Optimizing Your Seoul Trip: Choosing the Perfect Hotel in Seoul for an Enhanced Experience in this Sprawling City

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Advisor - Jae Woo
Curated By

Jae Woo

  • Active Travel

  • All-Inclusive Travel

  • City Travel

  • Seoul

  • South Korea

  • Local Culture

  • Relaxation

  • Hotel Guide

Optimizing Your Seoul Trip: Choosing the Perfect Hotel in Seoul for an Enhanced Experience in this Sprawling City
Curator’s statement

As a daughter of South Korean immigrants, I have had the pleasure of visiting Seoul almost every year since I was a young child. Having visited dozens (if not hundreds) of landmarks, cafes, restaurants and hotels, the city of Seoul still leaves me in awe as I am reminded of how this sprawling metropolis constantly reveals a new gem where you can eat, drink, play or take your next Instagram-worthy photo. This city can overwhelm even the most seasoned travelers, but to make the most of your trip, finding the right hotel in Seoul can give you a head start in navigating this intoxicating city.

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Like many Asian megalopolis cities, Seoul is a place where tradition and modernity collide in dramatic fashion. Many of the city’s 10 million inhabitants are fashion-forward, caffeine-fueled residents who can easily be seen consuming social media content at the world’s fastest internet speeds while standing in front of a gate that has guarded the city since the 1300’s. All throughout the city, there are remnants of Korea’s royal family and the country’s tumultuous history. A trip to Seoul would not be complete (or meaningful) without taking in as much of the old as you do the new. You will want to maximize your time here, shopping, eating, drinking, singing and drinking again, but do yourself a favor and soak in the rich history. So, which hotel in Seoul would be the best place to launch this intense itinerary? You have many options, but one of the best (in my humble opinion) is the JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square.

JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square

This is the only hotel in Seoul’s largest and most famous Dongdaemun fashion district that also gives seamless access to the street markets of Namdaemun and Myeongdong as well. This five-star property provides city views with historical landmarks and old fortress walls just across the street and is also just a 10-minute subway ride to the iconic Dongdaemun Design Plaza, the award-winning cultural hub designed by Zaha Hadid.

Aside from what is in its immediate vicinity, JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square also happens to be in the historic city center of the Jong-no district of Seoul. While Gangnam has no shortage of properties with luxury amenities (that’s for another trip report), you can easily waste half a day navigating the streets getting to and from all of the must-see attractions (and I mean must-see) and mouth-watering stops if you are not discerning about where you are based.

If you are hungry and want to get the most bang for your buck (for time and money), head to Gwangjang Market. It’s also just a 10-minute subway ride from the hotel (are you beginning to see a pattern here?) This is one of the oldest and largest clusters of street vendors in Seoul (over 5,000 stalls) and you can try a vast variety of street food, including Sannakji, a dish (not for the faint of heart) featuring live octopus.

For the ladies who have an obsession with romantic period-piece eras, which let’s face it, is all of us, please do not leave Seoul without renting a Hanbok (a traditional Korean dress) and walking through the palace grounds of Gyeongbokgung Palace. It is the actual main palace of the royal family, and if you are in a hanbok, you can enter for free. Just outside the palace sits Gwanghwamun Square, which is essentially an open-air museum with statues and larger-than-life historic figures sitting in the middle of city streets. A short walk will also take you to Cheonggyecheon Stream, which is a restoration project that brought a stream flowing through the middle of Seoul and provides a magical meeting place to enjoy nature in the city (think Seoul's version of Central Park).

Hopefully, this report has demonstrated how the right hotel is Seoul can help pack a punch as you plan your itinerary. For those of you that have a case of FOMO every time you plan a trip, you’re welcome. However, if you are just looking to relax and recuperate between your stints tackling the city, JW Marriott also features large marble bathrooms with luxury bedding, La Provence Spa by L’Occitane and Tavolo, an on-site restaurant featuring an impressive breakfast buffet and international fare throughout the day.

Need to Know

Location, location, location. Getting lost and walking the streets of Seoul is not necessarily a bad thing. However, if you want to make sure that your trip planning pays off and want to see, eat, drink and shop as much as possible, the right location should be one of your top priorities when picking a hotel in Seoul. Things to consider: easy access to Subways, knowledgeable and English-speaking staff that can grab a taxi and guide you to your destination if needed, proximity to top destinations for food, history, culture and people watching.

Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out Laura Vander Neut's guide, An Architecture Lover’s Guide to Selecting a Hotel in Shanghai. This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Seoul.

Advisor - Jae Woo

Travel Advisor

Jae Woo

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