Are you planning a trip to Seoul and wondering where to stay? This area guide covers where to stay in Seoul for first time visitors!
Each area has its own atmosphere and location advantages. Depending on the type of traveler you are, you may prefer one area in Seoul over the other. Also mentioned below each area are hotel recommendations for all budgets!
Before we discuss the best areas to stay in Seoul, it’s worth mentioning the excellent public transportation in the city. The city offers a variety of transportation options that cater to different travel needs.
The Seoul Metropolitan Subway system is the backbone of public transportation in the city. It is well-connected, reliable, and covers various districts in Seoul and neighboring cities. Buses are also commonly used in Seoul, with a large network of their own, covering areas inaccessible by subway.
The subways and buses in Seoul are straightforward and easy to navigate. Announcements and signage are in English and Korean. To use them, get a T-money card; these are reloadable cards for ease of payment for subways and taxis.
If you’d prefer private transportation, Seoul also has a well-established taxi service throughout the city. Alternatively, you can use the KakaoT app in Korea, a ride-sharing app similar to Uber and Grab.
Here’s a quick overview of the best areas in Seoul for first time visitors. However, I’d recommend you read about each area more below to decide which is best for you!
|Best Areas to Stay in Seoul for First Timers
|Which Area is Best for You?
|Centrally located near many of Seoul’s famous attractions, the area offers a glimpse into Korean culture.
|Myeongdong is known as the Times Square of Seoul; it’s the most centrally located area and is a shopper’s paradise.
|Hongdae is a dynamic area with a youthful crowd in the Western part, known for trendy cafes, clubs, and restaurants.
|Itaewon is a trendy and multicultural area known for its international cuisine, museums, and boutique shopping.
|Gangnam is known for its upscale shopping, restaurants, entertainment, and parks. Many K-Pop stars live here!
|Seongsudong is a vibrant area known for its many parks, restaurants, and industrial charm.
|Dongdaemun is a popular shopping area, home to the famous Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Seoul Central Market, and Hwanghak-dong Flea Market.
Best Area For: First-time visitors fascinated by Korean culture, enjoy museums and prefer to be centrally located.
Atmosphere: Insadong is a picturesque district renowned for its abundant cultural legacy and authentic ambiance. It is an essential place for tourists intrigued by traditional Korean art, crafts, and cuisine.
Things to Do: A few top things to do in Insadong are visit the Bukchon Hanok Village, a traditional village featuring Korean architecture, Changdeokgung Palace, the most famous attraction in Seoul, and many museums.
Food: The neighborhood is famous for its authentic Korean cuisine, with numerous restaurants offering traditional dishes like bibimbap and bulgogi. Moreover, Insadong is also well-known for its abundance of renowned tea houses.
Nightlife: Insadong consists of dimly lit chic cocktail bars, such as Bar 420 and Bar ZEYA, which offer exceptional appetizers.
Accessibility: Insadong is centrally located, along with Myeongdong; Insadong, and Myeongdong are the most centrally located areas in Seoul.
Insadong is conveniently located only minutes north of Myeongdong. When in Insadong, make sure to visit the Myeongdong Night Market!
Best Hotels in Insadong
Nine Tree Premier Hotel — Luxury
ibis Ambassador Insadong — Mid Range
Hostel Haru — Budget
Best Area For: Visitors who love shopping, love street food, and who’d prefer to be in the center of Seoul.
Atmosphere: Myeongdong is famous for its energetic and dynamic ambiance, offering visitors various shopping and dining choices. The neighborhood is often called the “Times Square of Seoul” because it’s the most central area in Seoul.
Things to Do: Those who love shopping will love Myeongdong, which has many department stores, cosmetic shops, and delightful boutique stores. Visit the Namdaemun Market, which has been around for decades.
There are many nearby parks, including the famous Namsan Mountain Park and Cheonggyecheon Park.
Food: The area offers a wide variety of traditional Korean food as well as international cuisine options. There are several top-ranked restaurants in Myeongdong.
Nightlife: Myeongdong nightlife centers around its popular Night Market, a few bars, and the Myeongdong NANTA Theatre.
Accessibility: It doesn’t get more central than Myeongdong. The area is near most attractions in the city and other neighboring areas in Seoul. The only small downside is it’s the most touristy area in the city.
Best Hotels in Myeongdong
The Plaza Seoul — Luxury
Moxy Seoul Myeongdong — Mid Range
Myeongdong Sunshine Guesthouse — Budget
Best Area For: Appreciate neighborhoods full of arts, many cafes, parks, and international food, and enjoy a youthful crowd.
Atmosphere: Hongdae is a vibrant area in Seoul, best known for its youthful artistic crowd, trendy cafes, and lively nightlife. The area is a trendy and creative hub that attracts a diverse crowd of locals and tourists.
