Where to Stay in Kyoto for First Time Traveller: Best Areas and Hotel Reviews

If you are planning your first trip to Kyoto, then you must be wondering what to do and where to stay in Kyoto. And if you already started your research, you’ll quickly realize that all the attractions are spread out all over the city. Which makes the task of choosing the right hotel in the right area very important.

And there are many excellent areas to stay in Kyoto where it can accommodate different price point and other needs. But to be honest, if you are visiting Kyoto for the first time, you want to be in close proximity to all the highlights so you can maximize your time in the city. That means staying either in downtown Kawaramachi or near Kyoto Station.

In this post, I simplified all the information for choosing the best places to stay hotel in Kyoto and I included hotel reviews on some of the Kyoto hotels I stayed during my last trip. Plus, I included additional accommodation options for different budgets at the end of each section.

My Kyoto accommodation reviews are an opinion of my own, and I did not receive any compensation of any kind. I only want to share what I love. 
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something through them, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost. Thank you for supporting this website. For more information, please read the disclosure for more info.

Kyoto Accommodation: what you need to know

Before booking a hotel in Kyoto, take a look at my post on everything you need to know before going to Japan. I included a lot of travel information, including how to get around Japan and other travel tips.

Here are a few additional tips for booking Kyoto hotels:

  • Guest rooms are generally quite small and basic. But that’s part of the Japanese accommodation culture and aesthetics.
  • Check-in at 3pm and check-out at 11am.
  • Room wear and indoor slippers are always included.
  • Certain hotels will have toiletries are placed at reception or near elevator so you can take what you need.
  • Most Kyoto hotels will have shared washing machines. Sometimes high-end hotels will have it in the guest room.
  • Every hotel has their own housekeeping schedule – they do not clean the room everyday.
  • Hotel prices can be higher on the weekends and during high seasons (cherry blossom, Christmas, etc)
  • When you are booking a Kyoto hotel, pay attention to payment details like cancellation policy, etc. If you are not sure of your travel dates, choose the option where you can get a refund if you change your mind or if something comes up unexpectedly.

Kyoto: Best Areas to Stay for Solo Travellers

If you are visiting Kyoto for the first time, book a hotel in Kawaramachi, the downtown area of Kyoto, or near Kyoto Station, especially if you are following my 2-day Kyoto itinerary or have limited time in the city.

There are obviously other areas to stay in Kyoto and if you are staying longer than a few days, consider other neighbourhoods like Arashiyama, Higashiyama and Central Kyoto.

But to simplify the process of choosing the best areas to stay in Kyoto for a first time visitor, concentrate your efforts on Kawaramachi and Kyoto Station.

I also included hotel reviews for several mid-range and high-end hotels in these two areas. I included a general overview of the hotel and my honest opinion of each in the highlight and lowlight sections. I also included recommendations for budget, mid-range and luxury hotels in these two areas.

Here is a quick summary of the two best areas to stay in Kyoto and the hotels I stayed in during my last trip:

Areas in KyotoCharacteristicsKyoto Accommodations
Kawaramachi (blue)*Downtown of Kyoto
*Close to many major attractions
*Access to certain trains, subway and local buses
*Hotel Resol Kyoto Kawaramachi Sanjo ($$)
*nol kyoto sanjo ($$$)
Kyoto Station (pink)*Direct access to trains, subway, and local buses
*Excellent home base for day trips
*REF Kyoto Hachijoguchi By Vessel Hotels ($)

Best Area to Stay in Kyoto: Kawaramachi

Kawaramachi is the downtown of Kyoto, which combines both traditional Japanese culture and modern Japan all in one. The downtown area includes the area where Shijo Street and Kawaramachi Street intersect and the neighbourhood just northwest of it.

Everything you need is within walking distance; all the best attractions, traditional shopping arcades, department stores, restaurants, coffee shops, bars and everything else in between.

Why you should stay in Kawaramachi:

  • Walking distance to many local attractions including Nishiki Market, Teramachi Street, Shinkyogoku Shopping Street, Kamogawa River, Pontocho, Gion, Yasaka Shrine and Kiyomizu
  • Walking distance to many excellent Kyoto restaurants including Michelin-level eateries
  • All the major department stores are within reach, like Daimaru and Takashimaya
  • Direct access to Keihan Line, Hankyu-Kyoto Line, Tozai Subway Line, many Kyoto city buses

Kawaramachi Hotels

1. Hotel Resol Kyoto Kawaramachi Sanjo

Hotel Resol Kyoto Kawaramachi Sanjo is a 3.5-star modern Japanese hotel in Kawaramachi. It is part of a hotel chain that has locations all over Japan including three in Kyoto. The centrally located hotel has a lounge and lobby on the first floor, and a restaurant and laundromat in the basement.

I chose a single room which is 16 sqm room with a semi-double bed, a desk area, a compact bathroom and tatami floor (Japanese straw floor). It also has a floor-to-ceiling window with views of the backstreets of Kawaramachi. Toiletries are available near the elevation in the lobby.

