Things to do and where to stay in Downtown Kyoto
Latest posts by Yuichi Nagai (see all)
- Things to do and where to stay in Downtown Kyoto - 2019/05/31
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The downtown Kyoto area is just bustling with countless hotels, bars and clubs in a grand shopping district.
Explore the world-famous landmarks in the downtown Kyoto area, including the beautiful Yasaka Shrine and Ninenzaka areas, all on foot!
With so many different foods to try and souvenirs to buy, the downtown Kyoto area is a must-see location that you cannot afford to miss on your Kyoto trip!
This article will show give you the inside scoop on all the best places the downtown Kyoto area has to offer!
- 1 Where is Downtown Kyoto?
- 2 Three Recommended Attractions in Downtown Kyoto
- 3 Places to Visit Around Downtown Kyoto
- 4 Restaurants in Downtown Kyoto
- 5 Hotels around Downtown Kyoto
- 6 Summary
Where is Downtown Kyoto?
Downtown Kyoto is a small but jam-packed area of Kyoto city that is just waiting for you to explore.
While hard to determine exactly where the downtown area of Kyoto begins and ends, it is said that downtown Kyoto is north of Oike-dori, east of the Kamogawa River, south of Shijo-dori, and west of Karasuma-dori.
With so much to see and do in such a concentrated area, it is the ideal place to go on foot. Even the rain will not put a damper on your Kyoto trip, as the streets and shopping areas are all covered with decorated ceilings and shelters.
At the center of the downtown, Kyoto area is Karasuma Oike Station: a subway station you can make your way to directly from Kyoto Station. You can even travel here directly from Osaka on the Hankyu Line from Umeda Station to Karasuma or Kawaramachi Stations. Both Karasuma Station and Karasuma Oike Station open into an underground shopping area, from which you can enter into the downtown area above!
I suggest you make your way to the Kawaramachi area, which is said to have perfectly blended the traditional Japanese culture with the more modern aspects of Japan.
If you are traveling from Umeda Station to Kawaramachi, I strongly suggest you travel in style and take the Kyo-Train. While only running on weekends, the Kyo-Train is a great way of experiencing a traditional Japanese atmosphere. Each cart of the train offers a different feeling, from blooming orchids in carts 1 and 2, to a classic tatami filled Kyoto townhouse theme in carts 3 and 4.
Three Recommended Attractions in Downtown Kyoto
From delicious local cuisine to historic Kyoto streets, downtown Kyoto has a little something for everyone.
The 700-year old Nishiki Market is a feast for the eyes and the stomach! It is a 5-block long shopping street lined with over 100 hundred different shops and restaurants all selling different types of Japanese food from dried seafood to traditional Japanese confectionary. It is pleasant but busy experience, and while the street is somewhat narrow, you’ll have a great time walking through it. Most of the restaurants here specialize in one particular type of food, so you are sure to find something you will enjoy. Some even offer free samples, which is great for those who wish to try something new! Eating food while walking is frowned upon in Japan, so make sure you enjoy your tasty food inside or in front of the establishments. Entering Nishiki Market is free, and it is only a 2-minute walk away from Kawaramachi Station.
Opening Hours: Varies between stores but is typically 9:00 to 18:00
Closed: Varies between stores but is typically closed on Wednesdays and Sundays
Address: Nishikikoji-dori, Nakagyo-ku
Access: 2 minute walk from Hankyu Railway Kawaramachi Station
Pontocho is a wonderful place for those who wish to enjoy traditional Kyoto. Much of its historical buildings are still preserved today, giving it an amazing atmosphere. It runs parallel to the Kamogawa River and is said to be the most beautiful street in all of Kyoto! I recommend you come here and sample some of the great yakiniku or okonomiyaki after a long day of traveling the city. These are some of the best foods Japan has to offer, and while Pontocho can be a little expensive when compared to other downtown restaurants in areas such as Kawaramachi, the atmosphere and authenticity of this old-fashioned place are second to none.
Opening Hours: Varies between restaurants
Closed: Varies between restaurants but most are open every day
Address: Pontocho dori, Nakagyo-ku
Access: 5 minute walk from Hankyu Railway Kawaramachi Station
If you are interested in the restaurants in Pontocho, please check here:
Gear is a non-verbal form of entertainment and the first of its kind in not just Kyoto, but all of Japan! An interesting blend of traditional Japanese kabuki and modern techniques, all of your senses will be stimulated to the max by the incredible, futuristic story. As it is non-verbal, you do not need Japanese to enjoy it: it is a show for everyone! The bright colors and steampunk setting blend perfectly together to create an unforgettable atmosphere.
