Where to Stay in Seoul First Time: 8 Best Areas

In this post, I will help you to find Where to stay in Seoul first time, best areas to stay in Seoul for first-time tourists (with a video and map), best hotels in Seoul for all budgets (including the hotel where I stayed), and safest place in Seoul.

Seoul is located on the Han River, 40 km from Yellow Sea and 60km from the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Seoul is the capital, cultural, economic, and political center of South Korea. It is also home to top companies of the world including Samsung, LG, and Hyundai-kia.

Seoul is a big city, it has 25 districts, or “gus” in Korean. Each gu encompasses smaller neighborhoods called “dongs”. The city is divided into 2 sections, Gangbuk and Gangnam, by the Han River (Hangang River):

  • Gangbuk, a more historical and traditional side of Seoul, in the North of Han river.
  • Gangnam, a more modern area of Seoul, in the South of Han river.

Seoul is a safe city day and by night, even for solo female travelers. Most places in Seoul are safe. But as you travel to any tourist area, you should practice common sense, avoid walking alone in poorly-lit street areas and dark alleyways at night. 

Where to stay in Seoul first time?

The best areas to stay in Seoul for tourists are Insadong, Myeongdong, Hongdae, Gangnam, Itaewon, and Jamsil. All of these neighborhoods are great locations for the first time, but Insadong, Myeongdong, and Hongdae are the favorite places of many first-time travelers.

Generally speaking, Insadong is the best area for travelers who want to experience traditional Korean culture, Myeongdong is the best place for shopping, Hongdae is the best base for visitors who want youthful and nightlife scenes, Itaewon is the best location for an international vibe.

Seoul offers all kinds of accommodation options, ranging from budget backpacker hostels to luxury 5-star hotels. There are also love motels, which are charged hourly, or local brand hotels such as Lotte and Shilla, as well as Hanok traditional houses for a unique experience. 

To book a hotel, I recommend spending between three to seven days, which is enough to see Seoul’s highlights, enjoy local foods, and get the sense of the city. If you have more days, you can take a day trip to a nearby area as well as enjoy Seoul at a slower pace.

Where did I stay in Seoul?

When I visited Seoul, I stayed for 6 nights at the Orakai Insadong Suites. It has a great location, within walking distance from major attractions including the Jogyesa Temple and River Stream. There were various restaurants and traditional tea houses nearby. Easy access to three subway lines to visit other parts of Seoul. My room was spacious and clean.

💖 Best Area for first-timers:Insadong
💎 Best luxury hotel:Four Seasons Hotel Seoul
🏨 Best mid-range hotel:Nine Tree Premier Hotel Insadong
💰 Best budget hotel:Sunbee Hotel Insadong Seoul

Map of areas and neighborhoods in Seoul for tourists:

Map of Best Areas and Neighborhoods in Seoul for first-timers
Map of Best Areas and Neighborhoods in Seoul for first-timers

🎬You can watch this video about where to stay in Seoul first time, and continue reading:

If you like the video format, please subscribe to my YouTube channel at @easytravel4u, I have tons of similar videos over there.

How to Get Around Seoul for tourists?

Seoul has two international airports, Incheon and Gimpo. Most international travelers arrive at Incheon International Airport, 50 km west of Seoul.

Gimpo International Airport is another airport serving domestic and some regional flights. It is located closer to the city, about 16 km west of central Seoul.

From both airports, you can take a taxi to your accommodation, or using Airport Railroad Express (AREX) to Seoul Station, or the Airport Limousine Buses to Downtown Seoul.

If you are traveling from other cities in South Korea, you can take the high-speed KTX train, which connects major cities and reaches Seoul quickly. Additionally, South Korea also has an extensive bus network, with long-distance buses connecting various cities to Seoul.

The best way to get around Seoul is by subway and on foot. Seoul has an efficient and extensive subway system that covers most parts of the city and its outskirts. You can purchase single-ride tickets or T-money cards to pay for the ride.

Taxis are generally affordable compared to many Western countries. Look for licensed taxis with meters, and drivers may or may not speak English, so having your destination written down in Korean can be helpful.

Finally, depending on your location and destination, walking can be a viable option. Seoul is a pedestrian-friendly city with many sidewalks and pedestrian crossings.

Renting a car is an option, but it’s generally not recommended for tourists due to the city’s heavy traffic and the availability of excellent public transportation.

