Seoul, South Korea | Cruise port of call | CruiseBe
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Seoul, South Korea

Seoul (서울) is the capital of South Korea. Seoul is by far South Korea's largest city and one of East Asia's financial and cultural epicenters. A fascinating blend of ancient traditions and cutting-edge digital technology, home to endless street food vendors and vast nightlife districts, an extraordinarily high-pressure educational system and serene Buddhist temples, a trend-setting youth culture and often crushing conformism, extraordinary architecture and endless monotonous rows of grey apartment buildings, Seoul is a city filled with stark contrasts.

Seoul is the largest city in South Korea as well as the political and economic capital. By some measures, it is the world's second largest urban agglomeration, after Tokyo.
Seoul has a long history stretching far back into Korea's dynastic past. There is evidence for settlement in this area as far as 18 BC but Seoul as the capital city of Korea has... Read more

Seoul, South Korea

Seoul (서울) is the capital of South Korea. Seoul is by far South Korea's largest city and one of East Asia's financial and cultural epicenters. A fascinating blend of ancient traditions and cutting-edge digital technology, home to endless street food vendors and vast nightlife districts, an extraordinarily high-pressure educational system and serene Buddhist temples, a trend-setting youth culture and often crushing conformism, extraordinary architecture and endless monotonous rows of grey apartment buildings, Seoul is a city filled with stark contrasts.

Seoul is the largest city in South Korea as well as the political and economic capital. By some measures, it is the world's second largest urban agglomeration, after Tokyo.
Seoul has a long history stretching far back into Korea's dynastic past. There is evidence for settlement in this area as far as 18 BC but Seoul as the capital city of Korea has a history back to the 14th century. Originally named Hanseong (한성; 漢城), the city was the capital of the Joseon Dynasty from 1392 to 1910 and remained the capital of Korea during the period of Japanese colonial rule which followed under the name Gyeongseong (경성; 京城), or Keijo in Japanese. The Joseon Dynasty built most of Seoul's most recognizable landmarks, including the Five Grand Palaces and Namdaemun. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, the city was renamed to its current name, Seoul. Since the establishment of the Republic of Korea in 1948, Seoul has been the capital of South Korea. Occupied twice during the Korean War by Communist forces, the city was extensively rebuilt and today is one of Asia's primary metropolises.
While few historical points of interest remain (most of the temples and palaces are reconstructions), much of Seoul's infrastructure is exceptionally modern and clean. Skyscrapers and high rises abound. The subway system is the third-largest in the world and perhaps one of the finest. Seoul is truly vast - though the casual traveler can see most of the main sites in a few days, a dedicated traveler could spend weeks exploring all the alleyways and far-off neighborhoods. As the capital of a country that has gone through massive development in the past sixty years, it is constantly changing at an incredible pace, matched only by the mainland Chinese cities. This frantic pace of life is reflected everywhere - in Seoul's cutting-edge digital technology, in the millions of commuters rushing to work every day, in one of the vibrant nightlife scene, and in the thousands of buildings still under construction.
In recent years, Seoul has been swamped with tourists from China, Japan, and Southeast Asia, following the success of Korean pop culture. Travelers will frequently overhear Japanese, Mandarin, or Cantonese; many restaurants and stores, especially in the more touristy areas like Myeongdong, will have signs in Japanese and Chinese as well as Korean and English. Long popular among Asians, Seoul has been relatively unknown in the West and frequently passed over by Westerners for nearby Shanghai, Tokyo, Beijing, and Hong Kong. However, recently things have been changing; tourism numbers to Seoul have been exploding in the past five years or so, with no indications of slowing down or stopping.

Seoul is a very well organized city covering over 600 km². It is a new modern city built on an ancient and shining history. The city is located in the north-western portion of South Korea approximately 40 km east of the Yellow Sea and 60 km south of the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The city is roughly bisected by the Han River (한강 Hangang), which runs east to west across the city. Seoul blurs seamlessly into its surrounding satellite cities, most of which are also served by the Seoul metro. The largest of these is Incheon (to the west) in which Seoul's main Airport, and the area's main seaport, are located. Other satellite cities include such as Ilsan (to the north), Gwacheon and Anyang (to the south).

Internet cafes known as PC bang (PC 방) (pr: pee-shee-bang) are ubiquitous in Seoul. 
Most have printers at the front desk. These places cater chiefly to gamers, which translates into fairly fast computers, loud sound systems, and large screens. Most PC rooms have smoking sections. Typically, the computers run a Korean version of Windows XP and use Internet Explorer.
You won't find free WiFi in many places, although larger cafes do offer it and most accommodation will provide you with some level of access. Another way to connect Wi-Fi is going through Wi-Fi password sharing an application on a smartphone. There are many applications such as Wifi Map, Wifi Master Key, and Waple. If you are planning to travel in Seoul, Waple could provide most of Wi-Fi network because this application is from South Korea. There are more Wi-Fi password data than other applications. However, three major telecom companies have licensed airspace almost everywhere (including trains, both subway and regional). These three companies are Olleh, T Mobile and LG's U+. You can buy prepaid vouchers for WiFi access to any one of these networks from convenience stores and they also allow you to buy online using a credit card. If you feel you need to be connected a lot but don't want to use your carrier's data when roaming, this could be a good option.
The high-speed KTX trains offer free WiFi for passengers (30MB limit per session).
Console gaming (Xbox 360, PS3) is widely available, and for those with proficiency in Korean language, you might also be able to enjoy a round of online gaming; the fantasy MMORPG Lineage was created in Korea and a slew of MMORPG titles not available anywhere else can be found here.

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Seoul, South Korea: Port Information

Cruise ships dock at the modern port of Incheon, which is the second largest port in Korea.
It'll take you about 1.5 hours by bus to get to Seoul.

Get around Seoul, South Korea

Traffic jams are all too common in Seoul, so be careful on the streets and head underground when possible. Street and subway signage is usually written in English as well as Korean.

By subway
In Seoul, you can visit most places by using the subway system, the second most used metro transportation system in the world. There are currently a total of 18 lines (nine numbered lines, the AREX express airport line, plus a smattering of named suburban lines), all distinguished by different colors. All signs in the subway system are in Korean (both hangeul and if applicable, hanja) and English. Most signs also have Japanese and Chinese written names. The signs leading to the platform for a particular direction of travel on a given subway line typically list the names of a number of stations in that direction. Stations each have a 3 digit number, but locals rarely make use of these numbers, and they're not on most subway maps, so don't rely on them. Be sure to search for updated subway maps as the Seoul metro system is constantly expanding and many maps even on the subway cars may not be the fully updated versions.
Subway fares are based on the distance traveled. Hang onto your card until the end of your trip, as you'll need it to get out. Most of Seoul's automated card machines are equipped with touchscreen and full English support (along with Chinese and Japanese). Since ticket machines may be crowded, buying two cards (one for each way) is recommended.
If planning on using the Metro extensively or staying for more than a few weeks, you should consider purchasing a T-Money stored value contact-less smart card. Cash can be charged onto the card as often as you like. When entering and leaving a subway turnstile, place the card on the reader (leaving it inside your purse or wallet is fine) and it will deduct the appropriate fare from the card. The same is true for the buses, but be aware that in the countryside only placing it once when entering may be sufficient. Using this card will allow you to save on all trips, and it will account for transfers between bus, train, and subway instead of charging a single trip for each type of transport - these are common with Seoul's extensive subway system. It also saves the hassle from figuring out how much you need to pay or waiting in line to buy a single-use ticket.
The subway is not open 24 hours so you may be stranded late at night. The last train on most lines finishes its run by midnight.

