Hongdae is THE place to be, I tell you. It's hip, happening, and so full of youthful energy. At midnight the streets were still filled with people like it was 7pm, and lots of buskers were around, hoping to get noticed maybe. We ate at the BEST KIMCHI JIGAE place ever. Boiling hot, spicy, full-of-flavour kimchi jigae + soju and makgolli (rice liquor) = my kind of Happy Meal, no need for the toy. My Korean friend brought us here and my husband and I both agree it was the best meal ever on our entire trip. The restaurant is called Nang-Poong(낭풍) and is near to Hapjeong train station, exit 3. Pictures and what the restaurant looks like here (Korean only). There's also a well known weekend market near Hongik University, but it isn't open in December so we didn't get to check that out.
Many people like to compare Korea and Japan, but I think you can't. They are so different and have their own characteristics that makes them such wonderful places to explore. Korea felt a bit more like Taiwan, if one must make a comparison. Something about the style of the night markets and shopping streets made me feel that way.
In Myeongdong, we'd like to recommend this yummy porridge restaurant. We found it hard to find breakfast before 10am in Seoul, but this place was open early. It's called MiGaBon (味加本). Warm and tasty porridge..yum! Directions to the restaurant and more about it here, including food pics.
1. Getting a SIM card the moment you land in Korea is hard, as the SIM card will only arrive a few days after you apply for it. You can apply for a SIM card before you arrive or just rent a WiFi egg device at the airport. We bought pre-paid data cards from our home county.
2. I'm not sure if it was just our phones, but Google Maps worked TERRIBLY in Korea. We could not get proper directions. It could track our location pretty ok, and 98% of the time it showed the location of an address we typed in accurately. But when we just wanted walking directions from the train station to a particular location 500m away, Google Maps directed us to take a bus and go one biiiiiig round.
3. It's good to keep addresses and names of important places you want to get to in Korean so that you can ask for directions. Especially useful if you're taking a taxi.
4. We don't speak or read Korean, but we didn't have major difficulties getting around. The important signs in the subway and on the streets are in English, and quite a lot of restaurants have picture menus or pictures in the shop you can point to. If all else fails, you can point at a dish someone else is eating. Hahaha :) but knowing simple words is nice. One useful word I learned from my Korean friend is how to say "excuse me" when you're trying to pass through and someone's blocking your way: shil-yae-ha-mi-da. Super useful on the trains when it's crowded.