Six Senses Just Opened a New Urban Retreat in Kyoto — Here’s What It’s Like to Stay

Well-known for its heritage and culture, Kyoto brims with Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, and well-preserved districts. Despite its deep roots and proliferation of historic landmarks, the ancient Edo capital has indeed evolved since its imperial heyday. The current cultural framework looks different than it did even a few decades back. Today, Instagrammable matcha shops sit astride kaiseki restaurants and artisan studios specializing in kintsugi, and soft serve joints line the main street of Arashiyama.

Situated in the Higashiyama Ward, the new Six Senses Kyoto, which opened its doors in late April 2024, blends past and present in the most exquisite way — honoring its historical surroundings, rolling out industry-leading sustainability initiatives, and creating a serene sanctuary for guests to unwind after temple hopping (or skipping the sightseeing and just blissing out all day).

Inspired by the Heian period — the golden age of art and culture in Kyoto — but designed by Singapore-based BLINK Design Group with a more contemporary, eco-conscious lens, the hotel epitomizes a Zen urban retreat. It’s luxurious yet relaxed and modern, with nods to millennia-old traditions that give it a rich sense of place and soul.

Courtesy of Six Senses Kyoto

Guests are welcomed with tea, Japanese sweets (determined by the current micro-season), and Zuko (rubbing incense powder), a purifying Buddhist ritual meant to cleanse the spirit and set the tone for a halcyon stay. The five-star property doesn’t demand silence or formality despite the palpable sense of tranquility. The doting staff is warm and always smiling. And there’s an undercurrent of levity and whimsy.

Stunning in its simplicity and attention to detail, the biophilic lobby — which opens onto a central courtyard teeming with greenery, water, and rocks  — features stone floors, light wood, and custom artwork. Hanging behind the reception desks, a folding screen made of local Rakuyaki tiles evokes the silhouette of the sacred Mount Kurama, the birthplace of Reiki healing. On the opposite wall, a modern interpretation of scrolls of frolicking animals nods to the first manga.

Folksy fox masks guard each of the 81 luxurious rooms — and cleverly light up to indicate a do-not-disturb preference. Sounds of joy reverberate from the Grow With Six Senses kids club. The restaurants serve fresh, locally sourced cuisine that resonates with applaudable sustainability efforts. The Earth Lab allows guests to connect to local culture, learn, and get creative. Nowhere is the balance of pampering and peacefulness more apparent than the spa, a sanctum of holistic self-care capable of transforming even the most tightly wound traveler into a Zen master.

Here, everything you need to know about Six Senses Kyoto.

Six Senses Kyoto

  • Sustainability is more than just a buzzword; it’s part of the DNA of the hotel.
  • The cutting-edge spa has a watsu pool, biohacking recovery lounge, heated pools, saunas, steam rooms, and an Alchemy Bar.
  • Guests can participate in immersive cultural activities like incense making at the Earth Lab.
  • Bartenders mix cocktails with Japanese whisky and creative mocktails at the emerald-hued jewel box bar.

The Rooms

Courtesy of Six Senses Kyoto

Every room is consciously designed for comfort and style. All the accommodations overlook nature and have soaking tubs, enhancing the relaxing vibe. One detail I loved is that beautiful panels hide televisions, so you get a tech-free feeling without sacrificing Netflix to beat the jetlag. This aligns with the brand’s portfolio-wide mission to promote a better snooze, as do the bespoke mattresses, temperature-regulating pillows, and organic cotton linens.

Like the rest of the property, peppered throughout the rooms are moments of surprise and delight, such as wooden blocks that spin behind the beds. Care and attention go into every carefully considered detail — even the snacks. The house-made lemon cookies, beet soy sauce crackers, and sweet potato chips hit the spot when you’re feeling peckish.

Courtesy of Six Senses Kyoto

We stayed in a Premier Suite Garden on the ground floor, a spectacular space with a private Japanese garden for sitting in stillness or napping on the outdoor couch. I will be dreaming of the stand-alone soaking tub for years to come.

Ideal for multi-general families or groups, the Penthouse Suite flaunts three bedrooms (a rarity for a city hotel) and expansive living areas with sweeping views.

Food and Drink

Courtesy of Six Senses Kyoto

Calling the cuisine farm-to-table doesn’t do it justice: The food here is hyperlocal, with virtually everything either grown on-site or sourced from regenerative farms and fisheries within a six-mile radius.

A celebration of the 24 micro-seasons of the ancient Japanese calendar, Sekki, the all-day restaurant helmed by executive chef and Kyoto native Hiroki Shishikura, serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The bountiful morning buffet is full of pickled vegetables, fresh-baked pastries, housemade granola and yogurt, and fruit. Guests can also order a la carte dishes. I recommend the dashi maki tamago, a Kyoto-style take on an omelet, and the roasted sweet potato. To wash it down? Pressed juices and zesty shots. In the evening, miso-marinaded Tamba pork and Kyoto wagyu are meaty standouts from the land section of the menu. Veg-forward options include roasted cauliflower with a vinegared leek and turnip tapenade and stir-fried greens from the garden. Seafood fans will happily dive into a plate of scallops with homegrown Manganji peppers and enoki mushrooms. The adjacent café is the spot for coffee, tea, housemade kombucha, and freshly baked pastries during the day.

