I get in a 8pm on a Monday and leave at 4pm the following day. Where is the best neighboor to find a quick/simple crash pad in the heart of the city? I want to be immersed in the culture, have authentic food options, and ideally it would be all walkable despite their wonderful transportation system. Thanks!
one of the best areas you can stay in Seoul is Gangnam-gu
You can take the any airport limousine (luxury bus) straight from Incheon International Airport and head to the hotel for the night.
I suggest Samjung Hotel which is right next to the Ritz Carlton & is half the price ;)
You will find excellent restaurants, nightclubs, shopping areas in the neighborhood. So you can spend some time there after settling in.
The following morning, you can take the subway and go north of the Han river to the most visited tourist attractions: Gyeongbokgung Palace which is absolutely stunning.
Very close by is the most beautiful art street Insa-dong You will find arts & crafts and don't hesitate to go into nice tea houses! If you venture out into the tiny alleys, you will find traditional restaurants. You could try bibimbap (rice with vegetables served in a hot stone pot (dol sot) or just a regular bowl. It is quite an experience!
If you are a shoppaholic or want to go people watching, head over to Myeongdong and you will find yourself in the middle of the heart of Seoul ;)
To admire the city below, there is Namsan tower and trust me it will be unforgettable!
Now it may seem like a lot for such a stop over and even though you may be worn out, it is worthwhile.
You can take a shuttle bus to the airport from the major hotels anywhere in town, so give yourself at least an hour or two to get there (traffic in a city of 15 million can be difficult somedays).
Hope this helps you!
All the best,
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I'd actually recommend checking out one of the "theme motels" (aka love motels) near Sinchon Station (not to be confused with Sincheon on the other side of town). I've stayed at a few of these places and the prices are usually really good (about $40-$125) and the amenities can be better than some tourist hotels. Don't let the name keep you away. FYI: these motels are located near most major train and bus stations.
Sinchon is also a great neighbourhood with restaurants and bars. Try the samgyeopsal at one of the bbq joints. If you want some shopping, check out Myeongdong. I love all the cosmetics stores there. Speaking of shopping, Namdaemun Market is also a crazy spot where you can buy almost anything.
A hike up Namsan tower is a good idea to get an idea of the scope of the city.
The two times I've visited I've taken a bus into the city. It was under $20 and took about 90 minutes. I just bought my ticket at the airport when I arrived.
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Find a place near Insadong. You'll find everything you mentioned there.