Where to Stay in Seoul: Best Areas for Each Travel Style

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

It doesn’t really matter where you stay in Seoul. Most of the best stuff is found in a three-mile radius and public transport is great.

That being said, this guide will help find the perfect place for you.

Lingua Asia Best Areas by Preference Where to Stay in Seoul

Quick Summary

  • Party Goers: Mercure Ambassador Seoul Hongdae (high-end), Nabi Hostel & Tour (budget), Hi Jun Guesthouse (budget), Upflo Hostel (budget), H Hostel Itaewon (budget), Seoul Hongdae hostel Lazy fox (budget)
  • Culture Vultures: Rakkojae Seoul Main Hanok (luxury), Seochon Guesthouse (mid-range), Side Hanok Residence (mid-range), Mini Hotel Insa (budget)
  • Shopaholics: Garosugil Homestay (budget, female only), Lotte City Hotel Mapo (mid-range), Solaria Nishitetsu Hotel Seoul Myeongdong (higher-end), Seoul Grand Hostel Idae (budget)
  • Business Travelers: Grand Inter Continental Seoul (luxury), Fairmont Ambassador Seoul (luxury), Lotte City Hotel Mapo (mid-range)

While living in Seoul for 10 years, I’ve had people visit with a variety of interests. Some want the full tourist experience, while others just want to eat and/or shop.

I don’t judge and try to give them their best trip.

I also believe in getting what you paid for. This is subjective, but if I’m paying 200 dollars a night, I expect benefits like a comfy bed and soundproofing.

Value doesn’t always equal what you pay in Seoul, especially in the trendy neighborhoods.

1. The Libertine (AKA Party Animal)

Lingua Asia Korean Craft Beer in Hongdae
Ah traditional Korean craft beer, one of the many boozy options in Seoul

If you’re coming to Seoul to let loose, I’ve got good news for you. Locals love to party and there are tons of options.

Hongdae (college and touristy), Itaewon (diverse), and Gangnam (bougie) are all going to work.

Pro tip, drinking in public is nice and legal, so go nuts!

seoul nightlife
No brown paper bag required


  • Mercure Ambassador Seoul Hongdae (high-end)
  • Nabi Hostel & Tour (budget)
  • Hi Jun Guesthouse (budget)
  • Upflo Hostel (budget)
  • H Hostel Itaewon (budget)
  • Seoul Hongdae hostel Lazy fox (budget)

Attractions: Club Vert Hapjeong (Electronic, Hip Hop), Club Venue Itaewon (Hip Hop, Funk), NB2 Hongdae (Hip Hop), Brown Hongdae (Hip Hop, Dancehall), Cakeshop Seoul Itaewon (EDM, Hip Hop), Mike’s Cabin Sinchon or Hongdae (Dive Bar), Thursday Party Itaewon or Hongdae (pick up joint), Luxury Noraebang Hongdae, Hamilton Pool Party (summer)

Hotel Criteria

I’ve traveled and/or lived in 60 countries. I’ve got this down to a science.

Sure you want to be near the action, but you also need a good night’s sleep to enjoy it all. And if you’re reading this, you’ve probably got a 10 hour flight and a few time zones to cross before you’re gallivanting around in a hanbok (unless you’re Singaporean).

If you’re coming from the States, Seoul hotels aren’t that expensive. They don’t offer great value though.

  • I look for consistency. Do they have a history of providing good stays.
  • I look for value. If you’re paying 100 dollars a night, do you get facilities and fixtures, etc.
  • I value quiet areas where you can recharge at night. Not easy to find in Seoul but there are levels to this.
  • I don’t sweat the small stuff. In Korea, English ability and service is hit or miss, so they aren’t the biggest factors for me.
  • I disregard neighborhood. Korea is safe, so no worries about where you’re staying as long as it’s near public transport, which it will be.

At the end of the day, I want to pay the least amount of money for a quiet night’s sleep within 30 minutes of attractions.

2. Culture Vultures

Lingua Asia Hanok Stay in Korea
Seoyoosuk in Chungju. The best hanok stays are outside Seoul unfortunately.

Waking up in a 100 year old hanok to a continental breakfast in a lush garden is worth the flight alone.

Without a doubt, Insadong, Jongno, and Bukchon (hanok village) are for you.

Don’t forget to swing by the National Museum for 5,000 years of cultural overload.


  • Rakkojae Seoul Main Hanok (luxury)
  • Seochon Guesthouse (mid-range)
  • Side Hanok Residence (mid-range)
  • Mini Hotel Insa (budget)
Lingua Asia Palace in Seoul

Attractions: Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace (try to book a secret garden tour), National Museum, Bukchon Hanok Village, Insadong Ssamzigil


3. Shopaholics

You can actually get your retail therapy anywhere in Korea. Check out any Olive Young for some good deals on cosmetics (locals actually shop here, because mask packs are cheap).


  • Garosugil Homestay (budget, female only)
  • Lotte City Hotel Mapo (mid-range)
  • Solaria Nishitetsu Hotel Seoul Myeongdong (higher-end)
  • Seoul Grand Hostel Idae (budget)

Attractions: Dongdaemun (traditional and local), Garosu-gil (upscale boutiques), Yeouido The Hyundai (modern), Insadong (traditional and touristy), Hongdae (young and hip fashion and accessories).

To Myeongdong, or not to Myeongdong?

I actually wrote this post in response to those recommending first-timers to stay in Myeongdong. It’s super lazy and I would only do this to people I secretly dislike.

