Where Should I Stay in Seoul, South Korea?

Seoul can be daunting for first-time travelers, so we’ve created the ultimate guide for choosing your stay in the largest metropolis of South Korea.

Planning your first trip to Seoul? Learn more about traveling to South Korea here!

Hey Gems, it’s Gemini and welcome to ‘A GEMINII Guide to Seoul’. Over the course of this series we’ll be sharing everything to know before traveling to Seoul to help you plan the perfect trip!

This course will provide you with plenty of useful videos, helpful links, and all the information you’ll need in a single place! We’ve done all the research for you, so that you can get started planning right away!


Places We’ll Cover in this Guide

Already know which neighborhoods you are interested in? Click the links above to jump ahead!

Topics We’ll Cover in the Blog

  • Key characteristics
  • Things to do
  • Our own hotel recommendations *for every price range*
  • Pros and Cons of each location

All of these places have their own unique charm, and by the end of this guide you’ll be able to pick the perfect location for your traveling style!

When Should I Travel to Seoul?

Before you decide where you want to stay in Seoul, it’s important to consider when you plan on visiting because hotel prices will fluctuate depending on the season you choose. 

Temperature

The best time to travel to Seoul according to the temperature is in the Fall and Spring when the weather is not too cold and not too hot. 

Seoul is known for its extreme temperatures during its Winters (from December to March) and summers (from July to August). 

Hotel Prices

Prices will drop during the winter season because of the cold weather, but they will rise substantially during the summer season as this is a peak travel period so expect lots of tourists and crowds! 

Now that you have a better understanding of when to travel to Seoul, let’s get into how!


Myeong-Dong

The shopping district.
These adorable animals are actually sticker characters from a Korean Messaging app and are called LINE Friends! You can spot them all over Seoul so don’t be shy and take a photo!

Myeong-dong is the perfect place to find trending beauty products or explore Seoul’s exciting street food scene! This popular neighborhood is bustling with tourists as it is in the center of most of Seoul’s attractions.

What you’ll find in Myeong-dong

Street food
We don’t know why we’ve never tried honeycomb on ice cream before but we certainly wish we had– this unique Seoul street food is something you’ll definitely want to try!

Our favorite part was the main street which is packed with tempting street food stalls selling egg breads, spicy Korean rice cakes, fish-shaped ice cream cones, and lots more! 

Seoul’s Largest Shopping Malls

Myeong-dong boasts numerous shopping malls such as the famous Lotte and Shinsegae Department Stores. 

Skincare & Beauty

It’s also a great place to find Korea’s world-famous skincare and beauty with brands like Style Nanda, Etude House, and Nature Republic all within walking distance. 

Currency Exchange Booths

Myeong-dong is also very tourist-friendly! There are lots of currency exchange booths and many store employees speak numerous languages such as English and Chinese. 

Where should I stay in Myeong-dong?

Let’s find the perfect hotel in Myeong-dong according to your budget! 

Hostels are a great way to save money on your accommodation in Seoul, especially if you’re planning to be outside exploring the city most of the day. 

Pros and Cons of Myeong-dong

PROS

Myeong-dong is the perfect tourist-friendly location for all your shopping needs, and its central location makes it perfect for visiting lots of places within the city. 

CONS

Keep in mind that Myeong-dong can be a little overpriced and crowded. And, since it is catered towards tourists you might not find as many authentic Korean options. 

Keep in mind that Myeong-dong can be a little overpriced and crowded. And, since it is catered towards tourists you might not find as many authentic Korean options. 

Watch our video where we visit Myeong-dong to see it for yourself!


Hongdae

The trendy district.

Hongdae is a university street known for its youthful and artistic appeal, and can be easily compared to the Harajuku of Japan. You can enjoy street performances and the lively atmosphere as you walk around this popular neighborhood in Seoul. 

What you’ll find in Hongdae

Cute Cafes
This cute cafe sells Korean Shaved Ice, or Patbingsu. We ordered the Tiramisu Patbingsu and it was large enough for our family of five–but it was so tasty we probably could have finished one more!

In Hongdae you will find plenty of cute cafes as well as roadside shops with cheaper prices compared to areas like Myeongdong. This neighborhood is a must-visit spot for instagram enthusiasts and coffee addicts!

Cheaper prices (compared to Myeong-dong)
The streets of Hongdae are full of temptations– These sets were selling for ₩10000, which is about $10!

Located beside Hongik University, Hongdae attracts many university students for its unique charm and affordable prices! We noticed that some peices were the same as other parts of Seoul but the only difference was that they were sold for cheaper here!

Nightlife & Busking

Hongdae is also known for its nightlife and busking, so be ready for a crowd if you come in the evening. You might even catch a song or dance cover of your favorite K-pop group!

Where Should I Stay in Hongdae?

Since Hongdae is a university neighborhood there are plenty of options for solo travelers and travelers on a budget!

**Guesthouses are a wonderful way to save money, but if you are looking for something more luxurious try one of these 4 or 5 star hotels. 

