10 best eclectic nightlife spots in Kyoto
Kyoto is not the first city that comes to mind when one talks about the best nightlifedestinations in the world. However, Japan's former imperial capital comes alive after dark in surprising ways. There are high-end discotheques hosting DJs currently dominating the musicscene. A number of lounges are loved and frequented by the who's who of Japan. There is no dearth of classy bars whipping up the most creative cocktails you will ever lay your hands on. Then there are clubs that are friendly on the pocket and attract the younger faces of the city. Keeping in mind Kyoto's cultural leanings, there are theatre performances by geishas who are embodiments of mystique. All in all, there's everything a party animal could ever ask for.
If you are someone who does not like the idea of dancing with hundreds of people inside a cramped room or sipping on a glass of wine in a tiny bar and calling it a (night), Kyoto has an entire street called Ponto Cho dedicated to the Japanese style of nightlife. If, by contrast, you are a conventional traveller looking for a good time, here is a list of the top 10 nightspots in the city.
The largest club in Kyoto and supposedly the best, World almost looks like a dungeon that has been converted into a thriving nightlife address. With two dedicated levels, a massive dance floor and lockers to stow away your belongings, it is a perfect place to party in the former capital of Japan. International DJs play on a regular basis and there are several special events like Korean and Reggae nights. You can dance to the tunes of K-Pop, Rock and Electronic Dance Music like nobody is watching.
The drinks served at World are excellent and you would have to pay anything around 700 Yen for a glass. The staff is attentive and friendly despite the crowds. Try going as early as possible so as to secure a nice spot for yourself. The club is the busiest on Friday and Saturday nights and morphs into a relatively quiet bar during the weekdays.There is an entry fee of 1000 Yen.
ADDRESS:97 Shincho Nishikiyamachidori Shijo-agaru, Shimogyo-ku, 2F, Kyoto 600-8001
CONTACT:WEBSITE | +81-75-213-4119
TIMINGS:8 PM to 3 AM
2. ACE CAFE
Nestled in the arms of a modern skyscraper that offers sweeping views of Kyoto’s cityscape, Ace Cafe is a marvellous place to grab a drink or two. With glass walls on all sides, the establishment has a stylish and airy vibe to it. The drinks range from signature cocktails to the usual bottles of wine and beer and you can spot trendy, well-heeled locals while sipping on your pint. There is also a fantastic selection of desserts for those with an incurable sweet tooth.
Ace is easily one of the classiest nightlife spots in Kyoto and is relatively calm when compared to its counterparts. The decor is all grey with lounge chairs and tea lights. If you aren’t a big fan of dancing till the early hours of morning, this address is your best bet. The staff is excellent and the prices, albeit high, are worth paying considering the atmosphere and the variety of drinks. Go straight to the 10th floor of the Empire Building to have the time of your life.
ADDRESS:521 Kamiosaka-cho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, 601-8001, Kyoto Prefecture
CONTACT:WEBSITE | +81-75-241-0009
TIMINGS:6 PM to 2 AM
Yet another gem of the Empire Building, Fishbowl is a western bar that has some excellent Japanese whiskeys and craft beers. In fact, there are over 50 variants of whiskey, a selection you wouldn’t really find in other bars in the country. The cocktails served here are very creative with fun names like ‘Salty Bad Dog’ , ‘Time Extension’ and ‘Laser Beam’. Nibbles include everything from popcorn and french fries to sausages and fish and chips. The decor of Fishbowl is very trendy and modern considering the crowd it attracts and the atmosphere is charged with energy. Since it is located in a small room on the 7th floor of the tower, the number of seats are quite limited and coming in early is therefore advisable.
The bartender Jesse is a welcoming man and is always up for a nice chat. The staff, unlike most other nightspots in Japan, can speak good English. A great meeting point for locals and travellers, Fishbowl is one of the moderately priced lounges in the heart of Kyoto. There is free WiFi for guests.
ADDRESS:Kiyamachi Sanjo agaru Osaka-cho Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-8001, Kyoto Prefecture.
CONTACT:WEBSITE | +81 75-211-6387
TIMINGS:7 PM to 3 AM
4. CLUB METRO
Metro is the oldest nightclub in Japan as it has been around since 1990. Global artists like Daft Punk and James Blake have been regular performers at this establishment and local Japanese DJs have risen to the top by starting their careers at this club. Every party at Metro has a different theme and they range from popular movies and TV shows to the visual arts. Metro is not just a nightclub in Kyoto as it has served as a platform for the city to showcase its cultural richness. The nightspot has, in fact, been a partner for events like the ‘International Art Festival’ and is quite popular among university students for the same reason.
The club is actually hidden inside an underground metro station and consistently makes it to the list of the weirdest places in the world. The drinks served here are of superior quality and the service is excellent. The crowds are full of energy and you can expect to have a memorable night.
ADDRESS:82 Shimotsutsumicho, Sakyo-ku, Ebisu Bldg. BF, Kyoto 606-8396, Kyoto Prefecture
CONTACT:WEBSITE | +81-75-752-4765
5. LAB TRIBE
Lab Tribe is a fantastic underground nightclub in Kyoto and mostly attracts students because of its modern vibe. It markets itself as an entertainment lab because the best international DJs call it home and popular celebrities and models are regular guests. There is a different theme for every night and the music ranges from Hip-Hop, Reggae and R&B tunes to popular Pop and Rock beats. The sound system is top-notch and the nightclub can hold upto 250 people at a time given how spacious it is. Considering the energetic crowds and spellbinding atmosphere, the parties held at Lab Tribe are honestly unparalleled. The drinks are great, the staff is friendly and might just join you on the dance floor.