By bus
Seoul also has a very well connected and extensive bus transportation service. There are four different kinds of buses: yellow, green, blue, and red and Gyeonggi. Yellow buses have a short circuit usually around tourist areas. Green buses travel around neighborhoods and connect with the subway. Blue buses go across town, while red and green 'G' (Gyeonggi) buses are intercity buses. Buses will only stop at designated bus stops and will not wait for indecisive travelers.
By using a T-Money card, you can transfer for up to 30min between bus and subway and don't have to pay twice but less or even 0 depending on the distance. Note that if you do not tag the machine as you leave the bus, you will be charged the maximum fare possible by the route.
The city of Seoul provides an interactive bus map at the following site: Seoul Public Transportation System Guide.

By taxi
There are many types of taxis in Seoul. Standard taxis will be an orange or silver color while deluxe taxis are black with a yellow sign and are more expensive than regular taxis but provide better and more comfortable service. For the most part, regular taxi cabs have leather interiors and the drivers are nice-so, for many people, "regular" in Seoul might be "deluxe" in their hometown. It is easy to hail a taxi any time of the day or night along any relatively major Seoul street with bright LED lights in the front of the windshield to denote an available car (빈차) or off if the car is taken. If the LED screen denotes "빈차" it means it is available and if it denotes "예약", it means the taxi is en route to a previously arranged appointment through a call service which may be used without fee when needed.
You can call a deluxe taxi wherever you are by calling 3431-5100. Sometimes, you can find a visitor's guide taxi or an international taxis exclusively for foreigners, a kind of deluxe taxi, the drivers of which know English and Japanese and can guide you around Seoul.

By car
Internationally known car rental companies like Hertz are in Seoul, just be prepared for a driving challenge and long rush hours. In addition, parking spaces are hard, if not close to impossible to find, especially during peak hours. Therefore, unless you are planning to head out of the city, it is not advisable to rent a car and you are better off relying on the excellent public transport system instead.

On bicycle or on foot
Getting around in Seoul without a local escort (be it friend or cab driver) can be tricky, since this is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. While Seoul occupies less land than New York City, it can be more confusing. The major roads twist and turn, the various rail lines, rivers, and mountains are obstacles and the smaller roads turn into a labyrinth of alleys. Most people will try to help you find your way around but often won't know themselves; best to familiarize yourself with some landmarks and the nearest subway stations. Learn the landmarks closest to where you are staying. The better-known landmarks in Seoul (such as the N Seoul Tower located in the center of town) can prove helpful at times. A compass will still work when a GPS fails.
Once you know your immediate surroundings, you'll find that Seoul isn't such a huge place and the pedestrian approach can be an enriching experience.
There's usually a subway stop within a ten-minute walk in any direction.
Whether on bicycle or foot, the best way to escape traffic is to learn the rivers and streams. Most of these waterways empty into the Han River or another tributary to the Han, so look to the direction of water flow at any creek; chances are, it's headed for the Han. The Han runs right through town, generally moving West (sometimes Southwest; sometimes Northwest), so knowing where you are in relation to the Han is helpful.
The Han River, as well as most streams, are lined with massive parks that feature outdoor gymnasiums, multiple-lane bicycle paths, and 24-hour restrooms. Cars are generally not allowed. Pedestrian bridges on the smaller waterways are common.
Numerous mountains with hiking trails can be found in the city.

