Best Area To Stay In Seoul For First Time Visitors

Seoul is an exciting, vibrant city with many great areas to stay for first time visitors. With its bustling city centers, charming neighborhoods, and mountainous parks there are accommodations suitable for all interests and budgets.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The best areas to stay in Seoul for first time visitors are Myeongdong, Hongdae, or Insadong. These central districts put you close to top attractions like Gyeongbokgung Palace and the lively shopping and nightlife.

In this comprehensive guide we’ll cover everything you need to pick the ideal Seoul neighborhood for your first visit.

Most Popular Central Areas


When it comes to the best area to stay in Seoul for first-time visitors, Myeongdong is often at the top of the list. Located in the heart of Seoul, this bustling neighborhood is known for its vibrant atmosphere, shopping streets, and delicious street food.

Whether you’re a shopaholic looking for the latest fashion trends or a foodie in search of mouthwatering Korean delicacies, Myeongdong has it all. From international brands to local boutiques, this area caters to every shopper’s needs.

Don’t forget to try some of the famous street food such as tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) and hotteok (sweet pancakes) while exploring the colorful streets of Myeongdong.


Another popular area for first-time visitors is Hongdae, known for its youthful and energetic vibe. Home to Hongik University, this area is a hub for artists, musicians, and indie culture. Hongdae is famous for its vibrant nightlife, live music performances, and trendy clubs.

During the day, you can explore the unique art galleries, quirky shops, and street performances that line the streets. If you’re a fan of Korean pop culture, make sure to visit the K-Star Road, where you can find colorful murals and statues of famous K-pop idols.

With its lively atmosphere and diverse entertainment options, Hongdae is a must-visit for anyone looking for a memorable experience in Seoul.


If you’re interested in experiencing traditional Korean culture, Insadong is the ideal area to stay. Located in the heart of Seoul, this neighborhood is known for its traditional teahouses, antique shops, and art galleries.

Take a stroll along the charming streets of Insadong, lined with hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) stores and souvenir shops, and immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of Korea. Don’t miss out on the chance to visit Ssamziegil, a unique shopping complex known for its artisan shops and handmade crafts.

Whether you’re looking to buy traditional Korean souvenirs or simply enjoy a cup of traditional tea, Insadong offers a tranquil and culturally rich experience for first-time visitors.

Historic Districts

When visiting Seoul for the first time, exploring the city’s historic districts is a must. These areas are not only rich in history but also offer a glimpse into the traditional Korean way of life. Two of the best historic districts to consider are Bukchon Hanok Village and Itaewon.

Bukchon Hanok Village

Bukchon Hanok Village is a charming neighborhood located between Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace. This area is known for its well-preserved traditional Korean houses, known as hanoks. Walking through the narrow alleyways of Bukchon Hanok Village feels like stepping back in time, with its traditional architecture and peaceful atmosphere.

Visitors can explore the hanoks, some of which have been converted into museums, galleries, and guesthouses. It’s a great place to learn about Korean culture and history while enjoying the beautiful scenery.


If you’re looking for a more vibrant and cosmopolitan atmosphere, Itaewon is the place to be. This neighborhood is known for its international flair, diverse food options, and bustling nightlife. Itaewon is particularly popular among expats and tourists who are looking for a taste of home, as it offers a wide range of international cuisines and shops.

The area is also home to the famous Itaewon Antique Furniture Street, where visitors can find unique and vintage furniture pieces. Whether you’re looking for a trendy café, a lively bar, or a stylish boutique, Itaewon has something for everyone.

Both Bukchon Hanok Village and Itaewon offer unique experiences for first-time visitors to Seoul. Whether you’re interested in immersing yourself in Korean history or exploring the multicultural side of the city, these historic districts have something to offer.

So don’t miss the chance to visit these fascinating areas and create unforgettable memories in Seoul.

Less Touristy Neighborhoods

While popular tourist areas in Seoul, such as Myeongdong and Gangnam, offer a bustling atmosphere and numerous attractions, sometimes it’s nice to escape the crowds and experience a more authentic side of the city.

For first-time visitors who prefer a more local and less touristy experience, there are several neighborhoods in Seoul worth exploring.


Located in the Mapo district, Yeonnam-dong has gained popularity in recent years for its trendy cafes, charming streets, and vibrant arts scene. This neighborhood is known for its unique blend of old and new, with traditional Korean houses juxtaposed against modern galleries and boutiques.

Visitors can stroll along the tree-lined streets, take in the street art, and enjoy a cup of coffee at one of the many cozy cafes. With its laid-back atmosphere and creative vibe, Yeonnam-dong is a great place to escape the tourist crowds and immerse yourself in local culture.


If you’re a fan of industrial-chic aesthetics and hipster vibes, Seongsu-dong is the neighborhood for you. This area, located in the Seongdong district, was once an industrial hub but has transformed into a trendy hotspot filled with art galleries, craft breweries, and stylish cafes.

Seongsu-dong is also known for its thriving fashion scene, with many local designers and boutique shops calling this neighborhood home. Take a leisurely stroll along the Han River, explore the unique shops and galleries, and don’t forget to pose for a photo in front of the iconic Seongsu Bridge.

Seongsu-dong offers a refreshing alternative to the usual tourist destinations in Seoul.


Euljiro, located in the Jung-gu district, is a neighborhood that seamlessly blends history and innovation. This area is famous for its traditional market, Euljiro Jungang Market, where you can experience the sights, sounds, and smells of a traditional Korean market.

