Korea has been largely popular as a destination to go thanks to its romantic Korean dramas and trending K-pop stars. This huge metropolis, the capital of South Korea has a medley of delicious foods and shopping to do. Despite being cutting edge in terms of fashion, technology, and architecture, Seoul is also deeply traditional and cultural, with its palaces and temples to visit. In short, Seoul is a must-visit, especially on your first visit to Korea. In this article, we list the best places to stay in Seoul and bring you the best Seoul hotels to stay at in each district. Each of Seoul’s neighborhoods has a distinct style and vibe – Myeongdong for shopping, Insadong for history, Hongdae for a youthful scene, and so on. Continue reading this article and find the perfect base for your Korean adventure. Read on to find out where to stay in Seoul!
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Where to Stay in Seoul
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Where to Stay in Seoul
1. Myeongdong, for shopping & entertainment
Starting off this list is a crowd favorite, Myeongdong. And we mean that literally. Considered one of the busiest districts of Seoul, you’ll often find this area filled with crowds of tourists and locals alike, wide-eyed from all the neon lights and shopping options. It is most known for its streets sprawling with Korean beauty brands, massive department stores, fashion stalls and vintage boutiques. Between hours of shopping, be sure to refuel with street food like the popular potato chip sticks and spicy hotpots.
Apart from being a shopper’s paradise, most tourists choose to stay in this area also because of its location. It is perfectly situated near cultural attractions and scenic landscapes, making it a convenient base for the rest of your vacation.
Things to do in Myeongdong:
- Shop til you drop in Myeongdong Shopping Street and Namdaemun Market
- Take a free shuttle bus up to Namsan Mountain, and hop on a cable car to the famous N Seoul Tower. Learn about Seoul’s history, soak in majestic views of the city landscape and leave your own love lock to remember someone by.
- Walk along Cheonggyecheon Stream as you admire the city’s modern architecture, pass by statues of famous Korean figures or stop by the National Museum
- Join a cooking class and learn the secrets in creating traditional Korean dishes
- Watch Nanta, Korea’s longest running show about cooking performed through singing, dancing, and acrobatics
- Try famous Korean dishes like samgyeopsal and barbeque, crispy chicken and jokkbal
- Experience a non-verbal theater performance about three Korean cultural elements: Taekwondo, Hangeul and Arirang
Where to stay in Myeongdong: Lotte Hotel Seoul
If you choose to stay in the Myeongdong area, we recommend Lotte Hotel Seoul because of its guaranteed 5-star service and great location. Styled by four world-class design firms, guests will step into a European-inspired lobby and enjoy their rooms adorned with sophisticated furniture and a beautiful skyline view of downtown Seoul. It also has 10 dining options, from Korean, Japanese, Chinese to international cuisines, as well as a Peninsula Lounge & Bar offering afternoon tea and desserts. A fitness gym, spa center and indoor are other amenities guests can take pleasure in.
Nestled in the heart of Seoul’s central business district, it is just a few minutes away from the shopping streets of Myeongdong and is also linked to a subway station for you to conveniently explore the rest of Seoul.
2. Hongdae, for young, hipster vibes
Hongdae’s bustling atmosphere and contagious energy may be comparable to that of Myeongdong’s but for absolutely different reasons. Along this university belt, you’ll come across eclectic characters and cultural creators. A typical day will see street dancers entertaining crowds, free artists painting up murals, indie singers showcasing their self-composed songs, aspiring k-pop bands waiting to be discovered. This hipster scene started when prestigious art school, Hongik University, first opened in the 90s, setting fire to a more modern and diverse Seoul. The area has since become a community of quaint cafes, flea markets, creative restaurants and hole-in-the-wall pubs. Visiting this area is a must especially for all you young travellers looking to experience Seoul’s fun local scene.
Things to do in Hongdae:
- Explore the alleys of this café district and have brunch in any of the two café streets – Coffee Prince Street and one near Seogyo Elementary School
- Spend a day taking fun and artsy pictures in The Beauty Inside Exhibition
- Visit the Trick Eye Museum and prepare to be amazed!
- Watch street performers at Sculpture Park
- Find unique trinkets to take home at open-air flea market, only open on Sunday starting 1pm
- Rent a Korean university outfit and live out your k-drama dreams for the day
- Enjoy authentic Korean barbeque among the many foodie options in the area
- Experience nightlife and do a fun pub crawl with new friends
Where to stay in Hongdae: L7 Hongdae
L7 Hongdae is a 4-star hotel that takes pride in its spacious and Scandinavian-styled rooms, and high-rise entertainment facilities that show off a stunning view of the Hangang River. Its 21st floor includes an open-kitchen restaurant called Floating, which serves New York-inspired dishes and delicious coffee. It also has a rooftop bar perfect for sunset sessions over craft beers, L7 signature cocktail, soulful music panoramic views of Hongdae district. Although it just a 5-minute walk from Hongdae’s main shopping street, you’ll automatically forget about the chaos once you step inside its peaceful interiors.
3. Gangnam, for upscale restaurants & bars
Popularized by the hit song “Gangnam Style”, Gangnam is definitely known for its style – luxurious and high-end. It is one of Seoul’s financial hubs, lined with skyscrapers, sleek high-rise buildings and upscale hotel chains. Tourists come here to experience restaurants and bars serving top-quality food and premium drinks, but it is not recommended for people travelling on a budget. Other than its reputation as Korea’s rich area, it is not particularly cultural or representative of Korea’s well-preserved traditions. However, it does have a good location and could be a convenient base to travel to these tourist sites.
