Where to Stay in Seoul (2019 • COOLEST Areas!)

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Are you planning a visit to Seoul anytime soon? Let’s be honest, South Korea’s capital is a massive city with a population of 10 million, so it can be overwhelming when deciding where to stay in Seoul.

Seoul is one of the most advanced cities in the world, yet it keeps South Korean tradition alive. 

In Seoul, you’ll be able to find charming art galleries, Buddhist temples, and traditional teahouses among modern architecture and high-rises. 

But as I mentioned earlier, this is a large city, and the neighborhoods in Seoul are quite diverse.

If you only have a short amount of time, you’re going to want to pick the perfect location to make the most of your time. Whether you are traveling to Seoul as a family, for business, or on a budget, your travel needs are going to differentiate.

This neighborhood guide on where to stay in Seoul will cover all of the best areas in Seoul, as well as the top things to do by neighborhood.

We also have listed the best hostels, hotels, and Airbnb accommodations in Seoul. So, get ready for a culture shock in the best way possible… and get yourself to Seoul!

 

Quick Tips – Where to Stay in Seoul

  • Where to stay in Seoul for the first time –  Gangnam
  • Where to stay in Seoul on a budget – Hongdae
  • Best area to stay in Seoul for nightlife – Itaewon
  • Coolest place to stay in Seoul – Myeongdong
  • Best neighborhood in Seoul for families – Insadong

 

In a hurry? Here’s my top neighborhood for first timers:

Gangnam
Gangnam translates as ‘south of the river’ and is a district that has blown up in recent years. It was originally an area dedicated to sleepy rice fields – but you’d never believe it when visiting today!
Places to Visit:
  • Check out the K-pop scene and pick up a few CDs at Evan Records.
  • Shop for the latest fashion and boutique items at Galleria department store.
  • Eat bibimbap at Tokkijung or a famous Korean barbeque meal at Yang Good.

 

Top 3 Recommendations for Where to Stay in Seoul

Looking for where to stay in Seoul? These are our highest recommendations for places to stay in Seoul.

If you are looking for hostels in Seoul, specifically, make sure to check out our post on the 20 Best Hostels in Seoul!

 

Best Hotel in Seoul: Hanok 24 Guesthouse

best hotel in seoulThis fantastic hotel offers what numerous visitors desire the most – a taste of the real South Korea. The stunning, wooden venue is built in Korean style and almost resembles staying in a temple! The spacious interior has all your usual amenities including TV and aircon.

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Best Hostel in Seoul: Zzzip Guesthouse

best hostel in seoulBased in fashion and arts district Hongdae, this guesthouse is colorful, comfy and clean. The owners pride their venue for having a ‘family feel’ and uniting backpackers from all around the globe.

This hostel’s list of free things to do couldn’t be longer, and those on a budget will relish the free WiFi, free breakfast, free luggage storage and more.

View on Hostelworld

 

Best Airbnb in Seoul: Artist’s luxury flat @Trendy area

Looking for somewhere uber-trendy to stay in Seoul? This artist’s flat features vintage record players, Beatles memorabilia and traditional Korean furniture. Not only will interior fans be in their element, they’ll have easy access to the city’s best shopping area and transport links all over the city.

View on Airbnb

 

Seoul Neighborhood Guide

Quick Summary: The Best Places to Stay in Seoul

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Gangnam

  • Gangnam translates as ‘south of the river’ and is a district that has blown up in recent years. It was originally an area dedicated to sleepy rice fields – but you’d never believe it when visiting today!
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Hongdae

  • If you want a budget night’s accommodation in Seoul, head to Hongdae where the young population hang out. In this part of town, expect the unexpected.
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Itaewon

  • Itaewon is an area catered to foreigners. This may not sound highly cultural but it’s actually a fascinating place to explore. Its long history began before the Second World War when Japanese colonialists were pushed out by American soldiers who lived and partied in the area.
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Myeongdong

