Kyoto cafes in heritage buildings
The famous Kyoto Starbucks was the world’s first Japanese-style Starbucks with tatami flooring. It has since become a tourist attraction and pilgrimage spot for Starbucks fans. Besides this famous Starbucks, there are many other Kyoto cafes housed in heritage buildings that have been renovated into modern and stylish spaces.
If you like the famous Kyoto Starbucks, save this list of 9 cafes in Kyoto housed in heritage buildings for your next trip to Kyoto.
1. Cafe Organ
Image adapted from: @_imkmsn
Cafe Organ was opened in 2012 by a husband and wife duo. They also helm the kitchen and whip up homemade set lunches and desserts.
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In the beginning, the cafe didn’t do very well as it is located along a quiet street that doesn’t get much footfall. But things have improved thanks to word of mouth and it has become a popular quaint cafe, especially among locals living in the area.
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It’s easy to miss this cafe while walking along the street because its exterior blends in with neighbouring residential buildings. Look out for a wooden door with a glass panel when you reach the street corner.
The cafe takes up the 1st floor of a traditional townhouse that has been remodelled into a cosy space filled with wood furniture. The space accommodates approximately 12 patrons.
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In the cafe, there are shelves filled with the owner’s private collection of books and customers are free to browse them. The area is spacious and functional, making it a good place to chill with a book or get some work done.
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They have a simple menu comprising about 10 items, including their set lunch and homemade desserts. The dishes change from time to time. In particular, the set lunch changes weekly and they update this information on their Twitter account.
The set lunch costs around ¥1,000 (~USD9.50) and comes with miso soup and rice. Other popular items on the menu include their homemade cheesecake and drip coffee.
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Address: 7-12 Chudoji Kushigecho, Shimogyo Ward, 600-8802 Kyoto
Opening hours: Fri – Wed 11AM-7PM (Last order at 6.30PM) (Closed on Thursdays)
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Zenkashoin, a gallery-cum-cafe, serves Japanese-style Western pastries and desserts, as well as Japanese tea. It is housed in a 300-year-old machiya (町屋; traditional wooden townhouse) with a wide storefront. The entrance is marked by a white or navy blue noren (暖簾; curtain) – depending on which season it is – emblazoned with their logo.
Image credit: 然花抄院 zenkashoin
Image credit: @zenkashoin
There is a garden in the middle of the machiya, filled with trees that change according to the seasons. The garden is flanked by the cafe and gallery so you can enjoy the view while having a mid-day tea break.
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Zenkashoin is known for their Zen Castella cake, a paper-baked castella made with locally-sourced eggs. They offer a taster set menu, which includes 2-3 small portions of pastries and cakes paired with a drink. A set like this costs ¥1,485 (~USD14.11).
Brown sugar kinako shaved ice (left) and matcha shaved ice (right), served in the summer.
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They also have themed seasonal items on their menu that change according to the season.
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Image credit: 然花抄院 zenkashoin
The rest of the machiya is occupied by a store and a gallery called Gallery Sugata. The store sells a variety of crockery, wagashi (和菓子; traditional Japanese confectionery), and other packaged gifts. As for Gallery Sugata, temporary exhibitions of different styles are held periodically, featuring pieces such as portraits, photographs, ceramics, and tableware.
Address: 271-1 Takoyakushicho, Muromachi-dori, Nakagyo-ku, 604-0021 Kyoto
Opening hours: 11AM-6PM, Daily (Last order at 5.30PM)
3. Blue Bottle Kyoto
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Blue Bottle made a splash among coffee lovers in Kyoto when they opened an outlet in the historic city, back in 2018. It was the 8th store in Japan and the 1st outlet outside of Tokyo. Within the 450m2 compound stands 2 buildings – a cafe and a retail store selling merchandise and coffee beans.
This outlet occupies a remodelled 100-year-old building near the Nanzen-ji Temple, one of the most famous temples in Kyoto. The simple machiya-style architecture is traditional yet modern, blending into the surrounding landscape’s aesthetic.
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The cafe is designed by Schemata Architects, who also designed Blue Bottle’s other outlets in Japan. Thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows, the cafe is brightly lit and feels cosy and warm. The original roof structure is exposed, highlighting the beauty of the traditional building.
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In addition to the different types of coffee, their menu also includes pound cakes (from ¥280, ~USD2.71), cookies (¥300, ~USD2.90), waffles (¥500, ~USD4.84), and scones (¥400, ~USD3.87). These bites are served on minimalist ceramic ware.
