Hollow Knight Guide

7. City of Tears

Hollow Knight guide

City of Tears is arguably my favorite area in Hollow Knight. This huge city is fun to explore and has some really interesting design. Unfortunately for us, traversing City of Tears is a bit of a pain, but there are some merchants here who are well worth it. For the sake of guiding you, I’ve put the completed map above with a sort of run layout for where to head. My suggestion would be to head to the Nailsmith straight away as the upgrade is nice, real nice.

Get Nail Upgrade

Hollow Knight guide

Upgrading your nail should be the first thing you do in City of Tears. Located in the bottom, left corner of the city is the Nailsmith. In total, there are three nail upgrades to get throughout the entire playthrough. Upgrading the nail increases your damage. This will help you a ton in this region and going forwards as you will find the enemies start to have more health. To get to the Nailsmith from the entrance, simply head right and take a series of down until you see a sign with a nail on it. Follow the sign until you reach the Nailsmith. Upgrading your nail will cost you 250 Geo, but is well worth it.

Meet Hornet

I didn’t mark this on the map, but the directions are pretty simple. From the Nailsmith head right, staying on the bottom level, until you run into the fountain. Making it here will trigger a cutscene and you will learn a little bit more about the game’s story.

Get the Map

Hollow Knight guide

After you’ve met Hornet, you will realize that you can’t progress further and so you must back track to the elevator you took to get to the Nailsmith. Instead of taking the elevator all the way back up, jump off about midway unto a platform to the right. This will allow us to access the upper portions of the City of Tears. Use the platforms to make your way into the upper area of the second building to the right. Here you can stop by the trader who you can sell certain items to. If you don’t want to do this, continue heading up. Eventually you will make your way to a bench which you have to pay to use and the map maker. The map of this area costs 90 Geo.


With the map in hand, you have a few choices to make. Continue heading up on the left side and snag the Stagway/Bench or head below the bench you are at and head up to the right towards the boss. I personally would grab the Stagway first, but that’s just me.

Boss: Soul Master

Soul Master can be a pretty tough fight, but upgrading the nail makes it a lot easier. Soul Master teleports around the arena and is extremely fast, making dealing damage a bit of a pain. There are also very short windows for healing which can be frustrating. My strategy when facing Soul Master was to get one or two slashes in before he teleports and get a bunch in when he either moves with the orbitals or simply moves left to right. The most frustrating attack to be aware of is the teleport into ground pound. The reason this move is so frustrating is because dodging has to be precise or else Soul Master will keep teleporting. Also be aware that the ground pound has a shockwave with it, so immediately after dashing look to jump.

Like Mantis Lords, Soul Master is a two stage fight. Stage one you fight in the upper arena and then after you have dealt enough damage, you move to the bottom part of the arena. In the second phase, Soul Master becomes faster and more aggressive. The good part about the lower phase is that you only need to deal a few hits of damage for the fight to end.

Ability: Desolate Dive

Hollow Knight guide

Beating Soul Master will give us the Desolate Dive ability. With this ability, we can now access a bunch of new areas! The key to seeing if a piece of ground is poundable, is to watch for it to be shaking. City of Tears has glass on the floor which can be smashed, but this is an exception.

Now that we have a new ability, there are a few places to go, but I am going to take us to Royal Waterways as it is accessed through City of Tears.

Getting to Royal Waterways

While travelling to see Hornet you probably passed a mechanism which required a Simple Key. Lucky for us, Sly sells a Simple Key. Head to Sly in Dirtmouth, buy the Simple Key and return to the lower area of City of Tears. Use the key on the lock and a door will open in the floor. This is the entrance to Royal Waterways. Normally we head to Crystal Peak after collecting Desolate Dive, however, I like unlocking King’s Station Stagway Bench while we are here. Click here if you want skip to Crystal Peak.


Starting the site back in 2016, Eli has poured blood, sweat and tears into making HtR a premiere spot for neckbeards and nerds alike.

83 responses

  1. NGorter says:

    Can I use your writing and pictures in this guide to create a android app and publish it legally?

  2. fritz says:

    On page 6, Getting to hornet section, isnt going left then down from Cornifer ability locked? I’m trying to speedrun this game using this guide. thanks!

