In this article, I will help you to find Where to stay in South Korea for tourists, the best areas to stay in South Korea for first-time visitors, as well as the list of the best hotels in South Korea for all budget travelers.
South Korea, officially known as the Republic of Korea, is a country located on the Korean Peninsula in East Asia. It shares its northern border with North Korea and is bordered by China to the northwest and Japan to the east.
The Korean Peninsula has a long and complex history. South Korea emerged as a separate entity from North Korea following the end of World War II and the division of Korea along the 38th parallel in 1945. The Korean War (1950-1953) further solidified the division between North and South Korea.
South Korea is a popular tourist destination, offering a mix of modern cities, historical sites, natural beauty, and cultural experiences. Popular tourist attractions include the ancient city of Gyeongju, the bustling streets of Seoul, and the scenic landscapes of Jeju Island.
Seoul is the capital and largest city of South Korea. It is a major cultural, economic, and political center in the country.
Korean cuisine is known for its spicy flavors and unique dishes like kimchi (fermented vegetables), bulgogi (marinated beef), and bibimbap (a mixed rice dish). Korean barbecue is also a popular dining experience.
Where to stay in South Korea first time?
The best areas to stay in South Korea for first-timers are Seoul, Jeju island, and Busan because they are the most popular tourist destinations for both international and domestic travelers. Other places worth noting are Incheon, Gyeongju, Andong, Gwangju, and Daegu.
Seoul is a popular starting point due to its central location and diverse offerings, but the other cities offer their own unique experiences and attractions worth exploring.
When choosing where to stay in South Korea, consider factors such as your itinerary, budget, and the type of experience you want. Additionally, booking accommodations in advance is advisable, especially during peak tourist seasons, to secure the best options.
Overviews of best places to stay in South Korea for tourists
Here is an overview of recommended places in South Korea for first-time visitors:
|Best places in South Korea for tourists||Why should you stay in this area?|
|Seoul||The capital city of South Korea, Seoul, is a bustling metropolis with a diverse range of accommodations including luxury hotels, boutique guesthouses, budget hostels, and traditional hanok stays. Popular neighborhoods to stay in Seoul include Myeongdong, Hongdae, Insadong, Gangnam, and Itaewon.|
|Jeju island||If you’re looking for a more relaxed, island getaway, Jeju Island is a great choice. There are various resorts, guesthouses, and unique accommodations like cave hotels.|
|Busan||South Korea’s second-largest city, Busan, is known for its beautiful beaches and vibrant atmosphere. Haeundae Beach and Gwangalli Beach areas are popular places to stay, offering a mix of hotels and guesthouses.|
|Incheon||Located just west of Seoul, Incheon is a major transportation hub with its international airport. It’s also known for its Chinatown and scenic coastal areas. Incheon is a convenient choice for travelers looking for easy access to Seoul and exploring its own unique attractions.|
|Gyeongju||Often referred to as the “Museum Without Walls,” Gyeongju is a city rich in history and culture. It was the capital of the ancient Silla Kingdom and is home to numerous historical sites and artifacts. Gyeongju is a must-visit for history enthusiasts.|
|Andong||Andong is known for its traditional Korean culture, particularly the Hahoe Folk Village, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a great place to experience Korean traditions, including hanbok, traditional food, and Confucian heritage.|
|Gwangju||Gwangju is known for its vibrant arts and culture scene. It’s often considered the cultural heart of South Korea, with numerous museums, galleries, and festivals. If you’re interested in the arts and want a taste of South Korean contemporary culture, Gwangju is a good choice.|
|Daegu||Daegu is a major city with a rich history and is known for its textile industry. It has a mix of historical sites and modern amenities, making it a convenient base for exploring the surrounding areas.|
8 Best places to stay in South Korea for first-timers are:
Seoul is often known as the best place to stay in South Korea for tourists, especially for first-timers. It’s the capital and largest city in South Korea, offering a wide range of attractions, activities, and amenities.
Here are some reasons why Seoul is a popular and fantastic choice:
Cultural Attractions: Seoul is rich in cultural heritage and offers numerous historical sites such as Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace, and Bukchon Hanok Village. You can also experience traditional Korean performances, like the changing of the guard ceremony.
