SEOUL

Things to do in Seoul
Seoul

Seoul Travel Blog: Table of Contents

Where, How?
Seoul on C&C
Best Time To Visit Seoul
Personal Notes
Where to Sleep
Let’s Eat!
Let’s Go For a Drink
What to See and Do
Tipping in Seoul
Common Scams & What to Avoid
C&C’s Google Map of the City

Seoul Travel Blog: Where, How?

Seoul, South Korea, East Asia, Asia

Population: 10,140,000 (2013)

Currency: Won ()

Airport(s)

Incheon International Airport (IIA)

Airport Notes: Incheon airport is one of the most modern, most beautiful, efficient and clean airports in the world. It’s also well connected with the city.

Please note that the airport now has 2 terminals. They’re quite far away from each other! Travelling from terminal 1 to terminal 2 using the free shuttle bus will take about 25 minutes! And so if you have a connecting flight there, double-check that you have enough time to get to your gate. Also, when you get to the airport to take a flight out of Seoul, double-check to make sure you get to the right terminal.

Transportation to-and-from the airport:

A’REX is an airport train that travels back and forth between the airport and Seoul Station. There are two types: an express train and an all-stop train. It’s by far the best way to travel to and from the airport.

Limousine buses will get you all the way to your hotel. They are they are best option if you have got a lot of luggage. Public buses on the other hand drop off at major transit hubs. There are regular and deluxe taxis to Seoul as well.

Intra-City Transportation

KTX is a high-speed rail service that traverses Seoul. It operates either from Seoul Station, Yongsan Station or Youngdeungpo dependent on destination.

You can use the subway to visit basically any place as it is very expansive. There are 2 different services depending on the area – the brand-new underground and the older overground.

The bus system is equally as extensive. You can easily figure out the buses’ routes using their color. Alternatively, you could use a taxi (distinguishable by color as well). You could also get a rental but the city’s constant traffic jams make it hard to navigate.

A Note on Taxis: 

You will be required to pay for road tolls in addition to meter fares. Get someone to write down the name of your destination in Korean for easy communication.

Just like anywhere, Uber is cheaper and safer. If you don’t already have an account, use this link and get 15 dollars off your first ride!

Seoul Travel Blog: Neighborhoods

Jongno is the historical center of the city and home to the Jongmyo Shrine, a Confucius shrine as well as some of the Joseon Palaces. Yongsan is a world renowned electronics market and where the US Army Base is located. Gangnam is Seoul’s ostentatious center filled with extravagant sky scrapers and neon bill boards. Yeoui-do Island is very similar to Manhattan with its skyscrapers, the Seoul Stock Exchange and the National Assembly. Hongdae, Sincheon and Gangnam are lined with pubs, bars and nightclubs and are famous for their trendy nightlife.

Navigation tips:

Seoul is densely populated. It gets confusing even for the locals. For this reason it is advisable to get acquainted with the landmarks in your vicinity. The N Seoul Tower for instance is found in the middle of town and could be of great help when trying to find your way.  A compass could also come in handy. Luckily, there is a subway stop conveniently placed every 10-minute walk in whichever direction. Conclusion: a smartphone, Google Maps, and a full battery!

One more tip: the local app is KakaoTalk. It’s used for about everything: chatting, maps, shopping, calling an Uber, and it even has a bank. There’s an English version, but it’s limited.

More About Seoul on C&C

Seoul Travel Blog: Best Time To Visit Seoul

Average Monthly Minimum And Maximum Temperatures

Average min and max temperatures in Seoul, South Korea
Average min and max temperatures in Seoul, South Korea

Average Monthly Hours Of Sunshine

Average monthly sunhours in Seoul, South Korea

Average Monthly Rainfall Or Snowfall

Average precipitation (rain/snow) in Seoul, South Korea

Seoul Travel Blog: Personal Notes

What’s This Place About?

Seoul is the capital of South Korea and it’s one of the most modern cities on earth. It’s gigantic and can be intimidating for first timers but it’s actually a very welcoming place. Korean people are very welcoming. Westerners will find plenty of benchmarks in everyday life in Seoul. It has a very rich and long history and is full of quirks and awesomeness.

What’s Great and Fun?

Seoul has some of the best food on earth and has some of the most welcoming people. It’s a city that’s very much defined by its neighborhoods and so from one neighborhood to another you will find a completely different vibe. It will be in your best interest to learn where you are located so that you know what each borough has to offer. If you head to the top of one of the many skyscrapers in the middle of Seoul, you’ll find that there are tall residential buildings and skyscrapers as far as the eye can see. It’s big, it’s impressive, and it’s an experience like none other. In the middle of the city lies Mount Namsan which is really its heartbeat. You can hike up a small mountain in the middle of downtown Seoul which is truly impressive in and of itself.

