See also: Things to Do in Seoul
If you are looking to dive into the South Korean culture and get a taste of the diverse country, there’s no better option for you than Seoul, the capital city of South Korea. Encompassing a small stretch area, this diverse capital city is divided into smaller districts with each having a unique speciality of their own. Although underrated, options like great food, great places for you to explore and great cultural importance in modern times makes a city like Seoul a perfect destination in your holidays. Having great transport options and proper connectivity all throughout the city, exploring the city is quite easy and comfortable. And if you are looking for help to assist you to decide where to stay in Seoul, we are here to help.
Being one of the coolest and most happening city of South Korea, Seoul gives you a taste of Korean history, art, music and several shopping destinations. Also, you cannot forget the great dining and drinking options that are there in Seoul.
While Insadong is all about cultural centres, museums, and traditional buildings, Gangnam is a heaven for foodies and party-goers. Myeongdong is mostly known for its fashion choices and is an ideal shopping destination for many as this is where you will find many retail shops, boutiques as well as lavish dining options. Hongdae, on the other hand, is known for its artsy neighbourhood and it is a paradise for any art lover. Jogno is like the historic centre of Seoul, filled with temples, shrines and other historic sites.
Although the city’s neighbourhoods do not exactly have a said ‘boundary’ to help you distinguish from one another, but their unique features and beautiful landmarks set them apart from one another. While looking for your stay in Seoul, try making your decision on what you want to explore in your vacation. If you are looking for authentic South Korean culture, you should stay in the north of the river. And, if it is the South Korean glamourous luxury you are after, south of the river should be suitable for you. With the local crowd more inclined towards English speaking communities, more than that of China or Japan, interacting with, Seoul is your perfect destination if you want to know more about South Korean culture.
Perfect for the first time visitors of Seoul, this is where you will find most of Seoul’s famous attractions and landmarks. Known for being the art district of South Korea, this is where you will get live amongst the Korean culture as you will be surrounded by traditional craftsmanship, historic architecture. You can buy several souvenirs in the handicraft shops as well. Filled with traditional teahouses, in Insadong, you will find several cafes as well.
One of the major tourist attractions is the Gyeongbukgung palace, which is a must-visit place for you. You can often find university students free tours to foreigners near the Gyeongbukgung subway exit. Do feel free to take their help as they give you an educated insight into the historical palaces and gardens. Towards the north, you will find Hyangwonjeong. On the other hand, Towards the east, you have the Changdeokgung Palace, one of the grandest palaces you will find in Seoul. These palaces give you a trip to the past and give you an idea about the rich history that Seoul has. You will find many other buildings filled with traditional architecture in the Bukchon hanok village.
Jongno is mostly the cultural and museum centre of Seoul. Along with museums, you have plenty of tea houses and beautiful cades in Seoul. Do not forget to try out the traditional dishes here in these cafes, like bibimbap and kimchi jjigae. It is the best neighbourhood to stay if you are looking for traditional Korean culture & food It is relatively the quieter area of Seoul with a peaceful nightlife. That being said, your accommodation choices in Insadong is mostly cheap as this neighbourhood is inclined towards being tourist-friendly. But then again, your choice of stay in Jongno should depend on where you will be spending most of the vacation –if it is the south of the river, then your stay here might prove disadvantageous, but it is quite perfect if your itinerary is mostly north based.
Famous for its nightlife, Hongdae is located in the western part of Seoul. Here you will get to experience the local ambience of Seoul. Hongdae’s shopping, eating and drinking scene is way better than its competition and cheaper as well. Also, the crowd here is open-minded and modern as here you find an arts-based University- Hongik University. This ensures Hongdae has a youthful and energetic crowd. this neighbourhood, as it is probably named after that very University. Hongdae’s ambience is quite opposite to that of Insadong.
Here you can find numerous coffee shops, galleries, boutiques, pubs, and nightclubs. Hongdae’s open-air flea market is quite famous in Seoul, do plan on paying a visit if you are here on a Sunday. Also, this place is a long pedestrian-friendly zone, so you can freely explore the alleys as well.
Here you will find the best shops for shopping, nice bars and restaurants along with boutiques and small stalls. Hongdae is a fun place to be in, especially with abundances of places like Trick Eye Museum and Love Museum and animal cafes.
With multiple moderately ranged accommodations available in Hongdae, it is a perfect place for the people you are active and young at heart as Hongade has an active nightlife and things that you can relate to K-pop culture. With an extremely busy life and ambience of Hongdae, you won't ever find the neighbourhood asleep. Perfect for backpackers, young adventure seekers, hipsters, party-life seekers and heavy drinkers, Hongdae has many pubs and bars. Although heavy student crowd, especially in the Mapo-gu area, ensures that you won't find much fine dining options but cheap cafes are there in abundance. Being close to the Han river, you are also open to many picnic spots as outdoor activities are quite preferred here. Having Hongik University Station, line 2 in its near vicinity also ensures that you can move around the city quite easily as transportation is not at all a problem here.
