Skip to content Skip to footer

A Guide to 13 Must Visit Cafes in Kyoto, Japan

For a place usually associated with traditional tea ceremonies, there’s no shortage of cafes in Kyoto. A city steeped in Japanese traditionality, Kyoto first embraced coffee culture during the late 20th century, coinciding with the beginning of the third-wave coffee movement. 

With the city’s cultural relevance and harmonious environment, most cafes in Kyoto maintain zen aesthetics with a minimalist aura. However, there’s no compromise on the menu or quality of a freshly brewed roast. The popularity of slow-drip coffee, also known as Kyoto-style, further proves that the locals take their coffee seriously, focusing on extracting maximum taste to offer the best quality. 

It wasn’t until I had read more about coffee and Kyoto that I fully understood why most hotels here have complimentary sachets of slow-drip coffee in the room, as opposed to the usual instant coffee one typically finds in other countries. 

Most cafes in Kyoto offer a seamless amalgamation of the bygone and current era, with vintage buildings housing trendy and modern coffee shops. Similarly, the range of eateries expands from quaint hole-in-the-wall establishments to those that offer a refreshing surprise behind a more traditional exterior. roasters

Address: 28-4 Shinsenencho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8371
Google Location

alt coffee roasters cafe in Kyoto
Photo – roasters

In appearance, from the outside, epitomizes the worldwide trend of minimal third-wave cafes. Inside, it’s a cozy nook that cocoons you while warming the cockles of the heart. 

For me, the quirky little touches gave the otherwise petite cafe (it can accommodate about six people) a unique style – think a coffee serve for a door handle and upside-down cups as light fixtures. 

A short walk from the must-see Nijo Castle, this is by far one of the best cafes in Kyoto, especially if you are a vegan. The warm and friendly eatery is cute in its disposition and has the most tempting light roasts, mostly single-origin, and often with a surprising hint of fruity flavor. 

Owned and operated by Chihiro Nakamura, alt. coffee roasters specializes in pour-over coffee. But it is the welcoming nature of Nakamura (she speaks English and has menus in English) is what wins most customers over instantly.

As for food, don’t expect much, but they usually have homemade vegan cakes, chocolate gateau, and sometimes even vegan hamburgers.

Starbucks Coffee Ninenzaka Yasaka Chaya

Address: 349, Masuyacho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0826
Google Location

Starbucks Ninenzaka Yasaka Chaya

Starbucks sneaks into our list of best cafes in Kyoto because of its consistency and, in this case, ambiance. The coffeehouse chain’s Ninenzaka outlet, opened in 2017, is truly one of a kind, situated in Kyoto’s old neighborhood. 

Devoid of any branding, the vintage house (machiya) in which the outlet resides merges seamlessly with the equally ancient homes surrounding it. As you walk in, a small zen garden to the right welcomes you to the main counter.

The air inside initially feels stuffy until that alluring smell of coffee penetrates your soul through the nostrils. Coffee and treats in hand, walk up to the first floor to the seating area. 

Only, it’s not the classic table and chair seating here. Okay, so they have some of that too. But Starbucks in Ninenzaka is also the first to have traditional tatami floors and low tables in rooms with racks on the outside that encourage you to take off your shoes before entering. 

Apparently, this particular outlet is pretty busy with seats not readily available. However, we reached here in the evening, about two hours before closing time, got to see the Yasaka Pagoda at sunset, and could easily find a place to sit inside Starbucks. 

A wonderfully immersive experience wherein Starbucks has taken extra steps to integrate local culture into the interiors, making this a must-visit.

Mar Cafe

Address: 762, Nishihashizumecho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, 600-8029
Google Location

Mar Cafe Kyoto
Photo – Mar Cafe

Mar is one of the most enchanting cafes in Kyoto, offering sweeping views of the Higashiyama area and Kamogawa River. To reach here, board down at the Kiyomizu-Gojo Station in the downtown area. Finding the right place can be confusing initially, as the cafe is on the 8th floor of an old office building. 

The location might sound unapproachable, but don’t worry; the entire area is easily accessible and wheelchair-friendly. I’ve been so used to seeing cafes and restaurants on the ground floor of buildings that it took a while to get used to the ones in Japan, which are often higher up in tall buildings.

This rooftop Mar Cafe, offering spectacular citywide views, especially at night, has a spacious open hall bathing in sunlight and an inviting yet casual ambiance. 