Best areas to stay in Seoul for first-timers and tourists are:

1. Insadong

 Insadong - best area for traditional experience

Insadong is one of the top areas in Seoul for first-timers, especially for those who prioritize cultural experiences, a quieter atmosphere, and traditional aspects of Korean culture. It is a central location, close to major historical attractions, and easy access to public transportation.

Insadong is the historical and cultural heart of Seoul, located in the north of Han river. It is packed with traditional palaces, Buddhist temples, hanok houses, antique stores, boutique accommodations, trendy restaurants, and cafes.

The beating heart of Insadong is its main street, Insadong-gil, or Insadong Traditional Culture Street. Located close to Anguk Station, it is a 700m street start from Tapgol Park to Anguk-dong Rotary.

Insadong-gil is a busy strip that has a lively vibe and eclectic shops. It is a pedestrianized street on saturday and sunday, hosting street artist performances, food and music festivals.

Insadong-gil is the starting point of many cobbled streets and alleyways. Each alley is filled with galleries, souvenir shops, traditional tea houses, cafes, and family run restaurants.

Insadong is a great place to buy Korean antiques or traditional materials such as calligraphy materials, folk crafts, Korean ceramics, and hanji (traditional paper).

Don’t miss the Ssamzie-gil, a four-story shopping complex with an open-air design. It is a great place to do some shopping, buy souvenirs, grab Korean fried chicken, and take a pottery class. Other interesting markets are Gwangjang Market and Tongin Market.

Located 100 meters from Ssamziegil Market on the way to Jogyesa Temple is the Insadong Information Center. You can get tourist information and rent a hanbok and take photos with it.

If you want to take a break from sightseeing and shopping, you can relax at Tapgol Park, formerly Pagoda Park; or Huwon Secret Garden which is easily reachable via UNESCO World Heritage Site, Changdeokgung Palace.

From Insadong, you can also visit numerous royal palaces by foot including Gyeongbokgung Palace, Deoksugung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace, and Changgyeonggung Palace

Gyeongbokgung is the most beautiful of all five palaces. It was the main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty. It is home to Gwanghwamun Gate, Heungnyemun Gate, National Folk Museum, and National Palace Museum. 

You can stroll along the 11km waterway Cheonggyecheon Stream. It starts from Cheonggye Plaza, just off Sejong-ro Avenue. There are also 22 different bridges along the way.

If you are interested in history, visit the Kimchi Museum to learn about South Korea’s most famous food, kimchi. Other well-worth museums are the Color Pool Museum, Kyung-in Museum Of Fine Art, and Alive Museum! 

Art lovers can visit Hakgojae Gallery, Knife Gallery, and Gana Art Center which is a contemporary art gallery, displays paintings and sculptures from over the world.

You can also visit nearby Jogyesa Buddhist Temple, with it white pine tree near the entrance. It offers templestay, a unique way to experience the local culture, learn Korean Buddhism, enjoy vegetarian meals, and spend time with the monks. There is a Lotus Lantern Parade in May.

Insadong is famous for its tea houses, you can take a good rest at the Shin Old Tea House,  Tteuran, or O’sulloc Tea House. Enjoy plum, ginger tea with rice cakes and puffed rice. You can also try bingsu, a Korean sweet at Sulbing, a dessert cafe chain.

Insadong is one of the neighborhoods in Jongno Gu district along with Bukchon, Gwanghwamun, Ikseon dong. Gwanghwamun Square is an area of protests, and also home to the statues of King Sejong and Admiral Yi Sun Shin.

Bukchon Hanok Village is a very well-preserved village, where you can find traditional houses, criss-crossed alleyways, and quaint small shops and cafes.

Insadong is well-connected to public transport, it is easily reachable from Anguk Station. There are also Seoul Sightseeing Tour Bus and private charter service.

Due to its close proximity to Seoul’s top attractions, Insadong is not only the best place for first-timers but also for those visiting for a shorter time such as 2 days or 3 days. Meanwhile, with its little nightlife and relaxed vibe after dark, Insadong is also a good base for families.