Pros and Cons of Hongdae

PROS

Overall, Hongdae has cheaper prices and is perfect for young travelers! It’s also easy to get around since many of the students speak English!

CONS

If you are not interested in crowded or loud spaces this may not be the place for you as it is usually busy with University students. Also, if you are traveling with younger kids or in a family, be may need to be prepared for lot’s of bars and clubs near your stay.


Gangnam

The Luxury District

Most people recognize the word Gangnam from the popular music video ‘Gangnam Style’ which, of course, was shot in this luxurious Seoul District. Its vibrant buildings and restaurants can be comparable to Beverly Hills in California! 

If you don’t mind spending a little more, this neighborhood offers a plethora of exciting things to do!

What you’ll find in Gangnam

Designer Shopping

While you’re walking down the streets of Gangnam, you’ll be sure to see many designer brands and expensive boutiques where you can splurge on the latest fashion trends!

Kpop Entertainment Company Buildings
Even if you are not interested in k-pop you can still enjoy the fun activities at the SM Town Coex, from interactive photo booths to k-pop dance lessons! Our dad might have even left as a EXO fan…

If you are a K-pop fan then you won’t want to miss this part of Seoul! Gangnam is home to many Kpop entertainment companies including the SM, JYP, and Cube buildings. You can also find the SM Town Coex here, a museum and merchandise store with interactive activities with the label’s artists. If you’re lucky you might even spot an artist yourself!

Underground Shopping

While Gangnam may be the home of the rich it also has its share of affordable options if you know the right places to look! The Goto Underground Mall is a popular shopping site where you can find affordable yet trendy clothes. Be careful, or you’ll get lost!

Where Should I Stay in Gangnam?

Now let’s take a look at some places to stay in this part of the city! 

Pros and Cons of Gangnam

PROS

Gangnam is great if you want to be near the Kpop, cosmetic surgery, and designer fashion scene. It’s also an ideal location for business or work travel. 

CONS

However, you’ll be staying a little further out from the rest of Seoul’s major attractions as it lies across the Han River. For example, a trip from Myeongdong to Gangnam will take over an hour with the time to cross the Hannam Bridge. 

Watch our video where we visit Gangnam to see it for yourself!


Namdaemun

The Central District.

Our mom leaving the hotel as we headed out for our first day in Seoul!

Our own personal choice was Namdaemun for its ideal location at the center of Seoul. You’ll find yourself between all of the city’s popular attractions, while also stepping away from the busyness of the other neighborhoods. 

What You’ll Find in Namdaemun

Namdaemun Gate

The highlight of Namdaemun is the Namdaemun Gate, or the South Gate. This iconic landmark can’t be missed and you’ll definitely want to stop and take a picture when you visit!

Authentic Korean Food
Processed with VSCO with m5 preset

Unlike Myeong-dong and Hongdae which are mainly catered towards tourists, Namdaemun is a great spot to feel eat a local. Avoid the franchises and chains and enjoy some local favorites in this neighborhood. During our stay in Namdaemun we were able to try lot’s of unique Korean dishes and we met some kind restaurant owners as well!

Korea’s Largest Traditional Market (Namdaemun Market)
These Korean pancakes, called jeon are warm, tasty and definitely worth a try–but make sure you save some room in your stomach for all the other great foods in the market as well!

If you are hoping to try some authentic Korean food, Korea’s largest traditional market is only minutes away! At the Namdaemun market, you’ll find rows of street food stalls and plenty of tasty bites.

Where Should I Stay in Namdaemun?

Here are some Namdaemun hotels that are definitely worth checking out! 

**During our own trip to Seoul we stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott Seoul Namdaemun and we thought it was the perfect location in Seoul. There were so many local restaurants and unique cafes nearby, and the locals were very welcoming and kind.

Pros and Cons of Namdaemun

PROS

Overall, Namdaemun is perfect if you want to be in the center of Seoul, as it lies between Myeongdong and Hongdae. It’s great if you want to step outside of the packed Seoul streets and enjoy a little more of Seoul’s authentic experiences. 

CONS

Keep in mind that Namdaemun doesn’t have as many attractions or food and shopping options, but they’ll only be a few Subway stops away!

What Should I Look for When I Visit Seoul?

Here is a quick hotel checklist to help you find the perfect accommodation in Seoul!

  1. PROXIMITY TO SEOUL STATION: Remember you’ll have to carry your luggage from the hotel to this station, so the closer it is the better!
  2. PROXIMITY TO SEOUL SUBWAY: Seoul offers amazing public transportation so you’ll probably be taking the bus or subway during your trip, so check if your hotel is close by to these stations as well. 
  3. PROXIMITY TO ATTRACTIONS: Make sure you are close to Seoul’s amazing attractions so you don’t have to waste too much time commuting!
  4. SAFETY COMES FIRST: Check reviews to make sure you are in a safe location, especially if you are traveling alone or are a first time traveler!

That’s all for today, but if you want to learn more about traveling to Seoul make sure to check out our other blog posts in this series and watch our videos for more helpful tips! 

Best of luck planning! 

xoxo

GEMINII

Check out more useful guides for planning your trip to Seoul!

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