Also, if you roam around in the streets of Hongdae, along with the restaurants and cafes, you will find several street performers performing there, art displays along with the exquisite food options. Once here, do not forget to visit the Hongdae Mural Street, Hongdae Free Market, Hongdae Walking Street, and the Hongdae NANTA Theatre. Check out our article on the best things to do in Hongdae here
Known for being Seoul’s multicultural area, which once served as the city’s military centre, Itaewon is where you will find several multicultural food stalls and bars. It has an interesting history to its name –Japanese soldiers partied and lived in this area after being pushed out from the Japanese colonies during the Second World War. Along with the western restaurants, multiple middle eastern diners and food stalls have also opened up in Itaewon thanks to the middle-eastern population here. Filled with English speaking communities in this area, there are many lovely cafes as well in addition to bars and pubs which adds spark to the nightlife here. With famous tourists attractions like Namsan Tower and Seodaemun Prison closeby, there are lots to do here. There are multiple accommodation choices here are available at a varying range like the budget guesthouses, moderately cheap hotels to luxury hotels making it the perfect choice for people travelling on a budget.
With modernization hitting Itaewon hard, it has grabbed the name ‘Little America’, which means you will be facing much authentic Korean lifestyle here. A fascinating place to explore with an active nightlife, Itaewon is perfect for those who want to get drunk, as alcohol keeps flowing as there are numerous pubs, bars and edgy nightclubs in this neigbourhood. That being said, it is Seoul’s one of the most diverse neighbourhood as you can find multiple restaurants serving international cuisines in their menu.
Perfect for young souls and people looking for the scene in Seoul, being centrally located it serves as a perfect neighbourhood for your stay in Seoul. Also being close to the Itaewon Station, line 6 – and Noksapyeong Station, line 6 means you can travel around the city easily. You can also visit the museums nearby like the D Museum, Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, War Memorial of Korea, and the National Museum of Korea. Discover more of the best things to do in Itaewon.
The name sounds familiar? Well, of course, no one could have ignored the famous catchy PSY’s song Gangnam Style. Based on this very neighbourhood, Gangnam is the financial hub as well as the centre of the K-pop industry. Meaning south of the river, Gangnam is a bit far off from other neighbourhoods and is quite different from them as well. Once what was a place kept aside for rice fields is now filled with large buildings, shopping malls and high rises. Gangnam is a place perfect for people who are willing to spend as money was poured into this place to renovate and give it a modern touch in 19988 Olympics. Along with the splendid modern architecture, you can treat your taste buds with the incredible food available in the fascinating restaurants available here.
You can get a taste of the K-pop culture here in Gangnam as it is the neighbourhood with an active nightlife and a nightclub culture. If you are looking for a little peaceful ambience amongst the party crowd, pay a visit to Bong Eun Sa, which is a beautiful temple in the middle of Gangnam; and the Samneung Park which is a green space with numerous royal tombs. Travelling shouldn't be a problem in Gangnam as it is blessed with the subway lines 2, 3, 7 and 9 and is has Gangnam Station and Yeoksam station in its near vicinity.
Known for being the richest and one of the most expensive places in Seoul, yet you will find budget restaurants along with fine dining options. Along with all that, it has many shopping options as well- from boutiques, flagship store shopping malls to cafes. But with a definite lack of proper street food options, it does have a little expensive posh lifestyle. There are many tourist activities here like the Everland Resort and the Korean Folk Village or the COEX Mall, Convention Center and Bonguensa Buddhist Temple. Do make sure that you visit the ancient burial grounds from the Joseon Dynasty – Seonjeongneung, which offers an incredible view of the Jamsil Tower. See our guide on the best things to do in Gangnam.
If you are looking for a neighbourhood that is designated for shopping, Myeongdong should be your choice of stay. Right between Insadong and Namsan Mountain, rather quite close to Namsan tower, you will find the paradise of every shopping lover. Shops ranging from small boutiques to large departmental stores line up Myeongdong’s streets. It is also where you will find several food options, including roadside food stalls, making it a place bustling with crowd. From here you can have impressive views of the city and the mountain as well. And once it is dark, the flickering lights of the neighbourhood as one light up after the other is a view you wouldn’t want to miss.
Amidst the beauty of nature, do not overlook the man-made beauty, that is the Cheonggyecheon stream. Known for being an architectural wonder and the serenity it offers, the architecture of the modern Seoul, surrounding it is splendid as well. In the eastern side, you will find various food stalls offering delicious dishes. Being close to the Myeongdong Station and being on line 4 and line 2, travelling to and from the other neighbourhoods shouldn’t be a problem at all. Interested in finding more things to do in Myeongdong? See our guide here.
Along with the places mentioned in the list, you can visit Jongno Gu if you are looking for the old authentic Korea and its culture along with great food amidst nature. If you want to visit malls and are into shopping, you can visit Yongsan Gu. With great transport Links, Yongsan Gu is easily accessible. It should be in your ‘to visit’ list if you like video games. For a relatively quieter stay, you can look for accommodations in Mapo Gu which a quiet and calm neighbourhood known for its budget choices.
With lots to explore and lot more to see, if you want to get the true taste of Seoul, it is better if you avail the superb public transport system of the city. The Cash bee card or the T-money card can help you a lot as it is accepted in all the bus lines as well as the subways, which significantly drops down your travelling cost. If you find yourself running out of balance, you can easily get them topped up as well. The subway lines connect Seoul’s Incheon International Airport to the city centre. Also, if public transport isn’t your choice, you can always opt for Korea’s easy on the pocket - cab rides, to move around the city. Korea has also introduced Uber services, so that too should help you with transport.
Along with numerous bus terminals spread out throughout the city, Seoul has several train options as well, which includes KTX- the high-speed train and Mugunghwa the low-speed train connecting Seoul to other parts of South Korea.