There are a wide range of accommodations in Insadong but If you want a unique experience of Korean historical and cultural life, you can book a stay in traditional homes, hanok

Stay in Insadong if you are first-timers; you love history and culture; you want a central location within walking distance to Seoul’s top attractions; you want to stay in traditional homes;

Best places to stay in Insadong for first-time visitors:

Luxury ($$$): Four Seasons Hotel Seoul, 5-star hotel, one of the best places to stay in Seoul for first-time visitors, located in central Seoul, within walking distance from major attractions such as the Gwanghwamun Plaza, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Cheonggyecheon Stream, and the city hall.

Mid-range ($$): Nine Tree Premier Hotel Insadong, 4-star family-friendly hotel, located short distance from Jogyesa Temple, Dongwha Duty Free Shop, and Gyeongbokgung Palace.

Budget ($): Sunbee Hotel Insadong Seoul, 3-star family-friendly hotel, one of the best places to stay in Seoul on a budget, located within walking distance from Jonggak Subway Station (Line 1), Jongno 3-ga Subway Station (Line 5), the famous Confucian Shrine, Jongmyo Shrine.

Traditional hanok: Gongsimga Hanok Guesthouse, traditional Korean house, that has family rooms and luggage storage spaces, located in centre of Seoul, great base for first-timers, offering easy access to the city’s many attractions.


You can continue reading the detail of each area in Seoul, or if you travel as a family, you can check this article: Best areas to stay in Seoul with family

2. Myeongdong

Myeongdong - best area for shopping

Myeongdong is the one of the best places to stay in Seoul for first-timers, especially for those who love shopping because it is a bustling shopping district, packed with fashion boutiques, cosmetic shops, and street food stalls.

Myeongdong is livelier than Insadong and quieter than Hongdae in terms of nightlife. If you want a super central location, budget-friendly hotels, and lots of shopping, Myeongdong is the best neighborhood to book a hotel.

Myeongdong is centrally located between Insadong and Namsan Mountain. If you book a hotel here, you will be located within walking distance or easy access from the majority of tourist sights like Namsan Tower and Seoul’s Palaces.

Myeongdong has a well connected public transport system. Being located super close to Seoul Station, it is easily reachable from Incheon International Airport. There is a T-Money card for the subway and a Korea Rail Pass to save money on the subway.

Myeongdong along with Dongdaemun is a part of Jung-gu district which is very central. Myeongdong is an old district and has become a popular young district from the 70’s.

Myeongdong Shopping Street is the shopping haven for tourists, packed with department stores and retailers. There are all kinds of products: beauty, shoes, street food:

  • Shinsegae Department Store, home to luxury brands, an art gallery, and Trinity Garden.
  • Noon Square, where you can find brands like Steve Madden, Mango, Zara, and H&M.
  • Lotte Department Store, is also well worth a visit!

You can experience local life at the traditional Namdaemun Market. The market is a wholesale and retail market, you can feel the local daily life and people watching. Buy a unique souvenir, love lock and pen here before heading to Namsan Tower.

Not only clothes and fashion, here you can find skincare and makeup products at A-Land, Stylenanda 3CE Pink Hotel, and Aritaum. There are also many places that are dedicated to Korean pop music or K-pop stars such as SMTOWN.

Myeongdong is a true foodie destination. There are bunggeo-pang, tteokbokki, bibimbap, mandu, hotteok, traditional Korean BBQ, and Korean fried chicken. Famous restaurants here are Myeongdong Dongaseu, Myeongdong Kyoja, Hadongkwan, and Eulji Myeonok.

Another thing that you can consider is the Nanta Cooking Show, the longest-running performance in Korea. It is a drama in the kitchen.

Cat themed cafes are also popular in Korea. You can hop over to the Cat Cafe in Myeongdong Street to visit furry friends. You can also learn some Korean dishes at Myeongdong Kimchi School.

Apart from the shopping and dining, Myeongdong is home to numerous cultural and historical attractions. You can find a beautiful Gothic style church, Myeongdong Cathedral, Korea’s first Catholic Church. 

If you love history, take a look at the Bank of Korea Museum, Grevin Waxwork Museum, Korea Postage Stamp Museum, and 3D Black Art Museum. Other places of interest are Seoul Global Culture Center.

With a subway stop away, you can visit Namsangol Hanok Village. It has 5 hanoks, a traditional Korean music theater, garden, and Seoul Millennium Time Capsule Square.

