Strolling through Seoul

Tripoto
8th Jan 2015

Deoksugung Palace, at the City Hall Buss Stop

Photo of Deoksugung Palace, at the City Hall Buss Stop by Liv Blessing

Namsangol Village

Photo of Namsangol Village by Liv Blessing

Dinner at Myeongdong!

Photo of Dinner at Myeongdong! by Liv Blessing

Myeongdong Shopping Area

Photo of Myeongdong Shopping Area by Liv Blessing

Traditional Culture Street - Cheongyecheon St

Photo of Traditional Culture Street - Cheongyecheon St by Liv Blessing

Dinner at Chungmuro

Photo of Dinner at Chungmuro by Liv Blessing

Changing of the Guards at Gyeongbokgung

Photo of Changing of the Guards at Gyeongbokgung by Liv Blessing

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Photo of Gyeongbokgung Palace by Liv Blessing

Namdaemun Shopping Area

Photo of Namdaemun Shopping Area by Liv Blessing

Namdaemun Shopping Area

Photo of Namdaemun Shopping Area by Liv Blessing

Naksan Park

Photo of Naksan Park by Liv Blessing

Ihwa Mural Village

Photo of Ihwa Mural Village by Liv Blessing

63 City Aquarium

Photo of 63 City Aquarium by Liv Blessing

Tapgol Park

Photo of Tapgol Park by Liv Blessing

View from N Seoul Tower

Photo of View from N Seoul Tower by Liv Blessing

Lock Tree Display at N Seoul Tower

Photo of Lock Tree Display at N Seoul Tower by Liv Blessing

Insa-Dong

Photo of Insa-Dong by Liv Blessing

Korea Wars Museum

Photo of Korea Wars Museum by Liv Blessing

Gangnam

Photo of Gangnam by Liv Blessing

Our China University was specially blessed this year with an entire 2.5-month long winter vacation before classes start up again, and the foreign teachers here make the most of their free time.  Many of us have headed off to such exotic locations as Bali, New Zealand, Australia, Heinan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, India, Tibet - even the stunning ice scultures of Harbin here in China!  

Personally, I decided to return to the charming city of Seoul, South Korea.  Have you ever watched the old Harrison Ford movie, "Sabrina"?  I always remember that quote: "America is my country, but Paris is my home."  That kind of reminds me of Seoul, America is my country, but Seoul is my home.  The part modern/ part ancient artistic buildings centered around the lovely Han River and filled with lovely, kind-hearted people always brings out the calm, secure feeling that soothe my soul and rest my spirit. I could spend months just wandering from shop to cafe to palace to park, listening to the sweet locals and getting in touch with the looser, more contented me. 

This time, I was able to bring along my mother, who had never seen the city before but wanted to get a glimpse of the place that has captured my heart.  We were initially planning to stay for 2 weeks, but plans changed and we only spent 1 went out and about the town.  Although Spring is definitely a prettier time to visit, having the tourist sites mostly to yourself and looking at all the winter products up for sale was pretty sweet.  If you do visit in the winter, I highly advise that you visit the many, many, many unique cafes scattered around the buroughs.  Try out their "Peppermint White Chocolate" and a Blueberry BelgiumWaffle while watching the world go by outside the windows and tell me you don't fall in love with the city too. ❤ 

Seoul is a place to have fun and take your time, you simply shouldn't try to rush through everything. I know there is a lot to see, and you feel like you need to get ahold of all of it, but you run the risk of loosing the real feel of Seoul in the process.  I wouldn't say Seoulites are a slow-paced as the Spanish or some of the the Latin Americans, but they definitely like to wander thorugh life to the beat of a slower drum.  You get up a little later, and grab breakfast at a hidden coffee shop.  Then you meander through the winding shopping streets to visit one of the many palaces, stopping for ice cream and a hot chocolate for an afternoon snack. Sit there for a while, chatting and looking at all the sparky fashions walking past you, then slowly wander home via a different path.  Maybe stop at a small park on the way home?  Someone once said Seoul was like a Southern Drawl - you talk slowly, throwing in a few "dahlings" and "sweethahts" to create a classy charming feeling. Don't miss out on that feeling or you'll miss the spirit of Seoul.  It's indescribable.

