Choosing where to stay in Seoul can be difficult. For the first time visitor, it can be overwhelming. Simply looking at the endless sprawl in this metropolis can send even the most grounded of travelers into panic. While it’s easy to fill your days plying through ancient palaces, eating delicious South Korean street food or filtering through the latest fashions, there’s one thing that always presents a challenge; choosing where to stay…
South Korea’s capital offers an incredible introduction to this diverse country, with something for all types of visitors.
This guide will introduce you to the best neighborhoods in Seoul so that you can find an area that fits your travel needs.
The Best Areas to Stay in Seoul
Insadong – Best area for traditional Korean culture & food
Insadong and adjacent neighborhoods in the cultural district of Jongno are great bases for travelers who love to learn more about South Korea’s traditions and culture. It is a great, centrally located hot spot to stay in Seoul.
This main street is full of traditional shops, boutiques, accessory stores, tea houses, and cafes. As the unofficial art district, it is also a great place to start getting a feel for Korean culture, with plenty of traditional architecture and handicraft shops among the new and shiny franchises.
Things to do in Insadong:
- Get silly at the Alive Museum
- Soak in the paintings and sculptures in the many Art Galleries
- Visit Jogyesa Temple, one of the most important Buddhist temples in South Korea
- Go souvenir shopping on the main street, and in the alleyways, where you can buy specialized goods, including pottery, hanbok (traditional Korean clothing), and hanji (traditional handmade paper)
- Hang out at Ssamzigil a spiraling four-story building of arts, crafts, shopping and food, Ssamzigil will fulfill your appetite for all things cute and colorful
- Go to the Kyung-in Museum of Fine Art, that is filled with international and cultural artistry
- Sip on some hot tea at Shin Old Teahouse. The Teahouse only provides floor seating like a traditional Korean tea house
Where to stay in Insadong:
Centermark Hotel Insadong Myeongdong – Centrally-located a hotel that’s wedged into a perfect location between Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung. Both the centre of Insadong and Myeongdong are within a 10-minute walk. Rooms are cozy and modern with top-notch service.
Orakai Insadong Suites – Beautiful self-catering apartments with excellent amenities in the heart of Insadong. The apartments are spacious and well-equipped, providing all the comforts of home. It is only a 10-minute walk from Jogyesa Temple. There are various restaurants and traditional teahouses around the hotel, and Incheon International Airport is an hour away.
Sunbee Hotel Insadong Seoul – Located just a 5-minute walk from Jonggak Subway Station (Line 1). The room have free Wi-Fi access, air-conditioned, fitted with a refrigerator, an electric kettle and a private bathroom with bathrobes and free toiletries. Guests can lounge in the seating area while watching cable channels on the flat-screen TV.
Bibimbap Hanok Guesthouse Insadong – Recently renovated 100-year old Hanok with Western-style private bathrooms. It is just a couple minutes’ walk from Exit 4 of Jongno 3-ga Subway Station (Line 1, 3 and 5). The guest house offers free Wi-Fi access in all areas and daily Korean breakfast. Featuring an Ondol, Korean heated flooring, air conditioning and a flat-screen TV with cable and satellite channels. The private bathroom is equipped with shower facilities and a hairdryer.
Beyond Stay – A traditional Hanok house with small but quaint rooms in a quiet area. The room equipped with AC, coffee machine, private bathroom with a shower, free toiletries and a hair dryer. A continental breakfast is available every morning at Beyond Stay. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the hotel.
Yellow Brick – Lovely guesthouse with bright rooms and a rooftop garden. Yellow Brick offers both private and dormitory rooms with free Wi-Fi, AC and a flat screen TV. A simple breakfast is available from 07:00 – 10:00. It is also close to the subway station
Myeongdong – Best area for shopaholics & for anyone wanting to experience Seoul’s modern soul
Home to some of the largest shopping brands, Myeongdong is the one-stop destination for all your shopping needs and wants. Shopping addicts will especially love the bustle of Myeongdong where you’ll find all the latest fashions and cosmetics at surprisingly reasonable prices!.
This is also a great area for foodies who want a taste of those cute and very Instagrammable street foods. Everything from the tastiest South Korean delights to Japanese street snacks, grace the menus as you eat your way through one of Seoul’s top districts for travelers.
