As most of my friends know, I’m a huge fan of Korean culture because throughout my university years some of my nearest and dearest friends were Korean. The last time I was in Seoul was back in 2013, so I was really excited to visit again last December. I was only there for six days, but I managed to pack a whole lot into this short time! It gets extremely cold in the winter time in Seoul, so I highly recommend packing a parka or a down jacket if you decide to travel during this season. I learned this the hard way, and each day was a struggle not to die from the biting wind and freezing cold.
Seoul is the capital and largest metropolis of South Korea. It is a city that mixes the tradition of Korea’s past with its ever developing future. You could be walking through the historic paths of a palace and just beyond the gate you’ll see looming skyscrapers.
Because I was only in town for such a short time I spent all six days in Seoul. However, with the Korea Train Express (KTX) and cheap domestic flights, it’s easy to get away to Busan or Jeju for a couple days, if only I had more time!
PLACES TO VISIT
I know that there are thousands of Seoul travel guides out there, but these are the things that I enjoyed doing and would recommend for first time and returning visitors alike.
SEOUL CITY WALL (한양도성)
Seoul City Wall or Hanyangdoseong, was first built in 1396 to defend and show the boundaries of the city, surrounding Hanyang (present day Seoul) in the Joseon Dynasty. Since then, most of the wall has been torn down to make way for the development of Seoul. However the most well-known course is the Wall of Mt. Bukaksan, the 2.3-kilometer trail that cuts through Sukjeongmun to Changuimun.
There are several walking courses available, but I was supremely lucky to have my best friend drive us to the very top of the Wall. We went at around 10 pm, so there weren’t a lot of tourists milling about. The view is absolutely spectacular from the top. This is a very easy walk as all the main paths are paved. The view of Seoul is unbeatable, as there you get a 360 degree view as far as you can see. This was a definite highlight for me.
HAN RIVER (한강) and SEBITSEOM (세빛섬)
If you are a lover of Korean dramas, the Han River is a must see tourist attraction. There are a couple convenience stores near the section that we stopped by, so you can buy instant noodles and alcohol to enjoy by the river. We went around midnight to Banpo Hangang Park and even in the freezing cold there were lots of people enjoying the river.
We purchased a few hot beverages to keep ourselves warm as we walked along the bridge to Sebitseom (세빛섬). Sebitseom is a cultural complex comprised of 3 artificial islands: Gavit, Chavit, and Solvit.
The entire path around the islands is lit with fairy lights, and the walk was magical. It was like walking among the stars.
For all the Marvel fans (myself included!), several of the scenes from Avengers: Age of Ultron was shot here! They have little signs showing where certain scenes were filmed, and I think it would be very cool to see during the daytime.
DIGITAL MEDIA CITY (디지털미디어시티)
Continuing on the theme of K-drama and superheros, we also visited Digital Media City (DMC). DMC is the heart of Seoul’s media, entertainment and IT industry. It is the home of MBC, SBS and CJ E&M – three of the largest media conglomerates in Korea.
If you’re a fan of Korean dramas from these companies, DMC is a must visit, because they have life size cut out figurines of drama characters spread out throughout the area. Additionally, most of the buildings have sections that are for public access where you can superimpose yourself into videos with celebrities or shop for your favourite drama goods.
If k-dramas aren’t your thing, you can take a photo with the giant sculpture that dominates the centre of DMC. This sculpture, titled ‘square-M, communication’, is another filming site for Avengers: Age of Ultron. It’s absolutely massive, and you cannot miss it.
EHWA WOMANS UNIVERSITY (이화여자대학교)
I know it seems weird to visit a University as a tourist destination, but trust me, the area surrounding Ehwa is full of makeup and clothing stores with student budget friendly prices.
Founded in 1886, Ehwa Womans University is currently the world’s largest female universities and one of the most prestigious in South Korea. The campus is enormous so we only walked the main areas because of our limited time, but if you have more time in Seoul, a leisurely walk around campus would be a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.
Cheonggyeheon is an 11 km man made stream that flows through the centre of Downtown Seoul. It was one of my favourite parts to visit back in 2013, so I had to come back again this time.
Unfortunately because it was the dead of winter it wasn’t as lush as it usually is in the summer, but nonetheless it’s a very nice way to explore Seoul by the water! The stream starts from Cheonggye Plaza and passes under a total of 22 bridges. We walked part of the stream on our way to visit Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP).
This concludes PART I of my travel guide! Stay tuned for PART II and III for the rest of my places to visit, my favourite eats and accommodation/transportation tips from this trip!