Where to Stay in Seoul – A Guide to the Best Neighborhoods

Choosing where to stay in Seoul can be difficult. For the first-time visitor, it can be overwhelming. Jade House of Journey Count lived for a year in South Korea and shares her picks of the best neighborhoods, why they are a good choice for visitors and what you can do in each. 

If you are exploring South Korea, one of Asia’s most underrated destinations, chances are you are probably starting off in the pulsing capital city of Seoul.

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.

Where to Stay in Seoul

After living in South Korea for a year and exploring every corner of the country, I’ve come to believe that it is one of Asia’s most underrated destinations. And the capital, Seoul, is one of the region’s coolest cities.

Korea’s capital offers an incredible introduction to this diverse country, and we travelled there often to explore new areas and show our own visitors around.

Seoul’s Best Neighborhoods

Where to stay in Seoul: The Districts
  • Insadong – in the heart of Seoul, close to most major attractions
  • Myeongdong – a hub of modern Korean culture close to Namsan tower
  • Hongdae – a bustling university neighborhood known for its bars and restaurants
  • Gangnam – this iconic area is home to skyscrapers and luxury chain hotels
  • Bonus: Hanok Homes – a unique accommodation experience in Seoul

Seoul Districts

Seoul has 25 gu or “districts” but you’ll find that even if I suggest staying in Insadong, maybe Myeongdong might be a good option too. Don’t limit yourself.

As you can see from the map, Seoul neighborhoods are quite random but encircle the Hang River. Choosing where to stay in Seoul is easy once you get the hang of how the city works.

Suggested Seoul Neighborhoods

where to stay in seoul neighborhoods
Where to stay in Seoul: Neighbourhoods

There is something for everyone, from art, history and shopping, to outdoor exploration and some of the best dining options in the country.

This guide will give you an idea of the area that would best fit your travel style and desires, find the best neighbourhoods to stay in and will encourage you to use Seoul’s wonderful public transport system to explore the whole city.

1. Insadong

What to do in Seoul Gyeongbukgung palace

Insadong is the most convenient neighborhood for first timers to Seoul as it sits between the cities most popular attractions.

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.

The place is also abundant with cool independent cafés and teahouses to relax in between sightseeing.

Suggested Hotels in Insadong

Luxury

Mid Range

  • Beyond Stay – A traditional Hanok house with small but quaint rooms in a quiet area. Rooms include A/C and Free WiFi throughout the hotel.

Budget

  • Yellow Brick 0 A lovely guesthouse with bright rooms and a rooftop garden. Every room has A/C and a flat screen T.V. A simple breakfast is available from 07:00 – 10:00.

Search More Hotels and AirBnBs in Insadong

Things to see and do in Insadong

Gyeongbukgung Palace – Insadong is well placed to visit Gyeongbukgung palace. If you only visit one of Seoul’s many palaces, make it this one.

University students offer free tours to foreigners around the Gyeongbukgung subway exit as a chance to practice their English. They’re all incredibly helpful and friendly and will give you a more educated insight into the stunning buildings and gardens within the palace.

If you decide against a guide though, just keep meandering north until you come to Hyangwonjeong, the royal pavilion which sits upon a man-made lake at the rear of the palace. The views here are especially beautiful in both autumn and spring, as golden leaves or petals float across the water.

Before you leave be sure to check out the museum within the compound, and the pagoda which rests upon it, alongside the reconstruction of a traditional street from the past.

Changdeokgung Palace Places to stay in Seoul

Changdeokgung Palace – East of Gyeongbukgung is another of Seoul’s majestic palaces which features beautifully manicured gardens. These palaces are an incredible insight into Korea’s past and have been kept in fantastic condition, certainly worth a few hours of wandering with a camera in hand.

Bukchon Hanok Village – Between the two palaces is the charming Bukchon hanok village. All buildings within this area are in-keeping with traditional architecture, and the place has been kept alive throughout multiple occupations. Climb the steep roads and take in the city vistas, and consider stopping for tea at one of the little houses along the way.

Suggested Tours

Cultural Heritage Tour – This morning tour introduces you to some of Seoul’s top cultural attractions, including the Bukchon Village.

Full Day Top Attractions – Visit Gyeongbuk Palace, the Blue House, Bukchon Village and more on this full day tour.

Traditional Calligraphy Experience – Experience Seoul’s creative heart with a calligraphy class in Insadong.

