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A Torrid Love Affair: Things To Do In Seoul, South Korea

A Torrid Love Affair: Things To Do In Seoul, South Korea
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“Everything carries me to you,

as if everything that exists,

were little boats that sail

toward those isles of yours that wait for me”

I’m thinking of Pablo Neruda’s words and my torrid love affair with Seoul as we leave the city. I don’t fall in love often but boy when I do!

It’s been a long time since I found a city I enjoyed so much on our travels the past few years. I loved everything about Seoul – the vibe of the city, its people (they’re the best!), the food, and Korean pop culture. Vid had a hard time convincing me to board that flight out of South Korea.

Seoul forest cherry blossom

Do you blame me for wanting to stay for longer? 🙂

 

I agreed – but not before we promised ourselves we’d come back for a few months later this year.

****

Amazing food, fast public internet, friendly locals, lots of historical sites, and a great vibe – Seoul has it ALL. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Seoul soon, then consult our guide below for making the best of your time in the city:

 

Getting to Seoul

Cathay Pacific offers great connections and convenient flights from all around the world via Hong Kong, which is a great place to spend a few (ahem, gluttonous) days in ;-). We had a very comfortable flight from Hong Kong to Seoul and enjoyed Cathay’s in-flight entertainment and service.

Once you get to the airport, you could take a cab to get to downtown Seoul but taking a train from the airport is affordable and extremely convenient. It is both cheaper and faster than a cab.

A quick tip – the regular train that goes into downtown Seoul costs half as much as the express train and only takes 10 minutes longer. If you have 10-15 minutes to spare, just opt for the regular train.

 

Ready for our adventure to Seoul 😀

 

Accommodation in Seoul

We spent all our time in one hotel in Seoul. However in retrospect we feel it is best to split your time between the two sides of the river if you are in Seoul for over 4 days. Spend half your time in Gangnam or a surrounding area and the other half across the river. This way you can explore all of Seoul’s palaces, marketplaces, and dining options with ease.

We spent the length of our stay at Four Seasons, Seoul. We chose the standard room. However if you’re on your honeymoon or celebrating a special occasion, then we would recommend trying to book one of their highly-coveted suites overlooking the Palace. They get sold out months in advance, so book early!

The hotel is decadent but we wouldn’t expect anything else from Four Seasons. However this property stands out because it is built on a historical street that is over 600 years old. No wonder then, the hotel pays homage to traditional Korean architecture and history in many ways – Korea’s royal colours (blue, purple, and green) are used all over and the ruins of an old house that were found at the site are actually displayed in the breakfast area. As for the breakfast itself – the spread is expansive, high quality, and scrumptious – unsurprisingly it receives rave reviews from everyone! Expect Asian delicacies, continental platters, fresh fruits, and cheeses by the dozen.

The best part? Four seasons Seoul has an unparalleled location – the hotel is located in the historical Cheonggye Plaza. It is less than 5 minutes away from  Gyeongbokgung Palace and 10 minutes away from the shopping districts of Myeongdong and Jonggak.

high floor bedroom at Four Seasons Seoul

Our gorgeous room overlooking Seoul’s skyline

 

Couple in bedroom at Four Seasons Seoul

This is all we did on day 1 😀

 

breakfast at four seasons seoul

Delectable breakfast, amazing staff 🙂

 

Places to see in Seoul

  • The first stop for every visitor are the five grand palaces in Seoul – of course you don’t have to see all five palaces but we would highly recommend checking out Gyeongbokgung Palace as it is the most majestic of them all. Unfortunately it is also one of the most crowded. If you would like to escape the hordes, then check out Deoksugung Palace, Unhyeongung Palace, or Changgyeonggung Palace. They are considerably less crowded and the architecture is just as beautiful.
Gyeongbokgung palace entrance at blue hour

The stunning entrance to Gyeongbokgung palace

 

things to do in Seoul

The two of us at Gyeongbokgung Palace 🙂

 

changgyeonggung palace grounds

The gorgeous interiors of Changgyeonggung palace

 

  • Jogyesa Temple is one of my favourite places in Seoul. Its distinctive ceiling and walls, fashioned entirely out of paper lanterns, makes it special. The temple compound is mesmerising but the temple itself is no less. It houses a huge Buddha where you will spot dozens of locals praying.

 

Jogyesa temple coloured lanterns

Colour everywhere you see – a ceiling made entirely of lanterns at Jogyesa temple!

 

  • Bukchon Hanok Village is a traditional Korean village close to Gyeongbokgung palace. Time stands still here because it is preserved to reflect Seoul’s urban landscape 600 years ago. Unsurprisingly, the village is lined with historical houses that boast of traditional Korean architecture. Try visiting in the evening – the village is magical at sunset.  If you enjoy Bukchon Hanok Village, then you should also check out Namsangol Hanok Village.

