There are many ways to explore the city when traveling. You could hit up all of the popular destinations, lounge in luxurious hotels, or even try out some unique activities–Kyoto definitely has a lot of them! But at the end of the day, what better thing to do than to unwind at a trendy coffee shop and have yourself a steaming hot (or ice cold!) cup of your favorite brew?
Kyoto is chock-full of the most gorgeous cafes and unique food and drinks you’ve ever laid eyes on. In fact, every cafe here is an experience of its own that you would definitely want to have when you visit Kyoto. Going cafe-hopping is one of the up-and-coming trends when it comes to travel. It’s a relaxed and intimate way to get to know the city, and it’s especially fitting for a vibrant place like Kyoto.
Without further ado, we present just 12 of the best Kyoto cafes you have to visit!
1. 1er ETAGE
It’s only fitting that we start this list off with 1er ETAGE. As soon as you catch sight of the building, you’ll be confused whether this is a coffee shop, a flower shop, or a magical forest. The truth? Well, 1er ETAGE is a little bit of everything! Dried flowers decorate the entire space, giving it a vintage and romantic feel. The best part is you can even purchase some of the dried flowers yourself in-store!
Of course, 1er ETAGE is not just eye candy. They also serve great drinks that will touch you to your soul. Their most popular one is the Hojicha Latte, a fan-favorite drink made from special green tea leaves. All in all, 1er ETAGE is the perfect safe haven to relax in once you get too overwhelmed with the big city. The delicate scent of the dried flowers will soothe you in no time!
Exact Location: 1er ETAGE
2. Sarasa Nishijin
Speaking of “magical” places, our next cafe looks like it came straight from Spirited Away! Sarasa Nishijin is a cafe located in a traditional Japanese building. Filled with antiques and all sorts of vintage quirks, the interior of the place will definitely catch your eye. As soon as you open the intricate antique wooden doors, you’re greeted with an interesting tiled space. This is because the cafe space was actually an old public bath that’s since been renovated! Spirited Away vibes for sure!
A problem with some cafes is they don’t exactly serve filling meals. However, Sarasa Nishijin doesn’t have this issue at all! They serve a variety of hearty meals that pair well with their selection of drinks. One of their most popular ones is the lettuce-wrapped beef stir-fried rice, a warm and comforting dish that will bring back your energy for sure.
Exact Location: Sarasa Nishijin
3. Inoda Coffee
Up next we have a beloved coffee shop that has been serving locals for over 80 years now! Inoda Coffee has a strong and loyal following due to their classic decor and reliable drinks. Their signature blend is definitely a must-try, as it features coffee beans from all around the world: from Columbia, Guatemala, Brazil, and even Africa! Inoda Coffee is also known for their wide range of meals for you to try, including fluffy French toast and savory omelette rice made with ham pilaf and hayashi rice.
Having a meal at Inoda Coffee is like visiting your grandparents’ house. The interior decor feels well-loved and completely devoid of pretensions some of the younger coffee shops tend to have. It’s a warm, cozy, and inviting place that’s just perfect to relax and unwind in.
Exact Location: Inoda Coffee
4. Cafe Soiree
Up next we have a kitschy cool cafe with a whole lot of history. Established all the way back in 1948, Cafe Soiree remains one of the trendiest cafes in town! Located in the Kiyamachi District, Cafe Soiree’s impact will hit you as soon as you step foot inside. With the unique blue and purple fluorescent lights, you’ll definitely feel like you’ve stepped into another world.
Cafe Soiree’s walls are decorated with eye-catching artworks of master painter Seiji Togo. You can find Togo’s art all over the store–and even on the tumblers and cardboard mats–since he and the original owner were pretty good friends! A must-try at Cafe Soiree is definitely the Jelly Punch. It’s a feast not just for the eyes but for the tastebuds as well. With five cute jelly cubes that come in different flavors and colors, this treat best exemplifies Cafe Soiree’s approach to life: vibrant, loud, and definitely sweet!
Exact Location: Cafe Soiree
5. Koe Donuts Kyoto
Coffee and donuts, anyone? This classic combo takes on a modern spin here at Koe Donuts Kyoto. Koe’s philosophy is to always promote local. Their products are made with ingredients ethically sourced from Miyama, a district in Kyoto. Even their interior decor speaks to their sensibilities! The show-stopper is the ceiling piece made of bamboo baskets from Arashiyama, Kyoto. The whole vibe of the place feels very natural, organic, and down to earth.
We definitely recommend getting a donut to pair with your coffee! They serve classic plain donuts such as more specialty ones like red perilla and red bean. Get a taste of Kyoto whenever you visit this chic yet comforting cafe.
Exact Location: Koe Donuts Kyoto
6. Walden Woods
Up next we have this understated cafe tucked between the gorgeous traditional temples and towering buildings of Kyoto! Walden Woods is a minimalist cafe that takes inspiration from Henry David Thoreau’s book entitled “Walden.” The interior is uniquely designed using wide steps as seating areas that are placed all around an intriguing tree motif that has no leaves attached. Simple and understated, Walden Woods is perfect for taking a quick Instagram or two while you enjoy your cup of coffee.
They have a nice selection for both coffee and tea lovers. We especially recommend the Walden blend, which is an aromatic mix of Colombian and Ethiopian beans. The resulting blend is rich and has notes of chocolate and berries! Matcha lovers would also enjoy Walden Woods as they lattes, soft-serve ice cream, and even canelés in that flavor!
