Seoul is a city filled with beautiful architecture, a booming nightlife, and food that will satisfy any type of craving.
Several districts make up Seoul and each contributes a different and unique experience to the city. Looking for high-end restaurants and clubs? Head to Gangnam. (Yes, as in Gangnam Style, YouTube's most popular video).
Shop in Myeongdong for boutique shopping. Traveling with family? Stay in Jamsil. Seoul is perfect for the entire family, couples, kids, and even solo travelers.
Fun fact: I'm half Korean! My mom grew up in Seoul and I'm always fascinated by her stories of living in Seoul.
- Headquarters for Samsung, Kia, LG, Hyundai
- There are 45 administrative districts, which are called gu. Each district has its own government
- Has the highest rate of plastic surgery
- Tipping is not necessary
- Every South Korean baby is 1 year old once born
- Has the fastest internet connection speed in the world
- South Koreans drink the most liquor per capita (more than Russians!)
- Around 45,000 people per square mile, making it one of the densest cities in the world
Getting in the Country
Passport needed for U.S. citizens
Hello – (ahn-yuhng ha-say-oh)
Please – (kuh-pee joo-say-oh)
Thank you – (kahm-sahm-nee-da)
You're welcome (ahn-ee-ay-oh)
Seoul's subway transportation system is one of the best in the world.
The system is efficient, fast, and easy to use. From the airport to your destination in Seoul, you can use the subway system, or use the Airport bus for around $15 US dollars one way.
Seoul's airport is English-friendly, and you will find people that will be eager to help you.
Public buses are inexpensive as well, and taxis are known for being affordable and abundant in the area.
Make sure you get comfortable walking shoes, too! (I bought these shoes when I was backpacking in Europe, and I hid a copy of my passport and money in the hidden pocket). You'll be walking a ton in Seoul, especially in Gyeongbokgung Palace!
Here is a travel guide to Seoul that can help you save some money.
If you do spend money in Seoul, I recommend dressing up in a Hanbok and taking photos at Gyeongbokgung Palace.
Renting a traditional Korean dress will cost around $20 for 2 hours. If you have a boyfriend or husband, he can also get dressed up! Take your fancy camera with you and take photos at this beautiful and majestic palace.
An Airbnb in downtown Seoul goes for around $60 US Dollars for an entire apartment.
A hostel is around half that, but with the perks and features of Airbnb, I always recommend the latter. You can get $40 by using my code here.
Related: 10 Pros And Cons Of Using Airbnb
Food and Allergies
Food is cheap in Seoul and even cheaper on the outskirts of downtown Seoul. I stayed with my Korean family in what I'd say is a “suburban” area of Seoul, and paid $15 US Dollars for a 4 entrée meal, along with the typical Korean sides.
I am vegan, and although there seems to be beef and fish in everything, I was able to get by eating only vegan foods. If you're allergic to dairy, you'll be fine as Koreans don't eat much dairy (at least compared to Americans). Here is a free vegan guide for Seoul.
Below are 10 things you must see during your trip to Seoul. Enjoy!
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1. War Memorial of Korea
The War Memorial of Korea is a large exhibit that holds items related to the Korean War.
The site was established to serve as a memorial to the people who sacrificed and lost their lives in the war. There are over 33,000 artifacts in the museum, with around 10,000 that are accessible for viewing. The outdoor area holds the large weapons such as tanks, planes, and more.
Below is a statue depicting a South Korean soldier and his brother, who is a North Korean soldier asking each other for forgiveness. Be prepared to feel many emotions that will feel foreign to you.
Address: 29, Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul 04353, South Korea
2. Gyeongbokgung Palace
In 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace was built and is known for being the most beautiful out of all the palaces in Seoul.
Out of the 5 neighboring palaces, Gyeongbokgung Palace remains the largest. This palace was the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty. Gyeongbokgung continued to serve as the main palace for many years, up until the area was destroyed in the Imjin War. The palace was abandoned for 2 centuries but later restored. (There is 7,7000 rooms total!).
Make sure to catch the guard changing ceremony!
Address: 161, Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Cost: Prices vary depending on if you're Korean, an international visitor, or if you have an Integrated Palace ticket. It'll be between $1-$3 for a ticket. (Not totally free, but still extremely cheap!).
3. Bukchok Hanok Village
Near Gyeongbokgung Palace, and several other palaces and shrines, Bukchon Hanok Villiage is a neighborhood filled with traditional Korean houses, called Hanok.
This area is a hot spot for tourists as many of the hanoks stand as guesthouses, restaurants, and teahouses.
Address: 37, Gyedong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
4. Walk through Namsan Park to Seoul Tower
At the top of Namsan Park is Seoul Tower, Mt. Namsan, fountains, and more. You can either walk up to Seoul Tower through the park or take a cable car to the top.
Visiting Seoul Tower is a must and if you feel likes splurging a bit, have dinner in the tower in the evening and enjoy the views of Seoul at night.
Address: 105, Namsangongwon-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Cost: Observatory: Adults 10,000 won / Children 8,000 won
Related: If you travel often, packing cubes are a must.
5. The Blue House
Several unique buildings all built in the Korean traditional style make up the Cheong Wa Dae, also known as The Blue House.
You can walk along the paths and take photos of The Blue House in designated areas (I got in trouble for taking photos elsewhere). You can take a photo in front of Cheon Wa Dae, and then behind you will be an entrance to Gyeongbokgung Palace.
Address: 1, Cheongwadae-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Cost: Tours available
Related: $1000 Travel Savings Plan
6. Cheonggyecheon Stream
Cheonggyecheon is a popular area for date nights and food trucks.
The stream was fully restored in 2005 and is now a booming hot spot at all hours of the day.
There are plants going up and down the stream, as well as a waterfall at the very end. When I visited, there were also food trucks lined up and down on both ends of the stream, as well as mini booths selling handmade goods.
Address: Taepyeong-ro 1-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul
7. Hike Bukhansan National Park
On the northern tip of Seoul sits Mt. Bukhansan, a 78.45 km wide mountain. Bukhansan translates to “big mountain in the north” and is known for its large granite rocks that appear to be sliding off the mountain (but aren't, obviously).
There are over 1,300 plants and animals living on the mountain and has over 100 paths leading to the rock. Bukhansan can be hiked in all seasons with each season offering a different kind of unique beauty.
Address: Goyang-si, Gyeonggi-do, Seongbuk-gu, Gangbuk-gu, Jeongno-gu, Eunpyeong-gu, Seoul-si
A hot spot for shopping in Seoul, Myeong-dong has 2 main streets to shop on.
There are name brand shops, department stores that sell both clothes, shoes, and many other products.
If you want to buy name brand items, this is the area to shop in. There are many different restaurants to choose from, including Korean, Japanese, and other cuisines.
Address: Myeongdong-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
Related: Ibotta will help you save money on groceries, clothing, shoes, and a lot more all from a coupon-less app. Get $10 for signing up here.
Insadong is a neighborhood filled with many Korean crafts.
You can find traditional Korean clothing here, herbal teas, calligraphy supplies, as well as many other prized goods.
The alleys are filled with street vendors, restaurants, and galleries. Insadong also has street performers and artists. If you plan on buying a souvenir in Seoul, this is a great place for that.
Address: 62, Insadong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
10. Hongdae Market
Hongdae Market is a market for young artists selling creative items they've made themselves.
This is a trendy area filled with musicians, performers, and artists. Hongdae is incredibly different than other markets, so if you choose to only go to one market, make it this one.
Address: 19-3, Wausan-ro 21-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
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Have you done any of these things in Seoul? What else do you recommend seeing?