Getting There

Insadong-gil, the main street running through the neighborhood, is close to Anguk station on subway line 1 and Jongno 3-ga on subway lines 1, 3 and 5.

2. Myeongdong

Where to stay in Seoul Myeongdong

Located between Insadong and Namsan Mountain is Korea’s shopping mecca Myeongdong.

Neon lines the streets and food stalls waft their smells along the pedestrianized paths in this bustling neighborhood, a complete contrast to the historic center.

If you are looking for hustle and bustle and great shopping the this is the place to stay in Seoul.

Suggested Hotels near Myeongdong

Luxury

Mid-Range

Budget

More Hotels and AirBnBs in Myeongdong

Things to See in Myeongdong

Namsan Tower – Across the street from exit 3 of Myeongdong subway station, there is a free shuttle bus that will ferry you up to the start of Namsan mountain. From where it drops you off you’ll have the choice of walking up the mountain or taking the cable car.

We’d personally recommend the walk, as it’s not too far and offers impressive views of the city and mountains on the way up.

The view from the top is nothing short of incredible.A trip up the Namsan tower gives you a real insight into quite how enormous the city is. Buildings and mountains sprawl in every direction – you’ll be blown away.

We recommend getting up the mountain with ample time for sunset. Once it gets dark you’ll see the lights flicker on district by district across the whole city – certainly not something to miss.

Where to stay in Seoul Cheonggyecheon Stream

Cheonggyecheon Stream – Between Insadong and Myeongdong, you will find Cheonggyecheon stream. This artificial reclaimed stream is a lovely place to take a walk and view the architecture of modern Seoul.

If you head East far enough, you’ll end up away from the developed center, and in what locals would consider to be the real Seoul. It’s areas like this where you’ll find enormous local food markets.

West along the stream, you’ll hit Sejongdae-ro avenue with Gyeongbukgung palace at the end.

Along this road are statues of the great King Sejong, creator of the modern alphabet, and Admiral Yi Sun-shin, who defended the country against the Japanese under Joseon Rule.

Either side of this road, as well as under it, are some fascinating museums. The national museum gives an excellent overview of Korea’s rich history.

Suggested Tours

Nanta Cooking Show Tickets – Head to Myeondong Theatre to see Korea’s eclectic and exciting show.

Seoul Night Shopping Tour – Discover Seoul’s bustling shopping districts after sunset when the neon lights are bright.

Korean Cooking Class – Learn to make Korea’s staple dishes and some delicious snacks in this hands-on cooking class.

Getting There

Myeongdong sits between subway line 2 and subway line 4 with Euljiro 1, Euljiro 3 and Myeongdong stations creating a triangle across the neighbourhood.

3. Hongdae

Where to stay in Seoul hongdae scene

Home to Hongik University, the Hongdae area is a great place to experience a more local side to the city and is famous for its nightlife.

For shopping, eating, and drinking, it rivals Myeongdong and is often cheaper. On top of that, it’s one of the edgiest and individual places in the whole country and the neighborhood of quite a liberal-minded arts University.

If you are a little younger and are looking for the party scene than this is the best neghbourhood in Seoul to stay in.

Suggested Hotels Near Hongdae

Luxury

Mid-Range

Budget

Hotels and AirBnBs in Hongdae

Things to see and do near Hongdae

Nightlife in Hongdae – If you are looking to experience Korea’s iconic nightlife, then this is a fantastic place to be. The area has plenty of clubs and bars, and tonnes of barbecue restaurants to warm up at.

To start your evening in a traditional way, head to a local Makgeolli bar and enjoy a couple of drinks with some Korean pancakes (jeon).

Hongdae art galleries – Check out the seemingly endless art galleries and artsy coffee shops. This is a great place to pick up unique souvenirs and homeware.

If you happen to be there on a Sunday, then check out the open-air flea market which starts at 1 pm in the of the pedestrianized area.

Suggested Tours

Nightlife and Soju Experience– Spend your evening like a local and learn about traditional alcohol in Korea.

Hongdae Pub Crawl – Party with the locals on this 3-hour pub crawl.

Seoul Private Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Tour: Choose your own adventure! Take a private, custom tour of Seoul city highlights without worrying about being taken to compulsory shopping stops.

Getting There

From Hongik University subway station take exit 9 and head straight up the road to your left to get right into the middle of it all.

