Welcome to Seoul!
A unique city, where the old harmoniously co-exists with the new, Seoul, South Korea, is a place filled with history and rich culture. Ranked as the fourth largest metropolitan economy in the world, this is a land waiting to be experienced and explored. Tourists know the popular places to see and visit, but a worldwide local knows how to experience Seoul best. Seoul is well known for its rich culture, fine dining, and excellent shopping. There are so many things to see and do that it can be mind-boggling, but this guide will help you make the most out of your visit to the city.
Where to Begin
The emblematic N Seoul Tower is a great place you start your journey. At 236 meters tall, the tower sits at the top of Namsan Park, making it high enough to get a magnificent panoramic view of Seoul. You can also opt to go up to the observation deck for an even better vantage point.
Worldwide Local Tip: The tower is quite popular, and can get very touristy. Avoid the crowds by visiting in the evening to enjoy a view of a lit up Seoul. You can reach the tower by taking a cable car shuttle.
The transport system in Seoul is comprehensive, with plenty of options. There are taxis, buses, or the underground metro. The metro system is very convenient, especially for visitors, since most of the signs are written in both Hangul (the official language of both North and South Korea) and English.
Worldwide Local Tip: The functionality of Google Maps and other GPS-dependent applications is limited in South Korea for security reasons. For help getting around, you can try one of the local alternatives, such as Naver or Daum Maps.
Attractions: Museums, Palaces, and More!
Discover Seoul’s somber history by visiting the Korean War museum. Here you’ll learn more about the Korean War and its devastating effects. Then lift your spirits by visiting the Alive Illusion museum, the first museum to bring interactive 4D optical illusions to South Korea. Here, you can have a fun and playful time in Seoul, partaking in any of the quirky illusions--and you’ll get good photos out of it. Get lost in Bukchon Hanok Village, as you explore and admire the architecture of the 900 hanoks (traditional Korean houses). This is where members of the royal family and aristocrats lived.
In Seoul, time seems to run backwards when you visit one of the Five Grand Palaces of the Joseon Dynasty, the most popular of which is Gyeongbokgung. Make sure to witness the colorful and musical royal guards changing ceremony, which happens every day except Tuesdays and is one of the most fascinating things to do in Seoul.
Worldwide Local Tip: For a completely authentic experience, try on a Hanbok (traditional Korean clothing). It is not only aesthetically pleasing and picture perfect but wearing it will also get you in any of the palaces free of charge.
Shopping in Seoul
Seoul is a shopper’s paradise and has several markets with different products to choose from. For great deals on skincare and beauty products, visit the Myeongdong market. Be mindful that some of the sales employees will try to lure you in with samples.
For authentic Korean handicrafts and souvenirs, make sure to visit the Namdaemun market. This is where the locals shop, so you are sure to get good deals. You can even get a hanbok made here! For more fashionable and trendy clothes, go to the Ewha market, located near the Ewha private women’s college. Since it is in a student neighborhood, the prices are relatively low.
Worldwide Local Tip: Because many Koreans wear make-up, trying clothes on is not usually allowed in most shopping spots. Be sure of your size as you purchase or carry along a tape measure to make sure your clothing fits accordingly. Shopping this way will make you feel like a real member of the Seoul population!
This city is an ultimate foodie destination because of the super cheap yet fantastic Seoul food! You can find the best street food at various markets, street carts, and subway stations. Make a point of eating the sushi-like Korean snack, gimbap, which is made of rice rolled in seaweed with pickled vegetables and beef or tuna. Other dishes to try are bindaetteok (a pancake made of ground mung beans), kimchi dumplings, or a tornado potato (potato cut in a spiral, dipped in batter and deep-fried and topped with chili and onion powder). A must eat while in Seoul is the ridiculously massive ice cream that is 32cm long.
Worldwide Local Tip: Tipping in Seoul is not a must. It may not be seen as a sign of disrespect like in Japan, however, it is entirely up to to you to decide to tip and how much.
Enjoy Your Visit!
Seoul is rich in history, food, and culture. The best way to explore this city is to experience it as a worldwide local.