Day 1: Myeongdong and HongdaeWhat we like most about Seoul is that each neighbourhood has its own unique, fascinating style that can't be found in any of the other neighbourhoods. The only thing all the neighbourhoods have in common are the beauty product shops. They are as common as convenience stores - there's one at every corner.Seoul is very cold in winter, but this trip wasn't as cold as we expected. Most days, the temperature was between zero and 5°C, and we only had a couple of days that were between - 10°C and zero.
Best Time To Visit
Best time to visit Seoul is May and from October to November
How To Reach
Book a Package Tour
Shopping at Dongdaemun, Ehwa, Hongdae, Myeongdong, Namdaemun, Itaewon, Insadong- one simply does not visit korea if he or she did not visit these places. Dongdaemun district has many wholesale fashion markets opening up to 6am in the morning and there is a club at the basement in HelloapM. Ehwa and Hongdae are where the Koreans youngsters usually hang around. There’s many buskers/artists around the area where they express their themselves. Myeongdong is a cosmetics heaven, you can find alot of big brands there. Namdaemun, Itaewon and Insadong are more of the traditional markets. And there’s alot of street food along the street! TRY ALL THEM!
Next stop is the artsy craftsy neighbourhood of Insadong. Remember how I said each neighbourhood in Seoul is different? Here's the cultural, artsy part of Seoul! We skipped some of the souvenir shops and went to Ssamzegil Shopping Complex. Unique crafts by local designers are sold here, and the building itself is decorated with artwork. The building is also special as the shops line a walkway that goes around the entire structure in a square. You can explore the entire building without walking up stairs or using escalators. You just walk up this slope continuously.
Shopping and Food!! If you're in Korea to stock up on your skincare and makeup products, this is the place where you can get EVERYTHING (like literally)! There are shops like skinfood, missha, tony moly, laneige, nature republic, etc (too many to keep count). The thing is, as you are walking around you may notice that the same brand has two different shops in Myeong-Dong, this is because these shops are franchised. So to get the best deal (sometimes certain shops have more discounts, or freebies etc), take your time to scout and walk around before settling on buying everything in a single shop. And after walking for a really long time, there are restaurants around the area to satisfy your hunger and fuel the rest of your shopping day. We came across this cafe called Osulloc, it's tea brand that originated from Jeju. They have a wide selection of teas with interesting combinations, though slightly pricier in Seoul than in Jeju. And they have this amazing Green-tea ice-cream that is like the best stuff on earth (Don't miss it if you like matcha flavoured stuff)! And of course one day here is not enough, so we came back here twice. With the amount of shops here (there are also zara, topshop etc), you'll literally shop 'til you drop. OH! and there's this ABC shoe mart thing (if you do come across), you can get really cheap and good shoes (Vans, converse, nike, adidas etc) that are genuine but comes in odd sizes, so if you're lucky they may have it in your size! This ABC shop appears in many places and the discounts, shoe styles and shoe sizes that they stock are all different.
Clubbing in Seoul– It is really interesting to look at different countries’ nightlife. There are two different kind of clubs in Seoul, those really posh one (the one you see in drama) and those that youngsters/hipsters will visit(can wear sneakers one). The posh one are often located around Gangnam, Apujeong where all the rich people stayed. If you don’t know, ‘Gangnam Style’ is actually a sarcasm toward the rich people living along Gangnam. Ok back, so we decided to visit Club Octagon. The crowd is generally older/mature but the club plays awesome music and have the best sound system in town. Drinks are reasonably priced too, around 10000KRW.
sungnyemun (Namdaemun gate) is one if the most treasured monuments. It is also known as the Great Southern Gate. It is truely stunning. It is one of the Eight Gates in the Fortress Wall of Seoul, South Korea, which surrounded the city in the Joseon dynasty.The Namdaemun Gate is the historical south gate of the city of Seoul when the city was surrounded by walls during the ancient times. Gate still stands as an ancient monument and it is located just next to the famous Namdaemun MARKET. This is one of the main attractions of Seoul and should not be missed when you are there. The fact that most of the stones in this massive edifice are original is one reason why it has been designated Korea's National Treasure No. 1.