What to see in Seoul, South Korea

As the ancient seat of Korea's royalty, there are no fewer than 5 major palaces in Seoul, and some are definitely worth a visit. You can pay admission fee with T-money at the entrance (no additional discount applies). ISIC holder can get a discount at the ticket office.
  • Gyeongbok-gung (경복궁,景福宮), Yulgukno (subway Gyeongbokgung or Gwanghwamun). This is Seoul's grandest Joseon Dynasty-era palace and the seat of power for centuries before it was razed in 1592 by a Japanese invasion (and again by the Japanese in 1910). This was the first palace used by the Joseon Dynasty. Large parts have now been restored and the vast grounds also house the Joseon Palace Museum and the Korean Folk Museum. Open 9 AM-6 PM (open till 7 PM on holidays) daily except Tuesdays.
  • Changdeok-gung(창덕궁,昌德宮), 99 Yulgong-ro, Jongno-gu (Metro Line 3, Anguk station 5 min walk or Line 1, 3, 5 Jongno-3ga Station). This palace is second only to Gyeongbok-gung (the original Gyeongbok-gung was built before Changdeok-gung but wasn't used for as long a time) in historical importance, this was first built in 1405 and was the seat of power between 1618 and 1896. The buildings have all been recently restored and freshly repainted, creating a dazzling but still elegant effect that got the palace listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Buildings of particular note include the blue-roofed Seonjeongjeon, which was the King's office, and the Daejojeon ("Great Making Hall"), his bedchamber, but perhaps most famous of all is the Huwon ("Secret Garden") in the back. Access to the complex is by guided tour only except on Thursdays when only self-guided tours are available in summer from April to August. Korean-language tours run every half hour (Japanese-language tours also available) but English tours are only offered at 10:30 AM and 2:30 PM, and last around 60 minutes with a walking distance of about 2.5 km, including some steps and inclines for the Huwon portion (the grounds are wheelchair-accessible for most parts but may have to enter certain areas in a reverse direction from the group). Closed Mondays. Mainline bus (blue): 109, 151, 162, 171, 172, 272. Branch line (green): no.7025.
  • Deoksu-gung (덕수궁,德壽宮), (subway City Hall). Located in downtown Seoul across the street from City Hall, Deoksu Palace vividly contrasts to the other nearby palaces like Changdeok Palace. Built during the mid-fifteenth century, the architecture of the buildings inside are heavily influenced by Western designs. Hence, you will see a fusion of both Korean and Western architecture. Closed on Mondays. 
  • Changgyeong-gung (창경궁,昌慶宮), (Subway line 4, Hyehwa Station 10 minute walk or 20 min walk from Changdeok-gung). Originally built in 1104 as a summer palace for the Kings of the Koryo Dynasty, it became one of the main palaces during the Joseon Dynasty. The palace was used as a temporary home for the King during the time Gyeongbuk Palace was being built. Unlike other palaces that has a North-South orientation, Changgyeong Palace faces East-West. Also, what is famous about this palace is the fact it connects to Jongmyo Shrine, a holy place for the Joseon Dynasty, where sacrificial rites are practiced for previous kings and queens. Closed Tuesdays. 
  • Gyeonghui-gung (경희궁,慶熙宮) and Seoul History Museum (서울역사박물관), (Subway line 5, Seodaemun Station, exit 4). Originally built in the 17th century, it was burnt down twice in the 19th century. It was largely destroyed by the Japanese during the colonial rule to build a school for Japanese children. It was finally restored in 1985 and opened to the public. Free admission.
Seoul offers many excellent opportunities for hiking. The mountains in Seoul are at most 800 m (3,000 ft), accessible by public transit and the trails range from easy to difficult.
  • Mount Bukhan Offers probably the best hiking opportunities in Seoul. It is in the north of Seoul and can be extremely crowded on holidays. To visit a popular area, take line 1 to Dobongsan station.
  • Mount Gwanak – Gwanak station, line 1. The sammak temple is located in.
  • Mount Samseong – Close to Gwanaksan.
  • Mount Inwang – Located in central Seoul.
  • 4.19 Memorial Cemetery – 224 people were killed during the April 19 Movement and were buried in this cemetery. It became a national cemetery in 1995. This place has a museum, several statues, and a mausoleum. It is a popular park to learn about culture and heritage.
  • Boramae Park – Formerly the site of the Korean Air Force Academy, which in 1986 turned into a park - Boramae, or hawk in English, symbolizes the Air Force. The size of the park is about 360,000 square meters and its sports facilities, a small zoo, a pond, and walking paths are well designed. The huge pond, which is 9,000 square meters, is surrounded by willow trees and benches, and people love to sit here. The pond is full of cool shades during the summer and is spectacular when snow falls in the winter.
  • Namsan Park – Located in the center of Seoul and considered a symbol of Seoul. Namsan Park is an ecology-island surrounded by urban districts. In spite of being an urban ecology-island, wild animals live in the park. Located in the middle of Seoul, the mountain filled with pine trees can be seen from almost every corner of the big city and the residents of the areas surrounding the hills enjoy the fresh mountain air.
  • Olympic Park – Built for the 1986 Asian Games and the 1988 Seoul Olympics. A lake, a large field covered with the grass, and a square with sculptures are very popular among visitors. It is frequently visited by brides and grooms to take their wedding pictures. There are a couple of courses that are ideal for jogging or walking. In addition, the outdoor stage and the six stadiums are often used for concerts and other special events. Also, a well known modern art museum named SOMA Museum is located within the park that features modern artworks of both Korean and international artists.
  • Tapgol ("Pagoda") Park – A small park frequented by the elderly and the footsore traveler, just to the east of Jongmyo Shrine. Contains 500+-year-old namesake pagoda under protective glass, and a nice large gazebo to get out of the sun. This is where the Korean constitution was first read aloud by the public during the 20th century. Acts as a navigation landmark when moving between Myeong-dong, Jong-no and Insa-dong neighborhoods.
  • Yangjae Citizen's Forest – You will find a forest on your right if you drive through Gangnam Street. It's a park with streams and a clear view of the sky. There are over 106,600 trees planted in it, and it's a very popular picnic spot for young students.
  • Yeouido Park – More than 30,000 visit it on the weekdays and over 60,000 people visit it on weekends. The size of the park being 230,000 m². This giant concrete field was built for military aviation purposes in emergencies. There is a traditional Korean forest, and in many other places, you can enjoy concerts, cycling, or taking walks. Hundreds of trees and flowers offer you shade and an opportunity to relax. It is recommended to visit the three ponds. There are also basketball courts, so feel free to stop by and play. For a nominal fee, one can also rent bicycles or rollerblades for use at the park.
  • Yongsan Park – Reminds you of famous parks in other countries that you might have seen in some movies. Large grass fields and thick forests will make you feel much relieved from the bustling city life; you will see many kinds of birds and trees. The park once used as U.S military base camps. In 1992, Seoul City bought the land and built the park.
  • Hangang Citizen's Park – Located along the Han River at 13 districts - Gwangnaru, Jamsil, Gangdong, Ttukseom, Jamwon, Banpo, Ichon, Yeouido, Yanghwa, Mangwon, Seonyudo, Nanji, and Gangseojigu. You can see many people strolling or jogging along the trail paths, as well as in-line skaters, bicyclists, and soccer fields or basketball courts. Yeouido, Jamsil, and Ttukseom districts are especially popular because of the cruise services on the Han River.
Temples and shrines
  • Jongmyo Shrine – Certainly the most famous shrine devoted to the royal family members of Korean dynasties. The grounds are a bit more walker-friendly than some of the palaces, admission is cheaper and they also have some interactive equipment available to learn about the rituals and ceremonies used to treat deceased royal family members. Closed Tu.
  • Mount Inwang (인왕산 Inwangsan) – (near subway Dongnimmun). This 336 m hill is home not only to the eponymous Inwang Temple (Inwangsa), but also Seoul's most famous shamanist shrine Guksadang (국사당). To get there, take Exit 2 and start climbing uphill following the "Inwang Temple" signs, through the huge construction site (as of 2006) and up through the temple gate. You'll see a map board and several paths, take the left staircase upward, past the bronze bell of Bongwonsa and you'll reach Guksadang. Behind it are several creeks with shamanist offerings and the bizarre rock formation known as the Zen Rocks; there are plenty of trails if you want to poke around, and the Seoul fortress wall can be seen running near the top of the hill. Be careful not to photograph or disturb any rituals you see being performed.
  • Jogye Temple (조계사, 曹溪寺) – The chief temple of the Jogye order of Buddhism, the dominant branch of Buddhism in Korea. As such, it is one of the most important modern Buddhist temples in the country.
  • Bongeun Temple (봉은사, 奉恩寺) – Traditionally an important Buddhist temple with rich history in a rural outskirt of old Seoul, the temple is now the biggest, richest, and the most visited temple in Seoul as the area near the temple, GangNam, transformed from rice field backwater in the 80s to the ritziest and opulent borough in South Korea. The temple has an impressive array of Buddhist buildings and sculptures, and it provides a quiet resting and pray place to tourists and locals alike in the middle of skyscrapers and shopping miles.
  • World Comic Convention, (Metro Line 3, Hangyeoul station). Twice a month the SETIC convention center hosts Seoul's World Comic con Festival. Your best bet is to go during convention hours and mingle with the crowds of Korean teenagers in elaborate cosplay costumes dressed as their favorite anime characters. Most are excited to see foreigners and very glad to have their pictures taken. As mentioned, this convention only takes place twice a month, so check the website (Korean only) to make sure it will be in session while you are in Seoul.  
  • Bukchon, (North Village). The collective name of the few tiny suburbs ('dong') wedged between Gyeongbuk Palace and the Secret Garden, just north of Insadong and Anguk Station. This area was where relatives of the royal family, high public officials, and other important families lived for over 500 years as they serviced the nearby palaces. Today, some 900 of their traditional Korean 'hanok' houses remain, making this area one of Seoul's most picturesque centers for arts, culture, food, and fashion.
  • Namdaemun, (남대문,南大門), (formally known as Sungnyemun (숭례문,崇禮門), (Metro Line 1, City Hall stn). The Great South Gate is a symbol of Seoul and has been designated as National Treasure Number 1. Particularly beautiful when floodlit at night, and best combined with a visit to the adjacent Namdaemun Market. Unfortunately, an arson lit fire in February 2008 destroyed much of the structure,and rebuilding is not expected to finish until 2012.
  • Dongdaemun, (동대문,東大門), (Metro Line 1, Dongdaemun stn). More formally known as Heunginjimun (흥인지문,興仁之門), the old eastern gate of the city still stands. Though not as impressive architecturally as Namdaemun, the Dongdaemun market is infinitely more interesting than its counterpart. Since Namdaemun was burnt down in February 2008, it is one of 3 original city gates still standing along with Bukdaemun (북대문,北大門), the Great North Gate is more formally known as Sukjeongmun (숙정문,肅靖門) and a smaller minor gate is known as Changuimun (창의문,彰義門).
  • Seodaemun Prison, 101 Hyeonjeo-dong, Seodaemun-gu, (Metro Line 3, Dongnimmun stn, exit 5). Tue-Sun 9:30 AM-6 PM (5 PM in Nov-Feb). Originally built in 1908, the prison became infamous during the Japanese occupation, when it was used to torture, starve and execute Korean political prisoners. Actual prison cells, wax figures, and videos are used to demonstrate the shocking brutality; most signs are only in Korean, but volunteer guides can describe the sights in English. Obviously, due to the content, this site is not suitable for young children or those of a sensitive nature.
  • COEX, (Metro Line 2, Samseong stn). This very large mall is located in Samsung-dong, Gangnam-gu. This state-of-the-art complex was designed for international conferences and holds 150 specialized exhibitions and 15,000 conventions/events a year. The center also plays a role in promoting international trade by connecting international buyers with local businesses. A variety of stores and attractions can be found in the COEX including the COEX Aquarium; a large Western-style "luxury" cinema; a traditional video game arcade; a PC Lounge; hair and nail salons; a large bookstore with many Korean, English, and Japanese publications; and a pharmacy. There are also shopping options in COEX and include men's and women's clothing, jewelry, sportswear, souvenirs, shoes, and electronics. As far as food options, there is a large food court serving several types of contemporary and traditional food cafeteria-style, and western chains such as TGI Friday's, as well as restaurants, hofs, and cafes located all throughout the interior and exterior of the COEX. The COEX is also directly connected to the COEX Intercontinental Hotel and the City Air Terminal. Yearly conventions at the COEX include online gaming conventions (such as the popular Korean-originated MMORPG Lineage), anime conventions, and auto shows. It is possible to spend the entire day in this covered mall without setting foot outside, which can be a blessing if very bad weather hits outside.
  • N Seoul Tower, (Namsan Tower), (Metro Line 3 or 4, Chungmuro stn or line 3 Dongguk University). Once the tallest tower in Asia, it has the best panoramic view in all of Seoul. Many Seoulites and visitors have visited the tower to catch a glimpse of the city’s landscape while enjoying the nature of Namsan Mountain and a host of other attractive facilities. Owing to the tower's unique structure, the observatory section boasts spectacular views of the changing foliage throughout all seasons. N Seoul Tower was renovated in 2005 with a newly designed high tech multimedia. The tower can be reached on foot, by taxi or, on the south side, by cable car. The cable car is available from 10 AM-10:30 PM and is reached by a 10 min uphill walk from Myeongdong stn, from exit 2 or 3. Centrally located, it can be seen from nearly anywhere in Seoul and is a helpful reference for visitors on foot. There's also a Teddy Bear Museum at the tower which has lively illustrations of Korean culture. Of course, all characters are Teddy Bears.
  • The National Museum of Korea, (Metro Line 4 and Jungang Line, Ichon stn). Houses the best of the best collection of artifacts and relics from across Korea throughout different periods and dynasty. Also has some West Asian pieces from Japanese Governor-General of Korea. Open 9:00 AM-6:00 PM Closed every Monday. English tours offered Tuesday-Sunday from 10:30 AM-11:30 AM and 2:30 PM-3:30 PM. Free.
  • Cheonggye Stream, (near Cheonggye Plaza near Insa-dong). This stream has recently been converted into a verdant tourist attraction from its previous state as a busy freeway.
  • Korean Folk Village, (한국 민속촌,韓國民俗村). (Metro Line 1, Suwon stn.; free shuttle bus departs from Suwon stn to the Folk Village; ask at the Tourist Information Center). A nice outdoor museum located in the Yongin suburb with displays that depict the lives of the different social classes and regions of Korea during the Joseon Dynasty. Also has some live performances of traditional Korean skills.
  • Unhyeongung, (운현궁,雲峴宮). A museum located in Jongno-gu, formerly the residence of a Joseon Dynasty prince and where the wedding of the second last king of the Joseon Dynasty was held, it has several mannequins depicting the dressing style of the yangban or noble class during the Joseon Dynasty.
  • National War Memorial, (전쟁기념관), (Line 4 and 6, Samgakji Station, [Exit 12]). A museum about Korean military history and the Korean War. Ancient, Middle Ages and modern Korean weapons are on display. Also, several fighter, bomber, and trainer aircraft which used during the Korean War are on display. Open 9:00 AM-6:00 PM. Closed on Mondays. Free.
  • Trickeye Museum, (트릭아이미술관), (Metro Line 2, Hongik University Station, [Exit 9]). Trickeye Museum features optical illusion paintings and installations. Divided into six themed galleries, visitors can freely touch, step inside 3D exhibits and take photos. Open daily 9 AM-9 PM (Last admission at 8 PM).

