Where To Stay In Seoul: A Local’s Guide

Where to Stay in Seoul
Where to Stay in Seoul

Establishing where to stay in Seoul can be overwhelming. Afterall, the Korean capital is one of the largest cities in the world. 

The wonderful thing about Seoul is that each of the city’s neighbourhoods have their own distinct personalities and centres – almost like little villages in themselves. 

To help you organise your trip, I have created this comprehensive guide to give you a rundown of the best Seoul neighbourhoods. Hopefully this will aid you in deciding where to stay in Seoul.

Why Trust My Opinion? 

Seoul is a fascinating mix of ancient tradition meets modern living
Seoul is a fascinating mix of ancient tradition meets modern living

I lived in Seoul for two years. During that time, I had the pleasure of exploring the city extensively, and discovering all of its various nooks and crannies. This guide has been crafted by someone who knows the city like the back of their hand, and not simply someone who was passing through for a few days.

Where to Stay in Seoul:
A Detailed Neighbourhood Guide

Where to Stay in Seoul: Bukchon is a Favourite Spot for Many Travellers

From cute traditional neighbourhoods, to ultra-modern districts comprised of towering hi-rises, Seoul is a fabulous mix of old meets new. The city has a little something for every kind of traveller, and hopefully the neighbourhood breakdown below will help decide where to stay in Seoul to best suit your travel style. 

Bukchon Hanok Village (북촌한옥마을)

Metro Station: Anguk and Gyeongbokgung Stations, Metro Line 3

Best Suited For: Culture Vultures, Families, Solo Female Travellers 

Nearby Attractions: Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung palaces, Gwangjang traditional market, Bukchon-Ro and Samcheong-Dong shopping. 

Bukchon Hanok Village is one of Seoul’s oldest neighbourhoods. The area is comprised of an intricate network of winding pathways and narrow alleys that lead up into the hills. Simply wandering around this district feels like being transported back in time. 

The traditional houses here are known as “hanoks” and were once the homes of Korean nobles, however they have since been renovated to act as quirky boutique stores, restaurants and guesthouses for culture loving travellers. 

Recommended Hotel in Bukchon: Bonum 1957 Seoul

Bonum 1957 is a chic and stylish hotel that occupies a renovated hanok. The hotel has been passed down through a Korean family for generations and loving restored to the highest specification. 

The hotel offers traditional Korean accommodation if you wish to try it (i.e. sleeping on the floor) or you can opt for one of the plush western rooms if that isn’t your cup of tea (it’s comfier than it sounds!).  Rooms start from $120 a night.

Check current rates and availability here. 

Ikseon Dong (익선동)

Metro Station: Jongno 3(sam)-ga Station (Seoul Subway Line 5), Exit 4.

Best Suited For: Culture Vultures, Off-the-Beaten-Path Explorers, Solo Female Travellers

Ikseon Dong is a relatively off-the-beaten path Seoul neighbourhood that has started gaining attention over the last few years as an alternative place to stay in Seoul, and explore during your Seoul itinerary

Bukchon may well be the Seoul district that is renowned for its traditional hanok houses, however Ikseon boasts many quaint traditional buildings too, with less than a quarter of the tourists that you will find at Bukchon. Down the narrow streets, hidden alleys, and secret passageways of Ikseon, you will find dozens of tiny cafes and tearooms. 

Despite being lesser known, Ikseon Dong is still very central. From here, you are just a short walk away from some of the best things to do in Seoul. For example, within a few minutes’ of walking, you will find yourself at the Joseon palaces, as well as the traditional Gwangjang market

Idae (이대) 

Ewha Women's University
Ewha Women’s University

Metro Station: Ewha Women’s University Station, Metro Line 2

Best Suited For: Those Seeking Peace and Quiet, Solo Female Travellers 

Nearby Attractions: Ihwa Mural Art Village, Ewha Women’s University, Idae Shopping

Lovely Idae may well be one of the most underrated districts in all of Seoul. This area is quiet and cultured. Seoul’s Ewha Women’s University is situated just a short walk away from Idae, and the scenic campus is surrounded by dozens of endearing boutique stores selling shoes, ladies fashion, and cosmetics. 

From Idae, you can follow the uphill trail to Ihwa Mural Art Village. Ihwa is one of Korea’s many “dal dong nae” moon villages. These are former slums, however the residents of the area decorated their houses, floors, and streets with colourful graffiti and public art installations. 

