While many visitors come to Kyoto for its stunning blend of natural scenery and historical architecture, you may be surprised to find a vibrant nightlife scene that will go beyond your wildest expectations. Among the countless options for a memorable evening, the discerning recommendations of local staff members can lead to hidden gems and unforgettable experiences. In this guide, we invite you to explore the top 5 staff-recommended bars in Kyoto, where the city’s rich cultural tapestry meets contemporary flavors and exceptional hospitality. From quirky alleyway tiki bars to high-class cocktails bars owned by one of the top 50 bartenders in Japan, each establishment has been carefully curated to offer a diverse and authentic taste of Kyoto’s nightlife. Whether you’re a connoisseur of craft cocktails, a sake enthusiast or simply seeking a welcoming space to unwind, let us introduce you to Kyoto’s most cherished bars loved by locals, but fit for tourists. From The Millennials Kyoto, you will find a stunning array of nightlife that will allow you to connect with locals and get to know another side of Kyoto.
Nokishita 711 describes its offering as liquid cuisine, featuring ingredients extracted from meat, fish, insects, plants, etc. Guests must make a reservation in advance and must do an omakase course, which includes six cocktails, five snacks and a tea ceremony. The bar also offers non-alcoholic and vegan courses for those with dietary restrictions. It’s one of two bars from Kyoto-based cocktail genius Tomoiki Sekine. His second bar, The Roots of All Evil, is more casual.
Hidden down a small alleyway located in Pontocho lies Ishimaru Shoten, a popular bar among locals and the staff at The Millennials Kyoto. The dimly-lit eclectic interior features handmade lamps, Japanese scrolls, acoustic guitars and Polynesian art, creating a quirky, friendly environment for Japanese and foreigners to mingle. The drinks are affordable and the customers tend to be easy to talk to, so if you come to Kyoto alone and want to make new friends, then you should check out Ishimaru Shoten.
Run by foreigners living in Kyoto, Cavalier is a music bar that sells cocktails and often holds events with local DJs. While more expensive compared to the average bar, it features creative and well balanced cocktails. The bartenders are always willing to chat and explain their process for making their beautiful cocktails. If you want to experience a bar with a speakeasy vibe that has a killer playlist and friendly staff, then head to Cavalier.
Tsukinokoguma is a cheap standing bar perfect for those who come to Kyoto solo. Their elevated izakaya-style dishes cost 300 yen to 400 yen and they sell many types of drinks, so if you want the most out of your money, then this is the place to go. If it’s crowded, you may be able to spark up a conversation with other customers, but the staff is also always willing to chat. Although they have no English menu, it is easy to order as long as you know basic Japanese.
A foreign-run bar, Ki Bar offers a fun and friendly place where anyone can come to have a drink, learn about Kyoto and possibly make some new friends. The first floor has counter seating for 10 to 15 people with some standing areas while the second floor offers a lounge with sofa-style seating for 10. The third floor has karaoke in a tatami-setting. It is a great location to meet local people and chat with new and old friends.
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