What to do in Seoul, South Korea

There are so many various activities to do 24/7 around Seoul. The city is full of energy at night, where most shopping centers and markets are open until midnight. Every experience is very convenient and enjoyable.
Amusement parks
  • Lotte World. (Metro Line 2, Jamsil stn) One of the world's largest indoor amusement parks that is located in Seoul by the Jamsil Station. It has a folk museum where one can have an insight into ancient Korean life. Lots of rides, and reopened in the summer of 2007 after a massive reconstruction.
  • Everland. The Korean version of Disneyland. It is south of Seoul and transportation by bus is the easiest way to get there. Non-stop buses to Everland leave from various parts of Seoul daily. Has a miniature zoo where one can see a lion-tiger hybrid.
  • Seoul Land. Theme park located in Gwacheon. This park was opened just before the Olympics in 1988. It is easy to get to by subway and is open year round.
  • Children's Grand Park, Neung-dong, Gwangjin-gu. The park was constructed after the decision of the City Planning Facility in 1971 and was opened on May 5, 1973. The park has a zoo, amusement facilities, and restaurants. To get there, simply take the subway to Children's Grand Park on line 7. Avoid the weekends as it can get very crowded.
  • Horse Racing, Seoul Racetrack in Gwacheon. Races are normally only held during weekends, night racing also takes place during August. During the week, visitors can take guided tours of the grounds.
  • Seven Luck Casino. Two locations in Seoul: Gangnam, attached to the Grand Intercontinental Hotel, and the Millennium Seoul Hilton Hotel in central Seoul. The casinos are only accessible to foreigners (it is illegal for Korean citizens to gamble), so remember to bring your passport. Various card tables and slots are available to play. There is a bar and cafe that serve food and drinks, although expensive.
There is a free shuttle bus starting at 8:10 AM from somewhere along Jong-ro (road) that takes you up into the mountain to the Bearstown resort (South Korea, Gyeonggi-do, Pocheon-si, Naechon-myeon, Sohak-ri, 295). Ask local tourist information where the bus stop is exactly. You will get the equipment and clothes much cheaper at shops further down from the lift station next to the bus carpark, but you need to walk there (300m / 10min). The shuttle bus back leaves at 5 PM. Don't be too late! The bus leaves from the lower bus parking area, not from the car park where you were dropped off - it's a 10-15 minutes walk there from the lift station. 

Mountain Biking
  • Korea MTB Adventures, 205-402 Samsung Remian Apt, Goyang-si (line 3 Wondang Stn), +82 10 7417 1457, ( This company rents mountain bikes, offers guiding services and supplies equipment such as helmets, gloves, hydration packs, shoes, and light systems. They offer half day and full day tours in a few locations in and around Seoul. Options include downhill riding at Namhansanseong, cross country riding near Goyang, and urban riding through downtown Seoul.
Performing Arts
  • Sejong Center for Performing Arts, 81-3 Sejongno, Jongno-gu, (line 5 Gwanghwamun Stn). Oldest and one of the largest multi-purpose theatre in downtown Seoul and home of Seoul Philharmonic. The biggest pipe organ in East Asia is in its Great Auditorium, and several video art pieces from Nam June Paik are in the entrance of the auditorium.
  • Seoul Art Center, 700 Seocho-dong, Gangnam-gu, (line 3 Nambu Bus Terminal stn). Another great place for performing arts and Korean traditional art.
  • KBS Hall, (line 9 National Assembly stn). Home of KBS Philharmonic Orchestra and KBS Traditional Music Orchestra.
  • 'LG Arts Center, 679 Yeoksam, 1 Dong Kangnum gu, Seoul, (Metro line #2, Yeoksam Station, Exit 7), +82 2 2005 0114. Modern, multi-purpose performing arts auditorium opened in 2000, features live musical, theatre and dance performances from Korea and worldwide. Visit website for performance schedule and ticket information. Underground parking is available.
Spas, saunas, and massage rooms
Saunas generally take the form of public baths in Korea and are a popular form of relaxation. Services such as hair cuts and shoe cleaning are generally available. Some saunas also include sleeping areas for overnight stay. These are known as 찜질방, or jimjilbang, and can be a cheap alternative to hotels when you're just passing through an area.
  • Dragon Hill Spa, 40-713, Hangangno 3(sam)-ga, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, +82 2-792-0001. This is a typical jjimjilbang with a lot of additional facilities for entertainment and amusement. It can be very packed sometimes.   
  • The Spa Grand Hyatt Seoul, Grand Hyatt Seoul Hotel, 747-7 Hannam 2-Dong, Yongsan-Ku, +82 2 797 1234 (
  • Park Club Spa & Fitness Centre, Park Hyatt Seoul Hotel, 995-14 Daechi 3-dong Gangnam-gu, +82 2 2016 1234 (
  • JES Massage Center at Incheon Airport, Seoul Incheon International Airport, 2 locations: Passenger Terminal 4th Floor Rest & Relax Zone & Concourse A, +82 32 743 6925.  

