While most travellers think of Kyoto as the old capital, fewer recognize that Nara was once the Japanese capital, too. If you’re even the least bit interested in the history of the Land of the Rising Sun, this lovely small city is a necessary stop for any trip to Japan.
Nara houses many historical treasures from ancient temples to a sprawling park with thousands of free-roaming deer in the heart of the city. Besides choosing what attractions to see though, you’ll need to figure out where to stay in Nara.
From the oldest Western-style hotel in Japan to modern business hotels, there are plenty of choices in Nara.
Not sure where to rest your head? Use this complete guide to the best places to stay in Nara and discover the top hotels for travellers…
Where to stay in Nara: The best hotels for travellers
Unlike bigger Japanese cities like Kyoto, Osaka or Tokyo, choosing your Nara accommodations won’t be too much of a hassle. The city centre is compact & chock-loaded full of amazing things to do & see, whether you have just 24 hours in Nara or a couple days.
Many of the best hotels in Nara are within walking distance of the ancient temples & shrines of Nara and other must-see attractions. There are even luxury resorts with hot springs & trendy bars to sweeten your visit that much more.
No matter what type of experience you want in Nara, there’s something out there to meet your needs. Here’s a roundup of the best Nara hotels for independent travellers…
Guest House Oku
✓ Top budget pick
Address: Takamaichi-cho 29
If you’re strapped for cash, the Guest House Oku is a top-rated choice. This small boutique hotel provides individualized service that you rarely get from fancier hotels & resorts.
The cheery owner caters to her guests to ensure you’re happy with your accommodations. It’s also a spotlessly clean place to stay. The rooms, hallways, and even the outer yards are always tidy.
Despite their small size, the rooms of the Guest House Oku are comfortable and modern. Like many hotels in Japan, however, you do need to share the bathroom with other guests. Luckily, the owner keeps the shared bathroom as spotless as the rest of the place.
The hotel is in the centre of the city, making it convenient for exploring the surrounding historical area. You also get free WiFi and air conditioning here.
Onyado Nono Nara Natural Hot Spring Hotel
Address: Omiyacho 1-1-6
Located on a busy shopping street, the Onyado Nono Nara Natural Hot Spring Hotel is an ideal choice for those who plan to spend most of the trip sifting through boutiques or buying souvenirs. You simply need to step outside to find a store of your choosing.
The only issue is the noise. As you’re right next to the train station in the centre of town, it can feel a little boisterous here at times. If possible, try to request a room on the opposite side of the property.
You’ll also enjoy staying at the Onyado Nono Nara Natural Hot Spring due to its proximity to the main transport hub of JR Nara Station. In the evenings, you can relax and enjoy free tea & hot ramen in the on-site restaurant.
As the name suggests, you’ll also get access to several clean hot springs. Separate rooms for women and men are available.
Super Hotel Lohas JR Nara Eki
✓ Top pick for day-trippers
Address: Sanjohonmachi 1-2
If you hate walking and prefer to use public transportation, the Super Hotel Lohas JR Nara Eki is one of the top places to stay in Nara. Like some of the other hotels, it’s in the centre of the city and located right next to the JR Nara Station.
The station and the Super Hotel Lohas JR Nara Eki are even connected with a walkway, keeping you shielded from the weather on rainy days. You also have convenient access to the shops and restaurants lining the busy streets around the station.
Other reasons to love this hotel include the beautiful hot spring, free breakfast, and friendly staff. However, the staff are almost too helpful. Room service prefers to clean the rooms early in the morning instead of the evening.
Guesthouse Nara Komachi
A little further away from JR Nara Station, you’ll find the charming Guesthouse Nara Komachi. This cute pension features affordable rooms. You’ll even get your own private bathroom with a shower.
Guests receive free WIFI, but breakfast is, unfortunately, not included in your reservation. For a couple extra yen though, the breakfast served in the shared kitchen tastes great and is well worth spending money on.
If you want to ride a bike around the city, the Guesthouse Nara Komachi offers affordable bicycle rentals. You can bike to most of the attractions in the city including nearby Gangoji Temple.
While there’s plenty to keep you busy in Nara itself, you’ll also enjoy your down time in the hotel. The shared common room includes large TVs, video game consoles, and a manga library.
Centurion Hotel Classic Nara Station
✓ Top mid-range pick
While many Japanese hotels feature small, cramped rooms, the Centurion Hotel Classic Nara Station defies the stereotype with its spacious accommodations. The larger rooms and comfortable beds at this mid-range property slot it in among the top hotels in Nara.
