Old Kyoto cafes


We’ve all heard the phrase “old is gold”. If a store can stand the test of time, they’re definitely doing something right. That’s the case in Kyoto, where there are many old cafes that offer a taste of history and a nostalgic blast from the past. We’ve sussed out must-visit 9 old Kyoto cafes, including one that was established in 1930.


1. Salon de the FRANCOIS


old cafes kyoto - Salon de the FRANCOIS exterior
Image adapted from:
@ao.aiue

Located along the Takase River near Kiyamachi street, Salon de the FRANCOIS was established in 1934 by Mr Shoichi Tateno. The business has since been passed down to his son, Hayao, who is the current manager of the store. This cafe is surrounded by other old shophouses, and the entire street has a nostalgic atmosphere.

The store is marked by a Western-style lamp at the entrance, as well as Gothic pointed arch stained glass windows.

old cafes kyoto - Salon de the FRANCOIS 2nd floor
Second floor of the cafe
Image adapted from:
@___haya4___

The interior draws inspiration from the Gothic style and has been preserved since its establishment in 1934. On the first floor, the seats are fitted with light-coloured patterned cushion covers while on the second floor, the cushions are bright red.

old cafes kyoto - Salon de the FRANCOIS
Image credit:
@hito_kuru

old cafes in kyoto blueberry cheesecake Salon de the FRANCOIS
Image credit:
@_a__24__k_

The cheesecake is one of Salon de the FRANCOIS’ speciality dishes. It is served with a blueberry sauce that balances out the richness of the cake with tartness. The cafe also serves other cakes, tarts, and sandwiches along with coffee, tea, and booze.

Address: 184 Sendocho, Shijo-dori, Shimogyo-dori, Shimogyo-ku, 600-8019 Kyoto
Opening hours: 10AM-10.00PM, Daily (Last order at 9.30PM)
Telephone: 075-351-4042
Website


2. Inoda Coffee Honten


old cafes kyoto - Inoda Coffee
Image credit:
@umeuguis

Perhaps one of the best-known cafes in Kyoto, Inoda Coffee was opened by Shichiro Inoda in 1947. By a stroke of luck, he found 15 bags of coffee beans in pristine condition stored in his residence’s warehouse after World War II. With these bags of coffee beans in tow, he decided to open a coffee shop. That one coffee shop has now multiplied into 12 stores across Japan.

old cafes kyoto - Inoda Coffee
Image credit:
@hibito__

Inoda Coffee Honten – the main store – still operates from its original location, but they’ve also expanded to occupy a more modern-looking unit next door. Both units provide seating areas for guests but with slightly different vibes.

old cafes kyoto - Inoda Coffee
Image adapted from:
@ooh_chan

old cafes kyoto - Inoda Coffee
Image credit:
@mamoru_1993

The furnishings at the two-storey older unit give it an old-school restaurant-like atmosphere. Alfresco dining that overlooks the garden is also available. Smoking is allowed in this outdoor dining area. If you’re a non-smoker, let the staff know and you’ll be led to a non-smoking area.

old cafes kyoto - Inoda Coffee
Image credit:
@ymymkm

old cafes kyoto - Inoda Coffee
Image credit:
ak27

With dark wine curtains, luxurious red seats, and red and white tablecloths, the newer unit maintains the restaurant-like atmosphere but with a more modern style.

old cafes kyoto - Inoda Coffee
Image credit:
@eugeneaoki

A small alley connects the two units and also leads to the washrooms. Occasionally, you’ll find birdcages lining the alley.

old cafes kyoto - Inoda Coffee
Image credit:
@noiko39

old cafes kyoto - Inoda Coffee
Image credit:
@see_25na

Some of the most popular items on their menu include the Kyoto-style breakfast set, sandwiches, and pudding. The coffee served here is Inoda-style – with milk and sugar added in – so if you prefer your coffee black, be sure to let the staff know when ordering.

Address: 140 Doyu-cho, Sakaimachi-dori, Sanjo sagaru, Nakagyo-ku, 604-8118 Kyoto
Opening hours: 7AM-6PM, Daily
Telephone: 075-221-0507
Website


3. Maeda Coffee Muromachi Honten


old cafes kyoto - Maeda Coffee Muromachi Honten
Image credit:
@chidori1030

Maeda Coffee was founded in 1971. Their flagship store, Muromachi Honten, opened in 1981 in a renovated shop that originally sold kimono fabric. The chain now operates 10 stores, including one in Beijing. As coffee beans are roasted in-house, customers get to bask in the invigorating aroma whenever they visit.

old cafes kyoto - Maeda Coffee Muromachi Honten
Image credit:
つくばみらいのダースベイダー

Compared to other trendy, Instagrammable cafes, Maeda Coffee’s interior isn’t as flashy or photogenic. From the wicker chairs to the stone pavement flooring, everything is done in an old-world style that’s faintly reminiscent of cafes in Paris.

old cafes kyoto - Maeda Coffee Muromachi Honten
Image credit:
@breakfast_kyoto

The cafe has both smoking and non-smoking areas. If you’re a non-smoker, be sure to inform the staff so they can arrange a seat at the non-smoking area for you. 

old cafes kyoto - Maeda Coffee Muromachi Honten
Image credit:
@mocomococha620

Their menu includes a variety of breakfast sets, making it a good choice for early birds looking for a place where they can fill their stomachs. Each set comes with a salad, drink, and a small cup of orange juice. If you’re here for lunch, try out their speciality – Spaghetti Napolitan – made from their traditional recipe. They also serve curry and sandwiches.

old cafes kyoto - Maeda Coffee Muromachi Honten
Image credit:
@shinochan_shavedice

Save some space for dessert as their coffee is best paired with their homemade sweets. The parfait is especially popular as the layered dessert both tastes and looks good.