Things to Do: Hongdae is centered around its bustling main Hongdae walking street, where you’ll find plenty of boutiques, cafes, arcades, karaoke, and bars. Gyeongui Line Forest is a beautiful park in the area. Also, make sure to visit the Saturday day market.
Food: In Hongdae, you’ll find various cuisines, from Mexican to Italian, and several Korean restaurants. There are also many quaint, trendy cafes in the sidestreets.
Nightlife: Hongdae is the most lively neighborhood in Seoul at night; you’ll find venues playing indie, hip-hop, and electronic music and countless bars to check out.
Accessibility: Hongdae is located on the city’s western side; it’s not near many main attractions in Seoul and isn’t considered centrally located. That said, Seoul’s subways will have you anywhere in the city in minutes.
Best Hotels in Hongdae
Mercure Ambassador — Luxury
9 Brick Boutique Hotel — Mid Range
Hostel CLEO Guesthouse — Budget
Best Area For: Those who enjoy international cuisine, museums, upscale shopping, and a more local neighborhood.
Atmosphere: Itaewon is a diverse neighborhood that offers a unique blend of culture and multicultural cuisines. Walking around, you’ll notice many picturesque streets; Itaewon is also home to many expats.
Things to Do: Itaewon’s main street has many trendy boutiques offering world-famous brand names and local designer labels. Those who enjoy museums will love Itaewon, home to the Leeum Museum of Art and the War Memorial of Korea.
Namsan Mountain Park, one of Seoul’s main attractions, is just minutes from Itaewon.
Food: The food in Itaewon stands out because of its wide variety of international cuisine, including Arabic, Mexican, Indian, and more. There are also many excellent Korean restaurants in the area.
Nightlife: Head over to Itaewon-ro 27, a lively, fun side street where all the bars and nightclubs are next to each other. This is the area’s main nightlife hub.
Accessibility: Itaewon is centrally located and near many of Seoul’s main attractions. It’s close to Myeongdong and other trendy areas like Gangnam.
Best Hotels in Itaewon
Grand Hyatt Seoul — Luxury
Imperial Palace — Mid Range
G Guesthouse Itaewon — Budget
Best Area For: Those who enjoy high-end shopping, many entertainment choices, parks and those fascinated by K Culture, K pop music/shows/cafes.
Atmosphere: With plenty of modern, stylish skyscrapers, Gangnam embodies a contemporary and cosmopolitan feel. Many of Seoul’s rich and elite reside in the Gangnam area.
Things to Do: Gangnam offers many unique shopping options, many parks to explore, beautiful river views, and sports venues to visit. Make sure to visit the Bongeunsa temple, a top attraction in Gangnam.
Food: Gangnam is a culinary haven with a variety of dining options. From Michelin-starred restaurants to trendy cafes and street food stalls, there’s something for everyone. Whether you crave Korean delicacies or international cuisine, Gangnam has it all.
Nightlife: Gangnam boasts a vibrant nightlife scene with many chic cocktail lounges, beautifully decorated trendy bars, and live performances at concert halls.
Accessibility: Located in the eastern-south part of Seoul, Gangnam is still centrally located but not nearly as centrally located as Insadong, Myeongdong, or Itaewon.
Random Fact: Gangnam was made famous by the global hit song “Gangnam Style,”
Best Hotels in Gangnam
Park Hyatt Seoul — Luxury
GLAD Gangnam — Mid Range
YaKorea Hostel — Budget
Best Area For: Dongdaemun is an excellent area for travelers keen on shopping and experiencing a more local side of Seoul’s atmosphere. Those hunting for wholesale deals, this is your area.
Atmosphere: With a rich history and a blend of old and new, Dongdaemun offers a unique experience for visitors. There’s a hustle/bustle atmosphere to Dongdaemun, but with a local feel, you won’t find as many tourists around here during the day.
Things to Do: Shop at Dongdaemun Market for fashion and accessories, explore the Dongdaemun Design Plaza for art and design exhibitions, and visit historical landmarks like Heunginjimun Gate.
Food: The area is most famous for its excellent Korean food stall vendors offering foods like teokbokki (spicy rice cakes), mandu (dumplings), Korean pancakes, and more. Besides the street vendors, you’ll also find a wide range of restaurants in the area.
Nightlife: Dongdaemun is famous for its vibrant nightlife. The area buzzes at night with bars, clubs, and entertainment venues for different tastes. Whether you want a pub, music venue, or trendy club, Dongdaemun has options to suit all preferences.
Accessibility: Dongdaemun is well connected by public transportation, with several subway lines converging in the neighborhood’s vicinity. From Dongdaemun, it’s easy to explore other areas in Seoul.
