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Where to Stay in Kyoto: the Best Areas, Hotels & Ryokans

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  • Downtown Kyoto offers convenience and nightlife with easy access to top sights
  • Higashiyama (Gion & Southern Higashiyama) provides a traditional atmosphere and culture
  • Central Kyoto near the train station has affordable hotels and easy transportation
  • Luxury hotels like Four Seasons Kyoto and Park Hyatt Kyoto in Higashiyama are top splurge picks

If you want more detailed comparison and explanation keep reading to see all my tips and highlights on the best area to stay in Kyoto and my curated list of the best hotels in Kyoto keep on reading.

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Where to Stay in Kyoto: the Best Areas, Hotels & Ryokans

As the former imperial capital of Japan for over 1,000 years with over 2,000 temples and shrines, Kyoto offers visitors a magical glimpse into traditional Japanese culture.

Kyoto was one of my highlights on my  3 week Japan Trip and 2 Week in Japan. I have written many articles on my Japan Travel Blog.

Each Kyoto neighborhood has a distinct vibe and ambiance that caters to different interests and budgets. I will help you pick the ideal Kyoto accommodation based on your priorities – whether you want convenience, nightlife, luxury, tradition, or affordability.

I’ll also share my recommendations for the best hotels, ryokans, and areas in Kyoto from my experience as a recent traveler to Kyoto and this mesmerizing destination.

Kyoto Neighborhood Map

To help you visualize Kyoto here is a map that I color coded to help you decide where to stay in Kyoto and all of it’s neighborhoods

Coco Tran — Curated Aesthetic Travel Blog By Film Photographer Coco Tran

Blue: ArashiyamaYellow: Kyoto Station |  Black: Central Kyoto | Green: Southern Higashiyama | Orange: Northern Higashiyama | Purple: Downtown Kyoto 

Where to Stay in Kyoto: Best place to stay at kyoto

Kyoto is best explored on foot so you’ll want to pick a central location within walking distance of top attractions.

With its modern downtown conveniences and easy access to historic sightseeing, If you’re wondering where to stay in Kyoto for first time visitors I always recommend you stay in Downtown Kyoto. It’s also the best areas to stay in Kyoto for couples 

For luxury, tradition, and charm, Higashiyama districts like Gion and Southern Higashiyama can’t be beaten.

If you prioritize budget and transport access for day trips from Kyoto, hotels around Kyoto Station in Central Kyoto are solid picks.

Golden Temple kyoto where to stay in kyoto
The Golden Temple of Kyoto

best areas to stay in Kyoto: Best places to stay Kyoto

Downtown Kyoto: best area to stay in kyoto first time visitor

This central district perfectly blends modern convenience with old world charm. You’ll enjoy lively nightlife, shopping at stores open late, and quick walks across the river to lovely temples and shrines.

Downtown also has a great selection of mid-range hotels, affordable dining options, and public transportation access. It’s my #1 recommendation for first-timers who want convenience without sacrificing Kyoto’s enchanting atmosphere.

Where is downtown Kyoto

bustling shopping streets like Shijo Dori. Key landmarks include:

  • Nishiki Market
  • Pontocho alley
  • Takashimaya and Daimaru department stores
  • Teramachi and Shinkyogoku shopping arcades
  • Sanjo Dori and Shijo Dori main streets
  • Gion district just across the river

Some of the main subway and train stations giving easy access to downtown Kyoto include Karasuma, Kawaramachi, Sanjo, and Shijo stations.

Downtown Kyoto blends modern conveniences like shopping and dining with atmospheric glimpses into old world charm along narrow alleyways leading towards temples and shrines across the river. 

Best Ryokans in Gion Kyoto
Gion District Kyoto

Best Hotels in Downtown Kyoto: Where to stay in kyoto first time

Gion & Higashiyama Districts – best area to stay Kyoto 

For quintessential Kyoto charm, stay in the renowned geisha district Gion or the surrounding Higashiyama area.

If you’re wondering where to stay in Kyoto with family, this would be a great place to base yourself at. It’s also the place I recommend where to stay in Kyoto for first timers.

Narrow cobblestone alleyways with wooden machiya houses transport you back in time as you explore top sites like Kiyomizu-dera and Yasaka Shrine by foot.

