5 Luxury Hotels in Shijo Karasuma to Experience the Beauty and Traditions of Kyoto

The Shijo Karasuma area is a central area in the history and tradition-filled city of Kyoto. With convenient access to many areas in the city including major tourist areas such as Nijo Castle and Gion district, this is a highly recommended area to book a hotel for your trip to Kyoto. Here is an introduction to some of the best luxury accommodations in the area, from famous hotel brands to fancy traditional houses that you can rent all to yourself.

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1. Hotel Nikko Princess Kyoto

Hotel Nikko Prince Kyoto is a high-class hotel, located 3 minutes from Shijo Station on foot in the centrally located Shijo Karasuma area. The hotel is only a 5-minute drive from the main Kyoto Station, and the famous "Kyoto's Kitchen" Nishiki Market and Gion Pontocho street are both within walking distance. Other major spots such as Kiyomizu Temple and Heian Shrine are also easily accessible, making this hotel an incredible choice for its location. 

In the hotel lobby, there is a grand staircase with a fountain right below called the "fountain of happiness". Weddings are frequently held at the hotel on weekends, enveloping the hotel in a gorgeous and celebratory atmosphere. All 216 rooms here are larger than 36m², and these spacious rooms are stylishly coordinated with a subtle pop of color such as salmon pink.

Every room here is equipped with the incredible mattress pads Airweave, developed through sleep research and adored by athletes around the world. In addition, down quilts are used for their duvet-style bedding, and the rooms have all the items you could need for a luxurious stay, including a Nespresso coffee machine and professional-quality hairdryer. The baths receive Kyoto's Mineral Water drawn from underground, and the balance of minerals creates an ability to preserve moisture so that your skin is smooth and well-hydrated after a bath. Apart from the single rooms, all baths are spacious and separate from the shower to provide the most relaxing experience possible. The triple room has an wide area of 49m² for the three beds, and the tranquil atmosphere that overlooks Kyoto's Higashiyama District is highly recommended for any group of travelers.

Inside the hotel, there are six restaurants that cater to various style of cuisines, such as Japanese, Western, Chinese, and Teppanyaki (a style of cooking on an iron griddle). The teppanyaki restaurant Hoen serves Kuroge Wagyu (a type of high-quality Japanese beef) alongside local vegetables and fresh seafood. At the Japanese restaurant Sagano, you can take your time to enjoy seasonal dishes through their Kyoto Kaiseki course in a private room. The freshly deep-fried tempura offered to those in their counter seats are also another popular choice. For breakfast, Sagano serves traditional Kyoto-style breakfast and the Cafe & Dining Urban Court restaurant offers a buffet of over 80 dishes to choose from.

2. Hanakanzashi - Matsui Bekkan

Hanakanzashi is conveniently located 8 minutes away by foot from the Karasuma Oike Station in the central area of Kyoto. This luxury hotel is a great place to base your sightseeing trips in Kyoto because of its highly accessible location. The interior design features blend beautifully with the traditional atmosphere of Kyoto, including the light pouring through the wooden lattices, arched bamboo fences that protect the exterior, and paper-covered lamp stands that provide elegantly dim lighting. 

Through the doors, past the Japanese-style welcome sign, you will notice a tranquil atmosphere that permeates this hotel. This will have you questioning whether you really are in the middle of the city or not. Once you get to your room, you can take a break with their complimentary matcha tea and traditional Japanese sweets. There are various thoughtful details around the hotel, such as the ornamental hairpin of Maiko (apprentice geishas), and beautiful aromas of incense that will envelop you in warmth after a tiring day of sightseeing.

There are 30 rooms in total at this hotel, including the standard Japanese-style room with tatami flooring, the Japanese-western room that comes with a bedroom, the suite room with a view of a small garden, and the special 22m² room with two Japanese-style tatami spaces. The woman who runs this hotel has paid careful attention to all the details, and the tasteful decorations create a modern yet traditional, Japanese design. The Japanese-style pouches that the amenities come in, along with other thoughtful designs, are very popular with guests. The special 22m² room can host a maximum of 8 guests and it even comes with its own large bath, so it is highly recommended for larger families and groups.