Gyeongbokgung palace- This former seat of power is probably Korea's most famous royal palace. Gyeongbokgung Palace is also commonly referred to as the “Northern Palace” because its location is furthest north when compared to the neighboring palaces of Changdeokgung (Eastern Palace) and Gyeongheegung (Western Palace). It was built in 1395, built by built by King Taejo, the founder of the Joseon dynasty. Geunjeongjeon is the throne hall of Gyeongbokgung Palace where the king was formally briefed by his officials, and greeted foreign envoys and ambassadors. It was also the central venue for various coronation ceremonies of the royal household. There's a a large raised pavilion (Kyeonghoe-ru) resting on 48 stone pillars and overlooking an artificial lake (Yolsang Chinwon Spring) with two small islands, which is almost as grand a scene. State banquets were held inside and kings went boating on the pond. Behind these imposing structures are smaller meeting halls, and behind them are the king’s living quarter. On the right is Gyotaejeon, the separate but large living quarters (Chagyong-jeon) for the primary queen "Dowager Cho", and behind that is a terraced garden, Amisan, with ondol (underfloor heating) chimneys (Chimney of Chageyong-jeon) decorated with longevity symbols. Then there's an attractive hexagonal pavilion (Hyangwon-jeong) surrounded by a lotus pond. Hyangwon-jeong was originally connected to the north shore of the pond by a bridge named Ch'wihyang-gyo and the King enjoyed strolling across it to the pavilion. >Admission Fees- Adults (ages 19-64) 3,000 won / Group 2,400 won (10 or more people) Youths (ages 7-18) 1,500 won / Group 1,200 won (10 or more people) Age 6 and under – FREE. >Opening Hours- March to October 09:00-18:00 / November to February 09:00-17:00.
Day 4: The Secret Garden & InsadongChangdeokgung Palace was the 2nd most important palace in Joseon times, and according to the palace brochure, loved more than any of the other palaces because of its huge garden in the palace grounds. Well, after visiting, I can see why. This garden, known as the Secret Garden (or, Huwon) takes up 2/3 of the entire palace, and was used by the royal family for relaxation, hunting, other outdoor activities and creative pursuits like poetry writing. I would totally chill in this palace. The garden is spacious, beautiful, and peaceful. The trees kind of shade you from what's outside. The secret garden is named as such not because it's a secret, but it refers more to it being "private", since only the royal family and their personal servants were allowed inside. The pictures below are all parts of the secret garden.
N Seoul Tower
There are a few ways to get to the top and reach N Seoul Tower - cable car, car or by foot. So, as crazy young people, we decided to take the challenge and get to the top by foot. We got to a MRT station first, then found a direction that took us to the bottom of the mountain and started climbing at about 3-4pm. It was ok at first, but then we realised it was quite alot more to go. But as caught the sunset along the way and it was not too bad. Koreans are very healthy, and as we were climbing up, we saw many koreans wearing sporty outfits and look like they were just casually walking. So if you're an experienced hiker, this is probably not a bad idea as there are alot of greenery and fresh air along the way up. It took us about 1 1/2 hour to reach the top, and we were quite proud of ourselves. But anyways, there's a souvenir shop and the items inside are quite unique/modern with a korean twist, very good as a gift to people back at home. There's a place where you can lock your "love" locks, and its said that if you lock the locks there your love will last forever (some of the locks were really rusted), it's quite sweet also. We then made our way down, but by a different route that would take us to Myeong-Dong (the land of shopping and food goodness), we reached Myeong-Dong at about 8:30pm.
Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market
Wholesale seafood market with many many different seafood(some you will never see in sg)/buy fresh seafood especially sashimi and bring it to a restaurant to be cooked/remember to bargain(be firm)/remember to check the price with the restaurant before giving them your seafood (Noryangjin Station, exit 1)
Gangnam is more of a walk around and window shop kind of place. Made famous by the song "Gangnam Style", this district is the home of the rich and famous and the companies they own. Many international companies have their offices here, and many of the famous like to walk around. Kind of Seoul's version of Hollywood. If you have time, head up to Apgu-jeong (a neighboring district where the other rich half like to shop). Gangnam is famous for its shopping, food, and fun places to wander. You can also find COEX nearby with its aquarium, food, theatre, and shopping!