What to eat and drink in Seoul, South Korea


Much of Korean social life revolves around food and the city is packed with restaurants so it would take a determined man to starve to death in Seoul. This fate may still befall you if you insist on English menus and meals consisting only of easily identifiable, familiar ingredients. An alternative is to just point and eat, your hosts generally will accommodate. 
In addition to Korean food, Japanese restaurants in Seoul tend to be excellent, featuring excellent sushi and sashimi. Chinese restaurants exist but are typically adapted to suit local preferences. There are a few Italian restaurants; these are generally excellent, with chefs trained in Italy, although flavors tend to be more or less Koreanized, with sugar in the garlic bread and meatballs.
Big chains are common in South Korea as well, with so many cafes and bakeries. If you ever get a chance to visit Seoul, so many uniquely designed cafes are common there so one would spend most of their time taking many pictures and eating delicious pastries and dishes.
These are some lists of the well-known chains in Seoul. Paris Baguette and Tous Les Jours are the two main cafes that are situated in some parts of the United States.
  • Paris Baguette: Very popular in Seoul. This cafe serves tasty and delicious pastries, birthday cakes, rice cake breads, shaved iced creams, coffee, tea, and smoothies. The atmosphere is settling and is a good place to gather with people or study. A small chain is located in the U.S in MA, Cambridge, which opened last year in 2014. This chain cafe already exists in New York City and California in Koreatown. This cafe is spreading across the United States, and is under more developments.
  • Tours Les Jours: Also very popular in Seoul. This cafe also serves many pastries, cakes, shaved iced creams coffee, tea, smoothies, and rice cake breads. A small chain is located in the U.S in MA, Burlington inside H-Mart, a Korean Food Market as well as in New York City Koreatown.
  • Hello Kitty Cafe: Everything in the cafe is pink and full of Hello Kitty decorations and servings.
  • Caffe Bene: Very popular in Seoul. This cafe serves shaved ice cream in various flavors, coffee, tea, pastries and more. This cafe is also open in New York City in Koreatown and Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Palazzo: Serves gelato and ice cream.
There are many other cafes which are also popular inside Seoul, which are not yet internationally developed across the United States.
Cafes such as Dunkin Donuts, Krispy Kreme, and Starbucks are also diversely known. In Seoul, however, these cafes have much more options to choose from such as drink flavors to pastries that are not seen across the United States.

Seoul has plenty of budget places to eat. Everything from convenience store junk food and noodles to street stall food and lots of 24 hr Korean fast food restaurants. The 24-hour restaurants are great because they've usually got a wide variety of foods, including mandu, odeng, dokbokki, naengmyeon, udon and ramyeon. Also open late into the night are Korean BBQ restaurants, which are everywhere in Seoul. These can be very cheap and are usually of good quality. Barbecue options usually are limited to pork and beef, and they often come with a smattering of side dishes. Korean BBQ is, in itself, an experience that makes you feel like a Seoulite. The larger department stores in the city have basement food courts that offer excellent food (not recommended if you care about the atmosphere).
  • Ala-Too Cafe, (near Dongdaemun Stadium, exit 5). Along with some Russian, Mongolian, and Central Asian restaurants (including the excellent and cheap Ala-Too Cafe, above a bakery). Wander around and discover the area a bit - you'll be rewarded with delicious food and exotic experience.  
  • Sadongmyenok (사동면옥), 29-21 Jongno Gwanhun (Insadong 8-gil, down the alley). Justly famous for its manduguk, a soup of gargantuan homemade dumplings stuffed with meat and veggies and served with side dishes. English menu available.  
  • Loving Hut Achasan. Part of a vegan chain, this restaurant serves a mix of vegan Korean and international food. It serves food, coffee, and non-alcoholic drinks, and has a frozen food section where you can stock up on vegan essentials for home. The menu is in English and Korean and includes pictures. English is spoken by the friendly staff.  
  • Richard Copycat's All-American Diner, Itaewon (Itaewon stn, exit 4. Walk straight for 200 m. 2nd floor, Starbucks next to McDonald's). The only place in Seoul serving authentic greasy American food. Tons of food and drink. Open from 7 am to 2 am.  
  • Everest, Dongdaemun (Dongdaemun stn, exit 3. Walk straight for 100 m. Turn left at the pharmacy and walk 50 m). Nepali restaurant featuring dozens of delectable dishes ranging from mutton curry to butter naan. Bollywood music videos are free.  
  • The Frypan, Nationwide. This is a chain serving American-style fried chicken and chips, as well as draft beer. Set apart from the hundred of other chicken bars in the area thanks to a nice, hole-in-the-wall atmosphere and generous portions, not to mention the authenticity of the food.  
  • Jacoby's, 45-6 Yongsan-dong 2-ga, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Korea (Noksapyeong stn, line 5, exit north toward Namsan tunnel. When you reach a large intersection, look for kimchi pots on the left side of the street, next to the Yongsan Garrison wall. Head up that side street, continue walking up the hill. On the right up the street, about 400 m past the kimchi pots). 02-3785-0433. Offers a wide variety of burgers, arguably the best for the value, in Seoul. In an area often known as the foreigner ghetto, a popular area for expats to live just west of Itaewon.  
  • Jeonju Jungang Hoegwan (전주 중앙 회관), Myeong-dong (Myeong-dong Station, exit 5), +82 2 776-3400. 8:30 AM-10:30 PM daily. This Korean restaurant specializes in the Jeonju variety of bibimbap, which features different ingredients and spices than other bibimbap dishes. Delicious and healthy.
  • New Delhi Restaurant, Itaewon (Noksapyoung stn exit 1, cross overpass, turn right, 2 min up the hill on your left), 007. Run by a Canadian-Indian owner. Try the chicken vindaloo, the garlic naan, and the samosas.  
  • Pattaya, Itaewon (Itaewon Station, exit 1. Walk 50 m. Turn right at the KFC and walk to the end of the alley. Turn left and walk 70 m past the 3 Alley Pub). Thai restaurant, and perhaps the best in Seoul. With a menu featuring nearly 100 different items, you're bound to find your favorite dishes and make some new ones, too. 
  • 'Le Pied de Cochon (르 코숑), Dogok-dong 419 Kangnam-gu (Meabong 매봉 stn line 3 exit 4, cross overpass, turn left), +82 2 577-8503, +82 10 6336-8724, 11 AM-1 AM. A French restaurant specialized in pastas, pork meat, and Rosé wine. Come here to try the "Pied" with a glass of wine.
  • Smokey Saloon, Itaewon, Apgujeong, Gangnam (Itaewon stn, exit 2. Go out the exit and walk 50 m. Turn left at the Hard Rock Cafe and walk 50 m. Turn right and walk 10 m). Featuring a selection of over a dozen authentic American-style hamburgers, freshly made onion rings, and hearty chili-cheese fries, Smokey's is one of the best places to get a taste of the U.S.  
  • Zelen, Itaewon (turn right at the KFC at the Hamilton Hotel. Follow the small alley until the end and turn left. Again walk to the end and take the stairs heading up). Fantastic Bulgarian restaurant featuring lots of stuffed everything - from tomatoes to mushrooms, peppers and chicken breasts. Well worth it as it is very unique to the dining landscape in Seoul.  
  • Kali, 170-3 2F Myeongnyun 4-ga, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea (hyehwa Station Exit 4. Go straight about 100m until 4 juntion, than turn left go 30m on your right side 2F), 02-747-5050. 1st, 3rd Mon Off. Really good Indian food especially for south Indian food. Interior is quite exotic.
  • Hanwoori (한우리), Nonhyeondong (south of Apgujung). An upper-end Korean restaurant that specializes in the Korean version of Shabu-shabu, which is a boiling pot to which you throw in vegetables and very thin slices of meat. Their menu is extensive and while their atmosphere may not be cutting-edge, it is classy and clean.  
  • J Pub Ryu. Amazing food and drinks, specializing in sake. The atmosphere is lively with the occasional celebrity sighting. A definite hot spot any night of the week with an innovative menu of Japanese fusion.  
  • Pizza Hill. An excellent pizzeria close to the Walker Hill hotel in Gwangjin-gu. As its name implies, the restaurant has a lovely view of Seoul on top of a hill and prices higher than the hill it sits on. However, the pizza is well worth the price. Worth a visit if you hit it big at the nearby casino.  