Euljiro is also known as the birthplace of Korea’s industrial revolution, with many small businesses and factories still operating in the area. Visitors can explore the narrow alleyways, indulge in street food, and visit historical landmarks such as the Dongdaemun Gate.

Euljiro provides a glimpse into Seoul’s past while also showcasing its modern spirit.

When planning your trip to Seoul, don’t overlook these less touristy neighborhoods. They offer a chance to experience a different side of the city, interact with locals, and discover hidden gems that may not be on the typical tourist itinerary.

So, step off the beaten path and explore Yeonnam-dong, Seongsu-dong, and Euljiro for a truly unique and memorable Seoul experience.

Quieter Residential Areas


For first-time visitors looking for a quieter area to stay in Seoul, Hannam-dong is an excellent choice. Located in the central part of the city, this upscale neighborhood offers a peaceful and serene atmosphere away from the bustling city center.

With its tree-lined streets, charming cafes, and beautiful parks, Hannam-dong provides a perfect escape from the hectic pace of urban life. Visitors can enjoy leisurely walks along the Han River and take in the stunning views of the city skyline.


If tranquility is what you’re after, Seocho-dong is another residential area worth considering. Situated in the southern part of Seoul, this neighborhood boasts a laid-back vibe and a strong sense of community. Its leafy streets are lined with low-rise buildings, providing a more suburban feel.

Seocho-dong is also home to several parks and green spaces, offering residents and visitors plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities and relaxation. The area is well-connected to the city center, making it convenient for exploring other parts of Seoul.


While Gangnam may be known for its vibrant nightlife and bustling shopping districts, it also offers quieter residential areas that are ideal for first-time visitors seeking a more peaceful stay. Despite its reputation as a trendy and bustling district, Gangnam has pockets of tranquility, especially in neighborhoods like Apgujeong-dong and Cheongdam-dong.

These areas are known for their upscale residential buildings, tree-lined streets, and luxurious amenities. Visitors can enjoy a mix of relaxation and entertainment, with serene parks and gardens just a stone’s throw away from trendy boutiques and high-end restaurants.

When looking for a quieter residential area to stay in Seoul, it’s important to consider factors such as proximity to amenities, accessibility to public transportation, and overall atmosphere. Hannam-dong, Seocho-dong, and certain parts of Gangnam offer the perfect balance of tranquility and convenience, ensuring a pleasant stay for first-time visitors.

Lodging Recommendations by Area


If you’re a budget-conscious traveler or looking to meet fellow adventurers, staying at a hostel is a fantastic option. Seoul has a wide range of hostels available, offering affordable and comfortable accommodations. Some popular hostel areas include Hongdae, Itaewon, and Myeongdong.

These areas are not only conveniently located near popular tourist attractions and transportation hubs but also offer a vibrant nightlife scene with plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops.

One highly recommended hostel in Seoul is Kimchee Guesthouse. With multiple locations throughout the city, Kimchee Guesthouse provides clean and cozy rooms, friendly staff, and a variety of amenities such as free Wi-Fi, communal kitchens, and common areas to socialize with other travelers.

Budget Hotels

If you prefer a bit more privacy and comfort without breaking the bank, there are numerous budget hotels in Seoul that offer great value for money. These hotels often provide basic amenities such as private rooms, en-suite bathrooms, and complimentary breakfast.

Areas like Gangnam, Jongno, and Dongdaemun are known for their abundance of budget-friendly accommodations.

One popular budget hotel in Seoul is Ibis Ambassador Seoul Insadong. Located in the heart of Insadong, this hotel offers stylish rooms, a 24-hour front desk, and easy access to popular attractions such as Gyeongbokgung Palace and Bukchon Hanok Village.

Mid-Range Hotels

If you’re willing to spend a bit more for added comfort and amenities, Seoul has a wide range of mid-range hotels to choose from. These hotels often offer spacious rooms, fitness centers, on-site restaurants, and sometimes even rooftop bars with stunning city views.

Areas like Gangnam, Myeongdong, and Jongno are home to many mid-range hotels.

One highly rated mid-range hotel in Seoul is JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul. Situated in the vibrant Dongdaemun neighborhood, this hotel offers luxurious rooms, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a rooftop pool, and multiple dining options.

It’s also conveniently located near shopping areas like Dongdaemun Market and Doota Mall.

Luxury Hotels

For those seeking the ultimate in luxury and indulgence, Seoul boasts a variety of high-end hotels that cater to every need. These hotels offer exquisite rooms, world-class spas, fine dining restaurants, and impeccable service.

Areas like Gangnam, Myeongdong, and Yongsan are known for their upscale accommodations.

If you’re looking for a truly luxurious experience, look no further than Lotte Hotel Seoul. As one of the most prestigious hotels in the city, Lotte Hotel Seoul offers opulent rooms, a renowned spa, multiple Michelin-starred restaurants, and breathtaking views of the city skyline.

It’s also conveniently connected to the Lotte Department Store, offering endless shopping opportunities.


We hope this guide gives you a great overview of the prime areas to stay on your first Seoul vacation. With world-famous Korean hospitality, convenient transportation, and accommodation options galore, you’re sure to feel welcomed.

Wherever you decide to base yourself in this amazing capital, it will be an unforgettable trip discovering Korean culture, centuries-old traditions, technological marvels, scenic landscapes, and mouthwatering cuisine.

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