Kyoto is famous for its tofu, its sublime kaiseki cuisine and its Buddhist vegetarian fare. It’s also a great place to sample all the main classics of Japanese cuisine.
Kaiseki, traditional Japanese meal
Kyoto cuisine is famous throughout Japan for its refined and delicate taste. While in Kyoto, you should definitely sample some of the city’s main specialties:
- Yuba (tofu skim)
- Kaiseki (Japanese haute cuisine)
- Shojin ryori (Japanese Buddhist vegetarian cuisine)
- Kyo-wagashi (Kyoto sweets)
- Yudofu (tofu cooked in hot broth)
Of course, Kyoto is also a great place to work your way right through the whole Japanese gastronomy including sushi, tempura, soba, udon, ramen, unagi and okonomiyaki. In this section, I’ll tell you were to try each of these.
If you’re also visiting Tokyo, be sure to check my page on What And Where To Eat In Tokyo to compare with Kyoto’s delicacies below.
Kyoto Specialties and Where to Sample Them
Here’s where to sample each of Kyoto’s specialties:
Kaiseki (Japanese haute cuisine)
- Gion Karyo
Gion Karyo is one of the more accessible kaiseki restaurants in the heart of Gion. It’s a great place to eat while out exploring Gion.
One of Kyoto’s Michelin three-star restaurants, Hyotei is one of the most attractive restaurants in Kyoto. It’s a kaiseki restaurant that makes few concessions to foreign palates
Shojin Ryori (Japanese Buddhist vegetarian cuisine)
Inside the grounds of Tenryu-ji Temple, Shigetsu is a great place to try traditional Japanese Buddhist cuisines, also known as shojin-ryori.
If you think you know tofu, you haven’t stepped inside the door of this tofu-lover’s paradise!
Yudofu (tofu cooked in hot broth)
- Yudofu Sagano
Yodofu Sagano is a great place to try that great Arashiyama Buddhist specialty: yudo (chunks of tofu simmered in broth).
Kyo-wagashi (Kyoto sweets)
- Kagizen Yoshifusa
Kagizen Yoshifusa is a traditional sweet shop in the heart of Gion with a serene tea room where you can enjoy traditional sweets with cups of thick matcha tea.
Where To Eat Classic Japanese Dishes In Kyoto
Here’s where to sample classic Japanese dishes:
- Den Shichi
One of the best and most approachable sushi bars in Kyoto, Den Shichi serves mouth-watering sushi in a classic sushi-bar atmosphere.
- Ganko Sushi
A vast downtown sushi specialist, Ganko Sushi is one of the most approachable and reasonably priced sushi places in Kyoto.
- Yoshikawa Tempura
Yoshikawa Tempura serves Kyoto’s best tempura in a beautiful old wooden building built around a sublime Japanese garden.
- Ippudo Ramen
Ippudo Ramen is our favorite ramen joint in all of Kyoto. The soup and noodles are sublime and the accompanying dumplings crispy and delicious.
- Honke Owariya
Located in an atmospheric old wooden building, Honke Owariya is arguably the best soba restaurant in all of Kyoto.
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
- Nishiki Warai
The name means “laugh” and it sets the tone for a no-holds-barred good time eating some of Kyoto’s tastiest okonomiyaki.
Kane-yo is one the best places in Kyoto to sample unagi (eel). The place positively oozes “old Kyoto” charm and the unagi is delicious
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)