Kyoto’s nightlife is wide-ranging. There are a good number of modern, upmarket venues in the Kiyamachi and Pontocho areas. But if you’re willing to venture further away and explore, you’ll also find cozier themed places where you can sit back with a cocktail, shot of sake, or sing karaoke.
To help you find the places that fit your style, I’ve listed some of the city’s most unique clubs and bars that will let you experience the best of the city’s nightlife.
Kyoto has a number of trendy nightclubs, each with a distinct character of its own. In this section I’ll cover some of the better ones.
Night Club Butterfly
The featured picture at the top of this page also shows Club Butterfly
Located in the Kiyamachi district, Club Butterfly is a lively place that is popular with both locals and travelers.
If you’re a fan of hip hop you’ll feel at home here, as hip hop, rap and R&B are all part of Night Club Butterfly’s regular rotation. The place starts heating up around midnight, so drop by then. There’s a discounted cover charge for foreigners, which includes one free drink.
If it’s the underground scene you’re looking for, Club Metro is your answer – literally. It’s located in a sectioned-off tunnel in the still-functioning Metro subway station.
With its cool indie vibes, Club Metro attracts quirky but friendly characters of all kinds. Depending on the night, you can expect anything from live music to techno, alternative, 80’s hits, and theme nights. Check their schedule before you head there.
Tucked away in the scenic Pontocho district, Chambers is one of the biggest nightclubs in Kyoto.
Best known for its wide selection of music, you can expect anything from EDM hits to old school hip-hop and R&B there. The club has also gone to great lengths to welcome foreigners – with English, Portuguese and Spanish speaking staff ready to assist you.
World is another one of Pontocho’s nightlife venues. It is slightly smaller than other clubs, but is no less popular as it regularly plays host to big name DJs and performers.
Dance the night away with great music and a friendly atmosphere, but don’t get there too late as the club closes at 1am.
Located in the Gion district, Maharaja was a popular club that used to operate in the 1980s to 1990s.
Now newly reopened in the same location, it’s a great option for those seeking something different. You’ll find ninja shows, young maiko entertainers, and also otachidai – which are elevated stages where you can show off your dance moves.
Conveniently located within easy walking distance of several train stations, Club Ibiza is another trendy nightclub located in the Pontocho district.
Club Ibiza is especially popular with students. Entrance is free for ladies, with one drink ticket included, while admission for men starts from 500 yen, with a drink ticket.
Bars in Kyoto are much more than just places to get a good drink. Read on for several places that offer a unique experience with every visit.
L’Escamoteur is a cozy, beautifully decorated bar located in the Shimogyo-ku district. With friendly staff, a laidback atmosphere and well-crafted cocktails, it is a favourite among travelers.
Its small size means seats may not always be available, but the experience in this atmospheric place is no less enjoyable with popular cocktails like the Kyoto Gardens, or the Smoky Old Fashioned.
Shisha Cafe Velvet
If you’d rather kick back and chill after a long day than party the night away, Shisha Café Velvet is your answer.
Open from 3pm till midnight, the café is located right in the center of Kyoto City. The friendly owners offer a wide variety of shisha flavors for you to choose from, and they’re always up for a good chat.
Jo Social Sake Bar
With a visit to Jo Social Sake Bar, you’ll get more than a taste of sake. The friendly owner is an ex-geiko with plenty of stories to tell while you sip on sake, and you can even try on samurai costumes for a photo op as well.
The place is located a stone’s throw from the river in the Pontocho district, and they offer sake tasting menus at 1000 yen.
Kyoto Monk Bar
The Monk Bar isn’t just a quirky nickname for the place – it’s run by an actual monk, the head priest of Kouonji Temple.
The bar is located slightly away from popular nightlife hotspots, in the Yamadacho district. You’ll find a wide array of Japanese wines and microbrews there, which the monk will recommend while offering wise words and life lessons.
Karaoke Studios Doredoredo
At Karaoke Studios Doredoredo in the Shimogyu-ku district, you have the option of being the entertainment of the night while you enjoy your drinks.
Doredoredo is popular with both locals and travelers. And unlike many karaoke places which offer small, private rooms for groups, this karaoke bar lets you sing on a small stage, in front of everybody.
Try some sake before going onstage! 😉
Whether you’re new to sake, or a sake fan looking to try new things, Sake Ichi is a good bet. Located in Pontocho, the bar has around 100 different sake varieties to choose from.
They serve Japanese speakers only on weekends due to the staff on schedule, but don’t let that stop you from visiting on weeknights for a warm welcome to the world of sake.
The riverside district of Pontocho is at the heart of Kyoto’s nightlife, with plenty of lively bars and clubs to choose from. You can also find quite a few gems that offer unique experiences though, if you’re willing to go slightly off the beaten track to districts further away.
Here’s to a great night out in Kyoto! 🙂
P.S. For good places to have dinner or grab a bite before heading out, see Kyoto’s 12 Best Must-Eat Restaurants & Sushi Places.