Fashion- and technology-forward but also deeply traditional, this dynamic city mashes up palaces, temples, cutting-edge design and mountain trails, all to a nonstop K-Pop beat.
Over the last decade Seoul has worked hard to soften its industrial hard edges into an appealing urban ideal of parks, culture and design. Glass, concrete and steel are crafted into natural forms at the spectacular Dongdaemun Design Plaza & Park and City Hall. The popularity of the beautifully landscaped parks alongside the central Cheong-gye stream and the Han River has spurred on the creation of more green spaces and cycle routes. Join Seoulites enjoying time out shopping in stylish boutiques and drinking at cool cafes and convivial bars.
Best Time To Visit
Overall, March–May and September–November are the best times to visit Seoul due to mild weather. April brings tender blossoms, warmer temperatures, and tourist crowds. If you visit Seoul in summer, let the exotic Patbingsu cool you down during the baking heat. Autumn season brings lots of traditional festivals and a bagful of culinary delicacies such as gingko nuts, kimchi, songi, and sweet potatoes. You can even try fugu fish at your own risk! Unpredictable Seoul will magnetize you with firework shows and Cosmos blooming in October. If you are fond of skiing, be ready to sweat on some challenging slopes and trails around Seoul in winter. Lunar New Year celebration in late January or February will leave you speechless.
The winter in Seoul is controlled by the large Siberian high pressure system (the Asiatic high), which results in predominantly cold, dry north-westerly winds. The influence of the Siberian high leads to significantly colder winter temperatures than would be expected at this latitude. About every 4 to 6 days a low-pressure trough will move through South Korea, bringing with it cloudiness and light precipitation. The amount of precipitation locally depends mostly on the elevation of the station and the length of time that the air has been over the Yellow Sea. Maximum snowfall occurs over the northwest coast, which is the most exposed to the northwesterly flow, and in the mountain areas. Normally less than 10 percent of the annual precipitation falls (falls very much) during the winter. Frequently the weather is cloudless, clear, and dry, except for the southwestern region of the peninsula. The mean January temperature in Seoul is -2.4 °C (27 °F). January is the coldest month in Seoul, often with the lowest temperatures, almost always dropping below -10 °C (14 °F), and sometimes below -15 °C (5 °F).
During the summer, East Asian monsoon winds engulf the city and the warm, moisture laden air moving off the oceans clashes with the drier air to the north. These fronts oscillate back and forth across Korea during the summer months. The interior highlands disturb the winds, forcing them into a westerly/southwesterly direction. The majority of the annual precipitation falls between late June and the middle of September, with rains fully developing along the entire peninsula by mid-June. Seoul receives approximately 126 mm (5 in) of precipitation during the winter (December–March), but in July alone receives approximately 383 mm (14.3 in). July is the wettest month in the metropolis.
Thunderstorms usually occur about 2 to 5 days per month during this period. Summer precipitation in Seoul is as likely to occur at 0200 as at 1400. Humidity is very high and fog will develop whenever a cold air mass confronts this moisture laden air, often forming on cloudless days. The typhoon season occurs from July through September. About once each year, a typhoon will pass very close to or move over Korea, causing heavy showers. Strong winds are usually confined to islands and exposed coastal areas. Although winds might not pose a problem, the associated rainfall can cause significant flash flooding, a very real threat during the rainy season, especially in rough terrain. The mean temperature for Seoul in August is 25.7 °C (78 °F)
October is the transition month between the summer rainy season and the cold, dry winter. The predominantly tropical cloudy weather of the summer is replaced by cooler, drier, and less cloudy conditions. The primary weather producers during October are cold frontal systems from the Asian mainland. On the average, one frontal passage per week can be expected during the month. A typical frontal passage is proceeded by increasing middle and high cloudiness with light rain. Following the frontal passage, mostly clear skies can be expected for 3 or 4 days. During this clear period it is very likely for fog to form. Fog is especially prevalent in river valleys and in low-lying areas.
How To Reach
How to Reach Seoul from India
Seoul can be reached from almost all international airports in India. That being said, there are no direct flights, with all flights having one or two stopovers along the way. Many flights from smaller airports first change at New Delhi itself. Airlines providing services from India to Seoul include China Eastern, Thai Airways, Malaysian Airlines, Shandong and a few others.
Visa Policy for Indians
From India, South Korea’s visa applications are handled by VFS Global. Applying for a South Korean visa is a very easy procedure, whatever your purpose may be, and you can see the exact requirements according to your visit on “vfsglobal.com/Korea/India”
How to Reach Seoul by Bus
Seoul has 5 bus stations, each having buses covering different directions of South Korea. Bus connectivity of Seoul with the rest of the country is very efficient.
How to Reach Seoul by Flight
Seoul has two international airports. The Incheon International Airport Serves as the main airport, with international flights from all major countries. The Gimpo international airport serves as mostly a domestic airport, but has international flights from nearby Japan, Taiwan, and Shanghai and Beijing in China.
How to Reach Seoul by Road
South Korea has very well made highways and expressways. Reaching Seoul via car is easy, since you will find expressways and highways heading to Seoul from almost anywhere.
How to Reach Seoul by Train
Seoul is accessible by rail from anywhere in the country. Not just that, almost all major South Korean cities are connected to Seoul via the KTX high speed train. There are mainly 4 railway stations running the rail routes.
How to Reach Seoul by Waterways
Individual ferry services connect South Korea to various ports in China from Incheon. South Korea is also on the route of a ferry that travels from Vladivostok in Russia to Sakaiminato in Japan, stopping at Donhae in South Korea in between.
Local Transport in Seoul
Public transportation in Seoul is mainly provided by their vast bus and subway networks. The city has 4 primary bus services (green, red, blue and yellow) and they connect most of the city very well. The subway network of Seoul is one of the most extensive and busiest in the world and is also extremely efficient. Taxis run throughout the city. There are standard taxis and deluxe taxies, the latter being more expensive and also providing a better ride.
