Kyoto, the spiritual heart of Japan. This ancient city may not be the seat of the government any more but it is full of jaw-dropping monuments and historically sacred buildings. From the Emperor’s palace to the Golden Pavilion, it can seem like there is a beautiful, historical sight everywhere you go in the city. But it’s not just the sights that attract thousands of visitors each year, the culture is so unique that it is prized around the world. Where else can you see real Geisha practicing their art, eat Japanese dessert with flavors unlike anything in western cuisine and see Japanese samurai dramas being filmed? Kyoto is the place to visit if you want to find out all about Japan. They have a whole treasure trove of experiences just waiting for you, one of which is bathing in an onsen (traditional Japanese hot spring). The hot-spring baths were so integral to Japanese culture that they have kept them to this day, many of them are now inside Japanese hotels. This is our list of the 10 most tourist-friendly onsen ryokan in Kyoto.
Kyoto is full of history and Hiiragiya Ryokan is no exception. This is a classic Japanese ryokan with Japanese-style rooms and was established in 1818. They have futon beds and use woven reed tatami mats on the floors. Those who want to have the opportunity to have a western bed in their room if that is more comfortable for them. Traditionally onsen would be shared with the other guests but here you can rent out a private bath to relax in with your partner. They also have a well-maintained traditional garden that rooms overlook and guests can take romantic strolls through in the evening.
Address: Nakahakusan-cho, Fuya-cho, Anekoji-agaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
Price: from 479 USD
Access: From Kyoto Station (JR Tokaido Shinkansen): 15 min by car. By car: 25 min (7 km) from Meishin Expressway Kyoto-higashi IC.
Another traditional Japanese ryokan, Rangetsu is situated right on the bank of the Katsura River. Many of the Japanese-style rooms overlook the river. This ryokan is so traditional that they have an outdoor onsen. In the past, Japanese people would bathe in the natural hot springs out in the open. This outdoor onsen recreates that sensation of the cool air around your head and the warm water around your body. Many Japanese people see this as the best way to bathe in an onsen, but there is also an indoor bath if you prefer.
Known for its helpful staff Seikoro Ryokan is a great place to stay for anyone who likes to be pampered. They offer luxurious and spacious traditional Japanese rooms and have individual staff attached to each room as hosts or hostesses. They have an onsen that all guests are welcome to try out as well as a massage service if you want to really relax.
Sumiya Ryokan is in the heart of Kyoto City. The ryokan was established 100 years ago when Japanese art and green tea were taking the world by storm. This ryokan housed the businessmen that made Japan an economic power at that time. The ryokan describes itself as wabi-sabi style, meaning that they appreciate the imperfections of the building and work carefully to mend them, believing that it adds character rather than taking it away. Rooms are set out in a traditional Japanese style and often have a view of the traditional gardens that guests are welcome to explore. The ryokan serves multicourse Kaiseki-style meals — set of selected food items served individually on a tray — which gives you the luxury of trying all the local specialties in just one meal. Besides this, Sumiya Ryokan also hosts a tea ceremony twice every month that guests are invited to attend and experience Japanese culture through the ceremony.
Address: Sanjo-sagaru, Fuyacho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
Price: from 385 USD
Access: - From JR Kyoto Station: About 15 min by taxi. - From Sanjo Station (Keihan Railway): About 10 min on foot. - From Karasuma Station (Hankyu Railway): About 10 min on foot. - From Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae Station (Tozai Subway Line): About 3 min on foot. - From Oike Station (Karasuma Subway Line): About 10 min on foot.
A great ryokan placed in a perfect location that is close to attractions like the Kyoto International Manga Museum and the Imperial Palace. Rooms have a Japanese aesthetic but include western beds. The in-house restaurant serves a variety of Kyoto specialty dishes including desserts. Kyoto desserts are arguably the best in Japan. Many rooms come with a balcony that includes an open-air bath that allows you to experience the traditional Japanese custom whilst still keep your privacy.
Located along Katsura River in the western part of Kyoto, Arashiyama Ryokei offers traditional Japanese rooms that come with all the furnishing you could want. Guests are also given traditional Japanese yukuta (casual summer kimono) to wear whilst the relax in the privacy of their own rooms. The property has onsen that guests can try out. Baths are located both indoors and outside, so you have a choice between being out among the fresh air or inside, safe from the elements. Dinner consists of professionally cooked Kaiseki multicourse meals which are served in the room.
Suiran has private open-air onsen that guests can rent out for a true, high class, Japanese experience. Their rooms are a spacious western style but they have not lost their Japanese charm and still use Japanese architectural ideas in their garden. The property has a well kept zen garden that guests have access to.
A great ryokan in the heart of old Kyoto, Gion Hatanaka offers a traditional ambiance that beautifully highlights the Japanese culture. A perfect example of a ryokan, the rooms are simple yet offer all the modern amenities. The shared onsen is spacious and overlooks the beautiful garden. Among many facilities provided at the ryokan, the most impressive one is the Geisha performance that can be arranged for guests upon prior reservation. Enjoy a stay at this establishment that offers great attention to detail and an experience one can never forget!
Small and comfortable, this tradition Japanese inn offers only 11 rooms and is smaller than the other properties on the list. But don’t be fooled by its size as it offers warm hospitality and excellent service. The rooms are set in a calssic Japanese style offering tatami mats on the floor. There are reservable baths for those who want to try out a Japanese onsen in private.
Address: 511 Washio-cho, Kodaiji, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
Price: from 180 USD
Access: From Kyoto Station (JR Tokaido Shinkansen): Take a No. 206 Kyoto City Bus bound for Kitaoji Bus Terminal to the Gion bus stop (about 20 min), and it is about 10 min on foot from there.
The last ryokan on our list gives in an “old meets new” vibe. Rooms are decorated with a few knick-knacks accustomed to Japanese culture, but also offer modern amenities like a TV, tea/coffee maker and a minibar. Each room comes with a private bathroom with a bathtub and a shower. There’s a large indoor public onsen for all the guests to use.
Where the cherry blossoms bloom
Visiting the cultural capital is an experience all Japan enthusiasts should have at least once. It’s bursting with fun things to see and do, one of which is unwinding in the natural onsen.
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