Address: 236 Hashibenkei-cho, Nakagyo-ku, 604-8151 Kyoto
Opening hours: 7AM-7PM, Daily (Last order at 6.30PM)
Telephone: 075-255-2588
Website


4. Cafe Shizuka


old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@niko_sanko_yonkodayo

The building that Cafe Shizuka is currently housed in was built in 1937. One look at the exterior tells you that this is an old-school kissaten (coffee shop). The cafe’s interior and menu haven’t changed much since 1937, and it’s as if time has stopped inside. It has a loyal local following of all ages and is especially crowded during breakfast.

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@kuromitsu.kyoto

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@hito_kuru

Cafe Shizuka can fit about 20 customers in their old-fashioned booth seats made of wood and emerald green velour cushions. The wood panelling on the walls, the floor tiles, and the furniture all feel like a blast from the past.

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@hito_kuru

You’ll also find antiques belonging to the current owner’s grandfather on display in the cafe. They add to the already overwhelming retro atmosphere.

old cafes kyoto
Image adapted from:
@1a38ra and @1a38ra

Two of the most popular items on the menu are the fruit sandwich and pancakes. The fruit sandwich is filled with different fruits such as strawberry, grape, and orange, depending on the season.

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@kuromitsu.kyoto

Although they’ve been serving fruit sandwiches for a long time, it only became more popular recently, especially among the younger crowd.

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@meets__yummy

As for the pancakes, they are fluffy and served with both maple syrup and butter. They pair well with Cafe Shizuka’s drip-style deep roasted coffee.

Address: 164 Minamijyozenjichou, Kamigyo-ku, 602-8321 Kyoto
Opening hours: Thu – Tue 10AM-4PM (Closed on Wednesdays and selected weekdays)
Telephone: 075-461-5323
Instagram


5. Coffee Shop Unzen


old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@__1998o329

Coffee Shop Unzen is an old but gold cafe. It was founded in 1935 and just celebrated its 86th anniversary in October 2021.

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@keepsafety_

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@dancing_makiko

The interior of the cafe is dimly lit by vintage wall lamps that create a warm and cosy atmosphere, making you feel right at home even if it’s your first time visiting. All the seats in the cafe are reddish-brown sofa booth seats, reminiscent of 1980s diner booths.

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@dancing_makiko

Towards the back of the cafe, there is a small private area that seats just four people. It’s brightened by a skylight that lets in natural light. Kitschy, colourful mosaic tiles form the flooring in this cosy seating area. You’ll also find other unique antique items such as a stained glass lamp and an old-school mini table fan.

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@pwakkktjmsz

It would be remiss not to order Unzen’s signature item: pancakes. These thick and fluffy pancakes come in a set of two. Each piece is stamped with the words “Thank you for your kindness”. The phrase is somewhat like Coffee Shop Unzen’s slogan as you’ll also find it on their vintage cash register.

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@__y.m_____

Another popular menu item is the breakfast set, which includes toast, a boiled egg, and coffee. As the cafe is only open on Sundays and selected Saturdays, make sure to check their Facebook and Twitter accounts where they update their opening dates weekly.

old cafes kyoto
Image adapted from:
@6XsPu5Ja7WMokOg

Address: 724 Ayakoji Corner, Nishinotoin Dori, Shimogyo-ku, 600-8474 Kyoto
Opening hours: Sun 7AM-3PM
Telephone: 075-351-5479


6. Smart Coffee


old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@qanabanana

Smart Coffee is a longstanding store well-loved by locals, especially for their breakfast fare. They have maintained the same interior over the years and continue roasting and brewing with the same type of coffee beans that they’ve been using since their establishment in 1932.

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@hob_akiko_

The interior is furnished with mainly dark wood furniture. Leather cushion sofas make the space more comfortable and classy. There’s also a flight of stairs that lead up to the restaurant on the second floor.

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@arai_shuhei

The restaurant on the second floor is known as Smart Lunch. Lunch is served between 11.30AM and 3PM, and the menu includes items such as hamburg steak, fried shrimp, and grilled chicken.

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@__mk_st_0230

The two must-try food items when visiting Smart Coffee are pancakes and egg sandwiches. Their egg sandwiches are generously filled with a silky smooth omelette nestled between thick slices of white bread.

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@fatty_master

The breakfast food items pair well with the dark-roasted house blend coffee. The cafe also serves juice, tea, and hot chocolate, which is great if you don’t drink coffee.