Insadong (인사동)

Gyeongbokgung, Seoul
Gyeongbokgung, Seoul

Metro Station: Anguk and Gyeongbokgung Stations, Metro Line 3

Best Suited For: Culture Vultures, History Buffs, Solo Female Travellers

Nearby Attractions: Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung palaces, Gwangjang traditional market, Bukchon-Ro and Samcheong-Dong shopping. 

Insadong is a quaint and picturesque historic neighbourhood that is nestled within the heart of Seoul. This area is the perfect place to immerse yourself in traditional Korean culture. 

Here, you can experience a traditional tea ceremony at a local tea room, try makgeolli (Korean rice wine) at a traditional brewery, or simply browse the markets for handicrafts and artisan products. 

Recommended Hotels in Insadong: 

Luxury Hotel: Courtyard by Marriott Hotel 

The Courtyard by Marriott offers chic and contemporary rooms at the stylish international chain without breaking the bank. It is the perfect example of affordable luxury and rooms cost an average of $140 per night. 

Check current rates and availability here. 

Budget Option: The Makers Hotel, Seoul 

The Makers Hotel offers incredible value for money in Seoul. The modern property has been decorated lovingly with a unique and quirky style. The hotel’s theme is 18th century vintage with modern touches. Hipsters and artsy types will love this place. With rooms starting from $70 per night, it is great value for money considering the central location. 

Check current rates and availability here. 

Samcheongdong (삼청동) 

Metro Station: Anguk and Gyeongbokgung Stations, Metro Line 3

Best Suited For: Culture Vultures, Solo Female Travellers

Nearby Attractions: Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung palaces, Gwangjang traditional market, Bukchon-Ro and Samcheong-Dong shopping. 

Samcheongdong is a small Seoul neighbourhood that is nestled between Bukchon Hanok Village and Insadong. This may well be one of the unique areas of the city. It is here where ancient traditions and modern contemporary living seamlessly blend together.  

Despite its ultra-central location, Samcheongdong is not quite as touristic as nearby Insadong and Bukchon. Many of the old traditional houses here have been converted into eclectic coffee shops, art galleries, and exhibition spaces – all of which are beloved hangouts for local Seoulites.

Those interested in shopping for Korean fashions and handicrafts will enjoy browsing through the independent boutique stores here. 

Dongdaemun (동대문) 

A Street Food Vendor at Dongdaemun Food Market

Metro Station: Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station, Subway Line 2, 4, & 5, Dongdaemun Station, Metro Line 1, & 4.

Best Suited For: Shopaholics, Art Lovers, Culture Vultures 

Nearby Attractions: Dongdaemun and Namdaemun market, Dongdaemun Design Plaza

Dongdaemun is one of the most vibrant and lively areas of Seoul. This district is also a shopaholic’s paradise: Dongdaemun boasts more than 30,000 stores and malls: all of which are crammed together in a small 10-block area. 

The iconic Dongdaemun Design Plaza marks your arrival in Dongdaemun. This futuristic building was designed by renowned architect Zaha Hadid and showcases a number of interesting exhibitions from local Korean and international artists. 

From a cultural perspective, Dongdaemun makes for a fascinating place to visit. The market here is one of the largest in the city, and is a great spot for sampling Korean street food delicacies – particularly at Meokja Golmok food street. 

Namsan Park Area (남산공원)

Metro Station: Myeongdong Station, Exit 4, Metro Line

Best Suited For: Nature Lovers, Those Seeking Peace and Quiet 

Nearby Attractions: Namsan Tower, Namsan Park, Myeongdong Shopping Street

When you think of a sprawling megalopolis like Seoul, national parks and green open spaces are quite possibly the last things that spring to mind. However, the Korean capital is so expansive that it contains several national parks within its grasp, the most notable of which is Namsan. 

Staying on the slopes of Namsan offers the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city yet still keeps you just a short walk from the heart of the action. From up here, it’s easy to forget that you are in the middle of one of the largest cities in the world.  

If you opt to base yourself in Seoul’s Namsan area, you have ample opportunities for hiking and exploring the great outdoors, right on your doorstep. You should also be sure to carve some time out of your schedule to climb Namsan tower. From up here, you can marvel at incredible panoramas over the city. The view is especially magical in the evenings as the sun sets, and the city is illuminated by hundreds of twinkling lights. 

