Where to Stay in Seoul – Neighborhoods & Area Guide

Seoul is one of the most under the radar capital cities in Asia. This is such a great shame, as it also happens to be one of the most bright and exciting. There is so much to see and do in Seoul, not to mention the huge amounts to eat and drink.

Although under the radar, Seoul is becoming the destination of choice for adventurous, international travelers who want to explore a more off the beaten track destination. Seoul is slowly gaining popularity within the digital nomad community, and being a big business hub means that there is a strong crowd of international expats living there too.

South Korea is mad about technology and is keen to build itself into a cyber-city, much like Tokyo or Kuala Lumpur. In addition to this, Seoul is keen to grip onto its cultural heritage, for it really is unique. Seoul sees these two elements of South Korea marry together almost seamlessly.

From famous neighborhoods of Gangnam-Gu and Myeongdong to inner-city villages like Bukchon Hanok, there is a different neighborhood for every kind of traveler.

Let’s take a look at where to stay in Seoul.

Gangnam-Gu

Gangnam-Gu, SeoulSource: Johnathan21 / shutterstock
Gangnam-Gu

The neighborhood of Gangnam-Gu attracted overnight fame thanks to the incredibly catchy pop song ‘Gangnam Style’ by Seoul local ‘PSY’. Gangnam-Gu is so much more than a pop song though. Gangnam translates to mean ‘South of the River,’ and learning this gives you a good indication as to where you can find this neighborhood in Seoul.

It is fair to say that Seoul is a busy, frenetic city. Gangnam-Gu is perhaps one of the busiest neighborhoods of all. It is home to some pretty impressive shopping malls that sprawl for what feels like miles. The COEX Mall is the most popular shopping center in the neighborhood and is considered to be the largest underground shopping mall in Asia. The COEX Mall features dozens of high-end stores that cater to the more affluent residents of this neighborhood.

Gangnam-Gu is a playground for business travelers and adventurous backpackers. The nightlife scene is intense – real dusk ’til dawn kind of stuff.

Good For: Active Travelers, Adventurous Travelers, Budget Backpackers, Business Travelers, Couples, First Time Travelers, Foodies, Shopaholics, Sightseers, Whistle-Stop Travelers

Neighborhood Highlights: COEX Mall, Gangnam Style Tribute at Gangnam Station Exit 5, Bongeunsa Buddhist Temple, Seoul Olympic Park, Samsung Park, SM Studios, CUBE Studios, JYP Studios, Samsung D’light

Hotel Recommendations:

Ibis Styles Ambassador – Ibis Styles Ambassador is a great hotel in the Gangnam-Gu neighborhood. Modern and bright, Ibis Styles offers everything you could ask for in a mid-budget hotel in central Seoul. There is a fitness center in-house and a sauna too. Free, super-fast WiFi is available throughout the hotel.

InterContinental Seoul COEX – InterContinentail Seoul COEX is a luxurious 5-star hotel that can be found within Seoul’s World Trade Centre. This is a great place to stay for travelers keen to experience the wonder that is COEX Mall. The Sky Lounge serves fantastic Italian cuisines and offers amazing views of Seoul’s cityscape.

Imperial Palace Seoul – Imperial Palace Seoul is an impressive 5-star hotel in the heart of Gangnam-Gu. Rooms are spacious and feature period furniture – a world away from high-tech Seoul outside. Guests can rent a mobile phone from the hotel free of charge should they need to do so during their stay.

Myeongdong

Myeongdong, SeoulSource: 501room / shutterstock
Myeongdong

Seoul is a real paradise for shopaholics. Seriously, if you can dream it, you can find it for sale in Seoul. The most popular shopping district is Myeongdong, both for locals and visitors. Over one-million people pass through the shopping lanes each and every day. Despite this, there is a calmness, an order to Myeongdong that makes shopping a pleasant and enjoyable experience.

Myeongdong is home to much-loved Korean brand stores and a selection of coveted American brands too. You can buy everything from imported Converse shoes to Korean-made beauty essentials. Then there is the food – there is so, so much food.

If there is one thing that South Koreans love more than shopping, its eating. There are fast-food chains, hole-in-the-wall eateries and plenty of grab-and-go snack joints too. Myeongdong may not feel chaotic but it is loud. It seems the stores strive to outdo each other when it comes to tunes to shop too.

Good For: Active Travelers, Adventurous Travelers, Budget Backpackers, Couples, First Time Travelers, Foodies, Like a Local Travelers, Shopaholics, Sightseers, Whistle-Stop Travelers

Neighborhood Highlights: Myeongdong Shopping District, Myeongdong Cathedral, Myeongdong Street Markets, Myeongdong Kyo-Ja Restaurant, Seoul Global Cultural Center

Hotel Recommendations:

New Oriental Hotel – New Oriental Hotel is a fabulous hotel in the Myeongdong. With clean-cut lines and a modern feel, it’s a popular choice for whistle-stop travelers to Seoul. The hotel features carpeted floors and all rooms have air conditioning. The rooms each have an ensuite bathroom with a shower unit and complimentary toiletries.