Myeongdong is like the starting area in an online game. It’s a right of passage for anyone visiting Seoul for the first time.

No, you don’t have to stay in Myeongdong. That’s like telling someone visiting NYC to get a hotel in Times Square.

While Times Square is worth a visit for the tall buildings covered by billboards and the questionable superheroes, Myeongdong has a semi-interesting cathedral and overpriced, subpar street food.

Myeongdong walking street? More like “Myeongdong standing street” because of the crowds, OH!

Rant over.

4. The Jet-setter

Lingua Asia Osulloc Tea House Bukchon

Flying to Seoul in any class but economy and only the swankiest will do?

Apgujeong, Cheongdam, Seongsu, and Hannam are the best spots for luxury travelers.

Seoul has a lot of places that cater to the ultra-wealthy. There’s even a rich person museum that most can’t find. It’s like Wakanda, but only visible in a Porsche or higher.


  • Signiel Seoul Hotel (budget)
  • Sofitel Ambassador Seoul Hotel
  • Four Seasons Hotel Seoul

Attractions: Fine dining in Apgujeong, Seongsu, or Cheongdam, MMCA | National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Banyan Tree Pool Party (summer)

5. The Business Traveler

Lingua Asia Courtyard by Marriott Seoul Times Square

If you’re on a business trip, a hotel near your meetings is always a good idea.

Whether you’re a road warrior or Linkedin Famous, Seoul has something for you.

There are companies all over the place, but Yeouido (wall street), Gwanghwamun, Samseong-dong are the more business-oriented districts.


  • Grand Inter Continental Seoul (luxury)
  • Fairmont Ambassador Seoul (luxury)
  • Lotte City Hotel Mapo (mid-range)

Attractions: 63 building, Lotte Tower, Jongno Star Tower, COEX

6. Urbanophiles

Lingua Asia Business meeting in South Korea

Steel and glass all the way baby. Jamsil (Lotte Tower), Yeouido (63 Building or The Hyundai), or Jongro (Star Tower) are sure to satisfy.


  • Signiel Seoul Hotel
  • Grand Inter Continental Seoul

Attractions: Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Jongno Star Tower, Lotte Tower, 63 Building, The Hyundai

Best all-around hotel in Seoul for sightseeing

Lotte City Hotel Mapo is the perfect blend of comfort, convenience, and value. You can get to the main attractions in 30 minutes or less from there. When you want to be right smack in the middle of Hongdae, Itaewon and Insadong, this is the hotel for you.

It takes less than an hour from Incheon Airport on the 6015 airport shuttle bus or Airport subway line.

The hotel provides an LG air purifier upon request, which is great for recharging at night.

7. Art lovers

seoul art lover
Art gallery in Yeonnam

There’s no one area I would consider artsy, but I have a few suggestions.

Hongik University is known as an art school, but the surrounding Hongdae area is more trendy than artsy. In fact, they just recently opened up an art gallery. Nevertheless, there are some street murals around and it’s a good place to stay.

Daehangro is another uni district known for small theater performances.

Check out the Lee Kun-hee collection for some incredible modern Korean art.


  • Mini Hotel Insa (budget)
  • Mercure Ambassador Seoul Hongdae (high-end)

Attractions: SeMA – Seoul Museum of Art, Hongik Museum of Art, Lee Kun-hee collection, MMCA | National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, National Museum


8. Full-on Tourist

Molto Italian Espresso Bar Myeongdong
Molto Italian Espresso Bar in Myeongdong with a view of Myeongdong Cathedral and Namsan Tower (N Seoul Tower)

OK fine. Touristy things are touristy for a reason. And if you get a kick out of gilded traveler snares, more power to you. Myeongdong is the best place in Seoul to be a tourist’s tourist.

They have all the wacky stuff and street food geared towards first-time visitors.

Silkworm cocoons, check. Nanta, Korea’s answer to Broadway, check. Purrty lit up trees, check. Cat cafes, check. Cute socks and accessories for sale, check.

You can also stay in a hotel around Myeongdong and take a subway in for better value.


  • Solaria Nishitetsu Hotel Seoul Myeongdong (mid-range)

Attractions: Myeongdong Walking Street, Nanta, Namsan Tower, Insadong Walking Street, Noryangjin Fish Market

9. The Gourmand (AKA Foodie)

Lingua Asia Bibimbap

If you don’t have time to check out Gwangju, I’ve got some great suggestions. Seoul has over 1,000 restaurants and good ones are sprinkled all over the city.

Insadong will have some good Buddhist vegetarian temple food and Hanjeongshik (full course meal).

South of Yeouido Station at lunchtime has amazing people’s food. Go to an older looking place with a bunch of salary workers in it.


  • Mini Hotel Insa (budget)

Attractions: Insadong walking street, 7.8 Makgeolli, Sanchon, Gwangjang Market (street food)

10. Families and Disney Adults

Love theme parks and don’t care who knows it?

Lotte World in Jamsil is the easiest to get to in Seoul.

You can also head to the biggest and some say best theme park in Korea, Everland, which is a bus ride away. They have a safari experience too.

If that’s not enough for you, Seoul Land is somewhere in Gyeonggi-do, but we don’t talk about it.


  • Signiel Seoul Hotel (budget)
  • Sofitel Ambassador Seoul Hotel (mid-range)

Attractions: Lotte World, Everland, Seoul Land, Trick Eye Museum, Cat Cafe


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