Best Hotels in Dongdaemun
JW Marriott Dongdaemun — Luxury
Hotel Skypark Dongdaemun — Mid Range
Best Area For: An ideal neighborhood for first time visitors looking to experience a more local atmosphere of Seoul, Seongsudong is home to many spacious parks, cafes, art galleries and is near other neighborhoods like Gangnam.
Atmosphere: Overall, Sesongsudong is more of a calmer neighborhood compared to the others in this list. Those who enjoy nature, quieter streets, and arts will enjoy the vibe of Seongsudong.
Things to Do: Explore the vibrant arts scene at galleries and creative spaces, indulge in unique dining experiences at trendy cafes and restaurants, and enjoy the stunning views from Seongsu Bridge, which leads right into Gangnam.
Food: Sesongsudong offers a diverse and exciting food scene, with a wide range of unique cafes and restaurants. From cozy coffee shops to themed eateries to many international flavors such as Mexican, American, and Italian, the area is known for its many Italian restaurants.
Nightlife: There are quite a few lively bars in Sesongsudong serving tasty appetizers, but if you’re looking for nightclubs or concerts, you’ll have to go over one of the bridges to Gangnam!
Accessibility: Located in the southeastern part of Seoul, Sesongsudong isn’t centrally located per se, but subway access in Seoul allows you to go anywhere.
Best Hotels in Seongsudong
The Classic 500 Residence — Luxury
Hotel Poco — Mid Range
Seoul Forest Stay — Budget
Best Time to Visit Seoul
Seoul has four seasons, and depending on the time you visit, it offers a different atmosphere. Each season offers various activities.
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!
Autumn: September to October
Autumn in Seoul is another favorable season to visit, especially for those who prefer mild and comfortable temperatures between from 17 to 22 Celsius (63 to 72 Fahrenheit).
As the leaves change color, the city transforms into a picturesque landscape adorned with vibrant red, orange, and yellow hues. 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.
Tips for Seoul
- Google Maps doesn’t work in Seoul, download and use KakaoMaps
- If you want to get around by taxi, use traditional cabs or KakaoT, a ride-sharing app
- Don’t tip in Korea. It’s considered rude and offensive. There’s no reason ever to tip in Korea
- Get a reloadable T-Money card to use for Subway/Buses; get it at convenience stores like GS25 or 711
- Google Translate is okay, but Papago offers more accurate translation from English to Korean
- Don’t point at people if you’re trying to refer to someone, it’s considered rude
- Most places accept credit cards and cashless payments – if you need cash, use ATMs in 711 or GS25
Where to Stay in Seoul First Time Visit — Final Thoughts
Have you decided which area to stay in Seoul for the first time? There are many excellent areas in Seoul for first-time visitors, each offering its own unique atmosphere and things to do.
Choose which area is near most of the attractions you’d like to visit in Seoul. Also, consider areas with the atmosphere you’d appreciate most.
No matter where you stay in Seoul, you can easily explore the many neighborhoods because of the city’s exceptional public transportation. Using the subway and bus lines throughout the city is easy and straightforward.
However, if you’re visiting for a few short days, I’d advise you to choose the neighborhood that would work best for you, near most things you’d like to do.
Leaving your hotel and starting your day of adventures instantly is convenient and means you’ll have more time to experience more of Seoul during your stay!
While all these areas in Seoul are great choices for staying, I’ve shared a smaller area list for various traveler types to help you choose which area in Seoul to stay in for the first time!
Where to Stay in Seoul for Solo Traveler: Insadong, Myegondong, or Hongdae
Where to Stay in Seoul for Family: Itaewon, Insadong, or Gangnam
Where to Stay in Seoul for Nightlife: Hongdae or Gangnam
TIP: Once you’ve arrived at Seoul’s Airport, Incheon International Airport. You’ll need to get to Seoul. There are many ways to get into the city, but the easiest is by train.
Once you’ve arrived at Seoul Station from Incheon Airport, you can easily reach any area in Seoul by taxi, subway, or KakaoT.
Which area is best to stay in Seoul?
It depends on the attractions you’d like to visit and the atmosphere you desire. Insadong, Myeongdong, Hongdae, and Itaewon are the most popular areas for first-time visitors to stay in Seoul.
How many days in Seoul is enough?
Plan to spend a minimum of four days in Seoul. There’s plenty to do in Seoul, and the city is rather large. You’ll want enough time to map out the various things and areas you’d like to discover!
Which part of Seoul is touristy?
Myeongdong is the most touristy area in Seoul, and it’s often referred to as the “Times Square of Seoul” due to its bright lights and plenty of shopping.
Which part of Seoul is the most expensive?
Gangnam is the most expensive area in Seoul. It is home to many KPOP stars and Korea’s elites. The area is also home to countless high-end shopping boutiques and fine-dining restaurants.
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