South Korea isn’t at the top of many traveler’s bucket lists. However, in recent years, K-pop and Korean food have firmly put the South Korean capital on everyone’s radar. Seoul is a safe city, which makes it a great destination for families and solo travelers. There is something for everyone, with ski resorts, beaches, and cities to explore.
If you are looking for traditional Korean culture and food, Insa-dong is one of the oldest neighborhoods, rich in traditional culture, food, and buildings, it is the center of traditional Korean art.
In this area, there are loads of shops selling traditional items such as paper, hanbok outfits, and pens, perfect for taking home as gifts. It is closed to cars on weekends when the main street stalls and booths. You can buy traditional Korean candy and gifts and even have your fortune told!
If you plan on visiting any of the city’s palaces, this is the best location to stay as it is in the center.
Seoul’s shopping attracts millions of tourists every month, and if this is your reason for visiting you should consider staying in Myeong-dong. Here you will find a great selection of shops and boutiques, mostly targeting a youthful crowd, which makes the area particularly popular with Korean and Japanese students. If you love Korean beauty and skincare, you will find most of the major Korean beauty brands have flagship stores here.
Another great reason to stay in Myeong-dong is the food. The main shopping area is closed to cars. and instead, the streets are lined with street food stalls selling both traditional Korean snacks and some weird and wonderful things to try.
As it is such a popular area it isn’t surprising that Myeong-dong can get pretty busy during peak times. It is estimated that up to 2 million people visit here every day. So if you are looking for somewhere tranquil to stay, it is worth steering clear of staying here.
Gangnam translates as ’south of the river’, and it really feels a world away from the traditional Korean buildings in Insadong. Here, skyscrapers loom above displays of glittering neon signs. Most of the shops and nightlife can be found around Gangnam Subway Station, particularly exits 10 and 11.
Seoul has some great nightlife and this is where you will find some of Seoul’s most famous nightclubs and bars. One of the best bits of Gangnam is the side streets. There are also lots of bars and pubs to explore on either side of the main street, as well as restaurants serving Korean and international food and shops.
Gangnam is known as being one of the wealthiest parts of Seoul, so it is harder to find budget-friendly options. If you like staying in a posh hotel, there are lots around here.
Not everyone is looking for traditional culture when they go on holiday. For some, it is all about vibrant nightlife and a chance to party with people from around the world in famous clubs and bars.
Until recently, Itaewon was home to the US military base, Yongsan Garrison. With a concentration of US army personnel stationed here, Itaewon has continued to be popular with tourists and Seoul’s enormous ex-pat community. Although the US base was relocated to the south of Seoul in 2018, there has remained a great cultural mix in Itaewon.
Today, there are 20000 foreigners living in Itaewon. World Food Street has 40 restaurants owned by ex-pats, so a great place to stay if you like exploring international food. The side streets are packed with bars, clubs, and pubs, as well as an array of restaurants selling everything from Ethiopian food to American smokehouse.
Sinsa and Apujeong
Sinsa is one of the less well-known areas of Seoul among tourists, this is one of the quieter places to stay (although still pretty busy!) Technically, Sinsa is in the Gangnam but it has a very different vibe to the Gangnam Station area. It has a slightly more refined, upmarket feel.
The main street is Garous-gil. This tree-lined street has lots of K-Beauty brands and shops to explore. If you venture onto the side streets on either side, you will find a good selection of cute, stylish coffee shops and trendy restaurants. Although there are places serving local Korean food, it is less prevalent here than in other neighborhoods.
A short walk from Sinsa station is Apujeong Rodeo, one of the most affluent areas of Seoul. Here is where you will find most of the international designer brands, such as Dior, Chanel, and Prada. The Galleria department store is also here.
Seoul is a great place to visit with a family. The city is home to a number of superb attractions for young and older children. Jamsil is a modern district in the southeast of the city by the river. It was the site of the 1988 Olympic Games. This is where you will find the Jamsil Basketball Stadium and Lotte World Theme Park.
Seoul is a great destination to visit, whatever your travel criteria. With beautiful palaces, vibrant shopping districts, traditional buildings, and delicious food, it should be at the top of anyone’s list. There a several neighbourhoods to stay in, with each offering something perfect to suit your needs.
I hope that this travel guide has provided you with an insight into what Seoul, South Korea, has to offer – from modern skyscrapers to palaces and street markets, ensure this destination is on your travel bucket list!