As requested, here’s a list of some of our Kyoto recommendations!
WHERE TO STAY
If you’ve never been to Kyoto (and/or you don’t speak Japanese), you need to stay here. Mume is a cute 7-room boutique hotel with the most graciously helpful staff who will send you to the best restaurants & sights. In Kyoto, the language barrier can make it difficult to find & book reservations yourself (especially if you have any kind of food limitations). Hisako, the owner, and her staff go completely out of their way to make sure you have the best Kyoto experience possible. She even walked us to our restaurant one night. Reasonably priced, the room rate includes a nice breakfast and happy hour drinks. Book the flower room, and tell them I sent you.
Machiya Residence, Hatoba-an
This is an amazing newly renovated Japanese style two-story townhome. This group has a handful of other places as well (you’re not renting an apartment someone lives in). We stayed here for most of our trip this time. During a long trip it’s great to have the convenience of a kitchenette, washer, etc. The only drawback is that you’re on your own for making all of your plans, which, as I mentioned above, can be difficult.
Beautiful large hotel, reasonably priced, with friendly staff. Not as personal as Mume but a very nice hotel if Mume is booked.
RESTAURANTS: our top favorites
Yata – beautiful place, upscale but lively atmosphere, great food, a la carte dinner menu.
Isoya – veggie-focused fun, hipster-ish place that feels more like a tapas bar. No english menu, but the veggies are all on display so you can point and get by. (not all vegetarian).
Okutan – our favorite tofu hot pot place (although we’ve been to many good ones). Go for lunch.
Gion Nanba – Our favorite kaiseki meal this trip. It’s tiny and quiet, but fun to sit at the counter and watch the chef artfully prepare your meal. There is no menu, but the chef was so kind to show us a cooking dictionary so he could communicate each course with us. There’s no meat here, but definitely fish.
RESTAURANTS: other great ones
Inaseya – traditional Japanese, had a nice veggie lunch set.
Iyomata – little sushi place in the Nishiki Market. No english, but you can point to the plastic food to see sort of what you’re getting!
Hale – vegetarian place in the Nishiki Market, we sadly didn’t make it to but some Kyoto friends highly recommended it.
Ryōan-ji Yudofu – another tofu hot pot restaurant, located on the grounds of the Ryōan-ji temple. Beautiful view of the gardens.
Gion Horibe – another quiet beautiful kaiseki meal. No english. Fish, no meat.
Manzara Gion – a la carte casual dinner place. Easy english menu.
Manzara Honten – similar to the one above, a little more casual.
Kukuzen – another kaiseki, a little bit fancier than the other two mentioned.
note: There are tons and tons of amazing restaurants, so this isn’t by any means a complete list. The only not-great food we had were at some places in Pontocho – I suggest only eating there if you have a good recommendation.
MARKETS & MORE
Nishiki Market – Kyoto’s street market, a must see.
Yaoichi – fancy organic grocery store, or as I liked to call it, “the Whole Foods of Kyoto.” Beyond groceries, they have prepared foods, a great bakery, a cafe on the top floor and a rooftop garden!
Daimaru – downstairs from the department store… tons of prepared food counters.
Ippodo – best matcha ice cream.