Seoul City Guide - Seoul Travel Tips

Pop culture, skyscraper, Buddhist temples, unique cuisine and high-tech transportation, you can find it all in the capital of South Korea, Seoul.

Reasons to visit

When visiting Asian metropolises, people often feel that the cities and people are all the same, however, Seoul cannot be compared to anything, it is special. When Seoul is mentioned, the Olympics, Gangnam style and isolated North Korea are the first to come to mind but South Korea has much more to give.

Seoul is the business and cultural center of South Korea, where Buddhist temples are in the shadow of skyscrapers. Check out all of this from the N Seoul Tower at the highest point of the Nam Mountain Park.

The shops of the Insadong Quarter provide insights into Korean taste, which you can learn more about by visiting the gardens and museums of the Gyeongbokgung Palace. The UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cshangdokkung Palace, is a great example for the authentic ancient architectural style.

Seoul Weather

South Korea it’s a country that has four seasons. Between June and August is summer and it is humid and hot. Winter starts in December and ends in February and it’s dry and ice cold.

Best time to visit is autumn and spring because is warmer, sunny and has clear blue skies.

Seoul Local Transport

Seoul has a friendly public transit system including subway, which covers entire metropole, and buses. You can buy Mpass which allows up to 20 rides per day on the subway or a reloadable smartcard as T-money cards which works for all public, taxi, convenience stores or vending machines.

Subway is easy to use, it has signs and announcements also in English and runs from 5:30 AM to midnight. is good to donwload Subway Korea app for timetables and usefull for planning your routes.

Seoul Bus is the city’s bus extensive network and runs almost 24h a day haaving also night buses.

Language

You might think in south Korea is things are easy, everybody speaks Korean but they have many dialects. The main dialect used in South Korea is the Hanguk dialect.

As a tourist, you don’t have to worry because English is used as a second language. Most of the people study English for academic reasons, business, trade and so on.

In Busan you might find Japanese speakers because this city is close to Fukuoka city from Japan. their dialect is pretty similar to Japanese and also Fukuoka dialect looks the same.

Electric

In South Korea, the power plugs and sockets are of type C and F.  Plug C, also known as the standard “Euro” plug. We suggest that you have a power adapter if you are not from around.

Having your smartphone or camera charged for taking pictures is mandatory in this beautiful city. We suggest having a travel adapter if you are not from around.

Currency

In South Korea, the currency used is Won. You can exchage your money at most Seoul banks or their exchanges called Foreign Exchange Bureaus. You might look after signs as Cambio, Bureau De Change or Geld Wechseln.

Must Try Food

Korean meals are unique in taste some may love it some may not be so found of the dishes. You do not need to worry as if you are one of the later as there are plenty of other options such as fast food restaurants. The younger generation in Seoul loves pizzas, burgers and Italian pasta so you can find such American-European meals at almost every corner. However, we do recommend that you give it a try and see if the food is to your liking. You may never know if you don’t give it a try.

Barbeque is famous throughout the world, and believe it or not Korea’s is its home country. In Seoul in the restaurants, there is a large, circular grill in the center of each table, where you can grill the food you ordered.
The beef broth is also served in the same way they bring out a huge pot and place it on a mini gas stove that is again in the middle of the table, you have about ten ingredients in small dishes that you can add to the broth and cook it to your own liking.

In addition to this peculiar serving style, street food offers a lot of variety, small food shops are almost everywhere. You can eat hot dogs, seafood, fried potatoes, giant pancakes, sushi, stuffed chestnuts, and many other things.

If you have a sweet tooth you need not worry as ice cream is also originally from Korea. Even the frozen yogurt comes from here; there is a huge selection as they have almost every flavor you can imagine.

Two special dishes that you need to try if you ever get the change to walk on the streets of Seoul are bibimbap and bulgogi. There is no hospitality in Korea without bibimbap. The word itself means mixing, shaking.

There are no strictly defined ingredients, but ready-made food must meet certain aesthetic and philosophical expectations. In a large, but not too high-walled, pottery bowl, fine, thinly sliced ingredients are placed.

In the bowl, there are four different colors of raw vegetables such as beetroots, cucumbers, mushrooms, and radishes with optional meats and rice. These four different vegetables symbolize the four seasons associated with them and the astrological and personality traits they identify.