Exact Location: Walden Woods
If you’re looking for a colorful way to spend your afternoon, then why not travel back to the 1950s by dining at Shin-Setsu? This retro cafe is located inside the Teramachi Kyogoku Shopping Arcade. With their fun, festival-like interior and vibrant menu items, Shin-Setsu is sure to bring a smile to your face. Their most popular menu item by far is their wide variety of cream sodas! At only ¥690 (~$4.60), what you get is a tall drink in every kind of color you can think of, served with a large dollop of ice cream on top!
From blue, yellow, green, pink, and so on, Shin-Setsu has all sorts of cream sodas available. In total, you can choose from 24 different flavors! The retro-style glasses these drinks are served in just add to the whole kitschy 1950s diner aesthetic the cafe has!
Exact Location: Shin-Setsu
If you want to take amazing pictures of you while in Kyoto, make sure you book a photoshoot with one of our Kyoto photographers!
8. Cafe Bibliotic Hello
Calling all bookworms and book lovers! Is there a better way to spend an afternoon than getting all snuggled up with an exciting new book and a warm cup of your favorite drink? Cafe Bibliotic Hello combines these two things which makes it the absolute best cafe for readers! Located just a short walk from downtown Kyoto, Cafe Bibliotic Hello is a quaint little cafe where patrons are encouraged to peruse the owner’s large collection of books on display. Of course, you can also bring your own book to read if you want!
As for the drinks, Cafe Bibliotic Hello has all the classic coffee options including some wildcards like “Mint Milk.” You’ll also be glad to know that they have a nice selection of delicious pastries that would pair amazingly with your drink: from different flavored fruit tarts, decadent cheesecakes, and even French pastries like croissants and Mont Blancs!
Exact Location: Cafe Bibliotic Hello
9. Wife & Husband
If you’re looking for a cute and romantic way to spend your time (bonus points if you have a significant other!), then we can’t think of a better place to do that in that Wife & Husband. This charming little cafe is full of quirks! As soon as you step in, you’ll be greeted by their collection of unique wooden collectibles. Wife & Husband doesn’t just serve coffee and treats; they’re an antique store as well! Owned by the lovely couple known as the Yoshidas, Wife & Husband is your one-stop shop for all things quirky and romantic.
Here you can indulge in delicious coffee blends and sweet and savory treats. We especially recommend trying their single-roast coffee and pairing it with the cheese-and-honey milk toast. The best part? Turn your date into a picnic! Wife & Husband can provide you with all the supplies to have the most memorable picnic ever–and right in the heart of scenic Kyoto!
Exact Location: Wife & Husband
10. Alpha Foods & Drinks
If you want a unique gastronomic experience, then we definitely recommend heading on over to Alpha Foods & Drinks. This local cafe is known for their menu filled with creative drinks and treats. Just the way these food and drinks are presented is enough to make your mouth water–and for you to take your phone out immediately to take a pic! From their range of drinks, you can also opt for a “cloud drink” option. This is when a “cloud” hangs over your cup of coffee, making for the perfect Instagrammable drink!
Actually, the cloud is made from candy floss. It’s a pretty smart set-up too since the heat from the coffee would melt the cloud which would add sweetness directly to the cup. We definitely recommend trying the cloud drink experience! Alpha Foods & Drinks also has tons of other interesting menu items like the “pot plant dessert” which is made from crushed cocoa cookies to look like soil and filled with banana parfait. Then you get a spoon shaped like a shovel so you can “dig in” to your dessert! No matter what, Alpha Foods & Drinks certainly knows how to make the eating and drinking experience memorable.
Exact Location: Alpha Foods & Drinks
11. Weekenders Coffee Tominokoji
Even the exterior of Weekenders Coffee Tominokoji already gives you a sense of what this cafe is like: clean and simple but with a whole lot of personality! Tucked away behind a parking lot, this beloved Kyoto cafe draws in its fair share of loyal patrons. The interior is understated and comfortable, perfect for doing remote work, studying, or maybe just reading a book or two. This shop provides the perfect calming atmosphere!
Of course, Weekenders Coffee Tominokoji is also known for their delicious blend of drinks. They have a wide selection of coffee beans for you to choose from, all roasted in-house. Take this as an opportunity to try something new! Weekenders Coffee Tominokoji has creamy Colombian beans, fruity Kenyan beans, citrusy Rwandan beans, and more.
Exact Location: Weekenders Coffee Tominokoji
And last but not the least, we are ending this list with undoubtedly one of the most beautiful spots to get coffee not just in Kyoto but in all of Japan! %ARABICA is located just outside the city’s center, overlooking the gorgeous Katsura River. This coffee shop is also conveniently located near the Tenryu-ji Temple and the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, two of the most beautiful sights in all of Kyoto. Why not add %ARABICA to the itinerary when you’re planning on visiting those places?
Here, it’s best to take your time. Order a cup of their world-class coffee and head on over to the outside dining area. Here you can enjoy your drink while also taking in the view of the river and the other natural surroundings. This is definitely one of the most peaceful ways you can spend your days in Kyoto!
Exact Location: %ARABICA
We hope you enjoyed our list of the best cafes in Kyoto! Which one are you most excited to visit? Don’t forget to share with us in the comments!
Coffee shops are just the perfect places to sit back, relax, and take in your surroundings. While traveling, we tend to get absorbed in the hustle and bustle of it all, wanting to see as many sights as we can in a day. But there is also beauty in slowing down and appreciating the moment, and coffee shops are the perfect place for that. Not to mention, these Kyoto cafes are so unique and beautiful, they could count as tourist destinations themselves!