Tips:

  • Take Your Time! If you have limited time, just visit one of the palaces or history museums.  Pick up either Building 63 or Namsan Tower - don't try to do both.  It's much better to move at your own pace and enjoy the sites you do see than to feel harried and rushed to see it all.  I say this because there is a LOT to see, and you just can't make it everywhere in a week.
  • Test Out New Taste Buds! ~ Belgian Waffles, Italian Pasta, Chinese Peking Duck, Mexican Tacos, and Korean BBQ - Seoul has it all.  Don't be too picky about the foods you try - be adveturous!  I admit I'm just not the greatest fan of street food or trying new dishes, but in Seoul you really should make the effort.  Their Ox Bone soup is delicious and the Chicken Galbi is to die for.  Some of the foods will look stranger than they taste. Korea actually uses a lot of the same ingredients as Americans (carrots, celery, green pepper, chicken, pork, fish, noodles, garlic, lettuce, ginseng, etc), they just put them together in unique ways.  And I msut say, the end result is often pretty yummy. 
  • Watch your $$$ ~ Seoul has gotten a lot more expensive in the last two years, even since I was there last summer.  Taxis now run a minimum fee of 3,000 Won (~ $3), and other items have copied the higher priced trend.  Coffee shops easily cost as much as US stores, as do many shopping locations.  It's a lot easier now to find yourself spending a ton of money unexpectedly. I recommend taking out a set amount of money each day (Woori bank doesn't usually charge an ATM fee and we took out about 200,000 Won per day and split it between the two of us), and forcing yourself to stick to that.
  • Housing ~ While I usually recommend that you stick with the hostel idea for cheaper housing, I know that for some people this isn't feasible.  My mother injured her back and couldn't climb the stairs at our hostel and we had to find a place with a comfortable bed and a elevator for not a horrible price.  One of the other places you can check out are the Love Motels.  It sounds sketchy, but they aren't as questionable as you might think. In a country where many couples still live in a home with both of their parents and their children, private time can be hard to come by. So there are a lot of "Love Motels" that rent by the night or hour for not a lot of money, and they are usually pretty nice.  We found one that had 2 beds, a large flat screen tv, a in-room computer, free wifi, a huge bathroom and bath, lovely wooden heated floors, and sweet desk clerks for only 60,000 a night. It's a little pricey, but better than the upper level hotels and just as nice to stay in. 
  • Buy a subway pass ~ Now that the taxi costs have gone up, it will save you a lot of money to pick up a subway pass, even if just there for a few days.  The subways are brilliantly easy to use and most directions are based on coming out of the closest subway stop. 
  • Check out some of the stranger sights if you have time! ~ There is a trick-eye museum and lots of street art if you are interested. There are also some really artsy student shops near the university areas, and plenty of hiking expeditions to check out.  Don't just focus on getting from tourist site to tourist site. Walk around a bit at each stop, and don't be afraid to check out a small alley. You never know what cool thing's you'll find!

If you still have time after my itinerary, feel free to check out some of the other awesome places!  COEX mall is pretty good, as is Itaewon, the other palaces, and the University shopping/art districts.  Dongdaemun is also pretty sweet!

Have fun, and let me know what was your favorite!

