Top 8 Best areas to stay in Seoul for your first visit in 2024

Best area to stay in Seoul

Last Updated on April 25, 2024 by Ingrid & Alex

What is the best area for tourists to stay in Seoul? When you look at the map, you can easily get overwhelmed by the size of the city.

As with anything, there is not just one correct answer to the question, but we will help you make the right choice based on your needs and budget.

Firstly, we must say that Seoul and South Korea, in general, are quite pricey when it comes to accommodation. However, there is something for everyone, and you will find it here.

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Table of Contents

Where is the best place to stay in Seoul?

Here are a few extra tips

Before we discuss the best places to stay in Seoul, you should understand how the city is set up and divided.

Seoul is a sprawling metropolis divided into 25 distinct districts, or “gu.” Each district is further divided into numerous neighborhoods, known as “dongs,” which give rise to densely populated communities and lively city life.

By 안우석 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Han River is a major geographical landmark for the city, dividing it into two distinct sections – the northern district and the southern region.

When looking for a place to stay in Seoul, it pays to be close to a subway station. However, taking the bus is also a viable option that is often just as fast and convenient. It’s usually preferable to travel by bus since it eliminates the risk of getting confused when switching lines in a subway station. Additionally, buses allow you to see more attractions along the way, whereas a subway ride is usually plain and uneventful.

To make life easier when traveling by bus, you should purchase a T-money card. This pre-paid card can be used on any public transportation in Seoul, including buses and subways.

Have your Traveler SIM and Public Transportation Card with you or your Discover Seoul Pass.

Different types of accommodation options in Seoul

Seoul has a few types of accommodation options that you won’t really find in many places. While you can find some of the most important chain hotels, there are also other types of hotels and accommodations.

Love motels

With residential prices skyrocketing in South Korea and with rental contracts that require huge down payments, many young people cannot afford rent.

That’s why you will see plenty of so-called love motels around Seoul or other cities in South Korea. They charge an hourly fee and don’t offer the best facilities.

Local chain hotels

South Korea has a few big local giants that have everything from food, stores, drinks, and buildings to hotels.

Lotte and Shilla are 2 of the most luxurious local brands you want to try.

Traditional houses stay

Best area to stay in Seoul

The traditional houses, also known as “hanok,” are not only incredibly photogenic but also offer a unique experience.

Hanoks are usually found in the northern part of the river, in Bukchon Hanok Village, Eunpyeong Hanok Village, and in Insadong or Jongno-gu.

Read also: How to get to Bukchon Hanok Village and what to do & see

Temple stays

While temples are usually hidden outside of Seoul, in the mountain areas, there are a few options in the city as well.

The temple stay is an accommodation type and an entirely unique cultural experience. You learn about Korean Buddhism, spend time with the monks, taste delicious vegetarian meals, and find yourself at the temple.

Bongeunsa Temple in Gangnam-gu, Jogyesa Temple in Jongno-gu, and Jingwansa Temple in Eunpyeong-gu all offer different Templestays.

Read more about a templestay and book one here!

Where to stay in Seoul for first-timers – by area

Don’t have time to go through the whole post? Here are Seoul areas in a nutshell:

AreaWhy stay hereBook hotel
HongdaePerfect for first-time visitors, youngsters, or those looking to have funBook the best price!
MyeongdongPerfect for shoppers but also those who want to be close to everything in the city.Book the best price!
GangnamThe posh area, perfect for luxury shopping and fancy restaurants.Book the best price!
InsadongThe historical area, perfect for short stays and first-time visits. Walking distance to palaces and Bukchon Hanok Village. Book the best price!
ItaewonNightlife, and foreigner-friendly. A bit further away from the main attractions. Book the best price!
Yeouido Seoul’s “Wall Street”, close to nature and great for shopping.Book the best price!
Namdaemun (Jung-gu)The best area to stay in Seoul close to the center, but also close to Seoul Station. Book the best price!
Mapo-gu The best area to stay in Seoul for families and those looking for relaxation or to emerge in the true Korean way of life. Book the best price!