Courtesy of Six Senses Kyoto

The second location of the acclaimed, Osaka-based Sushi Oga allows patrons to try an omakase (chef’s choice) of flawlessly cut fish that sits elegantly atop signature red vinegar sushi rice.

In contrast to the rest of the light and airy property, the Nine Tails bar is undoubtedly a visual departure. Jewel tones and dim lighting create a seductive atmosphere for grown-up guests to sip Japanese whisky, creative cocktails, and mocktails.

Activities and Amenities

A chalkboard sign in the lobby details the daily activities, which range from yoga and mat Pilates to sound healing and sustainability tours to origami and Sashiko stitching.

One of the most interesting spaces at the hotel, the Earth Lab, invites guests to partake in interactive cultural workshops — including learning the time-honored Japanese art of Shodo calligraphy and zero-waste furoshiki wrapping.

Complimentary wooden Coco-Mat bicycles are waiting out front for guests keen to explore the neighborhood.

The Spa

Courtesy of Six Senses Kyoto

The spa is, without a doubt, the star of a property with so many high points. The bathhouses, separated by gender, call to mind traditional onsen rituals. I spent an hour sweating it out in the sauna and steam room, floating in the hot pools, and cooling off in the cold plunge before my holistic massage.

On the cutting-edge side of things, diagnostic health screening machines give guests data about sleep and stress in minutes. Experts then use the analysis to recommend tailor-made programs. The tech-forward biohacking lounge, equipped with vibration therapy chairs and LED masks, is excellent for a quick wellness hit to combat jetlag and promote recovery or, as most spa-goers do, as an addition to lengthier, bespoke journeys that might comprise shiatsu, a 24k gold facial, a pearl-infused body mask, and acupuncture. There’s also a watsu (aquatic bodywork) pool — the only one in Kyoto. The treatment rooms are impeccably designed and perfectly serene. After rituals, the relaxation room encourages guests to sip tea and move the rake around the miniature Zen sand gardens.

Courtesy of Six Senses Kyoto

The Alchemy Bar, a hallmark across the portfolio, offers guests the chance to craft DIY beauty products with ingredients plucked from the hotel’s garden. Who wouldn’t want to bring home an exfoliating green tea body scrub? The boutique stocks luxury all-natural skincare lines, handwoven kimonos, and incense from Tenkhodou, a family-run business dating back four generations that supplies ceremonial aromatics to the most sacred temples in Kyoto.

Family-friendly Offerings

Finding a hotel that feels so polished and peaceful yet caters to families is rare. The way that the property considers its youngest guests impressed me tremendously. Everyone was so sweet and thoughtful to our boys, chatting up Miles about his day and latest drawing and playing peek-a-boo with Leo.

The kids club, called Grow with Six Senses, is on the ground floor and open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Clearly, a parent had a say in things because it’s right down the hall from Nine Tails and Sekki and open late enough for mom and dad to enjoy drinks and dinner with a side of adult conversation. The room itself looks like one of those brilliantly designed playrooms you see on Instagram, but don’t imagine anyone having it in real life. Think wooden toys, books, puzzles galore, yoga mats, and this beautiful butterfly tree sculpture to spur imagination.

Perhaps the most magical element is an interactive play area with a slide and boulder-shaped pillows that mirror the green spaces outside the window. For kids ages 5 to 12, it’s a drop-off situation (hence the suggestion for a date night), but a parent or guardian must accompany younger children. Still — we brought our 3-year-old, and he had the time of his life.

Accessibility and Sustainability

The hotel is designed and built in compliance with local accessibility standards, with one accessible room available.

Sustainability is a driving force behind the Six Senses brand — especially true of its Kyoto outpost. Conceptualized with a profound respect for people and the planet, nearly every aspect of the LEED silver-certified hotel — from the materials and practices used in the construction process to implementing plastic-free policies and to the guest experiences — reflects values of social and environmental responsibility. Visitors can participate in eco-conscious activities like painting Sensu (folding fans) with natural pigments colored by food scraps at the Earth Lab. Kitchen waste is also composted and used as fertilizers for the garden. Part of the hotel’s revenue directly funds forestry conservation and education.


The Higashiyama Ward provides a more relaxing, residential-feeling alternative to the city center. Its narrow lanes are dotted with tea houses, kaiseki restaurants, and pottery shops like POJ Studio. Sanjusangen-do Temple and the Kyoto National Museum are within walking distance of the Six Senses Kyoto. And it’s easy to hop in a car to visit the many other must-see attractions.

How to Get the Most Value Out of Your Stay

Cherry blossom season draws travelers worldwide, which rolls into Golden Week in early May. Book outside this period if you’re looking for fewer crowds and more wallet-friendly rates.

The Six Senses Kyoto is part of IHG’s luxury and lifestyle portfolio. That comes with the perks of the IHG One Rewards loyalty program.

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