Things to do in Myeongdong:
- Reclaim your youth on Myeongdong Shopping Street
- Wrap yourself in luxury inside the Seoul equivalent of Harrods in Shinsegae
- Experience high-quality food, entertainment and shopping in Korea House
- Visit Seoul Museum of Art
- Go to the Namdaemun Market, the largest market in South Korea, each section has hundreds of stalls, from clothing to handicrafts and accessories
- Go to the Nanta Theatre, South Korea’s most successful nonverbal performance
- Get a shot of European grace at Myeongdong Cathedral
- Nibble on yummy kalguksu at Myeongdong Kyoja
Where to stay in Myeongdong:
THE PLAZA Seoul, Autograph Collection – The well-designed Plaza beautifully decorated using modern design elements and soft colors, with free Wi-Fi throughout the property and an indoor pool. All rooms at The Plaza feature automated curtains and a large flat-screen TV. With onsite restaurants on the property; Taoyuen restaurant serves healthy oil-free Chinese dishes, while The Seven Square offers Mediterranean-style buffet.
Aloft Seoul Myeongdong – A contemporary 4-star luxury hotel with a style that’s a step above your usual chain hotel. Superb central location in Myeongdong surrounded by vibrant streets of shopping and restaurants and easily accessible to Seoul’s amazing subway system. All rooms are equipped with an electric tea pot, air conditioning, flat-screen TV and private bathroom with a bath or shower.
Savoy Hotel Myeongdong – Just 100 m from Myeongdong Subway Station. The hotel provides a business center and elegant room with bathtubs, as well as, free Wi-Fi throughout the property. The room are equipped with air conditioning a writing desk, and a flat-screen TV. Onsite restaurant serves breakfast daily. The hotel provides luggage storage services at the 24-hour front desk, as well as, laundry and currency exchange services.
Ibis Styles Ambassador Seoul Myeongdong – This stylish hotel just a 2-minute walk from Myeongdong Subway Station. The hotel features a concierge desk and a 24-hour front desk for guests’ convenience and free Wi-Fi can be used throughout the property. Myeongdong shopping district just 5 minutes’ walk from the property, where N Seoul Tower only 15 minutes’ walk away.
Casa Myeongdong Guesthouse – A simple but modern guesthouse conveniently located in the popular Myeongdong shopping area, a couple minutes’ walk from Exit 9 and 10 of Myeongdong Subway Station. It offers private and dormitory rooms with air conditioning and heating systems also free Wi-Fi access throughout the property.
Private rooms include a flat-screen cable TV and a private bathroom with a shower booth. Shared bathrooms and toilets for dormitory-style rooms. The property houses a communal kitchen and shared lounge. Guests can request laundry services at a surcharge.
Philstay Myeongdong – The room is fitted with a refrigerator, cable TV, private bathroom includes a hairdryer, free toiletries, slippers and a toilet with an electronic bidet. There is a shared lounge as well as a shared kitchen that provides a continental breakfast. Free laundry facilities are also available for guests to use.
Hongdae – Best area for budget travelers & hipsters
Hongdae is heaven for indie art lovers and creatives neighborhood. It is a great place to experience a more local side to the city and is famous for its nightlife, shopping, eating, drinking and rivals Myeongdong because it is often cheaper.
Hongdae is a youthful and energetic neighborhood with a zestful arts and entertainment scene. In many ways, Hongdae is the bi-polar opposite of Insadong; it’s at the forefront of Korean culture, rather than riding on the traditional coattails of it. The energy here is infectious, if at times (more than) a little eccentric. While wandering in the streets around your digs, you’ll be bombarded by street performances, art displays, and trend-setting food options.
Things to do in Hongdae:
- Get silly at the Trickeye Museum – an interactive museum where you pose with the paintings on the wall to look like you’re a part of the art
- Grab a delicious meal and shop in Sinchon. There are tons of restaurants and bars scattered throughout the area featuring western and Korean food
- Laugh ’til it hurts at Hongdae NANTA Theatre
- Admire the Seoul street art scene on Hongdae Mural Street
- Support local artists at Hongdae Free Market. Unlike a regular flea market, the exhibitions here feature original handmade items created by local artists rather than typical used consumer goods
Where to stay in Hongdae:
RYSE, Autograph Collection – A stunning 5-star luxury hotel filling a long-neglected high-end gap in the Hongdae accommodations scene. The whole experience at RYSE exudes an elegant modernism from the moment you step in the door. You don’t want to miss this one.
