Gion is Kyoto’s treasured traditional district, and it has more to offer tourists than any other part of Kyoto. The district’s streets were first laid out in the Middle Ages, and the area has been carefully maintained to preserve its historic character. A recent restoration project has strengthened the district’s old-world charm.
Many hotels in Gion are housed in restored buildings on the southern end of Hamai-koji Street. Guests in this area can stroll through historic neighborhoods dating to the 1700s, when Gion was the premier pleasure district in Kyoto. This area has as humble, traditional look by day, but it lights up after hours.
Authentic geishas still operate in Gion, though not nearly to the extent that they did even a hundred years ago. These 'women of the arts' are practiced in traditional forms of music and art, and they entertain in the teahouses of Gion. Many of these establishments are ultra-exclusive and only open to the well-connected; however, visitors will certainly see authentic geisha out and about in southern Gion.
To the north are Furumonzen-dori and Shinmonzeh-dori, a pair of streets that are lined with curios and boutiques selling souvenirs, traditional handicrafts and antiques. Art galleries and a few teahouses are also found here, making this an ideal place to go for a walk for anyone staying with accommodation in Gion.