Why go to Seoul?
Let’s be honest here…9 out of 10, you probably know someone who is either: a.) addicted to Korean drama, or b.) listens to Korean music. Oh, and has made up in their minds where Seoul is one of the most magical places in the Universe with twinkling lights and all.
They are probably right.
To be quite frank with you, I’ve never been the kind of girl who dreamt of far-flung places like Europe. In fact, for the better part of my childhood, I’ve been pretty hung up on going to South Korea.
Not to say, other countries aren’t magical, but there seems to be this fairytale appeal of going to Korea and seeing autumn leaves while slowly transitioning into Spring. Plus, it’s also home to Psy of Gangnam Style (taken from the lovely street) and Bulgogi + Kimchi.
Even if you’re no Korean aficionado, a trip to Seoul can be as magical as the television shows put it out to be. Compared to some of its Asian counterparts, it’s evident in the city how much they value their local traditions whilst also being able to blend it with European ones as well. Particularly, you’ll be able to find tons of French coffee shops, no matter what area you’re in (more on that soon!).
So, if you’re looking for a great way to go around different parts of the city, I have 7 pretty cool must-do activities which nature-lovers, Korean addicts, and make-up junkies will definitely love!
#1. Bike around Nami Island
Namiseom or more popularly known as: Nami Island, is located at Chuncheon, South Korea. It’s actually a small half-moon shaped piece of land which rose on the Northern part of Han River. You can go here from taking the 5-minute boat ride off the port of Seoul (45 minutes away from the city centre).
Since it was built as an amusement park and nature reservation area, tourists have the option of taking short, guided tours by shuttle service or go biking themselves.
Truth? Besides the obvious point of exercise, the best way to see the entire island is by biking around it. You can rent either a single or double for 30-minutes, up to an hour. Since I was on tour with my relatives, my cousin and I opted to take the shortest way.
I absolutely loved the experience because I had the chance of going to secluded areas in Namiseom, like cottages and small villas surrounded by the Han River.
#2. Visit Le Petite France
Since going to Paris last year, I’ve been addicted to the life and times of being French. In particular, I’ve set aside a great portion of my days reading the Little Prince and dreaming of one day going to cities or towns in the Alsace Region.
Side note: In case you didn’t know, the Alsace Region borders on Germany and Switzerland where for centuries, the rulers have either been German or French, respectively. Strasbourg is now, for obvious reasons, one of the absolute places I want to visit.
Anyway, Le Petite France is Seoul’s own rendition of Strasbourg and Colmar where you can find postcards and caricatures taken from the Little Prince. Although it’s advertised for tourists, the area is pretty secluded — being an hour’s away from the city centre with the mountains as your only view.
Personally, I feel like if you’re not very interested in the books or of France, you’ll probably only enjoy drinking the coffee over here. Which, btw, is fantastic.
#3. Eat cartoon-like cotton candy over at Dongdaemun
Only a few metres from Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), you’ll find a wide variety of malls and local shops where many Asians (mostly Chinese, tbh) go to shop for sale-priced items or bulk orders.
The area has been famous for the DDP instead of its malls, as Seoul is crowded with them as is. However, going here also entails a delightful array of candy stories, ice cream shops, and tons of cotton candy everywhere!
Even though I’m not fond of sweets, I was really happy to have tried their cotton candy. You’ll have different flavours per shop and some of them even encourage you to create your own mix. How cool is that?
#4. Spend half a day at Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)
Coincidentally, the real reason why I was hanging out in Dongdaemun was because of I wanted to go to the Design Plaza! As a web designer myself, I realised how fast Koreans adapt to technology and how much they love it.
I mean…Samsung, anyone?
Fortunately, while I was there I had the chance to see the Pixar Exhibition where they showed a timeline of the movies, early character visualisation, and how they told their stories. You’d be able to see how they changed Mike and Sully, or why Finding Nemo was told the way it was. The experience is beyond amazing.