Address: 64 Kusagawacho Nanzenji, Sakyo-ku, 606-8437 Kyoto
Opening hours: 9AM-6PM, Daily
4. Cafe Bibliotic Hello!
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It’s hard to miss Cafe Bibliotic Hello! as its exterior is shrouded by huge banana trees and other plants. Cafe Bibliotic Hello! is a cafe, bakery, and library, all in one. Housed in a remodelled 2-storey machiya, the cafe opened its doors in 2002 and has been a haven for book-lovers and coffee-lovers alike ever since.
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The spacious cafe interior shares a similar nature-filled aesthetic with its exterior. In the day, the light comes in from the large windows and makes the space warm and cosy. In the evening, the dim lighting makes the cafe an ideal spot for a quiet night out with your confidants.
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Once you enter the cafe, you notice the floor-to-ceiling bookshelf filled with the owner’s vast collection of books. Guests are free to browse through these books. A flight of stairs leads up to the loft where you can access books on the higher shelves.
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Next to the cafe area on the 1st floor is a bakery that sells pastries, bread, scones, and muffins. The bakery is popular, so head there early before the pastries sell out.
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Besides standard cafe snacks and drinks, Cafe Bibliotic Hello! also serves mains like sandwiches, salads, and pasta. At night, you can order a glass of alcohol and chill till they close at 12AM.
Address: 650 Seimeicho, Nijo Yanaginobamba Higashiiri, Nakagyo-ku, 604-0951 Kyoto
Opening hours: 11.30AM-12AM, Daily (Last order at 11PM)
5. Ichikawaya Cafe
Image credit: @yik_cafe12
Ichikawaya Cafe occupies a 200-year-old machiya that has been in the hands of the Ichikawa family for generations. The cafe, run by the family, opened in 2015 after a remodelling that made the building more stylish and modern.
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The coffee beans here are roasted in-house and they offer 3 house blends. There are plenty of wooden tables and chairs around, some overlooking the garden at the back of the store and others near the entrance looking out to the road.
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Solo diners will be offered the counter seats where they can watch the baristas carefully prepare cups of coffee.
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A must-order dish when visiting Ichikawaya Cafe is the furūtsusando (fruit sandwich) – a sandwich stuffed with whipped cream and fresh fruits. The fruits used differ based on the season, so you’ll get to taste different types of fruit sandwiches if you come back quarterly.
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The cafe also offers savoury sandwiches, which is a good choice for those who don’t have a sweet tooth.
Address: 396-2 Kaneicho, Higashiyama-ku, 605-0875 Kyoto
Opening hours: Wed – Mon 8AM-6PM (Closed on Tuesdays and every 2nd & 4th Wednesday)
6. Hard Rock Cafe Kyoto
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Don’t be shocked when you see this Hard Rock Cafe in Kyoto, Gion. It is the world’s only Hard Rock Cafe in a traditional townhouse. To match the appearance of the surrounding buildings, the cafe’s iconic guitar-shaped neon sign has been replaced by a blue noren.
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The interior is furnished with lightwood fittings and furniture, along with upholstery made from kimono fabric. Despite the obvious Japanese influence on the store design, you can still spy Hard Rock Cafe’s quintessential rock ‘n’ roll elements in the form of music memorabilia adorning the walls.
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In standard Hard Rock fashion, there are classic American fare, such as burgers, steaks, and ribs, on the menu. The special Kyoto-only menu also includes a Miso-Wasabi Burger (¥2,180, ~USD21.10), Miso-Cheesy Mushroom Burger (¥2,180, ~USD21.10), and a Molten Matcha Cake (¥1,000, ~USD9.68).
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On the 1st floor of the building, you’ll find the Rock Shop, where you can buy Kyoto-themed Hard Rock merchandise. Items include t-shirts, traditional folding fans, lacquer plates, and wrapping cloths.
Address: 67 Motoyoshicho Higashiyama-ku, 605-0087 Kyoto
Opening hours: 12PM-9PM, Daily
7. Cafe marble Bukkoji
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Cafe marble Bukkoji is housed in a 100-year-old traditional building and first opened their doors to customers in 2007. While designing the cafe interior, the owners kept most of the high ceiling and support beams of the old building intact.
A blue sign board outside the cafe adds a pop of colour among the dark wood exterior and makes the entrance stand out. Otherwise, potential patrons might miss it as the cafe looks just like a residential building from the outside.
