Looking for a tried-and-tested guide to hotels in Gion Kyoto? When planning where to stay in Kyoto, most tourists enjoy the convenience of a hotel near Kyoto Station. But to me personally, the old charm and allure of the historical Gion area cannot be beaten!

As Japan’s ancient capital for over 1,000 years, Kyoto is one of the most popular places to visit in Japan. So much so, some sights are suffering from overtourism issues. To combat that, staying here instead of doing a quick day trip means we can enjoy Gion before tourists crowds arrive, and long after they leave.

Other websites have compiled lengthy lists of hotels to stay in Gion. In honesty, I find these disingenuous because how can the author speak genuinely about the properties if they haven’t even stayed in all of them? 

Ryokans & Hotels in Gion, Kyoto: Honest Advice for Where to Stay | The Invisible Tourist

Well dear reader, I’m a bit different because I’ve actually done it. I’ve been visiting Japan for the past decade (and written all about it on my travel blog for Japan), and have thoroughly enjoyed visiting Kyoto four times. As I absolutely ADORE this dear old city, I thought I’d put together this Gion hotels guide as my advice in my Kyoto itinerary was becoming quite lengthy!

And don’t worry about the headlines regarding tourist bans in Gion… I’ll explain why and the etiquette around photography in the geisha district at the article’s conclusion.

Whether you’re looking to stay in a traditional ryokan or a more modern Kyoto hotel, my quick guide to where to stay in Gion will provide you with the insights you need to decide where to rest your head. Read on for more!

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Ryokans & Hotels in Gion, Kyoto: Honest Advice for Where to Stay | The Invisible Tourist
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Where to stay in Gion Kyoto: Tried-and-tested hotels & ryokan

If you’ve followed me a little while, you’ll know I am super picky about where I choose to stay. Location is my first priority, followed by ratings and convenience before I begin to narrow down on price. Does this sound like you as well?

All within a mid-range price bracket (3-4 star), these hotels in Gion Kyoto in the Higashiyama Ward are ideal whether you’re a first time visitor to this ancient capital or a repeat visitor like me. 

I chose these properties as they are all within a few minutes’ walk to a train station, have konbini (convenience stores) nearby, and are a short walking distance to some of Gion’s most admired attractions.

In invisible tourist fashion, I’ll be sharing all the pros and cons for the following properties and who they are best suited for to help make your selection process easier:

 • Japanese-Western Fusion  Kyoto Granbell Hotel Gion →
 • Traditional Charm  Ryokan Yoshi Ima, Gion →
 • Budget Option (Groups/Families)  GOZAN Aparthotel, Gion →

Disclaimer: As always, I paid for all these Kyoto hotels with my own money and am reviewing them unbeknownst to hotel owners, management or staff. 

TIP: Also heading to Tokyo? My honest guide for where you should stay in Tokyo will help you out. And if you’re planning a trip to South Korea, be sure to check my guide for where to stay in Seoul too!

Where is the best place to stay in Kyoto? For me, it’s obviously Gion ぎおん! Over the years I stayed once near Kyoto Station. However, I keep returning to Gion as it is in the centre of the action, and therefore don’t believe that staying near Kyoto Station is the best option.

If you’re interested, I also have written about why I don’t recommend using services like Airbnb. And now with all that said, these are my personal recommendations for where to stay in Gion Kyoto.

Kyoto Granbell Hotel Gion

I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at Kyoto Granbell Hotel in Gion. If you like the idea of staying in a Japanese style hotel but prefer not to sleep on the floor in a futon, this property offers a delightful fusion of old-meets-new.

In a modern building with tasteful amenities, the rooms offer Western-style beds with rooms decorated in traditional Japanese style. Some rooms also offer Western-style beds on tatami (bamboo flooring). This is the most centrally-located of the hotels in Gion I’ve stayed in so far.

I couldn’t get over the beautiful view from my window during the winter months, with the mountains and city coated in a thick layer of snow!

