What are the best things to eat in Kyoto, and where can you find them? This ancient city has centuries of culinary traditions, and we’re here to help you discover some of the best places for authentic local Japanese food. Don’t settle for another konbini sandwich.
Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari shrine is famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates. This shrine is devoted to Inari Okami, a god often represented by foxes, said to have a taste for aburaage – sweet, deep-fried tofu. Hence, kitsune udon, or ‘fox udon’, is a favourite treat around this area.
Ramen might be more famous around the world, but udon is not to be underestimated. Udon noodles are thicker, and can be enjoyed either hot or cold, depending on your preference. Perfect comfort food on a cold and rainy day, or cool and refreshing in summer. Combined with some delicious fried tofu, it’s unmissable.
Our recommendation: Teuchi-udon Kendonya
You don’t need to add noodles to enjoy eating aburaage – it can also be the star of the show itself. Named inarizushi when wrapped around rice, it’s perfect in combination with other traditional types of sushi.
Best enjoyed with a little bit of soy sauce, an order of this delicious dish will make you realize why Inari Okami and his foxes are said to love it so much. Despite technically being sushi, good inari feels like a heavenly dessert due to its sweet outer casing.
Our recommendation: Kappa Sushi
For approximately 1,200 years, eating meat was considered taboo in Japan. This gave the nation quite a bit of time to develop delicious vegetarian food, which is reflected in Buddhist cuisine, also called shojin ryori.
The Arashiyama area has some amazing places to eat. Check out any of the local restaurants with tatami floors, where you’ll find some of the best vegetarian (and vegan-friendly) food available. Even people who are a bit sceptical about tofu have to admit that this is good.
Our recommendation: Shigetsu
Kyoto is famous for its tea ceremonies, and fans of Japanese cuisine can’t miss the delicious handmade sweets that often accompany the strong taste of freshly brewed matcha.
Wagashi (called chagashi when consumed with tea) are often as delicate and beautiful as they are delicious, and act as a perfect counterbalance to matcha’s earthy, herbal taste.
It doesn’t matter where you are, tempura is always delicious. But we have to admit, Kyoto’s tempura is especially good. Originally influenced by Portuguese missionaries, Japan has specialized for centuries in frying delicious fresh vegetables, seafood, and more.
Good tempura shouldn’t be too greasy or heavy – but light, crunchy, and delicious. Luckily, you’re in the right place. Kyoto has some of the best tempura places around, from small informal diners to luxurious restaurants. You really can’t go too far wrong here.
Our recommendation: Ten You
Train station food
Look for restaurants around the train stations you visit, especially big ones like Kyoto Station. Are they busy? Is there a line to get in? Is that line full of locals? This is usually a pretty good indication that there’s more than meets the eye to these humble-looking restaurants.
Perhaps unexpectedly, restaurants around the city’s train stations can often serve some of the best food you’ll have in Kyoto. That’s especially true when you’re tired and hungry after a long train ride!
Our recommendation: Touyoutei
Figured out what to eat in Kyoto? Check out some of our other Japan-based articles for more tips!