You cannot miss taking a Namsan Cable Car to the top of N. Seoul Tower, formerly Namsan Tower. Head to its top in the evening to see its best views. There are love locks, a food court, cafe, Hello Kitty Island, and an observatory on the 5th floor.

After a long day sightseeing, you can relax at the Myeongdong Mud Sauna with several treatments for your skin with natural mud from Boryeong, South West of Korea. 

Myeongdong has a wide range of accommodations, lots of luxury branch hotels, and plenty of budget friendly 3 star hotels and guesthouses.

Best places to stay in Seoul in Myeongdong:

Luxury ($$$): Lotte Hotel Seoul, 5-star hotel, linked to Euljiro 1-ga Subway Station (Line 2) and Lotte Department Store. It is aslo short distance to Namdaemun Gate and Namdaemun traditional market. The hotel has rooms for singles, couples, and families with kids.

Mid-range ($$): Pacific Hotel, 4-star family-friendly hotel, located in front of the Myeongdong Subway Station Exit.3, short drive from N Seoul Tower at Namsan Mountain.

Budget ($): Solaria Nishitetsu Hotel Seoul Myeongdong, great 3-star hotel, that has family rooms, situated close to Myeongdong Station, Myeongdong Cathedral, Bangsan Market, Jogyesa Temple and Namdaemun Market.


3. Hongdae

Hongdae - vibrant nightlife area in Soeul

Hongdae is quite similar to Myeongdong because they are both filled with shops, restaurants and cafes. Hongdae has a better nightlife, so if you come to Seoul to party, I recommend staying in Hongdae. A journey by train from Hongdae to Myeongdong is only 30 minutes.

Hongdae is named after the nearby Hongik University, or Hongik Daehangno, one of the best fine arts schools in South Korea. It is considered the modern hub of the city. Hongdae is famous for its youthful and romantic atmosphere, self-expression, indie music, and underground culture.

Hongdae has amazing nightlife with plenty of  clubs, hofs, bars, and restaurants. The neighborhood attracts many party lovers, students, and young tourists.

Hongdae is also famous for its art scene with lots of art galleries and street art, especially on Hongdae Mural Street. Also known as Picasso’s street, you can admire many art works here.

There are also live music performances, dances on a small stage here.

Hongik University Tourist Information Center located outside Hongik University Station is a great place to get maps, guidebooks, and Discovery passes.

One of the liveliest places in Hongdae is Hongdae Walking Street, or Hongik University Street. It is packed with unique  cafés, restaurants, and bars.

Similar to Myeongdong, Hongdae offers amazing shopping experiences. There are lots of trendy clothes, socks, and beauty products around Hongdae business district (near Exit 9), Hongdae Street Shopping, and Hongdae Free Market which is a great place to grab odd souvenirs, artworks, and gift items.

Apart from shopping and nightlife, this neighborhood also offers excellent street foods with  student-friendly cost. You can try spicy rice cake, fried fritters, blood sausages, and egg bun.

If you love museums, there are several museums to visit, such as:

  • Trick Eye Museum Seoul, an interactive museum and a popular tourist spot in Hongdae.
  • Trickeye Love Museum for adults only.
  • Ice Museum, a winter wonderland all year round.
  • Hongdae’s Art Museums.

You can also book a ticket for the Korean non-verbal musical performance at Hongdae NANTA Theater.

Hongdae also offers unique themed cafes. Some of the famous animal cafes are One Piece, Hello Kitty, Meerkat café, and Kakao Friends Animal Cafe.

You can also take a stroll along the eco-park, Noeul Park, formerly site of the Korea-Japan World Cup 2002. Noeul Park encompasses 5 smaller parks including Pyeonghwa Park, Haneul Park, Noeul Park, Nanjicheon Park, and Hangang Riverside Park.

Hongdae is served by Hongik University Station (line 2), Hapjeong Station (line 2 & 6), Sangsu Station (line 6), Mangwon Station, and Sinchon Station. 

Hongdae along with Sinchon and Edae is located in Mapo-gu district. Sinchon is an area located right outside Yonsei University, home to Hyundai Department Store and U-Plex Plaza. Edae is home to Ewha Women’s University.

Best places to stay in Seoul in Hongdae:

Luxury ($$$): Mercure Ambassador Seoul Hongdae, 4-star hotel, one of the best hotels in Seoul for couples, families, and singles, located within walking distance from Hongik University Station and Hongik University.

