Kyoto is known for its beautiful landscape and scenic sites, however downtown Kyoto city can be a bit of a concrete jungle and hard to navigate unless you are a local. Sara Aiko is a Kyoto expert and is the owner of Curated Kyoto: a travel boutique that introduces a new way to enjoy Kyoto. Here she shares some of her favorite places in downtown Kyoto: I get a lot of questions from my clients asking me "What are the best things to do in downtown Kyoto?" So I wanted to share with you five of my favorite spots: the hidden gems loved by creative locals living in Kyoto.
1. WEEKENDERS COFFEE
Kyoto is famous for its green tea but like many of you, I do love my coffee. I find it tastes that much better when served in a stylish environment like WEEKENDERS COFFEE. This hard-to-find coffee shop is hidden at the far end of a car park on Tominokoji Street. There is no large visible signage so it would be easy to walk right by what looks like just another concrete space. However, bear in mind that some of the best spots in Kyoto take a little extra effort to find!
The renovated machiya (old Japanese house) is small, simple and sleek and is the perfect example of Japanese minimalism. There is no seating, except the bench outside, but you can always get your coffee takeaway and enjoy your hot cup of joe as you explore the rest of the downtown Kyoto.
Address: 560 Honeyanocho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto (see on Google Maps)
Open: 7:30am-6pm (Closed on Wednedays), more details here.
2. Rin Vintage Store
It would be easy to miss this hidden treasure on Teramachi Street in the city center, but if you’re into vintage and second-hand shopping, make sure you seek out Rin. Each piece was carefully curated by owner Daiki who not only sources the items but also works his magic on restoring them to sparkling condition. Some items such as a traditional Haori jackets have been re-worked to give them a contemporary and edgy punch. The great variety of beautiful Haori and bags made out of kimono material, make Rin more than just any vintage store; this is a bone fide Kyoto vintage store!
Address: 523 Tenshojimaecho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto (see on Google Maps)
Open: Afternoon until 9pm (Closed Wednesdays)
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3. Café Bibliotic Hello
The intriguingly named Café Bibliotic Hello, situated in Kyoto city center, is a favorite among Kyoto locals. This refreshing location offers a cozy space to chill, some superlative food and a selection of interesting books to settle into.
There are some fine salads on the menu, which can be hard to find elsewhere in Kyoto. One of my personal top tips is the banana and avocado smoothie. If you have work to do in Kyoto, comfortable seating and reliable wifi make this the perfect spot!
Address: 650 Seimei-cho, Yanaginobanba-higashi-iru, Nijo-dori, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto (see on Google Maps)
Open: 11:30am-12pm (Closed Mondays), see here for more details.
4. Sour Cocktail Bar
Sour is a cosy narrow cocktail bar in downtown Kyoto. The bar, which specializes in Chu-hi cocktails (shochu based cocktails), has added its own unique twist with a tempting variety of fresh fruit and herbs. You can enjoy flavours such as mango and strawberry sorbet, watermelon, figs and even basil. Not only are these drinks delicious, but for the instagrammers among you they are also very photogenic!
The shop interior is also worth a few candid shots, especially of the sexy Warhol-inspired neon light installation on the ceiling.
Address: 607-19 Teramachi, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto (see on Google Maps)
Open: 3pm-12am, see here for a map.
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5. Murin-an Villa
Ok, so I cheated a little here. This villa isn’t technically in downtown Kyoto as it’s about a 5-7 minute taxi ride away, but it deserves to be included, as it’s loved by everyone who gets a chance to visit. Murin-an is the place to go to if you’re looking to enjoy a Japanese garden minus the crowds.
Murin-an was built by Aritomo Yamagata (1838-1922), who served as Prime Minister of Japan and is remembered as one of the architects of modern Japan. Now’s the time to enjoy that green tea while taking in the soul-soothing garden. Bliss!
Address: 31 Nanzenji Kusakawa-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto (see on Google Maps)
Open: Please check the Murin-an website as opening times change depending on the season.
You can book Curated Kyoto tours via www.curatedkyoto.com. If you have any tips on Kyoto you want to share, let us know in the comments below!