The Ace Hotel Kyoto Brings Downtown Cool to the Ancient Edo Capital

Steeped in history and tradition, the ancient Edo capital is known for its historic temples and shrines. But it’s also a surprisingly hip destination with scores of stylish shops, trendy bars, and a legit coffee scene. If you’re looking for a stay that captures the creative zest of the present-day, look no further than the Ace Hotel Kyoto. The brand — which started in Seattle and has outposts in Brooklyn, Portland, New Orleans, and more — brings its youthful, cool-kid-on-the-block energy to Kyoto in a big way. 

A collaboration between Atelier Ace, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, and Commune Design, the modern facade of the former telephone building contrasts the more traditional architecture in the area and leads into the loft-like lobby where artistry and craftsmanship take center stage. A larger-than-life textile piece created by Kagoshima-based community organization Shobu Gakuen, noren curtains, and giant custom ceramic pots by Kazunori Haman are on display. The always-smiling staff welcomes guests from behind the hammered copper donut-shaped check-in desk. Digital nomads use the mid-century-inspired furniture as a home base for remote work. Tubular copper light fixtures and timber ornament the soaring ceilings. And there’s a dedicated gallery space that hosts rotating artist-in-residence exhibits.

The creative spotlight continues on the culinary side of things. Celebrated chefs from around the world bring international flavors to the party. Legendary Philly chef Marc Vetri imports his saucy style to Mr. Maurice’s Italian, an indoor/outdoor rooftop spot for pasta, wood-fired pizza, vino, and drinks. Kōsa celebrates seasonality and pairs its signature California Kyoto cuisine with a selection of natural wines. On October 8, Noma (yes, the most famous, award-winning dining destination in the world) will take over the space. (Don’t worry, the farm-to-table favorite isn’t going away forever, it’s just taking a 10-week hiatus.)

When night falls, Piopiko, the brainchild of Los Angeles native Wes Avila, serves tacos and cocktails in a buzzy, sprawling space that accepts “uno mas” as an appropriate way to ask for another round. The cozy private room (which can be rented for special events or group hangs) feels like a VIP section in a club with a U-shaped leather couch and vintage Katsumi Watanabe photos of Tokyo nightlife. The ground floor houses the first Stumptown Coffee Roasters in Japan.

Don’t let the overall good-time vibe fool you. The property also possesses spaces for contemplation and quietude — namely the leafy courtyard garden. Sakuras even bloom in the spring. 

Rooms hit the same design high notes as the rest of the hotel but inject more old-school Americana flair into the mix. Sputnik coat hook by Osvaldo Borsani, guitars, record players, and leather and denim bolsters give off West Coast 1960s verve. While benches to remove shoes shoe upon entry, deep soaking tubs, tatami-lined bedside tables, and soft pajamas for guests to wear while lounging harken back to the local cultural traditions. It’s fitting that works by Samiro Yunok, a Japanese folk artist who studied under the founder of the Mingei movement, Shoji Hamada, decorate the walls. 

Top Takeaways

Location: Kyoto, Japan

Rating: Four-Star

The Vibe: Sprawling urban meeting point of contemporary Japanese craftsmanship and retro Americana energy. 

Food + Drink: Fuel up for a day of sightseeing at Stumptown Coffee Roasters. When hunger hits, take your pick of Italian, tacos, or farm-to-table fare. To wash it down? Terrific cocktails and natural wine.

Amenities: Three restaurants; coffee shop; room service; WiFi; custom bathrobes from wings+horns; bath products by uka Japan; Tivoli radio; curated mini fridge and bar; 24-hour gym 

Our Favorite Thing About the Hotel: The gallery-worthy original art from Japanese artists. 

5 Nearby Attractions: Nishiki Market; Kyoto Imperial Palace; Nijō Castle; Pontocho Alley; Gion

Any Personal Neighborhood Recs?  Honke Owariya is an unassuming eatery that serves the most delicious, comforting soba noodles. Don’t sleep on the oyakodon either. Head to Sumi-yaki Torikou for some of the best yakatori in the city. 

Rooms: 213 rooms and suites

Pricing: Rooms start at $180/night  

Closest Airport:  Osaka International Airport (ITM)

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