Best Places To Visit
1. Gwangjang Market – For Local Food
One of the most buzzing places to visit in Seoul would be its markets that literally pop up every corner you turn. As far as real food goes, none compares itself to the atmospheric Gwangjang market, Korea’s oldest remaining daily market.
The compact market hosts more than 5,000 shops and sees more than 50,000 visitors every day! The market is most famous for shops selling bindaetteok (mung bean pancakes) along with sundae (sausage made of pig’s intestines), tteokbokki (rice cake), and jeon (an assortment of snacks). Wash them all down with a soju, sitting in the cramped tables lined along the shops.
2. Hongdae – For Nightlife
Close to the Hongik University, Hongdae is the neighbourhood to indulge in pubs, clubs, indie music, and arts. Featuring a huge university crowd, the entire area is peppered with numerous clubs and pubs where you can break a leg with the incredibly well-dressed youth of Korea.
One of the best party places to visit in Seoul, expect a K-pop performance to break out anytime, a choir may begin singing, or an unknown musician might just announce themselves at anytime.
If a cheap club is what you’re after, head to GOGOS. But if you prefer to be in a curated crowd, Club Vera is a fantastic choice.
To get here, get off at Hongik University Station, Exit 9
3. Cheonggyecheon Stream – For a Leisurely Walk
Once an unknown waterway in downtown Seoul, the stream was reconstructed in 2005 into a beautiful stream buzzing with life. Running close to 11 km through the city, a long walk in the evening along its urban banks brings the best of Seoul to you.
The waterfront areas witness a lot of cultural performances and art installations regularly to keep one entertained. The evening lighting, the mini waterfalls, the twenty plus bridges that come through its course, all add to the charm of this urban wonder which many other cities across the world are looking to replicate.
4. Myeongdong, For Cosmetics Shopping
If you like skincare products, add a cosmetic shopping spree to your list of places to visit in Seoul. From moisturizing face packs to conditioning creams, Korea produces special products for skin care that are rarely available anywhere else in the world.
Korean brands like Innisfree, Nature Republic sell their finest products across the city and specifically in the shopping mecca of Myeongdong. Try out free samples, avail huge discounts on group packs, and stock up enough beauty products for a year – all at an affordable price. ARITAUM is among the pick of all the beauty stores in Myeongdong, for budget shopping.
5. Insadong – For Teahouses
There’s no way this wouldn’t be on the list of places to visit in Seoul. Darye, the Korean tea ceremony, is an etiquette of having tea that has been practised in Korea for over a thousand years.
In the neighbourhood of Insadong, travellers can take part in the ceremony and enjoy a well-brewed cup of tea at traditional teahouses.
Begin with Jidaebang tea house where the lotus tea will set you up for a perfect evening. Head to Dawon after, which is located in the compound of the Museum of fine art in a garden setting. This is the ideal place to unwind while sipping on their signature jujube tea, served with traditional rice cakes making for a beautiful combination of flavors.
6. Tosokchon – For The Best Chicken Soup
Samgyetang (chicken soup) is a summer dish in Korea consisting of a possum (baby chicken) stuffed with rice, jujube, garlic, and ginseng (a medicinal root used in Korea).
While the idea of a possum stuffed with ingredients might not seem appetizing, it is among Korea’s most celebrated and delicious dishes that is a must-have while in Seoul.
Tosokchon is an institution for samgyetang that’s incredibly tourist-friendly and serving authentic chicken soup since the 1950s. It’s also located close to Gyeongbokgung palace making it an ideal lunch spot after a visit to the palace.
7. Itaewon – For Korean Barbecue
Going out for a classic barbecue meal is one of the better ways to socialize in Seoul. Locally called galbi, you sit around a table with a personal grill and barbecue a wide variety of proteins and vegetables, which is then devoured with a host of sides and washed down with beers.
Itaewon is Seoul’s premier BBQ destination along with a large choice of Arabian restaurants to select from. Maple Tree House is incredibly popular among travellers, thanks to the English-speaking staff and menu, while Two Plus Itaewon is another top choice, especially among beef lovers.
For foodies, this is one of the top places to visit in Seoul.
8. Lotte Mart – For a Special Supermarket Experience
Think of any Korean product / grocery item you’ve ever heard of, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll find it at the Lotte Mart stores across Seoul.
Processed goods, household items, cosmetics, ice creams, electronics, children’s products, fashion accessories, clothes, and much more is available for purchase. Supermarkets are often the best place to understand the lifestyle of the locals and trust us, Lotte is one of the most interesting places to visit in Seoul.
The mart at Seoul station is extremely foreign-friendly with a few English-speaking store assistants to help you get along the aisles.
9. Han River – For an Unforgettable Bike Ride
There are few better ways to burn off the calories from the culinary expeditions in Seoul than a bicycle ride around the Han river. Rent a bicycle from the Yeouido Hangang park and do a 15 km loop passing the Mapo bridge, Jeoldusan Martyrs shrine, and the beautiful Seonyudo park.
The park also has a resting spot to enjoy a cup of coffee while absorbing the river views. Return towards Yeouido, stopping by to admire views of the National Assembly and the marina. After the bike trip, you could also take a river cruise during sunset. After all that food you’ve been enjoying, this is one of the most apt places to visit in Seoul.
10. Mapo-Gu – For Its Quirky Cafes (the most unusual places to visit in Seoul!)
Korea’s innovations are not limited to its cosmetic or technology but are also visible in its quirky and cool cafes. If the same leafy themed cappuccinos have begun to bore you, Seoul is the place to embrace thematic cafes that range from poop and cats, to dogs and racoons.
While these cafes are lined all over town from Gangnam to Yongsan-gu, a large number of cafes are situated in the Mapo-gu district. Check out the “poop cafe” here – it’s one of the weirdest places in Korea!
11. The Subway – For Its Technology Cheap Shopping
The transport system in Seoul is worth admiring, especially the subway system. Connecting every remote corner of the city and large areas in the outskirts, it’s among the world’s most advanced and efficient metro systems.
But, the reason why it’s among the list of places to visit in Seoul is due to the numerous shops in the subway stations. This is the top place to shop for those on a budget. From winter wear and fashion accessories to freshly baked bread, you can find just about anything at the station stalls. Feel free to bargain your heart out!
