With so many stunning cultural and historic places to visit in Kyoto, a day of sightseeing around this beautiful city will soon have you working up an appetite. Thankfully, Kyoto cuisine is just as famous as its landmarks, and you'll find yourself spoilt for choice when it comes to searching for the best lunch Kyoto has to offer.
Whether you want to try a classic noodle dish, traditional vegan shojin ryori fare, or an elegant Kyoto kaiseki lunch, you’ll be delighted with the variety of options available here. There are also plenty of modern coffee shops and authentic teahouses where you can quench your thirst. To help you decide which to visit, we've put together a list of eight fantastic eateries in Kyoto you won’t want to miss.
Here’s our pick of some of Kyoto’s best places for lunch.
Conveniently located just a few minutes’ walk from Ginkakuji temple, Omen serves some of the best udon noodles you'll find in Kyoto restaurants. Thick and chewy, they’re served with either a hot or cold dipping broth plus a selection of fresh vegetables and sesame seeds.
Both tatami seating and table seating is available, the vibe is welcoming, and the nearby Philosopher’s Path is perfect for a stroll after you've eaten.
Kyo ryori, or Kyoto cuisine, is renowned for its elegance and beauty. One of the types of food this is most apparent in are the traditional Japanese sweets known as wagashi. Kagizen Yoshifusa is an authentic teahouse in Gion that serves thick, perfectly-whisked matcha tea accompanied by these artistic sweets.
For something unique, try the jelly-like warabimochi coated in syrup and roasted soy bean flour, or kuzukiri, the shop's specialty. These transparent noodles are made from arrowroot and served cold with a sweet black sugar dipping sauce for a refreshing dessert.
A bright and modern space, Vermillion serves coffee made using beans from local company Weekenders, as well as matcha lattes with tea from the nearby town of Uji. When it comes to food they have light meals, including sandwiches and home-made granola, plus freshly-baked muffins, cookies and other sweet treats. It's an ideal spot for recharging after making the hike up the mountain to explore Fushimi Inari Taisha!
One type of Kyoto cuisine that vegetarians and vegans in particular should be sure to try is shojin ryori. This is a traditional Buddhist style of food that doesn't use any animal products, focusing instead on ingredients such as tofu, fresh fruit, and seasonal vegetables.
Shigetsu, located in Tenryuji temple in the popular Arashiyama district, is one of the best restaurants to sample this nutritious fare. Not only are the meals exquisitely presented, but you get to enjoy views out over the stunning gardens as you eat.
It’s a little expensive, but these Kyoto lunch specials are worth every yen. Reservations are recommended, particularly for larger groups.
Vegans and vegetarians who are looking for more modern, Western-style meals would do well to pay AIN SOPH. Journey a visit. With super friendly staff and English language menus, it's a really welcoming and accessible place for travelers.
The menu at AIN SOPH. Journey is packed with plant-based burgers, rich green spinach curry, hearty hayashi rice, salads, tofu omelette, and sides.
The desserts are the real showstoppers here though. From wonderfully fluffy pancakes flavored with matcha tea and white chocolate, to a rich, fudgy chocolate gateau and creamy creme brûlée, you’re definitely going to want to come here more than once!
This restaurant offers a modern take on kaiseki cuisine, with a casual atmosphere and creative dishes that still retain the elegant and refined nature of kaiseki. It’s a multi-course extravaganza, consisting of a series of beautifully-presented and lovingly-prepared dishes that showcase bold seasonal flavors and local ingredients. Reservations are highly recommended to ensure you can try some of the best lunch Kyoto has to offer.
As well as Kyoto restaurants specializing in classic kaiseki, there are many fantastic places that serve soul-warming home cooking. One of the best of these is family-friendly Oshokuji Dokoro Asuka, in the touristy area of Higashiyama.
The kind and helpful staff will make you feel welcome immediately, and the English menu makes ordering a breeze. You can choose from a wide range of traditional Japanese dishes such as tempura, grilled fish, udon noodles, soba noodles, tofu dishes, and donburi rice bowls, all at reasonable prices.
This final entry is actually a series of eight restaurants rather than just one, all located right next to each other on the 10th floor of Kyoto Station. The name means "Kyoto Ramen Street" and each eatery here specializes in a different regional style of ramen noodles. Try the jet-black broth from Toyama, creamy soup from Hakata, or egg-topped noodles from Tokushima.
Once you've chosen, buy a ticket for the dish you'd like at the machine, then head inside and pass it to the chef behind the counter. Kyoto Ramen Koji can't be beaten if you're looking for a quick, cheap and delicious lunch near Kyoto Station.
A big shoutout to Kichi Kichi, where Chef Motokichi quite literally slings some of the most impressive omurice dishes. Keeping in the yoshoku (Western-style Japanese cuisine) tradition, he serves dishes like cream croquette, cheesy chicken cutlets, and beef stew. But of course, the most theatrical dish on the menu is the omurice, which is a fried rice dish topped with an incredibly creamy omelet. Chef Motokichi's colorful character is the icing on the cake (or the egg on the omurice), and his energy will be sure to bring a smile to your face.
As you can see, Japan's ancient capital more than lives up to its reputation as a foodie hotspot, and these are just a few of the options you have for the best lunch Kyoto has on offer. Be sure to try as many local specialties as you can to ensure your trip is as delicious as it is enjoyable!
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