With dozens of fantastic cafes across the city, Kyoto’s cafe culture is well worth exploring. Here is a short list of our favorites, all personally tasted and enjoyed!
Cafe Bibliotic HELLO! in Kyoto – image © InsideKyoto.com
Kyoto might be well known for traditional teahouses and old-school restaurants, but to overlook its more modern hangout spots would be a tragedy of mild proportions. Forget Starbucks and Tully’s – we’re talking about independent cafes and third-wave coffee joints that serve great coffee along with a dose of modern Kyoto charm. Many newer ones are located in renovated machiya (traditional Japanese townhouses), effectively marrying old-world charm with contemporary coffee brewing methods.
Independent cafes in Kyoto are everywhere. There’s an abundance of them downtown, and we recommend being bold – just walk into one that takes your fancy. More often than not, they’ll provide a great atmosphere and space to relax in.
In the meantime, here are a few places we love:
- Café Bibliotic Hello! (Central Kyoto; budget to mid-range)
Even if it didn’t have this marvelously quirky name, I’d still love this uber-hip Kyoto café. It’s built into an machiya and the owner has some wickedly good design sense.
- % Arabica Higashiyama (Southern Higashiyama; budget)
This super-stylish coffee shop serves some of the best coffee in Kyoto and occupies a prime position on a lovely lane leading up to Yasaka-no-To Pagoda.
- % Arabica Arashiyama (Arashiyama; budget)
If you need a pick-me-up while exploring Arashiyama, head to this stylish and airy coffee shop on the banks of the Hozu-gawa River.
- Kurasu Kyoto (Kyoto Station area; budget)
Located just minutes from Kyoto Station, Kurasu Kyoto is a stylish cafe that serves excellent coffee. As a bonus, they’re very English-friendly too.
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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.
- Get travel insurance for Japan - we recommend World Nomads (and here's why)