12. Nami Island – For the Love of Winter Sonata
Whether you are a fan of Winter Sonata or not, Nami Island is one of the best places to visit in Seoul, especially in the winter months. Although this nature-filled place isn’t the best hiking in South Korea, and is thronged by tourists, it’s quite a cultural experience to watch the local travellers enjoy their weekends.
During late winter, the lake at Nami freezes, making for a gorgeous view across the island. For those travelling with children, Nami island is highly recommended for its fun rides, zip wire, and large open spaces. When here, do not forget to eat Hotteok (sweet pancake). The queue is worth the deliciousness.
Besides, if you love the book ‘The Little Prince’ as we do, you may also enjoy visiting Petite France, a village modelled after the book.
Getting There: Take the metro to Yongsan station and catch the ITX train to Gapyeong from where you could take the shuttle bus to the ferry wharf and then ferry across. Or, if you’d prefer to have a pick-up and everything arranged for you, click here to learn about a Nami Island tour.
13. A Jimjilbang – For a Korean Style Spa Experience
Korean spa is not your ordinary hour-long relaxation massage. It’s a getaway from life! In a typical Korean Jimjilbang, you would be scrubbed, soaked in hot water, and most importantly be completely naked and surrounded by locals who would be doing just the same.
Depending on the Jimjilbang you go to, there are facilities like hot water pools, sauna, massage, and even film rooms to sit back and relax. At some of the Jimjilbangs, you can stay overnight and save the night’s tariff at a hotel. Relaxation and accommodation, both in one go.
Siloam and Dragon Hill Spa are two of the famous ones. You can ask your host or hotel to suggest one that may be local to the area you stay in.
14. Noryangjin Fish Market – For a Local Market Experience
Name a sea creature and there’s a very high chance that you will find it in the vibrant fish market of Noryangjin. It’s where all the restaurants in Seoul source their fish from. I must warn you though that if you prefer to eat your food without seeing it being chopped and butchered, the market may not be for you.
The fast pace negotiations, a variety of seafood, and the chitter-chatter filling the market is worth the experience, this is one of the most local places to visit in Seoul. Get here early morning to watch locals trade, though an evening tour isn’t too bad either.
15. Ihwa Mural Village – For Its Art
Koreans love murals – you’ll find them in quite a few places around the country. In the Ihwa Mural Village, there’s an entire neighbourhood painted with trendy art and colorful walls.
Set up on a hillside, the Ihwa Mural Village was an attempt to decorate and restore the community neighbourhood. However, there are contradictory views to the restoration and not all the residents appreciate the attempt, and it’s important to keep this in mind as you walk through the village.
Wear comfortable shoes and attire and carry enough drinking water – the walk around the village is almost a mini hike.
16. Gyeongbokgung Palace – For a History Lesson on Joseon Dynasty
If you were to pick just one of the places to visit in Seoul, make it this one. There’s no better way to start your South Korean journey than a slow walk in and around the Gyeongbokgung Palace.
The largest of the five palaces in the city, the North Palace (Gyeongbokgung Palace) is a great introduction to the history of the Joseon dynasty.
Arrive at the palace early in the morning (starting time is 9 AM) to avoid the crowds. For just 3,000 won ($2.70) per person, you can enjoy the magnificent palace and its large open grounds. For photography lovers, the palace with a view of the Bukhansan mountains in the backdrop makes for a great frame.
17. Bukhansan – For The Love Of Hiking
Seoul is surrounded on all sides by mountains and peaks that are perfect for hiking. A popular weekend activity among the youth of the city is to hike up the Bukhansan mountains, which holds the dubious record for most hikers per square foot.
Beginning at the Bukhansanseong Fortress, the trail to the highest peak of Baegundae includes walking along fortress walls, Buddha statues, and local temples. The view from the top is stunning and well worth the 5-hour climb. We recommend doing the hike early in the morning on a weekday, to avoid the crowds.
Getting There: Gupabal Station, Exit 1 -> Bus 704 to Fortress
18. NANTA Theater – For a Unique Stage Show
The ‘Nanta Cooking’ show that originally premiered in 1997 follows the story of three cooks working hard to cook a lavish wedding banquet on a strict timeline. The musical that takes place across the two theatres in Hongdae and Myeongdong is entirely non-verbal with the story told through magic tricks, acrobatics, comedy, and audience involvement.
Strung together through the unifying element of samulnori music (music created using objects), it’s an incredible performance. There are three shows a day in both the theatres and costs around $35 a ticket.
19. Jogyesa Temple – For an Introduction to Korean Buddhism
South Korea has a strong Buddhist influence and the gorgeous Jogyesa temple is a testament to it. Built in 1395, Jogyesa temple is the centre of Korean Buddhism (Jogye order). The temple is peaceful in the mornings but if you would like to see it lit up, evenings are the best time to visit.
It’s best to read about the temple’s history in advance and understand its significance to make the most of this experience. To explore the Korean Buddhist principles in depth, choose the temple stay program offered for free at the temple itself. Vegetarian Buddhist meals, teachings, and an overall introduction to Jogye make the stay experience absolutely unique.
20. Bukchon Hanok Village – For a Traditional Day Out
Perched on a small hill in the heart of Seoul, the traditional Bukchon village is like traveling back in time. Hanoks, traditional Korean houses as old as 600 years line the alleyways that meander through the walls of Changgyeonggung palace.
For those not traveling to Jeonju, staying in the minimalistic Hanok in Seoul is an equally fascinating experience. Wear a hanbok and amble around the streets admiring beautiful street art, clicking Insta-worthy pictures, digging into local food, and shopping for the souvenirs to carry back with you.
21. Chicken In The Kitchen – For…Chicken!
It’s Seoul, so the list must end with food, right?! And what better than the dish no one does better, not even the Colonel – Chicken.
Koreans love their chicken so much that they have a nickname for having fried chicken with beer called ‘chi-maek’ which just simply means having chicken with beer along with your friends. This is some of the best Korean food!
