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The Best Ryokans in Kyoto for an Authentic Japanese Experience

Welcome to our comprehensive travel guide to the best ryokans in Kyoto. Over the next several days, we’ll delve into the exquisite world of traditional Japanese inns, providing you with insider tips and recommendations to make your stay in Kyoto truly unforgettable.

Day 1: Arriving in Kyoto and Staying at a Traditional Ryokan

Morning: Arrival and First Impressions

Upon arriving in Kyoto, start your journey by checking into one of the city’s most renowned ryokans, Hiiragiya, located in the heart of Kyoto. Established in 1818, Hiiragiya is known for its impeccable service and historical significance. The ryokan is a mere 10-minute taxi ride from Kyoto Station, making it a convenient and luxurious starting point for your trip.

Your first impression will no doubt be one of awe as you step into the elegantly designed lobby, which seamlessly blends traditional Japanese aesthetics with modern comforts. From the tatami mat flooring to the delicate flower arrangements, every detail has been thoughtfully crafted to provide a serene and welcoming atmosphere.

Afternoon: Exploring the Ryokan

After settling into your room, which features traditional futon beds and sliding shoji doors, take some time to explore the ryokan’s amenities. Hiiragiya offers beautiful Zen gardens where you can stroll and unwind, as well as a relaxing onsen (hot spring bath).

The onsen experience is quintessentially Japanese and provides the perfect opportunity to soak away any travel fatigue. Remember to follow the cultural etiquette associated with onsen baths, such as showering thoroughly before entering the communal bath and keeping noise to a minimum to maintain the tranquility of the space.

Evening: Kaiseki Dinner

In the evening, you’ll be treated to a kaiseki dinner, a multi-course meal that represents the pinnacle of Japanese haute cuisine. Each dish is artistically presented and made using the freshest seasonal ingredients. Dining in your ryokan room allows you to fully savor the experience in a private and peaceful setting.

Kaiseki meals typically include a variety of small dishes, such as sashimi, simmered vegetables, grilled fish, and delicate desserts, all paired with fine Japanese sake or tea. The ryokan staff will serve each course in succession, explaining the ingredients and preparation methods, which adds a cultural and educational dimension to your culinary journey.

Night: Preparing for a Restful Sleep

As the evening winds down, slip into a cozy yukata (a casual cotton kimono) provided by the ryokan. Relax in your room’s sitting area with a cup of green tea and reflect on your first day in Kyoto. The calming ambiance of your traditional room, combined with the sounds of the evening, will help you ease into a restful sleep on your futon bed.

Staying at Hiiragiya will undoubtedly set the tone for an enchanting adventure in Kyoto, where history and modernity coexist harmoniously. The attention to detail and the deep sense of hospitality you experience here will provide memories that last a lifetime.

Gion Hatanaka in Kyoto, Japan

Day 2: Exploring Kyoto and Staying at Gion Hatanaka

Morning: Discovering Gion District

Start your second day with a hearty traditional Japanese breakfast at Hiiragiya before heading out to explore the historic Gion district, known for its beautifully preserved wooden machiya houses and teahouses. Gion is one of Kyoto’s most famous geisha districts, offering a glimpse into the traditional arts of tea ceremonies and classical Japanese dance.

Wander through the scenic Hanamikoji Street, where you might catch a glimpse of a geisha or maiko (apprentice geisha) on their way to appointments. Visit the Yasaka Shrine, a historic and vibrant shrine that plays a central role in Kyoto’s famous Gion Matsuri festival.

Afternoon: Check-In at Gion Hatanaka Ryokan

After a morning of sightseeing, head to Gion Hatanaka for another immersive ryokan experience. Located near the famous Yasaka Shrine, this ryokan offers a blend of traditional aesthetics and modern comforts. The rooms feature tatami mats, sliding shoji doors, and offer views of well-maintained Japanese gardens.

Upon arrival, enjoy a warm welcome with matcha tea and traditional sweets served in your room. Take a moment to relax and soak in the serene atmosphere that Gion Hatanaka is famous for.

Evening: Dinner

One of the highlights of staying at Gion Hatanaka is the opportunity to enjoy a delectable kaiseki dinner. The multi-course kaiseki dinner at Gion Hatanaka features seasonal ingredients and exquisite presentation, providing a sumptuous feast for both the palate and the eyes.

Night: Strolling Along Shirakawa Canal

End your evening with a leisurely stroll along Shirakawa Canal, a picturesque area in the Gion district known for its cherry blossom trees and traditional wooden houses. The canal is beautifully illuminated at night, creating a romantic and tranquil setting.

This serene walk provides the perfect conclusion to your second day in Kyoto, allowing you to reflect on the day’s experiences in a peaceful environment. Return to Gion Hatanaka and prepare for another restful night, wrapped in the comfort of your yukata.