View from Hotel Granbell Kyoto Gion, Japan
View from my room at Granbell Hotel Kyoto, Gion

Pros of Kyoto Granbell Hotel Gion

  • Nearest Station/s: 2 minute walk to Gion Shijo Station on the Keihan Line or 5 mins walk to Kyoto-Kawaramachi Station on the Hankyu Kyoto Line
  • Points of interest: 1 min walk to Shijo-dori shopping street, 3 mins walk to Kenninji Temple (in my guide to Kyoto’s hidden gems), 5 mins walk to popular Hanamikoji Street, 5 mins walk over the Kamo River to Kiyamachi-dori, 15 mins walk to Yasaka Pagoda, Maruyama Park, 25 mins walk to Sannenzaka & Ninenzaka streets, Kiyomizu-dera Temple
  • Best suited for: Solo, Couples, Business
  • Nearby konbini: 2 mins walk to either FamilyMart on Shijo-dori, or 7-eleven on Donguri-dori
  • Room tips: Ask for a high floor overlooking the mountains. Twins rooms have more space for luggage than doubles.
  • Other info: English-speaking staff are friendly; guests can enjoy a segregated onsen. Robes and slippers are provided (you can take the slippers home).

Cons of Kyoto Granbell Hotel Gion

I honestly didn’t have any. If I was going to be super picky, the kettle was in a bit of an odd spot near the door.

Shijo-dori in Gion Kyoto

Yasaka Shrine on Shijo-dori, Gion Kyoto

Dragon ceiling of Kenninji Temple
Gion attractions nearby the Kyoto Granbell Hotel (from top): Shijo-dori, Yasaka Shrine, Yasaka Pagoda & Kyoto Tower, Kenninji Temple.

Ryokan Yoshi Ima, Gion

If you’re after a traditional family-run ryokan in Gion to fully experience omotenashi (exceptional Japanese hospitality), Ryokan Yoshi Ima (also Yoshiima) is incredible.

The building dates back to 1747, and I searched for many ryokans in Gion Kyoto before settling on this one. I could not have been happier with my choice.

Welcomed with tea, exceptionally helpful and friendly English-speaking staff in a historical building, Ryokan Yoshi Ima prides itself on serving guests in the traditional way. Expect to receive robes, slippers, and Japanese breakfast served in your Edo Period room.

Enjoying the sun’s gentle morning glow whilst savouring my morning cup of tea was a beautiful start to each day. Highly recommended!

Morning tea at Ryokan Yoshi Ima, one of the best traditional hotels in Gion Kyoto

Pros of Ryokan Yoshi Ima Gion

  • Nearest Station/s: Located 5 mins walk from either Gion Shijo or Sanjo Stations on the Keihan Line
  • Points of interest: 10 mins walk to Yasaka Shrine. Picturesque Shinbashi street behind the ryokan where maiko/geisha frequent after dark. Great little authentic restaurants nearby: 3 mins walk away are a delicious udon place called MAIN around the corner, and a cheap gyoza bar called Sonmenten for a quick meal.
  • Best suited for: Couples, Solo, Business
  • Nearby konbini: 3 mins walk to either 7-Eleven or Family Mart 
  • Room tips: Ask for a room overlooking the garden if possible
  • Other info: Private bathroom, some other ryokan are shared. Staff were so helpful and accommodating. A traditional Japanese breakfast is included in your stay from 7:00 – 9:00, let the front desk know the night before if you prefer not to take breakfast. In-room dinner is also available from 18:00 – 20:00. Onsen is free for guests (need to make a reservation). Tea is always readily available in-room to enjoy overlooking the ryokan’s small garden, and their in-house authentic tea room also overlooks the garden.

