A Guide to Seoul's Neighbourhoods

The culturally rich city of Seoul  / Pixabay
The culturally rich city of Seoul / Pixabay
Photo of Linda Dunsmore
8 February 2017

The city of Seoul is made up of 25 individual districts that each have unique attractions and their own history. The Han River divides the city into two halves, with Ganbuk in the north and Gangnam south of the river. Culture Trip takes a look at the most intriguing neighborhoods in Seoul.

North of the River (강북 Gangbuk)

Jongno (종로)

The historic core of the city, Jongno District is home to Seoul’s five grand palaces. Between the main palace, Gyeongbokgung and the second largest palace, Changdeokgung, you will find the traditional Bukchon Hanok Village area that features a collection of traditional Korean houses, called hanok. Just south of the village lies Insadong, a buzzing shopping area. Further south lies the iconic Cheongyecheon Stream that often hosts interesting seasonal events and open-air exhibitions. Art lovers will also enjoy wandering through Ihwa Mural Village in the north of this district.

Jung (중)

Jung District is located just south of Cheongyecheon Stream making up the other half of Seoul’s historic center. This part of town features European style buildings from the Japanese imperial colonialism era and is also home to the popular Myeongdong neighborhood (one of the world’s most expensive shopping districts). Other popular areas in Jung District include Namdaemun Market, Namsan with Seoul Tower and Dongdaemun, the fashion center of Seoul with the beautiful Heunginjimun Gate in the center.

View of Dongdaemun | © Linda Dunsmore

Seodaemun/Mapo (서대문/마포)

This district is home to educational facilities and universities, including Yonsei University, one of Korea’s most prestigious schools. The two areas Hongdae and Sinchon are the most vibrant and bustling with lots of great shopping, restaurants, and entertainment. Indie rock musicians and artists have settled in Hongdae, running independent art galleries, cafés, clubs, and bars.

Yongsan (용산)

Being home to a US Army Military Base, it’s no wonder that Yongsan is also home to Seoul’s largest foreigner district. In fact, Itaewon is the most culturally diverse area in the country and boasts the only mosque in Korea. There are a multitude of restaurants and import stores in the neighborhood. On top of that, Yongsan also has one of the largest electronics markets in the world with the Starcraft Esports Arena, regularly broadcasting games on TV.

Gwangjin (광진)

Gwangjin’s Konkuk University neighborhood, Kondae, offers cheap eats and shopping minus crowds of people. Kondae Taste Street is especially interesting to visit as it boasts a collection of cute cafés and delicious restaurants serving both Western and Korean dishes. One of Gwangjin District’s highlights is the Common Ground Mall that was created out of blue shipping containers and houses local Korean designer brands.

South of the River

Gangnam (강남)

The most famous Seoul district in the world, Gangnam, is also one of the most expensive to live in. Designer stores, upscale restaurants, and the COEX exhibition mall can be found in this area. Medical tourism is one of the biggest reasons why so many foreign tourists flock to Gangnam as it has some of the best plastic surgeons in Asia. Kpop fans will also appreciate the collection of music labels with museums and merchandise stores located in the area. Next to the modern buildings lies one of Seoul’s oldest Buddhist temples, Bongeunsa, that also offers unique templestay programs.

Gangnam | © Linda Dunsmore

Songpa (송파)

While Songpa used to be a residential area, it has become a popular entertainment hub in Seoul as it’s home to Lotte World, a large shopping mall that also houses the largest indoor amusement park in the world. Adding to that Olympic Park and Seoul (Jamsil) Sports Complex where international stars of the music scene put on some of the best shows in Asia, and it’s no wonder that Songpa is one of Seoul’s most thrilling districts today.

Yeoui-do (여의도)

Yeoui-do is, in fact, an island in Seoul’s Han River. Often nicknamed “Manhattan of Seoul”, this district boasts some of the city’s largest highrise buildings, as well as Seoul Stock Exchange and the National Assembly. One of the islands most prominent landmarks is the 63 Building. The building has some of the finest entertainment options in the area, such as an aquarium, IMAX, a sky art gallery and a wax museum. Visit Yeoui-do in spring, and you can take part in the annual Cherry Blossom festival with over 1,800 trees in full bloom.

Cherry Blossom in Yeouido Park | ©cat_collector / Flickr

Yangcheon (양천)

This up and coming district has some of the tallest residential homes in the city and a large number of parks and green areas. One of the most popular destinations in Yangcheon is its ice rink. Mok-dong area marks the center of Yangcheon and offers a great selection of restaurants, bars, and shopping facilities.