Kyoto Nightlife

Kyoto’s lively nightlife scene boasts a host of vibrant bars and traditional sake breweries, along with exclusive clubs and edgy music venues. The best after-dark action plays out along Kiyamachi, a one-kilometre strip running parallel to the Kamo River that’s crammed with cheap drinking holes and Westerner-friendly hangouts. A more exclusive ambience pervades the alleyway of Pontocho, one block away, where atmospheric wooden-block buildings are studded with sleek cocktail bars, lively cabarets and late-night eateries. The old geisha district of Gion is the place to find more traditional music haunts as well as Kimono-clad and classical performances.

Be aware that upmarket dance clubs can often observe a strict guestlist-only entry policy and charge seating fees to those they do allow over the threshold.

Bars in Kyoto


This sophisticated bar in Pontocho is ideal for Kyoto’s long hot summers, thanks to its expansive outdoor platform that overlooks the Kamo River. Those lucky enough to nab a seat will rub shoulders with the city’s young and beautiful, who gather to loosen their ties and let off steam over post-work cocktails.

161 Matsumoto-cho, Pontocho, Shijo-dori, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, 604 8013, Japan
Telephone: +81 75 241 1621
Bar Rocking Chair

Tucked away down a discreet backstreet, this sought-after cocktail bar occupies a 90-year-old machiya townhouse. Its chandelier-lit interiors are rich in atmosphere, with rocking chairs huddled around a roaring wood-burning fire. Behind a wooden bar, a team of excellent award-winning mixologists shake up fiery cocktails infused with Japanese ingredients.

434-2 Tachibana-cho, Gokomachi-dori, Bukkoji-sagaru, Kyoto, 600 8044, Japan
Telephone: +81 75 496 8679
Sake Bar Yoramu

For a true education in sake, Japan’s heady rice wine, take a seat along the counter of this tiny tucked-away bar. It certainly packs a punch with its impressive selection of sake bottles spanning fruity and floral, newly produced and dust-collecting vintage. The expert owner has personally curated his stock and is on hand to advise which brew to sample next.

Nijo Dori (east of Karasuma), Karasuma Higashi-iru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, 604 0831, Japan
Telephone: +81 75 213 1512

Clubs in Kyoto

Club Metro

One of Kyoto’s most long-standing, trendsetting nightspots, Club Metro draws creative types to its intimate underground music rooms found at the Jingu-Marutamachi metro station. Music aficionados can find their groove amid its eclectic music mix and schedule of international and local DJs. The venue also hosts the occasional film screening and visual arts performance.

BF Ebisu Building, 82 Simodutsumi-cho, Sakyō-ku, Kyoto, 606 8396, Japan
Telephone: +81 75 752 4765
World Kyoto

This forever popular club is set in a cavernous space that’s ideal for dancing until the late hours. As its name suggests, World attracts big names from across the globe but also makes time for traditional geisha events and local acts. If you've come to Japan to party, this is definitely the place to be seen.

97 Shincho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto, 600 8001, Japan
Telephone: +81 75 213 4119

Live Music in Kyoto

Kyoto Concert Hall

Kyoto’s principal venue for classical music and the home of the Kyoto Symphony Orchestra occupies a futuristic new-build with thick concrete ceilings and light timber floors that create fantastic acoustics. The venue contains two halls, the larger playing host to the city’s most prestigious concerts with its shoebox styled auditorium, while the smaller is well-suited to chamber music.

1-26 Hangi-cho Shimogamo, Sakyō-ku, Kyoto, 606 0823, Japan
Telephone: +81 75 711 2980
Live Spot Rag

Established in the late 1980s, this long-standing live jazz venue attracts both international and Japanese acts of various genres. Its small, intimate interiors fill up fast so be sure to snag a ticket early to avoid disappointment. Live sessions of acoustic, fusion, jazz and rock usually kick off earlier in the evening before winding down to mellow drinks later on.

5/F Kyoto Empire Building, Kiya-machi, Sanjo-ku, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, 604 8001, Japan
Telephone: +81 75 2241 0446

For an authentic Japanese evening, join the city’s arty crowd at this avant-garde venue that offers long wooden bench seating, traditional izakaya food, live music and acts that pushes the boundaries of experimentation. Each act brings something new and often obscure, from improvisation to Latin groove, but can always count on the applause of an appreciative audience.

3/F New-Kyoto Building, 181-2 Zaimoku-cho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, 604 8002, Japan
Telephone: +81 75 212 1125
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