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2 weeks ago

Park Hyatt Kyoto, Review: An Overwhelming Sense of Calm

Park Hyatt Kyoto offers contemporary interiors and traditional luxury in an unbeatable location.

By Elite Traveler

The entrance to Park Hyatt Kyoto is so discrete it would be easy to miss entirely. Located in the heart of the ancient city’s bustling Higashiyama quarter, across the street from the Kodai-ji temple, the hillside retreat blends in almost seamlessly with the surrounding buildings. Save for a small black sign, there is little indication that this low-rise property is, in fact, one of the most sought-after hotels in Kyoto

But that’s exactly the kind of understated elegance the brand is known for. Within moments of arriving, we’re ushered across a boulder-strewn Japanese-style garden into the sleek lobby where a friendly concierge awaits us. Sinking into a pair of plush leather chairs, we sip chilled ginger ales as we peruse our check-in paperwork. The stress of our hectic journey from Tokyo dissipates almost instantly: it’s clear that while inside Park Hyatt Kyoto, it’s almost impossible to feel anything but a sense of calm.

The hotel welcomed its first guests back in 2019. It’s Park Hyatt’s third property in Japan, joining the brand’s iconic Tokyo outpost – made famous by Sofia Coppola’s Lost In Translation – and the newest addition to its collection, Nieseko, located on the slopes of the Hanazono ski resort.

Park Hyatt Kyoto exterior
Park Hyatt Kyoto is set back from the main street / ©Hyatt
Park Hyatt Kyoto entrance
The unassuming entrance to the hotel / ©Hyatt

Designed and built by Takenaka – a family-run construction company dating back to the 17th century that is responsible for many of Japan’s shrines and temples – the low-ceilinged building appears at first glance like a traditional ryokan. However, it has a distinctly contemporary edge with all the trappings of luxury you would expect from a Park Hyatt property. 

[See also: The Best Luxury Ryokan Across Japan]

Stay 

With just 61 rooms and nine suites, Park Hyatt Kyoto has an intimate feel. World-renowned interior designer Tony Chi is responsible for the beautifully appointed accommodations. Minimalist yet undeniably swanky, the rooms feature sloping ceilings crafted from tamo wood and floor-to-ceiling windows that reveal sweeping views either out over Kyoto’s tiled rooftops or across private gardens. 

All of the rooms are generously sized and feel cozy and inviting. We stayed in the entry-level twin room; a 450-sq-ft abode looking out over a pretty walled garden, complete with a lavish marble bathroom kitted out with Le Labo toiletries. Thoughtful touches abound from the modern gold-leaf paintings adorning the walls to the herringbone-weaved textile hangings above the ridiculously comfy beds. The mini bar has an excellent selection of Japanese whiskies and herbal teas, and the rooms feature flat-screen TVs and Bluetooth speakers. 

bedroom with a city view
A king bedroom with city views / ©Hyatt
A twin bedroom with its own garden terrace / ©Hyatt

Dine

The highlight of our stay was dining at Yassaka, the hotel’s uber-cool teppanyaki restaurant. Sitting at the counter watching the chefs prepare our meal on the Japanese ‘teppan’ (steel plate) while watching the sun setting over the Yasaka Pagoda (one of Kyoto’s most iconic landmarks) was really special. The moodily-lit restaurant has just two 10-seat counters so you feel lucky to have a seat here. 

Chef Kentaro Koyama has crafted an exceptional seven-course menu that fuses the theatre and ingredients of teppanyaki with classic French cooking techniques. Of the many standout dishes were mini buckwheat crepes filled with caviar, salted lemon and edible flowers; moreish kyotango rice topped with sakura shrimps and bamboo shoots; and generous hunks of wagyu beef served with grilled asparagus and a dollop of wasabi.  

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Elsewhere at Park Hyatt Kyoto, you’ll find the Michelin-starred Kyoyamato, a historic ryotei dating back to 1877 that serves seasonally-inspired kaiseki dishes. There’s also a laid-back bistro where breakfast is served each morning. While you can opt for the buffet (expect everything from homemade matcha granola to mini quiches), we also recommend trying the Japanese breakfast at least once. The team at Kyoyamato prepared an elegant bento box filled with an assortment of treats; ours included miso-marinated black cod, grilled spicy cod roe and a warming Shijimi clam barley soup. 

Yasaka restaurant
Yasaka, the hotel’s signature restaurant / ©Hyatt
Bar Kohaku at dusk
Bar Kohaku overlooks the city / ©Hyatt

Relax 

When you can bring yourself to leave your room, head to the tranquil spa on the third floor. Here, you’ll find a small bathhouse with a Jacuzzi, cold plunge, sauna and steam room. There’s also a sizable gym kitted out with Isotonic machines and free weights. 

Expert therapists are on hand to carry out an array of treatments. For a proper pamper session opt for the Park Hyatt Kyoto signature experience which includes an organic green tea foot bath followed by a personalized facial and massage using the hotel’s essential oils. 

The couple’s treatment room at the spa / ©Hyatt
The gym / ©Hyatt

Explore 

When it comes to location it doesn’t get much better than this. Park Hyatt Kyoto is situated on Ninezka, an ancient stone-paved pedestrian road lined with meticulously preserved wooden buildings. There are plenty of temples to visit within walking distance; for incredible views of Kyoto, stroll to Kiyomizu-dera (be warned: there are lots of tourists so get up early to avoid the crowds). You’ll pass plenty of tea houses, restaurants and trinket shops along the way. 

Further afield, take the train for a day trip to Arashiyama to walk along the stunning bamboo groves and explore the area’s temples. We stumbled across a tiny hermit’s cottage, Rakushisha, that was once home to Genroku poet Mukai Kyorai, one of the ten disciples of the famed haiku poet Matsuo Basho.

The thatched-roof hut is surrounded by a tranquil garden dotted with stones carved with haikus; a nice pit stop between temple-hopping. Be sure to ask the staff for recommendations; Aghyad and Ivan went above and beyond to make our stay unforgettable.

360 Masuyacho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0826, Japan

Contact +81 75-531-1234, hyatt.com

[See also: The Best Restaurants in Tokyo]

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