If you aren’t there for the current exhibit, the only place left open would be its one floor “gift shop” showing you trinkets from International and Local designers a-like. Since they cater to Industrial design more, you’ll be happy to see clocks, beer openers, and quirky room accessories.
But, fret not my technology-hungry friend, they also have the latest gadgets on drones, watches, and Star Wars-inspired items to make everyone feel…erm, delighted? Is that the right word for it?
To me, anyways, I was uber happy to go around.
#5. Shop or eat street food at Myeong-dong until midnight
My relatives and I stayed at Savoy Hotel which is hidden in the busy streets of Myeong-dong. If you didn’t know, this is the crazy shopping centre of Seoul! Not only do you have makeup brands, high-end items, and shoes literally everywhere, you’ll also have locals selling you their own homemade products at night.
Especially during the weekends, locals flock to this part of the city looking for new finds, restaurants, and people running after you for free beauty products. True story, pal.
Staying here would mean you’re goblesmacked (like a Turkey!) right at the epicentre of what Seoul is all about.
It’s relatively insane, if I do say so myself.
If you’re interested in checking out the street food (which is considerably cheap and delicious at the same time), be sure to arrive there around 5:30PM as the entire market can go on for as late as midnight. Since it runs everyday, I noticed there are lesser people when it’s between Tuesday to Thursdays.
My personal recommendations? Well, you asked for it…. Lobsters, steak, honey ice cream, 35 cm soft serves, orange juice, and strawberry covered chocolates.
#6. Walk around the Gangnam Area for food, boutiques, and skincare
Yeah, okay, you caught me. I did the most tourist-y thing you can do while in Seoul. I went to Gangnam.
…And no, it’s not the crazy dance. I don’t think anyone has been doing that for a while now. Jeez Elouise.
In 2017, Gangnam is now better known as the popular area for students and young professionals to hang out in. Here you’ll find the best restaurants (TripAdvisor says so) in Seoul alongside coffee shops, Instagrammable corners, and lots of botox clinics.
I kid you not.
Travelling to this area will remind you of Chicago-like buildings with parks right beside them all the time. More than ever, you’re going to gape at all the big shopping centres, stand-out boutiques, and equally enticing frozen ice cream places.
My recommendation? Eat a healthy lunch at Bad Farmers before diving into the different dessert shop suggestions your body will hate you for. But at least it evens out, right?!
#7. Ride the elevator to the top of Namsan Seoul Tower
If it’s any consolation to you, I really love a good view from the top of any tower. In other words, going to the centre of the Namsan (or N) Seoul Tower is pretty spectacular.
You’ll be awarded with people training for jijitsu at the bottom, in front of the love locks, before taking off to a galaxy-themed elevator ride to reach the highest peak in the city. Even better, the bathrooms are adorned with glass where you can take a peak at the view while doing your…um, business.
Although the entire ride and excitement comes with a hefty price (9 USD for adults, 7 for kids), there are tons of coffee, and gift shops for you to bide your time while looking around the area. When you do decide to go down the tower, there are more food stops, milk tea shops, and even Starbucks waiting for you.
Word to the wise, if you’re not a fan of walking to the main entrance of the tower from your bus stop, take a the opposite route from the steep hill and you’ll find an elevator waiting to take you.
Key takeaway for you, bud:
Seoul is beautiful — it’s very modern with a lot of culture. You’ll enjoy it if you love technology (like me) and if you’re a fan of Korean products or shows. In every sense of the word, it’s almost like Tokyo without being super crowded.
Although I only listed seven experiences, there are tons of stuff you can do in the city. For one, you can go to palaces, gardens, and exhibits in almost every area of the city (more on those later).
Admittedly, it is pretty pricey. I went with my relatives and we spent most of the time on tour because it would be too expensive for a daily fare. And without a car, not everything is as accessible.
I’m still in the works of posting a bucket list for you which will include daily allowances and day trips as well.
BUT in any case, can you tell me what you loved or what looks interesting from these experiences so far? Leave me a comment below, I’d really love to know!