Personal Anecdotes

I love everything about Korean food. It’s just fascinating. Even the cheapest street food snacks are an experience in and of itself. Drinking beer and soju and eating Korean food in Seoul is enough of a reason to go to South Korea. I can’t say enough about the city. I really love it. It’s also gigantic.

When traveling on the subway, especially the older overground section of the metro system, you’ll probably end up getting punched in the kidneys by an old woman trying to make her way inside. That’s normal! That’s okay! That’s how it works over there. These old ladies are called ahjumma. Don’t worry. That’s just the way it is. Get our of the way, and don’t sit down when it’s crowded!

Seoul Travel Blog: Where to stay in Seoul

For something low budget, Jongno district is the place to stay. Favored by backpackers, it is ideally located for sight-seeing and can be easily accessed from Incheon Airport. Sunbee Hotel Insadong Seoul is a nice mid-range hotel here. If you a want quick fix to the query of where to stay in Seoul, this would be it.

Sincheon district also has budget accommodation and is located in close proximity to a lot of bars, restaurants and shopping malls. It is also easily accessible from the airport using Airport limousine buses and the Airport Express Trains. For last-minute options on where to stay in Seoul, you may consider these.

Myeongdong district is most preferred by tourists as it has a variety of great food choices and several modern shopping malls. L7 Myeongdong and Lotte City Hotel Myeongdong are two great four-start hotels in this area. This is perhaps the best answer to the question of where to stay in Seoul.

Brownie GuesthouseLee & No Guesthouse Hongdae and Zzzip Guesthouse are my recommendations for hostels, which are mostly near Hongdae.

If you like peace and quiet as you retire however, two stops away is the Seoul Station.

Gangnam is home to the upscale Le Meridien Seoul and the best place to try out different artisan cafés. If you want a really cool tip on where to stay in Seoul, pick this. Hotel Foreheal Gangnam is a more affordable choice in Gangnam.

There are also other major chain hotels in Seoul such as JW Marriott Hotel SeoulFour Seasons Hotel Seoul and InterContinental Seoul COEX.

I really enjoy staying in Hongdae. Check out AirBnb in this area!

Just like everywhere, Airbnb is a very interesting option. If you’re not already a  member, you can use this Airbnb link to get $40 off your first reservation.


Booking.com

Seoul Travel Blog: Let’s Eat!

Famous Foods and Specialties

  • The famous Korean barbecue, one of the best meals anywhere!
  • Japchae (sweet, chewy stir-fried noodles)
  • Kimchi (spicy and sour fermented vegetables – the national dish of Korea)
  • Bulgogi (grilled marinated beef)
  • Samgyeopsal (grilled strips of pork belly meat)
  • Hoeddeok (sweet syrupy pancake)
  • Gimbap
  • Bibimbap

The Best Drunk Food

  • Soondae (pork intestines stuffed with blood, noodles and barley)
  • Tteokbokki (soft rice and fish cake)
  • Dakbal (Korean-style chicken feet)
  • Chimaek (chicken and beer!)

Seoul Travel Blog: Our Suggestions – Dishes And Restaurants

When you a make decision on where to stay in Seoul, check also about the restaurant options.

There are hundreds of thousands of restaurants – most of them awesome – in Seoul and its suburbs. To be 100% honest, the first thing I do when I get off the plane and land in Seoul is to find a barbecue restaurant – specialized in pork if possible – and eat like a pig and drink soju and beer. It’s one of the great pleasures in life.

I’d like to point out that the details and amount of businesses found in Google Maps isn’t as complete as in other countries.

People in Seoul tend to use Mangoplate.com for crowdsourced reviews.

It’s difficult to find a bad restaurant in either Gangnam or Hongdae.

One more ultra-interesting stop: “raw beef alley”. It’s an alley of Gwangjang Market that serves nothing but raw beef. Every stall of the market is a must-stop, but this alley in particular is stunning!

(I know these are pretty vague tips, but I’ve honestly never had a bad meal in Seoul!)

Other than that, there are a few of the best, top-rated restaurants in the world in Seoul.

Mingles, Jungsik and La Yeon are part of all of the most famous lists out there.

I’d like to finish this patchwork restaurant guide with a list of restaurants where I’d like to eat one day. For my own personal pleasure.

