The best places to live in Seoul
Seoul is divided up into 25 districts known as gu, which are further separated into neighbourhoods known as dong. If an area has the suffix '-gu', it is a larger area made up of various dong. If the name has '-dong' at the end of it, then it refers to a specific neighbourhood within a gu.
Split in two by the Han River, Seoul is made up of various areas and suburbs. Traditionally, expats have settled north of the river in central areas such as Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu and Hannam-dong. These areas are particularly popular among diplomats and their families. Meanwhile, some newer, more expensive suburbs can be found south of the Han River. This includes Gangnam-gu and Apgujeong-dong, which young professionals are often drawn to.
Most areas in Seoul are connected to the city centre by its efficient train and bus services, so expats who need to commute can do so easily. Expats will most likely choose their suburb based on its proximity to their workplace or their children’s schools.
Areas south of the Han River
Gangnam-gu is a much-desired district with a large foreign community, but is also home to many Koreans. The area has an abundance of apartment complexes and numerous studio apartments that are popular with the young and affluent. It has a central built-up area with many offices, bars and restaurants, and boasts some of the priciest real estate in the country.
Despite the relatively high prices, Gangnam-gu is populated with English teachers, since it offers easy access to transport as well as some of the best schools in Seoul.
Daechi-dong is one of the more residential areas within Gangnam-gu and is popular with expats who prefer a quieter lifestyle that isn't too far from the hustle and bustle of the city.
This affluent area is home to many upmarket shops and restaurants. Apgujeong Rodeo Street is one of the best shopping streets in Seoul. With good access to public transport, Apgujeong-dong is another ideal choice for young professional expats.
Areas north of the Han River
Close to the US Army Base in Seoul, Itaewon-dong is filled with Western restaurants, shops and English-language services and amenities. This neighbourhood has one of the largest expat communities in South Korea.
Itaewon-dong is a hilly region with a range of affordable accommodation options available. Expats can choose between apartments, villas and large houses with gardens. The area also has easy access to public transport and a variety of excellent schools.
This is another popular expat area, mainly because it's close to Itaewon-dong and the US Army Base. Many English language teachers settle in Haebangchon-dong and the community is quite multicultural.
Ichon-dong in Yongsan-gu is known as “Little Tokyo” and has a large community of Japanese expats. There are many authentic Japanese restaurants in this area. There is also an abundance of apartment complexes, making it a convenient place to look for accommodation.
Hannam-dong is a popular residential area for diplomats to settle. It's close to the expat hub of Itaewon and is made up of the UN Village and a residential neighbourhood. Hannam-dong is quite exclusive, and the houses are large and luxurious. The accommodation here consists mainly of freestanding homes, but some apartments are also available.
Hannam-dong is only 45 minutes away from the Seoul International School, and there are two English pre-schools in the neighbourhood. There is also a school bus service to most of the international schools in the area.
The UN Village is an exclusive compound within Hannam-dong that is patrolled by security guards. The accommodation here is palatial, and the complex is close to the Deutsche Schule Seoul (German School Seoul International).
Close to many of Seoul's universities, Seodaemun-gu is a residential area that is popular with students and professors. There are also many international schools in the area, which is a big draw for many expats. Seodaemun-gu is surrounded by mountains and is, therefore, a great place for expats who enjoy the outdoors.
Bangbae-dong is an area favoured by French expats because of its proximity to Lycée Français de Séoul (French School of Seoul). There are many accommodation options available in this neighbourhood, and it's close to shopping centres and the subway.
Seongbuk-dong is an affluent suburb where expats can find large, spacious homes. The suburb is relatively close to the city centre, making it convenient for expats who need to commute into the city. Although the suburb is great for expats with families, it isn't as well-connected to the public transport network as other areas in Seoul are. As such, expats who live in Seongbuk-dong might need to invest in a car.
Although Yonhi-dong can feel isolated, there are many large and beautiful houses and convenient shopping centres, as well as open areas for children to play in. Accommodation in Yonhi-dong is cheaper than in areas such as Hannam-dong and Itaewon-dong, and the Seoul British Foreign School is nearby.