Cheongyecheon is significantly prettier in the spring/summer than the winter, but the area is still lovely to walk through. Seoul is known for its unique and sculptured architecture, and this area is a great place to check out some of the more awesome buildings. It has the Cheongyecheon Stream that you can follows stairs to walk alongside, as well as several cute coffee shops and the Korean Tourism Center. It also houses the Culture Street, a cute little street filled with traditional restaurants.
Osulloc tea house
There are many cafes and restaurants in Insadong - don't forget to check out the ones hidden in the back alleys! We found a delicious mandu (dumpling) shop and a restaurant selling all kinds of Korean food! One of our favourite cafes in Insadong is called O'sulloc. There are many branches throughout Seoul, and we visited their branch in Myeongdong but I'll just talk about this one as we spent the most time in this branch! O'sulloc sells delicious cakes and teas, and their most famous are the cake rolls. So good, I tell you. My husband and I like the black tea cake roll with green tea cream filling best! I wish I could spend an entire afternoon just trying all the different teas they sell! They all smell lovely and the ones I had tasted divine. The cafe is also a glorious place to relax in, read a book, and people watch. Best kind of afternoon!
Golden Pond Guesthouse
This guesthouse is simple and clean with everything you need in a single room, there was a washing machine, fridge, stove, cupboard and a toilet with shower area all in a triple room. The room had a double-decker bed and a single bed. It sounds like a spacious and big room, but it's not really the case. Honestly, it was quite cramped and better if you're going with close friends. For me and my friends it was ok, though we had to admit it was a little smaller than expected. But since we were out most of the day and only utilized the washing machine, toilet, cupboard and beds we had nothing much to complain about. We were given two sets of keys for the triple room, so if you do stay, it may be a little inconvenient. The best thing about this place is the proximity to the MRT station, only about 5 minutes walk through a street with lots of shops and food. There are alot of food ships around the area as this is close to SKKU (Sungkyunkwan University), so if you're hungry in the middle of the night, I also found a 24-hour eatery with pretty decent Ramen. The only downside is that you have to book this place earlier and if you get there and want to change your room type due to last minute changes, the lady boss isn't very flexible. After booking, you are required to pay a certain percentage of your whole stay and it's non-refundable. But overall, great place, considering the amount of food and shops in the area and if you're just going to use the guesthouse to rest after a long day, it is very convenient!
We were greeted by yellow, red and green autumn leaves! What a sight to behold! We couldn’t stop admiring and busk in such beauty. We went into 63 building and bought the ticket for entry to all 4 attractions: Imax theatre, Wax museum, Aquarium and the observatory deck! The wax museum was slightly different from Madame Tussauds because it has more wax figures of prominent figures in Korea, political figures around the world, famous music composers, and even Frankenstein! The whole concept was quite different. We then went up the observatory deck to take a look at the day view that Seoul has to offer! The aquarium was filled with marine life! They even had displays for us to spot the fishes due to a “camouflaging” background. There were real pelicans too!
----------Paradise for encountering artists out of tune with the world I have been in South Korea for a while, then I decided to travel around Seongsu-dong after one lazy afternoon. So I took the camera and made appointment with Aaron at the metro station, who was my necessary “Korean Interpreter”
Tosokchon - Chicken soup restaurant
We also topped the day off by devouring a bowl of samgyetang, also known as Ginseng Chicken Soup. I do not like to eat ginseng, but this chicken soup was so delicious. It's a whole spring chicken that's stuffed with glutinous rice, water chestnuts, dates, ginseng, (and other things I probably didn't notice since I was stuffing my face with it), and topped with pine nuts and green onion. The chicken was so tender and the broth so tasty. I'm sorry I take terrible food photos, but it's so delicious I tell you! Best homey comfort food. After a tiring day of wall climbing, this was such a treat. The name of the restaurant we went to is: Tosokchon Samgyetang (토속촌 삼계탕). Go during odd mealtimes, e.g. 11am, 3pm, 5pm. Otherwise you'll have to wait in line outdoors (not ideal in winter!).
