With an incredible variety of lodging -- from traditional-style boutique hotels with 10 rooms to soaring luxury hotels in skyscrapers -- booking a place to stay in Japan can be an overwhelming experience. That’s especially true in a city like Kyoto, which can sometimes be touristy and hard to navigate. Here’s a look at the centrally located RIHGA Royal Hotel Kyoto, a property that offers great value and defies its boxy, businesslike exterior.
The RIHGA Royal Kyoto is newly renovated from top to bottom, and it wasn’t done in half-measures. While many hotels renovate in stages, staying open while rooms are updated floor-by-floor, this property fully closed down and re-opened when renovations were complete, so the finished product is uniformly pristine.
The location. Situated just a few minutes’ walk from Kyoto’s train station, the RIHGA is a perfect base for exploring. Plus, you won’t need to bother with a taxi when arriving or departing. And if you have lots of luggage, the hotel’s free shuttle is a life-saver.
Redone in a style that evokes the local area -- you’ll see maple leaf and cherry blossom motifs throughout. Room highlights include crisp, high-quality linens; Bluetooth speakers and plenty of USB outlets; and use of the hotel’s signature yukata (a cotton, lightweight kimono). If you’re ready to fully embrace the Japanese lodging experience, the property also has some Japanese-style rooms that feature platform beds and tatami mat floors. (Just remember to take your shoes off when entering.)
A new ground-floor buffet offers all-day dining to guests with Asian and western-style dishes. You’re just as likely to find miso soup at breakfast as you are omelettes or noodles, and it’s a great way to fuel up before a day of temple-hopping. And the hotel’s rotating restaurant, Top of Kyoto, is a must-see, especially in the evening. Sit and watch as your perspective of the skyline -- which includes views of the Kyoto tower and famous pagodas -- shifts over time.
Travelers who love enjoying a uniquely local experience, while still having all the comforts of home -- plus options for familiar food -- will thrive here.
Those who need to go off-the-beaten-path may feel uncomfortable in the dead center of Kyoto’s big city bustle.
The RIHGA Royal is surrounded by important sights. The immense Nishi Honganji temple, and the Toji temple, with its five-story pagoda, are within walking distance. And if you want to speed away for the day, bullet trains arrive and depart -- with on-the-nose timeliness -- from nearby Kyoto Station. From here, you can also take buses and subways to other parts of the city.
For a property that feels brand new, you’ll find spectacular value here. Room start about 12,500-14,000 yen per night ($110-$122) this winter -- a popular time to see snow-covered temples and rock gardens. Rates jump up to about 20,700-23,000 ($180-$200) in prime spring season, when the cherry blossoms are blooming.
The hotel is a 10-minute walk, or a seven-minute taxi ride from Kyoto station.