Review: Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto

The property boasts a wonderful location in the city's historic Higashiyama district

Location: Built around an 800-year-old ikeniwa (pond garden), believed to have once belonged to a prominent samurai, Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto boasts a wonderful location in the city’s historic Higashiyama district. Kyoto’s main train station is about 15 minutes away by car, which is how most guests would arrive if coming from Tokyo by bullet train. The city doesn’t have an airport but is instead served by Osaka airport, which is less than an hour away by car.

First impressions: Dreamy, ethereal, pristine and serene – all words that came to mind as I explored Four Seasons’ outpost in Kyoto. Some properties have the ability to make you feel at home from the second you arrive – this is one of those gems. Staff fawned over my son as I completed check-in. The concierge team introduced themselves and immediately proved invaluable by detailing various city spots and activities that were family friendly (this impressive standard of service continued throughout my stay). A minimalist, clean and calming decor, with cypress wood and local artworks in abundance, has resulted in a very zen vibe throughout the property.

The facts: The hotel feels smaller than it is, and that’s in part due to its low-rise structure (Kyoto has strict height rules for buildings). You’d never know the property had 123 rooms and a further 57 residences unless you sought out that information. The rooms and suites are sizeable, with dark wood floors and fusuma (sliding screen doors) that allow you to adapt the space to suit your needs. Mine had a gorgeous view over the koi pond and surrounding gardens, which were filled with red foliage and perfect autumnal colours. The Presidential Suite is the largest suite in the city and offers stunning views of the Myoho-in Temple. On the food front, Brasserie is the main offering for guests. Dine outside by the pond, inside on a sumptuous fireside sofa or in the modern bar space. Breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner are all served here. Bookings for the terrace area come with a ‘seating fee’ ranging from £10 to £32 depending on where you sit. Book your clients into 10-seat Sushi Wakon for an intimate, epic dining experience where dishes are prepared at the table. Fuju lounge serves traditional Japanese afternoon tea in the day with local sweets and matcha tea galore. After dark, guests head here to sip saké or champagne and enjoy romantic pond-side dinners. If the property embodies a tranquil feeling, imagine how relaxing the spa is. Covering two floors, it’s one of the biggest in the city. Treatments include everything from gold-leaf facials using Tatcha products to zen ceremonies that are followed by a soothing saké bath.

Ideal for: The hotel was one of the first big brands to open in Kyoto, with the majority of luxury offerings coming in the form of small boutique properties and ryokans. It’s perfect for clients who prefer to travel with big brands, knowing service levels and the product will be on par with the rest of the portfolio. Couples and families alike will love the hotel. Breakfast has a dedicated buffet area for kids filled with bite-size and delicious goodies.

Explore: Clients will no doubt want to visit the big-hitters, namely Fushimi Inari Shrine, Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and Kiyomizu-dera Temple. But ensure they add some of the lesser-known sights to their list. The hotel is located close to some impressive but off-the-tourist-route temples, which are well worth visiting. Concierge recommended we stopped by Sanjusangendo Temple, home to hundreds of carved-wood Buddhist deities. The city is very walkable, but those with limited time might prefer to hire a bike from the front desk.

Wow: The setting is simply beautiful. I loved wandering through the gardens, venturing over the koi-filled pond across stone and glass-bottomed bridges. Seeing the reflection of the red and orange leaves on the water and feeling at complete peace. I look back on my stay with a huge amount of affection and a desire to return in the future.

Book it: A night in a Deluxe Room leads in at £977 plus taxes.

Hollie-Rae Brader

Hollie is editor of Aspire’s print and online products. She is responsible for the running of the club and ensuring the content produced and the events organised are relevant to the Aspire audience. She was previously deputy news editor and cruise writer for sister title Travel Weekly. She loves exploring new destinations and is gradually ticking new countries off her list. She most enjoys writing about cruise, South America and Japan. Before working in the travel industry she held news reporting roles at the East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star.

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