Modern Entertainment: The city boasts a vibrant modern culture, with entertainment options like K-pop concerts, cutting-edge technology exhibitions, and trendy shopping districts like Myeongdong and Dongdaemun Design Plaza.
Diverse Dining: Seoul is a food lover’s paradise. You can savor a wide variety of Korean dishes, from street food stalls to Michelin-starred restaurants. Don’t forget to try the famous Korean barbecue and bibimbap.
Nightlife: Seoul’s nightlife is bustling, with numerous bars, clubs, and entertainment venues. Areas like Hongdae and Itaewon are known for their nightlife scene.
Shopping: The city offers some of the best shopping experiences in Asia, with options ranging from luxury boutiques in Gangnam to traditional markets like Namdaemun and Gwangjang.
Convenience: Seoul has an efficient public transportation system, including subways, buses, and taxis, making it easy to explore the city and its surrounding areas.
International Connectivity: Incheon International Airport, one of the world’s best airports, serves as a gateway to Seoul and the rest of South Korea.
Natural Beauty: Despite being a bustling metropolis, Seoul is surrounded by mountains and parks, providing opportunities for hiking and outdoor activities. Bukhansan National Park is a popular destination for nature enthusiasts.
Safety: South Korea, in general, is considered one of the safest countries in the world, and Seoul is no exception, making it a comfortable destination for travelers.
Whether you’re interested in history, pop culture, shopping, or just experiencing the unique blend of tradition and modernity that Seoul offers, you’re sure to have a memorable stay in this dynamic city.
Best places to stay in South Korea in Seoul:BEST HOTELS IN SEOUL
You can view more about Seoul in this article:
2. Jeju island
Jeju Island, often referred to as the “Island of Gods,” is a popular tourist destination in South Korea known for its natural beauty, unique culture, and outdoor activities.
Here are some reasons why Jeju Island is a fantastic place to visit and stay:
Scenic Beauty: Jeju is renowned for its stunning landscapes, including volcanic craters, lush forests, dramatic cliffs, and beautiful beaches. Hallasan, South Korea’s highest peak, is at the center of the island and offers excellent hiking opportunities.
Beaches: The island boasts several picturesque beaches, such as Hyeopjae Beach, Jungmun Beach, and Sehwa Beach. You can relax on the sandy shores, swim, or enjoy water sports like windsurfing and scuba diving.
Unique Rock Formations: Jeju is home to fascinating natural formations, including the Jusangjeolli Cliffs, Manjanggul Cave (one of the world’s longest lava tubes), and the iconic Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Cultural Heritage: Jeju Island has a unique cultural heritage with its own dialect, cuisine, and traditions. You can explore folk villages like Seongeup and experience local customs, such as traditional dance performances and haenyeo (female divers) demonstrations.
Jeju Olle Trails: These well-marked hiking trails allow you to explore the island’s coastlines, villages, and natural beauty on foot. They offer a great way to immerse yourself in Jeju’s culture and landscapes.
Jeju Stone Parks: Visit parks like Loveland (an adult-themed sculpture park) and the Stone Culture Park to see interesting stone sculptures and learn about the island’s stone culture.
Jeju’s Unique Cuisine: Try local dishes like black pork barbecue (heuk dwaeji), abalone porridge, and Jeju tangerines. The island’s cuisine is known for its fresh seafood and unique flavors.
Laid-Back Atmosphere: Compared to mainland cities like Seoul, Jeju Island offers a more relaxed pace of life, making it an ideal place for a peaceful and rejuvenating vacation.
Jeju Folklore and History Museums: Explore museums that showcase the island’s history, folklore, and art, providing insights into Jeju’s cultural heritage.
Island-Hopping: From Jeju, you can also take ferry rides to explore nearby smaller islands like Udo and Marado, each with its own charm.
Jeju Island is a great destination for nature enthusiasts, adventure seekers, and those looking to unwind in a tranquil setting. Whether you want to explore its natural wonders, experience its unique culture, or simply relax on the beach, Jeju Island offers a wide range of activities and experiences for all types of travelers.
