Traditional Kyoto is home to some of the best ryokans in Japan. With our guide, find the Kyoto ryokan for you.
A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn, the origins of which lie way back in the Edo period (1603-1868). First designed to accommodate passing travelers, they now offer guests a dip into Japan’s past and culture. For full information to the Japanese ryokan, check out our guide, which is bursting with tips, tricks and recommendations to make the most of your stay.
Kyoto is particularly notable for its ryokan, many of which are located around the bustling Gion district, famous for its many Geisha and old-world vibe. There are many ryokans spread across the city, however, and we’ve got a full guide to the best of them:
The Kinoe in Gion, close to many tourist spots such as Yasaka Shrine, Kodai-Ji Temple and Kennin-Ji Temple makes for a great base for your exploration of the city. With exquisite views over Kyoto, fantastic service and authentic, elegant cuisine, this one makes our list without difficulty.
Gion Hatanaka is a 4-star ryokan in the heart of Kyoto’s popular Gion district. This traditional Japanese ryokan offers spacious public baths overlooking a zen garden, rooms of ample size complete with large windows and balconies, as well as private bathrooms decked out with wooden bathtubs. The hotel offers in-room meals (breakfast/dinner) made up of seasonal local dishes as well as Geisha performances in the spring.
Shiraume Ryokan was formally an “ochaya” (where maiko or apprentice geiko live while they study, train and work) during the Edo period and was even praised by famous Japanese poet, Isamu Yoshida, for its beauty and elegance. The Shiraume Ryokan offers excellent service and warm, friendly hospitality to all its guests.
Ohanabo provides traditional Japanese-style accommodation with Kaiseki multi-course in-room dinners, massages and a hot public bath. Located adjacent to Higashi Hongan-ji Temple, Shosei-en Garden and Kyoto Tower, this is another great central Kyoto option.
Hiiragiya was established in 1818 and has gained a reputation as one of the city’s best ryokans. Under ownership by the same family for six generations, Hiiragiya has been host to internationally famous writers, artists, politicians, scientists, and even members of the imperial family. Quality, therefore, is a given. It serves the finest quality Kyoto-style Kaiseki, carefully prepared with the freshest seasonal ingredients and elegantly presented on handcrafted Kiyomizu ceramics and the finest lacquerware.
Watazen is a classically Japanese inn with modern amenities, located in the center of Kyoto. A rest stop for weary travelers since 1830, today, it stands out for its relaxed atmosphere, excellent service and cuisine you won’t forget in a hurry.
Arashiyama Benkei was established in 1969 in Arashiyama, a beautiful district in the western outskirts of Kyoto. Built in the traditional sukiya-zukuri architectural style, this place is not lacking in character. Arashiyama Benkei is not simply a place to rest and eat, but also offers onsen facilities for ultimate relaxation.
Motonago nestles in a quiet corner of Kyoto, quite apart from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the city. Step outside and soak up the calm of the suburbs for a small taste of local life. The food here, traditional Kyoto cuisine made with seasonal ingredients and a lot of skill, is a real highlight.
Conveniently located within walking distance of Kyoto Station – the gateway to the city and the surrounding area – Ryokan Shimizu couldn’t be better placed. Yet, in a quiet alleyway behind Higashi Honganji Temple, the atmosphere remains peaceful. It also has its own onsen, which is a big plus.
Fujiya Ryokan is a budget-friendly Ryokan which remains as charming as some of the more expensive options. You will be warmly welcomed by a Russian blue cat, the mascot of the Ryokan, before meeting the always friendly and accommodating staff.
Ohara Sanso features hot-pot dinners and a unique cafe with a hot spring foot bath. It’s just 100 meters from Jakko-in Temple, offers Japanese-style rooms and free to use bicycles, perfect for exploring cyclist-friendly Kyoto. Try a pottery class or reserve a hot spring bath for private use, for an additional fee. The hotel offers both indoor and open-air hot-spring baths and a number of other convenient facilities.
Gion Fukuzumi is a traditional Ryokan which specializes in Kyo-kaiseki (Kyoto full course dinner), made from fresh, seasonal ingredients for distinctive, delicate food. Although the food is the highlight, the rooms and facilities on hand for guests are also to a very high standard.
Hoshinoya is a ryokan complex on the Katsura River, with breathtaking rooms looking onto the water. Kyoto’s famed craftsmanship and history pervades every inch of this fully restored century-old property, from the woodblock-print designs in the guestrooms to the refined Kaiseki meals, landscaped grounds and timeless Arashiyama setting. Hoshinoya Kyoto was built in 2009 from the remains of a riverside villa and is as beautiful as ever.
Tawaraya is one of the oldest ryokans in Japan, having been in operation for over 300 years. The inn prides itself most on its famous service, which goes above and beyond the norm. Everything here is to the highest standard, making no compromises in terms of quality. Ultimately an incredibly welcoming and enjoyable ryokan experience.