Mid-range ($$): L7 Hongdae by LOTTE, 4-star popular hotel, in Mapo-Gu district of Seoul, featuring family rooms, an on-site restaurant, fitness centre, bar, and seasonal rooftop pool.

Budget ($): 9 Brick Hotel, 3-star hotel, great base in Seoul for budget travelers, located a short walk from Hongik University Subway Station (Line 2, Airport Railroad and Gyeongui-Jungang Line).


4. Gangnam

 Gangnam - luxury neighborhood

Known as the Beverly Hills of South Korea, Gangnam gained even more recognition from the popular Gangnam Style song in 2012 of South Korean singer Psy. The district is home to many Korean celebrities, wealthy people, KPop agencies, and tech companies. It is also packed with luxury shops, fine dining, and lively nightlife.

Gangnam is one of the best places to go for nightlife in Seoul but it has a reputation for being upmarket when compared to Hongdae and Itaewon. Hongdae area is more for college students and younger 20-something, while Gangnam district is home to lots of high-end clubs, extravagant lounges and cocktail bars. You can spot  K-celebrities around Apgujeong and Cheongdam-dong, Sinsa, and Nonhyeon neighborhoods.

Gangnam refers generally to all areas of the south Han River. Gangnam-gu is a specific district, which is one of the districts south of the river along with Seocho-gu and Songpa-gu

Gangnam offers a good shopping experience as it is home to many department stores, underground shopping centers, high streets, and malls

The COEX  Underground Shopping Center is one of the biggest underground shopping centers in South Korea. Located underneath the Korea World Trade Center, it has a food court, Megabox movie theater, the country’s largest aquarium, a cinema, Kimchi Museum, Convention Center, intercontinental hotels, casino, and City Airport Terminal.

If you head to Sinsa Station Exit 8, you will find Garosu-gil, or the Tree Lined Street, home to Korea’s only Apple Store. There are lots of dessert cafes, restaurants, bars, and fashion shops to explore.

You can also shop at Hallyu K Star Road at Apgujeong Rodeo Station Exit 2. The street is where you can find Galleria Department Store and the famou shopping and nightlife area of Apgujeong Rodeo. You will have a chance to spot a celebrity in this area.

Gangnam neighborhood has plenty of markets and restaurants. Seoul Bamdokkaebi Night Market opens every Friday and Saturday. There are food trucks, live music, and handmade products.

Gangnam Station is the busiest subway station in Seoul. It has underground shopping, cafés, as well as the giant Kakao Friends Flagship Store. 

You Can visit Bongeunsa Buddhist Temple in the center of Gangnam. The temple has a long history of over 1,200 years old. Consider a temple stay to experience Korean Buddhism and culture, meditation and mindfulness.

There are numerous green spaces and parks in Gangnam. Samneung Park is a Unesco World Heritage site. It is a royal mausoleum for King Seongjong, Queen Jeonghyeon, and King Jungjong.

Seoul Olympic Park was built on the site of Mongchontoseong Fortress and manmade lake Mongchon Raheja. It has several zones including sports park, art park, eco-park, and History Experience Park. You can explore the park by taking the Road Train from Peace Square. 

Gangnam is also home to Seokchon Lake and Park, and Banpo Han River Park. Banpo Han River Park is located on the southern side of the Banpo Bridge. Here you will find Hangang River light show on Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountain. You can take a 70 minutes Hangang River Cruise to view Banpo Bridge and Rainbow Fountain from the water.

Gangnam is a modern part of Seoul with lots of skyscrapers including the Korea World Trade Center and Lotte World Tower. With 123 stories and 555 meters high, Lotte World Tower is the tallest building in South Korea. The Seoul Sky Observatory offers a 360-degree panoramic view of the city’s beautiful skyline.

Technology and entertainment play a big part in the thriving Gangnam district which is home to some of the headquarters of the largest Korean technology and entertainment companies. Samsung has their Samsung D’light exhibition space that displays their latest technology.

Gangnam is the business hub of Seoul, transportation here is good. You can reach Gangnam station, Cheongdam Station, Samseong station, Sinsa or Apgujeong Station. Subway Line 9 has an Express train that takes you straight to Gimpo Airport and changes to the AREX to go to Incheon Airport. The metro system will take you to Seoul’s popular sights in 45 minutes.

