Paul Fournier
By Paul Fournier

The Ultimate Guide To Kyoto’s Nightlife

Kyoto’s nightlife scene is wide-ranging. It has a good number of modern, upmarket venues in the Kiyamachi and Pontocho districts – and if you’re willing to explore beyond these areas, you’ll also find cozier themed places where you can sit back with a cocktail, shot of sake, or sing karaoke.

That said, to help you get started with finding the places that best fit your style, I show and describe 12 of the better clubs and bars below.

Kyoto’s Clubs

Most clubs stay open until 5 am, so if you’re a late night owl, you’re in the right place 🙂 The music played varies a lot between the different venues, so you’ll have no troubles fining a place with the music style that you love.

Night Club Butterfly

Club Butterfly is located in the Kiyamachi district and 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.

Maharaja Gion

Located in the Gion district, Maharaja was a popular club that previously operated from the 1980s to the 1990s. Now newly reopened in the same location, it’s a great option for those looking for 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 🙂

Club Ibiza

Conveniently located within easy walking distance of several train stations, Club Ibiza is a trendy nightclub located in the Pontocho district that’s especially popular with students.

Entrance is free for ladies, with one drink ticket included, while admission for men starts at 500 JPY (~$4.50), also including one drink ticket.

Club Metro

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.

Chambers

Chambers

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.

Kyoto’s Bars

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 Bar

L'Escamoteur Bar

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

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

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.

Monk Bar

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

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! 😉

Sake Ichi

Sake Ichi

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.

Conclusion

The riverside district of Pontocho is at the heart of Kyoto’s nightlife, with many lively bars and clubs to choose from. And as you can see, you can also find quite a few hidden gems that offer unique experiences, 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. If you’re also looking for things to do during the daytime, see Kyoto’s Top 12 Attractions. Or if you’re looking for good places to eat before heading out, have a look at Kyoto’s 12 Best Restaurants & Sushi Places.

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