Hongdae perfect for first-time visitors or for those looking to have fun

Where to stay in Hiogdae

Pros: Hongdae is located in Mapo-gu and is relatively close to the city center.

It is very well linked to the major tourist attractions by bus and subway – Hongik University Station on the Inner Circle Green Line is a few stops away from the City Hall and the main city center area.

The Airport Line stops here as well and links both Gimpo and Incheon Airports to Seoul Train Station. That’s why at the subway station you will also find lockers where you can leave your luggage.

In the area, there are a few of the most important universities in town. Thus, you’ll also find plenty of restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops at affordable prices.

Cons: The area is literally packed with people (mostly students and tourists) at every time of the day and night. So if you are looking for a more laid-back area, this is not the place for you.

Read also: How to get from Incheon to Hongdae | Where to stay in Hongdae | Fun things to do & see in Hongdae, Seoul

Best hotels in Hongdae
Luxury hotels in Hongdae
L7 Hongdae
Mercure Ambassador Hongdae
Mid-range hotels in Hongdae
Budget accommodation in Hongdae

Read also: Top 10 Guesthouses in Seoul

Apartment in Hongdae

Myengdong for shopping and being close to everything

Myeongdong-instagrammable place in Seoul

Pros: By staying in Myengdong, you will be in the center of the action. Within walking distance from the area of the palaces, and also perfectly connected by subway or bus, this is the place to be when you are visiting Seoul for the first time.

The area used to be packed with shops and restaurants. From department stores to small local boutiques, this area has it all. You can find everything from traditional Korean souvenirs to the latest fashion trends. Plus, if you’re looking for a bargain, the numerous street vendors in Myeongdong are sure to have something that catches your eye.

This is any cosmetics lover’s paradise!

You will also find it easy to exchange money here and find different places to eat.

Cons: It truly is a touristic area where you won’t find much authentic Korean vibe. On top of that, the streets are always packed with people, street food stalls, and street artists.

Myeongdong is also renowned for its exciting nightlife. It has an abundance of bars, clubs, and live music venues, so if you are not into that kind of thing or traveling with your family, you might not want to stay around. However, you can easily avoid these places.

Read also: How to get from Incheon Airport to Myeongdong | Where to stay in Myeongdong | Fun things to do & see in Myeongdong

Best hotels in Myengdong
Luxury hotels in Myengdong
Lotte Hotel Seoul Executive Tower
Mid-range hotels in Myengdong

This 4-star hotel offers guests an array of amenities such as free Wi-Fi, 24-hour reception service, and a lounge on the 11th floor. Additionally, you get special pillows and e-concierge services.

Budget accommodation in Myengdong

This cozy little building is ideally located in the city’s heart. You will be steps away from popular tourist attractions, vibrant shopping and dining areas, and many other essential amenities.

Moreover, the rooftop terrace offers a stunning view of the surrounding area. This makes it an ideal spot to relax and unwind after a long day of exploring.

Apartment in Myengdong
Hongdae or Myeongdong?

If you are visiting Seoul for the first time and are unsure where to stay between Hongdae and Myeongdong, we recommend staying closer to the city center.

While we love Hongdae and would recommend it to anyone returning to the city, Myeongdong will place you closer to the main tourist attractions.

You can walk to the Palaces, Namdaemun Market, Namsan Park and Namsan Tower, Insadong, and Bukchon Hanok Village.

Gangnam – the posh area perfect for luxury shopping

Pros: Gangnam is one of Seoul’s most fashionable and vibrant districts. Home to PSY’s “Gangnam Style,” the sky-high cityscape hosts a mix of modern skyscrapers, ancient temples, and luxury shopping malls. Tourists are drawn to its glitzy shops and restaurants and vibrant nightlife. If you’re looking for a trend-setting experience in Seoul, Gangnam is the place to go.