Best places to stay in South Korea in Jeju island:BEST HOTELS IN JEJU ISLAND
You can view more about Jeju island in this article: Where to stay in Jeju
Busan is South Korea’s second-largest city and a lively coastal metropolis known for its beautiful beaches, bustling markets, rich cultural scene, and delicious seafood.
Here are some reasons why Busan is a fantastic place to visit and stay:
Stunning Beaches: Busan is famous for its pristine beaches, including Haeundae Beach, Gwangalli Beach, and Songdo Beach. These beaches offer opportunities for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports.
Cultural Attractions: Busan has a mix of modern and traditional cultural sites. Be sure to visit the historic Beomeosa Temple, Gamcheon Culture Village (a colorful hillside village known as the “Machu Picchu of Korea”), and the Busan Museum of Art.
Seafood Markets: The city is renowned for its seafood, and you can savor the freshest catches at markets like Jagalchi Fish Market. Try raw fish (hoe) or spicy seafood stew (haemul jjim) for an authentic Busan culinary experience.
Hiking and Nature: Busan offers various hiking trails and parks, including Geumjeongsan Mountain and Taejongdae Park. These natural areas provide opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, and taking in breathtaking coastal views.
Cultural Festivals: Busan hosts numerous cultural festivals throughout the year, including the Busan International Film Festival, which is one of the most prestigious film festivals in Asia.
Busan Aquarium: Located near Haeundae Beach, the Busan Aquarium is home to a diverse range of marine life and provides an educational and entertaining experience for visitors of all ages.
Shopping: The city has a wide range of shopping options, from traditional markets like Nampo-dong to modern shopping complexes like Shinsegae Centum City, one of the largest department stores in the world.
Spas and Hot Springs: Busan is known for its jjimjilbangs, which are Korean bathhouses offering various saunas, relaxation areas, and spa treatments. It’s a great way to unwind after a day of sightseeing.
Cruise Terminal: Busan is a major port city with a bustling international cruise terminal. If you’re arriving by cruise ship, you can easily explore the city’s attractions.
Gambling and Entertainment: Busan has several casinos and entertainment complexes, including the Busan Cinema Center and Paradise Casino.
With its mix of cultural experiences, outdoor activities, stunning coastal views, and a rich culinary scene, Busan offers a diverse range of attractions for travelers of all interests. Whether you’re looking for relaxation on the beach or a bustling urban adventure, Busan has something to offer.
Best places to stay in South Korea in Busan:
- Luxury ($$$): Park Hyatt Busan
- Mid-range ($$): ASTI Hotel Busan Station
- Budget ($): Toyoko Inn Busan Station No.1
You can view more about Busan in this article: Where to stay in Busan
Incheon is a vibrant and dynamic city in South Korea, located just west of Seoul. It’s known for its modernity, international connections, and cultural attractions.
Here are some reasons why Incheon is a great place to visit and stay:
Incheon International Airport: Incheon is home to one of the world’s busiest and most well-regarded airports, Incheon International Airport. It serves as the primary gateway to South Korea, making it a convenient place to start or end your journey.
Chinatown: Incheon boasts a lively Chinatown with colorful buildings, traditional Chinese architecture, and a variety of Chinese restaurants and shops. It’s a great place to explore and enjoy Chinese cuisine.
Historical Sites: Incheon has several historical sites, including Jayu Park, which commemorates Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule. The park offers a peaceful setting and scenic views of the city.
Cultural Attractions: Incheon has the Incheon Art Platform and Incheon City Museum, where you can learn about the city’s history and contemporary art scene.
Beautiful Islands: Incheon is surrounded by numerous islands, including Wolmido and Muuido, which are easily accessible by ferry. These islands offer beaches, hiking trails, and a glimpse into rural Korean life.
Korean War Memorial: The Incheon Landing Operation Memorial Hall is a tribute to the United Nations forces that participated in the Korean War. It features exhibitions and outdoor displays related to the war.