In the middle of the bowl, there is always an egg yolk, which in its color and shape symbolizes the Sun. This arrangement shows the harmony in the world. After you admired the plating you need to stir everything together and enjoy.

Bulgogi is a Korean dish we would recommend to those of you who are not very fond of “exotic” flavors. The thinly-cut beef and mushrooms are cooked on the grills that are placed on the table.

Since the meat is really thin, the grilling does not take more than a few minutes. The grilled meat strips should then be packed on small raw lettuce leaves. You can add kimchi or other vegetables to it even rice. Once you added all you like on to your lettuce leaf just eat it. It may sound simple but it is delicious and filling.

You can choose between a variety of meats: beef, fish, seafood, salmon, tuna, venison that is thinly sliced and served with olive oil, lemon, and truffles to bring out the taste that will delight your taste buds.

Where can you taste all this delicious food you ask? Well there are many places to eat in Venice but if you really want a treat and fine dining visit Riviera or Ristorante Alle Corone where excellent sea food and great service go hand in hand. If you are looking for local cuisine then All’Arco is the place for you.

Must-Try Drinks

As an accompaniment of a delicious dinner, celebration or even on a Saturday night, a “dusty” wine bottle is often opened. Drinking a good wine makes the participants more free and close to each other during a gathering or a conversation.

This is also the case in Seoul, and even in the whole country, there is a large, almost compulsory tradition for after work drinking. After a hard day’s work colleagues gather and drink a glass of two of their favorite alcoholic drink before heading home.

They also have special drinks for such occasions. Who would not have heard of the famous soju or makgeolli, or of the fine fruit and medicinal wines?

Soju is the most popular beverage in Korea. The most common and largest volume version of the basic soju is water and a variety of beverages. The most famous of these are Chamisul and
Chum Churum.

There are, of course, conventional sojues, such as Andong Soju, which has a very high alcohol content of 45%. You need to be very careful with this drink as it will not only make you tipsy but drunk as a skunk if not consumed in moderation.

Another soju variety may be Leegangju the pear or ginger flavored one that is considered the finest drink of soju of them all because of the sweet and slightly spicy taste.

If you are more interested in wine a fine fruit wine is what we recommend. Depending on the preparation, there are two types of fruit wine.

One is made of pure fermented fruits and the other is mixing the fruits with sugar and alcohol to achieve a fruitier flavor. The most popular brands of fruit wine found in stores are Bokbunja, Maesilju and Meoruju.

Medicine wines are also very good but even though you will prefer a second glass we advise you not to have one. These wines are very strong and Koreans drink it mostly for their medicinal purposes not for recreational ones. If you will drink more than what is advice it may have a negative effect and not a healthy one such as headache or stomach problems.

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How to get there

South Korea has around ten airlines companies like Eastar Jet, Jeju Air, Jin Air, Asiana Airlines and all of them serve Incheon International Airport or Gimpo International Airport. Another useful airport is Cheongju International Airport which is a little bit further.

So, in our opinion, it’s perfect for a city break here, the perfect escape. You don’t need to carry too many things, just enjoy your time here. If you want to check the best fly tickets you can trust kiwi.com. Kiwi can help to find also best fly on your way home.

You can spend good time in cars with locals and they can suggest you different places to visit which could be more useful then guides.

Things to know

When you say hello or goodbye you also need to take a small bow towards the person you are greeting,
When you take something from another person in Korea use both hands to be polite.

You should never kiss or hug someone in Korea as a form of greeting. Although this is a customary form of greeting in the West, especially among girls, it is not the case of Koreans, as it is a particularly intrusive gesture if it is not between couples or relatives.

Under no circumstances should you sit on the triple seats on the metros. These seats are reserved for the elderly, the mothers, the visually impaired and the disabled, and the Koreans are very strict about such matters.

Korean livelihood dictates that people should be called not by their first name but by their title. If you are not close to the person, do not call a Korean by his name, and if you do not know how to call him, feel free to ask him.

It could be a complicated big city for tourists; it is best if you have a GPS mobile application already installed on your phone to get by. Often not even the locals can give you good advice; the metro is the best means of transport as it is fast and also cheap.

Where to stay

Seoul has multiple options for finding a cheap or expensive place to stay. As I said, could be expensive but you can fit also on a budget. If you don’t have to worry about your budget can book plenty of hotels rooms and pensions where you like on www.booking.com or www.agoda.com.

