I was denied when I first applied for a Korean visa in 2014. Actually it was my first and only denied visa so I was kind of skeptical when I applied for a Korean visa this year. Luckily, the visa gods were on my favor so I finally had a chance to say ‘’I.SEOUL.U” to Seoul. It’s a tagline which suggests that the city can be friendly like a soul mate.
Seoul is the heart and the largest metro in South Korea. The country became famous because of its influence in fashion particularly their standout street style, the infamous kimchi, addictive Korean Rom-coms, and of course their Kpop sensations. The city is also a home to some of the best tourist attractions in the world and with so much to see you can be overwhelmed by its beauty. Here are some of the best things to do to satisfy your Seoul-searching experience.
1. Stroll around the royal Gyeongbokgung Palace
This famous royal palace was built somewhere in the 13th century. Do not confuse yourself with Gyeongbok and Gyeongbokgung palace because it’s the same. They said that the palace was burnt down during the invasion of the Japanese in 15th century and the restoration started in 1989. The government allotted 40-years to rebuild the palace so that means the restoration plan for this majestic architecture is still on going. This reminds me of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat which restoration started in 1986 and still in progress. Temples like these are not easy to rebuild as it takes time to perfect every single detail of it in an aim to showcase their original beauty.
You can get to there by taking subway line 3 to Gyeongbukgung Station then exit from 5. The entrance is 3000 won for adults but I suggest your purchase a combination ticket for 10000 won. It consists of passes to 5 different palaces and it’s valid for three months. For more information visit their website.
2. Travel back in time in Bukchon Hanok Village
A well-preserved neighborhood which located a few walks away from Gyeongbokgung Palace. “Hanok” is a term they use to describe this piece of this Korean architecture. The details are similar to that of Japan’s intricate tiled roofs with broad eaves. You will often see their roofed wooden gates with signs asking tourists to be silent while appreciating the village preserved by Seoulites. It’s a residential area so while the tour is free, everybody should observe a silent trip and respect the villager’s privacy.
3. Watch the sunset from The N Seoul Tower
We arrived in Seoul in the afternoon from a long train ride from Incheon. Our first stop was the N Seoul Tower. The tower has a stunning panoramic view of the cityscape so we thought why not spend a couple of hours and wait for the sunset. I’ve read a bit of a history about the Korean cold war so that moment really revealed how far Seoul had become after the division from the north, it was peaceful and a breath of a fresh air after an exhausting day.
The place is open from 10am to 11pm from Sunday to Friday and operates until midnight during Saturdays. The best way to get there is through a cable car. It was summer when we went there and I bet the view from the cable car would be awesome during fall. Cable car tickets are being sold for 8500 won for a roundtrip ticket and 6000 one way.
4. Seal your promise of love in the highest point of Seoul
They said that love locks symbolize undying affection and they have it in Seoul. You can find these colorful locks attached on the fence in the N Seoul Tower, the highest point in the city. If you will take a close look at the locks you will see dedications of love mostly written in Korean. The place is spacious, cool, and colorful trees sets the romantic atmosphere of the place especially when its spring and fall.
5. A serenity walk by the Cheonggyecheon Canal
The 3.6 mile long stream corridor became a representation of Seoulites commitment to a better metro. The beautiful canal emerged from a polluted and covered water-way when it was restored in 2007. Some of the bridges are illuminated which creates beautiful ripples of twinkling reflections in the water making it a perfect place to stroll after a long stressful day. The canal is a popular urban respite for serenity-seekers and fitness enthusiast alike.
6. Experience Seoul Eats
They said that the best way to fully immerse yourself in a new culture is to experience the local food. And South Korea has a wonderful blend of traditional flavors from soups to side dishes to snacks and desserts. I went to a hole in the wall on our first day near the N Seoul tower and the food was amazing. I ordered this pork cutlet or “Donkkaseu” in Korean served with a rich sauce, kimchi and cabbage salad and paired it off with a local beer. It was a little bit sweet, hearty, and simply memorable. I also bought a rice cake from a street vendor. They call it “Songpyeon”, a Korean rice cake traditionally eating autumn.
7. Visit the tiny half-moon Nami Island (Namisum) in Chincheon
Do you still remember beautiful tree-lined roads on some of the scenes in the famous Korean TV series Winter Sonata? It was taken in Nami Island. The place is not far from Seoul so it’s a special retreat for families and tourist. It’s a lush tiny half-moon shaped park with picturesque landscapes and stunning colorful trees (during spring and autumn) surrounded by a river. The place also has a lot of restaurants and activities from biking to water sports.
How to get to Nami Island? Go to the metro station of Gapyeong and take a bus to Gapyeong Naru. Then take a 30-minute ferry to Nami Island from there. The ferry is open from 7:30 am to 09:40pm with a 30-minute interval in between trips. The general admission rate is 10000 won.