Kyoto Nightlife – Nightclub, Live Music and Bar Guide
When most people think of Kyoto they conjure images of picturesque temples, historic festivalsand traditional food—for good reason, given the city’s preeminence in all of these areas. Kyoto isn’t completely backwards looking, however. It’s also a modern, bustling city, with much to see and do of a far more contemporary nature. Nightlife in Kyoto is a fine example of this. Though concentrated, there’s a lot going on in the city’s bars, live houses and clubs once the sun goes down. Discover it all, with our guide.
Kyoto Nightlife District – Kiyamachi Dori, Gion
Much of Kyoto’s nightlife is clustered into a few streets running parallel to the Kamo River, between Sanjo and Gion-Shijo Station.
One of the most popular streets is Kiyamachi Dori, where one bar follows another, each more inviting than the last. If you don’t find somewhere that suits, head to Pontocho Alley, a slightly narrower and quieter street, lined with dimly lit wooden buildings that lend it an intimate, almost magical atmosphere. There are plenty of bars and restaurants along Pontocho, though they have a tendency to be fairly pricey.
If you’re still searching, cross the river into Gion. Although during the day Gion is tourist ground-zero, at night there is an assortment of bars and live houses to check out.
Club World is one of Kyoto’s largest nightclubs with multiple floors and an international clientele. Despite its size, Club World’s vaulted ceiling makes it feel intimate and not overbearing. With each day comes a different club night, each offering a different style of music, from chart hits and reggae to k-pop and electronica. The club regularly hosts big-name local and international DJs, as well as lesser-known acts from all over. Admission is usually 1,000 yen for all.
Address: Kyōto-shi, Shimogyō-ku, Shinchō Station: Kawaramachi Phone: +81 75-213-4119 Website: Club World Hours: 20:00 - 03:00 (Sun - Thu) 20:00 - 05:00 (Fri - Sat)
Club Metro is another great club, where you’ll get the chance to dance to house, techno and R&B. You can also catch bands here, with past performers including The Libertines, Animal Collective and Matthew Herbert. Kyoto’s oldest club is a bit of an institution these days, even hosting the off charity event.
If you’re around on the last Friday of the month, the club’s drag queen night is the most fun in town.
Address: Kyōto-shi, Sakyō-ku, Shimotsutsumicho Station: Sanjo Phone: +81 75-752-4765 Website: Club Metro
Butterfly positions itself as Kyoto’s most foreigner-friendly nightclub, even providing discounts on the door if you’ve got ID. Arrive before 23:00 though and entry is usually free anyway. The sound system is booming and the interior shadowy but modern. The music is predominantly hip-hop and dance, though they’re not too selective.
Address: 〒604-8031 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto Station: Sanjo Phone: +81 75-211-5025 Website: Butterfly Hours: 22:00 - 03:00 (Mon - Sun)
Kitsune is a relatively large club which specialises in electronic dance music. It’s spread over two floors, one for smokers and one smoke-free, which usually play different music. Switch between the two for a bit of variety.
Address: Kyōto-shi, Nakagyō-ku, Kiyacho Station: Sanjo Phone: +81 75-255-0421 Website: Kitsune Kyoto Hours: 22:00 - 04:00 (Sun - Thu) 21:00 - 05:00 (Fri - Sat)
“Do you like surfing? Do you love disco?”—so goes Surfdisco’s endearingly bizarre slogan. Answer in the affirmative to each question and you’ll certainly like this little place. Perhaps more a bar that plays music than a full blown nightclub, it nevertheless provides a decent venue to dance until the sun comes up.
Address: 〒600-8001 京都府Kyoto-shiShimogyō-ku, Shinchō, Shimogyo-ku,Shincho97,ima-ziamu Bld.8F Station: Kawaramachi Phone: +81 75-212-1173 Website: Surfdisco Hours: 23:00 - 05:00 (Fri - Sun)
Lab.Tribe, located on the northern edge of Kawaramachi Dori, is a basement-level nightclub and concert venue. The program varied, with something to suit almost every taste.
