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Historic Zen Temples and Harmony in Kyoto

Located in the heart of historic Kyoto, where the ancient and modern coalesce, The Celestine Kyoto Gion is a haven of serenity. This elegant hotel offers a cocoon escape for anyone seeking a place to refresh and rejuvenate from a stressful lifestyle. The ambience could partly be due to the location of the hotel just opposite Kyoto’s oldest Zen temple Kenninji (建仁寺). the calm beauty of Kyoto.

Kenninji Temple – Kyoto’s oldest Zen Temple

Kenninji Temple was founded in 1202 and is said to be where Zen (which originated from China) was first taught in Japan. Inside the temple grounds, there are several shrines and sub-temples, and is the perfect shortcut for guests staying at the hotel to walk to the main shopping street (Shijo-dori (四条通).

Entry to Kenninji Temple grounds is free, and it actually feels like a private extension of the hote due to its proximity from the hotel main entrance. The ambiance of the neighbourhood’s peacefulness is great for anyone keen to escape the adjoining crowded Hanamikoji street, known for its well-restored traditional wooden merchant houses and tea houses where Geishas perform.

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Attention to detail

The hotel rooms are cleverly designed to create a meditative setting and the first thing one will see upon entering the room is the teapot set. The rooms are spacious, and the wet and dry areas of the bathroom are separate,

Around the hotel, tea is a central theme – and there are two guest rooms named “Tea Room” that can be booked for a stay –  whereby guests will enjoy a private matcha experience by Ippodo, Kyoto’s most known Japanese tea specialty store.


The Celestine has a gallery-like guest lounge – an afternoon tea room which transforms into a bar at night from 7pm onwards. In the day, hotel guests can enjoy complimentary refreshments like coffee and tea, along with some Japanese snacks, while enjoying a quiet break in between sightseeing. I noticed the curated collection of Kyoto books and magazines, and enjoyed browsing them one of the afternoons when we came back early.

Guest Lounge

I stayed at the hotel with my mom in July (during the Gion Matsuri Festival, also known as the midsummer festival. Again, the tiny touch to include information in the lobby about the festival for guests was something i appreciated.

I also loved how easy it was to walk over to the main shrine of the festival – Yasaka Shrine

Dining at Yasaka Endo

We enjoyed our breakfast at the hotel which probably serves the best Tempura for breakfast in Kyoto, mainly because they use a traditional copper hooded fryer. The breakfast area is connected to the world reknowned Yasaka Endo restaurant that seats only 16 guests in the main dining area and we found out the traditional sukiya-style wooden building was once an ochaya (teahouse) for geisha parties,

Of course we had to try lunch and we were seated at the counter and had a choice of one of two set menus. which either a 6-course or 8-course menu. With a history of over 100 years,- it was founded in Gion in 1885, and as I watched the chefs delicately preparing each dish, I came to appreciate the success and longevity of the restraunt.

Each dish was so beautiful, it was almost like I was eating an artwork!

Spatial Healing

Mom and I found our hideaway space in the public bath of The Celestine hotel. Open from 15:00 to 10:00 the next day, we were able to find some time where we had the place all to ourselves. The peacefulness from spending time in the public bath was such a pleasure that we found ourselves waking up early one morning, so we could enjoy more of the private time.

I like that the hotel’s design cleverly ensures that there are pockets of spaces that ensure that not one place feels crowded.

I’m definitely looking forward to my next trip back to Kyoto, and for anyone looking to spend time with their parent, the intimacy of the hotel helps foster closer bonds.

For easy accesibiliy, the hotel arranges shuttle tranfers to and from Kyoto station. I definitely recommend a stay at The Celestine Kyoto Gion because they have thought of everything a hotel guest would need, and devliered above and beyond.

Read more about the best hotels in Japan in Travelife Magazine