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The interior has a retro and rugged vibe, with vintage-y furniture and old-school ornaments scattered throughout the space. You can choose to sit in front of the bookshelf counter if you’re alone, or find a quiet 2-seater in a cosy corner. The cafe is quite spacious and there are also sofa seats that will accommodate larger groups.
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When you’re at Cafe marble Bukkoji, you have to try their homemade quiches and tarts, which are the cafe’s specialities.
The quiches (from ¥600, ~USD5.81) are packed with eggs, vegetables, and cheese, while the fruit tarts (from ¥520, ~USD5.03) are made with the cafe’s homemade pastry tart topped with brandy-soaked fruits. They also serve a selection of coffee, tea, and homemade jam soda.
Address: 378 Takakura higashi-iru Nishimae-cho, Bukkoji-dori, Shimogyo-ku, 600-8083 Kyoto
Opening hours: Mon – Sat 11.30AM-10PM (Last order at 9.30PM) | Sun 11.30AM-8PM (Last order at 7.30PM) (Closed on the last Wednesday of every month)
8. Nakamura Tokichi Honten
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Nakamura Tokichi is a traditional teahouse founded in 1854. The main store, Nakamura Tokichi Honten, opened in 2001 after the building, which used to be a tea factory in the 1800s and 1900s, was renovated. The original columns and beams of the building were kept intact.
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This site was designated as an Important Cultural Landscape of Uji in 2009, along with the Nakamura Tokichi Byodo-in store. The large premises house a cafe, a garden, a store, and a tea room where you can experience brewing your own matcha.
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The cafe has both indoor and outdoor seating. Wood furniture and warm lights fill the interior, making it a cosy space. The outdoor seats face the garden so you can admire the 250-year-old pine trees and other greenery as you dine.
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Nakamura Tokichi Honten is famous for their matcha sweets and desserts. 2 of their most popular desserts – the Maruto Parfait and the Namacha Jelly – are served in bamboo bowls.
The Maruto Parfait (¥1,300, ~USD12.58) bamboo bowl is filled with matcha castella cake and parfait cream. As you eat, you’ll find jam, dango (団子; Japanese dumpling), azuki beans, matcha ice cream, and matcha jelly nestled in the bowl.
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Each Nakamura Tokichi store has their own version of Namacha Jelly (¥900, ~USD8.71). At Nakamura Tokichi Honten, the Namacha Jelly has matcha jelly, shiratama (白玉; rice flour) dumplings, azuki beans, and a scoop of matcha ice cream.
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They also serve mains such as soba and udon, and desserts including ice cream cones.
Image adapted from: @natsumi_2819
Avoid peak hours as you may have to queue to get into the cafe. But if you do end up having to queue, you can while away time by visiting their retail store, which stocks high-quality matcha products such as sweets and jelly that make good souvenirs.
Address: 10 Uji Ichiban, Uji City, 611-0021 Kyoto
Opening hours: Mon – Fri 10AM-5.30PM (Last order at 4.30PM) | Sat & Sun 10AM-6PM (Last order at 4.30PM)
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The storefront of Hygge looks fairly unassuming, and you wouldn’t guess that the machiya is home to a cafe. The cafe is run by a husband and wife team who stay on the 2nd floor with their daughter.
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“Hygge” is a Danish word used to describe a feeling of cosiness and being comfortable, content, and well. The cafe is aptly named hygge as the interior radiates warmth.
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The rustic interior boasts unfinished walls, antique wood furniture, and bare light bulbs hanging from the ceiling.
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The owners personally whip up food in the small yet functional kitchen. The menu isn’t extensive but includes homemade curry and a few types of sandwiches. From time to time, they also serve limited-edition desserts such as shaved ice and cakes.
Address: 74 Nishishinyashiki Chudojicho, Shimogyo Ward, 600-8816 Kyoto
Opening hours: Mon – Wed 10AM-5PM | Fri – Sun 6PM-10PM (Closed on Thursdays & every 3rd Wednesday of the month)
Cafes in Kyoto in renovated heritage buildings
The old and the new meld together in these Kyoto cafes housed in heritage buildings. Although the old buildings were renovated to give them a new life, care was taken to maintain much of the original structures.
Check out these articles for other cafes to visit:
- Cafes in Tokyo with unique menus
- Child-friendly cafes and restaurants in Tokyo
- Japanese pancakes in Tokyo
- Speciality coffee shops in Tokyo
- Ralph Lauren cafe and flagship store in Nagoya