Seoul was always be special to me because it was the first place I went solo. I picked it as my first city to go solo in as it is a pretty modern city with convenient public transport options, but also there is plenty to explore within the city. I spent about a week exploring, but if you are short on time, here is a long weekend itinerary suggestion on seeing Seoul’s main sights for the first time visitor.
This itinerary was created by Anch, an acquaintance of mine from school and completely in love with the city of Seoul, having had the chance to live there for short stints. To celebrate that, she created Type: Seoul. I’ll let her tell you a little more about what to see in Seoul.
I love Seoul because it’s full of contradictions. While building towering offices downtown and maintaining its status as one of the most wired cities in the world, it somehow manages to retain traditional architecture from the Joseon Dynasty and a nationalistic feel so strong among its citizens you’d get all caught-up in the Korean fever too. And it is precisely this multi-dimensional city I fell in love with!
From 24hour trendy shopping to trying on the Korean costume (hanbok) at one of many traditional houses (hanok), one will be struggling to fit all must-visit stops in one short trip. Thus, I thought I’ll recommend an itinerary for the first-timer to Seoul, in hope that it will create many exciting memories so that maybe you will, like me, fall in love too :)
The grandest of palaces in Seoul, it was originally built by King Taejo (founder of the Joseon Dyanasty) and is accessible via the Seoul Metro (Gyeongbokgung Station). The scenes are beautiful here, where the main palace hall and a raised pavilion overlooking an artificial lake will provide awesome photo-spots. One can also learn more about the Korean culture and history at the National Folk Museum and National Palace Museum (both free with your entry ticket to Gyeongbokgung), and sometimes there are even free activities or traditional Korean wear for tourists to try!
From Gyeongbokgung, one only needs to walk down (approximately 15mins away) or take the metro to Anguk Station (Exit 6) to get to Insadong. Famous for its traditional arts and crafts, the street is filled with tea-houses, art galleries and flea-market stalls selling custom snacks. The interesting Ssamziegil, the perfect place to get souvenirs, is also here, so don’t miss it!
Night: Lotte Mart
Located at Seoul Station, one can hardly miss the looming letters in red, spelling LOTTE and indicating late-night supermarket shopping. Extremely convenient for the busy Seoulite, given its late operating hours (open till midnight!); Lotte Mart is also very popular for its well-stocked shelves and reasonable pricing. The average tourist should come just to experience everyday Korean shopping, where one has to bag or box your own purchases. Plus get your hands on famous XIN ramen and Lotte Crown Waffles Biscuits for snacking throughout your trip!
Wake your senses up with hawking sounds and Korean ahjummas shouting over your shoulders at this very authentic local market located at Hoehyeon Station (Exit 5). From household ware to stationery, clothes, blankets, and ginseng, one can get almost anything here. As this is also a wholesale distributing ground, budding blogshop owners can also visit to obtain cheap wholesale accessories at the Jewelry Town.
From Namdaemun, one can walk down to Myeongdong (just a couple of blocks down!) or take a few stops on the metro (Myeongdong Station, Exit 3). Needless to say, Meyongdong is THE street to visit for its trendy alley outlets, countless, countless skincare and makeup stores and the mouthwatering roadside stores. It’s a love-and-hate for when to come; weekends are the best because all the good stores are out on the street, but it’s also when it’s most crowded and you’d need tons of patience just to get from place to place!
Night: N Seoul Tower
Relax at night with a leisurely stroll around the outdoor viewing galleries of N Seoul Tower or pay a small fee (8,000W) to go up the observatory deck for a fantastic 360degrees view of Seoul in all its glory. One can get here by taking Bus No 3 from Myeongdong (ask for directions), and do take some time to explore the love-locks and love-tiles on the grilled walls, left here by thousands of couples declaring everlasting love.
Morning: Hangang Park
Some like to start their day exercising, and Hangang Park at Yeouinaru Station is perfect for strolls or rides down the windy pavement beside the river. The place is a little far out, as it is located on a separate islet called Yeouido (known as Wall Street of Seoul, and houses the twin Samsung Towers as well as major broadcasting stations like KBS), but the scene here is breathtaking and the air so fresh! Spend some time admiring the flowers, and bring your running shoes if you’re into a jog by the river!
Afternoon: Namsangol Hanok Village
It’s one of my all-time favorite spots to bring friends who are visiting, because not only is this entry free, it is also a quick five-minute walk away from Chungmuro Station (Exit 3) and is one of the best places to experience traditional Korean culture. One can walk freely among the Korean houses to admire the architecture or spend some time engaging in the traditional activities. For those hoping to experience wearing the hanbok, you can also do so for a small fee of 3,000W. Visit to the Time Capsule Plaza and traditional Korean garden will complete the entire experience!
It is a short ride on the metro to Dongdaemun or Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station, both of which will bring you to the fancy neon-lit malls of late-night shopping. From famous Doota to aPM to Migliore, one will be spoilt for shopping choices as all of them feature levels after levels (some even to 13storeys!) of cheap clothing, accessories, bags and shoes! Just arm yourself with a calculator and you’ll communicate fine with storekeepers. But I’ll also recommend coffee because you’d need that to stay awake while the shops remain open till 4am in the morning!
Morning: Ewha Women’s University
Drop by the city’s most famous all-female university for a look at awesome European architecture of the school and obviously, the gorgeous young university students. Another great photo-spot and it’s also located beside a great shopping street catered for the budget-conscious student shopper. Kosney, the lifestyle store, is one huge store opposite the entrance of Ewha, and is a must-visit for those thrilled by adorable Korean stickers, stationery and lifestyle products.
Just two stops down, is home to another famous university, the Hongik University, famous for its art culture and extremely talented art students. All over, walls are spray-painted with graffiti, while shops and outlets here are also catered for the young edgy university students. Come weekends, flea markets featuring university entrepreneurs with their self-designed products are set up and it’s an experience viewing the talents of these youths. Also, both the famous “Coffee Prince Café” (of the well-known drama featuring Yoon Eun Hye) and Hello Kitty Café can be found here too!
Rest, relax, chill on your last night in Seoul. Experience the nightlife and buzz at Sinchon, known for its restaurants, cafes, DVD-shops and KTVs, all extremely popular among university students. The stretch is all neon-lit with signboards featuring different shops, and the chatter doesn’t stop as brisk-walking Korean youths brush past with their quick conversations. It’s fabulous to simply sit in one of the many cafes to people-watch and chill- one of the best ways to end your trip to Seoul :)