  3. Lee Cunningham says:

    This is an excellent, massively helpful walkthrough dude. It’s articulate, easy to follow, and is my default go to guide for when I’m stuck

    Much obliged for your putting in the effort in its preparation. I know that the front of house end result belays an awful lot of back office work that you no doubt sweated into this. You’ve done a top job



    – everygrainofsand –

  4. Dorotyhy little cat says:

    Great guide!! it really helped me solve all of the grueling puzzles! who knew the creatures were bugs!

  5. KyloRen23471 says:

    What about howling cliffs?

  6. KyloRen23471 says:

    I need help. I went to the store in dirtmouth after being at the seers house. I accidentally fell in and got the dream nail on accident. I was traversing through crystal peak when i fell in. I would like to know if i can get back without the tram pass because i dont have that. Also the map wasnt in cornifers shop.

    • Jogamy says:

      in section 10 of the guide it has discription on how to get to the resting grounds and you should find a card here that says cornifer left after that you will be able to buy the map at dirtmouth

  7. KyloRen23471 says:

    How do i get to the other area in city of tears? In the other area to the northwestern bench. There is a little corridor and it has just a block and the leaver on the other side. OR how do i get to the area past where you meet hornet?

  8. sleepy_birdie says:

    “Uumuu only takes damage after being deflated by (name?) an ally who appears during the fight.”

    Quirrel! You make it sound like you haven’t played the game for enjoyment, there are so many places you talk to him!

  9. sleepy_birdie says:

    “This black substance blocks access to certain areas and must be passed through in order to access the final mask.”

    What? That’s not true; I broke all three masks before getting the shade cloak 🙂 There’s a way into Fog Canyon from Fungal Wastes that puts you on the other side of the inky wall thing, Cornifer even comments on having found a way around. That wasn’t just to explain his presence there, you can find it too.

  10. Alex says:

    Thanks for the guide – I’ve tried to avoid using it other than as a pointer for the next general direction to head. I’m 26 hours in, and just heading towards the second mask in Deepnest. So far the Watcher Knights have been the biggest pain in the ass, but I’m currently getting owned by a dream essence fighter thing I stumbled across in Deepnest (not on your map, but it’s near one of the blue glowing bulb things that gives you extra blue hearts). Such an awesome game.

  11. CoolKid says:

    Fuck the Mantis Village

  12. Kat says:

    I have a question, on this guide it says to backtrack to where Hornet was. But there is a passage right above where you get the mantis claw, are you supposed to go there?

  13. war says:

    strange, queen’s garden is not in the guide ….

    • CueWasTaken says:

      queen’s garden is a completely optional part of the game is probably why, this guide isn’t for a 100% completion so it makes sense that its ignored

  14. someone_who_wants_to_know_this: says:

    How do you get to that bench in the picture? I cant find a way there.

  15. Octo Knight says:

    How do you get out of the soul master area after defeating him?

  16. Henry says:

    Hi, I am loving the guide. I am on page 12 and I can’t understand how to follow the map to Isma’s Tear. I am on the passage from King’s Station, the one with the broken elevator down below, and can’t find any opening on walls to follow the path on your map. If anybody could help me..

  17. Headclass says:

    Hello, in the guide number 14, you tell us to go for the first bench in the deepnest. However, the area is blocked. There is no way to go there. What should I do?

    • Headclass says:

      I’m sorry, I meant guide number 13

      • QQxwQQ says:

        For everyone wondering what to do. This seems to be a mistake.

        You can go down to the other bench and then transition one screen to the left and and then go up.
        This way you can reach the bench and follow up the route in the guide.

        • Zarya Stark says:

          Thanks for this! Was wondering what I was doing wrong. Nearly died two times trying to backtrack to find a path to that bench x_x

  18. Konrad says:

    First of all, congratz on a great guide. It helps a lot! I have a question about King’s station stagway. I managed to get there but there’s a bench broken and bell on a ground with no possibilty to activate it. I went far right but I gotto Kingdom’s edge. Did I miss something?

  19. wratih9 says:

    Great job on the guide! I’ve dropped 15 hours into Hollow Knight and the lack of pointing you in the right direction has made the challenge only harder. I’m fighting Soul Master now even though I’ve completed the Royal Waterways, Deepnest, and have explored a lot of the map. I think at just glancing at the order that your guide has the areas will make it much more manageable.

  20. quanta says:

    Great guide. Simple, easy to understand and it allows to head in the right direction while leaving 90% of the content unspoiled for the user to discover. Thank you so much!

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