The hub is the long pedestrianized street, and all the smaller alleys off of it are worth exploring.

4. Gangnam

where to stay in seoul

Made famous by the catchy Psy song, Gangnam is one of Seoul’s financial hubs and the center of the gargantuan KPOP industry.

Translated as South of the river, Gangnam is a little further afield than the other neighborhoods on this list, and it certainly feels different.

Full of highrises 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.

Suggested Hotels in Gangnam

Luxury

Mid-Range

Budget

Hotels and AirBnBs in Gangnam

Things to See and Do in Gangnam

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.

Suggested Tours

Gangnam Style Tour -If you’re fond of K-pop and you want to walk on the path of your favorite stars, then this tour is made for you.

Gangnam Walking Tour Including Samsung D’Light: Shop to your heart’s content at two popular hot spots in Seoul: Gangnam Underground Shopping Arcade and Samsung D’light.

Getting There

Gangnam covers a large area and is served by subway lines 2, 3, 7 and 9.

5. Hanok Homes

If you are looking for something a little different on your trip to Seoul and love immersing yourself in local culture, then you should consider checking out a Hanok homestay.

Usually located in the beautifully preserved Bukchon village, these houses are made in the traditional wooden style and sleeping is on comfortable mats upon heated floors.

You’ll also have the chance to connect with the local people keeping these accommodations alive, and they’ll hopefully share some traditional meals with you too.

Top Hanok Homes in Seoul

Luxury

Mid-Range

  • Sky Guesthouse – A thoughtfully decorated Hanok home within the alleys of Bukchon village.

Budget

More Hotels and AirBnBs in Seoul

No matter which neighborhood in Seoul you choose to base yourself in, it’s so easy to travel around the city to get a feel for each one.

While so many of Seoul’s attractions are concentrated in the central neighborhoods, it is worth venturing further afield to experience the local hotspots and hidden gems of the city.

Take your time exploring Seoul, with plenty of breaks in adorable cafes and delicious restaurants – we promise you’ll have an amazing time!

Seoul Quick Tips

Best place to stay in Seoul Namsan Tower 

How to get around Seoul

You can buy a T-money or cash bee card to use on all subway and bus lines in the city. These can be purchased from, and topped up at, most convenience stores, including 7-Eleven, CU and GS25.

Getting from the airport

Seoul’s Incheon International Airport is actually in a separate city, but it is incredibly easy to reach the city center. While Korea’s taxi services are relatively inexpensive, especially with the addition of Uber, we recommend taking the convenient public transport system.

Two subway lines run to the city center. – the AREX takes about 45 minutes, and the regular service takes just over an hour.

If you are looking for something more speedy you can opt for a private transfer right to your hotel.

Getting out of Seoul

There are a number of bus terminals in Seoul, and each run to different parts of the country (South, East, West etc.). Our advice would be to check the Visit Korea website for more details, or, even better, simply ask in your hotel when you get there.

On top of buses, there’s an abundance of high speed (KTX) and low speed (Mugunghwa) trains which run from the capital to Mokpo, Daejeon, Daegu, Jinju and Busan. You can book online, in English, on the Korail website.

Plan Your Seoul Trip

Where to stay in Seoul statue

Dress in layers and pack mix and match clothing. Seoul can be hot and sunny or cool and damp. Bring waterproof outer layers and a sweater or wrap for evenings.

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Paris is on the Euro – $1USD = .85 Euro – For up to date conversions get the XE Currency Converter App 

And these are the best places to stay in Seoul South Korea.

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where to stay in seoul neighborhoods

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About Jade House

Jade House is a freelance writer who has spent the last few years in Asia. She is currently exploring Europe in a campervan with her fiance and their dog and she blogs about it on Words By Jade. Follow the day by day journey on Instagram.

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6 thoughts on “Where to Stay in Seoul – A Guide to the Best Neighborhoods”

  1. How lovely, till now I didn’t hear about this city, I am very zeal to visit this city. Thanks a lot for sharing your awesome stuff.

    Reply
  2. It sounds a city, till now I have only heard about this but now I am having some information about this city. I can tell people a few about this city. Thanks for sharing your stuff and making an unbreakable chain.

    Reply
  3. My daughter recently started liking Korean Pop and has been nagging me to take her to Seoul. This guide will be so useful – should I decide to give in to her demands. Thank you for being so comprehensive!

    Reply