After around 10 days in Kuala Lumpar we made our way to Seoul in South Korea for a week. This gave us enough time to explore Seoul fairly thoroughly and do everything we had planned.
First some handy top tips
- Download an alternative travel app such as KakaoMap as Google Maps doesn’t work there so you need an alternative way of getting around.
- Learn some basic Korean! We made the mistake of not learning any before we went and we really struggled to communicate with anyone, such as when ordering food.
- Get a travel card. It made life so much easier having a travel card that you could just top up whenever you needed to, as this meant it was much easier to get around on the buses and the underground. There were places to top up the card at every underground station as well which was very convenient.
- If you go in summer like I did, have lots of water and a fan because it gets incredibly hot- it was nearly 40 degrees celcius most days! Also sun cream as it was intense sun every day.
Things to do
One thing that Seoul has in abundance is palaces. We decided to go to Gyeongbokgung Palace as it’s considered one of the bigger tourist hotspots. To really get an authentic experience, you can rent traditional Korean clothing, called ‘Hanbok’. You can rent them from many different places around the palace for different lengths of time depending on your needs, such as 2 hours or a whole day. You can also get your hair done as well and have hair accessories, hats and bags. One perk of them is that it gets you free entrance into the palace as well and you get to take some very lovely photos.
The palace is very large and there’s lots of gardens to wander around. There is also a free museum that is worth a visit, there is a good amount to see and it gets you out of the heat for a little while!
Other palaces you can visit include Changdeokgung and Changgyeonggung palaces (the East Palace Complex) or Deoksugung and Gyeonghuigung which are the smallest of the 5 main palaces if you’re looking for something a bit more manageable to visit.
Bukchon Hanok Village
For a more traditional Korean experience you can have a wander through the village that has traditional houses, traditional shops and cafes. It’s really pretty and nice to see what the houses used to look like. It gives the chance to immerse yourself in the culture and you can get some lovely pictures.
There are many different cafes in Seoul, quirky, themed or filled with animals.
For the animal lovers, there is the usual cat cafes, but also dog cafes (Bau House, Papa Dogs Cafe), meerkat cafes (Meerkat Friends) and even sheep (Thanks Nature Cafe) and racoon cafes (Blind Alley Cafe, Eden Meerkat Friends). So if you’re a lover of animals and want a slightly unusual cafe experience, these kinds of cafes are the places to go.
Themed cafes include a Charlie Brown Cafe and the famous Korean brand LINE Friends Cafe with cute character themed drinks and cakes.
If you’re also into cafes for how instagrammable they are, there are some really pretty and quirky ones around. Such as:
Styleanda Pink Pool Cafe which has neon lights, poolside vibes and lots of pink and Zapangi which is like a ‘secret’ cafe that is hidden behind a fake vending machine and is decorated in lots of pink too.
Either way there are so many cafes wherever you go in Seoul and you’re bound to stumble across a nice little gem of a cafe with nice food and one that is very aesthetic.
This is considered a generic tourist spot so we went to check it out. Although there is not much to see really as you can’t go inside it. It’s purely one of those ‘stop for a minute and take a picture of it’ tourist attractions. So it’s not really something that needs to be high on your list of things to do.
Gangnam has an underground shopping centre at the underground station which is good for a wander around. There is also a lot of different statues around such as an ode to ‘Gangnam Style’ and a big figure of the hands in the dance.
This is THE area to go for shopping and food. There are so many quirky shops as well as the bigger chains. There are clothes shops, jewellery shops, K-Pop shops, makeup shops and lots of restuarants and cafes. When we were there, there was also lots of street vendors with lots of tasty looking foods to try. It’s quite busy both day and night, so it’s definitely worth checking out.
For something a bit more fun than your average museum, you can go to the Trickeye Museum. There is an app to download when you get there and when you use it, it makes a lot of the art on the walls come to life. It’s fun, a bit different and good for all of the family. You also get entrance into the Ice Museum which has a lot of cool ice sculptures to look at.
N Seoul Tower
Of course you can’t go somewhere without going to the classic touristy tower. You can get a cable car up to where it is which gives you some great views. You then have to walk up a lot of steps up the hill to reach the base of the tower. We didn’t go up the tower as you had to pay even more after paying to go up the cable car but you still get some excellent views without going up the tower.
This is the perfect place for a day of entertainment. There is a large shopping centre and food court with large department stores so you can get a nice shopping fix. There is also a theme park filled with thrilling rides, an ice rink and different kinds of parades, as well as a folk museum and more. So if you fancy a day away from the generic sightseeing, this is the place to go. It’s entertainment to suit everyone and is open all year round.
This is an interesting one on the list but it is somewhere we went. It is essentially an interactive museum of (you guessed it) poop! You essentially travel through all these different rooms of poop and then travel through the mouth of a person and out the other end, whilst encountering obstacles that represent the internal parts of the body. You get a quiz to do as well where you win a badge if you get all the questions right. I’d say your time here will probably only be around 30-45 minutes but it’s entertaining for younger people.
Korean barbecue- Of course when in Korea you have to try Korean BBQ. There are so many places around that you can easily find one to go to. The meat was always such a high quality, with some very tender beef and pork. There is just something very cool about being able to cook your own meat at your own pace on a hot plate in front of you.
Ginseng chicken soup (samgyetang)- this is also a common dish that you should try. It’s especially popular during the summer months. It’s a traditional soup that is good for your health and contains usually a whole chicken filled with garlic, rice and ginseng.
Spicy rice cake (ddukbokki)- This is a common spicy Korean food that is usually sold by street vendors. It’s usually cylindrical, chewy rice cakes, with vegetables in sweet red chili sauce. You can get different varieties with extras in such as fish cakes and tofu.
Cold noodles (naengmyeon)- These are cold buckwheat noodles that are especially popular in summer that are usually in a tangy meat or kimchi broth topped with radish, cucumber and egg, seasoned with vinegar and Korean mustard.
Kimchi- This is probably the most common and popular side dish in Korean culture. It’s made by salting and preserving fermented cabbage in a bed of pepper, garlic, ginger and scallion. It wasn’t to my taste but it is definitely something worth trying.
Shaved ice (bingsu)- This appears to be the most popular dessert when you wander round Seoul, as it’s on most menus and it’s great to cool you down in the summer months. It’s a shaved ice-based dessert loaded with sweet toppings such as fruit, condensed milk, red beans and chocolate.
2 foot tall soft serve icecream- Of course the most instagrammable is the tall ice cream. You can get different flavours such as vanilla, chocolate and green tea. You can find them in the Myeongdong area but make sure when you get them to eat them quick before they melt!
Overall, Seoul was very nice and very pretty but it is quite expensive so make sure to save a good amount of money for it. If I go back in the future I would definitely go at a cooler time of the year like spring or autumn as it was a bit too hot for me but it was definitely a nice experience and I’m happy we went.
Have you been to Seoul or anywhere else in South Korea? What did you think?