Vintage decor with antique furniture gives the place a timeless charm. No two chairs or tables are alike in design. An onsite library room with a book wall and several sofa chairs makes this a haven for literary coffee lovers.

Mar Cafe is famous for its Mar burger served with tsukemono (Japanese pickles). The kitchen only prepares ten burgers a day, so there are chances that it might already be off the menu by the time you reach. 

However, other dishes, like seafood salad, pasta, and French toast, are equally delightful. Interestingly, the cafe has a different after-meal dessert, handmade with organic ingredients daily. For beverages, opt for brandy chai or continue the sugar rush by ordering the special Montblanc parfait.

Walden Woods

Address: 508-1 Sakaecho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, 600-8194
Google Location

Walden Woods - best cafes in Kyoto
Photo – Walden Woods

Inspired by Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau, Walden Woods is a new-age, experimental cafe in Kyoto’s quiet neighborhood of Shimogyo Ward. 

The facade of the building is a signless white cube with glass doors, which eventually serve as an identity factor for the cafe. At first glance, one might think of it as an abandoned lot, but the inside feels more like an artist’s studio. 

Walden Woods takes minimalism to a new level, with only whitewashed wood as its primary design element. The ground floor is for placing orders at the coffee bar. The first is like an amphitheater where guests can sit on stairs. In the middle is a tree with a spotlight, casting a patterned shadow on the floor. Along the side, multiple vintage lanterns give the space a warm glow. 

The menu includes single-origin coffee blends, with options like caramel latte, espresso tonic, ginger latte, and oat milk latte. 

Catering to a broader audience, the cafe also serves Royal Milk Tea, Matcha Tea Latte, and 12 Seasons Flavored Tea. Walden Woods’ Matcha French Canelés and Custard Pudding are a must for gourmands with a sweet tooth.

Cafe Bibliotic Hello!

Address: 650 Seimeicho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-0951
Google Location

Photo – Cafe Bibliotic Hello!

Located near the Kyoto Imperial Palace, Cafe Bibliotic Hello! is one of the best cafes in Kyoto for book lovers. The cafe-library hybrid establishment is inside a 130-year-old renovated machiya (authentic wooden townhouse). To spot this literary escape easily, look for tall banana trees and tinted windows, which help maintain privacy for patrons inside. 

Cafe Bibliotic has a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf extending to the second floor. Here, one can find rare design and architecture books from the owner’s collection. 

The spacious hall, right next to the entrance, has various seating options, from communal tables to sofas. I found the cozy biblio atmosphere to resemble a giant bookshelf box. Most of the wood is old teak sourced from Bali. By the side, a vintage staircase leads to the Hello Bakery on the first floor and terrace area, where you can sit by the windows for a street view. 

Cafe Bibliotic’s menu takes on a slightly trendier route. Half hand-written and half printed, a few cute illustrations make it appealing. 

The offerings, too, are a far cry from the classics, leaning towards a fusion of Western dishes (Yoshuku). Popular choices include fried fish sandwiches (with egg salad, white onions, and lettuce), fish tacos, and pasta bolognese.

Akatsuki Coffee

Address: 15-1 Ichijoji Akanomiyacho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8182
Google Location

Coffee and cake

Tourists don’t often end up in northeastern Kyoto unless they’re heading toward the hills for a hiking expedition. Akatsuki Coffee is another reason to detour towards the Sakyo Ward near Ichijoji Station. Located in a quiet neighborhood, the cafe exudes a calm vibe, where people talk in whispers, and there is no background music. 

A couple runs the place, where the wife specializes in preparing bakery items while the husband deals with the coffee orders. Watching them both operate without saying much explains the subtle and hushed semblance in the room. A strict no-laptop policy further separates Akatsuki from other cafes in Kyoto. 

Aktasuki’s inside isn’t large, with only three wooden tables and four counter stools near the coffee bar. Gray and sky-blue walls with cream aesthetics give the place a home-like vibe. 

Beans at Akatsuki come from Kyoto’s local roasting company, Weekender’s Coffee. The menu includes several pour-over options from countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, and Rwanda and classic drinks like cappuccino and iced latte. 

Try a slice of Carrot Cake, Cheese Terrine, or the day’s dessert special. Furthermore, you can order a combo of toast and coffee, an egg sandwich, or a special lunch plate with bread, salad, and soup.

Kaikado Cafe

Address: 352 Sumiyoshicho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, 600-8143
Google Location

Kaikado Cafe Kyoto
Photo – Kaikado Cafe

After gaining widespread recognition for handcrafting metal tea caddies since 1875, Kaikado is now a coveted cafe in the Kawaramachi district. 

