Towering skyscrapers, delicious street food, and incredible nightlife – no, we’re not talking about Hong Kong. This time round we’re venturing to Seoul, the colourful capital of South Korea, to explore the wonderfully diverse culture that has influenced so many other cities across the globe. Here are ten things you cannot miss if you’re lucky enough to find yourself doing some Seoul searching in the land of k-pop.
1. Visit Olympic Park
Home of the Instagram-famous “Alone Tree”, Olympic Park is one of Seoul’s biggest parks that sits just a few minutes away from the tallest building in South Korea, the Lotte World Tower. Divided into a number of zones, the park is a multi complex that has everything from a giant music fountain, to stunning art sculptures from all around the world, and of course, endless acres of flower gardens, lakes, and walking paths with picturesque views. A great way to explore the park is by taking part in the Stamp Tour, where upon collecting all nine stamps at each of the park’s top nine locations, participants will receive a special completion gift!
Localiiz Tip: If you’re not up for walking around all day, then take the Hodori Road Train that runs through the entire park. Or if you’re travelling with family, there are 4 to 6 seater bikes available for rent near the Peace Plaza.
2. Embrace the Traditions at Gyeongbokgung Palace
One of the must-visit sites in Seoul is of course the Gyeongbokgung Palace. Built in 1395, Gyeongbokgung is the largest palace out of the Five Grand Palaces built in the city during the Joseon dynasty. Although it is always swarming with tourists, the palace is unique and beautiful in every way. It’s also huge so prepare to spend at least half a day walking around. A good place to fuel up beforehand is Tongin Market where you can make your own lunch box by purchasing a stack of coins/tokens, which you can then exchange for portions of different tradition Korean foods available around the market. There’s even a seating area where you can buy rice and soup to add to your meal.
Localiiz Tip: Don’t forget to catch the Changing of the Guards Ceremony which takes place at 10am and 2pm every day (except Tuesdays) outside Gwanghwamun, the main gate of Gyeongbokgung.
3. Admire the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)
There’s no denying that Korea has some of the most stunning architecture in the world, and the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) is the perfect example. Located at the Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station, this breathtaking architectural landmark is a design and fashion hub that often holds various exhibitions, fashion shows, conferences, as well as many other international cultural events. Be sure to check out the design shop where there’s tons of fun and innovative products available to purchase. Speaking of shopping, don’t forget to visit the Hello apM and Migliore shopping mall, where you’ll be able to hunt down tons of bargains on clothing and accessories.
Localiiz Tip: Head to the Plaza around late afternoon / evening so you can catch just enough daylight for some epic photos, and witness the transformation of DDP as walking paths light up and the LED Rose Garden is turned on at night.
4. Spend a Day at Common Ground
Nestled in the eastern end of Seoul near Konkuk University, Common Ground is slightly off the beaten track compared to other tourist sites around the city. Made up of 200 large shipping containers, this lively gathering ground for youngsters is also an Instagram hotspot where a photo in front of the blue containers is a must. After you’re done with the selfie, settle down with a piece of rainbow coloured cake at Dore Dore, chow down on some yummy nibbles by the food trucks, and browse through the latest up-and-coming designer brands inside the containers. This place is definitely worth a visit.
Localiiz Tip: Visit Common Ground on the weekends where there will often be themed-street markets, art exhibitions, music performances, and even sports matches.
5. Eat Street Food at Myeongdong
So, you’re in a foreign country, your stomach is grumbling, and there’s not a word of English on the restaurant menu. What to do? Well, head down to the busy streets of Myeongdong and we promise you can’t go wrong. Whether you’re a fan of spicy Tteok-bokki (rice cakes), steaming hot GyeRan Bang (egg bread), or in need of some sweet Ppopgi (traditional sugar candy), there are all types of delicious street nibbles waiting for you. Best of all, most of the vendors speak some basic English so communication will not be a problem.
Localiiz Tip: If you’re interested in trying a Ppopgi, try to eat around the indented shape on the candy. If the shape stays intact and does not break, you can get another Ppopgi for free!
6. Visit a Museum or Gallery
Looking for a culture fix? Then why not add a dose of art to your holiday and visit one of the many amazing museums and galleries around Seoul. From must-visit places like the Seoul Museum of Art, to small contemporary art galleries such as the Kukje Gallery, there’s certainly no shortage of stunning artworks around the city. Best of all, admission to most museums and galleries is free, making it the perfect activity for those travelling on a tight budget.
Localiiz Tip: Plan ahead to make sure the museum or gallery is open on the day you wish to visit. Sometimes there will also be special exhibitions held where an extra entrance fee is required.
7. Head to N Seoul Tower
Located in the city centre, the N Seoul Tower is the go-to for an all-round panoramic view of Seoul. It’s also a popular place for couples from all over the world to visit, where it is tradition to place a “Love Lock” on the fences around the Observation Deck by the base of the tower. There are a number of ways to reach the tower, but taking the cable car is by far the most convenient, plus you’ll get a wonderful view along the way. There’s also the option of hiking up to the tower too, but be prepared for some long, sloping hills.
Localiiz Tip: The view you get from the Observation Deck is pretty amazing, so if you’re looking to save a few dollars, we reckon there’s really no need to go up the actual tower.
8. Enjoy Street Performances in Hongdae
There’s lots to do in Hongdae. Not only is it a shopping paradise and a foodie haven, you’ll also find free entertainment around every corner you turn thanks to the buskers! These performers are usually students trying to earn a few extra bucks on the side, and their acts can range vastly from K-pop dancing to even opera singing. So if you ever have some extra time on your hands, find yourself a crowd to join, and enjoy some fun local entertainment.
Localiiz Tip: There are buskers everywhere around Hongdae, sometimes even by the side of the road, so if you do decide to stop and watch, make sure you are not in the way of any traffic or pedestrian walks!
9. Walk Along Seoullo 7017
The Seoullo 7017 is a unique and beautiful sky garden that definitely deserves a place on our list. Situated next to the bustling Seoul subway station, Seoullo 7017 is divided into 17 unique paths where you will find public amenities such as foot baths, trampolines, convenience stores, and art installations along the way. Recently opened in 2017, the sky garden has quickly become a revitalising attraction for both locals and tourists.
Localiiz Tip: There’s no roof or any kind of shade along the paths of the sky garden, so if you’re visiting on a hot summer day, be sure to stay hydrated.
10. Night Out at Itaewon
Itaewon, Seoul’s very own cultural melting pot, is packed with bars and restaurants serving up grub from every continent of the world – perfect for whenever you’re missing home! For this reason, the number of foreigners you see strolling around Itaewon often exceeds the amount of locals. The nightlife here is amazing too, with crowds of party goers hopping from bar to bar. For a perfect night out, we suggest sinking your teeth into some Korean-Mexican fusion tacos at Vatos, before heading down to one of the many vibrant nightclubs around the area. Our favourites are Soap Seoul and Club Made!
Localiiz Tip: Bouncers at the door will always ask for your ID, so make sure to bring along a form of identification with you.
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