Try to imagine this. You have done all your research by reading the reviews on hotels or guesthouses and finally found some place to stay that fits into your budget, needs and requirements but when you arrived there, you found out that the hotel or guesthouse is far from the places you want to go. In order not to ruin your trip in Seoul, here are a few areas or places to stay in Seoul along with what each area has to offer.
Myeongdong is one of the most popular neighbourhood areas in Seoul. This is area is well-known to shop for both couture items or bargain items and the shops are opened 24 hours a day 7 days a week. The area is also touted as the shopping heaven for cosmetics and skincare products because there are plenty of branded cosmetic and skincare shops around. If you are planning to go Seoul for a shopping spree, this is an ideal place for you to stay in. Some of the accommodations in this area are the upscale Westin Chosun (starts from USD 206 per room night) and Wons Ville Myeongdong (starts from USD 41 per room night). You can also try out the Ibis Ambassador Myeongdong (starts from USD 104 per room night) if you are looking for something in the middle between upmarket and budget. These hotels and guesthouses are very near to Myeongdong main shopping street, palaces, Namdaemun market and the Seoul Tower.
Insadong is an area that offers visitors a taste of Korean traditional art and food. The pace in this area is said to be calmer than the hustling and bustling found in Myeongdong. This is an area where you can find memorable attractions that represent the focal point of Korean traditional crafts and culture. The shops found in this area specialize in a wide variety of products that are only appreciated and can only be found in Korea. Examples of these items are hanbok (Korean traditional clothing), hanji (traditional paper), folk crafts, traditional pottery and teas. It is said that approximately 40% of Korean crafts and bought and sold in Insadong and some of these crafts can even be traced back to as old as the Three Kingdoms Period. The area is also an ideal place to shop for souvenirs, to eat Korean feasts, to explore the twisting alleys, to go for Hanbok photo shoot, to try out street food and to hang out at Ssamzigil. Those people that appreciate arts will enjoy viewing the galleries and looking at local folk crafts. You can also try out fancy teas in traditionally tea shops. Some of the places to stay in Insadong are Fraser Suites Insadong (starts from USD 224 per room night), Hotel Sseonbi (starts from USD 83 per room night) and K-Guesthouse Insadong (starts from USD 48 per room night). These hotels and guesthouses are nearby to places of interest such as the Changgyeonggung Palace and Cheonggye Stream.
Itaewon is known to be the Global Community in Seoul with Global Food and Fashion. In this area, you can meet people of diverse cultures and nationalities. The Korean government even designated Itaewon to be the first Special Tourism District for international travellers to enjoy a diversity of shopping, culture and entertainment. The area is located in the middle of Yongsan-gu and near an American military base. After the Korean War, American soldiers remained in the Yongsan Garrison. As a result of this, several businesses and housing buildings were developed in Yongsan. Fashion shops in Itaewon specialize in selling imported fashion brands, leather goods, handbags, shoes, fur and antique furniture. One of the attractive points that drew visitors to this area is the diverse food culture. This is a popular place to look and explore your taste buds with international cuisines from New York, Mexico, Australia, Thailand, China, India, Pakistan, Greece, Italy, France, London and many other countries. Unique flavours, exotic interiors and diverse nationalities await you here. Itaewon is just a walking distance to the Han River, National Museum of Korea and Nam Mountain. Some of the places to stay in this area are the Grand Hyatt Seoul (starts from USD 173 per room night), Hamilton Hotel Itaewon (starts from USD 102 per room night) and G Itaewon Guest House (starts from USD 14 per night).
Gangnam stands for south of the river and it generally refers to South of the Han River. Decades ago, there was nothing much that this area can offer besides having rice fields and an odd temple. Gangnam only saw much of its development during the 1988 Olympics. Ever since then, this area has been associated with expensive real estate, upmarket shopping and partying. Today, Gangnam is a prime district with expensive house prices and it has also been compared to other cities such as Beverly Hills, California. Many people also tend to gather at the Gangnam subway station because it is commercially and geographically a suitable location as a meeting point for social gatherings, personal engagements and events. The lyrics and music video of Gangnam Style, the contagious Korean pop song by South Korean rapper Psy that went viral on YouTube and has amassed 2.6 billion views as of today was also referred to this area and shot here. Places of interest in Gangnam includes the Samsung D’light, COEX Mall, Lotte World theme park and Olympic Park. Psy can also be seen dancing on top of the ASEM Tower with the Trade Tower featured in the background in the music video. These two towers are part of World Trade Center Seoul and also known as COEX. Some of the places to stay in Gangnam are the high-end luxury hotel Ritz-Carlton Seoul (starts from USD 206 per room night), O Cloud (starts from USD 194 per room night) and Chloe Guest House (starts from USD 40 per room night). There are a lot of restaurants, cafes, clubs, bars, shop and other entertainment outlets located just a few feet away from these hotels and guesthouses.
I hope the information on each area in Seoul above are sufficient enough for you to decide on the area you would like to stay in when you are in Seoul. Ultimately, every area offers different things and experiences so it is up to you to decide what you are planning to achieve out of your trip.