Seoul is made up of districts, neighborhoods, and areas, and it can be difficult to get a sense of where things are. To make matters more complicated, neighborhoods may overlap districts, or be broken down into multiple areas, each with its own name. I strongly suggest using the maps provided here, including the subway map on the back inside cover, and major landmarks to orient yourself.
Jongno -- At the center of the city, Jongno (not to be confused with the Jongno-gu district) is the oldest part of downtown Seoul. Here you will find the Gwanghwamun (the large gate) and Namsan (South Mountain), easily recognizable by the massive tower at its peak.
Insadong -- This area, nestled within Jongno-gu, used to be the home of royalty and to yangban (aristocratic) families, but that was during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Insadong is now filled with art galleries, ceramics stores, and traditional handicraft shops. You can also enjoy a traditional Korean meal or take a peaceful break alongside artists and monks in one of Insadong's many tea shops.
Samcheong-dong -- This area has grown into the city's contemporary art center as galleries have migrated here from Insadong. There are still many stores and galleries in Insadong, but Samcheong-dong has attracted more of the higher-priced, modern collections. Many art centers have their own cafes or restaurants, so you can enjoy a quick bite while admiring the paintings or ceramics.
Myeongdong -- The major shopping district for clothing and accessories in Seoul, Myeongdong has more midpriced and higher-priced items in its boutique shops than the two open markets of Namdaemun and Dongdaemun.
Namdaemun -- The oldest and largest traditional market in all of Korea, Namdaemun shijang (market) has vendors selling clothing, local products, and pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. Many of the small shops sell their wares directly from their own factories, so you can get both retail and wholesale prices.
Dongdaemun -- The area around the former stadium (and future design plaza) is home to one of the major marketplaces in South Korea, the Dongdaemun shijang. There are two sections, one retail and one wholesale (with shops selling things mostly in bulk), that open at night and get really busy during the wee hours of the morning.
Itaewon -- Itaewon is the foreigners' district, which grew up around the American military base in Seoul. Once a shady red-light district, it's been cleaned up, and lots of good international restaurants have sprung up here. You can still find ladies of the night walking down certain streets at night, but during the day it's a shopper's paradise. You'll find a great selection of clothing, shoes, luggage, and leather goods, mostly made in South Korea.
Sinchon/Idae-ap (Ewha University area)/Hongdae-ap (Hong-ik University area) -- These neighborhoods surround Yonsei, Sogang, Hong-ik, and Ewha universities. The area near the entrance to the Ewha Women's University is great for shopping for women's clothes and accessories (that is, if you're a size 6 or smaller -- Korean sizes run very small). The area in front of Hong-ik University (Hongdae-ap) is known for its hopping nightlife and cafe culture. Indeed, all of Seoul's university neighborhoods are bustling with cafes, restaurants, bars, and plenty of shopping for college students and everyone else.
Daehangno -- When Seoul National University moved from this area in 1975, Marronnier Park was created on what had been the university's campus. Surrounded by other colleges, the park became a cultural and arts center for students. There are outdoor performances and dozens of small movie theaters.
Gangnam -- This modern and affluent area, which means "south of the river," has wider streets than you'll find elsewhere in Seoul and a variety of high-end restaurants. Home of the COEX Mall, Gangnam sports newer stores and therefore attracts a younger crowd than the open markets found in other parts of the city.
Apgujeong -- Known as the "Beverly Hills of Seoul," this neighborhood (which is part of the Gangnam-gu district) has attracted those who have money and want to spend it on looking beautiful. The area offers world-class aestheticians and plastic surgeons, as well as upscale restaurants with prices to match. Luxury stores Gucci, Versace, and the like all have stores here.
Jamsil -- The Jamsil area is home to South Korea's largest indoor amusement park, Lotte World, and the Seoul Sports Complex. The area also houses the early tombs from the Baekje era (18 B.C.-A.D. 660). You'll find the country's largest wholesale market for agricultural and marine products, Garak-dong Shijang.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.