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Seoul 5D4N Travel Guide

Seoul, being the capital of South Korea, truly lives up to its image portrayed by countless Korean dramas people have watched around the world - beauty, food and culture. South Koreans speak predominantly Korean. Surprisingly, more Koreans speak Mandarin than English. The older generation who work at restaurants speak only Korean. It can post a challenge when it comes to communication and asking for directions.


The Blue House of South Korea

I was dazzled by the sheer variety of beauty products and fashion on the street. Street food, live seafood and BBQ meats were amazing. Culture wise, it is interesting to find magnificent looking city gates that should have been a part of a period drama, amidst tall modern buildings. It will not be on my top list of countries for a solo traveller to explore as the sheer hustle and bustle of the city may allow loneliness to creep in. Seoul will definitely be my priority for a short getaway with friends. It is fun, delicious and exciting! 

I stayed at Hotel PJ Myeongdong and have nothing but praise for the staff and services provided. You can click here for my hotel experience. It is less than a 5 min walk to Chungmuro metro station, which is located near the centre of Seoul, making my travelling pretty convenient. Understanding the history and culture of a place usually leads to a greater sense of appreciation of the present. A good place to start our Seoul journey will be Gyeongbokgung Palace.

Gyeongbokgung Palace


Gyeongbokgung Palace
Gyeongbokgung is the most famous palace as it was the main palace since the days it was built in 1935. It was definitely an eye opener especially with many tourists wearing the traditional Korean costume - Hanbok. How I wish I had really travelled back in time! The palace ground is humongous and a visit to The National Folk Museum of Korea is a must as it explains the history of Korea. Admission is free to the museum. 

After exploring the palace grounds, it was time to look for food. Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup is a Must Try in Korea as it is one of their national dishes! It also has the benefits of replenishing lost energy. There is a very famous Korean Ginseng Soup near the palace - Tosokchon Samgyetang.

How to go to Gyeongbokgung?
Metro Station: Gyeongbokgung

Tosokchon Ginseng Chicken Soup




Bukchon Hanok Village is also situated near the palace. I paid a visit because it is a residential area, filled with people staying in traditional Korea houses. I find this idea of preservation very cool! You can access a detailed guide here.

Bukchon Hanok Village

Bukchon Hanok Village

There are benches located in the area. It is also a nice place to rest and watch the sunset. Although it is situated near the palace, it can be difficult to locate on foot. I am a terrible map reader and I kind of got lost for a while before finding the village.





How to get to Bukchon Hanok Village?
Metro Station: Anguk 

Insadong is also nearby. It is a street filled with eateries, crafts and souvenirs. I definitely recommend this place to shop for souvenirs as the crafts were interesting and very reasonably priced. I bought a jade roller for my eyes for only S$5. I asked the stall owner if it was new and he was rather offended, replying that it was new. I felt a little flustered for being rude?  


Insadong

The most memorable street food in Insadong was the Mandus - dumplings! This shop sells a variety of dumplings so delicious that I cannot wait to be back! 

Mandus/Dumplings
Bukchon Sonmandu
6 Insadong 3-gil, Insa-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea


How to get to Insadong?
Metro Station: Anguk 


DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) Tour

DMZ Tour
I booked the DMZ Day tour through Hotel PJ. This is actually the most interesting activity in Seoul, understanding why Korea was split into two and the current tension between North and South Korea. I opted for lunch to be included for an extra S$10 (6 euros) and it was an amazing authentically Korean lunch.


After understanding the culture, it is time to shop and eat at the famous...

Myeongdong 

Myeongdong is the most famous shopping and eating street in Seoul. It will definitely be filled with throngs of tourists trying street food. It can be rather expensive eating street food in Seoul as compared to restaurants. 

Myeongdong

How to get to Myeongdong?
Metro: Myeongdong Station (명동역), line 4, exit 6

After exploring Myeongdong, I went to Namsan Tower as the cable car station is a very short walk from the main eating street in Myeongdong. 

Namsan Tower

View of Seoul from the Namsan Tower

Namsan Tower is often said to be the Must See Tower of Seoul. The experience itself was great but I did not expect the time poured into queuing. The atmosphere at the Namsan grounds was very peaceful and romantic. There were many couples creating beautiful memories. 

How to go to Namsan Tower?
By Cable Car. Namsan Cable Car station
Metro Station: Myeongdong Exit 3




Namsangol Hanok Village


As I stayed near the main attractions, Namsangol Hanok Village is situated near Hotel PJ. It is a collection of 5 traditional buildings that existed in the Joseon dynasty, located at the foot of the Namsan mountain. For more information on the village, click here. During one of the evenings, I paid a visit to the traditional night market since it closes at 9p.m. 

Namsangol Hanok Village

Kimchi Pancake
There were many tables and chairs. I like this idea of buying food from the stalls and dining under the stars.

Entrance of Namsangol Hanok Village

How to get to Namsangol Hanok Village? 
Closed on Mondays.
Metro: Chungmuro Station (subway lines 3, 4) exits 3, 4

Noryangjin Wholesale Fisheries Market


Alaskan King Crab
I fulfilled my dream of eating live seafood and especially live octopus in Seoul. It is definitely worth paying a visit because of the freshness of the seafood and the prices were also cheaper than the restaurants in the main shopping area. It is also very accessible.