Best Hotels in Higashiyama:

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Central Kyoto & Kyoto Station – kyoto best areas to stay for day trips

Just a quick train ride away from key attractions, Central Kyoto offers affordable lodging options around Kyoto Station along with easy transport access.

While the area itself lacks sights, you can zip around town effortlessly while enjoying shopping malls and restaurants inside the architecturally impressive train station complex.

Best Hotels in Central Kyoto: Best place to stay in kyoto 

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Best Place to Stay in Kyoto japan by area 

Now let’s dive deeper into the top neighborhoods and my specific Kyoto hotel recommendations

Downtown Kyoto: best place to stay in kyoto for first time visitor

sandwiched between the Kamogawa River and bustling shopping streets, Downtown Kyoto strikes the perfect balance for visitors who want modern convenience without sacrificing charming traditional touches.

You’ll enjoy staying in downtown thanks to:

  • Convenience of shopping, dining, nightlife with stores/restaurants open late
  • Easy walks across the river to temples, shrines, geisha districts
  • Quick access to public transportation like trains and subways
  • Mid-range hotel prices – more budget options than Higashiyama

Within downtown along the river, you’ll find the high-end luxury Ritz Carlton Kyoto along with popular mid-range chains like Royal Park Hotel. Smaller boutique hotels away from major roads also offer a quieter sanctuary.

I love staying in Downtown Kyoto at the Millennial Capsule hotel since I can enjoy delicious affordable meals at cozy izakaya pubs and yakitori spots at night after sightseeing without worrying about places closing early.

RELATED: Best Hotels in Kyoto: Design Hotels To Book

It’s got a fun, vibrant local vibe compared to more touristy areas.

Downtown Kyoto is my #1 recommendation for first-timers who want convenience without sacrificing charm.

Best Hotels in Downtown Kyoto

From backpacker hostels to luxury five-star hotels, Downtown Kyoto has broad lodging options across budgets.

Here are my top picks:

Luxury Hotel Pick: The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto

Right along the idyllic Kamogawa river, the Ritz-Carlton brings its legendary top-notch service to Kyoto with grace and elegance. The luxury rooms blend traditional touches like hinoki wood soaking tubs with modern technology and sublime comfort.

Don’t miss afternoon tea or creative kaiseki cuisine at the stylish on-site restaurants overlooking the garden terrace.

With warm Japanese hospitality, indulgent amenities like the spa, and a peaceful yet central location, the Ritz-Carlton is perfect for couples seeking romantic pampering.

Book the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto 

RELATED: Best Ryokans in Kyoto & Best Ryokans in Kyoto in Gion

Mid-Range Hotel Pick: Royal Park Hotel The Kyoto

For an affordable hotel right in Kyoto’s downtown, Royal Park Hotel is my top choice thanks to its AWESOME location. O

n quiet Sanjo Dori Street, it’s just steps from food, shopping and convenience stores, while also being an easy 10-15 minute walk over the river to top attractions in Higashiyama like Gion or Kiyomizudera Temple.

The friendly English-speaking staff provides excellent service while the comfortable clean rooms have everything you need. Opt for a Premium Twin for the extra space and bathroom amenities.

With easy subway access and fantastic nightlife surrounding you in all directions, Royal Park Hotel makes sightseeing, dining, and experiencing Kyoto a joy.

Book Royal Park Hyatt Kyoto Hotel

Budget Hotel Pick: Hotel Mystays Kyoto Shijo or Milennial Kyoto Capsule Hotel 

For backpackers and budget travelers who still want excellent downtown access, Hotel Mystays and Millennial Kyoto Capsule Hotel is a fantastic affordable option right off busy Shijo Dori shopping street.

Although compact, rooms come neatly furnished with TV, wifi, and ensuite bathrooms.

Start your day with the tasty breakfast buffet included before setting out to explore nearby Nishiki Market, Gion district, or the subway stops connecting you to all over Kyoto.

Extremely clean, modern, and comfortable, Hotel Mystays Shijo has everything you need for an enjoyable base in Kyoto at a fantastic price.