Hotel Kanra Kyoto, Japan

Day 3: Delving Into Kyoto’s Cultural Heritage and Staying at Hotel Kanra Kyoto

Morning: Visit to Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)

Start your third day in Kyoto with a visit to the iconic Kinkaku-ji, also known as the Golden Pavilion. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of Kyoto’s most famous landmarks, known for its stunning golden exterior and its beautiful reflection in the surrounding pond.

Stroll through the meticulously maintained gardens, which feature a variety of traditional elements such as stone lanterns, small bridges, and zen rock gardens. Take your time to soak in the tranquil atmosphere and capture some unforgettable photographs.

Afternoon: Tea Ceremony at Kodaiji Temple

After your visit to Kinkaku-ji, head to Kodaiji Temple, another significant cultural site in Kyoto. Located in the Higashiyama district, Kodaiji offers a unique opportunity to participate in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.

The tea ceremony is a profound cultural experience that involves the artful preparation and presentation of matcha (powdered green tea). As you partake in this serene ritual, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of Japanese customs and aesthetics.

Evening: Check-In at Hotel Kanra Kyoto

For your third night in Kyoto, check into Hotel Kanra Kyoto, a modern ryokan-style hotel that combines contemporary design with traditional elements. Located near Kyoto Station, Hotel Kanra Kyoto offers spacious rooms with tatami mat flooring, handmade Japanese furnishings, and luxurious en-suite bathrooms.

After checking in, take a moment to unwind in your room’s private mini-onsen bath before heading out for dinner. The hotel’s minimalist design and thoughtful amenities provide a perfect blend of comfort and elegance.

Evening: Dinner at Pontocho Alley

In the evening, take a short walk to Pontocho Alley, a narrow street running parallel to the Kamo River, famous for its traditional restaurants and vibrant atmosphere. Pontocho Alley is known for offering a variety of dining options, from upscale kaiseki meals to casual izakayas (Japanese pubs).

Enjoy a delicious meal while taking in the scenic views of the river, and experience the lively nightlife that Kyoto has to offer. Pontocho Alley is especially enchanting in the evening when lanterns light up the street, creating a magical ambiance.

Night: Relaxation and Preparation for Day 4

Return to Hotel Kanra Kyoto and take advantage of the hotel’s amenities for some relaxation. Enjoy a nightcap at the hotel bar or relax in your room while reflecting on your day’s adventures. Prepare for another exciting day in Kyoto, knowing you’re staying in a place that beautifully encapsulates the harmonious blend of old and new.

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The Best Ryokans in Kyoto for an Authentic Japanese Experience

Last Updated: June 21, 2024

Welcome to our comprehensive travel guide to the best ryokans in Kyoto. Over the next several days, we’ll delve into the exquisite world of traditional Japanese inns, providing you with insider tips and recommendations to make your stay in Kyoto truly unforgettable.

Day 1: Arriving in Kyoto and Staying at a Traditional Ryokan

Morning: Arrival and First Impressions

Upon arriving in Kyoto, start your journey by checking into one of the city’s most renowned ryokans, Hiiragiya, located in the heart of Kyoto. Established in 1818, Hiiragiya is known for its impeccable service and historical significance. The ryokan is a mere 10-minute taxi ride from Kyoto Station, making it a convenient and luxurious starting point for your trip.

Your first impression will no doubt be one of awe as you step into the elegantly designed lobby, which seamlessly blends traditional Japanese aesthetics with modern comforts. From the tatami mat flooring to the delicate flower arrangements, every detail has been thoughtfully crafted to provide a serene and welcoming atmosphere.

Afternoon: Exploring the Ryokan

After settling into your room, which features traditional futon beds and sliding shoji doors, take some time to explore the ryokan’s amenities. Hiiragiya offers beautiful Zen gardens where you can stroll and unwind, as well as a relaxing onsen (hot spring bath).

The onsen experience is quintessentially Japanese and provides the perfect opportunity to soak away any travel fatigue. Remember to follow the cultural etiquette associated with onsen baths, such as showering thoroughly before entering the communal bath and keeping noise to a minimum to maintain the tranquility of the space.

Evening: Kaiseki Dinner

In the evening, you’ll be treated to a kaiseki dinner, a multi-course meal that represents the pinnacle of Japanese haute cuisine. Each dish is artistically presented and made using the freshest seasonal ingredients. Dining in your ryokan room allows you to fully savor the experience in a private and peaceful setting.

Kaiseki meals typically include a variety of small dishes, such as sashimi, simmered vegetables, grilled fish, and delicate desserts, all paired with fine Japanese sake or tea. The ryokan staff will serve each course in succession, explaining the ingredients and preparation methods, which adds a cultural and educational dimension to your culinary journey.

Night: Preparing for a Restful Sleep

As the evening winds down, slip into a cozy yukata (a casual cotton kimono) provided by the ryokan. Relax in your room’s sitting area with a cup of green tea and reflect on your first day in Kyoto. The calming ambiance of your traditional room, combined with the sounds of the evening, will help you ease into a restful sleep on your futon bed.