Although there are numerous joints all across town, Chicken in The Kitchen is one which is known for its impeccable hygienic practices and well suited for a romantic evening (even though you’ll be dipping your hands into the juicy sauces). Of all the places to visit in Seoul, this one has to be our favourite.
Best Things To Do
1. Explore Bukchon Hanok Village
The Bukchon Hanok Village is one of my favourite photo spots in Seoul. The traditional hanok houses found here date all the way back to the Joseon Dynasty, and people actually live in them! This picturesque residential area is nestled in the heart of the city between Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace, and from atop the hill you can see a background of modern buildings in the distance.
Getting there: Anguk Station (Subway Line 3), Exit 2.
Tip: Get a map at the Tourist Information Centre!
2. Buy cosmetics at Myeongdong
Myeongdong is a cosmetic-lover’s paradise. You can find all the popular Korean cosmetic brands in Myeongdong, from Innisfree and Etude House to Tony Moly and MISSHA. Look out for the 1+1 (buy one get one free) offers, and don’t be shy to go around collecting free samples!
Confession: I went absolutely crazy here.
Getting there: Myeong-dong Station (Subway Line 4), Exit 5, 6, 7, or 8 / Euljiro Il-ga Station (Subway Line 2), Exit 5.
3. Have the time of your life at Lotte World
Lotte World is the world’s largest indoor amusement park. Comprising both an indoor theme park and an outdoor amusement park, Lotte World is also surrounded by a hotel and a large shopping complex!
This top-notch attraction is great for families, kids and couples alike. Lotte World is more than just an ordinary theme park, it’s a massive entertainment hub that promises fun in epic proportions!
Getting there: 240 Olympic-ro Songpa-Gu, Seoul, Korea. The park is connected to Jamsil Station on Line 2 and Line 8 of the Subway. Take Exit 4 and head to Lotte World.
4. Catch the guard changing ceremony at Gyeongbokgung Palace
When visiting the Gyeongbokgung Palace, don’t miss out on observing the Royal Guard Changing Ceremony or the Gwanghwamun Gate Guard-on-Duty Performance. Either one happens every hour between 10am to 4pm at the Gyeongbokgung Palace, every day except Tuesdays.
Getting there: Gyeongbokgung Palace Station (Subway Line 3), Exit 5 / Gwanghwamun Station (Subway Line 5), Exit 2.
5. Put a gatekeeper costume on at Gyeongbokgung Palace
Right before and after the ceremonies mentioned above, visitors can don a gatekeeper’s costume at the Sumunjangcheong Building, located behind the Gwanghwamun Gate. You have no reason not to do this – the Sumungun (Gatekeeper) Costume Experience is absolutely free!
6. Buy snacks at Lotte Mart
Lotte Mart is the place to buy all the Korean snacks you can ever dream of. Bring a big bag along because you’ll need to fill it up with MarketO brownies, tteokbokki crackers, Lotte biscuit sticks and all the other delicious Korean goodies!
Getting to Lotte Mart outlet at Seoul Station: Seoul Station (Subway Line 1 and 4), Exit 1.
7. Ride the world’s steepest wooden roller coaster at Everland
If you’re looking for a different theme park experience while in Korea, Everland is where you need to be. It is South Korea’s largest outdoor theme park and houses five unique zones of rides and attractions. Among all the rides, Everland is proudly home to the world’s steepest wooden roller coaster and South Korea’s only safari!
The best advice we have for you is to visit the park as early as you can. Based on past reviews, Everland has too many rides to squeeze into a day!
Getting there: 199 Everland-ro, Pogog-eup, Cheoin-gu, Gyeonggi province. Take bus 5002 from Gangnam Station or 5700 from Jamsil Station. The ride will take around an hour and costs KRW2,500.
8. Take the cable car up Mount Namsan
Home to the N Seoul Tower, Mount Namsan is a must-visit attraction in Seoul. While Mount Namsan is a mere 237 metres at its peak, the athletically challenged among us (like me) may not be so keen on climbing it. Fret not – there is a cable car to shuttle you there! At the top, enjoy the city views or go even higher up the N Seoul Tower’s observatory.
Getting there: From Myeong-dong Station (Subway Line 4), walk for about 15 minutes towards Pacific Hotel, and continue straight from there. The boarding point for the cable car will be visible.
9. Indulge in delicious street food
You should never go hungry in Seoul, especially when there’s plenty of yummy street food everywhere! Some must-try street food in Seoul include tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes), hotteok (sweet pancakes), kimbap (seaweed rice rolls) and of course, the classic chicken skewers!
10. Have a photo-shoot at Common Ground
Common Ground is Seoul’s very own container park. It is essentially a shopping mall with trendy shops, and also a great place to just hang out or have a hipster-ish photo-shoot.
Getting there: Konkuk University Station (Subway Line 2 and Line 7). Exit 6.
11. Enjoy a hilarious non-verbal performance
For a truly iconic and memorable experience with your loved ones, consider the humorous NANTA Theater Show. Nanta Show is Korea’s most popular theater performance that takes place in a non-verbal musical setting.
It features a culinary-themed comedic performance that includes acrobatic moves and rhythmic melodies. Remember to book your tickets in advance as they tend to sell out quickly.
12. Go shopping in an underground shopping centre
Seoul’s extensive underground facilities are really impressive, and a few times I emerged from the subway to find myself in a massive underground shopping paradise. Some of the best underground shopping spots in Seoul include the Express Terminal Underground Centre, Gangnam Underground Shopping Centre and Yeongdeungpo Underground Mall. Scour the labyrinthine alleys and you’re guaranteed to find great bargains!
13. Play with furry kitties at a cat cafe
While shopping at Myeongdong, I was lured into a cat cafe by a cat mascot. No regrets at all. JUST LOOK AT THOSE CUTE CATS! Need I say more?
Cat Cafe 고양이놀이터 Cat Playground, Myeongdong
Address: 3F, 37-14, Myeongdong 8-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
14. Buy traditional souvenirs at Insadong
If you’re planning on buying traditional goods, head to Insadong! There is one main road in Insadong lined with booths, shops, galleries, teahouses and restaurants. Be sure to wander into the alleyways to discover hidden charms and unexpected gems.