Recommended Hotels in Namsan Park Area: 

Luxury Hotel: Banyan Tree Hotel & Spa 
The ultimate choice for those looking for a little R&R. The Banyan brand is internationally renowned for its superb quality spa treatments and facilities. The rooms at the Banyan Tree Seoul have their own relaxation pools, and the spa and pool facilities are adored by Seoul’s elite.

Rooms start from $400 a night. Check current rates and availability here.

Budget Option: Hotel Mido

Hotel Mido is simple yet comfortable and incredibly conveniently located. The rooms and amenities are modern and clean and the hotel is just a short walk from Myeongdong and Namsan Park making it quiet enough to avoid the chaos of the city centre without leaving you in the middle of nowhere. 

Check current rates and availability here. 

Myeongdong (명동)

Bustling Myeongdong
Bustling Myeongdong

Metro Station: Myeongdong Station, Metro Line 4

Best Suited For: Shopaholics, Party Travellers 

Nearby Attractions: Namsan Tower, Namsan Park, Myeongdong Shopping Street

Colourful Myeongdong is essentially Seoul’s answer to the high street. This is one of the best places for shopping in Seoul, and opting to stay here places you in the centre of the city’s beating heart. 

Every kind of shopping experience imaginable can be found at Myeongdong – from luxury brands, to local Koean designers. Virtually every other store here sells Korean cosmetics and as you wander the length of Myeongdong street, you can easily accrue a ton of samples.

The area really comes alive at night, when the centre of the street is filled with street food vendors selling delicacies like tteokbokki, and sweet hodugwaja walnut pastries. You can find many quirky Seoul coffee shops and restaurants in Myeongdong – such as the pretty in pink Stylenanda Pink Pool Cafe, and the ultra-cute Hello Kitty cafe. 

For alternative evening entertainment while staying in Myeongdong, consider attending a comedic cooking show at the Myeongdong NANTA theatre, or trying your hand at a kimchi-making class. 

Recommended Hotels in Myeongdong Area: 

Recommended Hotel: Lotte City Hotel

From the moment you step inside the Lotte City Hotel you are greeted with elegance. Marble floors, ornate fixtures and chandeliers await in the lobby and the style of the premises is reminiscent of a palatial home. 

Fortunately, the Lotte City Hotel is a four star hotel without the four star price tag with rooms starting from just $120 per night making it one of the best value for money hotels in Seoul. 

Check current rates and availability here.

Gangnam 강남

Metro Station: Gangnam Station, Sinbundang Line and Metro Line 2

Best Suited For: Luxury Travellers, Shopaholics 

Nearby Attractions: Gangnam Shopping, Han River Park

PSY may have put Gangnam on the map with his peculiarly catchy tunes and horse dancing but the fact of the matter is, this is one of Seoul’s most upscale and exclusive neighbourhoods. With upscale eateries, chic cocktail bars and designer shopping, Gangnamis the place to see and be seen in Seoul. 

For a slice of peace and tranquility in the heart of the chaotic city, stop by Bongeunsa Temple – a centuries old Buddhist temple that has stood its ground as modern Seoul has grown and developed around it. Stop by Seoul’s Bamdokkaebi Night Market one evening to experience a Korean dining experience by the Han River. 

Recommended Hotels in Gangnam Area:

Luxury Hotel: Grand InterContinental Seoul Parnas

As you approach the tree-lined hotel front, elegantly dressed doormen in top hats and tails greet you and lead you into the lobby for your check-in. Refurbished by the Rockwell Group who have designed notable architectural buildings around the globe, the elegant decor is second to none. The Grand InterContinental Seoul Parnas is one of the most luxurious hotels in Seoul. 

Check current rates and availability here.

Budget Option: The Mercure Seoul Ambassador

If you want the glitz of Gangnam and the optimal location for heading out in some of Seoul’s finest bars and nightclubs without the Gangnam price tag then the Mercure Seoul Ambassador is a great choice. 

At an average price of just $80 per night for a double room (excellent considering the prime location), this is the perfect place for ballin’ on a budget. 

Check current rates and availability here.