Songdo International Business District: Songdo, a district within Incheon, is a futuristic smart city known for its innovative urban planning and sustainable design. You can explore Central Park, visit the Songdo Convensia Convention Center, and enjoy the city’s modern architecture.
Songdo Triple Street: This shopping and entertainment complex in Songdo offers a variety of restaurants, shops, and entertainment options, making it a popular destination for both locals and tourists.
Food: Be sure to try local dishes like jjajangmyeon (black bean noodles) and seafood dishes featuring the region’s fresh catches.
Incheon’s proximity to Seoul and its international connections make it a convenient place to visit or stay, especially for travelers arriving by air. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, modernity, or exploring nearby islands, Incheon has something to offer for every type of traveler.
Best places to stay in South Korea in Incheon:
- Luxury ($$$): Sheraton Grand Incheon Hotel
- Mid-range ($$): Holiday Inn Incheon Songdo, an IHG Hotel
- Budget ($): Harbor Park Hotel
Gyeongju is a historically and culturally rich city located in the southeastern part of South Korea. Often referred to as the “Museum Without Walls,” Gyeongju is known for its extensive collection of historical sites and artifacts from the ancient Silla Kingdom.
Here are some reasons why Gyeongju is a fantastic place to visit and stay:
Historical Sites: Gyeongju is home to UNESCO World Heritage Sites Bulguksa Temple, Seokguram Grotto, and the historic areas of Gyeongju. These sites showcase the rich history and architecture of the Silla Dynasty, which ruled the Korean Peninsula for nearly a millennium.
Tumuli Park: Explore the royal tombs of the Silla Dynasty in Tumuli Park. These grassy mounds contain the remains of Silla kings and nobles and offer a glimpse into the ancient culture of the region.
Cheomseongdae Observatory: Visit one of the oldest observatories in East Asia, dating back to the 7th century. It’s an important historical site and offers insight into the Silla Kingdom’s astronomical achievements.
Anapji Pond: This beautiful artificial pond was once part of a palace complex. It’s a tranquil place to take a leisurely stroll and enjoy the surrounding historical structures.
Gyeongju National Museum: Learn about the history and culture of the Silla Dynasty through an impressive collection of artifacts, including pottery, jewelry, and sculptures.
Namsan Mountain: Go hiking on Namsan Mountain, where you can find numerous Buddhist relics, carvings, and temples nestled in the serene natural surroundings.
Traditional Culture: Experience traditional Korean culture through activities like hanbok rental, traditional tea ceremonies, and cultural performances.
Gyeongju is a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts, cultural explorers, and anyone interested in South Korea’s ancient heritage. The city’s beautiful landscapes and historical treasures make it a unique and captivating place to stay and explore.
Best places to stay in South Korea in Gyeongju:
- Luxury ($$$): Lahan Select Gyeongju
- Mid-range ($$): Gyeongju Momojein Guesthouse
- Budget ($): Yettle Hanok Stay
Andong is a city located in the northeastern part of South Korea, known for its rich cultural heritage, traditional Korean architecture, and the preservation of ancient traditions.
Here are some reasons why Andong is a great place to visit and stay:
Hahoe Folk Village: Hahoe is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed traditional Korean village that has preserved its unique way of life and architecture for centuries. You can explore traditional hanok houses, experience Confucian culture, and watch mask dance performances.
Mask Dance Festival: Andong is famous for its annual Mask Dance Festival, which celebrates traditional Korean mask dances. During this festival, you can watch various mask performances and even participate in mask-making workshops.
Andong Soju: Andong is renowned for its traditional Korean liquor called Andong soju. You can visit local distilleries to learn about the production process and sample this iconic drink.
Andong Folk Museum: This museum showcases the history and culture of Andong, including traditional crafts, agricultural practices, and daily life in the region.
Dosan Seowon Confucian Academy: Dosan Seowon is a Confucian academy and shrine dedicated to the scholar Yi Hwang, who was a prominent Confucian philosopher during the Joseon Dynasty. The academy offers insights into Confucianism and the historical educational system of Korea.
Andong Kim Family’s House: Visit the Andong Kim Family’s House, a well-preserved traditional Korean noble’s residence that provides a glimpse into the lifestyle of the Joseon Dynasty’s elite class.