  • Myeongdong is a cocktail of sights, tastes, experiences and noise… so much noise! It’s one of Seoul’s busiest districts and subsequently, it’s home to almost anything you could dream up.
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Insadong

  • Known as the cultural heart of Seoul, you’ll want to explore Insadong whether you base yourself in the area or not. The vibe is a little different to the hectic neighborhoods of Myeongdong and Gangnam so it’s popular with families who want to escape the hustle and bustle (relatively – it’s still Seoul!) and experience the culture.
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Let’s be honest – most of us have only heard of one Seoul neighborhood before! Gangam shot to fame as a catchy yet irritating pop song but there’s nothing negative about the neighborhood which lies at the heart of Seoul. It’s one of the city’s more upscale areas with a plethora of high-end restaurants and bars, as well as eateries for those on a shoestring.

Itaewon is a fascinating place to visit. It was originally one of the few places in the city you could buy Western items which subsequently attracted a crowd of young, hip expats. Nowadays it’s now a hub for food and nightlife.

If you’re a fashion lover you may also want to explore Myeongdong – one of Asia’s hippest places to hit the shops.

A more affordable neighborhood to stay is Hongdae, a popular area with young people where anything goes. It’s a lively area at night and you’ll see the locals dressed to the nines in all the latest alternative styles.

For history lovers, it’s all about Insadong. Here you can get to grips with Seoul’s rich history and find temples, shrines and palaces in abundance. It’s also the best place in the city to pick up traditional Korean handicrafts and trinkets – so make sure you visit with an empty suitcase!

Street art in Insadong in Seoul

Bottom line – the city is packed with quirky neighborhoods, history and entertainment. When you’re looking for where to stay in Seoul, you’ll be overrun with options. Let’s get into more detail with our top picks…

 

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Seoul’s 5 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in

With the population in Seoul pushing 10 million, it’s a sprawling city that will require a little more than your legs to explore fully. Luckily, there’s an efficient subway system and a network of affordable, reliable taxis.

Many travellers actually prefer to catch the buses in Seoul as they give a chance to take in different neighborhoods and get a sense of the scale. Whichever mode of transport you prefer, you’ll rarely be far from the district you wish to explore.

Editor’s Note: Be sure to check out our in-depth guide on backpacking Seoul, here for more information on transport, eating cheap, mountains to climb, and all other manner of good stuff.

 

1. Gangnam Neighborhood – Where to Stay in Seoul for First Time Visitors

Gangnam translates as ‘south of the river’ and is a district that has blown up in recent years. It was originally an area dedicated to sleepy rice fields – but you’d never believe it when visiting today!

Money was injected into the area by the 1988 Olympics and it became a playground for those with expensive tastes. Nowadays it’s plateaued and most visitors to Seoul can afford to make the best of the impressive neighborhood.

Gangnam - best neighborhood in Seoul for newcomers

Oh no; they didn’t;t…

Sure, it may not have the temples and fortresses of the north of the city but it’s a good base to visit them from. You’ll get to explore the flashy, fast-paced district that bought the addictive ‘Gangan Style’ tune to life – and that can never be a bad thing (apart from getting infected with that insidious and yet intoxicating earworm).

 

Things to do in Gangnam

  • Check out the K-pop scene and pick up a few CDs at Evan Records.
  • Shop for the latest fashion and boutique items (or just window shop) at Galleria department store.
  • Eat bibimbap at Tokkijung or a famous Korean barbeque meal at Yang Good.
  • Iron out your best backpack outfit and rub shoulders with the Gangnam residents at Eden nightclub.
  • Dance to Gangnam Style at the tribute dance platform outside Exit 5 of the subway station. Don’t be shy!

 

Best Hostel in Gangnam: Kimchee Gangnam Guesthouse

best hostel in Gangnam - Kimchee Gangnam GuesthouseCosy and colourful, Kimchee Gangnam Guesthouse is dope! Located in the heart of Gangnam, Kimchee is within walking distance to tons of hip restaurants and bars so you’ll never need to leave this electric neighborhood!

