Are you planning a trip to Seoul for the first time and need help deciding which area to stay in, between Hongdae or Myeongdong?
Both are two of Seoul’s most popular and lively neighborhoods, with many things to do, great restaurants, nightlife, and lots of shopping.
Hongdae is known for its youthful crowd and extensive Hongdae shopping street, full of restaurants offering Korean and plenty of international cuisine, bars, cafes, and galleries.
The area has many venues offering live musical performances, karaoke, and arcades. In the evening, there’s a variety of trendy bars and nightclubs to visit in Hongdae.
Myeongdong is known for its hustle/bustle atmosphere, and the area offers a diverse shopping and restaurant scene. It’s referred to as the “Times Square of Seoul.” Myeongdong is the main shopping area in Seoul, with department stores, cosmetic stores, and small boutique shops.
Beyond the shopping, Myeongdong is known for its busy streets with bright neon lights, endless dining/shopping options, and its famous night market; open every day of the week after 5:00 PM.
Hongdae vs Myeongdong: Main Differences
Let’s first consider the standout main differences between Hongdae and Myeongdong.
Location is the main difference. Hongdae is located in the western part of the city, while Myeongdong is right in the center of Seoul.
Besides location, Hongdae and Myeongdong share many similarities; one major thing is both areas have great access to the subway/train.
If you’d prefer to be more centrally located, you may favor Myeongdong, but the downside of Myeongdong is how touristy it is. Hongdae has a far more local atmosphere to it compared to Myeongdong!
Here’s a quick short list of highlights each neighborhood claims, though I recommend you at least visit both neighborhoods when visiting Seoul, no matter where you choose to stay!
- Lively always
- Numerous cafes/restaurants
- Karaoke & arcade bars
- Known area for creatives
- More Trendy
- Excellent for Shopping
- Myeongdong Night Market
- Centrally located
- Near Namsan Mountain Park
- Close to Itaewon
TIP: Walking around, Google Maps doesn’t work; you’ll need to download Kakao Maps
Hongdae or Myeongdong: Things to Do
Hongdae and Myeongdong offer many things to experience during the day and evening!
Whether you choose to stay or visit Hongdae or Myeongdong, here’s a short list of things you must do in each neighborhood,
This section should be the most helpful when determining which neighborhood would be ideal for you to stay in between the two in Seoul.
Remember, no matter which area you choose, you can always take the subway to either neighborhood; the public transportation in Seoul is well-developed!
Things to Do in Hongdae
Explore Hongdae Shopping Street: At the center of Hongdae is the popular Shopping Street, an extensive long walking street full of countless restaurants, shops, boutiques, and karaoke/arcades
At night, the street gets quite lively with street performers, food carts, and the many bars/nightclubs open up to visit.
Gyeongui Line Forest Park: Strolling this picturesque park is a must-do in Hongdae. It is full of luscious green trees/gardens and streams, and many charming cafes surround the park
Hongdae Saturday Market: In the main square on Saturdays is a fun market where local designers and artists come to sell their goods, from jewelry to paintings and more
Bar Happy Hour: As you walk around Hongdae, you’ll notice many bars, from rooftop bars to boutique bars on sidestreets and microbreweries specializing in craft beer / Most establishments offer happy hour promotions, especially on weekends
Photo Booths: In Korea, photo booths are a thing; selfie culture is big here. There are many photo booth spots where you can enter and take a few photos with your friends for memories
Check out the Arcades: Located on the main Hongdae Shopping Street are many fun arcades to visit featuring many various games, claw machines, carnival games, and more
Things to Do in Myeongdong
Shopping: Myeongdong is famous for its shopping. As you walk around, you’ll spot both tourists/locals coming to shop here. The area department stores, fashion boutiques, and cosmetics shops.
Also, you’ll find luggage, local desserts/tea packaged to take home, and many souvenirs to consider buying.
Myeongdong Night Market: Known as one of the city’s best night markets, you’ll find over 100 food stalls selling delicious Korean street food every night. From sizzling meat skewers to fusions like lobster mac/cheese, Korean pancakes, and much more!
You’ll also find plenty of souvenir vendor stalls. The Myeongdong Nightmarket is a must-visit when in the area; the market opens after 5:00 PM daily.
Cheonggyecheon Park: Located in the heart of the city, this park offers a cityscape from the hustle/bustle of Seoul. The scenic park is built around a restored stream surrounded by greenery and walking paths.
The park is below the city’s main ground, offering an escape. Throughout the year, the park is decorated with various art installations during cultural events, adding to the park’s atmosphere.
Check out Namdaemun Market: Opened in 1964, this market is an iconic part of the city’s economic growth.
It features over 10,000 stores offering a wide range of goods, from clothing and accessories to traditional crafts and street food. The market is a vibrant hub of activity.
Dating back to the Joseon Dynasty and still as busy today as it was back then, the Namdaemun Market is a must-visit for visitors in Seoul.
Namsan Mountain Park: Just a 15-20 minute walk south of Myeongdong, you’ll find yourself at Namsan Park, the largest park in Seoul and home to the famous N Seoul Tour. Namsan Park is a must-visit!