Getting there: Anguk Station (Subway Line 3). Exit 6.
15. Snap quirky photos at Seoul Alive Illusion Museum
Situated right in the heart of Seoul, Seoul Alive Illusion Museum is the first museum to bring interactive 4D optical illusions to South Korea. There are over 100 exhibits that visitors can witness and experience first hand.
The most unique part about this museum? You can create personalised artworks, using your body and facial expressions, with the help of digital technology. Nab the chance to live out your favourite Disney movies through displays showcasing Frozen and Cinderella characters.
Spend hours roaming the museum and make sure your camera (or smartphone) is fully charged. Expect to snap lots of photos and create precious memories.
16. Drink tea at a teahouse
I really wanted to experience a traditional teahouse in Seoul, so I hunted down Insadong Chatjip, a hanok teahouse. The cup of homemade Jujube Tea I had was absolutely delicious! Seoul has many fantastic teahouses, so forget Starbucks and go traditional instead.
Address: 33-1, Insadong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
17. Try the Korean fire noodle challenge
Have you seen the videos of people taking on the Korean fire noodle challenge? There’s no better time to hop on the bandwagon than when you’re in Seoul! Run off to the nearest convenience store, grab a cup of spicy noodles and prepare it in your hotel room. Kick it up a notch and gobble it down as fast as possible (or add a dash of chili powder, if you’re crazy).
18. Shop at Ewha Women’s University Shopping Street
Attention, ladies! The area near Ewha Women’s University, also known as Edae, is a heaven for shoppers. Wander where your feet take you and shop alongside fashionable Korean women. Buy clothing, cosmetics and shoes, pop by a salon for a makeover and when you’re tired, take a break in one of the many cafes around.
Getting there: Ewha Womans University Station (Subway Line 2), Exits 2 and 3.
19. Drink the famous ginseng chicken soup at Tosokchon
To have a taste of Seoul’s famous ginseng chicken soup, also known as Samgyetang, drop by Tosokchon. There might be a queue if you come during lunchtime, but the ginseng soup will definitely be worth the wait!
Address: 5, Jahamun-ro 5-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Getting there: Gyeongbokgung Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 2. Go straight about for 170 metres and turn left into Jahamun-ro 5-gil Road. Tosokchon (토속촌) is located 10 metres ahead on the left.
20. View an exhibition at Dongdaemun Design Plaza
The Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) is a new attraction in Seoul and it is a venue for events, exhibitions and shows related to the design industry. When I was there, the “Andy Warhol Live” exhibition, which features about 400 of Andy Warhol’s artworks, was ongoing. On your visit to Seoul, be sure to check whether there is anything happening in DDP that suits your interests!
Getting there: Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station (Subway Line 2, 4 and 5), Exit 1.
21. Feel like a K-Pop star in SMTOWN@coexartium
If you’re a big fan of K-Pop, head to SMTOWN@coexartium to feel closer to your favourite stars. Not only can you buy K-pop merchandise in SMTOWN, but you can also view SM-related exhibits or watch a live performance. Be an artiste for a day at SMTOWN STUDIO, which offers vocal lessons, photo-shoots and even music video making sessions.
Getting there: Samseong Station (Subway Line 2), Exit 6.
22. Dip your feet in Cheonggyecheon Stream
Just a short walk from DDP is the Cheonggyecheon Stream, which provides an easily accessible retreat from the surrounding city. On hot summer days, locals gather under the bridges to enjoy the shade and dip their feet in the cool water. It is actually possible to walk along the length of the stream, which spans 10.9 kilometres. Along the way, you can make detours to visit the many attractions nearby.
23. Have a walk around Namdaemun Market
Located within walking distance of Myeongdong, Namdaemun Market is a traditional market that sells all sorts of things – clothing, bags, accessories, cosmetics, textiles, kitchenware, ginseng and even buns! This market is definitely worth a visit because the prices of the goods found here are very competitive.
Getting there: Hoehyeon Station (Subway Line 4), Exit 5.
24. Go café-hopping at Garosu-gil
Cafe-hopping in Seoul is an easy affair; just make your way to Garosu-gil, where you can find a large selection of cafes for your choosing. Indulge in delectable tarts from Deux Cremes and then hop over to O’Sulloc Tea House to try all sorts of green tea desserts. If you’re in Seoul in summer, then hunt down a bowl of patbingsu (Korean shaved ice dessert). Or just go without a plan and wander into any random cafe in sight – that’s alright too!
Getting there: Sinsa Station (Subway Line 3), Exit 8. Go straight for 250 metres and turn left.
25. Finish a bottle of Milkis
Milkis is that one non-alcoholic drink you must try when in Korea. This carbonated drink has one special ingredient: milk! The combination of soda and milk might sound weird, but this drink is perfect in its own right.
26. Try the Korean-style braised chicken
I could easily fill this checklist with the different foods you simply have to try in Seoul, but I shall limit it to one of my favourites: Andong Jjimdak (braised chicken of Andong). What’s there to love about this? The Andong-style chicken is soft and tender while the soy bean-based sauce is sweet and savoury. Slices of potatoes, carrots, and onions are thrown into the delicious mix, and starch noodles complete the dish. Yum!
27. Lick 32 centimetres’ worth of twist ice cream
When you see an ice cream stand in Myeongdong, don’t just walk past it! For 2000 KRW (SGD 2.40), you can get yourself a 32 cm twist ice cream cone. If you’re having this on a hot day, share it with a friend because speaking from experience, the ice cream melts really fast!
28. All-night shopping at Dongdaemun
Seoul is truly where you can shop till you drop… asleep. Dongdaemun, one of Seoul’s biggest shopping districts, comes alive at night (10pm to 5am, to be specific). There are two districts in Seoul – one for retail shopping and the other for wholesale shopping. Some of the most popular shopping malls here include Doota, Migliore, Hello apM and Good Morning City.