View on Hostelworld

 

Best Hotel in Gangnam: Hotel NewV

Best hotel in Gangnam, Seoul - Hotel NewVRight around the corner from the subway plus to make traversing the city a breeze. Combine that with some nearby convenice store and cheap food places plus cosy beds and you’re looking at one happy camper! Uhh… hoteller.

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Best Airbnb in Gangnam: Vin’s amazing view and location in Gangnam

You’ll leave your private bedroom loft at Vin’s a total diva and unable to adapt back to regular hotel rooms! Not only will you be based one minute from the Gangnam station, you’ll have city views, a luxurious bathroom including a bathtub, cooking facilities, and a washer and dryer.

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2. Hongdae Neighborhood – Where to Stay in Seoul on a Budget

If you want a budget night’s accommodation in Seoul, head to Hongdae where the uni crowd hang out. It’s the best area to stay in Seoul for those more-digestible student prices combined with the rowdier nightlife.

In this part of town, expect the unexpected. We doubt you came on a visit to South Korea with street art on your to-do list but actually, the colourful urban murals are a real sight to see. As are the hairstyles and the outfits; experimental fashion is at its height here, and the locals want you to know! Hongdae’s trendy reputation developed when Hongik University, a prestigious art school, opened up in the 1990s.

Hongdae neighborhood in Seoul

Everything gets a bit more manageable in the student town. | Image Source: Flickr

It brought artsy students to the area and with them came the clubs, bars, and all-night dance parties. Saying this, the neighborhood is also a great place to get your culture fix… If your Seoul itinerary means saving costs where you can, then stay here.

 

Things to do in Hongdae

  • Meet street performers at Sculpture Park.
  • Treat yourself to coffee or lunch at one of the many boutique cafes in the area.
  • Pick up real one-off fashion pieces designed by art students from the University.
  • Catch a performance of Kung Festival, a popular musical that plays daily at B-Boy Theater. Some say these dance artists are the most talented in the world!
  • Ditch your run-of-the-mill cat cafe and turn up the hipster notch at Thanks Nature Cafe, a dedicated sheep restaurant (and yep, they’re in the cafe not on the menu!)
  • Forget everything you knew at the Trick Eye Museum, an arty establishment which brings exhibits to life for a fascinating sensory overload.

 

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Best Hostel in Hongdae: Hongdae Guesthouse

Hongdae Guesthouse, Seoul - Best hostel in HongdaeYou won’t find a better base than this friendly backpackers in Seoul loved by its guests. With a mix of traditional Korean rooms and funky, modern spaces, you’ll get a real feel for the culture. The friendly owner, Mary, will welcome you to her abode and provide you with everything you need – including computer access in every room (perfect for researching your sightseeing stops).

View on Hostelworld

 

Best Hotel in Hongdae: L7 Hongdae

Best hotel in Hongdae - L7If the giant open spaces at this fashionable hotel aren’t enough to tempt you, maybe you’ll be persuaded by the swimming pool! Despite the peaceful feeling, you’ll actually be just moments from the main shopping street of Hongdae. When you’ve shopped yourself to the point of dropping, just come back in and collapse on your bouncy double bed!

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Best Airbnb in Hongdae: Hongdae Station/Free WiFi Egg

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Hongdae, we think we’ve found a great spot. This fashionable apartment has two double beds and a sofa, meaning it’s perfect for families, couples, or just about anyone. You’ll have free highspeed WiFi from a state-of-the-art WiFi Egg, plus it’s moments from the station. It’ll be your home away from home.

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3. Itaewon Neighborhood – Where to Stay in Seoul for the Best Nightlife

Itaewon is an area catered to foreigners. This may not sound highly cultural but it’s actually a fascinating place to explore. Its long history began before the Second World War when Japanese colonialists were pushed out by American soldiers who lived and partied in the area.

Where to stay in Seoul for Western ex-pat vibes - Itaewon

A little more on the Western cafe side.