For chic, classy, and fashionable clothing designs, visit Garosu-gil. Lots of elegant, good looking people here. The clothes and accessories sold here are not cheap, but the designs are so pretty. I managed to find something that was not too expensive and also suitable for a tropical climate. There are many nice cafes and restaurants here too - don't forget explore the small back lanes!
대한민국 서울특별시 서대문구 대현동 Ewha Womans University
Decided to visit Ewha women university after our school-ly tour! We did not enter the university, but the whole area around the university was a shopping heaven! Strongly recommend all to visit this area. There are so many shops that sell cosmetics, clothing, accessories, food and also hair salons! We had kimchi fried rice and kimbap for our lunch and we went into Juno Hair Salon for a Korean haircut. The service was very different from a hair salon in Singapore. The stylist will ask you for a hairstyle that you like and even recommend a suitable hairstyle according to your face shape.
대한민국 서울특별시 종로구 Gyeongbokgung - Palace
It's one of my favorite place to go, especially in summer. It's very calm atmosphere there. Gyeongbokgung (경복궁), also known as Gyeongbokgung Palace or Gyeongbok Palace -- is a first royal palace built by Joseon Dynasty. The name means "Palace" (Gung) "Greatly Blessed by Heaven" (Gyeongbok). So when you are in Seoul, you shoud never miss out this palace to visit. It's a must.
We visited the neighbourhoods of Myeongdong and Hongdae today. Myeongdong is very touristy, but we liked it! Not because it was touristy of course. The street food selection was pretty enticing and we just liked hanging around the main shopping strip people watching. There were beauty product shops every 3 metres, and the salespeople were yelling out promotions in Mandarin. We didn't do much shopping because we live in a tropical country and they were selling clothes meant to be worn in winter. But there were lots of tiny lanes branching out from the main strip which we would have liked to explore if we had time! Myeongdong also has tons of good restaurants. Plenty to see!
Day 12: Back to SeoulWe ended our trip by taking a KTX back to Seoul, and went crazy buying snacks, barley tea, and honey citron tea at Lotte Mart at Seoul Main Station. Here are the snacks we recommend:1. Butter Waffles from the brand Crown2. Choco Heim (Choco Hazelnut flavour) from the brand Crown3. Premium Cheesecake4. White Torte from the brand CrownOur visit to Korea was fascinating and different, and that's what made it wonderful. I'd love to go back and do more hiking and eating!
Day 2: Seoul City WallWe climbed the Seoul City Wall today! This is one of my favourite things to do in Korea. I'm surprised I didn't hear much about it before doing research for this trip. See, South Korea is not just good for shopping! I had so much fun climbing the wall. The Seoul City Wall was built around the ancient capital in 1396 by the founder of the Joseon Dynasty, King Taejo. The wall is built along the ridges of four mountains (Bugaksan, Naksan, Namsan, and Ingwangsan), linking them together in a big circle, and there's a walking trail on it. From the Seoul City Wall, you can find the hiking trails to climb up these mountains. There are also many historical places of importance along the way that you can visit. So much to do!
Yeouido Park Centre
We took a short walk after that to Yeuido Station and chanced upon Yeuido Park. The park was so tranquil. It feels like a heavenly spot to have a short lunch during the working hour. A place to relax and soak in the sun. What’s more, the park overlooks Hangang River too!
War Memorial of Korea
Such a pity that the monument was under renovation and maintenance, but we managed to find a nice place to sit and relax. We saw the bronze statue of the Korean warriors too. After that, we went to Garusogil area for some shopping, dinner and hit the sacks! The shopping wasn’t that fabulous at Garusogil, unless you are on a no budget like of shopping spree. Otherwise, the products and clothes that they have to offer there are quite upscale. Won’t really recommend going there for shopping.