9 Brick Hotel – A stylish new hotel only a 6 minutes’ walk from Hongik University Subway Station, 9 Brick Hotel features a restaurant with outdoor seating and a bar. Free Wi-Fi access and private parking is available on site. Featuring views of the city, each room is fitted with a flat-screen TV, desk, sofa, fridge and air conditioning. Private bathroom includes a bathrobe, slippers, free toiletries and hairdryer. The 24-hour front desk offers free baggage storage, free valet parking and concierge services.
L7 Hongdae by LOTTE – A brand-new 4-star hotel from Lotte that’s stylish, hip & perfectly located to take on the buzz of Hongdae. All guest rooms have air conditioning, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, a kettle, a bidet, private bathroom with a hairdryer, free toiletries and free Wi-Fi. The hotel offers a business center for guest use. Guests at L7 Hongdae can enjoy the seasonal rooftop swimming pool at an additional cost. Speaking English and Japanese at the 24-hour front desk, staff are always at hand to help.
Brownie Guesthouse – Brownie Guest house is located within a 3 minutes’ walk from Hongik University Subway Station. There are both private and dormitory-style rooms with free Wi-Fi. Each bunk in dormitory rooms comes with a reading light and a privacy curtain. The shared bathrooms come with shower and bath amenities.
Space Torra – It’s a small guesthouse with charming rooms offers a daily continental breakfast, 24-hour front desk and a free luggage storage service. All rooms are equipped with air conditioning, heating and free Wi-Fi. A variety of dining options are available within walking distance of Space Torra.
Lian Guesthouse – This guesthouse is a great option for travelers on a budget, with full English/Irish breakfast is served daily at the property. Guest rooms are equipped with an electric tea pot. Cleaned, shared bathroom featuring all the facilities, including slippers and free toiletries.
Itaewon – Best area for younger travelers on a budget & partiers
Itaewon is a great district for cosmopolitan travelers who yearn for the world’s best wherever they go. Itaewon is Seoul’s most diverse neighborhood being a hotspot for foreigners and expats. You can find international cuisine and shopping in this area as well as a bustling nightlife.
Itaewon sits near the main American army base in the city, perhaps explaining its familiarity among expats, many of whom spend their evenings plying through Itaewon’s restaurants and drinking in its edgy nightclubs.
It’s perfect for younger travelers looking to deep dive into Seoul’s party culture while finding some of central Seoul’s cheapest places to stay.
Things to do in Itaewon:
- Clamber aboard a replica of the patrol boat sunk by North Korean forces in War Memorial of Korea
- Take in some great culture at Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art
- Explore International Cuisines behind Hotel Hamilton
- Visit Seoul Central Mosque, the city’s only mosque and a marker of a diversity within Seoul
- Admire the N Seoul Tower at night
- Visit Namsangol Hanok Village, located in a park at the foot of Namsan, this peaceful village is a wonderful spot to encounter traditional Korean culture
- Visit Passion 5. A luxe spin-off of the Paris Baguette chain
Where to stay in Itaewon:
Hamilton Hotel – This 4-star luxury hotel is located in front of Itaewon Subway Station, Hamilton Hotel offers modern rooms with free internet in Seoul’s Itaewon District. It has a seasonal rooftop pool and a large sauna. The air-conditioned rooms are simply furnished, each equipped with a cable/satellite TV, mini-bar, ironing facilities and private bathrooms with hot shower facilities. Guests can arrange day trips at the tour desk, or exercise at the gym. The hotel also provides a business center and 24-hour front desk. The hotel’s main restaurant offers casual dining with Korean and Western dishes. Maple Tree House serves authentic Korean barbecue, while Holeeachow offers Chinese food. Coffee and fruit juice can be enjoyed at Grill.
Itaewon Crown Hotel – A great location for this elegant and modern hotel featuring all the comforts a traveler may need, from flat-screen TV to a kettle in the room and private, en-suite bathroom. The structure is located just 3 minutes’ walk from the bustling Itaewon street, full of restaurants, pubs, clubs and shops. The hotel features an in-house sauna facility, massage services and complimentary Wi-Fi access.
Guests can have a breakfast buffet at the dining area at an extra charge. A la carte delights are offered until late in the evening at Coffee Shop.
Imperial Palace Boutique Hotel – Breaking the chain of corporate hotels, this unique spot brings a little color to the already vibrant neighborhood of Itaewon. Even from the outside, you’ll notice the bright colors of the exterior, and each room is individually decorated with wall art from watermelons to lemons. On top of this, there’s a gym downstairs should you enjoy the tasty included breakfast too much!
