Seoul is a bustling megapolis you absolutely, positively shouldn’t avoid when considering travel to East Asia. After all, it’s home to fascinating history, culture, attractions, gorgeous natural wonders, and a sprawling modern cityscape. Plus, it’s safe, easy to navigate, full of friendly people, and shows hints of western influence.
Hopefully, you’ve got a good idea of when’s the best time to visit and a list of cool things to do. Now, the next step is to consider where you’ll sleep. Here are the best areas to stay in when visiting Seoul.
Book Your Accommodation in Itaewon for Foreign-Friendly Vibes
Itaewon is a great place to stay if you’d feel more comfortable in a more foreign-friendly district in Seoul. You’ll find a good mix of international restaurants—American, Turkish, Mexican, Pakistan, etc.—and shops teeming with foreign faces all throughout the day.
Itaewon is also best known for its thriving nightlife. It’s bars, lounges, and clubs bring in diverse crowds and one could go from enjoying drinks at a jazz bar to dancing the night away at a vivacious Hip-Hop club.
With that, Itaewon is relatively safe, but you’ll need to keep an eye out for shady characters. Hooker hill, a seedy section host to brothers and dodgy bars, is located in Itaewon. What’s more, Itaewon does have a long-standing reputation for late-night brawls and drunken bar fights between locals, expats, and US military personnel stationed in the area. Be vigilant.
Stay in Gangnam and Hongdae for Seoul’s Best Nightlife
Seoul’s Gangnam district was represented perfectly in K-Pop artist Psy’s 2012 pulsating, world-wide hit “Gangnam Style”. It’s energetic, lively, festive tone and lyrics embodied the city’s most vibrant nightlife hub down to the T.
If you’re looking to experience the best bars and clubs in Seoul, you’ll want to grab a hotel in Gangnam. Plus, considered the “Beverly Hills of Korea”, Gangnam is more of an upscale neighborhood brimming with luxury shops, high-end restaurants, and fine-dining. But, that doesn’t mean you won’t find moderately priced establishments, too. Honestly, Gangnam has a good mix of both.
Hongdae, another popular nightlife hub in Seoul, is mainly geared towards people in their 20s and 30s. You’ll find live bands and a good mix of bars and clubs to keep you feeling alive every night.
Spend the Night in Namdaemun Market for Budget Hotels and Cheap Food
Namdaemun is a lively street food and shopping market in Seoul. There, you’ll find everything from souvenirs, herbal medicines, and clothing, to a multitude of street vendors selling meat kebabs, rice and noodle dishes, pancakes, grilled seafood, traditional Korean snacks.
What’s more, you’ll find some of the cheapest hostels and hotels in and around Namdaemun, despite it being a pretty convenient location in the city. Check for yourself—there are hostels and hotels for as low as $35 a night!
Live in Myeongdong for Upscale Shopping
Myeongdong is a notoriously popular upscale shopping and dining hub in Seoul. This area gets busy, receiving a significant haul of local and international visitors on a daily basis. Visitors to the area typically search for the latest fashion trends, luxury brands, skincare and makeup accessories, and fine cuisines across the region’s malls, department stores, shopping complexes, and streets lined with boutiques.
Outside of shopping, Myeongdong is also famous for its street snacks, tea houses, museums, NANTA Theatre, and SMTOWN K-Pop pop up shops. Plus, due to its location near popular attractions like Lotte World and Olympic Park, Myeongdong is considered one of the best areas to stay in for families.
Reserve a Spot in Insa-dong for First Time Visitors
Insa-dong has long been considered one of the best places to stay in Seoul for first time visitors to the region. After all, it’s teeming with events, attractions, landmarks, experiences, parks, restaurants, and shops that cover everything from Korean history, past and present culture, and traditional cuisine and street food, to educational opportunities, jaw-dropping cultural aesthetic architecture, and a good glimpse at local’s lifestyle.
Popular spots in the area include Insa-dong Street, Jogyesa Temple, Bukchon Hanok Village, and Gyeongbokgung Palace. As top attractions in Seoul, I highly recommend Insa-dong as the best area to stay in Seoul, period.
So, Where Will You Stay?
So, now that you’ve got a better idea of the best areas to stay in Seoul, where do you think you’ll book your accommodation? Are you looking to crash at a hostel or budget hotel around a popular local street food market, or would you enjoy resting in a more upscale stay in Myeongdong? Feel more comfortable in a foreign friendly hub like Itaewon? Either way, no matter where you stay in Seoul, there’ll be plenty of exciting things to do just a few blocks away. Safe and happy travels!