Where to Stay in Kyoto & Nara?
Lying within close proximity of each other, Kyoto and Nara both served as the seats of power for the majority of Japan’s history. While the name and imagery of Kyoto will be immediately familiar to many international visitors, it was actually its smaller neighbour of Nara that was the imperial capital from 710 to 794 before it was relocated to Kyoto where it remained for more than 1000 years. Today, Kyoto and Nara are the two most historically important cities in Japan and certainly two of its most beautiful. On this page you will find the following information:
In terms of choosing where to stay, Kyoto is a large city with its famous temples, shrines and more spread-out across a wide area, whereas Nara is small with only two convenient precincts for accommodation. Many if not most international visitors choose to visit Nara as a day-trip from either Kyoto or Osaka, making the decision where to stay in either of those cities important.
You’ll have no trouble finding accommodation in Kyoto and Nara. The real question is whether you can find what you want, where you want it. These are Japan’s two most historic cities and as such, both are very popular with domestic and international visitors. If you have your eye on a particular hotel or guesthouse, make sure to book it early, especially if you’re traveling in spring or autumn when the cities are at their most busy.
BEST AREAS TO STAY IN KYOTO
While Kyoto is nowhere near is big as Osaka or Tokyo, it is still a large city with its many historic sites spread-out over quite an expansive area. Many travellers head to Kyoto with the false idea that it is a small, purely historic city and when they arrive, are surprised that it is a large, modern city (with a very rich historical character). Basing yourself in the right area can make a big difference to your enjoyment of the city, especially when it comes to ease of access to its many famous temples and shrines. In this section you will find information about the following areas:
The area in and around Kyoto Station is by far the most convenient place to stay however visitors looking for more traditional guesthouses might want to consider some of the other areas in the city. Let’s start with the most convenient option:
KYOTO STATION AREA
All things considered, the area immediately around Kyoto Station is perhaps the best area to stay while in the city. While it might not be the obvious first choice, being based at the station is ideal for getting to and from Kyoto easily – with the Tokaido Shinkansen to Osaka, Nagoya and Tokyo, the Limited Express Thunderbird to Fukui and Kanazawa, and the Limited Express Haruka to Kansai International Airport all servicing Kyoto Station.
Located in the centre of the city, the station is large, modern and well-designed, making it pleasant to spend time in. There are plenty of accommodation choices in the area along with excellent dining and shopping. Prices around the station tend to be high with multiple high-end to mid-range hotels in the vicinity. Obviously the further you move away from the station that you move, prices begin to drop however so does convenience and ease of access to the many attractions of the city. With bus services running from the station to most of the city’s famous temples, shrines and pagodas, choosing to base yourself at or nearby the station is definitely worth it.
For accommodation listings in the area, see our ‘Kyoto Station Area’ hotel page.
SANJO STATION AREA
More commonly referred to as the ‘Higashiyama’ area of the city, the area around Sanjo Station boasts some of Kyoto’s most famous attractions. The area is quite large therefore it’s useful to split it into two sections in terms of planning your visit – firstly, northern Highashiyama around Sanjo Station and southern Higashiyama around Kiyomizu-Gojo Station (discussed below). The Sanjo Station Area includes some of Kyoto’s most famous temples including Nazen-ji and Ginkaku-ji, excellent museums and galleries along with fantastic dining; with Nijo Castle and Kyoto Imperial Palace in central Kyoto also within easy walking distance of the station.
There is plenty of high-end accommodation in the area including the Hyatt Regency Kyoto and many ‘ryokan’ (traditional guesthouses). Given the historic importance of the area and its huge popularity, prices are high with the most popular hotels and guesthouses booking-out well in advance.
For accommodation listings in the area, see our ‘Sanjo Station Area’ hotel page.