Gangnam is also known for its luxurious accommodations and high-end shopping districts. Whether you’re looking for designer goods, world-class restaurants, or top-notch entertainment venues – Gangnam has it all!

Just a stone’s throw away lies the beautiful Olympic Park. Here, you can enjoy a variety of activities and recreational areas.

In addition, just around the corner is the Lotte World Tower Observatory, the tallest building in South Korea. Here you can soak in a 360 panoramic view of the city and its surrounding area from high above.

The fun doesn’t stop there either! Right next door to your accommodation lies the famous Lotte World Adventure Park.

Additionally, here is where you will find more international food, trendy cafes, flagship stores, and crazy nightlife.

Cons: Gangnam is an affluent district in Seoul. It is known for its upscale restaurants and shopping opportunities, as well as its sky-high hotel prices. Additionally, it is located in the south of the city and is home to some of Seoul’s most luxurious accommodations. This makes it one of the most expensive areas to stay in the capital.

Staying in Gangnam can be a bit daunting when visiting Seoul for the first time. That’s because you will be quite far from its most iconic landmarks.

However, it’s important to remember that the city’s public transportation system is incredibly efficient and reliable – with just 30 minutes to 1 hour on the subway, you can easily get from the area of Gangnam to the old town center.

Read also: Fun things to do & see in Gangnam | Where to stay in Gangnam

Best hotels in Gangnam
Luxury hotels in Gangnam

Unwind after a long day of sightseeing in a cozy, comfortable room. For a truly relaxing experience, take advantage of the hotel’s on-site fitness center, heated pool, and sauna.

Mid-range hotels in Gangnam

The interior design of the area is vibrant and cheerful, with convenience stores within easy reach. It’s also a pet-friendly area, so your beloved four-legged friends can join in on the fun too!

Budget-friendly hotels in Gangnam

Insadong – the historical area, perfect for short stays and first-time visits

Pros: Insadong is at the heart of the city, close to all the main tourist attractions in town, including temples, traditional restaurants, and whatnot.

It is the perfect area to stay in when you are visiting for 2 or 3 days, and also when you are visiting for the first time.

The area is packed with art galleries, souvenir shops, and restaurants in traditional houses, tea shops, and clothing stores.

Cons: The area can get a bit overwhelming and packed with tourists and locals alike, and just like Hongdae, it might not be the perfect place to stay when you want some peace and quiet.

Best hotels in Insadong
Luxury hotels in Insadong
Mid-range hotels in Insadong
Budget-friendly hotels in Insadong
best area to stay in Seoul - Insadong
Apartment in Insadong

Itaewon – nightlife and foreigner-friendly

Pros: Throughout the years, most expats have chosen Itaewon as their “home” neighborhood in Seoul, making it the one area where you’ll find plenty of foreigners and international cuisine restaurants.

The area is set on hilly streets, packed with small houses, colorful streets, and cool cafes. From here you can start climbing the Namsan Mountain all the way to the NSeoul Tower, or you can make your way to the river.

It is perfect for nightlife, even though it is an area that has been widely known as not so safe during the night because of that.

Cons: While the streets and architecture still look traditional and authentic, here is where you will feel less like in South Korea and more like in any other city around the world.

Best hotels in Itaewon
Luxury hotels in Itaewon

From its own shopping arcade to an ice skating rink and swimming pool, Grand Hyatt Seoul offers a variety of activities to keep guests entertained during their stay.

Mid-range hotels in Itaewon

Budget-friendly hotels in Itaewon

Apartment in Itaewon

Yeouido – Seoul’s “Wall Street”, close to nature and great for shopping

Pros: The financial area of Seoul will also place you close to the Han River and its beautiful park, right next to the most popular department store packed with shops and restaurants.

Additionally, Yeouido is one of the best areas to stay in Seoul because of its high density of luxury hotels and the location next to the Cherry Blossom Festival that takes place every year.

Because of its location a bit further away, staying here will be more relaxing and tranquil.