Loisir Hotel – Loisir Hotel can be found at the heart of the Myeongdong neighborhood. It is just a few steps from the Myeongdong Subway Station. There are over 600 rooms at Loisir Hotel and the staff afford excellent service to every person who stays. Family rooms are available at Loisir Hotel.

Hotel Prince – Hotel Prince is a very good hotel in Myeongdong. Offering modern and minimalist design, as is customary in Seoul, Hotel Prince is a great affordable option in Myeongdong. The ensuite bathroom features a bathtub with a showerhead and complimentary toiletries. Book the Korean-Style Family Room for an authentic experience.

Dongdaemun

DongdaemunSource: FenlioQ / shutterstock
Dongdaemun

Dongdaemun is another of Seoul’s major shopping districts. Shopping is, after all, a national pastime. It seems only fitting that visitors explore their fair share of Seoul’s commercial outlets. Dongdaemun is a little less refined and a little more authentic than bustling Gangnam-Gu and young Myeongdong. Dongdaemun is home to more affordable markets that have a mass appeal. Everything from shoes and handbags, to t-shirts and tacky souvenirs can be found along these streets.

Within the Dongdaemun, travelers can explore Little Mongolia and Little Russia and the fantastic food offerings they have to share. Here, no one is in such a rush; people stop to chat with food vendors and learn about the homelands that inspired their dishes.

Dongdaemun has a lot more character and charm and feels like the Seoul of yesteryear. That said, compared to many neighborhoods around the world, Dongdaemun is still comparatively modern and high tech. Vogue and GQ magazines have their headquarters in Dongdaemun’s Doosan Tower.

Good For: Active Travelers, Adventurous Travelers, Budget Backpackers, Couples, First Time Travelers, Foodies, Like a Local Travelers, Shopaholics, Sightseers, Whistle-Stop Travelers

Neighborhood Highlights: Dongdaemun Market, Dongdaemun Doonsan Tower, Little Mongolia, Little Russia, Dongdaemun’s Design Plaza (DDP), Dongdaemun Gate, Dongdaemun Seonggwak Park, Dondaemun History & Culture Park, Heunginjimun Gate

Hotel Recommendations:

Mmmio Design Residence Dongdaemun – Mmmio Design Residence Dongdaemun is a real home away from home in the Dongdaemun neighborhood. Just a three-minute walk from Pyounghwa Market, there is a sociable feel to Mmmio House. Guest are welcome to relax in the communal lounge. The rooms are designed in true Korean style, minimalist and with neutral tones.

Hotel Atrium – Hotel Atrium Seoul is a very good hotel in Dongdaemun. This is the perfect hotel for families or groups of travelers as they offer rooms with up to three double beds – a great way to keep costs down in an expensive city. All the rooms come with a minibar and free WiFi.

JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul – JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul is set right at the heart of the Dongdaemun neighborhood. The rooms offer seriously impressive views of the city thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows. There is a sense of luxury to this JW Marriott hotel, there is an in-house spa center.

Jamsil

Jamsil, SeoulSource: Efired / shutterstock
Jamsil, Seoul

Jamsil is a little neighborhood in central Seoul that is often overlooked by whistle-stop travelers and those looking to stay in a well-known neighborhood. Jamsil is home to Seoul’s sporting center. South Korea has a fantastic sports scene that is growing not only in popularity, but in success too.

Jamsil is home to two of South Korea’s baseball teams. The LG Twins and the Doosan Bears both call Jamsil Baseball Stadium their home ground and getting tickets to a game is not all that difficult. There is always something exciting about watching live sport, there is something even more exciting about watching live sport in a new country with new local friends.

The Jamsil Baseball Stadium has been repurposed and was originally used as the track and field stadium for the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics.

It should be mentioned that Lotte World is another fantastic reason to stay in Jamsil. Lotte World is the world’s biggest indoor amusement park. It’s so much fun.

Good For: Active Travelers, Adventurous Travelers, City Slickers, Families, Foodies, Like a Local Travelers, Shopaholics, Sightseers, Sports Fans,

Neighborhood Highlights: Jamsil Baseball Stadium, Seoul Olympic Park, Lotte World, Lotte World Folk Museum, Seokchon Lake, Seoul Sky Observation Deck, KidZania Seoul, Star Avenue, Sulwhasoo Spa, Charlotte Theatre

Hotel Recommendations:

Hotel Lotte World – Hotel Lotte World is set within the world’s largest indoor amusement park and boasts the full 5-stars. Hotel Lotte World features an indoor swimming pool and a well-equipped fitness center. Guests can choose from one of five venues in which to dine and each offers an excellent menu.

Jamsil Delight Hotel – Jamsil Delight Hotel is a good hotel in the Jamsil neighborhood. The hotel offers guest free bicycle hire and this is a great way to explore the Olympic Park and beyond. The rooms are modern and have excellent facilities. All ensuite rooms feature a deep soaking bathtub and complimentary toiletries.

Hotel Cello – Hotel Cello is an adults-only hotel that can be found a short walk from Lotte World. This is a boutique hotel and each room has its own distinct style. All rooms feature an ensuite bathroom and boast a whirlpool bathtub. There is a cozy seating area in each room and the beds are exceptionally comfortable.

