Being a city with strong tourist appeal, Seoul has no lack of hotels, hostels, and guesthouses to suit all styles of travel. But I chose to book an Airbnb in Seoul for a simple reason: I wanted to live like a local.

Seoul’s Airbnb listings are filled with commercial hostels and guesthouses, which I didn’t want, and actual homes where one could live with a local family or share an apartment were few. But when I spotted Ryan’s studio apartment, I knew I’d struck gold.

Airbnb in Seoul. Designer room

Ryan is a graphic designer who’s also into DIY interior decorating, which means his space is exquisite. I’m not a huge fan of Scandinavian style, and 90% of the decor is IKEA, but my room was wonderfully cozy. It helps that Ryan’s included numerous personal touches: the framed pieces on the walls, the door hangers, the workspace with a nice large desk and shelves of cool books. When I asked him about the proliferation of IKEA furniture, he explained that the brand’s biggest store in the world is actually in South Korea.

The home is a constant work-in-progress. In the mere 10 days that I stayed there Ryan moved wall art around, painted his snowglobe display shelf, and was planning some other refurbishments. It probably looks even more stylish now!

"Did you know South Koreans really like free stuff? When IKEA just opened two years ago, everyone flocked there just to swipe the free pencils!"

Location

I love that Ryan’s place isn’t what Koreans would call an “apartment” (a larger home in one of those numbered apartment buildings). It’s a unit in a traditional low-rise “villa” building, a stone’s throw from Beotigogae station in the quiet interlude between Dongdaemun and Itaewon. I could also easily walk to Yaksu station where there are two lines. With a Lotte supermarket, GS25 convenience store, and lots of local diners around, one can buy groceries for cooking or simply eat out.

In fact, as per South Korea’s demanding work culture, Ryan works late almost every day and, although he claims to love cooking (he does have a very neat collection of spices), he frequently brought home fast-food takeaways while I was staying there.

Ryan has two adorable toy poodles, and that’s perhaps the only caveat (for me it’s a huge plus since my dog passed away two years ago). The bathroom is smartly set up with a rubber mat so the dogs’ messes are easily cleaned up using the shower head – no issue for dog owners. I certainly enjoyed having the little rascals around when I was working alone in the apartment.

"Once I hosted a disgusting, rude guy who left the main door unlocked, left beer cans on the counter and table, and puked in the bathroom without cleaning up!"

Hospitality

As a host, Ryan is as responsive and helpful as one could hope for, and I think it’s one of the benefits of sharing a place rather than booking an “entire home”. I had a super-early flight in, but he let me check in bright and early before 9am. He also texted back swiftly whenever I had any questions, like how to turn on the water heater or where to bin food trash (South Korea is extremely strict about sorting and recycling trash!)

With his busy schedule and similarly introverted nature, it’s a pity that we didn’t warm up to each other quickly enough. However, he very sweetly took the time to chat with me one night, showing me his blog and entertaining me with horror stories of inconsiderate Airbnb guests.

“Once I hosted a disgusting, rude guy who left the main door unlocked, left beer cans on the counter and table, and puked in the bathroom without cleaning up!” Since I’m a neat freak who’s hosted Couchsurfers before, Ryan had my sympathies.

I felt so comfortable here that I have no qualms calling this Airbnb in Seoul a home away from home. When I was preparing for an overnight hike in Seoraksan, Ryan even offered to let me keep my luggage and bags here even though another guest would be staying over!

If you’re a solo traveler in need of a soothing aesthetic (and if you love dogs), skip the boutique hotels/guesthouses and stay with Ryan instead. You’ll love it.

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