While English and Japanese were mainly spoken in the streets at one point, nowadays it’s an integral part of Seoul. Any seediness from the past era has evaporated and fashionable restaurants and bars have moved into the area making it a party hotspot for both locals and tourists.

 

Things to do in Itaewon

  • Visit Leeum Samsung Museum Of Art, one of the most highly-acclaimed galleries in the country for both traditional and modern art.
  • Visit Seoul Central Mosque, the city’s only mosque and a marker of the diversity within Seoul.
  • Try local delicacies including bubble tea which is doled out in numerous locations in the neighborhood.
  • Head to the area behind the Hamilton Hotel to experience the city’s booming nightlife. Here you’ll find all number of dance clubs and late-night hangouts.
  • Admire the N Seoul Tower at night and attach a love lock dedicated to a friend or partner (or your love of solo travel!)
  • Hit the shops for hip streetwear or tailored suits which are both made locally in Itaewon.

 

Best Hostel in Itaewon: G Guesthouse

Best hostel in Itaewong, Seoul - G GuesthouseNot 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 WiFi, and barbeque facilities on the rooftop, meaning you and your new hostel friends are bound to have a great night.

View on Hostelworld

 

Best Hotel in Itaewon: Imperial Palace Boutique Hotel

Best hotel in Itaewong, Seoul - Imperial Palace Boutique HotelBreaking the chain of corporate hotels, this unique spot brings a little colour to the already vibrant neighborhood of Itaewon. Even from the outside you’ll notice the bright colours of the exterior and each room is individually decorated with wall art from watermelons to lemons. On top of that, there’s a gym downstairs should you enjoy the tasty included breakfast too much!

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Best Airbnb in Itaewon: Seoul Itaewon house

It’s not just comfort that brings guests to this apartment but the fashionable finishing touches. It features brass chandeliers, stylish Korean artwork, and potted plants, making it a perfect spot for fans of interior design. You’ll have a comfy double bed as well as a fold-out meaning it’s a comfortable base for up to 4.

View on Airbnb

 

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4. Myeongdong Neighborhood – Coolest Place to Stay in Seoul

Myeongdong is a cocktail of sights, tastes, experiences, and noise… so much noise! It’s one of Seoul’s busiest districts and subsequently, it’s home to almost anything you could dream up.

Music blasts from every store, food tents sell well-priced Korean goods, and skyscrapers tower above you. A day wandering the area may be exhausting but it’s an awesome place to experience the real Seoul and meet the locals who will undoubtedly want to chat.

Myeongdong, Seoul, coolest place to stay in Seoul

There is plenty of kicking around to be had! | Image Source: Flickr

To cut a long story short, it’s one of the coolest places in the city to base yourself.

 

Things to do in Myeongdong

  • Try the street food – highlights include potato chip sticks and spicy hotpots.
  • Experience the wonderful world of tea at Osulloc Tea House, the largest purveyor of speciality and green tea in the city.
  • Hit the shops and departments stores – Lotte and Noon Square are excellent places to start.
  • Indulge at Cafe Coin, one of the oldest cafes in the city famed for its shaved ice (which is nicer than it sounds) and matcha ice cream desserts.
  • Take a class at Cookin’ Nanta where you’ll learn to prepare traditional South Korean dishes while the chefs put on a show that includes singing, dancing, and slapstick humour. It’s really one of a kind!

 

Best Hostel in Myeongdong: Myeongdong Rooftop Hostel

Best hostel in Myeongdong - Rooftop HostelRecently opened and well reviewed, Myeongdong Rooftop Hostel is gorgeously designed and has rooftop views to match! This top-notch hostel in Seoul offers free breakfast and 24-hour access to its amazing rooftop, and is a convenient 5 minute walk from the Myeongdong metro station.

View on Hostelworld

 

Best Hotel in Myeongdong: GLAD Hotel Mapo

Best hotel in Myeongdong - GLAD MapoIs the cool factor important in your search for where to stay in Myeongdong? Minimalist style is the name of the game at GLAD. As well as a comfortable double room, you’ll enjoy a tasty morning breakfast and access to all your usual amenities. It’s not rated 9.7 out of 10 for no reason!