Address: 366 Ichinofunairichō, Nakagyō-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 604-0924 Station: Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae Phone: +81 75-254-1228 Website: Lab.Tribe
Rub a Dub
A great spot for reggae fans. Almost every night Rub a Dub attracts an eager crowd, all out to dance the night away fuelled by some fantastic Caribbean food and drink.
Address: 〒604-8002 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Nakagyō-ku, Ishiyachō (Kiyamachidori), 京都府京都市中京区石屋町115 辻田ビル B1F Station: Sanjo Phone: +81 75-256-3122 Website: Rub a Dub Hours: 19:00 - 02:00 (Sun - Thu) 19:00 - 04:00 (Fri) 19:00 - 05:00 (Sat)
The Weller’s Club
Just off Kawaramachi Dori, The Weller’s Club is a little slice of Britain in Kyoto. With British beer on the tap and Britpop blaring through the speakers, you’d swear you were in Manchester or London.
Address: Kyoto Prefecture, 京都市中京区 油屋町（蛸薬師通）−１４６ ラポルトビル 5f Station: Kawaramachi Phone: +81 75-253-0753 Website: The Weller's Club Hours: 20:00 - irregular
Find reasonably priced drinks and a local crowd at Club Ibiza, which can also boast an extravagant interior and late opening times.
Address: 〒604-8031 Kyōto-fu, 京都市中京区Nakagyō-ku, Daikokuchō (Kawaramachidōri), 京都府京都市中京区河原町通三条下ル大黒町70 ロイヤルパークビルB1 Station: Sanjo Phone: +81 75-229-6757 Website: Club Ibiza Hours: 22:00 - 05:00 (Mon - Sun)
Although located in Gion, not far from Yasaka Shrine, Club Flamingo is a pretty local spot, where you’ll have the chance to meet Kyoto’s party people and dance until the sun comes up.
Address: 〒605-0073 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Higashiyama-ku, 祇園町北側323 祇園会館 Station: Gion-Shijo Phone: +81 75-541-6662 Website: Club Flamingo Hours: 21:00 - 01:00 (Sun - Thu) 21:00 - 05:00 (Fri - Sat)
Kyoto Live Music
Live House Taku Taku
Often hailed as the best live music venue in Kyoto, Taku Taku is a great spot to check out. It specialises in the blues, with luminaries like John Lee Hooker and Los Lobos having played here in the past. For the gig schedule, check out their website, which is in Japanese but easily decipherable.
Address: 〒600-8061 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, 下京区筋屋町１３９−４ Station: Kawaramachi Phone: +81 75-351-1321 Website: Live House Taku Taku
Live House Jittoku
Housed in a former sake brewery, Live House Jittoku regularly plays host to a great lineup of local acts. Folk, rock and the blues are most typical, but there’s always something new and interesting to check out. They also serve some excellent food.
Address: 〒602-8125 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Kamigyō-ku, Hishiyachō (Ōmiyadōri), 上京区大宮通下立売下る菱屋町815 Station: Nijojo-mae Phone: +81 75-841-1691 Website: Live House Jittoku Hours: 17:30 - 00:00 (Mon - Sun)
A gem for art fans, UrBNAGUILD acts as a meeting place for Kyoto’s artistic community as well as a live house with an always intriguing lineup of performers. Check out the website to see what they have in the pipeline.
Address: 〒604-8002 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Nakagyō-ku, 木屋町三条下ル ニュー京都ビル３F Station: Sanjo Phone: +81 75-212-1125 Website: UrBANGUILD Hours: 18:30 - 00:00 (Mon - Sun)
Socrates is host to a mixed bag of international and local musicians, mostly of a rock bent. It’s a relaxed basement venue with psychedelic decorations adorning the walls.
Address: 〒602-0841 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Kamigyō-ku, Kajiichō, 京都府京都市上京区河原町通今出川下る梶井町447−14 Station: Demachiyanagi Phone: +81 75-254-6208 Website: Socrates
Zac Baran (Jazz Club)
Low lights, dark wood and air thick with smoke define Zac Baran, an old-school jazz club at the centre of the city’s jazz scene. Gigs from all types of jazz artists are frequent and the spaghetti menu is divine.