Cons: You will be relatively far away from Seoul’s main attractions, and you’ll have to change the subway line in order to get to the city center.

On top of that, as mentioned, here you’ll find mostly pricy hotels and restaurants.

Best hotels in Yeouido
Luxury hotels in Yeouido

Conrad Seoul is conveniently located in the heart of Yeouido, just a short 5-minute walk away from the Yeouido Subway Station (Line 5). The hotel is also within easy reach of local attractions, a mere 3 minutes away from the Hyundai department store.

With its stunning interior design and luxurious amenities, such as an indoor swimming pool and gourmet restaurants, this hotel has been the backdrop for many popular K-dramas and continues to be a favorite among visitors.

Mid-range hotels in Yeouido
Budget-friendly apartment in Yeouido

Namdaeumun – the best area to stay in Seoul close to the center

Namdaemun Market Seoul South Korea

Pros: the Namdaemun area is in the city center, but not quite. You will be within walking distance of the most important attractions in town, yet not in the middle of the craziness.

You can find various accommodation options that fit your budget, and be close to Central Station. The area has plenty of restaurants and even street food in Namdaeumun Market.

Cons: You will have to walk or take public transportation to get to most of the important landmarks in Seoul. However, you won’t be too far from either one.

Best hotels in Namdaemun
Luxury hotels in Namdaemun
Things to do in Seoul at night
Mid-range hotels in Namdaemun
Budget-hotels in Namdaemun

Mapo-gu – the best area to stay in Seoul for families and those looking for relaxation

DMC Mapo-gu best areas to stay in Seoul

Pros: The district where you’ll find Hongdae or Yongsan, and as you go further away, you’ll get to more local and authentic areas. Mangwon or Hapjeong is more tranquil, has direct lines to the city center, and is an authentic Korean neighborhood.

Digital Media City is even further away, and if you choose to stay here, you’ll get to see K-dramas being shot on the street.

Cons: You will spend money and time on public transportation since it takes around 1 hour to get to the city center.

Best hotels in Mapo-gu
Luxury hotels in Mapo-gu

Close by, you will find a nice park set up on the hill and plenty of local restaurants to choose from.

Mid-range hotels in Mapo-gu
Budget-friendly accommodation in Mapo-gu

Other hotels and areas worth considering in Seoul

Seoul is a huge metropolis, thus it has many other neighborhoods less explored by tourists where you could find pretty hotels and even 5* options.

Dongdaemun is a central area close to many attractions and public transportation options. However, not many people consider this area a place to stay in Seoul.

JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul is a great 5-star hotel option. It offers good service, delicious food, and a great location. From your window, you can see one of the city’s gates, and you can enjoy afternoon tea at their cafe.

Insadong is relatively close, and you will have Lines 1 and 4 within minutes of the hotel.

Vista Walkerhill Seoul – formerly W Seoul is another luxury hotel worth considering when you want to spend a few days of relaxation in Seoul.

While you will be pretty far away from the most important tourist attractions, I strongly encourage you to book a room at least for one night of pampering and relaxation. The hotel is set on the top of a hill overlooking the Han River, surrounded by green areas, served by 3 fancy restaurants offering stunning city views.

The hotel also has an infinity pool on its rooftop and one of the coolest SPAs in South Korea. Only hotel guests can access it; thus, it is worth booking a night here for this cool SPA.

What is the most convenient place to stay in Seoul?

For first-time travelers who want to be close to everything, the most convenient places to stay in Seoul are Myeongdong or Hongdae.

Both neighborhoods are well connected to the airport and the main tourist attractions in town.

There are plenty of hotel options for all budgets and many things to do and see.

Another great option for when you plan to go on day trips outside of Seoul or are planning for a longer South Korea itinerary would be to choose a hotel close to Seoul Station.

Safest area to stay in Seoul for a solo traveler and the best budget hotels in Seoul

Generally speaking, Seoul is one of the safest cities for solo travelers. Cameras are everywhere, and people leave their belongings on the table at the cafe.