Hanji Paper: Andong is known for its production of hanji, traditional Korean handmade paper. You can visit hanji workshops to see the paper-making process and purchase hanji products.
Cuisine: Andong is famous for its unique cuisine, including Andong jjimdak (spicy chicken stew), Andong soju (rice wine), and Andong sikhye (sweet rice beverage).
Natural Beauty: Andong is surrounded by picturesque landscapes, including the Nakdong River and nearby mountain ranges. There are opportunities for hiking, river activities, and enjoying the serene countryside.
Andong offers a rich cultural experience with a focus on traditional Korean heritage, making it an excellent destination for those interested in history, culture, and authentic Korean traditions.
The combination of preserved historical sites, annual festivals, and the warm hospitality of the locals makes Andong a memorable place to stay and explore.
Best places to stay in South Korea in Andong :
- Budget ($): Andong Poong-gyung HOSTEL n LIBRARY
- Budget ($): Wolyoungchae
- Budget ($): Haru The Guesthouse
Gwangju is a vibrant city located in the southwestern region of South Korea. It’s known for its rich cultural scene, historical significance, and modern urban amenities.
Here are some reasons why Gwangju is a great place to visit and stay:
Cultural Hub: Gwangju is often considered the cultural heart of South Korea. It boasts numerous art galleries, theaters, and cultural venues like the Gwangju Art Museum, Gwangju National Museum, and the Asia Culture Center.
Gwangju Biennale: The city hosts the Gwangju Biennale, one of Asia’s most prestigious contemporary art exhibitions. It showcases innovative and thought-provoking art from around the world.
Democracy Movement: Gwangju played a crucial role in South Korea’s pro-democracy movement in the 1980s. The May 18th National Cemetery and the May 18th Memorial Park commemorate the historical events of the Gwangju Uprising.
Mudeungsan National Park: Located on the outskirts of Gwangju, Mudeungsan National Park offers hiking trails, temples, and stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
Chosun University: Explore the picturesque Chosun University campus, known for its traditional architecture and beautiful gardens.
Gwangju World Cup Stadium: Visit the Gwangju World Cup Stadium, which hosted matches during the 2002 FIFA World Cup. It’s an iconic sports venue and a must-visit for sports enthusiasts.
Historical Sites: Discover historical sites like the Gwangju Folk Museum, Geumnam-ro Street, and the old Gwangju Station area, which offer insights into the city’s history and development.
Nightlife: Gwangju has a lively nightlife scene with numerous bars, clubs, and live music venues in areas like Geumnam-ro and Yangnim-dong.
Natural Beauty: Apart from Mudeungsan National Park, Gwangju is surrounded by picturesque countryside and beautiful landscapes, offering opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking and biking.
Gwangju’s unique blend of modern cultural attractions, historical significance, and natural beauty make it an exciting and diverse destination.
Best places to stay in South Korea in Gwangju:BEST HOTELS IN GWANGJU
Daegu, also known as Taegu, is a major city located in the southeastern part of South Korea. It is one of the country’s largest and most important cities and serves as the capital of North Gyeongsang Province.
Here are some key facts about Daegu:
History: Daegu has a long history dating back to ancient times. It played a significant role during the Korean War and has historical sites and monuments related to that period.
Transport: The city has a well-developed transportation network, including a high-speed rail connection to Seoul (KTX), a domestic airport, and an extensive bus system. It also serves as a transportation hub for travelers heading to other parts of South Korea.
Tourism: Daegu offers tourists a mix of historical sites, cultural attractions, and natural beauty. Some notable places to visit include Daegu Yangnyeongsi Herb Medicine Culture Village, Palgong Mountain, and the Daegu National Museum.
Best places to stay in South Korea in Daegu :BEST HOTELS IN DAEGU
In conclusion, Seoul, Jeju island, Busan, Incheon, Gyeongju, Andong, Gwangju, and Daegu are some of the best places to stay in South Korea for first-timers and tourists. Seoul, Jeju island, and Busan are the most popular tourist destinations in the county, offering plenty of things to do and see for visitors.