That House Itaewon – Located just a few minutes from Itaewon station, this property has a terrace and shared lounge. All rooms have kettle, free Wi-Fi and equipped with a seating area. A daily continental or American breakfast is provided.
G Guesthouse – Not only does G Guesthouse offer an optimum location in Itaewon, it also has easy transport links to Gangnam, Myeongdong and Hongdae. It also has a free breakfast, complimentary Wi-Fi and barbecue facilities on the rooftop, meaning you and your new hostel friends are bound to have a great night.
Mosc – Located just 5 minutes walking from Itaewon metro station, this property is a great option for travelers on a budget who want a decent breakfast to start the day. Cleaned, shared bathroom featuring all the facilities, including slippers and free toiletries.
Jongno-gu – Best area for traditional sightseeing & good quality mid-range accommodations
Jongno-gu is home to some of Seoul’s best tourist attractions like Gyeongbokgung Palace, Gwanghwamun Gate, Changdeokgung Palace, Bukchon Hanok Village and Jogyesa Temple. Although Insadong is the most famous corner of Jongno-gu, staying almost anywhere in this central Seoul district puts you front and center for tackling the city.
What makes the Jongno-gu area so interesting as a choice for where to stay in Seoul, is that it mixes its traditional side so seamlessly with Seoul’s modern face.
You’re as likely to find a gleaming glass office building or trendy restaurant in Jongno-gu as an ancient palace or temple. Add on top of that its central location and a selection of some of the top hotels in Seoul, and it’s no wonder why Jongno-gu is a favorite for travelers passing through South Korea’s capital.
Things to do in Jongno-gu:
- Gyeongbokgung like a phoenix, Seoul’s premier palace has risen several times from the ashes of destruction
- Changdeokgung the World Heritage–listed Changdeokgung is the most beautiful of Seoul’s five main palaces
- Visit Daeksogung in the evening and see the buildings illuminated
- Stroll along Cheonggyecheon stream, this revitalized stream is a hit with Seoulites
- Gwanghwamun Gate is the impressive main gate to Seoul’s premier palace is flanked by stone carvings of haechi
- Bukchon Hanok Village is home to around 900 hanok, Seoul’s largest concentration of these traditional Korean homes
- Getting lost inside Namdaemun Market
- National Folk Museum of Korea. It displays the culture and folk history of the Korean people from prehistoric times to the end of the Joseon Dynasty
- Jongmyo Shrine. It serves as a shrine for deceased members of royalty
Where to stay in Jongno-gu:
Four Seasons Hotel Seoul –Quite possibly the best luxury hotels in Seoul. Besides its picture-perfect views and perfect location, this 5-star hotel features 4 on-site restaurants, dry & wet saunas, and world-class fitness facilities including a 3D golfing simulation. All of the modern and stylish rooms and suites offer floor-to-ceiling windows with panoramic views of the historical city center. There are a flat-screen LCD TV, remote-controlled drapes and an iPad Mini to access hotel services including 24-hour in-room dining.
Shilla Stay Gwanghwamun – An elegant 4-star hotel that’s located steps away from some of Seoul’s best tourist attractions. Fitted with an elegant ambiance, each room features a flat-screen TV, fridge, complimentary water bottles and coffee/tea making facilities. The private bathroom comes with a shower booth or a bath tub, free toiletries and bathrobes. Jonggak, Gwanghwamun and Anguk subway stations can all be reached within a 10-minute walk from the hotel. Excellent value for a stay in central Seoul.
Fraser Place Namdaemun – Located right next to Namdaemun Square, Fraser Place Namdaemun provides easy access to Seoul’s popular attractions. All rooms are beautifully decorated and fitted with fine-quality furnishings. Rooms come with an iPod docking station, free Wi-Fi and a flat-screen TV. Panorama lounge bar is located on the 16th floor and provides a selection of refreshing beverages.
Sky Guesthouse – If you looking to enjoy the best of Seoul in a classic setting without draining your wallet, Sky Guesthouse is one of the city’s best choices. Set in Jongno-gu within the atmospheric Bukchon Hanok Village area, this traditional Korean guesthouse impresses with inspired Asian architecture and decor that transports you back to simpler times. This is one of the most unique places to stay in Seoul. The guesthouse features traditional Korean-style accommodations with heated floors and mats. Unlike in most other hanok, bathroom facilities are private.