Hongik University Seoul Korea
Stepping into the university, we saw a huge stadium for students to exercise. Pretty and colourful trees were all around the school! Would be wonderful to have such a nice environment to see everytime I go to school. It will liven my mood for the day I guess? We took our time to stroll and explore the school grounds. Walking on, we decided to enter one of the building to have a feel of what their classrooms are like- we entered the IT building. To my horror/disappointment, the internal of the school varies hugely from that of the exterior. It gave off a very solemn and depressing feel. Probably due to the colour scheme that is being used too. It looks exactly like a scene out of a Korean horror movie. Like the saying goes, never judge a book by its cover. Now, I’m having second thoughts of studying in a university there.
Since we had nothing much to do today, we decided to spend the rest of the night at Mouse Rabbit. The place was pretty crowded but we somehow managed to find a place to sit on the second level. We went ahead to make our order. It was also a nice place to chill and there was free wifi. No wonder everyone never budge from their seats. We finally decided to order drinks. Remember, we ordered dessert before this so we do not really have drinks. How to get to Mouse Rabbit: First you need to get to Line 2 (Green Line) Subway station. Take the train to Konkuk University. Then take Exit 2. Walk straight and turn left. After turning left, walk a bit more until you’ve reach a street light. Turn into the alley. The building is pretty big and its in white. *Please do not take photos of Yesung as he is currently serving the army. There are usually ELFs around to help keep a lookout as well so you do not want to get yourself into trouble with ELFs. :) MoBit Address : MouseRabbit, 5-14, Hwayang-dong, Gwangjin-gu, Seoul, Korea
Du Sel Brilliant
Beautiful potted plants and flowers greeted us at the entrance! I fell in love with the ambience of the cafe immediately. The cafe actually has a basement to it. Yes, its 2 levels! We went down to the basement and there was no one there! Its really a pretty cafe! Actually the bestie has been wanting to visit this cafe. Also, we have heard great reviews about this place so here we are! What was also nice about this place is that you will receive a stalk of rose when you order your food! The bestie was so happy about that and yes she carried that stalk of rose with her the WHOLE day.
Most touristy places in the city aren’t going to open up this early, so this is a good time to wander around and grab some breakfast if you’re an early riser. We actually ate in the Myeongdong subway station at a Duncan Donuts. Myeongdong opens up pretty early because it caters to tourist shoppers. Traditionally considered a shopping central for all fashionistas, I honestly prefer other places for bargain shopping (note that this is where the upper crusts shop as well), but it's kind of a must do if you want to tell others you went to Seoul. Tips • Note the closest subway station when you arrive and use that as your marker. If you can’t find it later, head down the first one you come too. You can always follow the English signs to get back to Myeongdong Station there, and some are actually connected by long hallways. • Myeongdong has an entire underground shopping center as well in the subway station below. I found an awesome Music store there where I picked up my KPOP souvenirs. It will seem expensive, but those things just cost a fortune in Korea. I spent $50 on those two easy, and that was with a discount since they liked me. • Don’t get too far off the main street. It’s hard to explain Myeongdong, but it was described to me as a Spider web. Indeed, it seems to have about a billion side streets running in any direction and it is easy to lose your subway landmark. • A very popular location is Lotte’s Myeongdong Plaza and the store next door. This is where Zara and other familiar brands are located. • Don’t forget to check out the buildings that aren’t stores. There is an awesome old bank, beautiful cathedral, and cool architecture located there that makes for great pics. Directions: o Taxi: Hand them a paper with the address. It’s easier to grab the subway though. o Subway: Take Seoul Subway Line 4 to Myeongdong Station (Exit 5, 6, 7, 8)–my recommendation Take Seoul Subway Line 2 to Euljiro Il-ga Station (Exit 5)
Itaewon Street is a designated area in the city where all the artisans and vendors come out to sell their wares. There are actually more than 2,400 shops (most really tiny) on the 1.4 km (4/5 mile) stretch. Originally, this area was where the military families stayed, so it largely caters to foreigners. Some businesses are high-end art galleries, others sell hand-made carvings. This is where you are going to want to grab all those knickknacks souvenirs for your loved ones back home. The Itaewon area is actually much larger, but Itaewon Street itself isn’t too long. Cars cannot drive on the street; it is foot traffic alone. Taxi drivers will dump you out at one end, and you just walk and wander your way down to the other, grab a taxi and head to the next destination. Tips • BARGAIN! Itaewon is bargaining central. Someday I’ll write about the tactics I learned while there (I was a total newbie), but the key is to stand firm. Examine the good and determine how much you think it’s worth. Try to undercut them, and they’ll refuse. Give in too soon, and you’ll pay through the nose. Just try to guess what you think it would be worth in the U.S. Odds are, it’ll be a similar price there. They mostly do it for the fun of the conversation and because some tourists aren’t willing to take the effort and lost a ton in the process. But they don’t enjoy that half as much as when they get a good argument out of it. You can almost always talk them down a couple thousand won, sometimes even more. Extra Information • Note that it usually closes down on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays each month.
