East Asia

Where to stay in Seoul for shopping, dining and seeing the sights

The Korean capital is as action-packed as Tokyo, but kinder on the budget. Find out where to stay in Seoul to experience the best of this eclectic city.

Looking to sample craft brews in internationally-minded Itaewon or shop for designer clothes among the skyscrapers in Gangnam? Or maybe you just want to rub shoulders with the art students in graffiti-covered Hongdae. Either way, we’ve put together a list of the best places to stay in Seoul to help you have a trip that ticks all your boxes.

From high-tech spas and an on-site shopping centre to Michelin-starred Korean restaurants and edgy décor, you’ve got oodles of tempting options to pick from. So pick your Seoul accommodation and pack your bags, this is a destination that’s just aching to be explored.

Where to stay in Seoul for stellar shops and street eats

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Located in the central district, the Lotte Hotel Seoul is right on the main Myeongdong shopping street, in a city dedicated to the art of consumerism. Packed full of Korean makeup stores – from Tony Moly’s sweetly packaged wares to the super sleek products in Aritaum – this is where to stay if stocking up on your favourite K-beauty products is on the itinerary. It’s also a great bet for finding your scrumptious Korean fare, with restaurants serving everything from fiery dak galbi (hot-pepper stir-fried chicken) to haejangguk (spicy pig-spine soup).

Book a Deluxe Room in the Main Tower – where you’ll have 15 different types of pillows to choose from – to relax in neutral surroundings with superb city views. Or upgrade to a Premium Room in the Executive Tower for a refined space dressed in blue, gold and marble décor. Snuggle down in luxurious Egyptian cotton bedding, or pick a perch on a brushed velvet lounger and order a spot of tea from room service.

As for dining, the Lotte Hotel is home to fine French restaurant Pierre Gagnaire à Seoul. From your seat beneath chandeliers and a golden ceiling, nibble on amuse-bouche delights like tantalising almond crumble sable while overlooking skyscrapers and distant mountains.

Lotte Hotel Seoul

Seoul, 6 km to Apgujeong
8.8 Excellent (2480 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.5 / 10
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Where to stay in Seoul's super cool Gangnam District

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Set in the bourgeoisie district made famous by K-pop star Psy’s hit Gangnam Style, the InterContinental Hotel Grand Seoul Parnas is ideal for seeing Seoul’s modern side while also experiencing the city’s old-school beauty. From your refined room decorated in glossy dark woods, you’ll have views of the majestic Han River and the ornate Buddhist Bongeunsa Temple. Sit on plump duck-down bedding and gaze at the panorama while taking herbal tea from the in-room set.

Fancy browsing the boutiques? The hotel has its own shopping centre, the Parnas Mall, with international stores ranging from Lululemon to Benefit Cosmetics. Popular eatery Flying Pan is also here; its fluffy American-style pancakes make it a top brunch spot in Seoul.

You’ll want to make sure your stay is long enough for you to dine at each of the Intercontinental’s six on-site restaurants, including a dedicated dessert deli. At Hakone, eat Japanese fare by an indoor garden in a room influenced by wooden Yoseki mosaics. If you’re hankering after authentic Korean food, get your fill of dishes like abalone prepared the local way at the Grand Kitchen Buffet.

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InterContinental Grand Seoul Parnas

Top rated
Seoul, 3.4 km to Apgujeong
9.0 Excellent (1744 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.2 / 10
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Where to stay on one of Seoul's most cutting-edge streets

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Dormy Inn Premium Seoul Garosugil is right on trendy Garosu-gil, a street brimming with cool boutiques and cafés – including Dore Dore, famed for its rainbow cake. Accessing the subway is fast and easy here, too, if you want to venture further afield; just stroll the leafy boulevard for one minute to reach Sinsa Station.

Dormy Inn takes its style cues from both Korea and Japan, with a geometric grid frame nodding to shoji screens in many of the communal spaces. You’ll want to relax in the sleek monochrome spa’s micro-bubble soft-water baths with hypoallergenic properties to soften the skin, then move on to the Scandi-style wood sauna to detoxify those pores. Once revived, hit the shops: Garosu-gil is where you’ll find flagships of avant-garde brands like Gentle Monster, a local sunglasses company whose ever-changing visual merchandising displays are on a par with modern art.

The hotel’s buffet restaurant also reflects Japanese influences, with set meals like hearty yonaki soba (Japanese noodles) served to guests for free, or 70 other dishes to choose from if you’re really hungry. After a meal, retire to your minimalist-style room and recline on the designer mattress while you plan the next day’s activities.

Dormy Inn Premium Seoul Garosugil

Top rated
Seoul, 1.2 km to Apgujeong
9.0 Excellent (3047 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.3 / 10
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Where to stay in Seoul for Korean-style luxury

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Owned by homegrown tech brand Samsung and named after an ancient dynasty, The Shilla Seoul is Korean through and through. A stay here is your chance to try the upscale cuisine at La Yeon, the three Michelin-starred Korean restaurant where you can try tangy soy-braised beef prepared gourmet style and sea bream fillet dumplings. You won’t need to go far for luxury goods with stellar service to match, either – every designer store at the on-site Shilla Arcade offers a private consultation.