If you are looking for a cheap option ob Booking you can try FlexHome Seoul for only 16$ per night or Seoul Forest Guesthouse for 27$.

If you don’t worry about your budget we suggest RYSE, Autograph Collection with great coffee and a nice view of the city. Another choice can be The Westin Chosun Hotel Seoul in great an area for shopping.

If you are looking for three stars hotels you can book a room at Ibis Styles Ambassador Seoul Gangnam for 141$ per night or Hotel Uri for 195$ per night.

It’s a different city and must consider how much you will to walk, how close to the city center it is your place. If you like to hang out with a local you can book a room on www.airbnb.com and you can find a good price for your accommodation.

Also if you can stay with them for free using Couchsurfing app. You can use it also only if you want to meet with them. If you are traveling on a budget or not couch surfing seems to be a good idea.

It’s a great opportunity for making new friends maybe for a week or maybe for a lifetime, you never know. Hostels are less expensive than a hotel room. Why spend 300$/night for a hotel room when you can spend 30$/night for a hostel room?! The culture of making friends never fails to amaze people.

Booking.com

Must see

Now we are getting to our top. Here are some of the most beautiful sites Seoul presents to its visitors. In other words, let’s start!

 

HONGDAE SQUARE

Hongdae is located in the center of the capital, north of the river. It is a hipster, lively, trendy quarter with dense music such as underground, indie rock and artistic life.

The life of the square is fundamentally determined by the fact that there are four universities here. Among them is the Hongik Daehakgyo (Hongik University). It is one of South Korea’s most significant universities of arts.

A lot of shops have very good prices. Nightlife is very active; there are many themed, character cafes and walking trails.

Hongdae
Hongdae

GYEONGBOKGUNG PALACE

Do not miss out on Seoul’s best tourist experience this emblematic place gives you the opportunity to learn about Korean history. The palace is not in its original state, as the Japanese destroyed the original, and the North Korean army caused terrible damage to the place in the early 1950s.

The inner part of the palace is also beautiful. However, you cannot go into three main buildings, but through the window, you can take a glance at the decor. It is worth taking a look at the ceremony of changing the guard at 10 o’clock in the morning.

On Tuesday the place is closed if you visit it, it will take about an hour to see everything as there is no real museum content, but you can still view the palace and its beautiful garden.

GYEONGBOKGUNG PALACE
GYEONGBOKGUNG PALACE
GYEONGBOKGUNG PALACE

CHANGDEOKGUNG PALACE

Changdeokgung Palace is a beautiful, huge palace with a wonderful garden. You travel back to Soul of the 19th century when you visit this extraordinary place. You should buy a ticket in advance online to avoid the long lines.

There is a special ticket to visit the garden as well that needs to be purchased separately. There are other parts that can only be viewed if a special booking is done in advance former example you have the change to check out the district of comfort in the place.

It is best to schedule your visit before the evening to avoid crowds.  

CHANGDEOKGUNG PALACE
CHANGDEOKGUNG PALACE
CHANGDEOKGUNG PALACE

KOREA NATIONAL MUSEUM

The Korean national museum is an interesting, huge modern museum that can impress the visitors. Many hours can be spent here as it is so rich and interactive. It is worth watching more little movies and you can easily spend 2 hours here.

In the open air of the museum, you can see a B-52 bomber. The museum is fairly propagandistic, which is understandable for foreign tourists, considering that South Korea is still f battling with North Korea.

MYEONGDONG SHOPPING STREET

Is not just a street but a lot of small streets that intersect each other. It is a good place to shop, but it is certain that international brands are not cheaper than in Europe or America.

There are many clothes shops, but there are a lot of cosmetics as well. Surprisingly, there are also trademarks. It is a more convenient place to shop than Seoul’s shopping malls, which are the same as in Europe.

Much more interesting is that after six o’clock the street becomes a food market. You can eat delicious food from a huge selection as there are plenty of stands, so you can spend hours here.

MYEONGDONG SHOPPING STREET

LOTTE WORLD TOWER

At the beginning of April 2017, the 555-meter-high 123-story Lotte World Tower skyscraper has its lookout tower in Seoul. On the banks of the Han River, the magnificent building has the fastest lift in the world, which takes visitors to the lookout tower on the 118th floor, in only 1 minute.