Cons of Ryokan Yoshi Ima Gion

Some of these downsides are not a criticism of the property itself (because it is gorgeous and I loved it), but are expected for traditional, centuries-old buildings. I personally knew what to expect and think the lack of some modern conveniences is part of the charm, but I’ll include these points for you to consider whether staying in a Kyoto ryokan is right for you:

  • Only one power outlet in the wall with two sockets (used by TV and lamp). You may need a power board for charging more than two devices at once, or if your adapters are too large to fit two together.
  • No fridge in the room to store cold drinks or other items.
  • Need to pull the sliding doors shut from low down on their frames. They will have trouble sliding open and shut if trying to pull them from too high.
  • Room key needs to be left at the front desk when you leave the room.
  • Front door is locked at 23:00, so you need to return by then.
  • Typical for a ryokan, shoes need to be left at the front entrance. Slippers are provided for indoor common areas. No slippers or shoes are allowed inside the room on tatami floors, so be sure to bring socks.
  • If you’re around 6’ tall, you will need to watch your head on the doorframes, as they were built for people around 5’.
  • Rooms aren’t always mobility-friendly. Beds are a comfortable mattress on the floor with a cozy doona/duvet. Depending on the room, luggage needs to be carried up and downstairs as there is no elevator.

Gion Shinbashi (Tatsumi) Bridge, Gion Kyoto

Shimbashi in Gion, Kyoto - Most Beautiful Street in Asia

Hotels in Gion Kyoto at night
Picturesque historical surroundings of Ryokan Yoshiima, Gion

GOZAN Hotel & Serviced Apartment (Kyoto Hana Hotel), Gion

I stayed in Kyoto Hana Hotel on my first trip to Japan before I ever began my blog. However when putting together this guide to hotels in Kyoto, I learnt Kyoto Hana hotel permanently closed in May 2024.

In saying that, I maintain that it was in a great location for staying on the edge of Gion on a budget. So just four doors down on the same street, I can suggest a similar alternative, GOZAN Hotel & Serviced Apartment, being the most budget-friendly option here!

The good thing about GOZAN too is it accommodates up to five in one room (notoriously difficult to find in Japan), making it one of the the ideal places to stay in Gion Kyoto for families or groups.

View from former Kyoto Hana Hotel in the GOZAN Serviced Apartment & Hotel area, Gion
View from former Kyoto Hana Hotel in the GOZAN Serviced Apartment & Hotel area, Gion

Pros of GOZAN Hotel & Serviced Apartment (Kyoto Hana Hotel)

Now I can speak on Kyoto Hana Hotel’s location as the two properties are in the same spot:

  • Nearest Station/s: Located 2 mins walk to Sanjo Keihan Station, 4 mins walk to Sanjo Station, 5 mins walk to Higashiyama Station
  • Points of interest: Samurai Kenbu Theatre downstairs, 8 mins walk to Gyojabashi Bridge & willow canal, 10 mins walk to central Gion, 10 mins walk over the Kamo River to Pontocho (fun for bar hopping in Kyoto), 15 mins walk to Yasaka Shrine or Heian Shrine 
  • Best suited for: Couples, Solo, Business, Families, Groups
  • Nearby konbini: 1 min walk to Daily Yamazaki, 3 mins walk to Family Mart  
  • Room tips: Opt for a higher floor if you would like a view over rooftops.
  • Other info: The rooms each include a private bathroom, kitchenette with mini fridge, toaster, microwave, ironing facilities, and a laundry on each floor. The Deluxe rooms have a little dining area in an outdoor courtyard. Other rooms have balconies, while there is also a room with a tatami floor option.

Cons of GOZAN Hotel & Serviced Apartment 

  • Only one room key is issued per room (not per guest), so you may need to use some other type of card to keep the heating or air con running whilst you are out for the day, or leave the key at the front desk to avoid having to coordinate return times with your roommates.
  • Not all rooms come with a bathtub, so you may need to request specifically when booking if required.
  • The Superior Twin room bathrooms are on the smaller side, but that is expected in Japan.

