About three hours by train northeast of Tokyo sits Kyoto, a time capsule of Shogun Japan that's known for its quaint cobblestone streets, geisha houses, ancient temples, and imperial palaces. But architecture, history, and charm aren't Kyoto's only claims to fame. As the home of kaiseki (multi-course) dining, tofu, shojin ryori cuisine, and the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, Kyoto is a haven for food lovers.
Here at Journy, we've planned thousands of trips to Japan—Kyoto included—and have developed deep local knowledge on the city's best restaurants, from fine dining to casual/family-friendly. Below are 25 of our favorites.
Kappo / Kaiseki
1. Tempura Matsu
We first caught wind of this well-kept local secret when Journy expert Matt Goulding (author of Rice Noodle Fish) told us in no uncertain terms that it was a must-visit. He was right.
Although the name may lead you to believe that it’s exclusively a tempura restaurant, chef Toshio Matsuno (who took over from his father years back after training under international icons such as Alain Ducasse and Chicago's Grant Achatz) dishes out a wide range of traditional Japanese food with modern and creative twists. Bonus points for the fact that the food is served on vividly-colored ceramics called oribe, which are produced by one of Japan’s most well-known artists: Kitaooji Rosanjin.
Average price: $135 - $180/person (lunch) | $180 - $270/person (dinner)
Open every day except Wednesday, 12:00PM - 1:30PM, 5:30PM - 7:30PM
Japan, 〒615-0925 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Ukyō-ku, Umezu Onawabacho, ２１−２６
At Kyoboshi—an omakase restaurant tucked away in a small alleyway off Hanamikoji-dori street—the seafood and vegetable tempura is fried in a special type of oil that has been used consistently over the past three generations. Dishes are served with either a sprinkling of salt (the secret blend for which has been passed down over the years) or lemon—just enough to enhance but not overpower the flavor of the ingredients.
Average price: $135 - $180/person
Open every day except Sunday, 6PM - 8PM
347-92 Giommachi-kitagawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto
Minimalism is chef Toshiro Ogata’s MO at his eponymous, two-Michelin-star restaurant in the Shimogyo Ward of Kyoto. If you manage to snag a reservation at the eight-seat counter (which your Journy trip designer can handle for you), expect to be served dishes expressing the rustic sensibility of Japanese cuisine—savory bamboo shoots picked that morning and cooked exclusively in water are the perfect example. With the only furnishings being a single painting on the wall and an antique piece of furniture, it’s clear that minimalism extends beyond the plate and into the decor as well.
Average price: $360 - $450/person (lunch) | $450 - $540/person (dinner)
Open every day except Monday, 4PM - 9PM
1F, 726 Shinkamanzacho Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto-fu
With Arashiyama as its backdrop, there’s no better—or more luxurious—place to dine than Arashiyama Kitcho. The kaiseki-style restaurant is beautiful, elegant, and subtle all out once, made up of quiet tatami rooms that mimic noble drawing rooms. Expect excellent service and wow-worthy, Michelin Guide-praised food created by a third generation chef. Using the seasons as a guide, he takes you on a journey with immaculately presented and nuanced dishes. While the offerings change frequently, you might see Hamo eel with a touch of yuzu, Bluefin o-toro sashimi, and house-made matcha ice cream. Enjoy your meal with the crisp and aromatic house sake. Advance booking is essential (Journy can help).
Average price: $540 - $730/person
Open every day except Wednesday, 11:30AM - 3PM, 5PM - 9PM
58 Sagatenryūji Susukinobabachō, Ukyō-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 616-8385, Japan
A cozy, Michelin-starred countertop restaurant tucked away in the heart of Gion (geisha district), Kappo Sakamoto is almost impossible to find. The exquisite, kaiseki-style meal is modern but rooted firmly in Kyoto’s tradition, with a seasonally-based tasting menu that dazzles with a focus on simple techniques exposing the complexities of the ingredients. Add in a sake tasting and be wowed by the luscious textures and flavors on display.
Average price: $55 - $70/person (lunch) | $135 - $180/person (dinner)
Open every day, 12PM - 2PM, 5PM - 10PM
79 八坂新地末吉町 Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0085, Japan
Kiyama, which is situated just a five-minute walk from the Marutamachi Station near the Kyoto Imperial Palace, is one of the city’s fine dining kaiseki restaurants that’s more easily bookable with shorter notice. It opened back in 2017, and within a year earned a Michelin star. The highlights? Chef Yoshiro Kiyama’s use of the spring water that runs directly underneath his restaurant. Additionally, each dried bonito block is taste-tested and selected by a specific, proprietary level of saltiness and acidity. To complement the food, there’s 20 to 30 types of sake and 80 bottles of wine in the cellar to choose from.
