Hongdae or Myeongdong? Where to stay in Seoul as a tourist

Hongdae or Myeongdong : where to stay in Seoul

If you are visiting Seoul for the first time, chances are you might look into staying around Hongdae or Myeongdong. However, since you haven’t been to the city, you are not sure which area is best for your vacation.

If I am right, and this is your dilemma, I am here to help you make the best choice for your travel style and budget.

I am sure you might be having lots of questions and I will do my best to cover them all, so that, at the end of this post, you can safely book your hotel knowing that the area you chose to stay in fits your needs.

Both Hongdae and Myeongdong are popular areas of Seoul, offering plenty of accommodation options, for any budget and travel style. However, they both have pros and cons, and one or the other might not be suitable for everyone.

Thus, without further ado, let’s look at the best area to stay in Seoul: Hongdae or Myeongdong.

Read also: Top 8 Best areas to stay in Seoul for your first visit

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Where is the best place to stay in Seoul: Hongdae or Myeingdong?

Understanding Seoul

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.

Map of Seoul Districts
By 안우석 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

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.

Just have your Traveler SIM and Public Transportation Card with you or your Seoul City Pass.

It is worth knowing that Hongdae is located in Mapo-gu, toward its eastern part, while Myeong-dong is located in Jung-gu, at the very heart of the city.

Accessibility from Incheon Airport

Hongdae

Hongdae, Seoul

Because of its location directly on the subway line linking Incheon Airport, Gimpo Airport, to Seoul Station, Hongdae is really easy to get to.

Depending on the time you have available, but also on your budget, you can choose one of the following options.

Means of
Transportation
CostDuration
Subway4,650 KRW
(Transit Card)
4,750 KRW
(Ticket)
52 minutes
Bus (number 6002)10,000 KRWroughly 1 hour
Taxiapprox. 50,000 KRWroughly 1 hour
Private TransferFrom 72 USD/ 3 persroughly 1 hour

There is a direct line linking Incheon Aiport, Gimpo Aiport, and Hongdae (specifically Hongik University Station). You can take it from both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 at Incheon.

Incheon to Hongdae

Go here for the comprehensive guide for getting from the airport to Hongdae.

Look for accommodation close to Hongik Univ. Station and you won’t have any problems.

Myeong-dong

Getting from Incheon to Myeongdong

When you choose to stay in Myeong-dong, getting there by subway will be a bit more complicated, but not impossible. You will have to change lines at Seoul Station, or choose to go by airport limousine bus number 6701.

Here are the main options, in a nutshell:

Means of
Transportation
CostDuration
Subway4,750 KRW
(Transit Card)
4,850 KRW
(Ticket)
73 minutes
Bus (number 6015)15,000 KRWroughly 1h 30 min
Taxiapprox. 80,000 KRWroughly 1h 30 min
Private TransferFrom 72 USD/ 3 persroughly 1h 30 min

If you are traveling with bulky luggage, I would encourage you to choose the bus, taxi or a private transfer option.

Taking the taxi from the airport is not too complicated. You can either go to the taxi stand inside the terminal and someone will help you find an English-speaking driver. Or you can go directly outside at the taxi line, just make sure you have your hotel written in Korean characters.

Go here for the comprehensive guide on how to get from Incheon to Myeongdong

Conclusion: Which one is more accessible?

In my opinion, Hongdae is more accessible and hotels are closer to the main subway/bus stations.

Access to the main tourist attractions

Hongdae

Located in Mapo-gu, if you choose to stay in Hongdae you will be a bit further away from the main tourist attractions in town. However, that doesn’t mean you will be too far away.

Hongik Univ. Station is set on the green line, also known as the circle line. This line goes around the city linking some of the most important central locations on both sides of the Han River.

Thus, from Hongik Univ. Station you can get to the City Hall, close to the Palaces and Bukchon Hanok Village, and even all the way to Gangnam or Mullae directly.

Myeong-dong

By choosing to stay in Myeong-dong you will be right at the heart of the city. You will be located on the line number 4, linking Seoul Station to Myeongdong, Namdaemun Market, and Dongdaemun.