Hotel Resol Kyoto Kawaramachi Sanjo: highlights and lowlights

  • Highlights: located on the main street, 2-minute walk to Teramachi Street and Pontocho, walkable to many attractions, bus stop in front of the hotel
  • Lowlights: room feels small due to low ceiling and dark colours, not much amenities

Address: 59-1 Daikokucho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto | Website: Hotel Resol Kyoto Kawaramachi Sanjo | Rate: from¥10,000 for single room

2. nol kyoto sanjo

nol kyoto sanjo is a chic boutique hotel inspired by traditional Japanese design in the Kawaramachi area. The building was a traditional machiya townhouse that was once used as a shop for sake brewery. Today, the hotel adopted the same “machiya-zukuri” aesthetics but with a modern twist.

The boutique hotel has 48 well-designed modern rooms. I chose the Tsuboyu Superior room which is 26 sqm room with twin beds, sitting area, a round Hiba wood tub and ensuite bathroom, a washer dryer and microwave.

When you’re not in your room, you can enjoy free coffee and drinks at the Machiya Lounge. Between 3-9pm, you can even try some of the featured local sakes at the sake bar.

nol kyoto sanjo: highlights and lowlights

  • Highlights: modern Japanese guest room, unique wood bathtub, washer dryer within the unit, sake sampling in the lounge, walkable to most attractions in Kawaramachi
  • Lowlights: no other amenities, breakfast must be reserved the day before

Address: 700 Osakazaimokucho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto | Website: nol kyoto sanjo | Rate: from ¥28,000 for tsuboyu superior room

Other Accommodations in Kawaramachi

Budget: The Millennials Kyoto
Mid-range: TSUGU Kyoto Sanjo by The Share Hotels
Luxury: Ace Hotel Kyoto

Best Neighbourhood in Kyoto: Kyoto Station

Kyoto Station is the major transportation hub and shopping district in Kyoto. Trains, subway and buses intersect at this junction which makes Kyoto Station a popular area to stay. Plus, there are a handful of attractions, places to eat and supermarkets in the nearby vicinity.

Why you should stay near Kyoto Station:

  • Direct access to Shinkansen (bullet train), JR Line, Kintetsu Kyoto Line, Karasuma Subway Line, JR highway buses and many Kyoto city buses
  • Many shops and restaurants in the Kyoto Station Building, Japan’s second largest station building
  • Close to many supermarkets like Isetan Department Store, Kohyo Kyoto Store and Lopia Kyoto Yodobashi Store
  • Excellent home base for taking day trips to Osaka, Nara, Uji and Kobe

Kyoto Station Hotels

3. REF Kyoto Hachijoguchi By Vessel Hotels

REF Kyoto Hachijoguchi By Vessel Hotels is a contemporary budget boutique hotel south of Kyoto Station. The newly built 4-star hotel (in 2021) has 9 floors of guest rooms. Some of the hotel amenity includes laundromat, vending machines, ice machines on the 6th floor and a lounge (free drinks in the afternoon) and reception on the first floor.

I stayed in a 16 sqm single room which includes a double bed, desk/table area, fridge and beverage nook, and a compact washroom. It includes a sunset view with Kyoto Station as a backdrop. Many toiletries are available near the reception.

REF Kyoto Hachijoguchi By Vessel Hotels: highlights and lowlights

  • Highlights: 5-minute walk to Kyoto Station, new and functional room, comfortable desk/table area, one of the cheaper hotels I found near Kyoto Station
  • Lowlights: not much amenities

Address: 57 Higashikujo Muromachi, Minami Ward, Kyoto | Website: REF Kyoto Hachijoguchi By Vessel Hotels | Rate: from ¥6,500 for single room

Other Accommodations around Kyoto Station

Budget: Piece Hostel Kyoto
Mid-range: Hotel androoms Kyoto Shichijo 
Luxury: Mercure Kyoto Station

Where to stay in Kyoto: my recommendation

Personally, I prefer to stay in Kawaramachi because I like to wander and the downtown Kyoto is perfect for walking. I like the idea of walking a lot, going back to the hotel to rest for a bit which makes the location of the hotel very important. Plus, I’m not a fan of Kyoto buses (always busy and long wait during rush hour), so I prefer to walk.

Accommodation in Kawaramachi can be a bit more expensive than the ones around Kyoto Station and other neighbourhoods, but you can save travel time and see more if you stay within the downtown area. This is especially important if you have limited time in Kyoto.

Choosing an accommodation in Kyoto could be difficult so I hope this post simplied everything you need to know about Kyoto accommodations. Let me know in the comments which area you are staying in Kyoto and which hotel you booked.

Thank you for reading my Kyoto accommodation guide

You might also like these other posts on solo travel in Japan:

Introduction to Japan

Kansai region

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About Author

Hi, my name is Queenie, and I've been a solo traveller for 20+ years and currently based in Hong Kong. Follow me on my adventures through Instagram and my blog!

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