Gyeongbokgung Palace: Known as Seoul’s most popular attraction, the Gyeongbokgung Palace is an important symbol of Korea’s rich history and architectural grandeur.
With its sprawling grounds, ornate gates, and meticulously designed buildings, the palace offers visitors a glimpse into the royal heritage of the Joseon Dynasty.
Hongdae or Myeongdong: Hotels
Both neighborhoods in Seoul offer many accommodation types, from modern luxury stays to boutique hotels and guesthouses/hostels.
Hongdae is more well known for its mid-range priced hotels, guest houses/hostels, and many hotels to choose from.
Myeongdong is known for its wider variety of mid-range hotels. Those looking for luxury stays will find more in Myeongdong than in Hongdae. Myeongdong also offers guesthouses/hostels as well.
Below, I’ve put together a list of the best hotels in each neighborhood by budget for you to consider, including luxury, mid-range, and budget-friendly options!
Where to Stay in Hongdae
Mercure Ambassador – 4 Star / A modern upscale hotel with excellent amenities located right in the heart of Hongdae area
9 Brick Boutique Hotel – 3 Star / Well-decorated brick-loft themed hotel featuring spacious rooms, located near Hongdae Street
Holiday Inn Hongdae Seoul – 3 Star / Large modern hotel with many amenities, including a breakfast buffet located next to Gyeongui Line Forest Park
Hostel CLEO Guesthouse / Top-ranked hostel offering well-lit, clean guestrooms in a great location
Where to Stay in Myeongdong
The Plaza Seoul – 5 Star / A prestigious modern hotel located on the edge of the Myeongdong area, near many parks and must-visit tourist sites
ibis Ambassador Myeongdong – 3 Star / A comfortable mid-range hotel in a great location, close to the Myeongdong night market, restaurant, and plenty of shopping
Moxy Seoul Myeongdong – 3 Star / Seoul modern-style hotel; rooms aren’t too spacious, but the hotel’s price/location is well worth it
Myeongdong Sunshine Guesthouse – 2 Star / Located right in the heart of Myeongdong, steps away from the night market, this guesthouse offers private rooms with washrooms at a budget-friendly price
Hongdae or Myeongdong: Restaurants
Whether you stay in Myeongdong or Hongdae, both areas offer a wide variety of delicious local Korean restaurants and international options!
Hongdae is known for its vibrant restaurant culture, fitting the area’s artistic feel. Here, you’ll find all types of cuisines worldwide, including plenty of Korean food.
Myeongdong is known for its many Korean BBQ restaurants, Chinese cuisine, and many Korean street food at its night market!
By the way, no matter which area you stay in, try Isaac Toast at least one morning; it’s an iconic Korean toast sandwich franchise. You’ll spot them all over Seoul, no matter which area you’re in.
Where to Eat in Hongdae
Doma: Famous amongst locals as one of the top Korean BBQ spots in Hongdae, known for its wide variety of ban chan (Korean side dishes)
Gusto Taco: Tacos, nachos, burritos, and much more can be found at Gusto Taco; there’s a set menu here of meals to choose from
Kyochon Chicken: Known amongst locals as the best Korean Fried Chicken franchise, an absolute must-try when in Korea
Saemaul Restaurant Hongdae: Popular Korean BBQ franchise known for its bulgogi and stews
Rosso1924: Craving pizza? This is your spot, serving authentic Neapolitan-style pies with a wide variety of pizza options
Where to Eat in Myeongdong
Wangbijip Myeongdong: Known as one of the best Korean BBQ restaurants in the area, offering Korean bread cuts, a wide variety of delicious banchan side dishes, and more
Myeongdong Kyoja Main Store: This iconic restaurant in Myeongdong has several years of Michelin Stars is best known for its Chopped Noodles and perfectly steamed dumplings
Baegmi: Korean restaurant known for its wide variety of Korean dishes and drinks with a calming atmosphere
Odarijip: Top-ranked Korean restaurant offering several Korean foods, most famous for their raw marinated crab, Korean stews, and excellent banchan (side dishes) variety
Hong Kong Banjeom: Chinese/Korean restaurant located in an alley, best known for its Korean black bean noodles, Jjamppong (a spicy seafood stew), and other Korean delicacies
Hongdae or Myeongdong: Nightlife
Regarding the nightlife scene in each area, Hongdae and Myeongdong offer a lively, fun nightlife with lots to do. Each area has many bars, restaurants, karaoke bars, and arcades.
Hongdae is slightly better than Myeongdong when considering a lively night. Hongdae has bars, karaoke, arcades, and some nightclubs. In contrast, Myeongdong falls short regarding nightclubs and places to go dancing.