Getting there: Dongdaemun Stadium Station (Subway Line 2) / Dongdaemun Station (Subway Line 1 and 4)
29. Indulge in cheap and fresh seafood
If you love seafood, do not miss out on a trip to Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market, located near Noryangjin Station. In there, you can check out the seafood auction (it starts and ends in the very early hours though!) and buy really fresh seafood from the hundreds of stores there. The best part that the prices are really affordable, and you can expect to purchase enough to eat for two for about 20,000 krw. When you’re done with your shopping, head to one of the many restaurants located in the same market and they’ll cook your purchases for a small fee!
Address: 674, Nodeul-ro, Dongjak-gu, Seoul
30. Experience a seshin (full body scrub) at a jjimjilbang (bath house)
No trip to South Korea should be without a visit to a jjimjilbang – however, getting steamed up in the sauna is not the most intimidating experience there! If you’re up for it, you should try a seshin performed by “scrub mistress” or “scrub master”, a ritual that’s embraced by locals and well, not so much the visitors. The pain factor is high on the list, but that’s what makes the scrub so efficient, and you’ll literally get every inch of your body (yes, you’ll be naked) exfoliated. You’ll leave the jjimjilbang feeling and looking like a new person!
Best Places To Eat
1. Doore Yoo
Michelin-starred chef Tony Yoo found a new home in the heart of Bukchon Hanok Village, a neighborhood filled with traditional Korean houses. In a calming Hanok setting, Yoo combines temple cuisine — a vegetable-centered cuisine that originated in Korea’s Buddhist temples — and traditional Korean dishes to create an elegant modern Korean cuisine of his own. There’s a chaejip (foraging) menu using ingredients found across Korea available if requested a couple days in advance. [$$-$$$]
Address: 16-12 Gahoe-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
2. Dining in Space
While chef Jinsung Noh’s excellent modern French haute cuisine is good enough reason to include it on the Eater 38, it’s the view that sets Dining in Space apart from other restaurants. Diners enjoy a frequently changing tasting menu with dishes like seared scallop and Iberico pork steak while overlooking Changdeokgung Palace, a grand palace from the Joseon Dynasty. Three sides of the restaurant are made of glass so that the view is wide open from anywhere inside the restaurant. If you are looking for a restaurant with a unique view of Seoul, this is the place. [$$$-$$$$]
Address: 83 Yulgok-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Phone No. +82 2-747-8105
3. Balwoo Gongyang
Thanks to the episode of Chef’s Table that features the cooking of Zen Buddhist nun Jeong Kwan, the whole world now knows the beauty of temple cuisine. But it was restaurant Balwoo Gongyang that introduced temple cuisine to the public in 2009 — its name is even a term for the traditional cuisine. The food here strictly adheres to vegan Buddhist principles: Not only does the diet exclude all meat and seafood, but it also bans spices such as garlic, chives, and onion. But that does not mean that the food is bland. Using temple-made jang, a fermented sauce, and fresh organic produce, Balwoo Gongyang serves delicate and flavorful food. It does not sell alcohol, but guests are allowed to bring their own bottles during dinner service, with corkage. [$-$$$]
Address: 56 Gyeonji-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Phone No. +82 2-733-2081
4. Cheong Jin Ok
The morning after a night out in Seoul calls for a proper hangover cure. Head over to Cheong Jin Ok for a hot bowl of Haejangguk, an original dish that literally translates into “hangover cure soup.” The rich broth is made by simmering beef bone, brisket, and intestines for 24 hours. Cabbage and cow blood are then added to the soup, following the original recipe created in 1937. This hot bowl will cure your worst hangovers, preparing you for another night of soju drinking. [$]
Address: South Korea, Seoul, Jongno-gu
Jongno 1(il).2(i).3(sam).4(sa), (종로1가 24번지 르메이에르 1층)
Phone No. 02-735-1690
5. Imun Seolnongtang
When in Seoul, don’t miss out on this bowl of soup with a broth as rich as its history. This is the oldest restaurant in Seoul, being the city’s first-ever restaurant to register for a business license in 1904. Imun Seolnongtang has been offering a hearty bowl of seolleongtang (beef bone soup) to the people of Seoul ever since. Over the century, this milky and pure bone broth has reached a level of near-perfection. [$]
Address: 38-13 Ujeongguk-ro, Gyeonji-dong, Jongno-gu
Seoul, South Korea
Phone No. +82 2-733-6526
Best Places To Stay
1. Mercure Seoul Ambassador Gangnam Sodowe
If you are looking for a luxury stay in South Korea, then Mercure Seoul Hotel is the best place to be. Being one of the best hotels in Gangnam South Korea, each room at this hotel offers splendid views of the city’s skyline. Also, make sure you do not miss out on the delicious variety of food served here!
Tariff Per Night: INR ₹ 6,945 – ₹ 10,317 (on double-sharing basis)
Location: 10 Teheran-ro 25-gil, Yeoksam 1(il)-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea
2. Somerset Palace Seoul
If you are planning to tour the South Korean city, the Somerset Palace is one of the best hotels in South Korea. Located at the centre of the city, it makes it easy for the tourists to travel from the hotel to various tourist attractions. Mindful of hygiene and quality, it also is a great choice for foodies as the hotel is surrounded by several good restaurants.
Tariff Per Night: INR₹ 8,564 – ₹ 16,521 (on double-sharing basis)
Location: 7 Yulgok-ro 2-gil Jongno-gu Jongno-gu Seoul KR, South Korea
3. Novotel Ambassador Seoul Doksan
Located close to the Doksan Station, the Novotel Ambassador hotel is one of the most popular hotels in South Korea. Featuring spacious rooms with all the modern amenities, the staff at the hotel are beyond amicable and helpful that makes the whole difference to the customer experience.
Tariff Per Night: INR₹ 5,462 – ₹ 9,845 (on double-sharing basis)
Location: 378, Siheungdae-ro, Seoul, South Korea
4. Best Western Premier Hotel Kukdo
Budget travelers can put their worries to ease as South Korea has plenty of affordable options. Having said that, the Western Premier Hotel is one of the best among cheap hotels in Seoul Korea that is centrally located and is easily accessible from anywhere in the city. Offering clean and spacious rooms, the interiors and décor of the hotel are immaculate to the core.
