One thing I love about vacationing in Seoul is that the interesting sights/landmarks are always pretty much congregated in a few specific areas. This makes travelling so much easier and convenient, and you get to save money on transport too!
That being said, because there are so many areas to tour, it can be difficult to decide where to book your accommodation if you’re travelling free and easy.
Here are some of the best locations to book your accommodation, with suggestions on transportation, things to see, things to eat (my most important deciding factor :P).
This is where the famed universities (Hongik University, Yonsei University, Ewha Womans University, Sogang University) are located at. And what does it mean when you’re on college students’ territory? You get to shop and eat at student prices! Having stayed in Sinchon during my semester exchange in Seoul in 2015, I can confidently say that you will never run out of things to do in this area.
Buy your loots at Ewha Womans University Shopping Street and Hongdae. You can find clothes priced at 5,000 – 20,000 won; it may be cheaper if you meet a nice shop seller and do some aegyo (cue kwiyomi song). As with all budget shopping areas, don’t jump into buying a nice top that you spotted at the first store. Chances are that you’ll find it two stores away, and maybe at a cheaper price. Also, for the fashion-conscious, Style Nanda is located in Hongdae as well.
Food is everywhere – I didn’t manage to visit every restaurant I had on my list because there were simply too many! Feeling hungry for some supper at 10 at night? No problem. Korean restaurants are usually open till midnight or even later, and if you fancy a small bite, just pop by a food stand and get some tteokbokki and odeng.
Travelling to other areas is convenient as well. This area is located on the green line (Line 2), which has various interchanges e.g. at City Hall and Dongdaemun Stadium stations.
Myeongdong is a shopper’s haven/paradise. For the first-time visitors to Seoul, it’d be a very eye-opening experience, hustling and jostling with strangers while walking the streets of Myeongdong. There are so many alleys and turns that you may get lost (just as I did) on your first try. However, bear in mind that it may be off-putting to those who value spatial awareness and would like to avoid huge crowds.
Here, you can find international clothing brands such as H&M, Forever 21 and ZARA (with F21 being my favourite, as it always seemed to have ongoing sales whenever I paid a visit :P), as well as Korean brands like TOPTEN10 and ALAND.
Look left, right, forward, backward, or even close your eyes and walk in any direction and you will be able to find a place to dine at. Of course, as Myeongdong is a tourist attraction, food prices may be steeper than other areas. Nevertheless, don’t let that deter you from trying the famous Myeongdong Gyoja or Yoogane (taste guaranteed by many bloggers out there).
Nearby is Namdaemun Market, where you can find cheap kalguksu and boribap in Kalguksu Alley, as well as traditional pots, pans and utensils (although I’ve heard that they aren’t cheap!).
Take your pick when it comes to subway transportation – Myeongdong Station is located on one end, while Euljiro 1(il)-ga Station is on the other.
3) Seoul Station
For those looking to travel to the outskirts of Seoul (Busan, Jeonju etc.) and are travelling by the KTX trains, booking an accommodation here will be very convenient and time-saving. Most of the trains depart from Seoul Station (with a few from Yongsan Station). Catching the early train out of Seoul will be less challenging!
Lotte Department Store and Lotte Mart are also located at Seoul Station. Many tourists do their last-minute souvenir/Korean snacks shopping at this Lotte Mart branch. The space is so big – there are several levels, with Level 1 being the food section, and other levels selling electronic appliances and clothes. Take note that you probably will not be able to find your Calbee honey butter chips (I’ve found that they make more special appearances at convenience stores instead). Shop over 30,000 won and get a tax refund of 1,500 won!
Located nearby is Siloam, one of the more well-known Korean saunas, and a lovely place to chill and hide from the merciless cold during the winter season. I have been here once during my exchange, and I consider it to be one of the highlights of my four-month stint in Korea!
This may be a biased opinion, since I only tended to hang out at the upper part of Seoul and hardly ventured to the lower part (Gangnam, Apgujeong), where the two parts are separated by the Han River. But as most of the attractions are located at the upper part, I figured these locations would be best, to save the hassle of travelling from one side of the Han River to the other.