Are you planning a trip to Seoul, Korea, for the first time and need help deciding which area to stay in, between Insadong or Myeongdong?
Both areas are popular neighborhoods in Seoul, with many things to experience, great restaurants, lively nightlife, and excellent public transportation access.
Insadong is a vibrant neighborhood known for its rich cultural heritage and traditional atmosphere. It is a must-visit destination for tourists interested in traditional Korean art, crafts, and cuisine. You’ll also find many museums to explore in Insadong as well.
The main street in the area, Insadong-gil, is lined with countless shops, galleries, and teahouses, offering various things to do. Strolling through the narrow alleys, visitors can explore the unique blend of old and new, with traditional Korean houses (hanok) and modern cafes coexisting harmoniously.
Myeongdong is renowned for its lively and vibrant atmosphere, providing various shopping and dining options. Often referred to as the “Times Square of Seoul,” Myeongdong serves as the primary shopping district in the city, featuring department stores, cosmetic shops, and charming boutique stores.
The area is also known for its bustling streets with vibrant neon lights and it’s popular night market that operates every day of the week starting from 5:00 PM.
Insadong or Myeongdong: Main Differences
Before we get into the details of comparisons between Insadong and Myeongdong, let’s look into the main differences between both neighborhoods.
Both are centrally located, so if you’re visiting Seoul for the first time, this isn’t a concern; both offer ideal central locations for exploring many of Seoul’s attractions and great access to public transportation to explore other parts of the city.
A stand-out difference is the atmosphere between the two neighborhoods; Insadong has more of a local neighborhood feel, with cozy cafes, charming old streets, dim-lit bars, and locals going amongst their days.
Meanwhile, Myeongdong has less of a neighborhood feel and more of a downtown/central atmosphere, representing the city’s hustle and bustle more than anything. Myeongdong is also very well known for its shopping.
Here’s a quick short list of highglights each neighborhood claims, though I recommend you visit both neighborhoods when visiting Seoul, after all, they’re next to one another!
- Excellent Parks
- Several Cultural Sites
- Great Museums
- Less Crowded
- Neighbourhood Feel
- 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
Insadong or Myeongdong: Things to Do
Things to Do in Insadong
Insadong Street: Known as the area’s main attraction, Insadong-gil, the main street is filled with numerous shops, galleries, and teahouses showcasing traditional Korean culture, pottery, and more.
Wandering through the many narrow alleys that connect to the main road, you’ll experience the beautiful charm of this street’s atmosphere.
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.
Bukchon Hanok Village: Bukchon Hanok Village offers a serene and picturesque escape into the country’s past. Wander the many alleys showcasing the well-preserved Korean homes known as hanoks.
In the village, you’ll also find many workshops and traditional craft centers to experience pottery, calligraphy, and other activities.
Changdeokgung Palace: One of Seoul’s many UNESCO sites, this palace offers exquisite architecture showcasing the primary residence of the many kings in Korea during the Joseon Dynasty.
The palace complex is known for integrating with nature, surrounded by stunning gardens and wooded areas. The highlight of Changdeokgung is its Secret Garden, a vast expanse of lush greenery, pavilions, ponds, and walking paths.
Museum of Korean Contemporary History: Located in the heart of Insadong, this fascinating museum showcases many exhibits, artifacts, and multimedia art presentations for guests to immerse themselves in.
The museum’s interactive displays and immersive experiences provide a unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of modern art, and you’ll find both local and international artist’s work here.
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.
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!
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.
Insadong or Myeongdong: Hotels
Both areas offer many accommodations catering to all travel styles and budgets, from modern luxurious hotel stays to boutique hotels and many budget-friendly guesthouses/hostels.
Insadong is more well known for its mid-range priced hotels and guest houses/hostels. Nonetheless, the supply of accommodations in Insadong is wide.
Myeongdong is known for its wider variety of mid-range hotels. Also, for luxury accommodations, you’ll find more in Myeongdong than in Insadong. Myeongdong is the larger area, and there are many accommodation options here.
