City Guide: Seoul

From the Noryeongin Fish Market to Everland, here are the best things to experience when in Seoul!

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Gyeongbokgung City Guide Seoul

  • Watch Korean culture come to life in INSADONG (인사동), an animated walking street frequented by the tourists for its wealth of kitschy souvenirs and by the natives for its tasty street food
  • Marking the city’s highest point and offering the most stunning views of Seoul in its entirety (esp. at sunset) is NAMSAN SEOUL TOWER (서울 타워), accessed by one of two ways: either cable car or a lengthy hike up
  • Experience freedom the way crazed-university students do in HONGDAE (홍대), the area surrounding Hongik University where every weekend is run amok with expats and undergrads alike looking for good times and the best thing is, the party never ends
  • The partygoer finds paradise in the district of GANGNAM, where the stylish go to be seen as it is the it-scene for people who insist that elite clubs should charge outrageous cover fees as to keep the common-folk out
  • Take a step back in time when you visit BUKCHON HANOK VILLAGE (북촌), where the clusters of traditional wooden homes of yore, also known as hanoks, make for a photoshoot-worthy backdrop amidst the modern architecture of present-day Seoul
  • Feed your shopping addiction in MYEONGDONG (명동), a district dedicated solely to the capitalist enterprise of spending, a favorite pastime for all Koreans young-and-old
  • Hidden away by stone walls is the ancient landmark of GYEONGBOKGUNG (경복궁), a royal palace hailing from the Joseon Dynasty celebrated for its stately palatial grounds with elegant pavilions and gardens
  • Longing for a taste of home? There’s no judgment in expat-friendly ITAEWON (이태원) with international offerings catering to every palette under the sun so enjoy the burgeoning nightlife scene and end the night with good ol’ comfort food

Noryangjin Namsan City Guide Seoul

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IF YOU’VE MASTERED THE FOREMAN GRILL

  • GRILLED SALTED PORK BARBEQUE (331-1 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Hongdae District) While there seems to be no shortage of barbecue joints in Seoul, this one in Hongdae does things a little differently. Instead of a classic grilltop fired by charcoal or heated by gas, this restaurant warms up smooth, flat stones that act as their grilling platform and juicy cuts of locally-sourced are cooked to perfection. Roast some vegetables (the mushrooms are best) to keep the meal balanced. Nothing enhances the grilling experience moreso than a couple of shots of soju, Korea’s number one liquor. Ask for kalmegisal, the most tender part of the pig.

IF ELBOW-TO-ELBOW MOMENTS DON’T DETER YOU

  • GWANGJANG TRADITIONAL MARKET (88, Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno-gu) Feast on an array of local favorites in Seoul’s oldest traditional market. In this arena, the best players have the most seats filled so “do as the Romans do” and you won’t regret it. Before you are intimidated by the maze-like food operation, a great starting point is at the stalls selling bindaeddeok, a deep-fried mung bean pancake paired with the local tipple, makgeolli, a bubbly rice wine.

IF “THE CATCH OF THE DAY” IS HOW YOU LIKE YOUR SEAFOOD

  • NORYANGJIN WHOLESALE FISH MARKET (13-8 Noryangjin-dong, Dongjak-gu, off Subway Lines 1 and 9) Trust in your nose and let the overpowering scent of the ocean lead you to this giant seafood warehouse booming with activity, especially in the early hours of the day. Once inside the building, you’ll see row after row of freshwater tanks and tables topped with ice displaying every marine animal under the sea. The ajumas (old Korean ladies) compete with one another in intense yelling matches to sell their inventory. Compare and haggle – all your buys will no doubt be fresh, the more alive the better they say. Once you secure your desired items, head over to the second floor where restaurants will prepare your catch for a fee but be warned – it does get very pricey fast! A plate of delectable sashimi will never fail you.

IF YOU HAVE AN INSATIABLE SWEET TOOTH

  • SULBING (39 Insa-dong, Jongno-guWhile many places advertise themselves as “THE” Korean Dessert Café, no establishment warrants the definite article more than Sulbing. Here, the two highlights of the menu are patbingsu (shaved ice dessert) and injeomi toast. Their patbingsu is unlike any other: instead of using shaved ice, they use shaved milk, which creates a richer taste profile. A bowl usually starts at around 8,000 won but the portion is plentiful and the toppings are ornately, and gratuitously, piled on. Go for the Berry patbingsu: layers of sweet yogurt are interspersed in the icy goodness hidden under a luscious (confit) of cranberries, strawberries, and blueberries. They also give you a side of condensed milk to drizzle on.

