A Little Bit of Seoul
June 27th, 2011

At approximately 10 million people, Seoul is one of the largest cities in the world. It is vibrant, modern (in spite of it’s ancient temples) and fast-paced, and can easily entertain visitors for at least four days on its own.

Seoul is full of neighborhoods, and knowing where you’re heading is key.  Not because they are unsafe or lack for things to do, but simply because the size of the city is such that if you’re interested in seeing a particular area and end up in a different one, you could spend a good part of the day just walking in between them. Luckily, you’d certainly have plenty to see along the way.

Without a large number of “attractions”, Seoul relies largely on its neighborhoods to enthrall its visitors. Sorting through the different sections can be tricky, so here are a few guidelines for where to head.

For views: The Seoul Tower.  Yes, it’s touristy, but the views are incredible. You can walk, if you’re feeling slightly ambitious, or take the cable car up.

For arts and authentic Korean food: Insa-dong. This is the “artsy” neighborhood. Shops filled with work from local artisans – crafts, pottery, clothing, and more – and some of the most authentic Korean cuisine can be found here. Though plenty of tourists visit Insa-dong, it’s also where locals go to shop and dine, so you’ll get to truly experience the Korean culture. This also means English might be less prevalent, which enhances its authenticity all the more.

For shopping: Myeong-dong. This international shopping district offers everything from clothing stores to skincare. English is more prevalent here, though you’ll certainly hear Korean as well as Japanese.  Even if you’re not big on shopping, this neighborhood has a bustling atmosphere and is worth a walk through.

For the market and cultural experience: Namdaemun Market. The market gets its name from the wooden gates on its edges, which are now the oldest wooden structure in Seoul and of great historic significance to the Koreans. The market offers everything from local fruit to electronics, and experiencing at least one market in South Korean is a must.

For history: Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung. These ornate palaces offer a glimpse into the history of Seoul and South Korea.  Make sure to check the opening times and tour times before heading to the palaces.

International flavor: Itaewon. The goods and cuisine in Itaewon come from literally all over the world. While it might seem counter-intuitive to visit the international district when you’ve come to experience a country’s culture, it’s a neighborhood that’s so well known in the city that it’s highly recommended. Its lively ambience makes it a good place to dine out in the evening.

 

Day Trips and add-ons

1. The DMZ: This can only be seen on a tour, and while sobering and even a bit eerie, the historical significance of the DMZ makes it a must do. Half day tours can be easily arranged from Seoul.

2. Jeju: Jeju Island is the beach area and popular honeymoon spot for Koreans, about an hour flight from Seoul. It can be seen in a couple of days easily and if you need a break from the busy city life, it’s a nice place to unwind. While there, in addition to relaxing on the beach, you can visit the botanical gardens and one of largest Buddhist temples in the world.

3. Busan (Pusan): Busan is about 3 hours from Seoul by train- an incredibly modern, high-speed way to travel between the two cities and highly suggested.  Busan is both a city with it’s own unique culture, as well as a beach resort for Koreans and those in neighboring countries.  It combines the laid back nature of Jeju with the liveliness of a metropolitan area.

 

 

One Response to “A Little Bit of Seoul”

  1. [...] by its friendly residents and distinct cuisine. To read more on Seoul, check out this recent post which describes in further detail the features that make this city a must [...]

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