All visitors need to have a photo ID on them and those under 20 years of age will be denied entry. Like most other nightclubs in Japan, people with tattoos and those in sportswear are usually turned away. The cover charge for Lab Tribe can be anything between 2000 to 4000 Yen, depending on the event.
ADDRESS: Kawaramachi-dori Nijo Shimouru Ichinosekicho 366 Southwest corner
6. GION ODORI
From the 1st to 10th of November, the Gion Kaikan Theatre of Kyoto plays host to a captivating dance performance by the geishas of the Gion Higashi district. These performers are called Maiko and Gekoi and their dance is known for its perfect composition and originality. In fact, this dance was first performed as early as 1953 and continues to retain its aura. The kimonos, hairstyles, footwear and make-up of these entertainers are all sights in their own right.
In order to witness this long tradition of dancing and singing, you must reserve a seat at the theatre. Pre-bookings start in September and you can head over to the Gion Higashi office, the Gion Kaikan, the Ochaya Union (teahouse), major travel agencies or the Kyoto City Tourist Association for the same. The admission fee ranges from 4000 to 5000 Yen and is inclusive of tea. The Gion stop is a 15 min walk from Kyoto’s Shijo Station. This experience has a bucket-list quality to it and you must absolutely grab the chance to watch these hostesses display their artistic skills. Who knows, you might just have your own memoirs of a Geisha.
ADDRESS:323 Giommachikitagawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0073, Kyoto Prefecture
7. NIGHTCLUB BUTTERFLY
Butterfly is an exceptionally classy dancing space in Kyoto which regularly invites the best DJs in Japan to woo the audience with their talent. These artists play everything from catchy EDM to Reggae and Hip-Hop. With LED lighting that has seven ever-changing colours and walls that are a striking shade of white, the interiors of this lively nightclub are intoxicating and so are the drinks served at its Island Bar. The sound systems are equally superlative and these elements collectively account for an experience you wouldn’t want to miss out on for the world.
The club has two floors and there is a VIP seating area for guests with one dedicated to ladies. Popular among foreigners because of its central location and English-speaking staff, Butterfly attracts maximum crowds during the weekends. The cover charge is anything between 1000 to 2000 Yen and females have to pay half the price. You have to produce a valid photo ID in order to be granted entrance.
ADDRESS:67-3 Daikokucho, Nakagyo-ku, Forum Nishikiyamachi B1F, Kyoto 604-8031, Kyoto Prefecture
CONTACT:WEBSITE | +81-75-211-5025
TIMINGS:10 PM to 3 AM
8. KITSUNE KYOTO
Located in Ponto Cho, the nightlife hub of Kyoto, Kitsune is one of the newer nightclubs in town and is perfect for those looking for a good time without having to spend too much. Some of the best DJs in town are regulars at this club and the music, as expected, is catchy. Located on two levels, the club has two huge dance floors so that more guests can party the night away. Foot-tapping open format tunes are belted out all seven days of the week and state-of-the-art lighting and sound equipments help in ameliorating your experience. There is a VIP seating area which has demarcated smoking and non-smoking sections.
All visitors must be 20 years of age and those sporting sportswear and beachwear will be denied entry. Those with visible tattoos will also be refused. The cover charge is usually 1000 Yen for ladies and 2000 for men and is a bit more on weekends and during special events.
ADDRESS:179 Zaimokucho Kiyamachidori Sanjosagaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-8017
CONTACT:WEBSITE | +81-75-255-0421
TIMINGS:10 PM to 4 AM
9. SAKE BAR YORAMU
No trip to Japan is complete without sampling its local alcoholic beverage—the glorious Sake—and Sake Bar Yoramu in Kyoto is like a heaven for all the lovers of this rice wine. This address has everything from vintage bottles to the freshest of varieties along with a food menu that has local delicacies and international staples. Every single dish is chosen in such a way that it complements the Sake beautifully and not the other way round. The drink is offered by the glass, and for first-timers, there are three tasting sets that cost 1200 Yen.
The owner of this no-fuss establishment is a knowledgeable man who is passionate about Sake and spending an evening at Yoramu is therefore more of a learning experience. The bar is open only at night and morphs into a magnificent Soba place in the afternoons. Do keep in mind that this is a small bar and can seat up to a maximum of 12 people. Try and get there as early as possible in order to score a seat at the counter.
ADDRESS:35-1 Matsuyacho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-0831, Kyoto Prefecture
TIMINGS:6 PM to 12 AM
10. L’ESCAMOTEUR BAR
L’Escamoteur is a bar that serves the best cocktails in all of Kyoto and keeps all of its guests coming back for more. The bartenders are seasoned in the art of mixology and create sheer magic with intoxicating liquids. These concoctions are then presented in the most creative ways possible. Popular names on the menu include ‘Smoky Old Fashioned’, ‘Vaportini’, ‘Yuzu Gimlet’ and ‘Poison’. The barmen are also always up for a chat and have the best recommendations to offer.
With a cosy ambience, one that will remind you of the days of yore, L’Escamoteur has a very Harry Potter like vibe to it with a narrow, inconspicuous entrance and cramped, dimly lit interiors. In fact, a lot of its drinks are vintage and are centred around the themes of mystery and magic. The prices are slightly on the higher side but considering the quality of pints, you are in for a wonderful night. Try and make it early as this place has limited seats and they tend to get filled very quickly.
ADDRESS:138-9 Saisekidori, Shijosagaru, Saitocho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto 600-8012, Kyoto Prefecture
TIMINGS:8 PM to 2 AM