Samcheong-dong – Bukchon Hanok Village

Bukchon Hanok VillageSource: nami chwang / shutterstock
Bukchon Hanok Village

Bukchon Hanok Village is the most authentic and traditional neighborhood in Seoul. Staying in Bukchon Hanok Village offers travelers the opportunity to experience what South Korea was like before the technology revolution. There are nearly 900 traditional Korean-style houses, known as hanocks, within Bukchon Hanok Village.

In Bukchon Hanok Village, travelers can learn about traditional architecture, South Korean culture, and even stay in an authentic homestay. This is a wonderful way to escape the bustling crowds of Gangman-Gu and Myeongdong without having to leave the city.

Bukchon Hanok Village is a wonderful place to relax and unwind, to slowly stroll the sloping streets. There is a vast collection of shops in Bukchon Hanok Village selling all sorts of beautiful handicrafts and artwork.

Overall, Samcheong-dong is one of the most photogenic neighborhoods in Seoul. No budding photographer would miss the opportunity to capture such versatility within a modern city. Within Samcheong-dong, travelers can catch a glimpse of The Blue House – Cheong Wa Dae, where the President of South Korea lives.

Good For: Active Travelers, Adventurous Travelers, Architecture Enthusiasts, Budget Backpackers, Culture Vultures, Families, Foodies, Like a Local Travelers, Shopaholics, Sightseers

Neighborhood Highlights: Bukchon Hanok Village, The Blue House – Cheong Wa Dae Boutique Shops, Traditional Tea Houses, Handicraft Shops, Teokbokki Stalls, Mount Bukak

Hotel Recommendations:

STAY25 Hanock Guest House – STAY25 Hanock House is an authentic house in the heart of the Bukchon Hanok Village. Offering a traditional homestay accommodation at affordable rates, STAY25 Hanock Guest House is a little gem. The room rates include continental breakfast and there is a laundry service available. There is free WiFi throughout the hotel.

Dalzip Bukchon – Dalzip Bukchon is a fabulous hotel in Bukchon Hanok Village. Set in a traditional Korean hank house and offering authentic decor and wonderful hospitality there is a lot to love about Dalzip Bukchon. There is an Ondol – traditional Korean heated floor – throughout the property and there are authentic futons for beds.

Hanok Guesthouse 201 – Hanok Guesthouse 201 is a much-loved hotel just on the outskirts of Bukchon Hanok Village. Hanock Guesthouse 201 features traditional Korean decor, including comfortable futon beds. This hotel offers great value for money, as a superb breakfast is included in the room rate and free WiFi too.

Insa-dong

Insa-dong, SeoulSource: Andrei Goncharov / shutterstock
Insa-dong

Insa-dong is both historical and very touristy. It’s not hard to see why international tourists want to experience Insa-dong; there is a myriad of historical and cultural gems to explore. When you travel a lot, it sometimes starts to feel like all cities are the same at heart. Insa-dong is a neighborhood that reminds long-term travelers that there is always something new to discover.

It is not uncommon to see street performers in the public squares in Insa-dong, showcasing traditional songs and dances. These not only draw crowds of visitors but always dozens of locals too. There is a great selection of handicraft stores in Insa-dong. For travelers seeking an authentic and sentimental souvenir to take home, chances are you will find it here. From ceramics studios and tea shops to paper makers and grassroots art galleries, travelers will have to think carefully about how much space they have in their luggage when shopping in Insa-dong.

Good For: Active Travelers, Adventurous Travelers, Architecture Enthusiasts, Budget Backpackers, Culture Vultures, Families, Foodies, Like a Local Travelers, Shopaholics, Sightseers

Neighborhood Highlights: Tea Houses, Art Galleries, Ceramics Studios, Handicraft Shops, Street Food Stalls, Street Art Vendors, Street Performers

Hotel Recommendations:

Hotel Tong Andant Insadong – Hotel Tong Andant Insadong is an ideal hotel in Seoul just 70-meters from the heart of Insa-dong. Within a short walk from Hotel Tong Andant’s front door, you will find dozens of artisan craft shops and some amazing food stalls too. Each room features a flat-screen TV and free WiFi.

Centermark Hotel – Centermark Hotel is a fabulous hotel that can be found a 10-minute walk from the center of Insa-Don. All the rooms are fully furnished and feature an ensuite bathroom. The rooms are modern and have been designed with neutral tones. There is a 24-hour reception and the staff are very helpful.

Sunbee Hotel – Sunbee Hotel offers spacious rooms with excellent facilities in a great spot in the Insa-Dong neighborhood. There are traditional Korean-style rooms at Sunbee Hotel. There is a complimentary breakfast included in the room rate as well as free WiFi. There is free parking available on-site at Sunbee Hotel.

Where to stay: Best Hotels in Seoul, South Korea
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Where to Stay in Seoul – Neighborhoods & Area Guide:

  • Gangnam-Gu
  • Myeongdong
  • Dongdaemun
  • Jamsil
  • Samcheong-dong - Bukchon Hanok Village
  • Insa-dong