You can visit Tokyo, Hokkaido, Osaka and other famed Japan cities, and they all offer culture and impressive sites. But Kyoto, the capital of Japan way back in the day, has many ancient stories to tell through its historic attractions and traditional temples. When you step off the train at Kyoto Station, you’re transported to old Japan, where Geishas roam the streets and stories of goddesses trickle down through generations. Cherry blossoms turn the city a cotton candy pink in the spring, and some of the best traditional food is served in little izakayas. The city has many special nooks, all with their own unique offerings, so if you are here to experience it for the first time, these are the best places to stay.

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Nishijin Nishijin
Nishijin

Nishijin (Nearby Hotels)

Why Stay Here: Kimono crafting and an onsen, need we say more?
Best Hotels: Kyoto Art Stay Nishijin Sutematsu | Kyoto yadomachi Nishijin | Petit Hotel Pension Kyoto

Nishijin is located near the Imadegawa-Horikawa intersection and happens to be famous for crafting kimono textiles since the 1600s. Culture and history are deeply rooted along the streets of traditional homes, temples and shops. Visitors can truly sense old Kyoto when staying in this district, and can even visit the Nishijin Textile Center, or the Orinasu-kan to dive further into the past. Wind down after a day of site-seeing at Funaoka Onsen, a piping hot Japanese public soaking establishment, then grab a bowl of highly famous soba noodles from Kanei.

Southern Higashiyama Kennin-ji Temple
Kennin-ji Temple

Southern Higashiyama (Nearby Hotels)

Why Stay Here: Lots of culture, museums and temples that epitomize classic Japan.
Best Hotels: Kyoto Granbell Hotel | Ryokan Uemura

Southern Higashiyama is a vast neighborhood which even houses other significant areas. Brimming with temples and picturesque streets like Sannen-zaka and Ninen-zaka, that completely embodies the Kyoto feel, it’s quintessential Japan. Kennin-ji Temple, Entoku-in Temple and Kiyomizu-dera Temple exude culture, while The Kyoto National Museum also provides a clear depiction of the town through the ages. Spend the afternoon reflecting on the day’s discoveries at Maruyama-koen Park, where there’s plenty of space to stretch out and have a picnic. Later, catch a dance-drama performance at Minamiza Kabuki Theatre.

Kyoto Station Kyoto Station
Kyoto Station

Kyoto Station (Nearby Hotels)

Why Stay Here: Transportation convenience and shopping.
Best Hotels: Sakura Terrace | Hotel Excellence Kyoto Station Hachijo | Ryokan Shimizu

Kyoto Station is the second-largest train station in Japan, but the surrounding area is equally as impressive as the transportation hub itself. Even though the billboard laden exterior of the building isn’t all that awe inspiring, inside the station is brimming with fun shops filled with souvenirs galore. Make your way outside, and the ornate Higashi-Hongan-ji temple is a short walk away, along with temples Nishi-Hongan-ji and the massive To-ji. If you’re a train buff, a stop at the Kyoto Railway Museum is more than warranted. Get a better view of everything from the Kyoto Tower, one of the more unmistakable additions amongst the city. The Cube Food Court inside the station offers a diversity of both traditional, and not so traditional cuisine. While different from other experiences in Japan, Kyoto Station is now a unique part of the region.

Arashiyama Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Arashiyama (Nearby Hotels)

Why Stay Here: The stunning bamboo grove is one of the best spots to snap photos.
Best Hotels: Hoshinoya Kyoto | Suiran

Arashiyama is likely most significant for its Instagram haven, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. The mountain accented Kyoto district is a goldmine for site seeing, attracting tourist by the droves for a reason. Togetsu-kyo Bridge is near the Main Street of Arashiyama, and a list of temples and charming villas make fighting crowds so worth it. One can find a bit more solace amongst the vibrant green, bamboo lined paths of the grove. See it all from a different perspective by renting a boat and rowing lower Hozu-gawa. Arashiyama is also home to another rejuvenating onsen. Be sure to try the Buddhist dish of broth simmered tofu at Yodofu Sagano.

Kibune Kifune shrine
Kifune shrine

Kibune (Nearby Hotels)

Why Stay Here: Beautiful dining spaces set over the river.
Best Hotels: Ryokan Ugenta | Kibune Fujiya | Kibune Hiroya

Lush and green, Kibune is located along a river in the mountains of Kyoto. Home to Kifune Shrine, which is an ode to the god of water and rain, those who visit can retrieve magic fortunes on paper that only reveals the message when immersed in water. Kibune is a serene escape filled with classic ryokan lodging and unique restaurants, many of which build dining platforms directly over the river, through the warmer months, for the most amazing views during your meal. The cluster of eateries in Kibune are all magical. Hiking is a must in the naturalistic nook, where shrines and riverside scenes are abundant—this is a beyond mesmerizing disconnected gem. To get here, you’ll need to take the Eizan Kurama train.

Northern Higashiyama Heian Jingu's Torii and Okazaki Canal
Heian Jingu's Torii and Okazaki Canal

Northern Higashiyama (Nearby Hotels)

Why Stay Here: Guests can see an abundance of authentic art and age-old Japanese crafts
Best Hotels: Guest House Waraku-An | RokuRoku

Northern Higashiyama keeps with the theme of Kyoto, displaying the depthful history and centuries old tradition of the Japanese culture. The edge this district has is the abundance of art woven into everything else. Not only are modern museums at your site seeing fingertips, but  Fureaikan Museum of Traditional Crafts, a fascinating display of native crafts through the year to present day, is also an attraction to further sink guests into the environment. Top it off with a further abundance of significant temples and shrines and you have another winner for a phenomenal place to stay in Kyoto.

Gion Geishas in Gion
Geishas in Gion

Gion (Nearby Hotels)

Why Stay Here: Real Geishas roam the streets
Best Hotels: Kyoto INN Gion | Yuzuya Ryokan | Kyoto Granbell Hotel

Gion sits on the edge of Southern Higashiyama, but is so unique and symbolic it deserves its own mention. Gion is where you’ll find something quite iconic to the area—Geishas. Geishas are highly trained in music, dance and other arts, and are essentially educated performers that hold true to ancient Japan practices. So seeing one of these exquisite ladies is quite exciting, and places even offer geisha makeovers so you can have your own photo shoot in full makeup and kimono. Also taking authenticity to another level, Hiyoshido Massage takes guests through the real deal of Japanese wellness via massage and age-old treatment.

Downtown Kyoto Nishiki Market
Nishiki Market

Downtown Kyoto (Nearby Hotels)

Why Stay Here: There’s an abundance of staple cuisine, indoor activities and market style shopping.
Best HotelsThe Royal Park Hotel Kyoto Sanjo | DOWNTOWN INN KYOTO

And that brings us to Downtown Kyoto, the heartbeat of the entire area. Markets, markets everywhere—a good bite to eat is always around. Nishiki Market, aka Kyoto’s Pantry is overflowing with interesting snacks essential to Japan, and Daimaru has a basement level which serves as a huge food market, as does Takashimaya. Ramen, dumplings, sushi, tea, tofu, street food—you’ll find it downtown. Japanese comic stores and arcades fulfill the Manga nerd in us all and are an experience all of their own. Unique shopping rounds out the hub, which is the ultimate place to go when the weather isn’t the best because much of what is offered is indoors. A day of eating, shopping and playing video games sounds pretty sweet to us.

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