 

sunset at Bukchon Hanok village

Bukchon Hanok village – crowded during the day but stunning around sunset 😀

 

  • Ihwa Mural village is the perfect spot if you enjoy urban photography. This hipster village is full of colourful murals and Instagram-worthy restaurants and cafés. It’s ideal for a morning gander and some photographs. In fact Ihwa Mural Village is popular amongst Korean bloggers and you’ll spot a fair few of them clicking photographs as you walk through the village. If you enjoy Ihwa Mural Village, then you could also check out Gaemi Mural Village too.
Ihwa mural village seoul South Korea

There are some really cool murals in Ihwa

 

  • Another hipster area in Seoul is Haneido – it attracts a lot of youngsters and has some amazing bars, cafés, and restaurants. Make sure you spare an evening to explore it.

 

  • Noryangjin Fish Market is for photographers and gourmands. If you don’t mind the smell of fish, then make sure you visit this bustling market that boasts of over 700 vendors. This is a wholesale market that is open 24X7 but try going early in the morning. There are a lot of interesting auctions that take place at the crack of dawn at Noryangjin Fish Market – try catching those before you pick some fresh fish for your breakfast.

 

Shopping in Seoul

  • Myeong-dong is a labyrinth of shops, restaurants, and street food vendors. Sample some street food and enjoy the madness. This is the perfect place to pick up Korean skincare (with lot free samples) or drop by high-street giants such as H&M or Forever 21. Expect crowds.
street food in Myeongdong Seoul

Street food at Myeong-dong

 

  • Jongkak has dozens of shops and restaurants. It’s the perfect place to drop by for a meal followed by a bit of shopping for Korean skincare. Jongkak also boasts of a huge Daiso – think of it as an American dollar store, only cuter. Daiso is the perfect place to pick up cute stationery, adorable souvenirs and affordable gifts.

Such cuteness 😀

 

  • GoTo Mall is the craziest and coolest Korean shopping experience. Hundreds of shops selling everything from socks and dresses to iPhone cases and bags line this expansive shopping mall. Drop by for a spot of cheap shopping and bargain your hearts out.

 

  • Korea’s underground subway stations offer shopping therapy for bargain hunters. You will find plenty of shops at most stations but one of the most popular ones is the Gangnam underground station.

Crazy shopping at never-ending shops in underground stations 😉

 

  • Gangnam is also popular for its labyrinthine high-street – you will find every clothing store under the sun and skincare boutiques, restaurants, and pharmacies by the dozen here. Wrap up your shopping with a delicious meal and chilled beer at one of the local restaurants! – that’s what we did 🙂

Meals cooked at your own table served with chilled beer – can’t get better 🙂

 

 

Places to spot Cherry Blossom in Seoul

While Japan is amazing for viewing cherry blossom, there is no dearth of places that boast of gorgeous cherry blossom trees in Seoul during spring time. If you want to spot the blossoms the best to visit is the month of April. However do check annual forecasts before booking your tickets. Here are some of our favourite places to spot sakura in Seoul

 

  • All five grand palaces are great spots to see Cherry Blossom in Seoul, Korea. We specially love Gyeongbokgung and Changgyeonggung palaces for spotting cherry blossoms. You’ll see lots of trees in the compounds of the palaces.
Cherry blossom at Gyeongbokgung palace in seoul

Beautiful cherry blossom at Gyeongbokgung palace

 

  • Seoul Forest is a great place for a picnic all year round but it is especially stunning during spring. Keep walking deeper into the park till you reach an entire alley lined with cherry blossom trees on either side for a kilometre or so. It’s a vision you won’t ever forget!
Seoul forest is a great place to see cherry blossom in seoul Korea

Cherry blossom till the eye can see 🙂

 

  • The tiny island of Yeouido is the perfect place to see cherry blossoms in Seoul. The island also hosts an annual spring festival where it’s possible to witness 1886 cherry blossom trees along with a variety of other flowers in full bloom – this one shouldn’t be missed!

 

  • Seoul’s National Assembly Building is an ideal place to see cherry blossoms in full bloom. You don’t have to look too hard to find the trees – if you have a map, just head to Yeouiseo-ro Street in the immediate vicinity to experience the sakura bloom for yourself.

 

Local Korean costume at Gyeongbokgung palace in Seoul

We had an amazing time in Seoul and would return in a heartbeat 🙂

 

Why not combine a city break in Seoul with a trip to Japan?

Love Asia? Check out all our articles on Asia

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52 Comments

  1. Wonderfully articulated is this post on Seoul.

    Kudos!

    • Thanks Diganta – always love reading your comments on our articles 🙂

  2. Another place to add to the bucket list. It sounds lovely.

    • Thanks Lizzie – we did have an amazing time in Seoul 🙂

  3. It looks like you guys had an amazing time in Seoul! I’m hoping to visit there by the end of the year.

    • Hey Danasia – hope you make it to Seoul this year. We hear its stunning during winter months 🙂

  4. My OH and I both really want to go to South Korea, especially Seoul! It’s definitely in the pipeline! I would love to see the Gyeongbokgung palace with my own eyes!