The main aim behind the renowned family-run organization entering the hospitality sector is to promote the talent of Japanese artisans. Here, you will spot traditional Asahiyaki dishware prepared by local potters and wooden boards from original wood bucket makers. 

Kaikado’s building dates back nearly a hundred years and was once an administration office for the railroad department. Later, Thomas Lykke, a designer from Copenhagen, renovated the place, instilling a sense of Japanese heritage and Nordic essence. 

The cafe’s frontage remains mostly unmodified, exuding timeless charm. A glass panel stretch instead of a wall ensures an unobstructed street view and plenty of natural light. Beige oak furnishings and copper lamps give the center hall a distinct modernistic vibe. 

Kaikado Cafe serves freshly brewed tea, the leaves of which come straight from London’s Postcard Teas. Similarly, coffee is a product of Tokyo’s roasting brand, Nakagawa Wani Coffee. 

The menu has Anko sandwich cookies, butter toast, red wine bread, and cheesecake. If you’re still not over the Kaikado magic, shop for their ceramics and tea caddies, or look for books signed by food writer Nigel Slater.

Vermillion Cafe

Address: 5-31 Fukakusa Kaidoguchicho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, 612-0805
Google Location

Photo – Vermillion

There’s much to eat and drink around the iconic Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine, from some of the best street food in Japan to a leisurely cuppa at the Vermillion Cafe next door. 

Named after the color of the Torii gates on Mount Inari, the establishment showcases a cosmopolitan atmosphere. Vermillion’s owner spent 18 years in Australia and attempted successfully to create a Melbourne-style cafe. All staff members speak English and are pretty helpful with any city-related queries. 

The cafe’s exterior reflects its contemporary aura, with black tinted glasses and an awning to provide shade. Decked in dark hues, the seating has a brick-exposed wall and a large mirror on the other side. French doors lead towards the wooden back patio overlooking a row of trees and waterbody, thus creating a mini oasis-like ambiance. 

Coffee at Vermillion is either a single origin blend or house blend, with options like double espresso, iced americano, and flat white. In the category of non-coffee beverages, you will find single-origin Ceylon tea, matcha latte, hot chocolate, and Japanese beer. 

Visitors feeling peckish should try the Vermillion Plate (sausage, bacon, beans, eggs on toast, and salad), Falafel Vegetarian Plate, or Vegan Plate (hummus and avocado on toast). Desserts include matcha ganache, handmade cookies & muffins, and banoffee cream cheese.

Kissa Soiree

Address: 95, Shincho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, 600-8001
Google Location

Kissa Soiree
Photo – Soiree

Kissa in Japanese refers to a teahouse or a coffee lounge, while Soiree in French translates to an evening party. Based in Shimogyo Ward, this is one of the top vintage cafes in Kyoto, established in 1948. 

Needless to say, from the building structure to the furniture, everything reflects the aura of the bygone Showa era. The nostalgic eatery has a machiya-like outer appearance, with a thatched wood door. 

However, the lounge has an entirely different aesthetic, almost like a Western club. Highrise ceilings make the space seem spacious, and the dim, velvety blue lights lead you into a tranquil environment. 

Given the proprietor’s fascination with art, one can spot multiple paintings on the walls, mainly from the Japanese modern painter Seiji Togo.  

Seating in Kissa Soiree consists of dark green leather sofas. They might seem small or low-rise compared to regular chairs, but remember that’s because the original installation was nearly 75 years ago. While taking a tour of the premises, check out the displays full of elegant tea sets. Picking a window-side table will offer views of the Takase River. 

Kissa’s menu favorite is a Jelly Punch. It includes bouncy jelly cubes of different colors and non-alcoholic cider. The result is an incredibly vibrant and Instagram-worthy drink. 

On top of that, seasonal ice creams, sherbets, jelly coffee floats, and yoghurt floats are available. For finger food, consider jam with marmalade or butter toast.

Inoda Coffee

Address: 140 Doyucho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8118
Google Location

Inoda Coffee Cup 1940
Photo – Inoda Coffee

Inoda Coffee is where the magic happens, especially for people wanting an early morning caffeine fix. After being in business for over 80 years, Inoda now has 13 branches spread across Kyoto and other cities. 

Their main store is in downtown Honten. The place came into existence when a soldier returning home after WWII found a few leftover coffee bags in his house. Soon, news about available authentic coffee spread, and the elite class flocked here to enjoy an occasional cup of joe. 