KIYOMIZU-GOJO STATION AREA
The area around Kiyoymizu-Gojo Station can be considered southern Highashiyama, an area of Kyoto that boasts attractions including Kiyomizudera, Sanjusangendo, Yasaka Shrine, Kyoto National Museum and the ‘geisha’/teahouse district of Gion. Higashiyama itself is one of the city’s most famous historic enclaves, offering visitors the chance to wander traditional Japanese streetscapes leading to beautiful temples and shrines.
Consistent with accommodation in northern Higashiyama, accommodation in the area is in demand and books-out well in advance. Expect high prices around weekends, public holidays and extended holidays such as Golden Week in spring and through August. When booking accommodation in Higashiyama, whether you do so around Sanjo Station or Kiyomizu-Gojo Station, it is worth noting that you might need to take yourself back to Kyoto Station if you want to visit some of the sites around Arashiyama and other parts of the city.
For accommodation listings in the area, see our ‘Kiyomizu-Gojo Station Area’ hotel page.
ARASHIYAMA STATION AREA
Located in the north-west of the city, Arashiyama isn’t a popular area to stay but might be of interest to visitors who want to be nearby some famous sights including the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and outside of the central city. Accommodation ranges from luxury ryokan, high-end to mid-range hotels and budget options. Taking around 25 to 45-minutes to reach Arashiyama Station from Kyoto Station, getting there is pretty straightforward but will add considerable time to your day if you’re planning to head back-and-forth from there to attractions in the city’s east and north-east.
For accommodation listings in the area, see our ‘Arashiyama Station Area’ hotel page.
BEST AREAS TO STAY IN NARA
Heading-out of the old imperial capital, train services will carry you to Nara – the even older capital – located between 40 to 50-miuntes to the south of Kyoto. In this section you will find information about the following areas:
Many travellers choose to visit Nara as a day-trip from Kyoto (or Osaka) but if you’re interested in staying there, Nara is a much smaller city with two overlapping accommodation areas:
KINTETSU-NARA STATION AREA
Kintetsu Nara Station is the closest train station to Nara’s most famous attractions. From the station it takes less than 10-minutes to walk into Nara Park, famous for its many deer and sites including Kofuku-ji, Todai-ji – Japan’s largest temple – and its immense seated Buddha, Nara National Museum and Kusuga Grand Shrine.
There is a wide range of accommodation in the immediate area of the station including some fantastic ‘ryokan’ (traditional guesthouses), high-end hotels along with mid-range and budget accommodation. Options also include a good number of self-contained apartments allowing for comfortable stays. As a much smaller city, Nara doesn’t have as many large hotels catering to international visitors however you shouldn’t have trouble finding something to match your needs.
For accommodation listings in the area, see our ‘Kintetsu-Nara Station Area’ hotel page.
JR NARA STATION AREA
Within 10-minutes walk of Kintetsu-Nara Station, the areas surrounding both JR Nara Station and Kintetsu-Nara overlap and more or less include the same accommodation options. It is worth considering them separately however given that JR Nara Station is further away from the most popular attractions of the city. The area immediately around JR Nara Station has some good budget-range options including business hotels offering some great deals especially mid-week.
For accommodation listings in the area, see our ‘JR Nara Station Area’ hotel page.
HOW TO GET TO KYOTO & NARA
As a stop on the Tokaido Shinkansen line running from Tokyo to Osaka, Kyoto is quick and easy to reach while nearby Nara is connected to Kyoto and Osaka by convenient train services. Our ‘How To Get to Kyoto’ page and ‘How To Get To Nara’ page has everything you need to know including the best train services to reach both cities from many popular starting points.
40 THINGS TO DO IN KYOTO, NARA & OSAKA
Boasting some of Japan’s most important temples and shrines, the former capitals of Kyoto and Nara are the country’s most historic cities. Our ’40 Things To Do In Kyoto, Nara & Osaka’ page lists some of the most popular and rewarding attractions in the cities along with nearby Osaka – one of Japan’s great metropolises, famous for its friendly locals, food, shopping and nightlife.
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