Gyojabashi Bridge, Gion, Kyoto

Heian Shrine, Kyoto
Kyoto attractions near GOZAN Hotel (from top): Gyojabashi Bridge, Pontocho Alley, Heian Shrine

Kyoto’s Gion tourist ban: What you need to know

Did you see the recent headlines about tourist bans in Gion Kyoto? I know people who cancelled their visits to Kyoto over that, but there was no need!

Tourist Ban in Gion Kyoto Headlines

Due to geiko (Kansai dialect for geisha) and maiko (trainee geiko) being harassed by tourists for photos in recent years, local authorities decided to protect their safety by blocking off and prohibiting photography on certain streets. This was also to help local residents who have complained about relentless tourists acting loudly and disrespectfully outside their homes.

The headlines were insinuating that tourists would be banned from the Gion district, which was not true at all. In fact, it is only a small handful of select narrow alleyways and private streets that are affected. There are two kinds of signs on these Gion streets:

  • No Photography: This means you can pass through the street, but are strictly forbidden from taking any photos or loitering. Pop your phone and camera well away and enjoy the local scenery in a quiet, invisible manner. 
  • Do Not Enter: These signs mean exactly that, do not enter the street. Some private roads have these signs now, and even Kyoto locals are prohibited from passing through unless they reside on that street. Fines are 10,000 yen. There is CCTV around, so it just isn’t worth the risk. Here is an example of a Do Not Enter sign.
New No Photography signs effective from April 2024
The streets branching off public Hanamikoji Street forbid photography (taken on Hanamikoji Street). These signs have been around since 2019.

The main Hanamikoji Street is bustling with tourists taking pictures, but note cars and taxis are regularly passing through. Please move to the sides so as to not hold them up. The side streets off Hanamikoji are much quieter because photography is not permitted.

During my recent spring trip, I noticed police and some forms of security hovering around Gion streets to ensure no one was breaking any rules. It is not worth taking photos in prohibited areas which may result in consequences that ruin our trips. 

TIP: Remember while it is a popular tourist attraction, Gion is first and foremost a residential area where locals live and work. Please “be invisible” by respecting their wishes.

Hanamikoji Street in Gion, Kyoto
Hanamikoji Street in Gion

Can I take photos of geisha in Gion?

In short, yes, we can take photos of geisha on public streets, ON THE CONDITION that we are admiring them from afar like rare butterflies. No one likes an annoying tourist, so this means a common-sense approach:

  • Don’t jump out in front of them or block their way 
  • Don’t shove cameras/phones/selfie sticks in their faces
  • Keep to the sides of the public street to allow them to pass freely
  • Don’t ask them to stop and take a photo (they are usually running errands or on their way to an appointment, we don’t want to make them late)
  • Personally, I would recommend taking photos from behind to respect their privacy.

TIP: In Kansai dialect, to say “thank you” we say okini おきに instead of arigato gozaimas ありがとう ございます.

TIP: My guide to must-know do’s and don’ts in Japan breaks down more cultural etiquette, and my guide to how to not look like a tourist anywhere can help, too.

Maiko in Gion, Kyoto

Concluding this guide to Gion Kyoto hotels

There you have it for my personal guide to Gion Kyoto accommodation! Which of these hotels in the Kyoto Gion district best suits your upcoming trip? Hopefully my insights into these properties have helped make your Kyoto trip easier. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.

Now you know the essential tips for photographing geisha in Gion, why not get started on your Japan travel itinerary? You can use my sample 2 weeks in Japan itinerary to help you see Japan’s “Golden Route” in a sustainable way, my 3 week Japan itinerary to explore off the beaten track, my essential Japanese phrases for tourists (plus feee PDF cheat sheet), what you need to pack for Japan and more on my Japan blog!

If you found this Kyoto accomodation guide helpful please share it with your friends, join my free Japan Off the Beaten Path Facebook Group or follow along on Facebook, PinterestInstagram and TikTok for more Japan inspiration!

Until next time,

The Invisible Tourist

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Where to Stay in Gion Kyoto: Honest Advice for Where to Stay | The Invisible Tourist 

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