Opening Hours: 10:00 to 19:00 on Mon-Sat and 09:00 to 19:00 on Sundays and public holidays
Admission Fees: 4,200 yen for adults, 3,200 yen for university students and those over 60, 2,200 yen for high, junior high and elementary school students. Children aged 4-6 can enter for free, but children under 3 years old are not allowed to enter.
Address: 56 Benkeiishicho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto City 1928 build. 3F
Access: 8 minute walk from Hankyu Railway Kawaramachi Station
If you are interested in the nightlife in Kyoto, please check here:
Places to Visit Around Downtown Kyoto
There is so much to discover in downtown Kyoto! You will never want to leave this great city!
Kyoto Imperial Palace
The Kyoto Imperial Palace, rebuilt in 1855, has taken painstaking efforts to preserve the ambiance and history of the palace to keep it in touch with its ancient roots. I personally recommend you travel there during the early spring months to see the beautiful plum blossoms. The wide gardens and beautiful bridge present a very traditional feeling. A great place for those who want to learn about Japanese history and its royal family.
Address: 3 Kyotogyoen, Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto, 602-0881
Access: 5 minute walk from Imadegawa Station
Hours: 09:00 to 17:00
Kyoto International Manga Museum
The Kyoto International Manga Museum is a great place for those who love Japanese comic books and modern culture. If you are traveling to Kyoto with children, they would have a great time here too! It even has a Manga Studio where you can see first-hand the process of manga creation! The work of many famous manga artists is just waiting for you to enjoy! Nowhere else will you find such beautiful manga creations!
Address: Karasuma-Oike, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-0846 Japan
Access: 3 minute walk from Karasuma Oike Station’s Exit 2
Hours – 10:00 – 18:00 (admission until 17:30)
Closed – Wednesdays, or Thursday if Wednesday is a public holiday
Admission – 800 yen for adults and from 100 yen for children. Tickets also permit multiple entries throughout the day!
If you are interested in Kyoto International Manga Museum, please check here:
Higashiyama District (Kiyomizu Temple, Ninenzaka, Sannenzaka)
The Higashiyama District of Kyoto is just oozing with Japanese history and culture. The remarkably preserved shops and restaurants that line the stone-cobbled streets make it an essential place to visit for those who wish to experience traditional ‘old Kyoto’. Climbing the steps of Ninenzaka will make you think you are back in feudal Japan! I suggest you begin your day by visiting Kiyomizu Temple very early in the morning (opens from 6 am) to avoid the crowds and get those great morning shots. This beautiful temple is only 300 yen to enter and is located within walking distance from other great temples and streets.
Address: 294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0862
Access: Get on No.18 bound for Ohara. Get off at Gojozaka stop and walk east 10 minutes. Alternatively you can walk for 25 minutes from Keihan Kiyomizu Gojo Station.
Admission: depends on the location, but 300 yen to enter Kiyomizu Temple
Hours: 06:00 to 18:00 or 18:00 to 21:00 for the night show.
Yasaka Shrine is a beautiful place located near Gion and Higashiyama. A great place to wander off to after spending time in downtown Kyoto, this red shrine has a great staircase in front of it: a perfect place to take some photos. Founded almost 1,350 years ago, it has a grand interior with lots of lanterns hanging around. If you go at nighttime, you can see these lit up! If you come to Kyoto during the summer, do not forget to check out the Gion Matsuri that takes place in this area! It is truly a sight to behold!
Address: 625 Gionmachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0073
Access: 15 minute walk from Gion Shijo Station
Nijo Castle is not your typical Japanese castle. This UNESCO World Heritage site, built in 1603 was used as the residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Eventually, it became a historical site open to the public. It is one of the best-preserved castles in all of Japan and a must-see location in Kyoto. There are often special events at the castle, including night shows with beautiful lights. I recommend you come here during spring, as the castle grounds have countless sakura or cherry blossom trees. It is truly a sight to behold!
Address: 541 Nijojocho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8301
Access: 8 minute walk to the main gate from Nijo-jo mae Station
Admission: 500 yen
Hours: 08:00 or 08:45 (depending on the season) to 17:00 or 18:00
Arashiyama is one of the most picturesque places in Kyoto. Not only is there the world-famous bamboo grove, but you can also visit the magnificent Togetsu-Kyo Bridge. If you come in spring or fall, you can witness some great views of cherry blossoms and autumn leaves covering the slopes of Arashiyama in the backdrop of the bridge. Speaking of the slopes, there is a really fun monkey park with over 170 monkeys located there! A great place to visit if you are traveling with kids, and only 550 yen per person! You can catch a train directly from Kyoto Station on the San-in Line for just 240 yen.