Continuing on the list of appealing features at Hanakanzashi is their two baths that source their spring water from 100 meters underground. Any exhaustion can be alleviated by bathing and stretching your legs in these baths, including the Kodemari no Yu, which has a bright ambience with beautiful textures of wood grain, and Momiji no Yu, which has a chic style with a dark brown interior.

For dinner, you can enjoy Kyoto kaiseki cuisine (a traditional Japanese course) in your room, featuring the freshest seasonal ingredients, carefully selected by the chef. Kyoto kaiseki features innovative additions to the traditional dishes, so each dish can be enjoyable for everyone from children to adults. For birthdays or special anniversaries, the meticulously crafted Sushi Cake is highly recommended. The breakfasts are also an experience that can only be had in Kyoto, prepared with an assortment of local ingredients and dishes such as yudofu (simmered tofu) and kyo-tsukemono (picked vegetables from Kyoto).

3. Mitsui Garden Hotel - Kyoto Shinmachi Bettei

Mitsui Garden Hotel - Kyoto Shinmachi Bettei is a luxury hotel on Shinmachi Street, which has long preserved the traditional street scenery of Kyoto. The building itself is located where a Matsuzakaya department store (one of the oldest department store chains in the world) once stood. During one of summer's biggest events, Gion Matsuri (festival), the yamaboko (festival float) and musical accompaniment passes along this road. 

The building has kept the charm of the former time-honored department store and has preserved and utilized some of its old features, such as the kura (building with traditional Japanese architecture) that faces the road. Even some of the flagstones and beams from the former structure have been repurposed for the hotel's interior, and their conceptual theme of "tradition, succession, and regeneration" was awarded the Good Design Award in 2014.

There is a total of 129 rooms, designed with a Kyoto style traditional-modern atmosphere. A luxurious night's sleep is guaranteed with their world-famous Serta mattresses and original Mitsui Garden Hotel pillows co-developed with the pioneering company for high-quality pillows, LOFTY. The Deluxe Twin rooms are designed in the style of Kyoto's longhouses, and there is an elevated platform by the window facing Shinmachi Street, for you to fully take in the atmosphere of Kyoto.

The bathroom, powder room, and toilet are located in a separated area and equipped with thoughtful amenities for the guests. The public bath on the first floor is true to the rest of the hotel's traditional-modern design, and guests can enjoy the bath's artificially carbonated spring water. The women's bath has a spacious powder room as well where they can spend some more time relaxing after the cozy bath.

At this hotel, guests can enjoy a traditional Kyoto breakfast, buffet-style, at the restaurant Izama, supervised by a Japanese cuisine master, Toshiro Kandagawa. The buffet is lined with exquisite seasonal Kyoto delicacies, including ‎the staple hijiki-ni (simmered hijiki seaweed), Kujo green onions with special miso sauce, and other simmered or bamboo-steamed fresh local ingredients. These dishes perfectly represent the season and make for a delicious yet healthy breakfast. 

For guests who may not be as fond of traditional Kyoto dishes, the buffet also provides a western menu, including soft scrambled eggs, sausages, and fresh salad. Guests can enjoy a peaceful start to their day in the charming atmosphere by the garden in the preserved kura.

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4. Villa Sanjo Muromachi - KYOTO

Villa Sanjo Muromachi was opened fairly recently in the summer of 2016 in the Sanjo Muromachi area where the history of Kyoto still lives and breathes. With only twelve rooms available, it is a high-end hotel that provides a "truly elegant experience for a special occasion". Designed with the harmonious balance of liveliness/tranquility and traditional/innovative, every aspect of this hotel exudes the daily lifestyle and atmosphere of Kyoto, from the decorations in the lobby and rooms, amenities, breakfast, to dishes.

Throughout the hotel, guests can enjoy looking at various traditional crafts of Kyoto, such as karakami (paper) from the Karacho store with over 400 years of history, as well as Nishijin-ori (textile), Kyo-yaki (pottery), Kiyomizu-yaki (pottery), and bamboo crafts.

There are three types of rooms available depending on the purpose of the guests' itinerary. Every room has an art board made from karakami from Karacho, Nishijin-ori fabric from the long-standing store HOSOO, tea from Ippodo Tea shop, and coffee from Inoda Coffee. All of these renowned, longstanding stores provide a hotel experience permeated with the history of Kyoto.