Apgujeong (압구정동) 

Apgujeong is one of the most upscale neighbourhoods in Seoul
Apgujeong is one of the most upscale neighbourhoods in Seoul

Metro Station: Apgujeong Station, Metro Line 3

Best Suited For: Luxury Travellers, Shopaholics

Nearby Attractions: Garosugil Shopping, Apgujeong Rodeo 

Appropriately referred to as the “Beverly Hills of Seoul”Apgujeong offers the ultimate luxury stay in the Korean capital. Home to the stores of leading fashion houses, stylish coffee bars and upscale art galleries, Apgujeong is the perfect place for those who enjoy the finer things in life. 

Recommended Hotels in Apgujeong: 

Recommended Hotel: Hotel Entra

The ultra chic Hotel Entra is arguably one of the best value hotels in Seoul. With modern furnishings and floor to ceiling windows offering incredible views of the Korean capital below, it is the perfect place for a luxury Seoul stay and considering the average price of $110 a night, it is certainly value for money. 

Check current rates and availability here.

Budget Option: Princess Hotel

Adjacent to Apgujeong Rodeo, you really cannot get a better location than that offered by the Princess Hotel. The rooms are simple yet spacious and comfortable and at prices from $45 per night, it’s one of the most affordable choices in this exclusive Seoul neighbourhood.

Check current rates and availability here.

Mapo-Gu (마포구)

Metro Station: Mapo Station, Metro Line 5, and Mapo-gu Office, Line 6

Best Suited For: Those Seeking Peace and Quiet, Solo Female Travellers 

Nearby Attractions: Hongdae Nightlife District, Han River Park

If you prefer to base yourself in quieter neighbourhoods when you travel, Mapo may well be the best place to stay in Seoul. This peaceful area exudes artistic and creative vibes. Mapo is perched on the edge of the Han river, and filled with dozens of quirky coffee shops where writers and Digital Nomads tap away on their laptops. 

Mapo-Gu is filled with lots of excellent eateries and Korean BBQ joints – most notably “Mapo Cannon” which is a popular choice among Korean salarymen, and was featured on Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” docuseries.

Mapo-Gu is directly adjacent to Hongdae, meaning that further dining and nightlife options are just a short walk away if you so desire them. 

Sinsa Dong & Garosugil (신사동 가로수길) 

Seoul, South Korea
Seoul, South Korea

Metro Station: Sinsa Station, Seoul Metro Line 3

Best Suited For: Luxury Travellers, Shopaholics

Nearby Attractions: Garosugil Shopping Street, Cheongdam-dong, Apgujeong Rodeo

With gingko tree lined promenades, and charming brunch spots that attract a well-heeled crowd, Sinsa Dong is one of the most high-end Seoul neighbourhoods. In recent years, Sinsa has started to overtake Gangnam and Apgujeong as the city’s glamorous nightlife hotspot. 

The area’s Garosugil street is often referred to as being Seoul’s “artist street” on account of all of the eccentricly decorated storefronts and cafes that sit here. Brands like Karl Lagerfeld sit alongside vintage designer clothing stores, and the stylish facades of up-and-coming luxury Korean designers. 

Recommended Hotels in Sinsa and Garosugil

Recommended Hotel: Dormy Inn Premium Seoul

Located just a few minutes walk from the boutique stores of Garosugil, Dormy Hotel’s location is excellent. There is also a Korean spa and sauna (jimjilbang) on site for those who want a little extra R&R during their time away. 

With rooms that are simple yet elegant, and a continental breakfast included in the price tag, Dormy Inn is excellent value at $140 a night. 

Check current rates and availability here.

Hongdae (홍대)

Metro Station: Hongdae Station, Metro Line 2

Best Suited For: Party Travellers, Budget Backpackers

Nearby Attractions: Hongdae Nightlife District 

Hongdae is the hip, youthful neighbourhood which surrounds the campus of Seoul’s Hongik University. This area is best known for its vibrant nightlife scene and its numerous affordable, yet super-fun nightlife spots that are open until mid morning. Whatever time of day or night you find yourself in Hongdae, it will always be bursting with life. 

In some ways, Hongdae is comparable to Tokyo’s Harajuku district. Here, you can expect to see unusual and individual fashions at every turn. Street performers sing, dance, and blare out K-pop music, while street food vendors sell an array of obscure snacks such as the Instagram-famous 32 centimetre tall Hongdae ice cream. 

If you plan on experiencing the best of Seoul’s nightlife, Hongdae is a great place to base yourself. While here, you can also dust off your singing skills at one of the many Hongdae noraebangs – the popular Korean karaoke joints. 

