Small House Big Door is a trendy hotel in central Seoul, located in a quiet area 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 for your stay in Seoul, it’s still very affordable compared to bigger hotels, and has lots of Korean character and an independent vibe. 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 the hit song by Korean rapper Psy – is known for elegance and exclusivity, and price tags to match. Stay Hotel might be one of the cheaper hotels in the area, but it isn’t noticeably dialled-down in terms of design, service or location – 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.
The red-brick building of Hamilton Hotel is an Itaewon landmark – it’s also right by the metro station, making it easy to find for even the most directionally challenged traveller. The foreigner-friendly neighbourhood is known for its lively nightlife and international restaurants. Hamilton Hotel is one of the more upscale options for budget travellers here. Rooms are comfy and nicely proportioned, and there are a number of amenities on-site for guests to use, including a gym (complimentary access) and rooftop pool (charges apply).
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 (optional, extra) breakfast buffet.
648 Hotel Gangnam is another place to experience high-flying Seoul luxury at a more reasonable price. It’s located in Gangnam’s business district, and rooms have a luxurious, modern-meets-Victorian decor. While it has aspirations to escape its love motel beginnings, it’s still popular with Korean couples, and has an over-18 age policy. Rooms are large and equipped with bathtubs.
For something a little different, head to Bukchon Yujung, right next to Bukchon Hanok Village in Jongno-gu. 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 (in apartments). Underfloor heating provides comfort in the winter, and there’s a shared kitchen for guests to use.
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 have a balcony. There’s a spacious rooftop garden, and a hanbok (Korean traditional dress) rental service. Breakfast is included, and, unusually for Seoul accommodation, is both delicious and different each day.