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Best Airbnb in Myeongdong: Myeongdong, portable WiFi

What could be nicer in a new city than having an entire home to call your own? This modern base sleeps up to four and has fabulous views of the bright lights of the city, as well as fast internet and excellent transport connections. If you were still in two minds, know that 95% of guests have given this property a 5-star rating!

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5. Insadong Neighborhood – Where to Stay in Seoul for Families

Known as the cultural heart of Seoul, you’ll want to explore Insadong whether you base yourself in the area or not.

The vibe is a little different to the hectic neighborhoods of Myeongdong and Gangnam so it’s popular with families who want to escape the hustle and bustle (relatively – it’s still Seoul!) and experience the culture. This district is all about traditional wooden tea houses, ancient temples, little art galleries, and cosy corner cafes.

Insadong - Seoul area for more traditional vibes

Cultural vibes in a traditional feeling.

The main street runs for 700 meters so it’s a great place to begin your adventures in the neighborhood, before venturing to the backstreets as the day goes on. The district was once primarily owned by the Joseon Dynasty from the 13-1800s, but now it may as well be owned by the tourists who flock to this cultural hub.

 

Things to do in Insadong

  • Visit the many temples including Cheondogyo Central Temple and Jogyesa, a traditional Buddhist monument.
  • Explore the art galleries of which there are over 100; you’ll find pottery, paintings, sculpture, and more.
  • Sample the desserts – local favourites include hotteok (which is filled with cinnamon and brown sugar) and ice-cream corn cookie sandwiches.
  • Do your souvenir shopping and take home pottery that can date up to several thousand years old (be prepared to pay the big bucks for these, however).

 

Best Hostel in Insadong: Insa Hostel

Best hostel in Insadong - Insa HostelThe location is paramount at this backpacker hostel. You’ll be just a moment’s walk from the main shopping street meaning you won’t need to carry your souvenirs around all day! Guests rave about the friendly feel and there’s even a roof terrace for socialising. Deluxe family rooms are available for those travelling with kids.

View on Hostelworld

 

Best Hotel in Insadong: Grid Inn

Best hotel in Insadong - Grid InnA cool, airy base that makes a refreshing contrast to the ancient streets of the district. Coffee lovers will be thrilled to find a speciality roastery on the ground floor, while history fans will relish the chance to visit the spectacular nearby temples. Grid Inn doesn’t scrimp on comfort either and guests comment on the comfiness of the beds and rooms.

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Best Airbnb in Insadong: Seoul Cozy House

The pretty paintings and fairy lights of this central apartment make it the perfect base to chill after getting your daily culture dose. The main palaces will be moments from your front door and you’ll have access to a bathtub, WiFi, and all your other necessary amenities. Win!

View on Airbnb

 

Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in Seoul

If you are planning a trip to Seoul, but you’re not sure where to stay, our guide maps out the best neighborhoods in Seoul by interest. For more itinerary inspiration, check out how to spend 36 hours in Seoul.

Remember, you can’t go wrong with Zzzip Guesthouse, our top hostel pick in Seoul, or Hanok 24 Guesthouse, a great pick for hotels in Seoul.

Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance either! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers – check it out here, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.

 

Wondering if South Korea is safe? It most definitely is! Read our dedicated safety guide if you need more convincing.

All in all though, Seoul is great fun no matter which dong you choose from. Every tucked away corner of Seoul has a little secret to offer; it really is such a vibrant city. No matter where you stay in Seoul, you’ll find something awesome!

Sleeping at some cheap accommodation in Seoul

Sleep tight; don’t let the bed-bugs bite! | Photo: @themanwiththetinyguitar

 

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1 Comment

  • Avatar ellef says:

    In my point of view Grid Inn is a perfect place to have comfortable stay in Seoul. I have personally visited there only one time in my whole life but I have an awesome experience there.

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