Average price: $90 - $135/person (lunch) | $180 - $270/person (dinner)
Open every day, 12PM - 1:30PM, 6PM - 7:30PM
Japan, 〒604-0804 Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, Kinuyacho, 136 ヴェルドール御所
This authentic kaiseki restaurant showcases freshly-made house tofu in various preparations. Lunch and dinner sets range from 3800-5800 yen, and feature more than just tofu (think duck loin, terrines, fish, and more). Located in a secluded area in Arashiyama, Shoraian also boasts beautiful nature views.
Average price: $35 - $45/person (lunch) | $50 - $70/person (dinner)
Open every day, Monday - Friday, 11AM - 5PM; Friday - Sunday, 11AM - 8PM
Japan, 〒616-8386 Kyoto, Ukyo Ward, Sagakamenoocho, 官有地内
Hyotei is a 400-year-old, three-Michelin-star restaurant known for its incredibly refined, vegetable and fish-forward kaiseki cuisine. While dinner can run upwards of $400 per person, you can get a slice of luxury at a more affordable price with one of their set lunch menus.
Average price: $45 - $70/person (lunch) | $450 - $550/person (dinner)
Open every day, 11AM - 11PM
35 Nanzenji Kusagawacho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 606-8437, Japan
Ifuki specializes in what’s known as “Sumibi Kappo” cuisine, where the food is cooked directly in front of diners by way of a live charcoal fire that lends a deep, smoky flavor to dishes. There’s a sommelier on hand at all times to answer your questions and guide you towards the right bottle of Japanese sake or wine to complement the colors, textures, flavors, and scents of your multi-course (aka kaiseki) dinner. This two-Michelin-star spot (which has earned the stamp of approval from acclaimed food writer and Journy expert Robbie Swinnerton) is located in Kyoto’s geisha district on Hanaim Koji street, which is dotted with restaurants and traditional tea houses that Kyoto is known for.
Average price: $180 - $270/person
Open every day except Tuesday, 5PM - 11PM
570-8 Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0074, Japan
One of the top-rated steakhouses in Japan, Miyoshi serves a masterful chef's menu of meat and traditional Japanese dishes, along with an excellent selection of sake. Chef Ito Tsutomu (who was born and bred in Kyoto) makes a point of sourcing his beef from only the best cattle ranchers in the country, and you can taste his meticulousness in every bite.
Average price: $365 - $450/person
Open every day, 6PM - 11PM
Japan, 〒605-0074 Kyoto Prefecture, Higashiyama Ward, 祇園町南側570-15
There are three main types of meat-forward restaurants in Japan:
- Yakiniku: charcoal-grilled beef
- Yakitori: charcoal-grilled skewers (typically chicken)
- Sukiyaki: simmered beef and vegetables
If you're after exquisite Kobe beef and fruity wine, head to Arakawa. They aptly comment: "If it is the taste of the meat itself that one desires, then our steaks are brimming with savoriness." Watch the masterful work take place over the counter at this yakiniku restaurant, frequented by meat lovers who expect nothing less than perfect Kobe beef—always a guarantee, in any case.
Average price: $90 - $135/person
Open every day except Wednesday, 5PM - 11PM
Japan, 〒604-8024 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Nakagyō-ku, Kamiyachō, 372−4
The speciality at here is BBQ beef of the highest quality. This late-night yakiniku spot (with private rooms which are great for families) is centrally located in Nishinocho, and is less about eating massive quantities of meat (as some BBQ places can be), and more about delicate flavors and interesting cuts of meat. Try some of the typical, marbled, melt-in-your-mouth cuts, but if you’re feeling adventurous, try some of their offal, which is equally delicious. This spot is great for a date night, as the atmosphere is more refined than a typical BBQ restaurant.
