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Part One: The Best City in Korea?

Part One: The Best City in Korea?

Which city in Korea is the best city for you?

When moving to a new country, people sometimes forget the importance of one’s location. With the help of bloggers and friends from all over the country, I’ve compiled a line-up of ten cities around South Korea to give much-needed insight for those looking to move to the country for work. In this post, you’ll be able to compare population, geographic distance, upsides and downsides, and see what the city has to offer through visuals and text.  Almost all the people who contributed to this article have lived in their respective cities for more than one year and can attest to the actual benefits of living in said-cities. (Note: this is a small sample of all the cities you could potentially could end up in if teaching abroad in Korea but it’s a good place to start!)

First up are Seoul, Cheonan, Daejeon, Jeonju, and Daegu!

Best City in KoreaBest City in Korea Seoul

Want more of Scott Herder’s incredible time lapses of Seoul? Click here!

POPULAR ATTRACTIONS

  • Myeongdong: One of the best shopping and eating spots in Seoul.
  • Dongdaemun: Famous for it’s shopping and Dongdaemun Design Plaza.
  • Yeouido: A park that hosts the annual Cherry Blossom Festival in the spring and a great year round spot to rent a bicycle and cruise along the Han River and see some great city views.
  • Bukhansan National Park: The epic mountains that lay as a backdrop to the entire city, great for hiking and getting a dose of nature in one of the world’s largest cities.
  • Itaewon: The best place to go for western food when you need a break from kimchi!
  • Gangnam: Internationally famous from PSY’s music career and Seoul’s mecca for the upper class. Gangnam is great for shopping and eating.

WHY IS IT THE BEST CITY?

We love living in Seoul because they have it all! We have access to the best shopping, food, cafes, museums, historic places, and even mountains when you want to enjoy some nature. Seoul is so big, we have been here for two years and are still discovering small pockets of the city we haven’t explored yet. The transportation makes it easy to get anywhere in and outside of Seoul. It’s a super convenient place to live with access to endless entertainment and food options.

THE ONLY DOWNSIDE IS…

You would have to share Seoul with 10 million other people. There are always constant crowds and the feeling of being on top one another.

Want more of Megan and Scott’s insights? Check out Bobo and Chichi! Follow them on Facebook and on Instagram @boboandchichi too!

Best City in Korea Daejeon

POPULAR ATTRACTIONS

  • Sun Sim Dang Bakery: A popular bakery in Daejeon featured in Michelin Korea. The flagship store is located in Daejeon’s Old Town (Eunhaeng-dong) but you can also find a smaller-scale Sun Sim Dang at Daejeon Station.
  • Expo Science Park: Daejeon’s Expo Park is an abandoned science-themed park that was built following the Science Expo in 1993. Part of it was demolished last year but the famous Rainbow Bridge still stands and provides an awesome light show at night.
  • The Wine and Spirits Fair (previous known as the The International Food and Wine Festival): The country’s only wine festival draws foodies and wine aficionados to the city every year. Tickets cost 7,000 won and you get a free wine glass that you can use for sampling thousands of wines. Get there early if you want a taste!
  • Gyereyongsan National Park: An hour outside of Daejeon by bus or local train, the mountains are a perfect weekend escape, especially for hikers. Visit the Donghaksa Temple to see the Bomun, the world’s only  female monk sect.

WHY IS IT THE BEST CITY?

Since the city is smack dab in the middle of the country, you have easy access to any location in Korea. Seoul is only 45 minutes away by KTX and to Busan, it’s about an hour and a half. Daejeon is also the site of Asia’s grandest food and drinks festival. Every year, a diverse crowd of people from all around the world flock to the city to partake in cheap boozing and socializing. As Korea’s science and technology capital, there are great schools here (such as KAIST University, the Korean equivalent of MIT) and many ongoing environment conservation projects, which means there is way more greenspace in this city than in any other big city in Korea. Our favorite part of the city are the network of bike paths along the riverbanks that can take you almost anywhere in the city proper and even to some neighboring areas. You could bike to Sejong City, Korea’s “newest” city if you wanted to! A round-trip trip took us less than 3.5 hours although our bums were really hurting the next day. There are some beautiful picnic sites along the river as well. Daejeon is the perfect blend of nature and modernism which is what Korea is in a nutshell!

THE ONLY DOWNSIDE IS…

You sometimes feel like you’re in a ghost town. Even though its one of the largest cities in Korea, Daejeon gets a bit dull and repetitive at times.


Best City in Korea Cheonan

POPULAR ATTRACTIONS

  • The Independence Hall of Korea: The most famous tourist attraction in Cheonan and also the largest museum in whole Korea. A whopping seven building contain everything related to the oppression of Japanese to Korea and it also shows the struggles of the people of Korea just to regain their independence.
  • Cheonan Samgeori Park: A park in a three-way intersection where you can see lines of weeping willows. This place is rich in history because this used to be the road where the prominent governors passed.
  • Arario Plaza: Located beside the bus terminal and is a great place for people who love art.
  • The scenic views of its mountains like Gwangdeoksan and Taejosan Mountain and Cheonhoji Lake at night.

WHY IS IT THE BEST CITY?

