Alas, here’s another Seoul Itinerary for all of you city slickers and gutter dwellers. Just kidding, leave the gutter dwelling to the drunk ajhussi. Whichever comes first. I get a lot of requests on how to have a great time in Seoul. Trust me, you’ll have a great time regardless, but hopefully you’ll find a little somethin’ somethin’ for everyone in your tour party or just yourself. Seoul is a super diverse city known for it’s work hard and play harder attitude. Let’s delve into the playground of South Korea’s capital.
A fan favorite with many K-pop and K-drama lovers as well as the iconic symbol of many photos that inspire you to visit South Korea. Every traveler needs to come here for the divine views of the city (on a clear day) and to leave a lock of love with their lover. Did you know the different colors of the tower have meaning? If the tower is blue, the air quality is amazing (aka no yellow dust).
Namsangool Hanok Village
While you’re at the Tower, why not visit this incredible village? In my experience, it’s not as crowded as Bukchon and you can really have a great look around the grounds and kimchi pots.
Rent a Hanbok
Every country has their own unique cultural wear and traditions. Cue One Day Hanbok which offers you a service to rent the beautiful hanbok of Korea for four hours or a day. Personally, I think the day deal is better as you can take your time and really enjoy yourself if taking photos is what you’re all about. Plus, who doesn’t love a million compliments?
No trip to Seoul is complete without traversing the stunning palaces. They’re so vast it’s impossible to see them all in one day, but by golly, pick the biggest and the prettiest first. Wow, I sounded like some old southern belle grandma. Admission is pretty cheap but did you know you admission is free if you go in hanbok? Talk about a double whammy for culture and fun.
Obviously not so secret anymore because it’s open to the public, but did you know that a tour is totally worth your time? You’ll learn how royalty entertained themselves with drinking games and how they relaxed in their downtime. After all, running a country is hard work, amirite?
This is the place where tourists go and you’re in luck because it’s right outside of Gyeongbokgung. On this street you will find an assortment of cafes, Korean trinkets and delicious Korean food. If you’re lucky, you’ll even get to see cultural street performances.
Bukchon Hanok Village
Need a little more culture in a big city? See how the people of the Joseon era lived and the style of homes. Some offer lessons on how to make traditional lanterns or wind chimes.
One of the most popular temples in the Seoul area, it’s especially vibrant during Buddha’s birthday. The temple becomes alight with colorful lanterns and parades to celebrate this divine ruler.
Shopping in Myeongdong
Shop till you drop has an entirely new meaning because Koreans take it to an entirely different level. You’ll be enticed by makeup, skincare, food, clothes, and beautiful displays of flashing lights and music to get your attention. Worried about doing some wallet damage? Competition is steep so rest assured, you’ll get some good prices while you’re there.
If you’re a fan of Kpop, don’t forget to stop by for an SM Town inspired cafe, snacks, and every kind of merchandise under the sun. The outdoor grounds routinely host beer festivals, food festivals and rallies. Still not enough K-pop? PSY’s Gangnam Style has been immortalized with the horse hands. Don’t forget to get your dance on there!
Another bit of culture takes its stand in the city as it is famous for Temple stays. You’ll get to experience a vegetarian and meditative life. If you’re lucky to roam the grounds in the late afternoon, you’ll also hear the monks drumming and the bells ringing.
Personally, I’m not a big fan because it’s super crowded no matter when you go, but if you’re an amusement park fanatic, you definitely want to give this a chance. Lotte World is the largest indoor amusement park and even has a small outdoor portion. I think it’s especially beautiful around spring with Seokchon Lake becomes alive with cherry blossoms.
Living pretty close to Olympic Park has its perks. Every season brings a special activity like ice skating or the super bloom of the Rose Garden. You can rent double bikes and have a go around the lake. It’s a popular spot for a picnic. Many events are held there like celebrity meetings and concerts.
Visit A Funky Cafe
Korea is known for it’s love of coffee and with so many unique cafes out there to compete, you’ll always have the best time.
- DIY Cell Phone Case at DB Story (Hongdae) – Who needs to buy a cellphone case when you can make it to your liking?
- Cupcake Factory (Hongdae) – According to CNN this is one of the better cupcake places in the city. Go early so that it’s fresh.
- Hello Kitty Cafe (Hongdae) – Looking for a place that looks like Hello Kitty threw up all over the place? Look no further and let your eyes ache with happiness from all the pink.
- Bau House Dog Cafe (Hongdae) – As a dog lover, you can’t pass up this opportunity. The dogs are well socialized and most are lucky to have a sweet fur baby fall asleep in their lap.
- Sang Sang Puppy Cafe (Hongdae) – Didn’t get enough of the dogs at Bau House. Hop on over for another great experience at Sang Sang. All dogs are small-medium sized.
- Meerkat Cafe (Hongdae) – Seoul’s newest craze and for a good reason. Who wouldn’t want a chance to play with this exotic animal?