Below, I’ve compiled 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 Insadong
Nine Tree Premier Hotel – 4 Star / Offering sophisticated modern rooms in a prime location along with many amenities, and is steps away from parks and restaurants
ibis Ambassador Insadong – 3 Star / Cozy mid-range hotel offering modern rooms at an affordable price
Hostel Haru / Known as the best-rated hostel in the area, Hostel Haru offers both dorm and private style rooms with a charming modern theme
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
Insadong or Myeongdong: Restaurants
Both Insadong and Myeongdong offer vibrant food scenes. However, each area is known more for its types of cuisine.
Insadong is renowned for its traditional Korean cuisine; you’ll find numerous restaurants serving authentic bibimbap, bulgogi, and other traditional dishes. Additionally, Insadong is known for its many famous tea houses.
On the other hand, Myeongdong is also known for its traditional Korean food but also offers a wider international cuisine scene; the area also offers more Korean BBQ options than Insadong, and it’s famous for its street food scene because of its daily 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 Insadong
Gangnam Myeonok Insadong: This cold noodle restaurant serves a wide variety of Korean noodle dishes, with many side dishes, and is most known for its slow-cooked beef ribs.
PyeongYang Gogitjip: Located in the heart of the area, this Korean BBQ restaurant is the best in Insadong, serving a wide variety of excellent beef cuts and Korean sidedishes; their pork belly and bulgogi are a must-try
Insadong Maneul Bossam: Serving up many classic Korean dishes, including bossam (a Korean pork dish), scallion pancakes, stir-fried octopus, and more
Jeongseon Gondressambap: Excellent Korean restaurant specializing in bulgogi (thin-stirfried beef), braised shortribs, plenty of banchan (Korena side dishes), and stews
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
Insadong or Myeongdong: Nightlife
Regarding the nightlife in Insadong and Myeongdong, both areas offer a charming bar scene with many bars to check out.
But if you’re looking for nightclubs, there aren’t really any here; areas in Seoul like Hongdae and Itaewon are more known for their nightclubs.
Insadong offers plenty of charming, fancy cocktail bars to check out in the late evening, which are ideal for drinking and trying excellent late-night foods.
Myeongdong, on the other hand, offers slightly more to do at night than Insadong, and not only does the area have bars but also its famous night market and theaters.
By the way, the best area for nightlife in Seoul isn’t Insadong or Myeongdong its Hongdae!
Nightlife in Insadong
Tender Bar: This charming bar serves various cocktails and small cocktail pairings and is known for its cozy old-school atmosphere
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
Nightlife in Myeongdong
Eulji Lewis Bar: A charming, unique bar offering seating in an actual English-style living room, known for its many cocktails and cheese board
Sunset Record Bar: A fun bar known for its older vinyl collections displayed against the walls, they take music requests from guests and have a wide variety of drinks/eats to try
Myeongdong Nightmarket: Known as one of Seoul’s street markets, here you’ll find over 100 street food vendors selling many various Korean street eats every evening
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.
Insadong or Myeongdong – Final Thoughts
So, have you decided which two of the areas you’d prefer to stay in, Insadong or Myeongdong?
Both areas are centrally located and near many of Seoul’s main attractions, and as mentioned before, the two areas are near one another, so if you can’t decide, know you can always visit either one easily.
Insadong has more of a cultural feel to it, the streets are charming, museums, arts/crafts and overall the area feels more like a neighbourhood.
Myeongdong is the genuine center of the city, with bright lights, plenty of shopping, and its nightly bustling night market.
Seoul’s subway/metro system is excellent, and the city is very well connected, so you can always explore the many other areas in Seoul!
A few other areas you should consider visiting in Seoul are Itaewon, Gangnam, Hongdae, and Seongsu-dong.
Is it better to stay in Myeongdong or Insadong?
Both areas are centrally located in Seoul, near many of the city’s main attractions.
Myeongdong is most known for its shopping and international cuisine; Insadong is more culturally representative of the city and has a more neighborhood feel!
Can you walk from Insadong to Myeongdong?
Yes, you can. Expect to walk for around 20-30 minutes; don’t worry, there’s plenty to see along the way!
Which part of Seoul is best to stay?
It depends on the atmosphere you’re looking for; Myeongdong is the most centrally located, Hongdae is famous for its younger crowd and nightlife, Itaewon is known for its boutique shopping and shopping, and so on!
What is Insadong known for?
Insadong is known for its rich cultural heritage and traditional atmosphere, and the beautiful narrow streets are filled with many traditional architectural Korean homes.
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