The Kiyomizu Temple During Autumn in Kyoto, Japan

Things to Do Near Downtown Kyoto Hotels:

During your stay downtown, make sure to visit:

  • Nishiki Market – famous covered food market perfect for snacks & souvenirs
  • Gion Geisha District – spot elegant geiko during evening walks
  • Kiyamachi – restaurant row perfect for izakaya pubs & dining
  • Nijo Castle – imposing castle showcasing Edo period architecture
  • Teramachi Shopping Arcades – shop local Kyoto crafts and souvenirs

Gion & Higashiyama Districts

On the eastern side of Kyoto, Higashiyama’s narrow lanes, wooden machiya merchant houses, and tranquil temples offer the quintessential old world Kyoto charm.

The most atmospheric area within Higashiyama is Gion – Kyoto’s famous geisha district. I

If you want the true feeling of ancient Japan, staying in Gion or southern Higashiyama ensures centuries-old authentic atmosphere right at your doorstep.

You’ll enjoy staying in this area for:

  • Walkable access to top sites like Kiyomizudera, Gion, Yasaka Shrine
  • Lovely alleyways with preserved traditional architecture
  • Cherry blossoms in spring & fall foliage in autumn
  • Amazing luxury hotels and ryokans to consider

During my trip to Kyoto, I stayed at a small boutique property in Southern Higashiyama and downtown Kyoto. Wandering quiet backstreets tucked among sublime moss-covered temples and coming back to modern comforts was a dream.

If you are seeking luxury and personalized Japanese hospitality love retreats like Four Seasons Kyoto with its indulgent spa overlooking serene gardens.

You really can’t go wrong when choosing to stay in Gion or Higashiyama districts for the true taste of enchanting old world Japan.

Best Hotels in Gion & Higashiyama Districts: Best area in kyoto to stay

From budget guesthouses to opulent five-star hotels, you’ll discover amazing accommodation options across all ranges in Higashiyama.

Here are my top recommendations:

Luxury Hotel Pick: Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto

For luxury done right, look no further than the Four Seasons in Kyoto’s Higashiyama district. Blending first-class service and sublime comfort with rich cultural touches, Four Seasons Kyoto will make your Kyoto stay truly unforgettable.

Unwind in your elegant oversized guest room featuring local hinoki wood soaking tubs, uniqlo yukata robes, and tea sets before enjoying award-winning Japanese cuisine overlooking the 800-year-old pond garden.

With indoor and outdoor onsen hot spring baths, a heavenly spa, and even a traditional tea house, the Four Seasons creates magic for couples seeking the ultimate romantic escape.

Its secluded peaceful location also makes it perfect for families who want 5-star luxury while being surrounded by temples and shrines to explore by foot.

Book Four Seasons kyoto

Mid-Range Machiya in Kyoto: Maana kyoto

The central location, harmonious traditional-meets-modern design, intimate setting, on-site amenities, and custom suite features make staying at Maana Kyoto culturally immersive and serene Kyoto experience.

I really wanted to stay here but they were fully booked during our dates in Kyoto, the aesthetics are 10/10.

  1. Location – It is centrally located in the popular Higashiyama district, steps away from several major temples, shrines, and museums, yet on a quiet small lane. This allows easy access for sightseeing to top attractions like Kiyomizu-dera Temple.
  2. Style – The hotel suites are crafted through a seamless blend of traditional and contemporary design, with minimalist yet warm interiors showcasing Kyoto’s rich craftsmanship through features like sunken stone baths, woven bamboo screens, and abstract paper lanterns.
  3. Intimate and serene atmosphere – As an intimate 3-suite property spanning old machiya townhouses, it feels more like a private residence with a peaceful ambiance compared to a regular bustling hotel.
  4. On-site craft shop and cafe – you can eat, shop for locally made crafts, and take workshops without leaving the small machiya complex, with an on-site modern craft store and a stylish organic cafe attached to the hotel.
  5. Suite highlights – The uniquely designed suites have custom highlights like deep standalone bathtubs surrounded by interior gardens, dramatic bamboo wraparound screens, and ceramic-tiled baths overlooking private gardens.

RELATED: Best Ryokans in Kyoto & Best Ryokans in Kyoto in Gion

Mid-Range Hotel Pick: Seikoro Ryokan

For a true Japanese ryokan experience on a budget, I highly recommend Seikoro.

At just $100-$150 USD per night, you’ll sleep blissfully on futons in peaceful tatami rooms before feasting on elaborate multi-course traditional kaiseki breakfasts and dinners full of delicate flavors.

