SEOUL, the capital of South Korea. A futuristic metropolitan city, where skyscrapers and KPOP meet royal palaces and street markets.
In just 50 years since the Korean War, Seoul has become the 10th largest city in the world and the second largest metropolitan area.
For me, Seoul feels like stepping into a parallel universe where London doesn’t exist. After spending most of my life in London, it’s easy to think that you live in the center of the universe. But I am wrong; Seoul people have their own pop culture, fashion, identity, and they don’t really care about the Western world. Megacity is one of the capitals of East Asia’s main cultural determinants along with Tokyo, Taipei and Beijing.
I found the possibility of exploring South Korea when I searched Google “the fastest internet speed in the world.” I guess it’s a pretty good reason to visit the country when your trip is paid for with the work you do online. But South Korea has many reasons why you should visit, not only including how quickly you can scroll through your Instagram feed.
I truly believe that Seoul will become a tourist destination that is increasingly popular with Western travelers in the near future, as has been done by the East.
Getting to the city from the airport is easy, just take the train non-stop or multi-stop.
The sim card data is not cheap but the range is brilliant. After arriving, I bought sim data without limits for 1 month. The price is 70,000 won (~ 50 pounds). This may sound expensive but it’s worth connecting wherever I go with unlimited data. Especially when staying in touch with my digital marketing client at home.
WHERE TO STAY
Seoul (for tourists) is basically divided into four main areas of interest; Hongdae (where I live and the home of hipsters), Gangnam (yes, Gangnam, the upper class and celebrity hangout), Itaweon (expat and military center), and Myeongdong (shopping and business district).
I can write a whole blog post about living in Seoul. Instead, I would definitely recommend staying in Hongdae if you are in your 20s, wanting to experience Seoul’s youth culture and other things, which are packaged in areas small enough to walk around.
Itaweon is also a good place to stay for nightlife which is more directed at foreigners. This is not an authentic Seoul experience but you will definitely feel more “at home”.
After traveling in Southeast Asia, Hongdae felt refreshed. Wide, clean streets that are quiet all day long with huge green parks to explore. For the first time since living in Europe, I felt comfortable without a name. Nobody yells at you to ride a tuk-tuk, to buy xyz, for fun or whatever. Korea is a world separate from traditional backpacker routes.
I find Airbnb to be significantly more affordable than hotels in Seoul. I got a small studio apartment in the center of Hongdae for £ 600. Pretty good for 1 month because even one hotel room in the local area can cost more than £ 20 per night.
Airbnb – Get £ 25 for your first trip!
Even though for a short stay, I would definitely recommend to see hostels too. For travelers who work, everywhere has good internet so there is no need to worry about finding a base to work.
THINGS YOU MUST DO IN SEOUL
There are lots of things to do in Seoul so I hardly wrote this blog post for fear that even the 1 month I spent in Seoul had no time close enough to truly appreciate everything that happened.It is not that. But I will still try because, without guidance, Seoul can be a confusing city to explore.
GET YOURSELF TO PANG
To understand Seoul, you must understand the “culture of explosion”.
Most Koreans live with other family members, even in adulthood. So they have to make creative concepts to enjoy privacy with friends or themselves.
The term “bang” (방), literally means “room”. And in Seoul, there is room for everything. From jjimjilbang (Korean spas), PCbang (internet cafes), DVD rooms (DVDbang – also famous for not watching movies), noraebang (karaoke rooms – can be found everywhere in Seoul), peulseubang (PlayStation room), and of course multibang (you can guess what’s in this room).
With Korean secrecy on high alert, Google Maps is blocked from overall operations in Seoul.
Fortunately, Maps.Me works fine but you will find that not all are registered in English so it takes some time to get used to it!
BRING EXCURSION TO DMZ
Half day tours start at around $ 42 USD.
If you live in a hostel or hotel, they will be able to help you book the tour that is right for you.
You can peek through the viewing platform and return home with a story that you saw in North Korea at REAL.
DESA BUKCHON HANOK
“Hanok” is a traditional Korean house and Bukchon Hanok Village does not surprise them. Open here if you want to move yourself like Korea, a few hundred years ago.
Walking around Bukchon can be a romantic experience for couples, or you can find pleasure in a solo photography adventure. There are lots of cute cafes and restaurants but because of their location, they can be on the price side.
Climb the CITY WALL
No matter how long you are in Seoul, I will recommend this to anyone who can afford it. The wall has a length of 18.6 km and there are a number of different paths that fit various levels of ability and interest around the city.
I chose the mountain path and was rewarded with stunning views of the Seoul skyline. Visit Hanyangdoseong from the Seoul Metropolitan Government, Seoul City Wall website for detailed travel plans.
There is no trip to Seoul that is complete without taking a photo with King Sejong the Great.
Gwanghwamun Plaza also serves as a great meeting point for those who want to explore Gyeongbokgung palace and the surrounding area.
FOUR PALY ROYAL
Choose from four Seoul royal palaces, which were built in the Joseon dynasty.
- Gyeongbokgung (main palace)
- Reception is free for those wearing traditional Korean dresses! It always makes better photos so be sure to take your free rental from the stalls around the palace.
WALKING THE GOAL WITH THE CAMERA
This is my favorite thing to do when I visit a new city. As a travel heaven blogger, I might have to tell you to do research, read blog posts, and make travel plans. But walking aimlessly without a plan and without hope is far more beneficial.
There is something about this city. When you visit a palace in Seoul, it feels like passing time. When you walk on the streets, there are so many things happening that the locals hardly notice you. The scene of fashion and local pop culture is so strong and unique that it is like a parallel world where Western influence does not exist.
I like the anonymity of living in a big city again and I feel more relaxed in a milder climate than sitting on the beach in the heat.