Oegojip Sellongtang – Kkotji – Dadam – Ogeunnae Dakgalbi – Jinmi Sikdang – Halmaejip – MokmyeoksanbangBuchon Yukhoe

Seoul Travel Blog: Let’s Go For a Drink

What Do the Locals Drink?

Soju (korean rice liquor), makgeolli (thick, milky rice wine), beer and whisky.

Drinking in Public

South Korea in general is an alcoholic’s paradise. You can drink pretty much anywhere except school grounds. Public drunkenness is not an issue. It’s actually pretty common.

Our Suggestions – Bars and Pubs

If you want to make the best choice on where to stay in Seoul, you need to know the location of the best bar in the city. It is always better to keep both near as much as possible.

Seoul’s nightlife has so much to offer, a year would not suffice to exhaust your options. Seoul’s vibrant nightlife is partly owed to its people’s love for getting intoxicated and preference of EDM (Electronic Dance Music).

Octagon is the go-to place if you have only one night to let loose in Seoul. It is frequented by famous international DJs and the music of choice is EDM. It was rated the 6th best club in the world by DJ Mag.

Club Answer (reportedly closed) is popular amongst young, attractive well-clad Koreans. Its luxurious interior will have you feeling like Korea’s elite. It boasts one of Seoul’s best sound systems and is just the place to go and see how Seoulites get down.

Syndrome has been the talk of town since its inception and with reason. It is one of the biggest and most insane night clubs in Seoul. It even has a swimming pool!

As regular readers of this column know, I don’t know anything about clubs. This means that a friend, who’s a local, told me that the above three clubs were good. I hope you have fun if you visit them!

Most people in Seoul (just like in most of East Asia, really) drink only when they eat, and so they will have drinks in restaurants. Still, there are a lot of great bars in Seoul. I’ve not visited many, unfortunately, as I was too passionate about the food!

Still, here are 3 spots I visited and thoroughly enjoyed:

Golmok Vinyl & Pub – They play old vinyls in a dive-bar style place. You know this is right up my alley!

Vinyl bar is in the same fashion as the one above, and it’s great too!

Ok, here’s a third one that does the same (what can I say, I love music and dive bars!) Bar Woodstock.

As I said before, there are thousands upon thousands of interesting bars in Seoul. It’s up to you to discover them!

Seoul Travel Blog: What to See and Do

Of all the five palaces, Gyeongbokgung Palace is the grandest and possibly the most attractive. Don’t look for where to stay in Seoul too far away from a happening tourist attraction.

Cheong Wa Dae is Korea’s equivalent of the White House. It is easily recognizable with its blue tiles on its roof that are complemented by Mt. Bugaksan behind it.

Dongdaemun is a must-visit for fashion fanatics. It stocks all of the world’s latest fashion trends.

N Seoul Tower located on top of Mt. Namsan, is not only a symbol of Seoul but the perfect place to get an extensive aerial view of the city.

Myeongdong is Seoul’s main shopping district. It will cater to all your shopping needs.

Gwangjang Market is Seoul’s largest food alley made up of 200 stalls hawking kimchi, seafood and other local delicacies.

The Olympic Park is where the 1988 Olympics where held. In case you missed it, catch up with the screenings of the highlights. Otherwise take a walk around the park and look at the numerous larger-than-life sculptures.

Visit the world’s largest theme park inside Lotte World. Its amusement rides are a big crowd pleaser.

Namiseom Island is one of the locations where Korea’s famous drama Winter Sonata was filmed.

Tipping in Seoul

Just like in most of South Korea, is it not part of the culture to tip. It is not expected and if anything, locals might even find it odd if you tip. This is the case for everything: hotels, restaurants, taxis, etc.

Seoul Travel Blog: Common Scams & What to Avoid

Common Scams

There aren’t really any common scams and Seoul is a very very safe place. When you decide on where to stay in Seoul, be sure to avoid these places.

Pickpockets

There are some like in most gigantic cities and so the regular warnings apply

Taxis

They’re fine! Regular warnings apply

Crime

Not really…

Problematic Neighborhoods

There aren’t any, really, however be careful when you visit Itaewon and/or Hongdae as the US Army is known to party in these neighborhoods. Locals tend to despise the members of the American army because of their rowdy and disrespectful behaviour that led to many incidents in the past. And I mean manyMany. Many. Many. Many. Many.  Many incidents.

How to Stay Safe: Tips and Tricks

READ MORE: Travel Canada Advisory for Korea.

Seoul Travel Blog: C&C’s Map