Tariff Per Night: INR₹ 4,990 – ₹ 9,305 (on double-sharing basis)
Location: 164 Eulji-ro, Euljiro-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
5. Grand InterContinental Seoul Parnas
The Grand InterContinental offers everything that redefines luxury. It is undoubtedly one of the exquisite hotels in South Korea and is a classic example of a grand 5-star hotel. Ranging from food to other room services, the Grand InterContinental offers its best to all the customers. Those traveling to South Korea for business, this hotel is the perfect choice for them.
Tariff Per Night: INR₹ 15,779 – ₹ 24,343 (on double-sharing basis)
Location: 521 Teheran-ro, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea
6. Conrad Seoul
The Conrad Hilton Seoul is a luxury hotel. All the rooms are well maintained and equipped with first-class services. Every room in the hotel offers amazing views of the local park and the river. While the executive lounge serves as the best feature of this hotelli, the property is also connected to a shopping mall that has plenty of dining options too.
Tariff Per Night: INR₹ 15,577 – ₹ 24,208 (on double-sharing basis)
Location: 10 Gukjegeumyung-ro, Yeoeuido-dong, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
7. Ramada Hotel and Suites
Known to be one of the best hotels in South Korea, Ramada hotel and suites is strategically located at the centre of the city. Any traveler can easily locate this hotel while entering the city from the airport. With fantastic rooms and a well-organized staff, the hotel is a great combination of food and stay that makes it an easy pick for the travelers in South Korea.
Tariff Per Night: INR₹ 5,529 – ₹ 11,733 (on double-sharing basis)
Location: 27 Chilpae-ro, Sunhwa-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
8. MVL Hotel Kintex
Looking for budget-friendly options? Look no further than the MVL Hotel Kintex in South Korea. With intricately decorated rooms, and polite & helpful staff, it serves as the perfect hotel for backpackers and budget travelers who’re in search of affordable stay options in South Korea.
Tariff Per Night: INR₹ 11,194 – ₹ 14,767 (on double-sharing basis)
Location: 1246 Janghang-dong, Ilsandong-gu, Goyang-si, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea
Shopping In Seoul
For Skincare and Cosmetics
Let’s start with the largest and hottest shopping spot in Korea! Myeongdong used to be a favourite local haunt, but now it is a tourist hotspot too, popular as the to-go place for skincare and cosmetic brands. There could be as many as twenty makeup stores in a single block here! Every cosmetic and skincare brand in Korea, such as Nature Republic, Innisfree and Too Cool For School, has at least one store in Myeongdong. It’s definitely the best place to swatch and compare before pulling out your bucks for a purchase! Myeongdong is also a great place to shop for clothes and fashion items in general.
Opening hours: 10am to 10pm, Daily
Address: Myeongdong-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
Nearest stations: Myeongdong Station, Exits 5, 6, 7, or 8 or Euljiro 1 (ij-ga) Station, Exits 5 or 6
2. Lotte Department Store’s Main Branch
Welcome to sale central! Lotte Department Store has a dizzying amount of skincare and cosmetic brands and an even more mind-boggling amount of sales. They carry all the big brands like Missha, Sulwhasoo and Laneige. Also, you can get a 5% to 10% discount when you pay via Visa. Lotte Department Store is also one of the places where you can conveniently get tax refunds on your purchases. The best part: you can opt to get a receipt and pick up your items at Incheon airport instead of lugging shopping bags around in Seoul. Simply show your passport and boarding pass to the staff when you make your purchase. Your purchases will come in sealed bags at the airport and you can bring them onboard even if they are more than 100ml!
Opening Hours: 10:30am to 8pm, Daily
Address: 30, Eulji-ro 11-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Nearest station: Euljiro 1(il)-ga Station
3. Ewha Woman’s University Shopping Street
Ewha Woman’s University Shopping Street caters mainly to the young and trendy students in the Ewha University nearby. In this area, the cosmetics are discounted and you can find all popular brands that local Koreans love such as Tony Moly and Skinfood. It is a shopping heaven that sells everything including clothes, shoes, and cute accessories like chokers, socks and rings. How we wish we have a shopping street like this near our own schools!
Opening hours: 11am to 10pm, Daily
Address: 52, Ewhayeodae-gil, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul
Nearest station: Ewha Woman’s University Subway Station, Exit 2 or 3
For Street Fashion
4. Namdaemun market
Namdaemun Market is a large traditional market selling everything from mountain gear and carpets to fashionable clothes. Getting lost in the dense maze of thousands of stalls is the best way to land yourself a bargain! Most of the clothes here cost between 10,000 to 20,000 Won. Namdaemun Market is such a great place for bargain-hunters that you might even afford to get stylish bags and fancy gifts for your friends back home!
Opening hours: 11pm to 5pm, Monday to Saturday
Address: 21 Namdaemunsijang 4-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Nearest station: Hoehyeon Station, Exit 5
5. Goto mall (Gangnam Terminal Underground Shopping Centre)
Goto Mall, also known as the Gangnam Terminal Underground Shopping Centre, is an 800-metre-long underground alley of clothes, accessories and cosmetics. Many subway stations are connected to such underground malls, and Goto Mall is one of the biggest in Seoul. It is more popular among locals, as compared to Dongdaemun and Namdaemun Market which are popular among tourists. Their products are cheaper for the same level of quality! Many even tout Goto Mall as the first shopping stop you should make. See for yourself if you can find any great steals.
Opening hours: 10am to 10pm
Address: 128-4 Banpo-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Nearest station: Express Bus Terminal Station
You can literally shop till you drop at Dongdaemun. The sky’s the limit when you’re at a shopping district that closes only at 5am. There are wholesale and retail goods spread throughout the 26 malls and 30,000 shops. The must-visit malls are HELLO APM, Migliore, Doota Tower and Good Morning City. You can find chic Korean brands like Style Nanda and BangBang. Countless street stalls surround these malls, hawking accessories, shoes, and delicious, delicious food.