The one I chose was $15 a night for a place to stay. If interested, you can message me for more details. But check out AirBnb!
I picked a love hotel for the second week that cost me 60,000Won (~ $60) for a two bed room. The beds were nice and soft, the bathroom was huge, the room itself was really nice and upscale. Love Hotels in Korea are more for Husbands and Wive who need time away from the kids and parents than for men and their mistresses. So despite the name, they are more respectable than you think. And as nice as any normal hotel, but usually cheaper. My mom was recovering from the hospital so we didn't do anything in the city the second week; we spent all our time in this hotel and I really liked it.
It was a really pretty walk around this lovely palace
Photo of Deoksugung Palace Royal Guard-Changing Ceremony, Seoul, South Korea by Liv Blessing
Photo of Namsangol Hanok Village, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea by Liv Blessing
We checked out Myeong-dong at night since I've visited it repeatedly in the day before. I have to say, the night trip was worth it and a lot more exciting. There are several restaurants lining the streets, including one that served Excellent Chicken Galbi. It was truly delicious! There is also a lot of street food stands mixed in with all the shopping. You can check out Myeong-dong for two types of shopping: High Fashion (I'd go during the day) and Bargain Fashion (I'd go during the night). The stores are all open really late so it's up to you. You can always stop by around 3 in the afternoon and just wander the area until dark.
Photo of Myeong-dong, Seoul, South Korea by Liv Blessing
Photo of Myeong-dong, Seoul, South Korea by Liv Blessing
Tapgol Park is dedicated to Korea Independence from Japanese Imperial Possession of Korea during the war. It doesn't take long to walk through, but it has dozens of stunning frescos and historical sculptures. Definitely worth a look.
Photo of Tapgol Park, Jong-ro, Seoul, South Korea by Liv Blessing
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.
Photo of Cheonggyecheon-ro, Seoul, South Korea by Liv Blessing
Chungmuro is a bit of a distance from the Cheongyecheon area, but a taxi is easy to catch. Just get out at the Subway stop and look through the any restaurants for Korean BBQ. Chungmuro has some of the best Korean BBQ in the area- a real treat!
Photo of Chungmuro, Seoul, South Korea by Liv Blessing
There are dozens of palaces in Seoul, but Gyeongbokgung is still my favorite. It is a massive complex at the head of Gwanghwamun Square, snuggly fitted between embassy row and the Blue House (Korea's White House). You can see dozens of amazing sites and famous historical spots in this area, as well as walk where many KDrama stars have filmed. There are three very famous statues in Gwanghwamun Square, and you walk up the line of statues to the center gate of Gyeongbokgung. Inside you will find a gorgeous palace filled with dozens of buildings and interesting historical sites. There is also the Royal Museum and the Folk Museum inside. Plan a day for this is you want to take your time.
Photo of Gyeongbokgung Palace, Sajik-ro, Seoul, South Korea by Liv Blessing
Photo of Gyeongbokgung Palace, Sajik-ro, Seoul, South Korea by Liv Blessing
Lots and Lots of outdoor shopping, plus a cool place to wander if you just want to window shop and check out the unique items scattered all around. Very Famous outdoor market.
Photo of Namdaemun Market, Namdaemunsijang 4-gil, Seoul, South Korea by Liv Blessing
Photo of Namdaemun Market, Namdaemunsijang 4-gil, Seoul, South Korea by Liv Blessing
N Seoul Tower is a large observatory where you can see and photograph excellent views of the city. The building also hosts several fun activities for children, and some yummy little restaurant shops. Includes the Teddy Bear Museum, the lock trees, and various other activities you can participate in. You can either take the bus, the cable car, or hike the large mountain/hill :)
Photo of N Seoul Tower, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea by Liv Blessing
Photo of N Seoul Tower, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea by Liv Blessing
You come out of the subway at Hyehwa Station, and you are close to two universities. This means that there are tons of cute little coffee shops, clothing and accessory stores, etc. You hike up the streets a little way until you come to the entrance. Look to your right and see a darling little coffee "Cafe Travel" with a simply gorgeous view of the city inside. One of my favorite spots in the world. This park has several sculptures worth checking out, and the hike up to Seoul City Wall is lovely. Plus the view from the top is amazing!
Photo of Naksan-gil, Seoul, South Korea by Liv Blessing
The place you're looking for is Ihwa Mural Village. The village is scattered along the mountainside, and you walk down through it on your way back from Naksan Park. The murals are adorable, ranging from fish and flowers to illusions. Worth the hike
Photo of Ihwa-dong, Seoul, South Korea by Liv Blessing
63 building is especially great if you have kids, but fun for all involved. There is a Wax Museum, a large Aquarium, and the Outlook spot with the art gallery up top. Great view, and tons of exciting activities. Good food too!
Photo of 63 Building, Seoul, South Korea by Liv Blessing
Photo of 63 Building, Seoul, South Korea by Liv Blessing
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!
Photo of Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea by Liv Blessing
Insa-Dong is a very famous culture street, with hundreds of galleries, shops, and artist stalls set up here and there. Lots of great souvenirs and plenty of traditional tea shops to whet your appetite for the great dinner you're sure to find. Bring you walking shoes!
Photo of Insa-dong, Seoul, South Korea by Liv Blessing
This place is HUGE and there are tons of cultural things to see. A little more modern mostly than the other palace museums you'll have seen, so it's a good change. The museum is dedicated to every war Korea has ever fought (including the Korean War), so it has all the cool weapons, machines, and scene setters for the different period of history. Guys really like this one!
Photo of War Memorial of Korea, Seoul, South Korea by Liv Blessing