The friendly owners speak fluent English while sharing insightful cultural tidbits that make your stay special.

Located in Southern Higashiyama, Seikoro allows easy walks to marvelous Kodai-ji Temple, Yasaka Shrine and more. Treat yourself to an indulgent relaxing ryokan getaway without breaking the bank.

Book Seikoro Ryokan

Top Things To Do in Higashiyama Districts:

With so many temples, shrines, historic streets and sublime natural beauty surrounding your hotel in Higashiyama, you’ll have an endless list of top sites to explore.

Here’s just a taste – don’t miss:

  • Kiyomizu-dera – iconic Kyoto temple with panoramic views
  • Wandering preserved lanes like Ninenzaka & Sannenzaka
  • Trying matcha green tea treats in Southern Higashiyama
  • Bamboo Forest walk in nearby Arashiyama
  • Taking photos in Kimono/Yukata rental shops posing with geisha
Pagoda Tower at Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Kyoto, Japan

Central Kyoto & Kyoto Station Area– where to stay kyoto

As the transportation hub connecting Kyoto with the rest of Japan by rail and bus, staying near Kyoto Station offers visitors unmatched access and affordability.

You’ll enjoy staying near Kyoto Station for:

  • Quick access around Kyoto and day trips via trains & buses
  • Affordable mid-range hotels and budget options
  • Shopping and dining in train station complex
  • Nearby festivals & events at scenic temples

Personally, I prefer more atmospheric neighborhoods than the somewhat sterile business district feel dominating much of central Kyoto around the station.

However, for travelers prioritizing convenient transport on a budget, staying at one of the business hotels adjacent to Kyoto Station can be an excellent choice allowing you easy transit access to make the most of your itinerary.

Because the area itself lacks major sights, I recommend pairing hotel stays near Kyoto Station with a jaunt to more scenic neighborhoods boasting temples, shrines, and restaurants during your visit.

Best Hotels Near Kyoto Station

Thanks to its transport hub location, you’ll discover everything from luxurious 5-star chains to wallet-friendly capsule hotels huddled around Kyoto Station.

Here are my top recommendations:

Mid-Range Hotel Pick: Hotel Granvia Kyoto

Attached directly to Kyoto Station’s south side, Hotel Granvia Kyoto offers effortless train and bus access just an elevator ride away. After delicious Japanese buffet breakfasts, hop aboard rail links whisking you to Osaka, Tokyo, and more.

Despite its transport-oriented location, the Granvia surprises with tranquil elegant rooms in muted earth tones, blackout curtains for uninterrupted sleep, and an indoor swimming pool to unwind after long days out.

With 15 restaurants and 70 shops inside the station and hotel complex, the Granvia is a favorite for busy tourists prioritizing access and convenience at fair prices.

Book Hotel Granvia Kyoto

Budget Hotel Pick: Daiwa Roynet Hotel Kyoto Ekimae

Just a 7-minute walk north of Kyoto Station, Daiwa Roynet Ekimae provides wonderful value without sacrificing comfort.

The sparkling clean contemporary rooms come with the expected amenities like free wifi, ensuite bathrooms, and TV at affordable rates.

Wake up to a tasty traditional Japanese breakfast before strolling to the station to connect onwards to Kyoto’s magnificent shrines and museums.

Well-located, welcoming staff, and budget-friendly prices make Daiwa Roynet Ekimae ideal for backpackers wanting Kyoto Station proximity.

Book Daiwa Roynet Hotel Kyoto Ekimae

where to stay in kyoto

Hostel Pick: Millenial Kyoto Capsule Hotel

Beloved by solo travelers and digital nomads Millenial Kyoto Capsule Hotel Hostel crafts a social atmosphere perfect for making friends from around the world. Large and modern and comfortable space.

Do you like free breakfast? They have an open concept kitchen that you have breakfast at for free if you are a Genius member (free to sign up) at Booking

They  private and females-only rooms complete with under-bed lamps and power outlets for comfort.

Centrally located between Kyoto Station and Downtown, Ks House delights visitors with a charming lounge, free self-serve breakfast bar and bike rentals.