Of course, you should always use common sense and be aware of your surroundings, especially if you plan to stay out once the night falls.

Certain neighborhoods are known for their nightlife, where you might bump into people who had a bit too much to drink. We encourage you to choose to stay in a popular area, one that stays lively once the night falls. Hongdae, Jongno-gu, and Myeongdong are all such areas.

Here are some great hotel options recommended by previous solo travelers:

Hotel Skypark Central Myeongdong is central and conveniently located near local markets and subway stations. Myeongdong is a lively area where you will never feel alone.

Henn na Hotel Seoul Myeongdong is safe and also in a great area. Check your dates in advance since it gets sold out fast.

57 Myeongdong is very safe, convenient, and comfortable. It offers nothing special but a decent breakfast and comfortable rooms, and it is close to everything.

Hostelworld is a great platform for finding hostels. Look for the available options around Hongdae or Insadong.

The best boutique hotels in Seoul

Boutique hotels are perfect for those with a higher budget who don’t want to stay in a large chain hotel but want to stay in a comfortable and luxurious place.

Here are some of the nicest boutique hotels in Seoul worth looking into.

RYSE, Autograph Collection Seoul – situated in Hongdae, near a lively area with loads of bars, and restaurants, and straight opposite the airport bus. However, they also provide valet parking, and previous guests have rated it as a brilliant choice for staying in Seoul.

L’Escape Hotel has French-style decor near Namdaemun Market, Noon Square, and Seoul Station. We know you came to Seoul, but staying at this hotel will make you feel like you are stepping inside Paris.

Sotetsu Hotels The Splaisir Seoul Myeongdong is located only 5 minutes away from the City Hall subway station. With most rooms with a minimalist design, you can also choose to stay in one of the thematic Line Friends rooms.

What is the best area to stay in Seoul for a month or longer?

I’ve seen people considering staying in Seoul for a longer period. Taking advantage of the permission to stay up to 90 days in South Korea’s capital is great. We are fans of slow travel because that’s how you get to know a place and have the time to understand its culture and people.

However, if you want to stay longer in Seoul and are looking for a monthly place, here are a few options.

The state highly regulates long-term rental contracts, and the three officially sanctioned contractual options are not financially feasible for stays shorter than 1 year. So, your best bet is AIRBNB (or VRBO). The prices for an AIRBNB are between 800 and 3.000 USD / month for 2 people, so I would say that you can find a decent place at 1.200 USD / month, maybe even lower, depending on your expectations.

Another option is to stay in an expat-friendly serviced apartment as we did. You pay by the month, and the fee includes all the additional services (internet, heating, water, electricity).

We lived in a ~100 sqm, 2-bedroom service apartment and paid around 2.200 USD / month, including all the associated costs, access to the gym, and one underground parking space. We enjoyed staying at DMC Ville, and we highly recommend it to people traveling with children who want to stay in Seoul for a longer time.

What is the best area to stay in Seoul for a week?

If you are planning to spend one week in Seoul and are looking for the best area to stay in, there are plenty of options. While 7 days might seem like a lot of time, keep in mind Seoul is a big metropolis with plenty of things to do and see. Staying in the perfect location could make or break your holiday.

If you want to save on food, you can stay in an apartment. Plenty of options available in areas like Hongdae, Jogno-gu, or even the city center. You can even rent out an entire hanok house and have it all to yourself.

On the other hand, staying in a hotel offers the feeling of actually being on vacation. You can indulge in daily breakfast and take advantage of the hotel’s gym and spa (when available).

As far as the area is concerned, we would always choose to stay in Hongdae or Jongno-gu for one week in Seoul. Here, you will have good public transportation access and be within walking distance of many important tourist attractions.

What is the best area to stay in Seoul for nightlife?

If you’re looking for the best nightlife in Seoul, head to the bustling areas of Gangnam, Itaewon, and Hongdae.

These areas are packed with bars, clubs, and restaurants to keep you entertained all night.