The lookout has a glass-covered floor part as well. The skyscraper reminds us of the pen used to write the calligraphic letters with ink due to its interesting form.

The Lotte World Tower is the world’s fifth tallest skyscraper. On the 85th floor of the tower building is a swimming pool there is no other swimming pool so high in the world like this one.

Otherwise, there is a luxury hotel in Lotte World Tower, a concert hall with 2000 seats, a cinema, an aquarium, several cafes, a restaurant, and even a gallery.

LOTTE WORLD TOWER

NAMSAN TOWER

At the top of a 480-meter-high Namsan mountain stands the only 237 meters tall tower. It is a 3-hour program including the ride. The tower can be reached by cable car, by bus or on foot through Namsan Park.

Many people go by bus and walk downhill. The not-so-spectacular wires run time is approximately 3 minutes, but a queue you can be standing up to 30 minutes. Maybe a 25-35 minute walk is a better idea, but you have to prepare for a steep ride. Many older locals do it all the time, so it is not too difficult.

The look-out tower itself is not special, but it is worth taking the elevator up to the 360 degrees city view. The tourist crowd is noisy and alarming but the biggest crowds are on the weekends. Many tourists are coming to see the city light in case there is no mist.

NAMSAN TOWER

JONGNO DISTRICT

Jongo works simultaneously as Seoul’s bustling downtown and traditional “old town”. The district is home to many historic palaces, gardens, markets, and squares, and the image is modernized with modern office buildings, elegant bars, and restaurants.

Due to the carefully preserved attractions and the blend of bustling markets and music shops, Jongo is able to merge the old and the new, it is worth visiting this district.

JONGNO DISTRICT

HONGDAE DISTRICT

Hongdae is located in the center of the capital, north of the river. It is a hipster, lively, trendy quarter with dense music (underground, indie rock) and artistic life.

The life of the quarter is fundamentally determined by the fact that there are four universities here. Among them is the Hongik Daehakgyo (Hongik University).

It is one of South Korea’s most significant universities the university of arts. Nightlife is very active; there are many themed, character cafes. The Trick Eye Museum is an exciting art gallery you can find here with paintings in 2D and 3D.

HONGDAE DISTRICT

ITAEWON DISTRICT

The Itaewon district is mainly cosmopolitan. If you had enough of Korean food, you have to come here, because here most of the international restaurants are located (eg Italian, Indian, Turkish, German and American). Its main street is long and full of bars. There are plenty of foreigners: both tourists and expatriates living in Seoul. In antique shops, you can find mostly replicas, with a few originals pieces but they are still very well done.
In the Itaewon District, there is also a great nightlife so if you want to party and dance this is the place to come to. If you want to take a taxi here be very careful as taxi drivers always want to set up fixed prices and will try not to turn on the meter so you may be paying more than the actual ride is worth.

ITAEWON DISTRICT

Outside the city

 

 

 

GOYANG

If you are near Seoul you should also visit Goyang as there are a lot of possibilities to have fun.

If you like sports go to Bukhansan Mountain where you can go hiking or if you are more brave and strong why not try out rock climbing as well. If you like the outdoors but prefer just a simple long walk go to the National Haneul Park.

If you want to do some exploring then the Bukhansanseong fortress awaits where you can have a guided tour. You can also visit the Digital Media City a high-tech complex with digital technologies and lots of exhibitions where you can come across the marvels of the new high tech generation devices.

Bukhansan Mountain
Bukhansan

BUKCHON VILLAGE

Bukchon village is a clean, cozy, rural village with picturesque houses on the edge of the metropolis, not too far from the skyscrapers. It’s not much, but it offers a lot if you are interested in seeing some of Seoul’s old days.

You can easily go here by bus and visit the real local residents. Just make sure you are not disturbing anybody and not taking pictures of them without their approval. Go early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the tourist.

However, the houses you are going to see here are not the original ones because Seoul has been completely destroyed several times, most recently by the North Korean troops in the early 1950s.

Still ,you can get away from the crowded city and you can also see a mesmerizing sunset.
So put on your sneakers as there are many photos that will need to be taken here mainly because many Korean visitors are impressed with the spectacular folk costumes and you will be as well.

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