Address: 〒606-8392 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Sakyō-ku, Shōgoin Sannōchō, 18, メタボ岡崎B1F Station: Jingu-Marutamachi Phone: +81 75-751-9748 Website: Zac Baran Hours: 18:00 - 04:00
Johnny Angel Live House
Another fun live house in Gion, specialising in classic American Rock’n’Roll acts. You’ll feel like you’ve entered a time warp in this place.
Address: 281-1-1 Gionmachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 605-0073 Station: Gion-Shijo Phone: +81 75-551-2234 Website: Johnny Angel Live House Hours: 19:00 - 00:00 (Mon - Sun)
Although a little off the beaten track, Growly is worth seeking out. It’s one of Kyoto’s best venues for rock and indie acts and a great place to sample Kyoto’s exciting underground music scene.
Address: 〒604-8416 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, 西ノ京星池町214 Station: Nijo Phone: +81 75-366-6369 Website: Growly Hours: 14:00 - 00:00 (Mon - Sun)
Bar Cordon Noir
Any whiskey enthusiast will feel very much at home at Bar Cordon Noir. The selection is staggering, with as many as 800 bottles lined up behind the bar, many of them very rare (and very expensive). Naturally, cigars are also available.
Address: 〒604-8002 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Nakagyō-ku, Ishiyachō (Kiyamachidori) Station: Sanjo Phone: +81 75-212-3288 Website: Bar Cordon Noir Hours: 19:00 - 03:00 (Mon - Sun)
Cafe La Siesta – 8Bit Edition
Get drunk in the company of Mario and Luigi at this novel little video game bar. There’s a variety of consoles and games set up and ready to play and the bar is well-stocked. What could be better?
Address: 〒604-8024 Kyōto-fu, Nakagyō-ku, Kamiyachō, 366, 1F Station: Kawaramachi Phone: +81 75-634-5570 Website: Cafe La Siesta - 8Bit Edition Hours: 18:00 - 01:00 (closed Tue)
Den-en is a pub-style bar with great deals on food and drink. If you’re really thirsty, order a beer-barrel and pour your own drinks all night long. A popular spot, particularly on the weekend.
Address: 〒604-8031 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Nakagyō-ku, Daikokuchō (Kawaramachidōri), 京都府京都市中京区河原町三条下ル一筋目東入ル大黒町44 河原町VOXビルB1 Station: Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae Phone: +81 75-221-0716 Website: Den-en Hours: 17:30 - 00:00 (Sun - Thu) 17:30 - 02:00 (Fri - Sat)
Switch Forum is located right on the Kamo River, allowing visitors to sip their trendy cocktails and gaze out over the water. The retro-chic interior is a nice touch, too.
Address: 〒604-8046 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Nakagyō-ku, Matsumotochō (Pontochōdōri), 京都府京都市中京区四条先斗町上ル東側松本町160 栞ビル 3F Station: Gion-Shijo Phone: +81 75-212-4555
Last but not least, a place for the post-club afterparty. Open until 05:00, Backgammon Bar is a pretty local spot, though you’re sure to be made to feel very welcome. Its cosy interior means that it gets pretty crowded, but that’s all part of the charm.
Address: 〒604-8005 京都府京都市中京区河原町通三条上る一筋目東入恵比須町446 Station: Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae Phone: +81 75-223-0416 Website: Backgammon Bar Hours: 21:00 - 05:00
Kyoto Nightlife Tips
While Kyoto is generally an easy-going city, there are still a few things to keep in mind before heading out at night.
The first and most obvious: Stay polite—no one likes a rude tourist.
Some clubs can be quite expensive, so it is always a good idea to have a few drinks at an izakaya (Japanese pub) or head to a convenience store beforehand. Drinking is allowed on the streets in Japan.
Most of the action takes place at the weekend. Though Kyoto has a population of over 1.5 million people, the vast majority of partying is still limited to Fridays and Saturdays. A fun night can be had during the week, but it’d be wise to lower your expectations a little.
Lastly, for event listings, check out Kansai Scene, a handy magazine for clubs and live music in the Kansai area.