The Best Hotels in Kyoto

The majority of Kyoto’s lodgings tend toward the traditional, ranging from ryokans offering kaiseki dinners to zen-like inns on the river. Of course, there are also more modern options, including big-name brands that still offer a dose of local culture.

445−3 Myōhōin Maekawachō, Higashiyama-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 605-0932, Japan
In an area rife with traditional, minimalist ryokans, the Four Seasons Kyoto is a spectacle of grandeur. The opulence is subtle, however, camouflaged by clean, Zen-like style. At the hotel’s heart is a beautiful, 800-year-old pond garden, which features a picturesque teahouse surrounded by cherry, maple, and willow trees. Inside, luxurious details abound, from the seasonal floral arrangements, to the iPads and in-mirror TVs in the guest rooms, to the plush cabanas and atmospheric lighting at the underground pool. For even greater indulgence, guests can head to the spa for such treatments as sake baths, bamboo-and-green-tea scrubs, and jade-stone massages, as well as facials from cult French brand Biologique Recherche. When hunger strikes, the Michelin-starred Sushi Wakon is waiting. Helmed by master chef Rei Masuda, the 10-seat restaurant serves fresh fish, flown in daily from Tokyo’s Tsukiji market.
Japan, 〒604-8094 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Nakagyō-ku, Nakahakusanchō, 中京区麩屋町姉小路上ル中白山町277
A historic property, Hiiragiya has hosted many a notable writer, artist, celebrity, and imperial family member since its opening in 1818. Operated by the same family for six generations, the ryokan is steeped in centuries-old tradition, etiquette, and service, with the aim of making guests feel at home during their stay. Rooms are spread across two buildings—the original with its classic style, and the newer, sleeker wing, where the color palette is a bit brighter and the windows and doors are more modern. Both feature updated amenities, however, including flat-screen TVs, minibars, and free Wi-Fi. Among the hotel’s other highlights are the kaiseki-style meals, during which kimono-clad guests enjoy course after beautiful course at low tables. Breakfasts and dinners are both included in your stay, and feature seasonal bites served in locally made lacquerware bowls and boxes.
Japan, 〒616-0007 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Nishikyō-ku, Arashiyama Genrokuzanchō, 京都市西京区嵐山元録山町11−2
The journey is part of the experience at Hoshinoya Kyoto, where a charming wooden boat ferries guests to the hotel’s scenic perch on the banks of the Oi River. Here, tucked away in a grove of old cypress, maple, and cherry trees, the Hoshinoya offers a respite from urban life. Rooms feature traditional ryokan elements, like onsen-style cedar baths and picture windows overlooking the misty forest outside, and the restaurant serves nine-course, kaiseki-style dinners. A few free activities, including morning stretching sessions and tea ceremonies, contribute to the hotel’s Zen-like atmosphere. Guests can also take ikebana lessons, rent kimonos, and book meditation trips to the nearby temple.
Japan, 〒604-8044 Kyoto, Nakagyō-ku, Dainichichō, 御幸町通四条上る大日町407
Given its location right next to Nishiki Market, it’s no wonder this historic ryokan is famous for its food. The kaiseki dinners here include a parade of perfectly crafted dishes, marked by local, seasonal ingredients and an obsessive attention to detail. The miniature works of art arrive beautifully plated on local lacquerware and ceramics and include anything from eggplant with chestnuts and tofu skin, to tiger prawns with grilled mushrooms. After dinner, guests can relax in the communal wooden bath, or retire to traditional guestrooms, complete with tatami-lined floors, futon beds, and shoji doors. Meals are included in the rates here, but, with just seven guestrooms, the place books up fast.
375 Hanaseharachicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 601-1102, Japan
You’ll feel zen from the moment you drive in from nearby Kyoto, along a narrow road through Japanese cedars and past temples and shrines, to the moment you sink into a hot bath at this intimate ryokan. Refreshed and relaxed, you’ll then sit down to an exquisite kaiseki meal of freshly foraged food prepared by a Michelin-starred chef. Oversized windows bring the outdoors in to the immaculate and simple tatami rooms, which come with both lunch and dinner. Book well in advance, given the inn’s small size and low-tech reservation system.
Nakagyo-ku Kamogawa, Nijo-Ohashi Hotori, 鉾田町 中京区 京都市 京都府 604-0902, Japan
Sitting pretty on the banks of the Kamogawa River, the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto is a luxurious alternative to the traditional ryokans that dominate the area. Guestrooms are minimalist yet plush, with giant windows, in-mirror TVs, soaking tubs, the requisite high-tech Toto toilets, and locally made bath products. Wellness facilities range from a spacious spa to a 20-meter pool, while dining options include a Japanese restaurant serving kaiseki dinners, an Italian spot with a cheese-and-charcuterie cellar, and a Pierre Hermé patisserie. Although cocooned in a quiet setting, the hotel is conveniently located with walking distance of the downtown area, making it a favorite of affluent tourists.
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