How to get to Noryangjin?
Metro Station: Noryangjin


Hollys Coffee & Sweet Potato Latte


The next day, I started my lovely day by having my breakfast at Hollys Coffee before checking out the shopping scene in Seoul. Hollys Coffee is a Korean brand which started its first espresso shop in 1998. I did not have any espresso but I finally got to try the much hyped about Sweet Potato Latte! It was amazing! I loved the atmosphere at Hollys Coffee and I returned a few more times to try their Bingsu.


Hollys Coffee

Bingsu - Ice Shavings Dessert

Sweet Potato Latte

There are many Hollys Coffee Outlet in Seoul. The one that I went to is near Hotel PJ.

Hollys Coffee
2, Toegye-ro 36-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul 04626, South Korea
+82 2-516-0140
Metro: Chungmuro

Where to shop for beauty products in Seoul?



Seoul is also famous for beauty products of good quality at reasonable prices. It was an eye opener at  the Lotte Mart! 

Lotte 

Lotte Outlets
Lotte Outlets is a departmental store selling clothes, bags and shoes at discounted prices. I was too excited to check out LOTTE MART so I spent most of my time there, checking out the various beauty products. One interesting point that I noted was that most of the brands sell their products especially the facial masks in bulk at really reasonable prices. There were also substantial discounts for sets of beauty care. I bought a few masks and a eye roller gel which were really good.


Lotte Mart
How to get to Lotte?
Metro: Seoul Main Station

I was very tired at the end of my shopping experience. All I wanted was to sit down and relax with a cup of coffee. I found a really nice place which was situated right at Seoul Station building - Paris Croissant!

Paris Croissant

Pineapple Cake

Paris Croissant is a bakery chain based in South Korea. The cafe was beautiful with a variety of cakes. I chose a cake that had a pineapple filling. It was so good that I could finish every bite of it. 

Paris Croissant
Address: 405 Hangang-daero, Hoehyeon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Phone: +82 2-312-7734
Metro: Seoul Main Station


After a good rest, it was time to explore Namdaemun Market!

Namdaemun Market


Namdaemun
Namdaemun means "South Great Gate". Namdaemun market is the oldest market in Seoul. Unfortunately, it was raining heavily and I did not get to explore much. It is definitely the market to go to if one were to purchase Korean Ginseng. There were many shops selling different types of Korean Ginseng, local products and souvenirs at reasonable prices. 

Shop selling Korean Ginseng 

Souvenirs
How to get to Namdaemun market?
Take subway line 4 to Hoehyeon station (Namdaemun Market) and come out of exit #5. 

After a brief time of exploring Namdaemun market, I must try Korean BBQ! It is not easy for a solo traveller to eat Korean BBQ because the restaurants require a minimum of 2 pax. At Namdaemun market, I was turned away by a female stall owner curtly. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise to be rejected because I stumbled upon an excellent BBQ restaurant at Namdaemun, right beside the Subway exit. I learnt during my travels that setbacks are usually the start of another adventure.

What to eat at Namdaemun market? Gonggam BBQ restaurant


Korean BBQ!
Fry your omelette FOC! 
The service at Gonggam was excellent. The prices were very reasonable. The meat was great! The ambience was lovely! There was even an egg station for customers to fry their own omelette for free.


Comfortable and tastefully decorated




Gonggam
30, Namdaemun-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul 04529, South Korea
+82 2-3789-0011



Gwangjang Market

Gwangjang market is known to be the oldest functioning market in Seoul, popular among locals and tourists. I just asked a Korean where she would eat street food and she also recommended Gwangjang Market. I could find all kinds of local food here, including live octopus! The prices for seafood was higher than Noryanjin wholesale market though.

Gwangjang Market

How to go to Gwangjang Market?

Gwangjang Market
Metro station: Jongno 5
Address: 88 Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno 4(sa)-ga, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Opened: 1905
Hours: 9AM - 6PM (Some restaurants are still opened till 8PM but the food stalls are still opened.)
Hangul: 광장시장

After feasting at Gwangjang Market, I went to Dongdaemun which was just a station away. Dongdaemun has its own food street but it closes early. It is very well known for its late night shopping.

Dongdaemun Late Night Shopping

Dongdaemun
Dongdaemen means "East Big Gate" and if you want to continue to shop after midnight, this is the place!

Good Morning City Mall
The best part of my Seoul trip was the traditional Korean Spa! I was chatting happily with a lady store owner when I told her that I was very tired. She told me that I must try traditional Korean Spa and introduced me to Sparex situated right in Dongdaemun! Good things happen when we open our hearts to connect. Yippie!

Sparex - Traditional Korean Spa


Sparex
I enjoyed myself so much that I went to Sparex twice during my five day trip to Seoul! For a detailed guide on Gwangjang market, Dongdaemun and Sparex, click here.

Sparex
B3 &4 Good Morning City Shopping Mall, 418-21 Euljiro 6-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea



The only thing that I missed was Jeju. Initially, I was looking forward to a day trip in Jeju island to spend some time in nature. Unfortunately, I was told that it is best to plan a 2D1N in Jeju. There was no day trips available. It is okay. Someone once told me that it is good to leave some regrets in every country so that we can visit them again some day! I hope you have enjoyed reading my experiences in Seoul.

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