Accommodations in Gangnam tend to be higher than other districts because it is the most expensive area in Seoul. You can still find budget friendly 3 star hotels here.

Stay in Gangnam if you want to stay in one of the richest areas of Seoul; you want to spot idols; you want good nightlife and shopping.

Best places to stay in Seoul in Gangnam:

  • Luxury ($$$): Park Hyatt Seoul, 5-star hotel, set a minutes’ walk from Samseong Subway Station (Line 2) and COEX Seoul.
  • Mid-range ($$): GLAD Gangnam COEX Center, 4-star family-friendly hotel, located next to Exit 1 of Samseong Subway Station (Line 2). Easy reach the OEX convention centre and mall on foot, Lotte World theme park and the main strip of Gangnam district on subway.
  • Budget ($): Aiden by Best Western Cheongdam, 3-star hotel that has family rooms, located in Gangnam-Gu, 7 km from The Shilla Duty Free Shop Main Store.

5. Itaewon

where to stay in Soul first time - Itaewon

Itaewon is basically a foreigner district as it is home to lots of international soldiers, foreign diplomats, English teachers, and migrant workers from Southeast and South Asia.

Itaewon is one the best places to go in Seoul for nightlife but it seems to cater more for foreigners and older people, while Hongdae is for youngsters and students. Packed with  rooftop bars, foreigner-friendly clubs, pubs, wine bars, hip-hop clubs, salsa clubs, and cafes, Itaewon tends to be more expensive than Hongdae and Simchon.

Here you can find a Hooker Hill, once was a seedy are but has been transformed into the center of the Korean gay community.

Itaewon is located in Yongsan-gu district just south of Myeongdong and north of the Han River. 

Before WWII, this area was occupied by Japanese but After the war, it was replaced by American soldiers with the base nearby. Itaewon is more popular worldwide after the Seoul Asian Games in 1986 and the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988.

Itaewon is home to Seoul Central Mosque, several halal food stores, and the Yongsan Garrison, the headquarters to the U.S. Military.

There are also several museums here, such as:

  • The Leeum Samsung Museum of Art of the Samsung Foundation of Culture for both traditional and modern Korean art. Traditional Korean art displays pottery, calligraphy, traditional paintings and jewelry. The contemporary art displays both Korean and international artists. 
  • The War Memorial museum, if you are interested in Korean history!

Due to its diverse nationalities and cultures, Itaewon has diverse restaurants, shopping and nightlife. Restaurants featuring international cuisines like Indian, Thai, American, Middle Eastern, and African. There is a high concentration of international restaurants behind the Hamilton Hotel near exit two of Itaewon Station.

Many clothing stores here cater for foreigners with imported clothing in sizes. You can easily find good leather goods and antique furniture in this neighborhood.

Itaewon Antique Street is the place to go if you are looking for a unique shopping experience. There are second-hand U.S. Army, Asian and European antiques.

Another thing to do is check out Hamilton Hotel Rooftop Swimming Pool which is a good place for partying and sunbathing in summer months.

Itaewon hosts various events and festivals. The famous festival, Itaewon Global Village Festival, is held every October

Stay in Itaewon if you want vibrant nightlife, you want to stay in a hub of multiculturalism and diversity; you want to try international cuisine;

Best places to stay in Seoul in Itaewon for first-time visitors:

  • Luxury ($$$): Mondrian Seoul Itaewon, great hotels with a restaurant, a seasonal outdoor swimming pool, an indoor pool and a fitness centre. It has a 24-hour front desk, room service and currency exchange for guests.
  • Mid-range ($$): Hamilton Hotel, 3-star hotel, in Itaewon, in front of Itaewon Subway Station (Line 6), featuring a rooftop pool in summer and a large sauna.
  • Budget ($): Seoul Cube Itaewon, great hotel, has rooms with a patio with a garden view.

6. Jamsil

Jamsil - great area for family

Jamsil-dong is a neighborhood of Songpa-gu district on the South of Han river. Jamsil is a popular neighborhood for families because it is home to Lotte World with lots of attractions and activities for kids.

Lotte World has both an indoor area, Lotte World Adventure, and outdoor area, Magic Island. Magic Island is home to big Atlantis roller coasters and pendulum rides. Lotte World Adventure is one of the world’s biggest indoor theme parks that has a roller coaster, and Conquistador, a Viking ship ride.