Inoda Coffee isn’t without eccentricities, offering a Western salon atmosphere with luxury hotel-like service. Yes, they have waiters dressed in bow ties and suits at 7 a.m.! 

From the outside, the storefront appears divided into two parts: white and brown. On entering, one can spot classic upscale eatery-like decor with armless chairs around small round tables.

The menu showstopper is Arabian Pearl Coffee, a mocha-based dark roast that has been on the menu since the beginning. 

Other must-try items include fluffy meringue lemon pie, spaghetti Italian, breakfast set (creamy mushroom soup, salad, scrambled eggs), and fondant au chocolat.


Address: 106-6 Koyamashimouchikawaracho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, 603-8132
Google Location

Wife&Husband - must visit cafes in Kyoto
Photo – Wife&Husband

When the owner couple first met, they spent quality time roasting beans together. The experience was so surreal that they decided to relive it daily by opening Wife&Husband. 

Combining three passions, the project emerged as a unique concept combining the love for coffee with antiques and picnics. When it comes to eclectic cafes in Kyoto, Wife&Husband is truly something delightfully different. 

Set up in an old house of Kito Ward, the place is easily recognizable by old cycles, wooden chairs, and baskets hanging out front. The interior is entirely rustic-chic and Instagrammable, with vintage remnants and artifacts on the walls. 

The menu isn’t very far stretched but includes essentials like hot coffee, iced coffee, tea, toast with butter or honey cheese, orange juice, and cake. 

The convenient location near Kamogawa River helps the Wife & Husband facilitate picnics, where you can rent portable chairs, folding tables, and mats before heading to the riverside. The food camper has a coffee or tea thermos, biscuits, rusks, and sweets. 

What’s more interesting is the cafe’s extension to Roastery Daughter and Gallery Son. The former is where the coffee-roasting wonders happen. The latter is a bigger space dedicated only to selling antique objects.

In the latest news, the cafe now has a reservation system and will give preference to guests with a booking. You need to go to their website to make the reservation.

Sarasa Nishijin

Address: 11-1 Murasakino Higashifujinomoricho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, 603-8223
Google Location

What once was a beautiful sento (public bathhouse) is now among the hippest cafes in Kyoto with an eye-catching demeanor. Located in Kita Ward near Kuramaguchi Station, the establishment reminisces the olden times when such communal spaces were abundant. 

On initial observation, the cafe gives an impression of a Studio Ghibli movie frame. The paneled external facade with an arched entry overhead has definite retro vibes.

Sento’s character comes alive in the majolica tiles placed along the dining area and a coffered ceiling, with remains of a wall that once separated male and female bathing areas. 

One can spot comfortable couches and several bookshelves placed around. The second floor is an art gallery space available for rent. 

Sarasa’s menu is famous for its extensive drink selection, ranging from a cup of dark roast to fancy cocktails and exotic creations like the Indian yogurt drink lassi. 

Those wanting a bite can enjoy dishes from different cuisines, like focaccia pizza, shrimp pilaf, teriyaki chicken sandwich, Napolitan spaghetti, and omurice.

Nobara Coffee

Address: 655 Ebisucho, Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto, 602-8484
Google Location

must visit cafes Kyoto

In the mood for introspection? Need a spot where you can get away from it all, savor a tasty donut, and enjoy a warm cup of coffee? Nobara Coffee in Kamigyo Ward is the place for you. 

A genuinely hidden cafe in Kyoto, the only directional promotion you’ll see for this quaint little place is on a piece of paper in Japanese stuck to an old chair. Walk through a tiny alley between two houses and reach Nobara, a beautifully little space submerged in antiquity, promising utter quietude (no loud talking here, please).

Run by the owner, the cafe’s menu is in Japanese, so keep your Google translator handy. There’s very little to eat, but you do get all the basics when it comes to tea and coffee. 

The setting, though, is downright homely, with antiques scattered all around, some of which you can buy. Old-style irons, books, a gramophone, and table clocks add to the character of the cafe, as do the worn-out tables and chairs that give the impression of having lived in. The film lover in me could not get over the François Truffaut poster on the wall. 

Time spent at Nobara, as authentic as it may be, is also an opportunity to enjoy the experiential cafe culture of Kyoto at a pocket-friendly price.

Leave a Comment

Subscribe to Ticker Eats the World

Keep up-to-date with the latest in travel, hotel recommendations, food, and restaurant reviews, by subscribing to Ticker Eats the World.