Things to do in Gangnam:
- Shop for the latest fashion trends at the Galleria department store
- Take a break from area’s hustle and visit Bong Eun Sa, Gangnam’s lone temple amidst all the skyscrapers, or Samneung Park, a lush green land in the center of Gangnam
- Experience a day of fun activities, good food and endless shopping with an all-in-one pass to the COEX Aquarium, SMTOWN Museum and Megabox Theater
- Treat yourself to a relaxing treatment as the Sulwhasoo Spa, created by one of Korea’s leading beauty brands
- Do as Psy did and dance to Gangnam Style in the subway station exit #5. If that wasn’t enough, dine in ultimate Gangnam style at Wolfgang’s Steakhouse
- Party it up at Gangnam’s many posh bars and clubs
Where to stay in Gangnam: Park Hyatt Seoul
Stay in the Park Hyatt Hotel and spend your vacation in true Gangnam style. From its elegant rooms to its top-class gourmet dining, guests will spend their days pampered and relaxed. Its standard room is far from standard, with 52-sqm worth of contemporary furnishings and floor-to-ceiling windows for a beautiful view of the city skyline. Or you can opt for the Presidential Suite, decked with your own kitchen, bedroom, spa-inspired bathroom and walk-in dressing room. Wherever you choose to stay, all guests can partake in the hotel’s spa services, fitness center and wide variety of dining options like The Lounge (Korean cuisine), Cornerstone (Italian cuisine), The Timber House (Japanese cuisine and vinyl music bar) or Citrus Bar (Easter and Western light meals).
Located amidst the capital’s key shopping and business areas, it is conveniently located right across a train station (Samsung Station Exit #1) and walking distance to the few popular attractions in the area like the COEX Aquarium, COEX shopping mall, Megabox Theatre, Hyundai Dept. Store, Bongeun Temple and the Seoul Art Center.
4. Itaewon, for exciting night life
Itaewon is Seoul’s hot spot for all things night life. Because it is known for its party scene, it has become a common hang out place for expats and foreigners. Compared to other areas in the city, tourists will not have a problem asking for directions in English and will find it easy to adapt. This cosmopolitan atmosphere makes it home to a hodgepodge of cuisines, from Mexican to Indian to American, and was originally one of the only places in Seoul where you could shop for items from other countries.
Although it is a generally a busy area, its reputation is ultimately limited to clubbing, and is not representative of what Seoul can offer as a whole. If you choose to stay in this area, you still need to venture outside Itaewon for you to truly experience Korean culture. In terms of accommodations, you hardly find any luxury or high-quality hotels in the area as the foreigners and the younger crowds are more keen on budget-friendly hotels.
Things to do in Itaewon:
- Appreciate Seoul’s art scene by visiting the Samsung Museum Of Art, one of the country’s most acclaimed galleries on traditional and modern art
- Drop by the city’s only mosque, Seoul Central Mosque
- Spend a day as a K-Pop star and shop exclusive merchandise to add to your collection
- Explore Seoul’s booming nightlife district, where the best dance clubs are found behind the Hamilton Hotel
Where to stay in Itaewon: Imperial Palace Boutique Hotel
The Imperial Palace Boutique is one of the best hotels in Itaewon as top-quality accommodations in the area are scarce. Stepping into its lobby is a visual spectacle of shorts, as your eyes wander through its grandeur interiors, European accents and unique touches like hanging swings and colorful furniture. The rooms are also decked with pop art murals, making your stay indoors as fun as your activities outdoors. Guests can enjoy complimentary breakfast before heading out to the city, which you’ll find to be very accessible as the hotel is only three minutes away from Itaewon Station.
5. Insadong / Jongno, for culture & heritage
The list would not be complete without what many consider to be the soul of Seoul’s culture, Insadong. This is definitely the place to stay for all you history buffs and cultured chaps because of its close proximity to popular tourist attractions. Here you’ll find four of the city’s five grand palaces, as well as shrines, temples and old wooden tea houses. It is equal parts traditional and refined as its quiet alleyways also lead to curated art galleries, charming coffee shops and quirky little stores where you can find traditional Korean handicrafts. Boasting off a calmer vibe than most popular districts in Seoul, Insadong is the perfect place to unwind as you end your fun-filled vacation.
Things to do in Insadong:
- Visit the famous Gyeongbugkung Palace, which includes the royal pavilion, a traditional pagoda and a man-made lake. While you’re there, rent out an authentic hanbok and take pictures for memories!
- Just steps away from Gyeongbugkung Palace is Changdeokgung Palace, another historical site known for its beautiful gardens
- Learn about Seoul’s rich past by taking a tour to Bukchon Hanok Village where you’ll walk past rows of little traditional houses
- Go on a temple tour and learn more about Korea’s Buddhist way of life
- Admire paintings, pottery, sculptures and other forms of art as you explore the many art galleries in the area
- Meet locals and tourists, and together go on a food and drink tour around Insadong
Where to stay in Insadong: Orakai Insadong Suites
Orakai Insadong Suites is one of the only luxury accommodations in the area. This 4-star self-catering “aparthotel” has 213 rooms with 5 different room types, from a one-bedroom unit to a four-bedroom suite to the penthouse. They all include a well-equipped kitchenette (complete with appliances, glassware, glass bone china and cutlery), a relaxing living room with a flat screen TV, comfortable bedrooms and clean bathrooms – all designed with cosy interiors to give their guests the ultimate home away from home. Like a typical hotel, it also offers top-notch facilities like an indoor pool, gym and sauna.
Set at the heart of Insadong, guests can walk to nearby restaurants and shopping malls, or easily access transportation options heading outside Insadong.
We hope that our guide on where to stay in Seoul & Seoul best hotels has helped you! Please share it with your friends and family. Do also check out our other Seoul reads below!
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