and Kyoto buses. The Keihan line will take you to Fushimi Inari and Osaka among other places.
- Access to Kyoto station is by city bus or taxi.
- Accommodation includes ryokan, machiya and hostels as well as hotels.
- An area of traditional streets where you might spot a geisha, with shopping, dining, and entertainment clustered close to Shijo St.
- Attractions within walking distance include the older streets in Gion itself, Gion corner and Yasaka shrine, and many temples in the wider Higashiyama area
Other possible areas
Higashiyama – while Gion is the centre of Higashiyama, there is accommodation right throughout the area. Good for people wanting to see more of traditional Kyoto, but access to other areas may be less convenient.
Arashiyama – a charming and traditional area in western Kyoto, there are some good ryokan here, but it is less convenient for other Kyoto sightseeing.
Surrounding areas such as Otsu or Uji are worth considering during cherry blossom season and other peak periods. They are a reasonably short train trip away, which can be done on the JR Pass.
When you’ve identified areas where you’d like to stay, then you can start looking at specific accommodation. I’ve written about different types of accommodation and what to look for in this article.
When looking at accommodation in a specific area, check its location on a map to be certain it is convenient, and note the nearest public transport. A hotel described as being near Kyoto station may be a solid 15 minute walk away, or it could be just across the road.
Accommodation in Kyoto tends to be more expensive than other cities in Japan, so also work out your itinerary before booking. Instead of doing day trips to Himeji, Hiroshima and other cities, think about staying a couple of nights in Hiroshima. This will be more economical as far as accommodation is concerned and save on travelling time.
Do you have any questions about travelling around Japan? Please feel free to contact me.
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For further information, the ebook Japan Just for You is a practical step-by-step guide to planning your trip to Japan, starting with developing your own personal trip concept. It’s now available on Apple, Amazon and Kobo, and other stores.