Average price: $70 - $90/person
Open every day, 5PM - midnight
16 Benzaitenchō, Higashiyama-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 605-0086, Japan
13. Yakitori Torito
This stunningly good, modern, and hip yakitori joint in downtown Kyoto near the Nishiki market dishes out some of the best tsukune (chicken meatballs) in Japan, served with a raw egg yolk. In addition to the standard parts of the chicken, diners can expect to see cartilage, hips, neck, and other less common cuts. With a wide range of seasonal produce on the menu, it’s also suitable for all the vegetarians out there. The well-organized interior has soft, inviting lighting—making it an inviting spot for locals to pop by after work for a quick bite at the table seats, countertop, or standing area. Also worth noting is the stunning drink menu of sake, cocktails, whisky, beer, and wine.
Average price: $30 - $35/person
Open every day, 5:30PM - 11PM
Japan, 〒606-8395 Kyoto, Sakyo Ward, Higashimarutacho, 9-5 神原ビルハイツ・ジェミニ 1F
Whether you're in a private tatami mat room during the colder months or dining on the patio on the riverside during the summer, Moritaya Kiyamachi is an indulgent dining experience when it comes to both atmosphere and food. Yakiniku tends to be travelers' go-to for high-quality Japanese beef while sukiyaki goes underappreciated, but you'll never make that mistake again after dining at Moritaya Kiyamachi.
Average price: $50 - $70/person (lunch) | $90 - $135/person (dinner)
Open every day, Saturday and Sunday, 11:30AM - 11PM, Monday - Friday, 11:30AM - 3:30PM, 5PM - 11PM
Japan, 〒604-8001 Kyoto, Nakagyō-ku, Kiyacho, 三条上る上大阪町531
Consists primarily of mackerel tightly wrapped around rice and held together with kombu (rather than nori)
Izuju, a 20-seat casual sushi restaurant in Kyoto, has been making Kyoto-style sabazushi (mackerel sushi) for nearly 100 years. Unlike Tokyo nigiri, Kyoto sushi is pressed into jewel boxes and perfect squares, or wrapped in kombu, a kelp-like seaweed. Order one of their set boxes (1000-1500 yen) for a light lunch. The restaurant also has a takeout counter—and options for vegetarians.
Average price: $18 - $27/person
Open every day except Wednesday, 10:30AM - 7PM
Japan, 〒605-0073 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Higashiyama-ku, Gionmachi Kitagawa, 祇園町北側２９２
Ikumatsu is a casual sushi joint where you can enjoy delicious, budget-friendly maki, nigiri, and sashimi. Kick back at one of the tatami tables and order a variety of things to try. We especially love the packed-to-the-brim chirashi bowl topped with salmon, white fish, broiled eel, fish cakes, and more. You also can’t go wrong with the assorted plate of nigiri and maki that includes an inari (tofu skin) pocket, several surprise nigiri (except for the staple mackerel pieces), and maki wrapped with both soy paper and nori.
Average price: $9 - $18/person
Open every day except Thursday, 10AM - 6PM
Honmachi 13-chome, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0981, Japan
Udon (wheat-based) noodles are glossy white, round, and thicker than soba (buckwheat-based) noodles, which are thin, brown, and flat.
Yoshimura is possibly the best spot in Arashiyama to have a meal. Arrive by 10:45AM for window seats upstairs so you can enjoy the udon and soba with an amazing view of the river and mountains. Bonus points for the fact that only domestic buckwheat flour is used, with specialists making the noodles by hand daily.
Average price: $9 - $18/person
Open every day, 11AM - 5PM
2-chōme-208-9 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, 605-0862, Japan
18. Honke Owariya
The oldest noodle shop in Kyoto (built over five centuries ago!), Honke Owariya is a soba-lovers dream. If you're super hungry, order the Hourai Soba, which comes with six stacks of soba noodles paired with eight different toppings. The shop also features plenty of vegetarian-friendly options.
Average price: $18 - $27/person
Open every day, 11AM - 6PM
Japan, 〒604-0841 Kyoto, Nakagyō-ku, Niōmontsukinukechō, 車屋町通二条下ル仁王門突抜町322
Izakaya / Casual Fare
19. Izakaya Tsugu
With a menu as long as Izakaya Tsugu’s, even the pickiest of eaters is bound to find something to enjoy. And for the adults, there’s over 60 types of sake on offer—plus beer, wine, and shochu. A short, five-minute walk from the Shijō Station in Kyoto’s business district, Tsugu is always bustling with locals.