Food City Guide Seoul

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  • Wash every care away at Dragon Hill Spa, a mega-jimjilbang (Korean bathhouse), with soothing herbal waters to cure every ailment known to man and saunas filled with the energizing powers of different minerals such as jade, amethyst, and even Himalayan salt.
  • Access an actual “no man’s land” and what Bill Clinton described as ‘the scariest place on earth’ under a guided tour to the DMZ (short for the Demilitarized Zone), the world’s most heavily armed border dividing North and South Korea. Make sure the tour schedule includes the Joint Security Area, where North and South Korean infantry are in a relentless visual standoff.
  • Who knew themed cafes were even a thing? In Korea, coffee drinking has been transformed from mere necessity into an amusing outing where cats roam around at the Kitty Café, sheeps baaaa outside the Nature Café, and lovers are suited up for a mock wedding at Café Drama. You can even try your hand at jewelry making while sipping on a Café Mocha at a Ring Café.
  • In the mood for love? Make a romantic gesture that speaks of permanence with your own Lock of Love and add to the ever-growing collection decorating the peak of Namsan Mountain or take a serene stroll besides the Cheonggyecheon Stream, which has an otherworldly ambiance due to its pseudo-subterranean setting making it the ideal place for every couple looking for a moment of privacy in a city with millions.
  • Ihwa Mural Village, is one of the very few ‘daldongnae’ (달동네) or ‘moon villages’ left in Seoul. Painted across neighborhood buildings are beautiful works of street art. Don’t go searching for the famous fish and flower steps — they have sadly been removed due to misconduct by tourists.
  • If you ever need a reminder on the current state of affairs, the War Memorial of Korea is a museum dedicated to Korea’s military enterprises both past and present and the graveyard of decommissioned tanks and ships is now, ironically, a children’s playground
  • Did you know that Korea has over ten/eleven professional teams in its league? Share the stands with some of the world’s most hyped-up fans and by the end of the game, the catchy chants will be stuck in your head at Jamsil Stadium.
  • Entertainment is done big here, quite literally. Seoul is home to a number of world record holders such as the world’s largest movie theater screen, Starium at Times Square Mall, and the world’s largest indoor amusement park, Lotteworld.

The DMZ City Guide Seoul

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Seoul is teeming with fun things to do! Create your own bucket list while you’re there with help from these resources!

👉Have you ever been to Seoul? Share your tips for seeing the city in the comments below!

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A comprehensive guide to the best of Seoul with @The Next Somewhere

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Izzy Pulido is a Bostonian by way of the Philippines who loves to vagabond. At twenty-seven, she’s traded in gallivanting around Europe for the 9-to-5 grind… but don’t count out the vagabonding! With a new long distance relationship, she’s bringing American travel to the forefront. She lives for good times, good food, and good peeps.

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  1. Megan Indoe

    19 January

    Wow Izzy! This post is thorough and looks great! I live here and there are things on here I didn’t even know about! I need to check out Sulbing! Thanks for sharing!

    • Izzy Pulido

      22 January

      Thank you so much! If you have anything to add about your city, I’d love to only see the list grow! 🙂 And yes, check out sulbing! There are nine flavors and some are seasonal. You’ll be hooked!

  2. Wendy

    21 January

    Since I live here in Seoul, almost all these I’ve been to but never bothered to put up a list like this. This is very helpful for tourists. Thanks!

    • Izzy Pulido

      22 January

      I completely understand. There are so many cities I’ve gotten to know but I’ve never given a thought to highlight all my favorite places so I’ve decided I’m gonna start up a series of city guides. Stay tuned for some more!

  3. Jackie

    21 January

    Whoa! What an amazing list! But in addition to that I love how you put it together! The images, the fonts, the way you worded it all—everything! I’m definitely sharing your post to friends when they visit. Just awesome! Thanks for this! 🙂

    • Izzy Pulido

      22 January

      Awwww, thanks for all the lovely compliments! I’m so glad you enjoyed the layout! It’s always great to hear some positive feedback and I can’t wait to draw up some more guides. I also looked at your blog too! Its an amazing concept and I will definitely be reading more! 🙂

  4. Laura

    24 January

    This is a great post for those looking to travel here as well as those of us who live here. Thanks so much for sharing this – love it!

    • Izzy Pulido

      30 January

      So glad you like it! I feel like there’s so much more to add but its more of a quick guide as a opposed to a comprehensive one 😛

  5. Rafiqua Israel

    26 January

    Lovely post! It is really well put together 😀 I have visited seoul SO many times but I still haven’t visited these places : Gwangjang Traditional Market, DMZ, Dragon Hill Spa and Namsan Tower. I keep wanting to go to these places but I never have enough time. Once I tried to visit Gwangjang Traditional Market but it was a Sunday and they were closed 🙁

    • Izzy Pulido

      30 January

      Girllllll…. Gwangjang Market is seriously SO much fun and a foodie’s paradise! I really liked going there in the summer since its semi-outdoors. And Dragon Hill Spa is a perfect escape from the frigid cold. I hear that Asia is experiencing this big chill so go warm up there 🙂 I completely understand though, never enough time happened to me A LOT while I was in Korea.

  6. Eric

    26 January

    I love the design and photos on this post, and what a great list of things to do in Seoul! I’ll bookmark this post for use the next time I’m in Seoul. I’d especially like to go up the Namsan tower. Thanks for sharing!

    • Izzy Pulido

      30 January

      Thanks for the love! I’ve actually never been all the way up Namsan Tower but I love climb up the mountain and the grounds below with all the locks of love and great restaurants. I think you get as a good of a view on the mountain summit, no need to spend too much won on an elevator ride 😛

  7. Linda

    26 January

    lovely guide! I have yet to check out a couple of these places and cannot wait to see the DMZ!

    • Izzy Pulido

      30 January

      You haaaave to go to the DMZ! Are they still running tours with all the activity in No. Korea? I’m so curious about that!

  8. […] When I first moved to Korea, I never imagined Seoul would become my favorite city in the world! There’s a lot to do and see in Seoul so I’ve drafted up an extensive guide to the city here. […]

  9. Hallie

    16 January

    Looks like you’ve got all the big things… you’ll have to hit up the quirky themed cafes the next time you’re around. These days it seems half of the visitors are looking for the history and culture and the other half want some K-pop and quirks haha. Which do you prefer?

  10. […] 熱炒  beer house. Taipei is arguably the most underrated destination in Asia and has unseated Seoul as my favorite city in the world. Learn more about how I fell in love in this City Guide […]

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