Book Millenial Kyoto Capsule 

Top Things To Do Near Kyoto Station:

Thanks to fast transport links in all directions from Kyoto Station, you can easily enjoy:

  • Half-day trips to heritage sites like Nara’s Todai-ji Temple
  • Day treks exploring magical Arashiyama’s bamboo forests & monkeys
  • Quick jaunts over to Osaka – just 30 minutes by shinkansen bullet train!
  • Walking along the Kamo River admiring sunsets after busy sightseeing
Silhouette of Kyoto Japanese Pagoda At Sunset

Northern Higashiyama – Where to stay at kyoto for nature lover

Tucked away from the bustling swarms of tourists flocking to central and southern Higashiyama districts, scenic northern Higashiyama allows serene exploration of mossy temples and peaceful paths frequently missed.

You’ll enjoy staying in Northern Higashiyama for:

  • Walking the Philosopher’s Path canal route dotted with cherry trees
  • Visiting iconic Nanzen-ji Temple and its sprawling grounds
  • Proximity to Kyoto’s Museum of Traditional Crafts showcasing exquisite artisan work

Compared to busier downtown and southern Higashiyama, hotel selections around Northern Higashiyama are more limited. But what the neighborhoods lacks in quantity, it makes up for in intimate charm.

Arashiyama area of Kyoto- best location to stay kyoto for slow travel

When you crave nature’s serenity, Arashiyama’s lush bamboo groves and forested hills delight.

As Kyoto’s second most popular sightseeing district after Higashiyama, staying in scenic Arashiyama allows both dynamic days out along with peaceful sanctuary.

You’ll enjoy staying in Arashiyama for:

  • Immersed natural atmosphere with hills and bamboo forests
  • Riverside scenic beauty – especially stunning during fall foliage
  • Quick access to Tenryu-ji Temple and famed Bamboo Grove
  • More relaxed vibe compared to crowded central Kyoto

My favorite hotel here is luxury ryokan Kyoto Arashiyama Onsen Ryokan Togetsuteinestled right on the riverbank surrounded by mountain views.

After feasting on artistic multi-course kaiseki dinners, I adore finishing my night with a relaxing dip in their open-air hot spring baths serenaded by babbling brooks.

While a bit removed from central Kyoto’s sights, Arashiyama makes for an unforgettable getaway or place to catch your breath surrounded by nature’s majesty between visiting top sites.

Best Hotels & Ryokans in Kyoto Arashiyama

Recharge spiritually among Arashiyama’s tranquil scenic landscapes at these top lodging recommendations:

Luxury Arashiyama Hotel Pick: Suiran

Unwind from long days exploring Kyoto’s bamboo forests and temples by sinking into plush luxurious beds. One of the newer luxury hotels in Kyoto to open in this neighborhood, it’s a quiet retreat from the city. Known for its ideal location.

The aesthetics and modern design is stunning.

Book Suiran

Mid Range Ryokan in Kyoto Pick: Kyoto Arashiyama Onsen Ryokan Togetsute

My personal favorite hotel in Arashiyama for a magical trip back in time, this luxurious ryokan crafted a home on the site of an Edo-era inn frequented by nobility.

Guest rooms overlook the sparkling Oi River from the open corridors of the stately traditional building. Intricate multi-course feasts in your room savor Kyo-ryori’s delicate flavors before soaking sore muscles in open-air hot spring baths beneath bamboo groves.

Supremely attentive yet discreet service combine with Arashiyama Onsen Ryokan awe-inspiring natural setting for my top riverside ryokan pick to escape reality.

Book Kyoto Arashiyama Onsen Ryokan Togetsute

Aman Kyoto

Of course this list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the opulent and luxurious Aman Kyoto.

Things to Do in Arashiyama:

Related: 1 day Arashiyama Itinerary

Dedicate ample time to explore top Arashiyama attractions like:

  • photogenic Bamboo Grove – timed entry to avoid crowds
  • Tenryu-ji’s sprawling temple grounds and zen gardens
  • Boat rides up the scenic Hozu River into nature’s heart
  • Iwatayama Monkey Park observing playful macaques

Tips for Choosing Where to Stay in Kyoto

With so many factors impacting your decision on the best area and hotel in Kyoto, keep these insider tips in mind:

  • April/May for cherry blossoms and October/November for fall foliage are the most crowded and expensive times to visit Kyoto. Book 6+ months out.
  • Standard hotel rooms in Kyoto tend to be on the smaller side. I recommend upgrading to triple, deluxe, or twin rooms if you want more space.
  • Love tradition? Consider splurging on a ryokan (traditional inn) for beautiful rooms, onsen baths, and amazing Japanese cuisine.
  • Stay near a subway or train station for quick access around Kyoto. Walking and public transport are most convenient.
  • Have Osaka day trips planned? Save money by staying in Osaka instead since the train ride is just 30-45 minutes.