However, you will be within walking distance from most of the major attractions in town, such as the Palaces, Jogyesa Temple, Insadong, and Namsan Mountain.

Keep in mind that Seoul is a major city and even the city center is big, thus you will need to walk a bit to get from one place to the other.

Conclusion: Which one is closer to the main tourist attractions?

In this case Myeongdong wins, placing you right in the middle of the hustle and bustle.

Food and fun activities

Hongdae

5 day South Korea itinerary

In my opinion, Hongdae has it all. From countless cool cafes in the Yeonnam-dong area, to tens if not hundreds of restaurants popular with locals, or cosmetic stores and more.

Because of its location close to the campus of some of the most important universities in South Korea, this area is popular with youngsters.

On our first visit, walking on the main street of Hongdae felt surreal: every few meters there were k-pop wannabes performing on the streets, and hundreds of people taking pictures or simply being entertained.

The Gyeongui Line Park is a great area where I used to love to come for a stroll.

Read also: Top things to do in Hongdae

Myeong-dong

Things to do in Myeongdong-instagrammable place in Seoul

In Myeongdong you will be in the main tourist area, where you can enjoy plenty of such activities.

If you are a k-beauty lover you will be in the right place, because in Myeongdong you will find the highest concentration of Korean cosmetics shops, but also SPAs.

The area is filled with restaurants, both traditional and international. However, during our trip there as tourists we didn’t have the best culinary experience in Myeongdong.

On top of that, the main advantage is that your will be close to some of the most important attractions in town.

Read also: Top things to do in Myeongdong

Conclusion: Which one is better for fun activities and food?

The answer here is tricky and depends a lot on what you prefer: stay in a tourist area or try something more authentic.

If you are traveling to Seoul for the first time, Myeongdong might be the place for you. But if you want a more relaxed area, go for Hongdae (Yeonnam-dong).

Accommodation options in Hongdae

Luxury hotels in Hongdae

L7 Hongdae by LOTTE – A 4* hotel, steps away from the subway station, set on the main boulevard. The hotel has a stunning rooftop restaurant and bar from where you can admire the city, but also a rooftop swimming pool for the hot days of summer.

Mercure Ambassador Seoul Hongdae – right across the street from L7 Hotel, this international chain hotel won’t disappoint. It is perfectly located, and rooms offer stunning city views and currency exchange for guests.

Mid-range hotels in Hongdae

Amanti Hotel Seoul – only a bit further away from the melting hot pot, this hotel will offer a relaxing stay in Hongdae. Guests can access the rooftop pool and the fitness center without any additional fee.

Budget accommodation in Hongdae

Cocoa Guesthouse – tucked away relatively closer to Sangsu Station, this guesthouse offers accommodation in simple traditional rooms. You will be close to cafes, restaurants, and the streets with public performances.

Read also the complete guide for where to stay in Hongdae!

Accommodation options in Myeongdong

Luxury hotels in Myengdong

The Westin Josun Seoul – a 5* hotel perfectly set behind Lotte Department Store, offering luxurious rooms and an indoor swimming pool and SPA center. You will have an impressive city view and access to some of the best restaurants in Seoul.

Lotte Hotel Seoul Executive Tower – enjoy the swimming pool and SPA, just before dinner at a 3* Michelin restaurant.

Mid-range hotels in Myengdong

L7 Myeongdong by LOTTE – with a simple, fun, and colorful interior design, this hotel also has one of the few rooftop bars in town.

Nine Tree Hotel Myeongdong  – I must admit this was our first choice when we visited Seoul for 3 days as tourists, but somehow we ended up at Marriott (and I don’t regret it a bit). This one is perfectly located and offers a great quality vs price ratio.

Budget accommodation in Myengdong

Crib 49 Guesthouse – hosted in a small building, with a rooftop terrace, very conveniently located close to the main tourist attractions, shops, and restaurants.

Read also this comprehensive guide for where to stay in Myeongdong!

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