Average price: $45 - $55/person
Open every day, 5:30PM - 1AM
Japan, 〒604-8222 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Nakagyō-ku, Kannoudōchō, 京都府京都市中京区室町新町の間観音堂町468
Kurakura is one of our favorite izakayas, known for their well-portioned dishes and friendly chefs who make the meal not only delicious—but entertaining. After being seated at the bar or on a traditional tatami mat, order a bottle of sake with help from the head chef and owner. When it comes time to order food, we recommend the freshly sliced sashimi, perfectly charred fava beans, grilled mackerel, and any of the tempura dishes on offer.
Average price: $27 - $36/person
Japan, 〒600-8148 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Shimogyō-ku, 飴屋町244 木村ビル 1F
Open Monday - Saturday, 6PM - 11PM; closed Sunday
21. Shunsai Tempura Arima
This tiny, family-run corner joint is a must-try when in Kyoto. Choose between the lunch set or à la carte offerings—both of which come at a great value. Eight pieces per person is generally the way to go, although zero judgments if you want to go all in and order more (we’ve been there). There’s seafood, meat, and vegetable options, and the friendly waitstaff will gladly provide guidance when it comes to the various dipping sauces, salts, and herbs. Arrive early to avoid the wait!
Open every day except Thursday, 11:30AM - 2PM, 5:30PM - 10:30PM
Japan, 〒600-8424 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Shimogyō-ku, Sannōchō (Muromachidōri), 573
22. Chao Chao Gyoza
There’s gyozas, and then there’s Chao Chao’s gyozas. The difference? This casual eatery, which originated in Osaka but now has outposts throughout Japan, makes theirs in-house daily. Perfectly crispy on the outside, their gyozas have been awarded the best in Japan...twice. The flavor varieties to choose from include shrimp and mushroom, mozzarella, ginger, chocolate, and even curry. The wait is often long, but it’s worth it.
Average price: $9 - $18/person
Open Sunday, 2PM - midnight; every other day, 5PM - 2AM
Japan, 〒604-8002 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Nakagyō-ku, Ishiyachō (Kiyamachidori), 中京区木屋町三条下ル石屋町117番地
Acá is one of the few non-Japanese restaurants in Kyoto with a Michelin star, which it was awarded three years after its 2013 opening. The menu is decidedly Spanish (head chef Tetsuo Azuma trained at another Spanish restaurant in Kyoto, Mirador de Ulia, and also spent time in San Sebastian) but with a Japanese flair. The signature paella, which features Japanese blue crab, is the perfect example. All of the seafood is sourced directly from Nishiki’s central market, and the vegetables are purchased from a farm in chef Azuma’s hometown of Okayama. Located on a quiet street just five minutes away from the Karasuma Oike Station (exit 5), Acá is fairly difficult to find—so keep an eye out for the flight of stairs, and enter via the unmarked door to your right. If you can, snag a spot at the six-seat counter to watch the chefs prepare your food over a charcoal grill—or leave it to your Journy trip designer to arrange!
Average price: $180 - $270/person
Open Monday - Wednesday, 6PM - 9PM ; Thursday - Saturday, 12PM - 1PM ; 6PM - 9PM ; closed Sunday
2nd floor, 桝屋町55 白鳥ビル, Nagato Ward, Kyoto, Japan
Traditional Japanese Breakfast
24. Roji Usagi
Situated in a 100-year-old house, Roji Usagi is Kyoto’s ultimate breakfast spot. Upon arrival, ask to be seated in the tatami room so you can eat peacefully and have a view of the beautiful garden. The humble chef turns out several variations of traditional Japanese breakfast, with the most popular being the Kyo-no-Asagohan—or the Kyoto breakfast. It includes broiled salmon, rolled omelet, miso soup, rice, and side dishes that change daily depending on what’s fresh. Keep in mind that the last order for breakfast takes place at 10:30AM.
Average price: $10
Open every day, 8AM - 10:30AM, 12PM - 4:30PM
Japan, 〒605-0808 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Higashiyama-ku, Shimoyanagichō, １７６
25. Kishin Kitchen
For a traditional Japanese breakfast with a modern twist, Kishin Kitchen is the place to be. Their signature breakfast menu (“Willingness breakfast”) features a variety of soups to choose from: Kyouhaku miso pork soup, seasonal vegetable soup, or seafood Japanese-style tomato soup (all with ingredients sourced from the local Kyoto/Kamakura region).
Average price: $18 - $27/person
Open every day, 7:30AM - 2:30PM
555-2 Komatsuchō, Higashiyama-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 605-0811, Japan
Are you a vegan or vegetarian traveling to Japan? Here's a list of the best meat-free Kyoto restaurants for you.