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FAQ About best area to stay in Kyoto

here are helpful answers to common questions:

Should I stay in Kyoto or Osaka?

Kyoto offers more cultural sightseeing and history while Osaka boasts modern city experiences like nightlife, shopping, and food scene. Kyoto also has more preserved charm and is easier walking between attractions.

I recommend first-timers base themselves in Kyoto to experience old world Japan and take quick day trips to Osaka. If you’ve already seen Kyoto’s top sites or don’t want extensive temple exploration, Osaka serves as an affordable hub for Kansai region travels.

Is Airbnb legal in Kyoto?

Technically the short-term rental of private homes, apartments or rooms in Japan has been illegal for some time. However, enforcement tends to focus on preventing commercial operators rather than individuals.

Thousands of travelers use Airbnb successfully in Kyoto without issue. For peace of mind, I suggest selecting central areas so even if there are complications, you can easily access alternate hotels as backup.

How far in advance should I book Kyoto hotels?

If your dates are locked for Kyoto, book 4-6 months early, especially for April cherry blossoms, October fall foliage, and mid-August summer festivals to ensure availability.

For maximum flexibility, lock only refundable reservations initially should you need to shift your travels. Kyoto’s hotels fill up incredibly quickly so plan ahead.

Is it better to stay near Kyoto Station or downtown?

Kyoto Station area provides quick transport links but lacks ambiance. Vibrant downtown like along Kawaramachi Street mixes modern conveniences with riverside scenery and better dining, nightlife and shopping open late while still offering transit access.

I recommend first-timers skip sterile station hotels and instead base themselves 15 minutes away in atmospheric downtown neighborhoods still near subways. You get better location without sacrificing transit convenience.

What is the best ryokan in Kyoto?

Seikoro, Arashiyama Hanaikada, Gion Hatanaka and Tawaraya are my favorite Kyoto ryokans blending attentive discreet service, indulgent multi-course dining showcasing Japanese culinary art, and beautifully appointed rooms for experiencing luxury heritage accommodation.

Should I get a Japan Rail Pass for Kyoto travels?

Absolutely! The Japan Rail Pass allowing unlimited trips on bullet trains and most railways provides incredible value. Since Kyoto connects so easily to destinations like Osaka, Tokyo and Nara by shinkansen and local lines, a rail pass vastly reduces transport costs.

Note the JR Pass does cover limited subway lines within Kyoto itself so budget accordingly. But between cities, the pass saves ample money and hassle.

How Do I Get Around Kyoto?

As Japan’s former capital for over 1,000 years, majestic palaces, temples, castles, and museums dominate Kyoto’s alluring landscape.

With top attractions spread out, getting around Kyoto requires a mix of convenient transport options:

Trains: Quick rail connections with just two lines operated by Kyoto Municipal Transportation Bureau. Perfect for reaching areas like Gion.

Buses: Extensive network reaching key sites like Kinkaku-ji Temple. Cheap flat rates but can get crowded during tourist seasons.

Walking: Best way to appreciate Kyoto’s old-world architecture and sublime streets like Ninen-zaka. Just expect longer transit times hoofing between farther flung districts.

Taxis: Efficient for short custom point-to-point trips. Affordable for budgets under 5 kilometers. Great for groups 3-4 people.

Bicycle Rental: Fun way to traverse Kyoto’s flatter central districts. Convenient rentals available but avoid hilly areas.

Consider combo Japan Rail Passes plus Kyoto bus/subway all-day tickets for easy seamless transport, while embracing joyful aimless wandering through photogenic back alleyways.

Wherever you stay in magical Kyoto, lose yourself adventure discovering hidden gems not in any guidebook that you’ll cherish for a lifetime. Just be sure to pull out your trusty maps app when hunger strikes for the nearest cozy restaurant.

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