Seoul is one of the most culturally rich cities in Asia. With an abundance of things to see and do all across the city, it can be difficult to decide which are the best areas to visit, and even more difficult to decide on the best area to stay.
Areas like Hongdae are focused on shopping and nightlife, while the upscale district of Gangnam has designer stores aplenty. There are also more traditional areas such as Insadong...there truly is something for everyone here.
The edgy and fun neighbourhoods of Hongdae, Itaewon and Gangnam are perfect for those looking to enjoy food, shopping, and a night on the town. Districts such as Insadong, Dongdaemun and Jongno provide a more local and relaxed experience.
No matter what vibe you’re looking to enjoy, or how tight of a budget you’re travelling on, the stunning city of Seoul has something for everyone. Here are a few Seoul neighbourhoods perfect for foodies, couples, families with kids, shoppers, tourists, and budget travellers.
Before we jump into it, one thing I need to mention is somewhere I truly would not recommend staying. Many other online sources frequently recommend Myeongdong due to its tourist-friendly nature, however, it’s quite the tourist trap, and the prices certainly reflect that.
Whilst Myeongdong is a great area to visit, I recommend staying elsewhere, as aside from the great streetfood on offer, there’s not much to do here other than shop (many of the stores here are large chains which can be found internationally too, such as H&M and Forever 21).
Myeongdong is a popular choice with many travellers, but it’s a known fact that you can find much better accommodation elsewhere in the city for a much better price.
If you’re here to simply explore and soak up the culture of Korea, then Insadong is the spot for you. Boasting an abundance of traditional Korean eateries (where you can try some truly authentic foods), shops selling traditional and handmade goods, and gorgeous art galleries, Insadong is truly the cultural capital of Seoul.
Spend your time here walking down the main street, where you can pop in and out of cafes and Korean tea houses, discover old-fashioned eateries down the tiny side streets, and purchase some amazing souvenirs from all the adorable stores.
Its prime location in central Seoul means that not only is it easy to get around, but is also near some of the greatest historical tourist spots, including Jongmyo Shrine, Gyeongbokgung Palace, and Changgyeonggung Palace Complex.
If you’re not on a budget, we recommend staying at the stunning Nine Tree Premier Hotel Insadong, where you can enjoy stunning, sweeping views across the city from a luxurious room.
But if you’re looking for a truly authentic experience, we would recommend booking a stay at a traditional-style Korean Hanok House, such as NamHyunDang - Hanok Korean Traditional House
Itaewon is an authentic, yet hip area, popular with expats and foreigners, but don’t let this put you off! A great place to hang out with great cafes, bars and restaurants, Itaewon provides a great time without the party ambience enjoyed by the singles that typically flock to Hongdae.
With an abundance of great cafes and restaurants, these aren’t the typical foodie hot spots, but gorgeous restaurants that bring a charming and relaxing atmosphere without the upscale price you may find in areas such as Gangnam or Jamsil.
Due to its central location, it’s a great spot for couples who like to explore, as well as those who simply want to visit a cute pop-up art gallery in the basement of a cafe, enjoy some relaxing live music, or check out a gorgeous vinyl store.
Be sure to head to Haebangchon, an area just a 10-minute walk from the centre of Itaewon, where you can find a great selection of hip and trendy cafes and restaurants to relax at and enjoy.
In the evening, head over to one of the gorgeous rooftop cocktail bars in Itaewon’s centre, where you can enjoy stunning views of the nearby N.Seoul Tower at night and watch the sunset over the Seoul skyline for a real romantic treat!
Stay at the Imperial Palace Boutique Hotel for gorgeous modern rooms and a great central location.
Although not often a popular destination for families, Seoul is more than welcoming to tourists of all types. Whilst not especially a child-friendly place, like any city, there are some areas that are better to stay in if you have children.
To ensure you’re not surrounded by noisy bars, nightclubs, and drunken students every night, one of the best areas to stay in is the Dongdaemun district.
Due to its central-north location, it makes getting around the city easy and is home to the Dongdaemun History Museum and the famous Dongdaemun Market. It’s also conveniently located right beside the gondola lift to the North Seoul Sky Tower, a must-see destination for any kind of traveller, but if you’re travelling with young children, they’re sure to love it!
Dongdaemun is not only a convenient and quiet destination, but is a great spot for getting to all the best must-see spots in the city, as travelling with the whole family can be quite a challenge at times. It has great transport links via the subway and is near a number of popular tourist spots such as Myeongdong (where you can try some of Korea’s best street food), and the historical area of Gwanghwamun.
Stay at Acube Hotel Dongdaemun for gorgeous modern rooms and a convenient and central location.
Hongdae is known as being one of the hottest places in Seoul, particularly when it comes to the younger crowd. With a range of great bars, cheap and trendy clothing stores, gorgeous cafes, and a sprinkling of street food, there’s a whole lot to see and do here.
With so much going on, it’s one of the places in Seoul you never want to leave, and many visitors to the area find themselves discovering something new every day.
One of Hongdae’s greatest charms is, of course, the food. Whilst many districts of Seoul boast a great selection of restaurants, many firm favourites sit within this hip district. Indulge in some of the most popular Korean BBQ spots (including ones with unlimited meat options!), Japanese eateries, cheap and cheerful pasta restaurants, Chinese-style hot pot, Korean ‘pub food’, and some of South Korea’s best fried chicken. When it comes to choosing a place to eat in Hongdae you are truly spoilt for choice.
Most of the best food spots are located around exit 9 of Hongdae station, with one place you truly must visit being Outdark Chicken. Whilst South Korea is famous for its outstanding fried chicken, one of the best spots to indulge in this is at Outdark. Located slightly off the beaten path, it can be tricky to find without Google / Naver maps, but it’s definitely worth hunting down! Be sure to ask for the chicken ‘sun-sal’ if you want it off the bone!
A walk down the busy shopping street near Hongdae subway station exit nine can also provide you with some intriguing treats if you keep an eye out for them. From classic Korean egg bread to candied fruit, sugar-coated corndogs, and even Oreo churros, there’s a great selection of modern street foods to enjoy!
Stay at 9 Brick Hotel for gorgeous upscale decor, and a prime location!
Gangnam is a sprawling district, home to many celebrities and wealthy individuals who love to splurge. With a huge number of classy European restaurants, exciting brunch spots, luxurious bars, and a variety of designer stores and boutiques, Gangnam is Seoul’s most luxurious destination. Located on the southern side of the Han River, many of the gorgeous hotels boast stunning views across the city.
If you’re looking for the best luxury shopping trip of your life, you’ll want to head to Gangnam’s area of Apgujeong Rodeo, where you can find a whole street lined with boutique and designer stores. Head down to Jamsil if you’re looking for a more casual experience, where you can find one of the best malls in the country, CoEx Mall jam-packed with big high-street names and unique independent brands.
Whilst dining is a treat in any part of Gangnam, and even the area around Gangnam station is littered with delicious steak restaurants and upscale Chinese dining experiences, once again Apgujeong Rodeo is the area you’ll want to head to if you want to truly indulge.
With a variety of stunning brunch spots, outstanding Italian restaurants and some of the most delectable desert cafes, your tastebuds will likely be spoilt just as much as your wardrobe on a day out here!
As Gangnam is a little more expensive than most other areas of Seoul, you can expect the accommodation costs to reflect that. It is still possible to stay here without breaking the bank, but if you’re looking for a truly perfect spot, Hotel Entra Gangnam is a gorgeous spot with luxurious bright interiors right in the heart of the Apgujeong shopping district!