Just north of Gwanhu dong is the Bukchon gallery district. The main road is lined with coaches carrying visitors, but they are not here to witness a burgeoning art scene, they are visiting the Deoksugung Palace. If they crossed the road, they had found less orthodox treasures. One is a new building for the Kukje Gallery designed by young, New York based architects So Il. The concrete shell is draped in chain mail, like an armored version of Do Ho Suh’s fabric structures at the Leemum.
Hangang Park- open all year round/different activities for different season/snow sledding and skating in winter, swimming pool, wingsurfing in summer/There are also booths for educational purposes eg booth that has traditional korean games etc quite cool to see little kids playing/can stroll along Hangang river(super different from strolling along Singapore River as Hangang is ALOT ALOT ALOT WIDER)/admission fee of 6000KRW for snow sledding (Ttukseom-Resort Station, exit 2 or 3)
Jump performance in Korea is a martial arts play, thats really amazing with comedic elements (like extremely funny), and they have performed on international stages too. Ok, so listen (or read). There's a seoul tourist center (KTO) that has "Rush tickets" for most performances in Seoul. Rush tickets as explained by the KTO website: "KTO Rush Ticket Feature: Rush Ticket offers last minute discounts of up to 70% on performance tickets. The tickets can be purchased only on the day of the show. The tickets are available at KTO’s Tourist Information Center (TIC), where visitors can also get tourism-related information. Payment Method: On-site payment" http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/performance.kto?cmd=intro&md=enu&lang_code=ENG The thing about these tickets is that you have to buy only on the day of the performance. But I can tell you it's TOTALLY worth it. Ok for the Jump performance tickets the prices range is VIP seat: 60,000 won R-seat 50,000 won S-seat 40,000 won The day of the performance I went down to the KTO to get two tickets, expecting say a 20-30% discount. I actually checked the seating for that day the previous night and there were no tickets selling, so I told my friend that I was going to KTO that morning to check if there were rush tickets, and if there wasn't it doesn't matter we can go explore elsewhere. But but but, the best thing is at KTO the lady was so sweet and she said that there are Rush tickets for the R and VIP category at 50% off so that would be R (25,000 won) and VIP (30,000 won). So she asked me which did I want, I was thinking 5000 won difference was actually not that much, but went with the R-category tickets anyways (5000 won can get me two good bowls of ramen). So essentially, the KTO will book the rush tickets for you by phone and give you a piece of paper with reservation ticket category, number of tickets and amount to be paid. You take this piece of paper to the ticketing counter at the performance and pay the discounted amount. We were pleasantly surprised when our seat was in the third row and right in the center! The VIP tickets probably around the 1st and 2nd rows. But we thought it was the extremely worth it to make the trip down to KTO in the morning, at 25,000 won - third row & center (I guess we were lucky also) , it really doesn't get better. The performance was also amazing AND amazingly funny. They speak in english and korean, but throughout the show there wasn't much dialogue, mostly just amazing stunts with great comedic timing! It is interactive too, they get one or two people from the seats to go on stage to go the stunts with them, and you get a souvenir for doing that. Despite the show premiering in 2003, the theater was totally filled with kids and adults. After the show ends, there is a meet and greet with the actors and actresses, you can get autographs from them or take photo with them, pretty great experience. If you miss this you'll regret. Oh and you can get there by MRT (metro) and walk about 5-10minutes to get to the theater.