Although, this city is not the primary choice of tourists to visit in South Korea, it has places that are worth visiting. After all, it’s the transportation hub of Korea. Ever wonder why its slogan is called “Fast Cheonan”? Apparently, it’s all because Cheonan is situated in a strategic location that it allows convenient passage of transportation between Seoul and other major southeast center of Daegu and Busan. In fact, it is named as “the core city of the nation”. Although I also have a hint that it is called “Fast Cheonan” because the development of the city is as fast as any other major cities in South Korea. It stands out because historically, the city continues to expand from a small one to a big one. It continues to grow not only in the aspect of land area but also in its economic development. Because of its strategic location, it played a vital role during the Korean War as it became the center of communication. Plus, the people in Cheonan are extra polite and helpful. Now that makes Cheonan the best city in all of South Korea.

THE ONLY DOWNSIDE IS…

You must pay the price to live in this city. Cost of living is not cheap because shopping malls are everywhere, there’s a lot of good stuff to buy and you can’t help but spend some extra cash because the restaurants and fast foods in Cheonan are very diverse.

Find more of Shirgie here at Saranghae Korea.

Best City in Korea

POPULAR ATTRACTIONS

  • Apsan, Palgongsan and Biseulsan Mountains: Daegu is surrounded by mountains, all of which are great for hiking! You can (relatively) easily access all three of these mountains by public transport.
  • Daegu Arboretum: A quick 10min walk from the Daegok Subway stop, the Daegu Arboretum is a lovely city park that is beautiful no matter when you visit.
  • Daegu Yangnyeongsi (Herbal Medicine Market): If you are interested in Eastern Medicine, visit the Herbal Medicine Market (and local museum) to learn more.
  • Seomun Market: One of my favorite traditional markets in South Korea. You MUST try the kalguksu, hotteok and flat mandu
  • Suseong Lake: A beautiful lake with fantastic bars and restaurants (not to mention duck paddle boats).

WHY IS IT THE BEST CITY?

Daegu is an awesome city to live and work in. From the natural attractions to the lively festivals, Daegu has something for everyone. There is a very close-knit expat community that offers lots of support to newcomers. The Daegu Compass, a local expat magazine, always keeps us informed of great restaurants, bars, festivals and events. The local YMCA even offers free cultural classes and paid Korean language classes. There are lots of clubs and activities to suit everyone’s interests and there is enough access to foreign foods (especially Costco), that you won’t go too long without some comforts from home. I absolutely love living here!

THE ONLY DOWNSIDE IS…

The summer heat. Daegu is surrounded by mountains and the summers are BRUTAL. It is hot and incredibly humid – EPIK contracts even require that your housing includes A/C. If you move to Daegu, be prepared to be hot and very sweaty for several months each year.

Read more about Lindsay’s life as an English Teacher at her blog, The Neverending Wanderlust and like her Facebook page as well!

Best City in Korea Jeonju

POPULAR ATTRACTIONS

  • The Hanok Village:  A “hanok” is a traditional Korean home. In Jeonju, there are more than 800 hanoks all nestled together by downtown. At the entrance of the village is Gyeonggijeon, a historical landmark where some period pieces were filmed.
  • Hanji: Korean’s first museum celebrates the traditions of Korean paper, called Hanji
  • JIFF: One of Asia’s biggest film festivals, the Jeonju International Film Festival has been running since 2000
  • Gaeksa: Most people go there for shopping.
  • Bukdae is the university district and Hyojadong is popular for food and bars.

WHY IS IT THE BEST CITY?

Jeonju is the culinary epicenter of Korea. Seoul has nice foreign food, and Busan has good seafood, but everything in Jeonju is amazing. You can literally taste the difference in quality, and the banchan (side dishes) are more bountiful and freely given. Jeonju is small enough to walk around, but big enough to have all of the major stores and restaurants. There is no military base in Jeonju, so nightlife isn’t as wild but also is much more enjoyable and generally positive. And the foreigner community is welcoming and varied, from lifers raising kids or teaching in universities and international schools, to people who are on their second month. 

THE ONLY DOWNSIDE IS…

If you are single in Jeonju, there are less dating options, especially if you will only date other foreigners.

Coming soon: Don’t miss out on Part Two of “The Best City in South Korea?” where we cover the cities of Jeju, Busan, Gwangju, Cheongju, and Gunpo. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below! xoxo Izzy


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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  2. Megan Indoe

    23 March

    Thanks for the feature! We absolutely love Jeonju! Mostly because of the makgeolli and the hanok village though 🙂 We never really explored Daejeon except for Gyereyongsan National Park, I would love to go back and check out the bakery too! We love hiking and mountains so we need to squeeze Daegu in as well before we leave! This was such an awesome collab! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Wendy

    28 March

    Great read! I’m partial to Seoul… Like Megan and Scott I live here in Seoul. I love the convenience and the busy-ness of it all. And you can never stop exploring because… it’s rich and full of things and places to explore.

    • Izzy Pulido

      5 April

      Even as a non-Seoulite, I think I was very partial to Seoul too 😛 If I lived there, I might have never gone back home to the USA! I completely agree with you, so many places to explore which is why I loved it so much!

  4. What an interesting list! We have been to some of these cities, but not all. Some of them have seemed lackluster on paper and through searching online, but maybe they deserve a second look. It’s also great that you are sharing so many other blogs in this list so that interested people can delve deeper into the cities you’ve listed. Apparently, there are a bunch of great foods we haven’t witnessed the “home city” of, so our destinations in this wonderful country are, apparently, never ending!

    • Izzy Pulido

      5 April

      I absolutely agree! The lack of information inspired me to put this post together in order to help future Korea expats know where to go/where to live. It was imperative to bring other people on board the post and I’m really so happy how it turned out! Where are you guys in South Korea?

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