If relaxation’s the plan, take a gentle swim in one of the hotel pools or head for a session in the spa. Indulge in treatments using Guerlain products, chill out in the hydrotherapy suite or invigorate yourself under a Vichy shower before heading back to your room, a neutral-hued oasis with views of Namsan Mountain. Should you want to visit this local photo op, you can reach the mountain by electric bus or a short hike to be rewarded with sweeping views across the city as the sun sinks into the horizon. On the way back, pop into Parc in Hannam-dong for homestyle Korean meals like boiled Korean pork belly and oyster kimchi.

The Shilla Seoul

Top rated
Seoul, 3.9 km to Apgujeong
9.1 Excellent (2877 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.5 / 10
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Where to stay in Seoul's most happening hood

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With its mix of exposed brick walls, glossy subway tiles and metallic accents, visiting Nine Brick Boutique is like stepping into an interior design magazine. The individually decorated rooms are Instagram-friendly spaces with hues ranging from slate grey to berry purple. You’ll feel well looked after as you soak in a deep bath, with extras like curling tongs and iPod docking stations at your fingertips. Dine at the on-site Moment bistro, where you’ll perch on Chesterfield sofas under contemporary light displays or outdoors. Dishes range from sumptuous salmon to steak cooked to perfection.

You’ll be a six-minute walk from Hongik University Station, where the airport train stops, and a short stroll from funky underground bars. One such night spot is Gopchang Jeongol, where you can eat jeon (a savoury pancake filled with spicy kimchi, fresh green onions or seafood) while listening to retro Korean pop. Swing by the old park playground on the weekend to see the crowds gather to drink store-bought soju – a clear, vodka-esque local liquor – while watching impromptu street performances like choreographed K-pop dance routines or Indie a cappella.

Nine Brick Boutique

Seoul, 10 km to Apgujeong
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Where to stay in Seoul for Pop Art and multiculturalism

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The rainbow-hued exterior of the Imperial Palace Boutique Hotel mirrors the Itaewon area’s colourful renaissance over the last decade. From the swings in the lobby to the pop art murals in the guest rooms, the hotel is as distinctive and creative as the international neighbourhood you’ll find it in.

Admire the foliage-covered ceiling when you walk into on-site restaurant Hibarin, a playful space for sampling donkasu, a satisfying breaded pork dish eaten with salad. Or pop to Vatos Tacos at the other end of Itaweon-ro for Korean-Mexican fusion fare – the kimchi fries are on point, especially paired with a bulgogi burrito!

If you’re up for club-hopping, Cakeshop is a cool space that regularly plays host to international DJs and is 15 minutes away from your accommodation by public transport. Alternatively, pick up some Belgian chocolates from the hotel’s own Godiva shop and pair them with coffee from the machine in your airy, white room. If you did go for a night out, unwind afterwards with products from SKINFOOD, a cute Korean beauty brand with a focus on natural ingredients, which you’ll find stocked in your bathroom.

Imperial Palace Boutique Hotel

Seoul, 2.9 km to Apgujeong
8.0 Very good (2512 reviews)
Excellent Location 8.9 / 10
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Where to stay in Seoul's vibrant traditional neighbourhoods

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Want to discover Seoul’s traditional roots? Cheong Yeon Jae is the place for you. It’s a hanok – an old Korean house – in Buchon-dong, a low-rise central neighbourhood largely untouched by the developers responsible for the sky-high apartment blocks in the rest of the capital. You’ll sleep on comfortable futons on heated floors below a romantic wood-beamed ceiling. For a retro experience, sit on the floor and take a herbal tea, or snap selfies in traditional Korean clothing. You’ll freshen up in contemporary bathrooms made from marble and glass, while the furniture elsewhere in your space is antique.

The hotel is just a subway stop away from sights like Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace, where you can see how Korea’s former royal families lived. A short walk will bring you to the adorable cafés of Samcheong-dong, a quaint area that looks especially fetching in springtime when the pastel pink cherry blossoms appear. Wander through pedestrian alleyways, then tick off one of the top things to do in Seoul: embracing the K-BBQ experience at Maple Tree House, where you’ll grill super-tender hanwoo (premium aged Korean beef) to share.

Cheong Yeon Jae Hanok

Seoul, 7.1 km to Apgujeong
9.1 Excellent (152 reviews)
Excellent Service 9.4 / 10
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Where to stay in Seoul for a boutique hotel experience

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If you want centrally located accommodation loaded with amenities and style, Hotel 28 Myeongdong – one of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World – is for you. You’ll have a library and art gallery to enjoy some quiet leisure time, as well as a gym if you can’t miss that HIIT session.

Drop your bags in your room bedecked in a monochrome palette, with grey walls and black-and-white photography keeping with the hotel’s cinematic theme. Slip under luxe goose-down bedding for an early night, or head up to the hotel’s rooftop to watch dusk roll in behind the space’s bold graffiti display.

You can try Korean food with a modern twist – like bibimbap, a hot-stone rice dish mixed with julienned vegetables – at the in-house eatery, Wolhyang. The restaurant also brews makgeolli, a rice wine typically favoured by farmers but that’s making a comeback with hip new drinkers. It’s worth sampling, especially the tangerine or peanut flavours native to the country’s southern islands, Jeju and Udo.

For an authentic taste of old Korea, you’ll want to check out Namdaemun Market (less than 15 minutes by rail) for snacks like chewy rice cakes in a spicy sauce. Or, head to Cheonggyecheon (30 minutes by public transport), a tranquil recreation area with a babbling stream, to escape the noise of the city.

Hotel28 Myeongdong

Top rated
Seoul, 5.8 km to Apgujeong
9.1 Excellent (1281 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.4 / 10
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