Dragon Hill Spa
So amidst the 48 hours of stepping around every must-see place at Seoul, we rested for the night at Dragon Hill Spa. And we had the luxury of charcoal sauna and oakwood fragrances encircling a very comfortable bed.. all wrapped in a package of just $12 a night!! It was so close and accessible to all the sparkling spots within the city yet enclosed relaxation within its walls, exclusive from the hustle bustle of the city. And to top it all, we had the most amazing experience of the "jjimjilbang"- the unique Korean sauna and the exciting Korean sauna etiquetes!
Sungnyemun Gate (Namdaemun Gate)
Any reference to Seoul would remain incomplete without the mention of its diversified cultural heritage and treasures. As you'd probably know, most original Korean artifacts were either destroyed or burned by the Japanese and the Chinese. Few that are left survive to tell the tale of Korea's long-lost and stark history. Sungnyemun or "the Gate of Exalted Ceremonies," which was built by the King Taejo during the Chosun dynasty, stood tall as the front gate of the capital. The locals still refer to it as the symbol of Seoul. Imagine how distressing it must've been for them to see the gate burn in front of their eyes.
Gwanghwamun Square is both amazing and one of the most important things to see while in Seoul. You don’t have time to visit every major palace and museum in Seoul, but this palace both palaces and museums in one spot. The Square itself is fascinating; because this is such an important place politically and culturally, the streets are lined with different political protests. When I was there, you saw a long row of cages marked with signs protesting North Korea’s treatment of its citizens. It is quite literally a square, in the center is a long grassy strip with two large, very famous statues. Then at one end you will find Gyeongbokgung Palace. Tips 1. Plan Your Time Wisely o Arrive about 8:30 a.m. You can explore the Square and take a couple of pictures there before heading up to the palace when it opens at 9:00 a.m. If you are there for the opening, you usually can watch the changing of the guards, involving the traditional ceremony and guards in traditional dress. o You can’t see everything; if you try, you’ll never have time to do anything else. So, carefully choose which palace buildings you visit. o Don’t bother with a guided tour! The signs are in English and there are maps in many languages (including English), which is all you really need. Just grab a map and brochure, and set off on your own. o If you get hungry, pick up an ice cream or some other snack (including fruit) at their stands to tide you over (It’s pretty cheap, I promise). 2. The Blue House At the back of the palace grounds, there will be a large gate (#28 on the map). Outside the gate lies the Korean Presidential Residence with a Blue Roof (Their version of the White House). Lot’s of people stop by to take pictures of it (and watch the guards). Extra Information • Price (One ticket covers entrance to all the palace buildings and museums, but keep the stub to show at the museum gates) Group (10+) = 2,400 Won Adults (19+) = 3,000 Won Children (7-18) = 1,500 W
Bosingak is a large bell pavilion on Jongno in Seoul, South Korea. The program of bell ringing ceremony takes place at noon daily (except Tuesdays) and gives locals and international visitors the experience of ringing the bell 12 times. The program is run regularly and foreigners can also participate in the special program without the need to register. Foreign visitors can come before 11:40 a.m. and apply on-site at Bosingak Belfry, where participants will be able to experience a bit of Korean culture through the ceremony. The bell was named Bosingak Bell in 1895 during the 32nd year of King Gojong. The belfry was originally called Jongnu (bell pavilion). A special program called ‘Showing Love for Cultural Assets’ is held on the second and fourth Saturday of the every month. The program is available only to student volunteers. It involves cleaning the area around Bosingak Belfry and participating in a history lesson regarding Bosingak Bell and the bell-ringing program. Foreign visitors may participate in the program on Tuesdays but you may need to pre-register. If you want to see the new year's eve bell ringing ceremony then visit in December, bell ringing ceremony take place on December 31, 2014 – January 1, 2015 (23:30 – 00:30), It is recommended to take public transportation as there will be road closures during the event. the bell-ringing ceremony ushers in the New Year by ringing the bell 33 times at the stroke of midnight.