Staying at Hiiragiya will undoubtedly set the tone for an enchanting adventure in Kyoto, where history and modernity coexist harmoniously. The attention to detail and the deep sense of hospitality you experience here will provide memories that last a lifetime.

Gion Hatanaka in Kyoto, Japan

Day 2: Exploring Kyoto and Staying at Gion Hatanaka

Morning: Discovering Gion District

Start your second day with a hearty traditional Japanese breakfast at Hiiragiya before heading out to explore the historic Gion district, known for its beautifully preserved wooden machiya houses and teahouses. Gion is one of Kyoto’s most famous geisha districts, offering a glimpse into the traditional arts of tea ceremonies and classical Japanese dance.

Wander through the scenic Hanamikoji Street, where you might catch a glimpse of a geisha or maiko (apprentice geisha) on their way to appointments. Visit the Yasaka Shrine, a historic and vibrant shrine that plays a central role in Kyoto’s famous Gion Matsuri festival.

Afternoon: Check-In at Gion Hatanaka Ryokan

After a morning of sightseeing, head to Gion Hatanaka for another immersive ryokan experience. Located near the famous Yasaka Shrine, this ryokan offers a blend of traditional aesthetics and modern comforts. The rooms feature tatami mats, sliding shoji doors, and offer views of well-maintained Japanese gardens.

Upon arrival, enjoy a warm welcome with matcha tea and traditional sweets served in your room. Take a moment to relax and soak in the serene atmosphere that Gion Hatanaka is famous for.

Evening: Dinner

One of the highlights of staying at Gion Hatanaka is the opportunity to enjoy a delectable kaiseki dinner. The multi-course kaiseki dinner at Gion Hatanaka features seasonal ingredients and exquisite presentation, providing a sumptuous feast for both the palate and the eyes.

Night: Strolling Along Shirakawa Canal

End your evening with a leisurely stroll along Shirakawa Canal, a picturesque area in the Gion district known for its cherry blossom trees and traditional wooden houses. The canal is beautifully illuminated at night, creating a romantic and tranquil setting.

This serene walk provides the perfect conclusion to your second day in Kyoto, allowing you to reflect on the day’s experiences in a peaceful environment. Return to Gion Hatanaka and prepare for another restful night, wrapped in the comfort of your yukata.

Hotel Kanra Kyoto, Japan

Day 3: Delving Into Kyoto’s Cultural Heritage and Staying at Hotel Kanra Kyoto

Morning: Visit to Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)

Start your third day in Kyoto with a visit to the iconic Kinkaku-ji, also known as the Golden Pavilion. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of Kyoto’s most famous landmarks, known for its stunning golden exterior and its beautiful reflection in the surrounding pond.

Stroll through the meticulously maintained gardens, which feature a variety of traditional elements such as stone lanterns, small bridges, and zen rock gardens. Take your time to soak in the tranquil atmosphere and capture some unforgettable photographs.

Afternoon: Tea Ceremony at Kodaiji Temple

After your visit to Kinkaku-ji, head to Kodaiji Temple, another significant cultural site in Kyoto. Located in the Higashiyama district, Kodaiji offers a unique opportunity to participate in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.

The tea ceremony is a profound cultural experience that involves the artful preparation and presentation of matcha (powdered green tea). As you partake in this serene ritual, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of Japanese customs and aesthetics.

Evening: Check-In at Hotel Kanra Kyoto

For your third night in Kyoto, check into Hotel Kanra Kyoto, a modern ryokan-style hotel that combines contemporary design with traditional elements. Located near Kyoto Station, Hotel Kanra Kyoto offers spacious rooms with tatami mat flooring, handmade Japanese furnishings, and luxurious en-suite bathrooms.

After checking in, take a moment to unwind in your room’s private mini-onsen bath before heading out for dinner. The hotel’s minimalist design and thoughtful amenities provide a perfect blend of comfort and elegance.

Evening: Dinner at Pontocho Alley

In the evening, take a short walk to Pontocho Alley, a narrow street running parallel to the Kamo River, famous for its traditional restaurants and vibrant atmosphere. Pontocho Alley is known for offering a variety of dining options, from upscale kaiseki meals to casual izakayas (Japanese pubs).

Enjoy a delicious meal while taking in the scenic views of the river, and experience the lively nightlife that Kyoto has to offer. Pontocho Alley is especially enchanting in the evening when lanterns light up the street, creating a magical ambiance.

Night: Relaxation and Preparation for Day 4

Return to Hotel Kanra Kyoto and take advantage of the hotel’s amenities for some relaxation. Enjoy a nightcap at the hotel bar or relax in your room while reflecting on your day’s adventures. Prepare for another exciting day in Kyoto, knowing you’re staying in a place that beautifully encapsulates the harmonious blend of old and new.

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