In Gangnam, you can find trendy rooftop bars and clubs where you can dance the night away.

In Itaewon, you can find a variety of bars with different themes and styles, as well as a lively international atmosphere.

For those looking for something more laid back, you should visit Hongdae, which is full of cozy pubs and cafes where you can meet up with friends or relax over drinks.

The best area to stay in Seoul for a night?

If you only have one night in Seoul, I suggest you stay in Hongdae or somewhere close to Seoul Station.

With so little time on your hands, you will want to be close to the airport express train, and to the subway or buses that will take you to some of the most important attractions in town.

Another option would be to stay right in the city center, in places like Myeongdong or Insadong, if you prefer to travel by taxi from the airport.

What is the best area to stay in Seoul for food?

When it comes to food in Seoul, there are plenty of options for those looking for delicious and authentic Korean cuisine. From traditional markets like Gwangjang Market and Namdaemun Market to hip cafes and restaurants throughout the city, Seoul has something to offer everyone’s taste buds.

Koreans love their food and no matter where you will choose to stay, you will find plenty of great eating places.

Myeong-dong has tens of street food vendors, but also local and international restaurants (such as the Taiwanese Din Tai Fung, or the Chinese hot pot place Haidilao).

Stay in Jongno-gu if you want to be close to Gwangjang Market, Dongdaemun Market, or Insa-dong and Myeong-dong.

Around Dongdaemun Market you will find plenty of Central Asian restaurants and supermarkets, if you want to try something different.

Insa-dong has a wide range of traditional Korean restaurants with delicious food, hosted in traditional hanok houses.

The best area to stay in Seoul during winter?

We would suggest choosing a hotel close to public transportation. This way, you can easily travel from one place to the other without having to face the cold for a long time.

Also, why not pamper yourself in one of Seoul’s luxury spa hotels? With a wide range of spa treatments available, including massages, saunas and more, you’ll be sure to come away feeling refreshed. Spending some time at the sauna after a day in the cold will be amazing.

Staying in Jongno-gu puts you in the heart of the city. It is close to public transportation, and with a wide variety of SPA hotels to choose from.

The best area to stay in Seoul with family?

From luxury hotels with expansive views of the bustling cityscape to cozy guesthouses hidden in serene alleyways, there’s something for every type of family.

Depending on the size of your family, we would suggest staying in a traditional hanok house. There are great options that can accommodate a family offering all the amenities you need for a short or long stay.

The best area to stay in is Seoul with a baby

If you are visiting Seoul with a baby, it is best to stay in a hotel or an apartment. Look for places with cribs, high chairs and other baby-friendly amenities.

It is also important to check that the accommodation you choose has easy access to public transportation. Secondly, nearby grocery stores and pharmacies are a must.

If traveling with our daughter, we would choose to stay in an apartment or an apartment-style hotel room. We would look at places like Hongdae (Yeonnam-dong) or around the Buckhon Hanok Village (Insa-dong).

It is important for us to have a small kitchenette, a microwave for baby bottles, a washing machine, and enough space for her to sleep.

The area should also be quiet enough for her not to be disturbed during her night or day sleep/nap.

Orakai Insadong Suites , Bukchonmaru Hanok Guesthouse, or Luxury Hanok with private bathtub – BiGyuHeon are good options.

Other Seoul travel resources

Most Instagrammable places in Seoul

Seeing Seoul in one day – a great itinerary

4 Days in Seoul – make the best out of your time!

Visiting Seoul in Spring – what to do and where to go for cherry blossom

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By Ingrid & Alex

Ingrid A former financial professional, I have been passionate about photography since an early age. My fascination with Korean culture was one of the reasons Alex accepted a business role in Seoul. Alex A former corporate business executive, I am a historical fiction writer. My business career allowed us to live in Seoul and explore South Korea for one year. We fell in love with the country, its culture, food, and people, and we strongly believe you will love it too! Because we know how difficult planning a trip can be, especially to South Korea, we are here to help you out and ensure you have an awesome time there.

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