Seoul features a mind-bogglingly large array of nightspots catering to every taste and budget, often being considered the best and most vibrant in the world. While most cities feature only a few areas for nightlife, Seoul features many such districts in staggering size and an array of locations to choose from. Not only the sheer volume of bars and restaurants but also the relatively low cost of soju (the number one alcohol sold in the world) attributes to the lively nightlife atmosphere in the city.

South Korea is the land of the coffee shops. It seems the number of such places can easily compete with the number of convenience stores. Many Koreans dream of having their own coffee place, although with the oversupply of such places the profit is probably very low. There are many big coffee chains around, which you will see repeatedly. You should, however, opt for any one that is smaller and cozier.
  • Coffee Bar, 8 Eulji-ro 9-gil Jung-gu, Seoul (Enter the small alley on 9-gil, 40m north of the main Eulji-ro (road)). Closed Sundays. This is a very special place where the owners put a tremendous amount of time into preparing your Americano, Cappuccino or anything else they have on offer. They even roast their own beans using a gas flame and kind of kids play washing machine. Opt for something with caramel and ask for a real cup. They of course also have WiFi
Itaewon is Seoul's international district, with a wide variety of Western-styled venues to eat, drink and be merry. Since many foreigners congregate there, Itaewon remains somewhat of a niche nightlife area for Koreans interested in a more international scene. A number of notable bars and clubs spot the area, both on the main street and in the nearby alleys, and the area has become more gentrified as more upscale restaurants and chains move in. Due to Itaewon's proximity to the nearby United States Army base, a large number of the American military are found there in the evenings and weekends. However, the US army has decided to move the base to a location outside of Seoul within the next few years, so expect regular changes to the area.
Many bars in Itaewon celebrate Thursdays as Ladies' Night, which often means that women drink free before 12 am. There are also a few gay bars located two alleys east of the main street, with a mix of clubs and places to drink.
  • Richard Copycat's All-American Diner. Recently moved locations. Tons of great food and drinks. Serves authentic Buffalo wings in Seoul. They also serve American breakfast.
  • Geckos, (opposite Quiznos). A relaxed bar scene and good food. Very popular with GIs and expats.
  • Dillinger's. #in the alley behind Geckos across from Quiznos/Family Mart#. Serves draft and bottled beers and good food. Sports played on a number of big screens, plus more tables upstairs.
  • Metro. A lot of older expats and many Koreans hit up this joint. Only one Korean beer on tap, but the free pool. The front #or right side when you go up the stairs# seems to be for the expat crowd, while the back #the left door when you go up the stairs# seems to be more of style for the Korean crowd. They have a typical range of snacks available and free peanuts for beer drinkers.
  • Bless U is another older expat haunt. You better be good with your pool game or you'll be waiting in a long line to go again. Darts are also available. They have great popcorn and decent draft beers. It changed ownership last year and has been running a tight ship since.
  • The Rose & Crown. London-style pub with great fish and chips and interior decoration. Darts and sports on the big screen available.
  • Soul Train. Small bar in the alley behind Hamilton Hotel that plays R&B and soul. Excellent sound system.
  • Phillies. A Canadian-owned sports bar and grill with a pool table and darts in the basement. Beer prices are par and food is OK.
  • Craftworks. Located across Haebangchon in the Gyeongnidan area. Find the NOXA bar and walk past it two or three stores down. No pool or darts, but their 8 craft brews are the best beers you'll find in Korea. Seriously.
Sinchon (신촌), home to universities including Sogang University(서강대학교), Yonsei University (연세대학교) and Ewha Womans University, is a great place to soak up a more Korean environment. Not to be confused with Sincheon, which is closer to Jamshil, Sinchon is set up like many Korean entertainment areas in which bars, clubs, restaurants, karaoke boxes and sometimes even motels are structured in a grid-like fashion. The only way to familiarize yourself with the area is to stroll the alleys and discover all of the different places. Korean bars tend to be rather anti-social compared with their Western counterparts, with people sitting at tables with friends and not tending to mix. Yet a number of Western-style bars in the area have opened up.
  • Woodstock. Around since 1991, the bar has prompted a slew of copycats but is the best place to hear classic rock and pop. The sound system is awesome and the owner/DJ knows his stuff. Expect large crowds Friday and Saturday nights and seeing people dance next to their tables. Great place to mix with Koreans of all ages.
  • Zen II.
  • Nori Ha Nun Saram Dul. A basement bar infamous for both its great rock music and its decrepit interior with writing on the walls. Difficult to find and almost impossible to get a seat after 9 p.m. Secure valuables as theft is not uncommon in the bar.
  • Beer O'Clock. This Canadian-run bar serves great pizzas and other grub in addition to showing sports on the big screen and offering darts. Weekends are pretty wild at this joint.
  • Yaletown. Two Korean Canadians own this third-floor bar that serves up delicious burgers and another Western fare. Big screen TVs keep showing sports and this is also good if you play beer pong.
Hongdae (홍대), short for Hongik University, used to be the premier club area in Seoul. Located around Hongik University, clubs and bars are strewn everywhere around the place. The clubs aren't near the station but aren't hard to find. The most popular clubs are:
  • M2 Trance/techno.
  • Cocoon Hip-hop and dance music.
  • Miroir, 405-5, Seokyo-dong, Mapo-gu (From exit 4 at Hapjeong station walk in the direction that the traffic flows, when you reach the fake airplane towards the minimart on your right, follow this road (watch out for taxis creeping from behind), turn right at main crossing, follow until you see Family Mart). Psychedelic hippie hangout with psytrance Fri and Sat, 60s and 70s rock during the week. No cover charge.  
  • nb (noise basement) Hiphop.
  • Q-Vo Hiphop.
Some other popular clubs include:
  • Club Saab Small Hip hop Club
  • Joker Red Techno club
  • Club Tool House Music club
  • Club FF Rock music club that is popular with foreigners
  • Harlem Hip hop club
  • S Club hip hop club.
  • Tin Pan A clubs/bars with cheap drinks and a dance floor. You must have a non-armed forces identification to enter.
On a Friday or Saturday expect all of these to be packed tight. Expect a packed crowd. A number of bars are popular with foreigners here too:
  • Bricxx A hookah lounge with an intimate atmosphere and a large mixed drink and wine list.
The place is huge and you could party for a whole week in all the bars and clubs. The best way to see it is to stroll around and find something you like. An interesting note: the entire club district of Hongdae is officially off-limits to U.S. military personnel, Federal employees and their dependents. However, it is not unusual to see crew-cuts here on the weekends since it is rarely enforced.
Near Hongdae Park is Joon's, a popular little venue with a variety of clientele. They have beer pong, darts, and their own DJs.
In warmer months, don't pass up the closet-sized B-Dan on Hongdae's main strip, which offers up take-out draft beer by the plastic cup.
More recently, a number of LP bars playing classic rock and pop has opened up. One to look for is Suzie Q, which is near the 7-11 around the clubs.