Address: Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-0007
Access: Take the San-in Line from Kyoto Station to Arashiyama Station
If you are interested in Arashiyama, please check here:
Restaurants in Downtown Kyoto
There is so much great food in the downtown Kyoto area. You will be spoilt for choice!
Kobe Beef Steak Mouriya Gion
Mouriya Gion is a Teppanyaki style restaurant that focuses on local products from Kyoto that have a long and traditional history in the city. This restaurant strives to provide visitors in Kyoto with the best, real Kobe beef. If you are a meat lover, you should definitely check this place out, as Kobe beef is one of the best in the whole world! In fact, this restaurant is voted the No. 1 in all of Kyoto on TripAdvisor!
Available Food: All different kinds of steak from the standard rump steak to the exquisite Kobe beef Fillet Chateaubriand steak.
Open From: 11:30
Prices: Prices range from 6,500 yen to 23,000 yen
Address: Kyoto City Higashiyama-ku Yamato-cho Yamato-dori Ward 4 Yamato-machi 7 Gion Maurya Building
Access: 8 minute walk from Hankyu Railway Kawaramachi Station
Kyoto Jiki Miyazawa
Located very close to Nishiki Market, the foundation of food at Kyoto Jiki Miyazawa is the simple Kyoto style of kaiseki cooking. Thee fried sesame tofu dish served with salt and honey is a great dish to go for if you are new to Japanese food. It is a somewhat simple, but very effective dish.
Available Food: Mostly traditional Kyoto style kaiseki dishes
Open From: 12:00
Prices: from 3,500 yen for lunch and from 10,000 yen for dinner
Address: 553-1 Yaoya-cho Nakagyo-ku Kyoto
Access: very near Hankyu Railway Karasuma Station (West Exit 14)
CHOJIRO is a kaiten sushi restaurant that has very high-quality sushi that is hand cut and shaped by a devoted and professional chef. Very different from the typical chain sushi restaurants, CHOJIRO has been specifically designed to give customers a very authentic feeling while they enjoy their meal. A great place to visit if you love sushi!
Available Food: Lots and lots of sushi!
Open From: 11:30
Prices: vary between sushi but not so expensive for a plate. Usually two pieces of sushi is on each plate.
Address: 103-2, Hashimotocho, Shimogyo-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
Access: Right outside Exit 1A of Hankyu Railway Kawaramachi Station
Mezopotamia Kebab House
Kyoto has countless restaurants where you can eat very traditional Japanese foods and sample the local cuisine, but that is not all Kyoto has to offer. Recently, more and more foreign restaurants are opening up all over Japan. In the downtown Kyoto area, there is a Turkish restaurant: Mezopotamia Kebab House. It is very popular for its kababs and friendly staff members so go and check it out! It has a 5/5 rating and is placed at No. 4 in the Kyoto restaurant ranking!
Available Food: Turkish food such as kebabs
Open From: 11:30
Prices: Around 600 yen!
Address: 501 Higashigawacho Nakagyo-ku Kyoto-shi Kyoto-fu
Access: 180m away from Hankyu Railway Kawaramachi Station
Brought over to Kyoto from Hakata, a famous area for ramen, is Ippudo, the driving force for the popularity of ramen all over the world. People come from all over Japan and the world to sample their authentic, high-quality tonkotsu ramen. It is so good in fact, that it won 1st place for “Tokyo Ramen of the Year” and it the most popular ramen restaurant for foreigners on TripAdvisor!
Available Food: Tonkotsu ramen
Open From: 11:00
Prices: From 700 yen to 1,080 yen
Address: 653-1 Bantoyacho, Nishikikoji Higashiiru, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto
Access: 4 minute walk from Karasuma Station Exit 18 on the Hankyu Kyoto Line
Hotels around Downtown Kyoto
Downtown Kyoto is a perfect place to stay if you are staying even for a few days in Kyoto. Very convenient for shopping, eating and sightseeing!
-Luxury Hotels (30,000 yen or more)
The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
On the banks of the Kamogawa River lies the Ritz Carlton Kyoto, a luxury hotel with one of the best locations. It has a great view of the river as well as the distant Higashiyama Mountain Range and is very close to all the sights of downtown Kyoto. The rooms are very spacious and extremely clean. The view of the Kamogawa River at night is particularly beautiful. As usual, all rooms have Wi-Fi for your convenience.
Address: Kamogawa Nijo-Ohashi Hotori
Access: 10 minute walk from Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae Station, Tozai subway line
For those of you wishing to make your trip to Kyoto both a luxurious and traditional one, there is no better way than doing it by staying at the Tawaraya Ryokan, Kyoto’s, if not Japan’s finest inn. Celebrities and political figures even end up staying here, and each room is finely decorated with a wabi-sabi aesthetic of spare simplicity in mind. Competition to stay here is high, but if you are lucky enough to find a time to stay here, do it!
