Things to do in Seoul

서울시


The most exciting part of the trip was the culinary experiences. Lots of new tastes. Seoul is very crowded but living in a fairly large city you’ll be used to it. Super-huge town though. A lot of ancient history as well and beautiful palaces, but most of all, Seoul — being the second largest city in the world — is a city of contrast. Mountains juxtaposed to skyscraper skylines, parks and gardens in the midst of inner city traffic and all kinds of foods and things to buy. (★ = top picks)

Getting around

From the airport: the AREX Express train for W8000 is smooth (45 min), which takes you to Seoul station. Cab for almost ten times as much, takes about an hour.

To the airport: airport “limousine” (bus) is a nice option, costs W10000 and stops/starts near hotels. Or take subway to Seoul station and the Express train.

Taxi: Very cheap. 15 min for W6000. Don’t insist on getting to an exact address, Seoul is too big. Instead look up what the area is called (usually very small areas ending with -dong) and make sure you have the Korean signs for it to show the driver (your pronunciation is not good enough).

Subway: Convenient and accessible. W1650 for a single journey. 500 of those are deposit for the card that you get back outside the gates. Exits are everywhere but sometimes you have to walk a bit under ground to get to the actual station.

Neighborhoods

Insadong — Art and craft. This was where we lived. Like Gamla Stan in Stockholm. ★

Myeongdong — Lively shopping area with all big western and Korean big brands. ★

Itaewon & Noksapyeong — The most “western” part of Seoul but in a good way. Many bars, stores and restaurants.

Gangnam & Apguejong — Fancy/posh shopping.

Namdaemun — Home of the traditional Korean market, walking distance from Myeongdong.

Dongdaemun — Night market, 24/7 Korean shopping. Like everything you can find on Aliexpress is here.

Hongdae & Sincheon — University area.

Food / Drinks

Just walking in to places works really well in Seoul, generally good quality, but if you want to have some targets you can try the places below. Fermented foods is the thing that makes the korean kitchen stand out. Imported wine and beer is about 10 % more expensive than in Sweden. Drink locally produced Soju or Makgeoli. Also, eat street food.

Korean BBQ — On-the-table-grilled meat available all over town. Samgyupsal is pork, Kalbi is beef, Bulgogi is marinated beef, Doeji bulgogi is marinated pork. ★

Bibimbab — You should know this. ★

Kimbab — Korean variant of Sushi (or maybe Sushi is the variant of Kimbap…)

Kimchi Jjigae — Kimchi stew.

Budae Jjigae — Army stew, US ingredients from after the war like spam, ham or hot dogs.

Dubu Jjigae — Hot tofu soup, sometimes with meat.

Jeongol — Stew, like jjigae but with more main ingredients = fancier back in the day.

Bulgogi — Marinated beef.

Dakgangjeong — Korean fried chicken street food. Sweet and glazed and delishious.

Dakgalbi — Hot chicken dish.

Soju — Strong, sweet and cheap. ★

Makgeoli — Sparkling rice wine with yeast in the bottom.

Restaurants

  • Gogung (best bibimbap acc. to Koreans, the one in Insadong is not open for dinner which we learned the hard way) ★
  • Vatos Tacos (Korean urban tacos in Itaewon) ★
  • Brew 3.14 (handmade pizza and craft beer in Insadong)
  • Min’s Club (fusion fine dining, bit expensive, in Insadong)
  • N Grill (in Namsan Tower, super expensive with a stunning view)
  • Fish Market (it’s fresh, go if you like fish)

Bars

  • J J Mahoney’s (Awesome but expensive bar in Grand Hyatt, a drink costs W27000)
  • The Library
  • Prost (party bar in Itaewon)

Activities / Places

Remember! A lot of places are closed on Mondays, plan accordingly.

Shopping

  • Doosan Tower (Korean brand shopping)
  • Electro Land (everything in electronics, allegedly have 7000 brands, but nothing we needed…)
  • Namdaemun Market (traditional market with lots of random stuff for cheap) ★
  • Shinsegae (large shopping mall like KaDeWe in Berlin or Takashimaya in Tokyo)

Experiencing

  • DMZ (half/full day trip to demilitarized zone in North Korea) ★
  • Geyongbokgung (old palace from the 13-hundreds)
  • War Museum (Seoul’s history of occupation and attacks)
  • T.um (future exhibition, book in advance)
  • The boulevard in Insadong (cool photo opportunities)
  • Cheonggyecheon (the restored river flowing through the financial district)
  • Dog café / Cat café / Sheep (!) café (pay for a cup of tea/coffee and hang out with animals, there are a couple in Myeongdong and Hongdae)
  • Traditional tea house (Insadong has a lot)
  • Jjimjilbang (large public spas/bathhouses all around town, gender-segregated and with lots of relaxing activities (no, not that kind))
  • Hiking up a mountain (Bugaksan is amazing, go to the gate in Samcheong-dong called Sukjeongmun and bring your passport) ★
  • Grand Park (zoo south of Seoul)

Hacks

Just remove 3 zeros from a price in Won (KRW) and you’ll have it in dollars (USD).

Write down the Korean “letters” for places you’re going so you can ask the locals, I found many places hard to find.

More detailed, less personal, travel guide from TripAdvisor:
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g294197-s409/Seoul:South-Korea:First.Time.Visitors.html

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