Apgujeong (압구정) is the upmarket area of Seoul. Walk around the streets and you'll see teenagers valet parking their new Benz or Audi, strutting their new designer threads, and looking generally, well, rich. That said, a lot of people who party here aren't necessarily rich and live far away. Apgujeong is rather subdued when it comes to nightlife though it has a few posh clubs and bars. Places, where valet is unavailable, are unlikely to be great hits traditionally. There are, however, a few small clubs in the area. Expect English to be more commonly spoken in this area, too, due to many Koreans in the area having studied abroad or received a lot of private tutoring. This has also meant, however, a certain desensitization to foreigners, so don't expect people to stare or approach you as much as they would in other parts of Seoul. Consider Apgujeong a great place to hang out, not party. If you want to impress a date, for example, this is a great place to go to. The backstreets of Apgujeong tend to sprout and lose new clubs seemingly at random throughout the year, so getting off the main drag from time to time can yield a new "hot club of the month."
  • Superclub Circle usually playing house music, sometimes hip hop.
  • Club Air House/Techno club.
  • Elec Small, trendy club that is quite difficult to find.
Dongdaemun (Imun-dong)
  • Randy's Bar (RAndy's Pub), 동대문구 (Get off HUFS station line 1 and go out exit 6, walk 100 meters and turn left. RAndy's is on the little alleyway on your right), 5:30 p.m. - 2 a.m. Foreign-owned bar in front of Hankook University of Foreign Studies known for a varied clientele, great pool table, and affordable prices. Has Red Rock and Hoegaarden on tap.  
Gangnam station (강남) is probably the No. 2 club area in Seoul. Also set up in a grid structure, clubs, bars, restaurants, and other entertainment venues decorate this upmarket location. While not as upmarket as Apgujeong, it definitely is busy and lively. If Apgujeong is the place for rich kids to hang out and look cool, Gangnam is the place for those rich kids to party and look sexy. The station is a transit hub and a ton of buses run through the heart of the entertainment area, so finding your way there is extremely easy.

Shopping in Seoul, South Korea

  • Namdaemun. The largest traditional street market in Korea. This market is located in the center of Seoul and is a famous shopping place for tourists. Clothing for children and accessories are the most-commonly sold goods in this market, but there's lots of food as well and many outdoor eating options, especially in the evening. There is also a huge digital camera market in this area. Take Seoul subway line 4 to Hoehyeon station and follow signs to exit #5.
  • Dongdaemun. This market is of equal historical significance to Namdaemun market. While Namdaemun is an old-fashioned market, Dongdaemun market has large department store-like buildings such as Doota, Migliore, and APM that have trendy shops and stalls grouped together so customers can shop efficiently and save time. Many younger people and tourists come here to shop. One of the buildings here, Dongdaemun General Market, sells Chimachogori, which is a Korean traditional dress, or bedclothes. Some of the shops like Nuzzon are open all night.
  • Insa-dong. Insadong is known for its art galleries and shops and is possibly the most touristy place in South Korea. It is a great place to buy cultural souvenirs. There are also a few stores that offer interesting vintage toys and various kitsch. Insadong also contains many traditional tea and coffee shops. It is one of the few places that vegetarian restaurants can be found.
  • Ewha Women's University. At the front gate of Ewha Women's University, visitors can find a dense market geared towards young women. You can find stores that sell clothes, shoes, hats, handbags, and so on. There are also clothes for men. Recently franchise stores have started to move into the area.
  • Yongsan Electronics Market. (Metro Line dark blue, Yongsan stn)Yongsan Station is in IMall which is another huge shopping mall with two stories full of electronics. Without negotiating you can have cheaper prices when compared to Yongsan is one option in Seoul if you are looking for electronics goods. Made up of over 20 buildings housing 5000 stores, you can find appliances, stereos, computers and peripherals, office equipment, telephones, lighting equipment, electronic games and software, and videos and CDs. A lot of the products are bought in Japan and resold in Korea by dealers. The market has a reputation for fleecing foreigners, particularly due to its proximity to the Yongsan U.S. Army Base. Be wary as Koreans try to avoid Yongsan for their electronics needs and rely instead on internet shopping as sellers in Yongsan are not averse to ripping you off if you don't seem to know a lot about electronics. If you go, it's best to bring a Korean guide so you can ensure you're getting a good deal. The problem is no or very poor English. Only Korean warranty. Cash preferred. At IMALL they add 5% as tax when you pay by Visacard. At Yongsan Electroland it depends on the seller. Up to 10% addition is possible.
  • Techno Mart. There are two Techno Marts in Seoul: the original at Gangbyeon station, and the new store at Sindorim station (use Sindorim station exit 2). Both complexes house over 2,000 stores across eight floors that sell a variety of high-tech products. From electrical appliances to computers, you will find everything you need. The first floor has cosmetics, accessories, and stationeries. The second and third floors comprise Korean-made electrical goods, while the fourth and fifth floors sell foreign-made electrical appliances. The sixth floor sells cell phones and their accessories. Computers are sold on the seventh, and on the eighth music and DVD stores. Aside from all the high-tech gadgetry, there are over a dozen restaurants on the 9th floor and a cineplex and arcade on the 10th.
Fashion shopping in Seoul isn't a mere industry, it's an art form.
Myeongdong, is probably the largest and best-known area; it is definitely the most tourist-friendly fashion area. In the spring and summer, fashion models/sidewalk promoters can be seen strolling the streets of Myeongdong promoting various cosmetics, stores or other fashion-related products. Many regular people also tend to catwalk their newest outfit on these streets. Rows of stores are available to look for that perfect accessory, and most of Korea's major brands can be found here: mVIO, Caspi Conus, WhoAU California, AHM, So.Basic, Noxon, Basic House, UGIZ, 1492, nipper, hang ten, A6, Bean Pole, Jambangee, Giordano as well as a few international brands such as Lacoste, Land Rover, Adidas, Gap, Zara, Koolhaas, Uniqlo, Anna Sui, and Forever 21.
  • Migliore. One of the biggest fashion buildings in Seoul. It has 17 floors above ground and 7 basement floors. Information boards in Migliore are written in Korean as well as English, Japanese, and Chinese for foreign tourists. US credit cards are often accepted but ask before haggling if you aren't sure. The outside stage features a "talent show" of local dance groups (mostly high school or college student groups) most nights until about 9 PM; typically they are wearing many of the local fashions, and some of the dancers can be located in the various department stores working as employees.
  • Shinsegae, 2-5 Chungmuro 1-Ga, Jung-gu, Seoul (subway line 4 Hoehyun exit #7, bus 0014, 1016, 7013, 406, 503, 505, 9400, 9402, 9410, 9502, 9710), +82 2 1588-1234, 10:30 AM-8 PM, check in advance. The oldest department store in entire Korean peninsula. Original store building is refurbished in 2008 and becomes a high-street boutique. Accepts major credit cards, including Amex and JCB.  
  • Lotte Young Plaza. A relatively new addition to the scene, located just across the street from Avatar department store. This department store is oriented towards a younger, upscale clientele, and in addition to the usual Korean brands and international brands, the top floor of the space features an assortment of quality eating establishments to replenish your shopping energy. The wine bar is recommended. Sometimes art installations can be found on the top floor. US credit cards accepted.  
  • Apgujeong (압구정), widely known as "The Beverly Hills of Seoul" is the land of luxury, brand name goods. International brands like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Gucci, and Prada sit alongside Korean designer brands.
  • Hyundai Department Store, 429 Apgujeong-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (subway line 3 Apgujeong), +82 2 547-2233, Mo-Su 10:30 AM-8 PM. Main store of the well-known department store chain.  
  • Galleria, 515 Apgujeong-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul. A very popular upscale department store. Just several blocks away from Hyundai Department Store. Also has a branch in Seoul Station.  
Near the Cheongdam Intersection lies the heart of the Korean shoe scene. Cutting edge shoe shops include Sue Comma Bonnie, Hyaang, Heels, and Namuhana.
Following the big main road in front of Cheongnyangni station (37°34′50.44″N 127°02′53.38″E) north-east, many shops such as North Face, Adidas, etc. do appear.
Trends often begin in University areas like Hongdae. Hongik University boasts Korea's most famous art school, thus fashion in this area is often influenced by the students' artistic sensibilities. The shops in this area feature funky, punky, boho, and vintage style. Ewha Women's University also has a big shopping area in front of its main gate, as do many of the Women's colleges. Many trends also originate here. There are even seamstresses who can help you make your own designs come to life.