Hostel Tommy – This newly-renovated hostel with both shared and private accommodations is located within 3 minutes’ walk from Exit 7 of Jongno 3-ga Subway Station (Line 1, 3 and 5) All rooms are fitted with both heating and air conditioning. A simple free breakfast of toast, cereals, jam and coffee is available daily. Luggage can be stored at the 24-hour front desk.
Gangnam – Best area for the well-traveled and high-heeled
Made famous by the catchy Psy song, Gangnam is one of Seoul’s financial hubs and the center of the gargantuan KPOP industry. Gangnam is the city’s modern soul, featuring the Korean capital’s most impressive skyscrapers, most upscale shopping boutiques, and its most raucous nightclubs. (Not to mention some of the top hotels in Seoul).
Full of high-rises and shopping malls, this area is not for everyone and has prices to match. However, it is also home to plenty of incredible food and provides a fascinating insight into parts of Korean culture.
If you are into living the high life and love the nightclub culture this is where to stay in Seoul.
Things to do in Gangnam:
- Seonjeongneung, Bongeunsa Temple, Seoul Arts Center
- Bong Eun Sa – This beautiful temple sits peacefully amongst the skyscrapers, in the middle of Gangnam, and is a small haven of peace in an otherwise crazy neighborhood
- Samneung Park – An open green space in the center of Gangnam, this park is the location of a number of royal tombs and a wonderful escape from the busy streets
- Samsung D’light is an exhibition space that showcases the latest technology founded by Samsung. It’s an excellent choice for electronic aficionados, as visitors are able to interact with some of the technology on display
- Seoul Olympic Park The landscape is beautiful and serves as a great place to get away from all the cars and polluted air of the most crowded part of the city
- COEX – Shopping and Aquarium is located underneath the Korea World Trade Center and is one of the largest underground shopping centers in South Korea. It contains international brand name stores, a concert hall, and an extensive food court and restaurants. It even has a full aquarium, movie theater, arcade and a kimchi museum
Where to stay in Gangnam:
Park Hyatt Seoul – By far one of the best hotels where to stay in Gangnam. The Park Hyatt is one of the most exclusive and luxurious hotels in Seoul, featuring stylish & modern guest rooms designed with natural oak and stone. Floor-to-ceiling windows glint breathtaking views of the Gangnam skyline. A flat-screen TV, reclining chair and mini-bar are included. The en-suite granite bathrooms have an over-sized bathtub and a refreshing rain shower. With three superb restaurants on-site as well as a gym & pool that peer precipitously onto the city, the Park Hyatt Seoul, easily one of the best places to stay in Seoul, is one that you don’t want to miss.
InterContinental Seoul COEX – Located in the World Trade Center, 350 m from COEX Complex, the InterContinental Seoul COEX will seduce you with its spa, wellness center, indoor pool, and exclusive restaurant. Each air-conditioned room includes a private bathroom equipped with a bathtub.
Dormy Inn Premium Seoul Garosugil– Attractive and stylish 4-star hotel that’s the best luxury value in the Gangnam area. Rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows with views out to the city. Hotel includes an on-site spa, sauna, and restaurant.
Consistently highly rated 4-star hotel with its own Korean spa not too far from the Han river. Massage services can be booked for a surcharge
Mercure Ambassador Seoul Gangnam Sodowe – Centrally located in the business district, Mercure Ambassador Gangnam is just 156 m from Yeoksam Subway Station. This property offers free internet, a fitness center and 3 dining options. All rooms come with unique wall prints and large windows. All units are equipped with a 40-inch flat-screen cable TV, seating area and private bathroom. SODOWE restaurant offers international dishes, while M café serves fresh coffee and pastries. Guests can enjoy views of Gangnam while dining at Kloud, located on the 21st floor. The hotel has a business center and a 24-hour reception. Laundry, dry cleaning and ironing services are available upon request.
Ryu Guesthouse Gangnam – Gangnam is not a great area for budget hotels. Ryu Guesthouse Gangnam is a decent alternative and has spacious rooms. A clean and modern guesthouse located close to Apgujeong Subway Station in Gangnam. Unlike many other small guesthouses in Seoul, rooms offer private bathrooms and city views.
There you have it! These are the top areas of where you should stay in Seoul. We hope this helps you decide where to spend your time in Seoul.
If you are looking for an overview of what to see and do in Seoul, check out our ‘Things to do in Seoul‘ article.