A city of fashion, and style is how I would describe Seoul. Everything is ridiculously clean, there are mirrors every 10m squared and more coffee shops than you can handle. Seriously, I challenge you to try have a large coffee from every coffee shop in Itaewon and let us know how that turns out – you’re responsible for your hospital bills. I really loved my week in Seoul, it never failed to offer up a wonderful experience and it did a fantastic job of wanting to make me return and explore the rest of the country at a later date. So here are my top things to do while in Seoul, South Korea.
I stayed at the IS@K Guest House in Itaewon. It was really fantastic and incredibly cheap! The people who ran it were lovely, and the people staying there were extremely respectful and as a whole it was a quiet and safe place to call home. I guess if I were to be nitpicky I’d say the hot water system could run out a bit fast considering there were only 3 showers, and 2 toilets for the entire guest house, but that really is scrapping the bottom of the barrel. I can’t recommend this place enough, and that was without being able to use the awesome roof top space at night to party as it was just too cold up there.
Getting there: I had an extreme headache by the time I landed in Seoul so I went the easy route and took an Airport Limousine bus which dropped me off 100 metres from the front door. If you wish to do the same thing it is bus number 603 and it will cost you around $15 AUD (pretty cheap considering).
If you wish to carry your luggage then the subway might be the cheapest way to do so. You simply get on the subway at the airport and head for Gongdeok Station. From there transfer to Line 6, and get off at Itaewon. It’ll be a 400 metre walk, but it’s a nice way to get acquainted with what is around you.
Cost: A dorm room came to be around $15 AUD a night, so the cheapest of my trip!
There are five major palace’s in Seoul, but this was the first I visited. The gates are the major drawing point at first, they’re massive and quite spectacular. Far more imposing than the gates I’d encountered in Japan. The palace itself was quite large, and the grounds were nice and it’d be great to see them when there is running water. You can’t set foot inside the palace temple itself, but it remains a lovely experience. The best part about the palaces in Seoul, and this one in particular, is that they do an elaborate changing of the guard ceremony every few hours which is a must see while in the area!
Getting there: You simply hop on Subway line 3 and get off at Ganghwamun station. You then walk around 400 metres and you simply can’t miss the gates.
Cost: Entering the palace will cost you $3
I explored this market after my visit to the palaces and it made for a nice change of pace. By pace I mean, it was alive! Street after street of every kind of store and stall you can think of! Add in the fact that this particular market is strewn throughout major shopping malls and stores as well and you have yourself a weeks worth of shopping and exploring in just this area.
Getting there: Very simply you can get off at any central subway station and walk there, but for the most convenient you should hop off at Hoehyeon or Myeong-dong.
Cost: It will vary…obviously
This sort of place wouldn’t normally make these lists for me as I’d prefer people to read about them in my original posts, but this particular music experience needs to be detailed again. Imagine a two story building that is wall to wall records on the bottom floor, with record players for you to use, and wall to wall cds on the top floor with similar stations. Add in a cafe with cheap well made coffee, and an atmosphere that says “please, sit, and relax” and then you’ll have yourself Vinyl&Plastic. Everything is free to listen to, for as long as you like! It became my second home in Seoul, and I recommend it becomes yours too!
Getting there: It’s located in the southern area of Itaewon on the main street. Easiest way to reach it would be to hop on the subway line 6 and get off at Hangangjin Station. Walk back towards Itaewon station and you’ll find it.
Cost: Everything is free to listen to, coffee is around $4 and the experience is priceless.
This was the first shrine I visited in Seoul, admittedly I was pretty Shrine’d out by the time I landed in South Korea but this was a truly unique experience for me. Unlike the majority of shrines I found in Japan, the Jongmyo Shrine can only be viewed by tour in order to keep the number of people to an absolute minimum to maximise the feeling of the place. It is effective! There are foreigner only tours, and the guide speaks excellent English. In Winter the gardens are a little dry, but the place still feels special. It is a UNESCO world heritage site, and it doesn’t take long to realise why. It only takes an hour at most, and that’s if there are a lot of questions.
Getting there: Simply take Subways 1, 3 or 5 and get off at Jongno-3-ga station
This little beauty was discovered while exploring between palaces and shrines in the centre of Seoul. It’s designed to get you off the street and away from the hustle and bustle. It’s quite beautiful, even in winter when things tend to be brown, and it’s a great way to stream line your walk through Seoul. It’s over 8km long, and takes you past all the major tourist stops. It’s well mapped so you know where you are and when to leave.
Getting there: Find your way to Gwanghwamun-ro and the stream heads west from there. However you can get off at most central subway stations and depending which you choose, Myeong-dong for example, you’d need to walk north to find it.
Noryangjin Fish Market
This wasn’t my favourite place to go as all the animals in tanks and buckets made me mad, but it is a major spot to visit while in Seoul especially if you want the freshest seafood possible. There are hundreds of metres of stalls and tanks offering fresh seafood throughout and even off sections where you can take your freshly chosen food and have it cooked in front of you for an instant meal.
Getting there: Find your way to the Norangjin Subway station and from there it’s pretty well advertised. It’ll be a 300 metre walk to reach the markets.
Cost: The seafood cost will vary, but a whole fish will cost you anywhere between $20-$70 AUD depending on what you want. A great guide for the cost of the seafood can be found here.
Namsang – N Seoul Tower
This is probably the main attraction in Seoul. In most places in the city or surrounding suburbs you can see this tower atop the central mountain in Seoul, quite a great way to get some free advertising. The views are quite spectacular and the atmosphere is nicer than a lot of other viewing sites I’ve been to. You can hike the mountain or you can take the cable car, either way it’s definitely worth a visit. I have to say that it was a fantastic view without having to go up the tower itself, so if you don’t want to spend the money I don’t feel it’s needed in order to love the experience.
Getting There: You can get off at either Itaewon, Chungmuro, or Dongguk University stations and take the various busses up to the mountain. You can also hike from these stations and a few more within walking distance. Personally I took the cable car from the station up, best way to reach it is to get off at Myeong-Dong station and walk 10 minutes up towards the mountain.
Cost: Cable car will cost you around $8 round trip , entry to the actual tower and viewing decks around $10, and buying a lock and key for your loved one around $5.
Do you like to party? Do you like to drink? Do you like to shop? Do you like to feel the hustle and bustle around you? If you answered yes to any of these then Hongdae is the place for you. It was one of the coolest party districts I have ever come across! The only other place that rivals Hongdae for enjoying a night out would be Itaewon, but it isn’t close in my opinion. This is a must do if you’re in town and want to get your Saturday Night Fever on. Just be ready for cigarette smoke.
Getting there: Hongik University Station is your best bet, then walk around 400 metres from exit 9 and you will find yourself in the centre of one of the most active scenes in Asia.
Cost: Entry to most clubs is around $5 – $10 and that usually gives you a free first drink as well. Beer will set you back around $6+, so try to pre-drink before heading out.
There we have my favourite things to see and do in Seoul! There are others of course, but they weren’t what I would call major attractions, but you can read about them in all the links I’ve posted throughout.
I hope this helps you in your travels!