Recommended Hotels in Hongdae:

Recommended Hotel: Hotel The Designers

Where quirky style meets luxury, Hotel The Designers is a blend of chic architecture meets eccentric furnishings. At just $100 a night for a double room, it certainly offers affordable luxury. 

Check current rates and availability here.

Sinchon Dong (법정동)

Metro Station: Sinchon Station, Metro Line 2

Best Suited For: Party Travellers, Budget Backpackers

Nearby Attractions: Hongdae Nightlife

Sinchon Dong is a compact university district that sits just a stone’s throw away from eclectic Hongdae. The area is a smaller, lesser-known Hongdae if you will. The bars, clubs and noraebangs here run into the early hours of the morning and are very popular among Korean students. 

While Hongdae certainly is a Seoul neighbourhood that can be enjoyed on a budget, and which is host to a plethora of backpacker hostels, Sinchon is even cheaper and overall less touristic. 

Itaewon (이태원)

Metro Station: Itaewon station, Metro Line 6

Best Suited For: Party Travellers, Budget Backpackers

Nearby Attractions: HBC, Seoul War Museum 

Known locally as being Seoul’s international district, Itaewon is a popular neighbourhood for expats since it offers something of a “home away from home” vibe. The main Seoul American army base is situated in Itaewon, and the streets here are packed with cafes, bars and restaurants serving exotic cuisines from various corners of the globe. The atmosphere here is casual, lively and friendly. For budget backpackers and young, social travellers, Itaewon makes a great base. 

While in the area, stop by HBC (Haebangchon). This area has a tragic past and was once a settlement for North Korean refugees. Today though, HBC has a very underground, alternative atmosphere and is home to lots of great bars and craft breweries. 

Recommended Hotel in Itaewon: The Hamilton Hotel

Right in the heart of the international action, with clean rooms and a rooftop pool to boot, The Hamilton Hotel is a steal with rooms from $70 per night. 

Check current rates and availability here.

Yeouido Island (여의도)

Metro Station: Yeouido Station, Metro Lines 5 and 9.

Best Suited For: Business Travellers, Those Seeking Peace and Quiet 

Yeouido island is Seoul’s commercial and financial district located in the centre of Seoul. It is referred to as the “Manhattan island of Seoul” but there really isn’t a lot here by way of attractions for leisure travellers. 

Business travellers may find it beneficial to stay in this area if they are working for one of the large multinationals located on the island. As a commercial hub, there are a lot of luxurious hotels situated on Yeouido. You may also want to consider basing yourself here if you wish to be a little out of the city centre. 

Seoul Station Area (서울역)

Metro Station: Seoul Station, Metro Lines 1 and 4

Best Suited For: Business Travellers 

Nearby Attractions: Myeongdong Shopping Street, Dongdaemun, Insadong

Located in the pulsing heart of the city, Seoul station is perfect for business travellers due to its incredibly convenient transportation links. From here, it is just a short subway ride to the majority of Seoul’s major attractions. Incheon airport can be reached in just over 20 minutes via AREX shuttle from here, and of course, the station offers excellent transport links onwards to other destinations in Korea. 

Getting Around Seoul

Once you’ve decided where to stay in Seoul, you might be concerned about getting around the city. A lot of the most charming neighbourhoods are not situated close to the main touristic sites so it’s understandable if you are a little worried about getting from A to B. 

Metros in Seoul

Seoul boasts an excellent public transport network. The metro system serves all parts of the city, and even extends out to neighbouring Ansan and Suwon. To help you navigate it, I strongly recommend downloading the Subway Korea app for your phone. This helps you map out your route, and see the train timetables in real time on your mobile. 

Have any further questions about where to stay in Seoul, or visiting South Korea in general? As I mentioned, I lived here for two years. I am more than happy to assist with any queries you may have. Feel free to drop me a comment below and I will get back to you ASAP. Safe travels! Annyeong! Melissa xo 

Disclaimer: High Heels & a Backpack occasionally uses affiliate links around the site. This means that if you make a purchase, I may get a small percentage of commission which is charged at no additional cost to you. This aids me in the cost of running this website, and enables me to continually provide you with free Korea travel advice. Thank you for your understanding.

Note: This article was originally written on the 26th September 2017. It was last updated on the 27th September 2019. 


Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer and Blogger based in Athens, Greece. She writes for numerous high profile travel publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, Matador Network, The Times of Israel and The Huffington Post.

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