If you’ve got time on either side of your tour to South Korea, here are some tips for things to do and places to see in the captivating city of Seoul.
Seoul is one of Asia’s premier travel destinations. Having been designated World Design Capital in 2010, the city has developed a keen eye for aesthetics, and even the city’s residents are well-turned out and stylish. There’s plenty to see, from historical places of interest to enormous markets, shopping districts, theme parks and museums. And make sure you experience Seoul’s café culture and taste incredible cuisine in its many excellent restaurants. With an easy-to-navigate transport network that features English signage, and with numerous tourist offices throughout the city, you’re never far away from directions or information if you need it.
We thought we’d kick things off with a few suggestions to keep you busy. Clare, a member of our team, was recently in Seoul and had these tips to share.
Jump is an engaging and humorous martial arts performance based on traditional taekwondo, acrobatics and taekkyeon. Having received rave reviews and the top box office award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2005, this is a highly entertaining performance that crosses cultural barriers – thanks in large part to the fact that it’s a silent performance. A light-hearted tale about an eccentric family whose members constantly brag about their martial arts prowess, this is one that everyone will enjoy.
One of the most popular shopping streets in Seoul, Insa Dong is the place to go if you’re looking for café culture or traditional Korean culture and crafts. Insa Dong is filled with art shops, markets, boutiques and galleries. Nearby Ssamzie-gil is a four-story shopping complex spiralling around a central courtyard, and is a popular spot for one-off clothing accessories and gifts for the folks back home.
An open-air market just a few minutes from Seoul’s ancient Namdaemun Gate, Namdaemun Market is close to the downtown area and has a history that can be traced back to the Joseon Dynasty. Having originally served as the main market servicing urban and rural Korea in ancient times, these days you can find virtually anything from clothing, shoes and home-ware to food, flowers, electronic goods and furniture.
Seoul Arts Centre – Coex Mall
The Coex Mall is an enormous underground shopping complex featuring a fascinating aquarium and the Kimchi Museum – which will give you with all you need to know about kimchi culture and cuisine. Speaking of food…
South Korean cuisine is sublime! Try steak tartare with a difference at Cheongdam-dong yukhoe restaurant in Gangnam-gu, try some Pho (a regional classic), get stuck in to Seoul’s café culture, hunker down with a Bi Bim Bap or some very tasty looking burgers. Wrapping your tongue around all these new words is difficult at first, but think of it as a way of preparing your mouth for some truly delicious food. Here are some resources to help you when it comes to tip-top tucker in Seoul.
This next option may not be for everyone, especially if your tummy is bulging, but the Lotte World theme park is impressive for those who are in to that sort of thing…
Often referred to as Korea’s Rodea Drive, Apgujeong-Dong is about a 20 minute walk from Apgujeong Station. This is the place to go for designer fashion and vintage clothing. It’s the haunt of the young and fashionable and a great place to people-watch. One block away is Cheongdam-ro Street, lined with trendy bars and cafés, boutiques and art galleries.
Namsangol Hanok Village
For a more traditional side of Korean history and architecture, head to Namsangol Hanok Village. A large complex, the village is comprised of three parts: a traditional Korean garden, the Time Capsule Plaza and the village itself, which includes hanok (traditional Korean houses) from the Joseon Dynasty. To get there, head to Chungmuro Station.
Although we do visit Gyeongbokgong Palace, on our tours of South Korea, there are a total of five to see in Seoul. Changdeokgung Palace is a must if you have the time – used by many of the Joseon kings as the main palace, this is in fact the best preserved of the five royal Joseon palaces. Check out the Changdeokgung Palace website for details of entrance fees and opening times.
Seoul Fortress Wall
Another historic landmark, the Seoul Fortress wall was erected in 1392 by King Taejo to protect the capital. Only 10.5 km of the original 18.2 km still remain, but the section around Mt. Bugaksan (north of Seoul) offers spectacular views of the city. Visit the Bukaksan website for more information.
Spa, Incheon Airport, Seoul
It’s been an amazing trip and it’s time to go. Relax in Incheon Airport with a Korean massage and refreshing shower on the fourth floor of the transit lounge. Also, free wi-fi! Get more details here.
Visit our website for more information on tours and holidays to South Korea.