Myeongdong is known for its famous night market, many cocktail bars open late, including local-style karaoke bars and performing arts theaters
Nightlife in Hongdae
Mike’s Cabin: Upbeat, lively bar with a large dance floor for visitors; one of the most popular spots in the area
Playground Rooftop: A fun rooftop bar serving a wide variety of cocktails, famous for its many games, including beer-pong, darts, and more
Club Gabbia: Vibrant nightclub offering a wide variety of played music by DJs, and some nights they host band performances
Zen Bar: Popular amongst locals, this bar/nightclub is all over the place; there’s live music, games, and sometimes they show boxing/MMA fights
Nightlife in Myeongdong
Bar 420: Relaxing dim-lit bar known for its wide variety of cocktails and appetizers like its charcuterie board, seafood pasta, and octopus
Bar ZEYA: Fancy cocktail bar known for its detailed, well-crafted cocktails
Bar MOU: Vibrant cocktail bar offering live vinyl music and many delicious laidback cocktails
Myeongdong NANTA Theatre: This theatre hosts a fun and entertaining nonverbal comedy performance anyone can attend and enjoy; it is a highly ranked activity to do at night in Myeongdong
Best Time to Visit Seoul
With four seasons in the city, Seoul has a different atmosphere depending on the time you visit, offering various activities to experience each season.
All seasons have their advantages, but if you don’t favor the heat, you’ll want to visit in the Spring, and if you’re not looking to experience any snow, don’t come in the winter!
Spring: April to June
Spring is an excellent time to visit Seoul, with temperatures ranging from 10 to 20 Celsius (50 to 68 Fahrenheit). It’s an ideal time to explore Seoul’s many outdoor attractions, like its parks, palaces, and hiking trails.
These ideal midrange temperatures in the city allow for comfortable walks and outdoor activities. Also, Spring in Seoul offers a picturesque and enjoyable experience due to the yearly cherry blossom bloom.
Summer: July to August
In the Summer, Seoul becomes warm with some humidity, with average temperatures ranging from 23 to 30 Celsius (73 to 86 Fahrenheit). It’s a vibrant season with cultural/music festivals, outdoor markets, and lively street performances.
From exploring the historic sites to enjoying the bustling nightlife, there’s always something happening in the city, and Summer is a great time to experience all that Seoul has to offer!
RELATED: 7 Best Areas in Seoul to Stay
Autumn: September to October
Autumn in Seoul is another favorable season to visit, especially for those who prefer mild and comfortable temperatures ranging from 17 to 22 Celsius (63 to 72 Fahrenheit).
The city transforms into a picturesque landscape adorned with vibrant red, orange, and yellow hues as the leaves change color. It’s a perfect time to explore parks, gardens, and mountains like Namsan and Bukhansan.
Autumn in Seoul offers a serene and romantic ambiance, making it an ideal season for nature lovers, hikers, photographers, and those looking for a romantic gateway!
Winter: December to March
Winter in Seoul can get a tad chilly, with average temperatures ranging from -1 to -7 Celsius (30 to 19 Fahrenheit).
Seoul transforms into a winter wonderland as snow blankets the streets and parks. It’s the season for ice skating, skiing, and enjoying hot drinks at cozy cafes around the city.
Popular attractions in the city, such as Namsan Tower and Gyeongbokgung Palace, offer stunning views amidst a snowy backdrop.
Hongdae or Myeongdong – Final Thoughts
So, have you decided which is more appealing, Hongdae or Myeongdong in Seoul? Both are two of the best areas to stay in when in Seoul. That’s exactly why both areas are debated!
Myeongdong is best for first-time visitors because of its very central location, though if you don’t enjoy very touristy areas, you’ll prefer staying in Hongdae far more than Myeongdong.
If you’d prefer to be closer to most tourist attractions in Seoul and don’t mind being the busiest area in the city, Myeongdong is the best for you.
But if you’d rather experience Seoul in a less touristy manner, get a feel for living there, and enjoy being amongst a younger, artsy crowd, Hongdae will be much more appealing for you to stay in.
My favorite area to stay in Seoul is neither. It’s Itaewon. It’s also centrally located but is more known for its international food scene, trendy boutique shopping, and many museums. Also, Itaewon’s street layout is rather unique compared to most areas in Seoul.
Seoul’s transportation is exceptional, and the subway and bus systems keep the city well connected. So getting around from one area to the other in the city is convenient and easy.
A few other areas in Seoul you should explore when visiting Seoul are Gangnam, Seongsu-dong, and Insadong.
Is Hongdae or Myeongdong better for shopping?
Each area is great for shopping and offers a different experience. But Myeongdong is slightly better, considering its wide variety of shopping.
Hongdae is known for its vintage shops, arts/crafts, and local markets. In contrast, Myeongdong is known for its cosmetic shops, souvenir shops, and large department stores.
Why is Hongdae popular?
Hongdae is popular for its lively atmosphere. The area is known for its thriving arts/music scene and its large offering of restaurants and shopping.
It’s an excellent area for tourists looking for a more local atmosphere to stay in or visit.
Why is Myeongdong famous?
Myeongdong is known as the most central area in Seoul. The area is known for its wide variety of shopping, vibrant food scene and is nearby many of Seoul’s main attractions.
Is Hongdae a good place to visit?
Yes, Hongdae offers plenty of things to do during the day and night. The area is also known for its wide variety of international cuisine and cafes.
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