In search of the old city, I headed to Gwanhun dong. This street, lined with shops selling craft goods, appears to be for the visitors, who diligently stock up on dainty tea spots. The buildings are not old unless you count mid 20th century as old, but they are on a more human scale here, a pleasant break from the skyscrapers. I bought some incredibly expensive green tea from a specialist shop (I didn’t realize quite how expensive until, back in London, I found that the cylinder I had bought contained a tiny sachet of leaves). I bought some calligraphy brushes made of goat hair from an old man in a gloomy corner shop. He made me an offer of a Yakult bacteria drink. I’d heard that Sough Koreans are obsessed with well being, so perhaps I looked like my immune system needed a boost.
Itaewon (ee+tA+won) is the next destination anyway, and Itaewon Street has dozens of wonderful tea shops and eating locations. Try grabbing some cold noodles and visit a tea store during your visit to this area. It will make a great traditional Korean lunch for adults, but there are also Western dishes for children. You will have the opportunity to pick between more expensive meals and cheaper shops. Or if you want to just browse the food stalls along the street, that’s great too! Tips. • Save room for tea and a treat later. After lunch, you may want to try one of the many deserts sold in the area. The spun chocolate is particularly amazing! Extra Information Directions o Recommended: Catch a taxi on the side of the street heading towards the Gyeongbokgung Palace when facing the Gwanghwamun Square. Tell them you want to go to Itaewon Street or if that doesn’t work hand them this: “(이태원 관광특구)” That is the name. Since Itaewon Street is a nearby designated tourism area, most taxi drivers in the area know what you are talking about. o Subway Station: Itaewon Station (Subway Line 6)–I think there was only 1 exit (?)
This place has fabulous shopping; I’d recommend you pick up your beauty products and maybe some hair bedazzles here. It has a wonderful bookstore if you want some books to pass the time back home. However, the aquarium is an absolute must. Coex Mall also has about any food you could possible desire: America (Pizza Hut & Cold Stone Creamery!), Japanese, Korean, etc. Tips • Grab some ice cream while you’re here; it’ll help cool you off for the adventures ahead. • Cost: Mall Free; Aquarium cost below: Adults: 19,500 KRW Teen: 16, 500 KRW Child: 14,000 KRW • Hours: o Store: 10:30 a.m.- 10:00 p.m. (varies by store) o Aquarium: 10:00 a.m.- 8:00 p.m., 365 days a year (last entry is at 7:00 p.m.) Directions • Give the address to a taxi (but take the orange or silver taxis, black ones are more expensive). • Subway Line 2, Samseong Station, Exit 5 or 6–> Samseong has an exit that goes straight into Coex Mall, so look for the signs. The exit should be on your left when coming off the trains. See Seoul subway map here.
National Museum of Korea
It’s the national museum, need I say more? The Museum has approximately 15,000 beautiful exhibits from around the world, but it is particularly awesome in the area of Asian history. It has of course all the really important Korean artifacts, including Celadon, Calligraphy, Paintings, and several private collections. But it also has stuff from India, Japan, China, Indonesia, and beyond. There is an entire room of stunning and impressive Buddha statues. There are also several halls of paintings, statues, artifact, and cultural resources. This is definitely a must see (particularly for someone like me who would spend most of their travel time studying history)! Tips • Lockers–If you’ve done any shopping earlier or want to leave your bags somewhere,the museum has rows of lockers available for 100 Won (10 cents). • Skip the guided tour–There are tours available for English, Japanese, and Chinese speakers, but you can figure it all out yourself, and the timing is hard to maneuver. • Try out the tea garden!–There is a lovely little tea garden on one of the upper floors that makes for a great afternoon respite! • Watch your time– We skipped the first couple rooms in the Korean history section. It’s all that early man stuff that is the same in all museums–arrows, rock weapons, etc. The cooler stuff is a little down when Korean culure really developed • Save time for the world history section!–This area has a great deal to offer and shouldn’t be overlooked! Extra Information • Pricing–FREE! • Directions o Taxi: Give the taxi driver the address. o Subway: Seoul Subway Line 4 & Jungang Line. Arrive at Ichon Station and take Exit 2. This will connect directly to the museum entrance. • Operating Hours (they close the ticket booth 1 hour before closing) o Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday: 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. o Wednesday & Saturday: 9:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m. o Sunday, Holidays: 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.