What is the best area to stay in Seoul for tourists? When you look at the map you can easily get overwhelmed because of the city’s size.
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 all here.
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Where is the best place to stay in Seoul?
A few extra tips
Before we dive into the best places to stay in Seoul, you might want to understand a little bit about how the city is set and split.
The main areas of Seoul are called “gu”s or districts, and there are 25 of those. Every “gu” is divided into “dongs” or neighborhoods.
Also, the city is split into 2 parts by the Han River: the northern part and the southern part of town.
When looking for accommodation in Seoul, you will want to make sure you are relatively close to a subway station. However, traveling by bus is as easy and sometimes quite as fast. We would almost always choose the bus in order to avoid getting lost when changing lines at the subway.
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.
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 will want to try.
Traditional houses stay
The traditional houses, also known as “hanok” are not only incredibly photogenic but you can also have a unique experience when staying in one.
Hanoks are usually found on the northern part of the river, in Bukchon Hanok Village, Eunpyeong Hanok Village, and also in Insadong or Jongno-gu.
While usually temples are hidden outside of Seoul, in the mountain areas, there are a few options in the city as well.
The temple stay is not only an accommodation type but an entirely unique cultural experience. You get to 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 kinds of Templestays.
Where to stay in Seoul for first timers – by area
Hongdae – perfect for first-time visitors or for those looking to have fun
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 both by bus and by 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 find also plenty of restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops with 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.
Best hotels in Hongdae
Luxury hotels in Hongdae
Mid-range hotels in Hongdae
Budget accommodation in Hongdae
Apartment in Hongdae
Myengdong – perfect for first-time visitors and for shopping
Pros: By choosing to stay in Myengdong you will literally 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, but with the current situation, things have changed a bit. However, I am confident Myeongdong will come back to life once tourism is back for good.
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.
Best hotels in Myengdong
Luxury hotels in Myengdong
Mid-range hotels in Myengdong
Budget accommodation in Myengdong
Apartment in Myengdong
Gangnam – the posh area perfect for luxury shopping
Pros: Staying in Gangnam will put you in the heart of the trendiest neighborhoods in Seoul – one that has become worldwide famous thanks to PSY’s song “Gangnam Style”. The skyline looks totally different than in most other areas in town, and you’ll have a mix of skyscrapers, traditional temples, and luxury shopping malls and department stores.
Come here for the nightlife, lush bars, sky restaurants, and 5* hotels. You will also be close to one of the nicest parks in town (the Olympic Park), the tallest building in South Korea (the Lotte World Tower Observatory), and the fun Lotte World Adventure Park.
Additionally, here is where you will find more international food, trendy cafes, flagship stores, and crazy nightlife.
Cons: Gangnam is the most expensive area in Seoul, thus you can expect also hotel prices to be towards the higher end.
On top of that, you will be a bit far from Seoul’s most important tourist attractions, especially when visiting for the first time. While the city’s public transportation system is amazing, getting from Gangnam to the old town area will still take between 30 minutes and 1 hour.
Best hotels in Gangnam
Luxury hotels in Gangnam
You will have access to an internal swimming pool, and rooms with breathtaking city views.
Mid-range hotels in Gangnam
The interior design is colorful and joyful, and close by you’ll find convenience stores, and they could even allow you to bring your pet!
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.
The area is packed with art galleries, and souvenir shops, but also 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 area to stay in 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
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
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, but also 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
Mid-range hotels in Yeouido
Budget-friendly apartment in Yeouido
Namdaeumun – the best area to stay in Seoul close to the center
Pros: the Namdaemun area is in the city center, but not quite. You will be within walking distance to most of the important attractions in town, yet not in the middle of the craziness.
You can find various options of accommodation for your budget, and be close to the Central Station. In the area, there are 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
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
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, have direct lines to the city center, and is really 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 shoot 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, that will place you close to many attractions and public transportation options. However, not many people look at this area as a place to stay in Seoul.
JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul is a great 5* hotel option, offering good service, delicious food, and a great location. From your window, you can see one of the city’s gates, and you can enjoy an afternoon tea experience at their cafe.
Insadong is relatively close by, 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 only for this cool SPA.
What is the most convenient place to stay in Seoul?
If you are visiting the city for the first time and want to be close to everything, the most convenient place to stay in Seoul would be either Myeongdong or Hongdae.
Both neighborhoods are well connected to the airport, but also to the main tourist attractions in town.
There are plenty of hotel options for all budgets, and tons of things to do and see.
Safest area to stay in Seoul for a solo traveler and best budget hotels in Seoul
Generally speaking, Seoul is one of the safest cities you could go to as a solo traveler. There are cameras everywhere, and people literally 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 are planning to stay out once the night falls.
There are certain neighborhoods known for their nightlife, where you could bump into people who had a bit too much to drink. We would 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 really central and conveniently located close to 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. Make sure to check your dates in advance, since it gets sold out fast.
57 Myeongdong is very safe, convenient, and comfortable. Nothing special, but a decent breakfast, and comfortable rooms, 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 that have a higher budget, 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, 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 is a hotel with a French-style decor located near Namdaemun Market, Noon Square, and Seoul Station. We know you came to Seoul, but by staying at this hotel you will feel like 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.
Other Seoul travel resources
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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