Address: Fuyacho Oike sagaru, Nakagyo-ku
Access: 3 minute walk from Karasuma Oike Station, Tozai & Karasuma subway lines
Tawaraya Ryokan is not the only traditional inn in downtown Kyoto. In fact, just across the street is the equally beautiful Hiiragiya Ryokan. It is a wide ryokan with very clean rooms that will make you feel as though you have traveled back in time! The tatami rooms and paper doors give it a very welcoming Zen feel to it. Highly recommended!
Address: Fuya-cho Anekoji-agaru, Nakagyo-ku
Access: 5min walk from Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae Station Exit 8, Tozai subway line
-Middle-Range Hotels (10,000 yen to 30,000 yen)
Kyoto Hotel Okura
More affordable than most luxury hotels, the Okura is very conveniently located right in the middle of downtown Kyoto and within walking distance of the best shopping districts and Higashiyama sightseeing area. It has some great restaurants inside too and takes a more modern design as its focal point. The best location for a hotel in all of Kyoto!
Address: Kawaramachi-dori, Oike, Nakagyo-ku
Access: Connected to Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae Station, Tozai subway line
Mitsui Garden Hotel Kyoto Sanjo/Shijo
Just looking at the building from outside, you can tell you are in for a stylish room if you stay here. It is conveniently located right near the downtown area as well as a few train stations. If you would like to sample Japanese Onsen, you can even try the hotel public baths! And it is not called “Garden Hotel” for nothing: inside is a lovely garden view for you to enjoy. It is a cool place to stay for those who wish to stay in a more contemporary hotel. (There are two of these hotels: one in Shijo and one in Sanjo!)
Address: 80 Mikura-cho, Karasuma-nishi-iru, Sanjo-dori, Nakagyo-ku
Access: 1 minute walk from Karasuma Oike Station Exit 6
Royal Park Hotel Kyoto (Sanjo/Shijo)
Located on Sanjo-Dori, it is located right in the center of downtown Kyoto and so is surrounded by restaurants, bars, and cafes. The bakery located on the first floor is great for starting your day, and as Kamogawa River is nearby, you can easily have a nice morning stroll before beginning your day of sightseeing. There are two Royal Park Hotel (one in Sanjo and one in Shijo), so choose the one that is best suited to your travel needs.
Address: 74 Nakajima-cho, Sanjo-dori Kawaramachi-Higashiiru, Nakagyo-ku
Access: 3-minute walk from Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae Station
Hotel Grand Bach Kyoto Select
The rooms may be small at this hotel, but the style and cleanliness more than makeup for that! It uses woody materials reminiscent of an invigorating Kyoto forest, so the atmosphere is very relaxing: perfect for a hotel!
Address: 363 Naramono-cho, Shijo-dori Teramachi-nishiiru, Shimogyo-ku
Access: 1 minute walk from Kawaramachi Station Exit 11
-Budget Hotels (Under 10,000 yen)
The Hearton Hotel is a great place for those who want convenience on a budget. It is only a 10-minute walk from the downtown Kyoto area, and the rooms, while somewhat old, are cozy and larger than most business hotels. It is a great place for those who are only spending a short amount of time in Kyoto.
Address: 405 Funaya-cho, Nakagyo-Ku
Access: 5min walk from Karasuma-Oike Station
Staff members are very friendly and helpful at this cheap hotel. The hotel exterior is a really unique design and being so close to Karasuma Oike Station is great if you want to travel around Kyoto. The rooms are very basic and minimalistic, but they have Wi-Fi and for a short stay, they are enough. The interior restaurant and bar area has recently been renovated and looks extremely stylish.
Address: 595 Kikkoya-cho, Takakura-nishi-iru, Oike-dori, Nakagyo-ku
Access: 6 minute walk from Karasuma Oike Station Exit 3-1
Downtown Kyoto is the place to be, whether you are coming to Kyoto for a short or long trip. It has all the best shops and restaurants, as well as some of the best sightseeing locations to make your trip to Japan an unforgettable one.
Walking through the remarkable streets of Ninenzaka, exploring the wonders of Yasaka Shrine, feasting on traditional Japanese delicacies in Pontocho, and kicking back at a comfy ryokan are just some of the countless things you can do here in downtown Kyoto.
So put your walking shoes on and get exploring!
- I am Nagai Yuichi ,CEO of S-fleage a company in Kyoto. We are spreading the charms of Kyoto to the world. I hope this article is helpful for your experience in Kyoto!