Won, Yen and US dollars are accepted, along with major credit cards. Most shops have staff who can speak Japanese and Mandarin. There are duty-free shops in both the Incheon airport and the major department stores: Lotte, Shilla Hotel. There are other duty-free shops at Walkerhill Hotel, SKM DFS in COEX Mall.

Safety in Seoul, South Korea

Seoul is a remarkably safe city given its size, comparable in safety to Hong Kong or Tokyo. Pickpocketing is not very common and violent crime is minimal if not almost unheard of.

If you happen to be a non-Korean male walking hand-in-hand with a Korean female, drunk older Korean men might give you a tongue lashing or occasionally worse. Note that this is far less of a problem than it used to be.

If you do end up in a fight, remember that Korean law is possibly different from your home country. Just because someone else started the fight does not provide you with legal protection if the attacker ends up hurt. As in anywhere else in the world, get out of such a situation as quickly as you can.

U.S. military personnel now have a curfew 1 am-5 am 7 days a week on the Korean Peninsula, although the curfew can be extended at very short notice. If you are a westerner then the American Military Police may request to see your ID and, if you refuse, may summon the Korean National Police, who have the right to demand it. (This is done to catch American military personel breaking the curfews.)

Although rare, crimes by American soldiers against Koreans can happen, and when they do they often receive a huge amount of national attention. If you are a westerner then you should exercise some extra care when such a case hits the media, although it is still highly unlikely you would be in any danger.

Large scale demonstration in Seoul against the government happen from time to time. Often they can result in a riot where there are pitched battles between protesters and riot police. People do get seriously hurt, so try and avoid getting too close to the action.

Language spoken in Seoul, South Korea

As elsewhere in Korea, a grasp of basic Korean will be helpful. If you plan on an extended visit, consider learning to read the Korean written script, hangeul. It takes very little time to pick up the basics, and it can be endlessly helpful. A quick (free) visit to the Story of King Sejong Exhibition Hall beneath the Statue of King Sejong in Gwanghwamun Square will give you an introduction to the Korean written language and some interactive exhibits to practice. Thirty minutes there will see you recognizing and pronouncing some Korean words.

Shops in major tourists areas, including Insadong, Myeongdong, and Itaewon, will probably have staff that speaks at least some English, and some may have staff that speaks Mandarin, Cantonese and/or Japanese. While all younger Koreans are required to study English in school, due to a lack of practice, proficiency is generally poor, and most residents of Seoul only know a few simple words and phrases. If lost, a useful tip is to write down your question in simple words and show it to someone young. That being said, it is still possible to get by using only English, though it goes without saying that a basic grasp of Korean will make your trip much smoother.


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Gyeongbokgung, Seoul, South Korea
Average: 9.9 (10 votes)

Gyeongbokgung (Hangul: 경복궁; hanja: 景福宫), also known as Gyeongbokgung Palace or Gyeongbok Palace, was the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty. Built in 1395, it is located in northern Seoul, South Korea. The largest of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon dynasty, Gyeongbokgung served as the home of Kings of the Joseon dynasty, the Kings...
N Seoul Tower, South Korea
Average: 9.7 (10 votes)

The N Seoul Tower (Hangul: N서울타워), officially the YTN Seoul Tower and commonly known as the Namsan Tower or Seoul Tower, is a communication and observation tower located on Namsan Mountain in central Seoul, South Korea. At 236m, it marks the highest point in Seoul. Built in 1971, the N Seoul Tower is Korea's first general radio wave tower...
War Memorial of Korea, Seoul
Average: 9.9 (10 votes)

War Memorial of Korea is located in Yongsan-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea. It opened in 1994 on the former site of the army headquarters to exhibit and memorialize the military history of Korea. The memorial building has six indoor exhibition rooms and an outdoor exhibition centre displaying over 13,000 war memorabilia and military...
National Museum of Korea, Seoul
Average: 9.7 (10 votes)

The National Museum of Korea is the flagship museum of Korean history and art in South Korea and is the cultural organization that represents Korea. Since its establishment in 1945, the museum has been committed to various studies and research activities in the fields of archaeology, history, and art, continuously developing a variety of...
Bukhansan, Seoul, South Korea
Average: 9.8 (10 votes)

Bukhansan, or Bukhan Mountain, is a mountain on the northern periphery of Seoul, South Korea. There are three major peaks, Baegundae 836.5 meters (2,744 ft), Insubong 810.5 meters (2,659 ft), Mangyeongdae 787.0 meters (2,582.0 ft). Because of its height and the fact that it borders a considerable portion of the city, Bukhansan is a...
Cheonggyecheon, Seoul, South Korea
Average: 9.6 (10 votes)

Cheonggyecheon (Hangul: 청계천) is a 10.9 km (7.0 miles) long, modern public recreation space in downtown Seoul, South Korea. The massive urban renewal project is on the site of a stream that flowed before the rapid post-war economic development caused it to be covered by transportation infrastructure. The $900 million project initially...
Changdeokgung, Seoul, South Korea
Average: 9.8 (10 votes)

Changdeokgung (Hangul, 창덕궁, 昌德宮; literally, "Prospering Virtue Palace") — also known as Changdeokgung Palace or Changdeok Palace — is set within a large park in Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea. It is one of the "Five Grand Palaces" built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1897). As it is located east of Gyeongbok Palace, Changdeokgung — along...
Insa-dong, Seoul, South Korea
Average: 9.6 (10 votes)

Insa-dong is a dong, or neighborhood of the Jongno-gu district of the South Korean city of Seoul. The main street is Insadong-gil, which is connected to a multitude of alleys that lead deeper into the district, with modern galleries and tea shops. At one time it was the largest market for antiques and artworks in Korea. In area, 12.7 hectares (...
Hangang Park, Seoul, South Korea
Average: 9.7 (10 votes)

Hangang Park (Hangul: 한강공원) is a park in Seoul, South Korea.
Bongeunsa, Seoul, South Korea
Average: 9.5 (10 votes)

Bongeunsa is a Buddhist temple located in Samseong-dong, Gangnam-gu in Seoul, South Korea. It was founded in 794 during the reign of King Wonseong by the monk Yeon-hoe (Hangul: 연희), then the highest ranking monk of Silla, and originally named Kyongseoungsa (Hangul: 견성사; hanja: 見性寺). It is located on the slope of Sudo Mountain, across the street...

Latest travel blogs about Seoul, South Korea

Panoramas of Seoul

Seoul is one of the largest megalopolises of modern Asia, having arrived to which (especially if you have just arrived from Pyongyang and your knowledge of this city is limited only to the fact that it is the capital of South Korea) you is slightly lost. However, I know the recipe how to orient in...

Historical part of Seoul, and nowadays it is the main business and cultural center, by analogy with the North American cities, carries the name of Downtown. The modern 10-million Seoul megalopolis has a set of the lively areas, each of which is similar to the big city itself. But exactly from here...
The main historical sight of  Seoul  are five big palaces built during the Joseon dynasty governing in Korea from 1392 to 1897. These palaces are called  Changdeokgung ,  Changgyeonggung , Deoksugung, Gyeongbokgung, and Gyeonghuigung and represent enormous palace...
Seoul  is the capital of South Korea, and it's very different from Pyongyang - the North Korea's capital, like a cropduster is different from modern fighter, like Pithecanthropus from Homo Sapiens. It's amazing how in a few decades the same nation divided by...
Here are some photos of night  Seoul : During the last day of my trip, they took me to a local amusement park. It was a huge open-air museum dedicated to the life of ancient Koreans. There was a national wedding in the local theater every hour: And here is an interesting...
In a week I'm flying to North Korea. On the eve of this trip, I decided to write about my visit to the South Korean capital  Seoul  at the end of March this year. I spent only 3 nights in  Seoul . Exactly the nights, because during the day I was all the time in negotiations...