Kyoto, as one of the most adored travel spots in Japan, has become the favorite tourist destination for travelers in Japan. Most travelers fall in love with Kyoto because of its historical, and mystical beauty and the city often has its peak season during the spring and autumn seasons thanks to the cherry blossoms in spring and red leaves in autumn. However, how familiar are you with its less-known spots?
Kyoto (京都), which is located on the island of Honshu, is famous for its exceptional historic value thanks to its title as “the old capital”. Along with countless shrines and temples, Kyoto is definitely a great place to visit for its collection of restaurants, coffee shops, and bars.
Kyoto Coffee Shops
1. Wife&Husband Coffee
Looking to go for a picnic? During the sakura season, the weather is suitable for camping and other outdoor activities as it becomes warmer and less windy. Wife&Husband Coffee is a great place to help you on your way to enjoying a picnic day.
Located along the riverside of Kita Ward, customers can either choose to enjoy their drinks at the cafe or go on a picnic along the riverbank while viewing the in-bloom cherry blossoms. The coffee shop offers a rental service of everything you need to enjoy a picnic in Kyoto including mats, stools, folding tables, and even straw hats during warmer weather!
The rental service is quite affordable (around 1,500 yen per hour and a half). However, it is only provided until 3 pm, so make sure to check your schedule so you can make the most of your time in this area.
Opening hours: 10:00-17:00
Address: 106-6 Koyamashimouchikawaracho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, 603-8132
2. % Arabica
If you’re looking to experience more of the ordinary everyday Kyoto this is the place. Located just a 9-minute walk from the heart of Gion, Kyoto, % Arabica has always been a favorite among coffee lovers and is popular for its high-quality coffee. Every time I go to Kyoto, I won’t be unable to leave until I have one of their Matcha Lattes!
I recommended going there for a cup of coffee in the early morning when you can relish in the sun while watching people in Kimono passing by.
Opening hours: 09:00-17:00
Address: 87-5 Hoshinocho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0853
Fujii Daimaru Store:
Opening hours: 10:30-20:00
Address: 605 Teianmaenocho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, 600-8031
Opening hours: 09:00-17:00
Address:3-47 Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8385
3. Walden Woods
This coffee shop is for lovers of minimal, more understated designs. Walden Woods is an open-view coffee shop, which almost looks like an art gallery or work in progress. This is reflected in the choice of the tableless design which mirrors the shop’s uniqueness.
The menu varies from your traditional espresso to seasonal drinks such as chai tea.
Opening hours: 8:00-19:00
Address: 508-1 Sakaecho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, 600-8194
Where to Visit
Eikando (永観堂), formally known as Zenrinji Temple, belongs to the Jodo sect of Japanese Buddhism. The main architecture is constructed alongside the base of the hillside and is connected using wooden corridors. Visitors to the temple can climb the pagoda for a view that stretches past the grounds of the temple to a tiny Kyoto beyond.
After a long walk, visitors can take a rest at the outdoor cafeteria next to the Hojo pond- the most attractive spot in Eikando. You can enjoy the food at the cafe including traditional sweets such as dango and matcha while looking out on the breathtaking scenery there.
The best time to visit Eikando is usually around mid-November during the autumn season.
Ticket fee: 600-1,200 yen (the fee may change depending on festivals)
Opening hours: 09:00-16:00
Address: 48 Eikandocho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8445
Founded in 780 on the site of the Otowa Waterfall in the wooded hills east of Kyoto, Kiyomizudera (清水寺) derives its name from the waterfall’s pure water. Although most go here to see the temple and the beautiful view from the viewing deck, this is my favorite location to watch the sunset, as the view is beautiful from the mountain.
Part of the loveliness of visiting Kiyomizudera is the path to the temple along the steep and busy lanes of the atmospheric Higashiyama district. There are many shops and restaurants in the area, where people gather to purchase things ranging from sweets and pickles to your standard souvenirs.
Make sure to check what time the sun sets before you go, as it will change depending on the season.
Ticket fee: 400 yen
Opening hours: 06:00-18:00
Address: 1 Chome-294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0862
Exploring Kyoto at Night
After a long day visiting temples and wandering around coffee shops, the night is the perfect time to party!
Gion, the traditional and often-crowded district in the heart of Kyoto, is where the hidden bars liven up the city till the early morning. If you want to try visiting one of these famous bars, it is better to make a reservation before you come.
However, if you prefer to avoid the more well-known bars, wandering around some of the smaller alleys, you may be able to find some quieter or more relaxed bars!
In the backstreets behind Kyoto’s riverside, the streets are often lit up with the lights from the hidden bars partying through the night. I decided to try experiencing a Kyoto night out in one of the bars hidden along a dark and narrow Gion alleyway, with the purpose of trying to see how beautiful Kyoto would be at night. I finally came across a hidden bar called Bar Sana (バーサナ).
On the 4th floor of an old house is an American-style bar, hidden behind the facade of a traditional house. It was a random search on Google Maps that lead me to meet one of the funniest bar owners and bartenders that I’ve ever met. The bar is quiet and spacious enough for couples or a small group of friends to gather for a small drink.
At Bar Sana, you can hear stories from many of the Japanese locals, starting with the story of the founder of Kimono making manufacture or some stories told to you in secret by the locals.
Their drink menu includes a collection of cocktails, wine and beers. The special thing about this hand-written menu is that it is all in Katakana. However, if you are not comfortable reading Katakana just yet, the owner is helpful in introducing you to drinks that will suit your tastes.
Opening hours: 20:00-04:00
Address: Ichinocho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, 600-8018
See A Different Kyoto!
These are several recommendations, collected during my random trips to Kyoto, that may act as a gateway to healing and relieving yourself from the fast living pace in more metropolitan areas.
- A Weekend in Kyoto: Things to Do in The Eternal City
- Kyushu’s Metropolitan City: Things to Do in Fukuoka
- Things To Do in Kamakura: A Weekend Guide
- The Ainu Tour in Lake Akan, Hokkaido That Will Change Your Perspective on Life
Featured image credit: Author