In a city where the sights are spread all over the place it’s difficult to decide on the ideal location to stay, but the Okura has arguably the best spot. It looks out over the Kamogawa river and is walking distance to historic Higashiyama (meaning ‘east mountain’) and the geisha district of Gion, with Nijo castle and the Imperial Palace a stroll to the west. The best restaurants in town are on Pontocho which is just down the river. No surprise that the newer Hyatt and Ritz-Carlton are in the same area, but the Okura has a much longer history going back to 1888. It was renovated twenty years ago and is now the tallest building in Kyoto (but still within the city’s strict height limits) so the views can’t be matched by other hotels. Perhaps its grandeur has faded, but it maintains much of its old-world charm from the days when Japan sought to emulate the best European hotels. Just be aware that their bars and restaurants add a service charge which is not customary in Japan.