I wasn’t as blown away with Seoul as I was with other areas of South Korea, I thought it was a nice enough city but it certainly won’t be on my top 10 list anytime soon. I think I was underwhelmed because it receives so much hype online from other backpackers, maybe My expectations were to high. But I’m just a grumpy old lady so what do I know?!
South Korea is one of the more expensive places we’ve visited but Seoul has a huge selection of free walking tours, see their website HERE.
Things To Do:
Seoul is located close to the border between North and South Korea, also known as the DMZ (demilitarised zone). It’s difficult to get there on your own so we booked into a tour through seoulcitytours.net, I’m glad we went to learn about the current problems facing Korea as a nation, though I thought that the way it was presented was insensitive to the situation. It’s a true tragedy of the modern world and the tour kind of glamourised things. A half day tour includes lunch and hotel pick up and costs 55,000₩ per person.
I really loved the Myeondong area of town, it’s world famous for beauty products and apparently has over 1,000 cosmetic shops (I didn’t count), staff try to entice you inside with free samples. I walked up and down the street for 15 minutes and got enough high end products to last me the rest of the trip, a luxury I certainly haven’t indulged in since becoming a budget backpacker!
The area of Ganguam is popular with locals as well as tourists, the Hallyu K-Star Road is apparently where you will spot the worshiped K-Pop stars, though I wouldn’t recognise one even if they stopped to say hi! If you loved the popular song from a few years ago then you should stop by the Gangnam Style Landmark, it’s just outside the COEX complex.
Bongeunsa Temple is also in the Gangnam area, it’s a beautiful place and is free to enter, there are overnight temple experiences available, check their website for dates and prices.
Seolleung Jeongneung Park, is a peaceful place to enjoy an hour or two in downtown Seoul, the main draw is the twin royal tombs. Entrance costs 1,000₩.
The Gyengbokgung Palace (3,000₩) is located at the end of Gwanghwamun Square (free). The original palace was built in 1395 during the Joseph Dynasty, though it has burned down and been rebuilt several times.
The Seoullo Walkway is a fairly new addition to Seoul, it’s an elevated green space that gives a temporary retreat from city life. Perfect during summer months.
The area on both sides of the Cheonggyecheon stream has been turned into a public park that’s lit up beautifully at night, its part of a major effort by the Seoul council to introduce more greenery into the city.
Where To Eat:
Hi Food – Cheap and cheerful eatery that serve pretty good Ramen and have an English menu. (Next to our hotel.)
Nipong Naepong – a Korean/Italian fusion restaurant. Must try the risotto (COEX food court).
Getting There and Around:
The Gimpo international airport is connected to subway line number 5 and number 9. There are lots of low cost, budget airlines that fly to Seoul. The main train station is Seoul-Station, it has direct access to the Seoul subway.
The subway in Seoul is extensive and covers every single corner of the city, you’ll never be far from a station. The stations are really big and have multiple exits, the exit numbers are marked on Google maps, it’s a good idea to know which exit you need before you take your journey. Tickets cost 1,850₩ but a deposit of 500₩ is returned when you put your ticket back into the machine after your trip.
Where To Stay:
The Maui Hotel was right next to a subway station, and had lots of restaurants close by. The rooms were clean and modern, the wifi was fast and the had free laundry services (even a dryer). We booked through hotels.com during a sale and received 56% off, we paid £24 per night including breakfast.