Seoul is an amazing city with over 20 neighborhoods that have their own unique charm. The city is divided by the Han River; 14 neighborhoods are to the north of the river and about 11 are to the south. Neighborhoods are called “du” and districts within a neighborhood are called “dong.” Here are some of our favorite areas of Seoul, which will hopefully give you some fun suggestions and places to explore.
Honda (Hongik University) is a trendy neighborhood located off of the Seoul Subway’s Green Line. (This line goes in a circle, so make sure you pay attention to which way the train is going.) This part of the city is frequented by students and is a very popular nightlife spot. You can also find inexpensive clothing stores and cool cafes. If you are looking for fun noraebangs (where you can play video games, etc. in small rooms), this is the first neighborhood to hit. Be sure to check out PC Bangs and Game Bangs while you’re there.
Jongno has many of Seoul’s most popular landmarks including Gwanghwamun Plaza, Gyeongbok Palace, Changdeok Palace and Cheonggyecheon Stream. In fact, it’s where Insadong (detailed below) is located. This neighborhood has everything from businesses to shopping to traditional Korean temples and palaces. One of our favorite markets to grab a bite to eat is the Gwangjang Market. You should also check out the district of Samcheong-Dong to see unique and traditional Korean homes and cool art galleries.
Insadong is on the Anguk stop on Line 3 and has a much more traditional feel than other parts of the city. You can find long-established shops here and even places that will let you try on Hanbok, the traditional Korean dress. Although one particular street is the main focus, there are many great shops, tea houses and restaurants down the laneways that are worth a walk through on a nice day. Insadong is also not a far walk to the Bukchon Hanok Village, which has a great view of the city!
In Myeong-dong you can find any and every type of Korean beauty product. It’s also an amazing place for souvenir shopping. Although the same shops will appear frequently in this area, each one has different deals and discounts so it pays to shop around a bit. You will also find that the saleswomen are very helpful and might even give you some bonuses if you talk with them for a while.
Gangnam was made famous by Psy’s hit song, “Gangnam Style.” Gangnam literally means “south of the river” and is made up of a couple of neighborhoods. It has high-end shopping and is the main place to go for plastic surgery in Seoul (there are ads everywhere). Although the area is known for being expensive, it is really cool to walk around and explore on your own. There are not as many traditional buildings in this part of the city, but just one neighborhood over is the Seoul Olympic Park from the 1988 Olympics.
Of course there’s plenty more to explore throughout Seoul, but these five neighborhoods will give you some good starting points!