- Sheep Cafe (Hongdae) – There’s nothing cuter than a fuzzy and fluffy sheep. The animals are so kind, well cared for and very sweet if you have some hay.
- CaFace (Hongdae) – Have you ever dreamed about having your mug printed on a latte? Well, you can now and narcissistically drink your own face. 😉
- Princess Diary (Ewha Women’s University) – Fancy becoming a Disney princess or just want to remember your long forgotten prom? Dress up here with tea and drinks.
- Wanggwan House Parrot Cafe (Ewha Women’s University) – Spend an afternoon with a bird of your choosing and become besties.
- Cafe Drama (Ewha Women’s University) – Another amazing dress up cafe where you can rent even more gorgeous dresses.
- Line Friends Store and Cafe (Itaewon & Gangnam) – For those visiting from Japan, this is a must. An explosion of cute awaits.
- Blind Alley Raccoon Cafe (Sookmyung Women’s University) – In the midwest, these furry creatures are a pest, but here in Korea, an exotic pet.
Seoul Side Trips
Had enough of the big city and need out? Sometimes the hustle and bustle is too much for some and you need to escape for less people and more fun.
- Everland – I would describe this as an amusement park and zoo all in one. I highly recommend it for a day out of the city.
- Yongin Traditional Folk Village – One of my favorite places in Korea, there are actors reenacting how people of the Joseon era made tobacco pipes
- Oido – At the end of Blue Line 4 lies this romantic date spot. You’ll find a board walk, sea and all you can eat seafood for cheap prices at the restaurants lining the coast.
What to Eat
Korean food is the Seoul food of Asia. See what I did there? It’s the most flavorful and delectable delights that will fill your palate with a culinary delight. What to eat while you’re here? Let’s have a look.
Traditionally served in a piping hot stone bowl bibimbap is rice with assorted vegetables, egg, and topped with gochujang, a spicy pepper paste.
There’s nothing like roasting a pig after a hard day of exploration. Pork belly is cooked over a fire and served with various side dishes such as kimchi, pepper, lettuce, pickled radish. The best part of samgyapsal are the sauces like gochujang and sesame oil with a salt and pepper mixture.
This is a marinated beef with a sweet and tangy flavor. It’s a popular fusion food at Mexican restaurants and you can find bulgogi tacos. It’s served on a hot stone plate so you can see the beef sizzling once it gets to you.
Korea has a pork obsession. Can you tell? 😉 This is basically boiled pork belly boiled in spices and thinly sliced. It comes with a plethora of side dishes for your culinary pleasure.
Chicken and Beer
You think this is a joke, but Koreans take this fried dish very seriously. Fried and battered twice, you’ll never get a fried chicken more crispy and delicious than what you will find in Seoul. It’s best served with local beers like Cass or Kloud.
Is your mouth watering yet because it’s about to get better with this spicy chicken stir fry with loads of vegetables. It’s cooked raw in front of you on a hot stone grill. It’s a popular drinking dish, but lets be real kids, any excuse to drink is a good excuse in Korea.
A popular street food and dish at restaurants, it’s rice cakes, fish and onion tossed with generous amounts of gochujang. I think I’m seeing a trend here with all the pepper in the food.
Also a common street food you can find this anywhere. Think of it as rolled sushi but without all the fish. I’ve found the most delicious ones are with imitation crab. You can expect loads of veggies in the middle.
I’m just letting you know you have not lived life until you have eaten this Korean staple. When Koreans do stew, they do it with a bang. It’s not a proper one unless it’s served scalding hot. Like so hot it actually burns your mouth. The stew usually has kimchi with bits of pork belly, tofu or seafood depending on the restaurant. It’s served with rice to take out the spicy kick and side dishes.
The best way to describe this stew is kimchi jjigae on steroids. Add a bunch of ramen noodles, spam, hotdog, chunks of meat and veggies then presto! You have a mouthgasm on the way.
This delectable delight is basically bean sprouts, spring onions, Korean pepper and sometimes bits of octopus. It’s bound to make your taste buds sing and a really great happy soup for when you catch a cold.
This is my all time favorite dessert in Korea. It’s basically shaved ice with sweet condensed milk and fruit or other flavor assortments. Can you guess which type I like the most? It’s definitely a must try for everyone visiting Korea!
My list barely scraped the surface, but hopefully you will now know what to do in Seoul and be able to get a great feel for the city. From all the delicious morsels to culture and things to do, it’s almost impossible to get through everything. Before I leave you, I will give two tales of caution. First, beware the ajhussi smell. You will find the stench very prominent as it’s mixed with kimchi, soju and cigarettes. Alas, nothing beats a whiff of au de ajhussi on line 2 when coming back hungover from a night of drinking. Second, beware the ajhumma. These little orks will happily elbow you right where it hurts to get a seat on the train or wherever it is they have to go.