In addition to Lotte World’s amenities are a shopping mall, folk museum, ice rink, and a hotel. Lotte World Garden Stage has themed musicals for  each season and Lotte World Star Avenue is to experience Korean stars and the entertainment world.

Lotte World held several events such as Halloween from September to November, Zombie Show, and the Christmas Show in December. 

Seokchon Lake Park, also known as Songpa Naru Park, is also one of the popular places in Jamsil. It is lined with cherry trees. The Lake is at its best when cherry blossoms and spring flowers from April to May, and autumn foliage in October. Seokchon Lake Cherry Blossom Festival is held here in April each year.

Songpa Naru Park is also home to Seoul Nori Madang, an outdoor stage. There are free traditional Korean folk performances from April to October, as well as more performances during Chuseok or Seollal holidays.

Jamsil is more of a residential area of the city, there are lots of local food stalls and craft markets with hand-made goodies, and family restaurants, making Jamsil a relaxing place for local vibe.

There are tons of cafes and restaurants around the Lake as well as the Jamsil station. You can enjoy a meal, drink beer, and watch the Baseball game.

Jamsil is home to Seoul Sports Complex which is surrounded by Jamsil Apartment Complex, Hangang River, and Tancheon Stream. The complex is home to a baseball stadium, swimming centers, an indoor sports facility.The large Jamsil Hangang Park often served as a venue for outdoor banquets and events. Olympic Park is 4km away.

Stay in Jamsil if you are travel as a family; this is not your first time traveling to Seoul;

Best places to stay in Seoul Jamsil:

Luxury ($$$): Lotte Hotel World, 5-star hotel, one of the best places to stay in Seoul with kids. It is located right next to the world’s largest amusement park, on the top of Jamsil Subway Station (Lines 2 and 8).

Luxury ($$$): Signiel Seoul, 5-star hotel, located between floors 76 and 101 of Lotte World Tower, offering stunning views of the city. It has a Michelin-starred restaurant, indoor swimming pool, and is directly connected to Jamsil Subway Station (Line 2 and 8) through an underground passage.

Budget ($): Hotel Pharos, 3-star family-friendly hotel, situated within a short walk from Jamsilsaenae Subway Station (Line 2), and many nearby restaurants and street food stalls. Also within a short drive to the Lotte World theme park and COEX convention centre and mall.


7. Dongdaemun

Dongdaemun  - a  shopping hub of Seoul

Dongdaemun is one of the best places to go in Seoul for shopping, along with the popular Myeongdong, Insadong, Gangnam, and Hongdae.

Dongdaemun is home to lots of traditional markets as well as high-rise shopping malls. If you want to get your shopping done in Seoul, this retail shopping capital of Seoul is the place to be.

Dongdaemun is located in Jongno-gu district, the center of the city. Dongdaemun Market is easily reachable because it is located close to both Dongdaemun Station and Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station.

Dongdaemun Market is a large commercial district with a mix of traditional markets and shopping centers. You can bargain the price here. 

The street market, Gwangjang Market, is a good place to experience traditional Korean food and culture. There are covered arcades, side alleys, with lots of talls and cafes.

Dongdaemun is also home to Russia Town where traders from Mongolia or Uzbekistan. There are numerous Russian, Mongolians, and Central Asians restaurants. 

Dongdaemun is a Special Tourism Zone, it is a popular spot for both tourists and locals. It is not only a paradise for shoppers but also it has lots of interesting historical and cultural attractions.

You can start with Dongdaemun History & Culture Park, formerly a baseball stadium, but it has been converted into a cultural area that is surrounded by big shopping malls like the Design Plaza, Doota, Migliore, and APM Plaza .

Dongdaemun History and Culture Park is one of the major five parts of Design Plaza including the Art Hall, Museum, Design Lab, Design Market.

The Dongdaemun Design Plaza, or DDP, is probably the most visited place for shopping in this neighborhood. Designed by Zaha Hadid, a world-famous architect, the Plaza has bookshops, clothing stores, cafés, as well as rooftop parks. DDP also hosts Seoul Fashion Week and Global startup events.

Dongdaemun was named after Dongdaemun Gate. Known as Heungingjimun gate, it was the main eastern gate to the Seoul Fortress. The Dongdaemun Gate is a beautiful place to pose for photos. 

