With a population of around 10 million, the city can feel a little overwhelming. But once you set out to explore, its diverse beauty is enough to intrigue anyone. Different neighborhoods in Seoul offer something different from the visitors. No matter where you are from in the world, you’ll find Seoul to be a pleasant spot to visit. The diversity found there can be seen in very few cities. Seoul has both classic and urban areas that you can check out.
Seoul is the house of 15 Fortune 500 companies, including Samsung. The city is always buzzing with life, never resting. You can see a lot of modern skyscrapers with unique designs. Seoul is filled with cultural diversity. Whether you want to visit some peaceful temples or some rocking nightclubs, you can find them all. Since K-pop has been a major sensation all over the world, a lot of tourists choose Seoul as their holiday destination since it’s the birthplace of K-pop.
If you need guidance on which area to stay in, we can help you out. We discussed 5 different areas below, highlighting their pros and cons so you know which area is perfect for you. Our focus is to cover the entire important aspects like- budget, tourist spots, hotels, shopping malls, etc. Get ready for a tour through Seoul!
If you want to live with some style, then Gangnam is the place for you. Gangnam basically means “south of the river” and it’s one of the financial hubs in Seoul. Also, K-pop is pretty famous all over the world and can you guess where it comes from? The gargantuan K-pop industry is right at the heart of Gangnam where all the music is produced.
You can see a lot of huge buildings in Gangnam. The area is popular for being one of the elite places to live, with luxurious nightclubs and shopping malls all over the place. You may find some low to mid-range restaurants in Gangnam but, the overall living cost is on the higher side. So if you’re on a tight budget, you should avoid choosing Gangnam as your place to accommodate in. But if you have deep pockets, you can enjoy the luxurious nightlife. You can find tons of clubs and bars with a skyline view over Seoul.
While you’re in Gangnam, you can check out the beautiful Bong Eun Sa temple. The place is quiet and serene compared to a neighborhood that is so busy 24/7. As mentioned above, the K-pop industry base can be found in Gangnam. So, if you’re a fan of K-pop, you can take a “Gangnam Style” tour and get a chance to meet your idols.
For a true Gangnam experience, you can choose to stay at Hotel Peyto Samseong or Imperial Palace Seoul. Both of them have indoor and outdoor facilities like a spa, pool, fitness center, etc. But if you’re thinking about saving a few bucks, you can check out Hotel NewV and Stay Hotel Gangnam. They can make you feel comfortable enough at a moderate price.
If you’re a shopaholic, Myeongdong is the best place for you to stay in. It’s the busiest area in Seoul that you can get lost in for days. The locals are friendly, the roads have stores on both sides. You can get the best cultural experience of Seoul in Myeongdong. It’s filled with nightclubs, bars and restaurants. But it’s not considered to be an expensive area like Gangnam. You can easily find places to stay in and explore according to your budget. Myeongdong has a large number of hotels, diners, clubs and food stalls.
The area is buzzing with people all the time. So if you want to avoid interacting with that many people, then avoid Myeongdong. It has tons of shopping malls and chains of restaurants that you can explore. But it’s hard to get some quiet moments in there. If you fancy taking a walk through busy streets and look for different kinds of street foods as you go, then Myeongdong is perfect for you.
For a luxurious experience in Myeongdong, you can pick a hotel like Lotte Hotel Seoul that comes with all the facilities you can imagine- a spa, minibar, sauna, pool, etc. At a mid-range budget, you can stay at Pacific Hotel or Royal Hotel Seoul. They can provide a homely feel without the extravagant facilities.
Take a walk through the Sculpture Park and admire the street performers if Hongdae is on your list. The place is filled with bars and restaurants that have all the local foods you can try. If you’re a history buff, then you have another reason to choose Hongdae. No need to be a buff, being interested in the local histories is enough since there are a lot of museums in the area.
Like Myeongdong, Hongdae is also buzzing with people all the time. Hongik University is situated there so a lot of young students can be found roaming the streets. But an upside of having a huge student crowd is, you can find more budget accommodations compared to the other areas. Hongdae can also give Gangnam a run for its money when it comes to partying. Nightlife at Hongdae is full of people and parties. Whereas Gangnam is more for older people who need to relax after a stressful day at work, Hongdae is to just have fun since the bars and clubs are more targeted towards students. You can look for new places to have a drink almost every night.
Also, a great place for shopping since there is tons of shops on every street. From a chain of shops to small stalls no the side of the road, you can find it all. You can also find a lot of skincare products. If you’re into trying out some of the authentic Korean masks, Hongdae is the best place to do it. Many people tag Hongdae as the most “youthful place in Seoul”.
For a luxurious stay at Hongdae, there is 9 Brick Hotel as well as RYSE, Autograph Collection Marriott. RYSE is perfect for people who need to conduct important business deals since the hotel has its own meeting room and business center. It also has other facilities like a fitness center, library and so on. If you need to cut your cost on hotels, you can pick Amanti Seoul Hotel which can deliver quality service at a much lower price.
Instead of shopping, if your focus is mostly on exploring the culture, then Insadong is the place you should go first. Away from the hustle-bustle, it’s closer to nature and you get a chance to try traditional food. Many consider this as the cultural heart of Seoul. In contrast to Myeongdong and Gangnam, Insadong has ancient temples you can visit. You can also find temple food there. Small art galleries can be seen on the side of the streets.
The accommodations are more on the affordable side but there are not so many of them. You might have to fight with some tourists for pre-booking a place of your choice. Myeongdong and Gangnam are for people who are more into the urban lifestyle and like to spend their nights at a pub. But Insadong is where you can take quiet walks down the road and enjoy a cup of tea at a cozy tea shop.
Places like Beyond Stay, Grid Inn and Centermark Hotel Myeondong Seoul can be perfect for you to stay in. Most of the antique shops are found in Insadong. So you can browse for gifts and souvenirs all you want.
Itaewon is referred to as “Little America” since that is where you can find the most number of people who speak English in Seoul. The place has a multicultural touch. It used to be a military hub at some point so western and middle-eastern shops here and there. If you want authentic Korean culture, Itaewon is not the place for you.
People from other countries who need to settle into Seoul are fond of Itaewon since a variety of cultures can be found there. You can see the range of variation in the food alone- Mexican, Italian, Indian, Turkey, etc. can be found right into the heart of Itaewon. So if you see people from different countries all hanging out together, don’t feel too shocked.
Locals are also fond of Itaewon since they can interact with other cultures freely. As for the nightlife, it’s not as quiet as Insadong since people like to get drunk more often than not. But it’s not partying at bars or clubs, rather enjoying some drinks at local pubs.
For accommodation, you have the Imperial Palace Boutique Hotel or Hamilton Hotel which are simple and comfortable at a moderate price range. You also have guest houses like Good Stay Itaewon and That House for a cozy place to stay at a cheaper rate.
While sitting down to plan your trip to Seoul, don’t forget to cross-check the areas we mentioned with what you want. We focused on the overall areas instead of focusing more on the accommodations so you can get a clear idea about where you want to stay. If you’re planning a short trip, you need to get the best out of where you stay. So now you can choose where you want to go according to your interests.