These are the best high-end ryokan in Kyoto, in rough order of preference. I’ve personally inspected all the places on this list.
For a general introduction to Kyoto ryokan at all price levels see our Kyoto Ryokan page.
Another great way to experience Kyoto-style living is to stay in a machiya (traditional Kyoto townhouse), which combines the best aspects of a ryokan and a vacation rental.
Tawaraya isn’t just the best ryokan in Kyoto – it may be the best ryokan in Japan. There are even some who call this the finest accommodation in the world. It’s a magical sanctuary that you’ll never want to leave. The service is supernaturally good here: they know what you want before you do. This is the place to sample the Japanese ryokan experience. See my detailed write-up of A Night At Tawaraya (with lots of photos) to help you get a feel for what to expect from staying at Tawaraya.
Pros: Perfect service, lovely gardens, beautiful rooms, superb food, convenient downtown location.
Cons: Can’t think of any.
:: More Info about Tawaraya
:: Read Guest Reviews of Tawaraya at TripAdvisor
Located directly across the street from the Tawaraya, the Hiiragiya is a polished ryokan thoroughly at home with foreign guests. There are immaculate rooms in the new wing, but I like the wabi-sabi patina of the rooms in the old wing.
Pros: Great food, excellent service, beautiful gardens, convenient downtown location.
Cons: Less intimate in scale than some other inns.
:: More info about Hiiragiya Ryokan
:: Read Guest Reviews of Hiiragiya at TripAdvisor
Located directly beside Yasaka-jinja and Muruyama-koen, in the heart of Southern Higashiyama and steps from Gion, this magical ryokan offers traditional rooms and some excellent Kyoto kaiseki cuisine. Interestingly, the entire ryokan has a yuzu theme. Yuzu is a Japanese citrus that is somewhere between orange and grapefruit. This place is a great way to sample the ryokan experience and a perfect place to be based for exploring Higashiyama.
Pros: One of the best locations in Kyoto and great food.
:: More Info about Yuzuya
:: Read guest reviews of Tamahan on TripAdvisor
Ryokan Ugenta Kibune – image © InsideKyoto.com
All the way up in the tiny hamlet of Kibune (one valley over from Kurama and its famous temple), Ugenta is a rare find. The inn is divided into two exquisite units (and they only accept two groups per evening). One side is Western-style – all smooth wood and modern furnishings – the other is traditional Japanese – with sublime old Japan touches. Both units have indoor baths and private outdoor baths that face the mountainside. This would be a brilliant spot for a romantic getaway (and it’s just 30 minutes by taxi from Kyoto).
Pros: Giant apartment-size private units, all the mod cons, the latest in Japanese design, great food, impossibly quaint village location.
Cons: Nothing to do in the village at night (but, you’d be crazy to want to leave the inn, so this doesn’t really matter).
:: More Info about Ugenta
:: Read Guest Reviews of Ugenta at TripAdvisor
No ryokan in Kyoto comes close to Hoshinoya for dramatic approach: a private boat will whisk you up the Oigawa River to a boat landing, where the staff will greet you and escort you to your room. Surrounded by greenery, overlooking the rushåing waters of the river, this place feels like a completely different world from Kyoto, but a quick trip back down the river brings you to the bustling Arashiyama tourist district. The design here is modern Japanese and the feeling is of extreme privacy.
Pros: Magical river approach, fantastic riverside setting, slick modern design.
Cons: A bit of a hike to downtown.
:: More Info about Hoshinoya
:: Read Guest Reviews of Hoshinoya at TripAdvisor
Once you step into the secluded entryway, it’s like you’ve stepped into another world. The Seikoro is a classic ryokan with almost flamboyant decorative touches that recall art nouveau. All rooms look over lovely gardens and have fine wooden bathtubs.
Pros: Attentive service, lovely décor, comfortable with foreign guests.
Cons: Gojo-dori location is somewhat inconvenient (but, it’s close to a subway station and within walking distance of Kiyomizu-dera and Gion).