From Heungingjimun gate, you can hike up to Naksan Park to see Seoul Fortress Walls. It has beautiful city  views from its top. You can also reach from Hyehwamun Gate and Daehangno Street.

You can also visit Ihwa Mural Village to see some beautiful artwork. The murals are the work of local Korean artists and college students. It is a good place for Instagrammers.

There is also Cheonggyecheon, a man-made stream near the Gwanghwamun station.  If you are tired of shopping and sightseeing, you can relax at Sparex, enjoy a hot bath, a massage or a nap. 

Best places to stay in Seoul in Dongdaemun:

Luxury ($$$): Novotel Ambassador Seoul Dongdaemun Hotels & Residences, 5-star hotel, located a short walk from Exit 12 of Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station, as well as numerous markets including Pyounghwa Market, Bangsan Market, and Dongdaemun Market.

Mid-range ($$): Nine Tree Hotel Dongdaemun, great family-friendly hotel, located close to The Shilla Duty Free Shop Main Store, Bangsan Market, and Gwangjang Market.

Budget ($): Acube Hotel Dongdaemun, 3-star budget-friendly hotel, conveniently located a short walk from Euljiro 4-ga Subway Station (Line 2 and 5), as well as the popular Gwangjang Market and Pyeonghwa Martket.


8. Hanok traditional house

Where to stay in Soul first time - Hanok traditional house

Hanok is a traditional Korean style house with tile-roofed and thatch-roofed hanoks.Hanok houses are environmentally friendly. The materials of the house are all natural and chemicals-free including wood, rock, soil, and tree pulp.

The heating and cooling system is the special feature of hanok houses. It is embedded in the design of the flooring. The floor-based heating is called Ondol. This way of heating the home from the floor is one of the reasons why Koreans sleep, eat, or hang out on the floor.

Experience the traditional culture through the many hanok villages in Seoul including Bukchon Hanok Village, Namsangol Hanok village, Eunpyeong Hanok Village, and Ikseon-dong hanok village.

Bukchon Hanok Village is home to about 900 hanok houses  that date back to the Joseon Dynasty. The village was the residence of Joseon dynasty and wealthy nobility. The village is located close to the main landmarks of northern Seoul, such as Cheonggyecheon Stream, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace, and Jongmyo Shinto Shrine.

Namsangol Hanok village is located at the base of Namsan Hill. It has 5 hanok houses. It can be easily reachable from Chungmuro Subway Station.

If you want to experience a traditional Korean lifestyle, try to stay in a hanok for a night or two. The house offers a well-equipped room, shared toilets, simple meals, and lives a simple lifestyle like an ancient Korean.

Best traditional hanok houses in Seoul:

Is it better to stay in Hongdae or Myeongdong?

They are both great areas for first-timers with lively nightlife and well-connected public transportation. Hongdae is a better choice if you’re after nightlife, youth, and street art scene, while Myeongdong is a better choice if you are after shopping and food.

Is it better to stay in Insadong or Myeongdong?

They are both excellent areas for first-timers due to their central location but Insadong may be the better option if you prefer a more traditional and cultural experience. Myeongdong would be a more suitable choice if you’re interested in shopping, fashion, and a vibrant city atmosphere.

Is it better to stay in Insadong or Hongdae?

They are both great bases for first-timers due to their popularity, but Insadong is a better option if you want more of a traditional atmosphere and cultural experiences. Hongdae is a better option if you want more of a youthful and trendy vibe with livelier nightlife.

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In conclusion, Insadong, Myeongdong, Hongdae, Gangnam, Itaewon, Jamsil, and Bukchon Hanok Village are the best places to stay in Seoul for tourists. They offer central, safe locations with easy access to major attractions and a wide range of hotels, restaurants, and shops for all budgets.

Personally, I recommend Insadong as the overall best area in Seoul for first-timers due to its proximity to major traditional and historical attractions. But you can also consider booking a hotel in Myeongdong and Hongdae as they are the favorite neighborhoods of many visitors.

About Author: Linda Smith

I'm Linda Smith, the Hotel Expert, an experienced travel blogger who passionate about traveling. I'm here to share with you all my travel experiences and tips. I cover a wide range of travel topics, specializing in sharing information about the best areas, neighborhoods, and hotels in each city. I hope all these things will make your travel easier.

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