There is only one of the Maisonette Twin Room, which is extremely spacious with a total area of 65m². The fancy furniture in this room includes the bed from the Kyoto-based furniture company IWATA and the Mother Goose Down duvet to ensure the highest quality of sleep. Above the spiral staircase is the bathroom that fills with sunshine during the day. Sitting in the relaxing chair overlooking the private garden creates the ultimate peacefully private space.

For breakfast, guests can enjoy a Kyoto-style western breakfast, with fresh local ingredients served on Kyoto dishware. Dishes include salad and omelets made with vegetables from the town of Ohara, breads from popular local bakeries, and the original plated assortment of the day. Of course, breakfast is served with coffee from Inoda Coffee as well. The food is guaranteed to be delicious, but the beautiful traditional dishware of Kyoto, such as made-to-order dishware by traditional craftsmen and bamboo woven baskets, are just as much part of the experience.


5. Akane-an - Machiya Residence Inn Kyoto

Akane-an - Machiya Residence Inn Kyoto is located a 7-minute walk from the UNESCO World Heritage Site Nijojo Castle. The standalone building on the stone-paved street has a history of 120 years and is a luxurious renovated Kyoto Machiya (traditional wooden townhouse) that can be reserved entirely by guests. The exterior's clean white plasterwork, traditional window structure, and black latticework welcomes guests into its dignified atmosphere that exudes the long history and traditions of Kyoto.

It is also convenient location wise, with easy access to the Arashiyama area to the west and Higashiyama area to the east, as well as the north and southern areas of Kyoto. Around Akane-an, there are many historical spots such as Nijojo Castle, but also traditional confectionery stores, incense stores, and many more that add to the charm of the area. Because this hotel is a standalone house, guests can truly feel as though they have experienced living in Kyoto for the duration of their stay.

The first floor has the Japanese-style room, kitchen, and bathroom, and the second floor has the western style bedroom with the twin beds. Futon (Japanese style bedding) are provided in the Japanese-style room downstairs for reservations for groups of guests larger than 3. The bath is equipped with a hinoki (Japanese cypress) bath for guests to privately relax in, and the western style room upstairs provides a spacious area with a high ceiling and broad beams.

The Japanese-style room accented in the traditional red madder plant dye and bathroom provide a view of the small private garden outside, which changes with the seasons. Akane-an offers a unique experience for guests to comfortably experience Kyoto in a private space with no disturbances. The greenery of the garden lit by moonlight and the garden lights creates a serene evening scenery, and guests can revel in the extravagant ambience away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Of course, the food experience is a crucial part of a visit to Kyoto along with the sightseeing. At Akane-an, meals are not provided so guests can enjoy whatever delicacies they would like to enjoy, whenever, in the comfort of the residence. There is also a simple kitchen provided, so a unique way to experience the food culture of Kyoto is to buy your own ingredients from "Kyoto's Kitchen" Nishiki Market and try your hand at cooking Kyoto dishes with only your preferred ingredients.

Additionally, there are three types of tea available from the traditional Uji matcha specialty store Takemura Gyokusuien at the Shogoin Temple, as well as drip coffee from the Kyoto-based Smart Coffee store. Enjoying the beautiful garden with Kyoto delicacies such as sweets and pickled vegetables with tea or alcohol using Akane-an's original Kiyomizu-yaki dishware is a truly incredible opportunity.

Bask in the Beauty and Tradition of Kyoto in Shijo Karasuma!

Which of these luxury accommodations in the Shijo Karasuma area sounded most appealing to you? There is a vast variety of options for high-end hotels in Kyoto that provide guests with the opportunity to enjoy the traditional atmosphere and beauty of Kyoto. All of the hotels introduced in this article not only do just that, but they are located in highly convenient locations so that you may make the most out of your trip. While they may be slightly demanding on your budget, treating yourself to these high-class accommodations will surely make your trip an unforgettable experience. 

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Translated and republished with permission from: SPIRA (formerly known as Relux Magazine)

By the way, you can book a hotel through Relux (run by SPIRA) by clicking here!

Header Image: PIXTA

Kansai Feature

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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