:: More Info on Seikoro
:: Check Availability, Pricing and Guest Reviews for Seikoro at Booking.com and Agoda.com
Like the name suggests, this superb ryokan is located up on Yoshida-yama, a beautiful hill in the northeast part of town. The rooms here are beautiful and the food is wonderful, but the location is the real attraction here: walk out the door and in a few minutes, you’ll find yourself in some of Kyoto’s most beautiful (and seldom visited) temples.
Pros: Stunning location, beautiful front garden, warm service.
Cons: A fair distance from downtown.
:: More Info on Yoshida Sanso
:: Check Availability, Pricing and Guest Reviews for Yoshida Sanso at Booking.com and Agoda.com
Garden Ryokan Yachiyo is fine ryokan right “on the doorstep” of Nanzen-ji Temple, comfortable with foreign guests and close to the subway. It makes a perfect base for exploring both the city and Kyoto’s surrounding natural wonders.
Pros: Great location by Tozai subway line and the Higashiyama mountains too
Cons: Not all rooms have garden views
:: More Info about Garden Ryokan Yachiyo
:: Check Availability, Pricing and Guest Reviews at Booking.com and Agoda.com
More Kyoto Ryokan info:
- Kyoto Ryokan overview
- Best Luxury Ryokan In Kyoto
- Best Mid Range Ryokan In Kyoto
- Best Budget Ryokan In Kyoto
- Kyoto's Best Ryokan For Families
- Kyoto's Best Ryokan For Couples
- Kyoto Machiya
Best High-End Ryokan In Kyoto
- Tawaraya (Read guest reviews of Tawaraya on TripAdvisor.com)
- Hiiragiya Ryokan (Read guest reviews of Hiiragiya on TripAdvisor.com)
- Ugenta (Read guest reviews of Ugenta on TripAdvisor.com)
- Hoshinoya (Read guest reviews of Hoshinoya on TripAdvisor.com)
- Seikoro (check availability on Booking.com and Agoda.com)
- Yoshida Sanso (check availability on Booking.com and Agoda.com)
- Garden Ryokan Yachiyo (check availability on Booking.com and Agoda.com)
Best Mid Price Ryokan In Kyoto
- Hirashin Ryokan (check availability on Booking.com or Agoda.com)
- Nishiyama Ryokan (check availability on Booking.com or Agoda.com)
- Ryokan Izuyasu (check availability on Booking.com or Agoda.com)
Best Budget Ryokan In Kyoto
- Kyoto Yoshimizu (Read guest reviews of Kyoto Yoshimizu on TripAdvisor.com)
- Ryokan Shimizu (check availability on Booking.com or Agoda.com)
- Uemera Ryokan (check availability on Booking.com or Agoda.com)
- Matsubaya Ryokan (check availability on Booking.com or Agoda.com)
- Hanakiya Ryokan (check availability on Booking.com or Agoda.com)
- Tanaka-ya (check availability on Booking.com or Agoda.com)
More Kyoto Hotels info:
- Kyoto Hotels Overview
- Check availability and pricing for Kyoto hotels at Agoda.com
- The Best Places To Stay In Kyoto
- Where To Stay In Kyoto
- Best Value Hotels In Kyoto
- Kyoto Vacation Rentals
- Best Luxury Hotels in Kyoto
- Best Boutique Hotels in Kyoto
- Best Mid-Range Hotels in Kyoto
- Best Budget Hotels in Kyoto
- Best Kyoto Hostels and Guesthouses
- Best Kyoto Hotels For Families
- Best Ryokan In Kyoto
Kyoto Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Kyoto guide
- Check Kyoto accommodation availability on Booking.com – usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Kyoto
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Buy a data-only SIM card online for collection when you arrive at Kansai International Airport (for Osaka and Kyoto) or Tokyo's Narita Airport. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings to find the best deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass – here's my explanation of why it's worth it
- A prepaid Icoca card makes travelling around Kyoto easy – here's how
- World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world