Seoul is massive. Just look at the subway map and you get an idea of how vast the metropolis is; it has 302 subway stations! With a population of around 10 million in the main city and 25 million in the larger metropolitan area, they now consider Seoul a megacity. Unsurprisingly, living here can be overwhelming. For example, it can take an annoyingly long time to see friends who live across “town”.
However, one of the main perks of living in Seoul is the diversity of neighborhoods. No matter how much you explore, there’s always more to see. Although I am not an expert by any means, I’ve made a list of some of my favorite areas to visit in Seoul. I’ve tried to pick places that aren’t so obvious for tourists to visit (hello, Gangnam), but neighborhoods that still have just as much to offer.
Seoul Neighborhood: Seongsu-dong
Seongsu-dong is an idyllic hip neighborhood located just next to the Han River. It’s known as “The Brooklyn of Seoul” because of its artsy residents, café culture, and repurposed buildings. The area used to be home to many shoe factories but is now brimming with trendy restaurants, galleries, boutiques, and bars. Spending an entire day in Seongsu is easy. Not only does it have plenty of art and culture to experience, but it’s also right next to Seoul Forrest, which is the third-largest park in Seoul. The park is perfect for a long walk, picnic, or sightseeing. You can feed deer in the ecology forest, meander around the park’s butterfly garden, or sit by the Han and enjoy gorgeous views of the city.
Seoul Neighborhood: Sinsa-dong
To experience the glitzy and glamorous side of Seoul, head to the fashionable neighborhood of Sinsa-dong.
This area is famous for regulars with expensive tastes and styles. It’s not uncommon to see supercars filling the streets, or someone wearing a pair of sneakers you know are well worth over a couple of thousand dollars. People watching in Sinsa is one of the best parts about it, along with its great bars, restaurants, and cafes.
And although you can get similar experiences in Gangnam or Apgujeong, Sinsa is a little less in your face and also has the benefit of being next to Jamwon Hangang Park.
There’s nothing better than wandering to the park after a day in Sinsa and enjoying a Seoul sunset with the silhouette of Namsan Tower in the foreground.
Seoul Neighborhood: Itaewon-dong
Itaewon isn’t any lesser-known neighborhood by any means, but it constantly changes and develops, which I think makes it worthy of note.
This is where I live, and it’s one of my favorite places to wander around on a free day. The significant thing about Itaewon is how diverse it is. You’ll hear people speaking a myriad of languages in the area’s establishments and find restaurants with food from all over the world.
We know Itaewon for being a “foreigner area” because it is so expat-friendly and attracts international visitors and residents. It’s also famous for its vibrant nightlife. The area right next to Itaewon Station resembles Bourbon Street on a busy night with people drinking and socializing in the streets.
In recent years, Haebongchong (referred to as HBC) and only a short distance from Itaewon and Noksapyeong Station, has become popular because of its quaint bars, restaurants, and international shops. Many of my friends prefer HBC to Itaewon nowadays since it’s a little more low-key.
Itaewon and HBC are also at the foot of Namsan Tower, so the views of the landmark along with the park that surrounds it make the neighborhood worth exploring.
Seoul Neighborhood: Ikseon-dong
Ikseon-dong is yet another superb area to visit in the city because it includes one of Seoul’s Hanok Villages, which comprise traditional Korean houses.
These buildings are small and stand very close to each other. To get around the neighborhood, you walk through narrow alleyways lined with flowers, trees, and stone walls.
The village itself is pretty small, but it’s easy to spend an entire day there visiting the various shops, boutiques, and cafes. In the day, I recommend going to Goose Island Pub, since they have a patio where you can sit outside and enjoy the weather.
At night, there’s a great wine bar in the village called Nest of Goose. It feels like you’re drinking in a cave, and they’ve got a great selection of food to boot.
This is a short list, and I could go on and on about other neighborhoods in Seoul. Some honorable mentions include Kondae, Hapjeong-dong, and Insa-dong, which I’m sure I’ll cover at some point in the future.
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by: Elise Brunsvold