Opening hours: 10am to 5am, Tuesday to Saturday; 10:30am to 11pm, Sunday.
Do note that things only get lively after 10pm.
Address: Euljiro 6(yuk)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Nearest stations: Dongdaemun Stadium Station, exit 8 or 9, or Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station, Exit 2 or 14
For Local Designer Clothes
7. Common Ground
Common Ground is an artsy pop-up container mall packed with ENERGY! Small local designers have set up quirky, oh-so-cool shops here. You will find the latest local designs and unique items that reflect Seoul’s vibrant youth culture. It is also a great spot to people-watch; call us creepy but we’re just doing research (to copy their look). Also, most locals look out for a “Made in Korea” tag. These clothes may be more expensive but they are muuuch better quality than cheap imports from China.
Opening Hours: 11am to 10pm, Daily
Address: 200, Achasan-ro, Gwangjin-gu, Seoul
Nearest Station: Konkuk University Station, Exit 6
8. Hongdae (Hongik University Street)
Hongdae is honestly so cool you should visit it even if you aren’t shopping. We can’t guarantee that you won’t be tempted, though! Koreans describe Hongdae as the place local retailers go “when they can’t afford the rent at Myeongdong”. Many local shops that made Myeongdong great have now moved to Hongdae and transformed it with their underground culture and youthful atmosphere. These fashion shops are tended with passion by local designers. Check out the Hongdae “playground” when you need a break – Hongik university students gather here for crazy street performances and festivals!
Opening hours: 11am to midnight, Daily
Address: Eoulmadang-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Nearest station: Hongik University Station, Exit 8 or 9
Garosugil in Gangnam is for the most high-end of fashionistas. You can truly witness Gangnam Style for yourself, but be warned – instead of awkward dancing, Garosugil boasts chic art galleries, stylish designer shops and elegant ateliers. Their unique boutiques are practically art pieces themselves with contemporary decorations and interesting clothing. Well, we still dare you to prance down the street to the tune of Gangnam Style! You might be the next viral thing!
Opening Hours: 10 am to midnight, Daily
Address: 667-13 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Nearest station: Sinsa Station, Exit 8
For Traditional Crafts and Souvenirs
Don’t limit your shopping to modern fashion! Why not delve into the full Korean experience? You get to shop AND sightsee Samcheongdong, which is famous for traditional Korean houses (Bukchon Hanok) and traditional crafts shops. Shop artsy accessories and sip artisanal coffee in between.
Opening hours: 10am to 6pm, Daily
Address: Samcheong-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Nearest station: Anguk Station, Exit 1
The 700-metre-long Insadong Street is another great place for traditional Korean crafts. You can transform yourself into a true Korean lady (or try to) by buying a hanbok! They come in an array of bright colours and pretty prints. You can also find traditional paper (also known as hanji) as well as traditional pottery, folk crafts and teahouses in Insadong.
Opening hours: 10am to 8pm, Daily
Address: Insa-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Nearest station: Anguk Station, Exit 6 or Jonggak Station, Exit 3
12. Gwangjang Market
Now here’s a super retro market. Gwangjang Market first opened in 1905 and is the go-to place for wedding hanbok dresses and wedding food. Even if you’re not marrying a Korean oppa anytime soon, you still purchase local fabrics, hanboks, lacquerware and FOOD!
Clothing stores open 9pm to 10am the next day, Monday to Saturday
General stores open 8:30am to 6pm, Monday to Saturday
Address: 88, Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Nearest station: Jongno 5-ga Station, Exit 8 or Euljiro 4-ga Station, Exit 4
For Korean Snacks
13. Lotte Mart
Lotte Mart is Korea’s top discount store which sells everyday essentials, clothes, and lots of SNACKS! The most popular and easily accessible outlet for most tourists is the Seoul Station Branch. They even provide tax refunds! Here’s where you can stock up on all things delicious like Honey Butter Chips, Market O’s Real Brownies, Crown Butter Waffles and crispy seaweed. The selection is humongous and you will find everything you can dream of and more!
Opening hours: 9am to midnight, Daily
Closed every second and fourth Sunday of the month
Address: 432, Cheongpa-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul
Nearest station: Seoul Station, Exit 1
E-Mart is another discount chain in Korea. It is the largest chain in Korea and is supposedly cheaper and less crowded than Lotte Mart. The most accessible outlet from the city centre is the Yongsan Branch. Try Smoky Bacon Chips and Rice Krispies! Check out their tea section as well for soothing Korean citron tea. Do bring your own bag as E-Mart does not provide plastic bags.
Opening hours: 10am to midnight, Daily
Address: 55, Hangang-daero 23-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Nearest station: Yongsan Station, Exit 4
15. Home Plus
Home Plus is a discount chain owned by Tesco, and their most central outlet is the Dongdaemun branch. It’s a wonderful candy land with a huge section filled with rows of tiny candy sachets. You can also purchase makgeolli (a subtly sweet alcoholic Korean beverage) or even pre-packaged Korean foods such ramyun, soups, or sauces so you can have authentic Korean food back at home.
Opening hours: 9am to midnight, Daily
(Closed every second and fourth Sunday of the month)
Address: 133, Cheonho-daero, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul
Nearest station: Yongdu Station, Exit 3 or Jegi-dong Station, Exit 3
For Korean Dried Seafood
16. Chungbu Market
The smell hits you even before you step foot into this market – the pungent smell of dried seafood is unmistakable! Browse through a mind-boggling array of dried seafood at this wholesale market, which includes more varieties of dried anchovies than you can imagine! As mentioned, the pong is rather strong, and is known to linger on your clothes for hours so we suggest to not visit this right before a date.
Opening hours: 9am to 6pm on weekdays
Address: Ojang-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
- Ask if for tax refunds if possible. Korean taxes can be as high as 10% of the total price.
- Check the Korea Tourism Organisation’s website for sale season. You can check the sale dates and participating outlets.
- You can deposit your items in the many coin lockers in Seoul’s train stations. That way, you can explore a place with ease without carrying all your shopping from a previous stop. Just make sure you remember to collect your items when you leave!