Keep in mind when making your reservation that the single and double rooms provide more space than others in the hotel. The family rooms can get rather crowded as they contain extra beds for the kids and a couch.
When you’re ready to visit the sites, you’ll find that the Centurion Hotel Classic Nara Station is conveniently located. You’re less than half a mile from dozens of shops, restaurants, and the Kaika Tenno Tomb.
Another useful feature here is the coin-operated laundromat. If you’d rather not waste the day waiting for your clothes to wash & dry, the staff also offer a paid laundry service.
Hotel New Wakasa
With sky-high real estate prices, providing spacious rooms in Japan isn’t always easy, but the Hotel New Wakasa does its best. The smaller rooms include futons that you can fold up to provide more space. Splurge on the most luxurious rooms, however, and you’ll get a little more elbow room and even your own private garden.
Depending on which side of the lodgings you’re staying on, you can also get mountain views. If you’re on the opposite side, rooms with private bathrooms and balconies or terraces are also on offer.
Like many Nara hotels, the New Wakasa has its own hot spring and massage services. You also get basics must-have amenities such as free WIFI. It’s basically everything that you expect with larger than average rooms.
From your accommodations, you can reach many of Nara’s top attractions by foot. For some travellers, however, the location away from the transport hubs can be a bit of a windfall. It’s about a half mile from the nearest train station and about one mile from the JR Nara Station.
Piazza Hotel Nara
Besides spacious rooms, there aren’t a lot of places to stay in Nara that allow for smoking. The Piazza Hotel Nara is an exception. While most of the rooms are non-smoking, they do have a few that cater to smokers. (This is one of the odd quirks of accommodations in Japan.)
If you’re a non-smoker, however, you’ll have access to some of the best suites in the hotel. The corner rooms include floor-to-ceiling windows, giving you a wide view of the surrounding city. At night, the skyline lights up, creating a panoramic view that you’ll never forget.
You’re just a short walk from the Nara Train Station and the friendly staff of the Piazza Hotel Nara will gladly point out the best attractions in the city. They even offer airport transfers and a taxi service to guests.
The lodgings here are mostly geared toward business travellers. Each room has its own alarm clock, free water bottles, and instant coffee. While it has a business-traveller vibe, it’s still a great spot to rest between trips to the surrounding sites.
✓ Top pick for relaxation & serenity
There’s a room for everyone at the Nara Hotel. You can choose from small standard twins with a view of the park to the larger deluxe twin rooms with views of the surrounding trees. There’s even a massive 1,300-square-foot royal suite.
This is also a great place to start your sightseeing as the Nara Hotel is located at the top of a hill with views over the city. You’re within walking distance of the Great Buddha Hall of Todai-ji and several other interesting attractions.
If you get tired of walking around Nara, head back to the hotel and enjoy some peace and quiet in the garden. It’s a private & serene spot that doesn’t get a lot of visitors.
Hotel Nikko Nara
The staff at the Hotel Nikko Nara strive to cater to your every need, and they provide a wide range of services to guests. You get the greatest number of amenities included in your room compared to any other property in the city.
When you first enter the lobby of the Hotel Nikko Nara, you may think that you’re in a luxury 5-star with its marble flooring and a two-storey ceiling. After you get in the rooms, you begin to see why the rates are so reasonable.
The rooms are compact but the Nikko makes up for it with beautiful mountain or city views and the variety of services & conveniences available. You can store your possessions in a locked safety deposit box, have your hair done at the on-site salon or let the kids play in the family room for a little breather.
Hotel Fujita Nara
If you plan to spend most of your trip outside of your quarters (and who wouldn’t?), consider staying at the Hotel Fujita Nara. It’s a smaller property with reasonable rates and plenty of amenities.
Like so many hotels in Japan, however, the rooms here are quite compact. Even so, they include a refrigerator, free WIFI, a large TV, a coffee maker, and air conditioning. The hotel also provides many services, including dry cleaning, secure luggage storage, safety deposit boxes, and laundry service.
After a long day of walking around the city of Nara, the staff at the Hotel Fujita Nara can help you relax with their massage services. You can also spend time in the on-site spa, bar, or restaurant.
Compared to some of the other best places to stay in Nara, these lodgings are located slightly further away from the main stations. You’re still close enough to everything to get by on foot though; you shouldn’t need to rely too much on public transportation. You may even wish to rent a bike from reception to get around the city a little quicker.