    • Gyeongbokgung palace is truly special Gareth – I didn’t think I would love Seoul as much as I did 🙂

  5. Your hotel room looks gorgeous, and such stunning views. I love your photos of the cherry blossom, so pretty

    • Sakura season in Seoul is gorgeous – so happy you enjoyed reading this article 🙂

  6. Wow your hotel views look amazing, and the cherry blossom is so pretty. I’ve never been to Asia before and I really want to see where I can go x

    • Hey Rhian – really enjoyed our time in Seoul during cherry blossom season- you should definitely visit 🙂

  7. Wow! I love ALL of your pictures, especially the Gyeongbokgung palace – that looks beautiful! I’ve not been to Korea (or really anywhere in Asia except Jordan and India), so will definitely be adding this to the list x

    • Hey Becca – thanks a ton. We explored so many palaces during our time in Seoul – you should definitely visit Seoul when you get a chance

  8. I’ve never considered visiting Seoul before – it’s definately one to add to the list. There’s lots to do and visit. The Seoul forest looks stunning!

    • Thanks Jenni- visiting Seoul Forest was one of the highlights of our trip, especially since it was cherry blossom season in Seoul 🙂

  9. Oh my gosh I am insanely jealous! Seoul is high on the list for me and my fella. We’d definitely be staying for over a week if we’d travelled all that way, so I think I’ll have to remember your tip of splitting time over both sides of the river.

    • Hey Jess – so happy to hear that. Hope you two make it to Seoul super soon 🙂

  10. Wow what an incredible place to visit, I’m loving all the tips and ideas especially the shopping x

    • Hey Lynne – glad you enjoyed reading our guide to Seoul 🙂

  11. I fell in love with Seoul because of this post. I’ll be adding this place to my bucket list. I love your pictures. 🙂

    • So happy to hear that Lauretta – make sure you go to Seoul during Cherry Blossom Season 🙂

  12. I have been to Seoul Korea twice and love it. Your post reminded me of my time there. I loved reading it and looking at the fab photos too!

    • So happy to hear you enjoyed South Korea as much as we did Angela 🙂 Seoul is a truly fabulous city

  13. Your photos are amazing and they have made me want to go even more. This is higj on my bucket list.

    • So happy to know that Danielle- hope you make it to Seoul soon 🙂

  14. I have never been to Korea before, but have always wanted to go. Your photography is gorgeous and captured it all perfectly.

    • Thanks Ashleigh – you should definitely put South Korea on your wishlist. It is a truly special country 🙂

  15. I’ve never been to South Korea before but after seeing this, it’s definitely on my bucket list x

    • So happy to hear that Stephanie – hope you make it to Seoul soon. I’d say spring aka Cherry Blossom Season in Seoul is my favourite 🙂

  16. The cherry blossom is wonderful and makes some lovely photos! We’ve love to see the colourful Jogyesa Temple too. Sounds like a very relaxing trip x

    • Aah – we couldn’t get enough Jogyesa Temple. Those lanterns are mesmerising 🙂

  17. Is it safe, for a single female traveller to visit. Also where can I book hotels online. And what kind of visa I as an Indian should apply for.

    • Hey Divah,

      It’s absolutely safe to visit for a single female traveler. In fact, it’s one of the safest countries in the world 🙂 You can look for hotels in Seoul here: http://goo.gl/AnohB1. You should apply for a tourist visa 🙂

  18. Wow, I never really realised how beautiful it was! Definitely adding to my bucket list! So much to see and do! And so much Cherry Blossom!

    • Hey Kira – Seoul is truly gorgeous during Cherry Blossom season 🙂

  19. This is amazing, I particularly love the cherry blossom – it’s just so beautiful.

    • I agree – there’s nothing quite like cherry blossom season in Seoul 🙂

  20. Such a beautiful city, it looks an amazing experience. The blossom tress are just wonderful.

    • The cherry blossom trees was stunning in Seoul and we just couldn’t get enough of it 🙂

  21. i miss seoul! i need to go again but for longer. felt like i didnt fit everything in

    • We feel the same – plotting a month long trip there soon. Even a week wasn’t enough 🙂

  22. You have a way of making me fall in love with places I’ve never been to and I adore you both for it 😍 Do you have any restaurant recommendations for Seoul?

    • Hey Adele – we went to a lot of hole-in-the-wall eateries on the recommendations of locals. Perhaps I’ll do a food guide for Seoul sometime soon 🙂

  23. I always thought that SEOUL was beautiful but one thing I had not heard of before was Jogyesa temple. I love that it is made with paper lanterns that is super cool x

    • Hey Ana – Jogyesa Temple was a surprise for us too. We really loved it 🙂

  24. I love this! followed your Seoul trip on insert stories and loved every bit of it!

    • Hey Ayesha – so happy to hear that. Glad you enjoyed following our trip around Seoul 🙂

  25. I have been to Seoul. It was really beautiful and clean !!!!

    • Glad you enjoyed it – yes it’s one of the cleanest Asian cities we’ve visited 🙂

  26. Cherry Blossom season looks like a dream. Would love to visit South Korea or Japan during this time

    • You’d love sakura season in both South Korea and Japan – perhaps next year? 🙂

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