Japanese cuisine has a number of fabulous noodles worth eating when you’re visiting the country. Soba, or buckwheat noodles, is one of the most popular around. Udon, or wheat flour noodles, is another great one to try.
Soba at Sanmikoan Ginkaku-ji store in Kyoto – image © Chris Rowthorn
While they’re most familiar to overseas diners in their slender, mottled brown form, there are in reality many different styles of soba. Soba noodles can be thin and smooth, or rustic and a little chewier, and everything in between.
Udon, on the other hand, are wheat flour noodles. They’re typically thick and slurp smoothly; how chewy they are usually varies by region in Japan.
Kyoto doesn’t really have a distinguishing style of soba or udon, but you can find some good restaurants in town. Some are specialists, but many will serve both styles of noodles. From the cheap and cheerful to the refined and expensive, there’s a restaurant for everyone! The following are just a few that are worth checking out.
- Omen Ginkaku-ji Branch (Northern Higashiyama; budget to mid-range)
Just down the hill from Ginkaku-ji Temple, Omen is one of our favorite restaurants in Kyoto. They serve some of Kyoto’s best udon noodles.
- Omen Kodaiji (Southern Higashiyama; budget to mid-range)
For a healthy and filling lunch in the heart of the Southern Higashiyama sightseeing district, drop into this wonderful noodle specialist.
- Honke Owariya (Downtown Kyoto; budget)
Located in an atmospheric old wooden building, Honke Owariya is arguably the best soba restaurant in all of Kyoto.
- Okaru (Southern Higashiyama; budget)
Okaru is a low-key udon restaurant in Gion popular with local geiko and maiko (geisha). Their famous curry udon bowl makes a perfect cheap n’ cheerful meal in between your wanderings in the area.
- Yagura (Southern Higashiyama; budget)
For a good bowl of noodles while exploring Gion or before taking in some kabuki at nearby Minamiza, Yagura is the perfect choice.
- Hinode Udon (Northern Higashiyama; budget)
Hinode Udon is a fine lunch restaurant near Nanzen-ji Temple and the Path of Philosophy. As the name suggests, udon noodles are the specialty of the house.
- Misoka-an Kawamichi-ya (Downtown Kyoto; budget)
For excellent soba and udon in superb traditional Kyoto surroundings, check out this longstanding Kyoto classic. It’s located right downtown.
- Kanei (Nishijin; budget to mid-range)
Kanei makes the best soba in Kyoto and soba otaku (freaks) make the pilgrimage here from all over Japan to sample these sublime noodles.
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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)