The capital of South Korea is a hub for culture, art and politics. From the opulent Gyeongbokgung Palace to the bustling shops of Myeongdong, it’s a city well worth exploring. Do it on a budget by staying in one of the best cheap hotels in Seoul.
Dongdaemun, in central Seoul, is a district where you can pick up silks, leather goods or a hanbok (Korean traditional dress). It’s also an area overflowing with outdoor food stalls. The no-frills Seoul N Hotel is a clean, hassle-free spot for backpackers who enjoy a communal hostel vibe. With single and double rooms, plus a variety of mixed and women only dorms, this tidy hotel is one of the best places to stay in Seoul on a budget.
The simple yet stylish Hostel Tommy is conveniently central, near the Jongmyo Confucian Ancestral Shrine, Gwangjang Market and Chongga Kimchi World. Dorms come with private lockers, while private rooms offer perks such as flat-screen TVs. Meanwhile, if you’re a DIY chef, you’ll be pleased to discover a well-stocked kitchen where you can whip up breakfast or an afternoon snack.
Zibro S is a family-operated guest house near the ultra-hip Hongdae Street, which has a thriving club and alternative music scene. Smart touches include heated floors, reliable air conditioning and a no-fee washing machine, plus family-style breakfast options, including waffles. The self-check-in system is quick and convenient. Simply enter the building with a code sent to you beforehand, then find your name on the room allocation board.
If you like the idea of being swaddled inside a cocoon then the Capsule Myeongdong could be the hotel for you. The stripped-down but smartly designed wooden sleeping capsules come with fresh linens and plenty of private snoozing space. Venture down the capsule’s ladder steps to a shared showering area, then venture out into lively Myeongdong for a taste of life in Seoul.
Travelling on a budget but don’t fancy sharing space with strangers? Seoul Grand Hostel EWHA Univ rooms (twin, double and triple) come with private washing facilities. While cosy is the rule here, the large kitchen – where you can chow down on pancakes and waffles – offers plenty of room to roam. The hostel also provides free slippers, soap and shampoo.
Twin Panda, situated in the arty, cafe-heavy Hongdae district, provides small but tidy rooms with adjoining bathrooms. Electric blankets and heating pads come as standard for chilly nights. Hit the self-serve breakfast nook each morning. This guesthouse is ideal for younger travellers, or anyone who is young at heart, who want to explore the hip side of modern Seoul.
Hotel the Designers is a glossy yet affordable 80-room hotel, only a few minutes from Cheongnyangni metro station. Expect chic decor at this stylish budget hotel, where there are no dorms, just private rooms, and even standard doubles come with rainfall showers and coffee machines. Breakfast is free, too. Head out and explore the nearby Dongdaemun’s Gyeongdong Spice Market, which overflows with herbs and exotic spices.
Holidaymakers who don’t mind small, well-appointed rooms will be right at home at the Grid Inn. This budget locale is close to trendy areas such as Insadong, with its boutiques and tearooms. Rooms range from snug singles to family suites sleeping six. Adjoining bathrooms, complete with slippers and toiletries, make up for the compact rooms, some of which include a kitchen. Head up to the rooftop veranda for stunning views of Namsan Mountain and Tower.
Small House Big Door is a trendy hotel in a quiet area of central Seoul, within walking distance of Myeongdong. It’s small, arty and design-led, with a minimalist, industrial-chic style. Although it’s not the cheapest option on this list, it’s still very affordable compared to Seoul’s bigger hotels, and it has an independent vibe, with lots of Korean character. It’s well located for exploring most areas of the city and has a hip little coffee shop attached.
The swanky neighbourhood of Gangnam – immortalised in song – is known for elegance and exclusivity, and price tags to match. Stay Hotel is one of the cheaper hotels in the area, but it isn’t noticeably dialled-down in terms of design, service or location, and it’s a great example of the subtle elegance that Korean design does so well. The hotel is close to Gangnam station and the Express Bus Terminal, making it one of the best places to stay in Seoul for traversing the city.
The red-brick building of Hamilton Hotel is an Itaewon landmark – it’s also right by the metro station, making it easy for even the most directionally challenged traveller to find. The foreigner-friendly neighbourhood is known for its lively nightlife and international restaurants. Rooms are comfortable and modern, ranging from doubles to suites sleeping four. Take a dip in the rooftop pool or make use of the on-site gym. Hamilton Hotel is one of the more upscale options for budget travellers in Seoul, but boy do you get your money’s worth.
In the heart of Myeongdong shopping district, Tmark Hotel is a solid choice for an affordable hotel. What it lacks in glitz it makes up for in good service, an excellent location and spacious, comfortable rooms. The hotel has a roof deck with a great view over Myeongdong and Seoul, and a good breakfast buffet as an optional extra. There’s a free shuttle bus, too, that runs directly from the hotel to Seoul station.
Head to Bukchon Yujung, right next to Bukchon Hanok Village in Jongno-gu, for something a little different. More of a guesthouse than a hotel, it offers two-bedroom apartments and double rooms in old-school Korean style – expect sliding wood panels, elegant screens and floor futons. Underfloor heating provides comfort in the winter, and there’s a shared kitchen for guests to use, making this one of the city’s most homely places to stay.
Lee Kang Ga Guesthouse is in Mapo-gu, a 15-minute walk from Hongik University station and lively Hongdae. Its beautifully designed rooms merge traditional Korean style with modern elegance, making for a quiet retreat from Seoul’s hustle and bustle. All the rooms come with a kitchenette, and some also have a balcony. There’s a spacious rooftop garden, and a hanbok rental service. Breakfast is included and, unusually for Seoul accommodation, is both delicious and different every day.
This is an updated version of an article originally by Phoebe Taylor.
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