Address: 537 Tenshojimaecho, Nakagyo-ku, 604-8081 Kyoto
Opening hours: Wed – Mon 8AM-7PM (Closed on Tuesdays)
Telephone: 075-231-6547
Website


7. Rokuyosha


old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@smallriver___

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@smallriver___

A coffee shop by day and a bar by night, Rokuyosha is well-loved by coffee connoisseurs and musicians alike. The cafe, which opened in 195,0 is literally a hidden treasure – it’s located in a basement with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it entrance. Look out for their brownish brick-style signboard.

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@sweetlullaby0506

Once you head down the flight of stairs and enter Rokuyosha, you’ll be greeted by a relatively narrow corridor with booth seats. The brown leather booth seats are quilted and look luxurious.

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@hakuplus_

There are also counter seats where you can watch the owner, Mr Okuno Osamu, brew your coffee up close. Rokuyosha has many different types of coffee beans of different origins. If you tell him how you usually take your coffee, he can recommend a type of bean and customise a brew for you.

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@kyopota_oyatsu

Rokuyosha is also known for its homemade doughnuts, made by Mr Okuno’s wife. The doughnut is deep-fried and has a crispy exterior, but it miraculously manages not to be too greasy. Pair this with a good, strong cup of black coffee.

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@s.c___ig.k

Besides doughnuts, Rokuyosha also offers cakes, bakes, and an affordable breakfast set (¥600, ~USD5.22) that consists of a boiled egg, toast, juice, and coffee.

Address: B1F 36, Daikoku-cho, Kawaramachi Sanjo-sagaru, Nakagyo-ku, 604-8031 Kyoto
Opening hours: Thu – Tue 12PM-6PM (Closed on Wednesdays)
Telephone: 075-241-3026
Website


8. CC’S


old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@a_takashima

CC’S is a cake store with an unassuming storefront. From the outside, you can scarcely tell what the shop offers. CC’S, first opened in 1974, sells homemade American cakes and is currently run by third-generation owners. Look out for the blue and white striped canopy above the unit and the “OPEN” sign on the window to determine whether it’s open.

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@kyoto_swim_girl_mag

The cafe interior is similarly rustic and simple. You’ll find wooden bench seats lined with tatami mats and cushions, and quadrant tables make full use of the space within the cafe. Despite the space-saving set-up, each table is actually quite spacious and there’s enough room for you to enjoy your cakes.

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@higaemon

A hexagonal-shaped fridge stands in the centre of the store and is an attraction in itself. The store’s cakes are kept in this fridge with rotating panels so you can admire and choose your cakes from it.

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@cogdayo

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@ndako1002

The most popular cake at CC’S is the buttercream cake wrapped in a plastic film with the colours of the American flag – white, red, and blue. Besides that, they do have quite an extensive selection of cakes and sandwiches available. You can pair your cake with a cup of coffee or juice for a relaxing afternoon tea break.

Address: 182-3 Jurakumawari Nishimachi, Nakagyo-ku, 604-8402 Kyoto
Opening hours: Wed – Mon 10AM-5PM (Closed on Tuesdays)
Telephone: 075-801-4790


9. Shinshindo Cafe


old cafes kyoto
Image credit: @doc_coffee113

Located across the street from the north gate of Kyoto University, Shinshindo Cafe is a place that has been well-loved by generations of students since its establishment in 1930. Besides students, you’ll also spot professors at this haunt.

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@atriptofuture

The founder, Mr Hitoshi Tsuzuki, modelled this store after a cafe that he used to frequent while he was studying in Paris. The fourth-generation owner, Satoshi Kawaguchi, now runs the cafe.

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@chiii32525

The cafe is filled with long dark amber wood tables – which aren’t common in cafes – that provide ample space for students who want to study. These tables were specially designed by Tatsuaki Kuroda, a Japanese woodworker and lacquerware artist who was designated a Living National Treasure in 1970. 

From the worn and weathered tables and chairs, you can get a sense of how popular the cafe was and still is.

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@myu523

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@ellen_tu

Bread and pastries are freshly baked in-house every day. Try them with a cup of coffee for the quintessential Shinshindo Cafe experience.

old cafes kyoto
Image credit:
@noriko003

One of the most popular items on their menu is the homemade curry bread set, which comprises a hearty bowl of curry served with bread, butter, salad, and coffee or tea. They also serve sandwiches, toasts, and pancakes.

Address: 88 Kitashirakawa Oibucho, Sakyo Ward, 075-701-4121 Kyoto
Opening hours: Wed – Mon 8AM-6PM (Last order at 5.45PM) (Closed on Tuesdays)
Telephone: 075-701-4121


Old cafes in Kyoto


Besides visiting only modern speciality coffee stores, you should patronise these old Kyoto cafes that continue to attract people today. Their retro decor and old-world atmosphere will take you on a nostalgia trip as you enjoy their food and drinks that have withstood the test of time.

Check out these articles for other cafes in Japan:


Cover image adapted from: @a_takashima and @ellen_tu

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