Seoul has by far the best range of accommodation in the country, with everything from five-star hotels to cheap hostels. Those seeking high-quality accommodation have a wealth of places to choose from, particularly around Myeongdong and City Hall on the north of the river, and Gangnam to the south. At the lower end of the price spectrum are Seoul’s ballooning number of backpacker guesthouses. One interesting option, popular with foreign travellers, is to stay in traditional wooden guesthouses north of Anguk station in the palace district.
At around the same price, though different in character, motels form a cheap alternative to official tourist hotels, sometimes having rooms of comparable size and quality; note that two of the most popular nightlife areas – Itaewon and Hongdae – have a shockingly poor range of motel accommodation. It’s hard to book motels in advance, except for those listed on the excellent Innostel website (winnostel.visitseoul.net), which also features an ever-growing number of cheap hotels.
Seoul is the only city in Korea to have a good range of backpacker accommodation. There are a couple of places in and around Insadong, and Daehangno has long had a few good cheapies, but these days most backpackers stay close to the hectic nightlife of the Hongdae area. All have private rooms available for around W35,000; motel rooms are larger and better value, but for some the chance to meet fellow travellers is adequate compensation.
Traditional guesthouses in the palace district
In the surprisingly tranquil city sector north of Anguk subway station lie some of Seoul’s most interesting places to stay – here you can spend the night in traditional Korean housing known as hanok. Highly beautiful, these are wooden buildings with tiled roofs, set around a dirt courtyard – a style that once blanketed the nation, but rarely seen in today’s high-rise Korea. The generally bed-less rooms – you’ll be sleeping Korean-style in a sandwich of blankets – are kept deliberately rustic and heated in the winter with the underfloor ondol system; all, however, provide modern-day indoor toilets and internet access.