Sunday, October 04, 2009

Seoul Recommendations

This recomendation compilation list is based on M., S. and P.'s extensive knowledge of Seoul in particular and South Korea in general.


The capital and largest city of South Korea, officially named Seoul Special City, but simply known as Seoul, is divided by the Han River in two unequal parts. The North side represents the more traditional side of the city and hosts the financial and government offices, the South is consider more modern and converges most of the new constructions and innovations.

  1. The historic area has several palaces to visit all day long: Kyungbok palace (경복궁), Changdeok (창덕궁) and Changgyung (창경궁) are the most known. The Changdeok palace is highly recommend with a special note to the “secret garden” hidden at the end of the tour. Once a day an English tour is proposed in the middle of the afternoon. The best way to reach the historic area would be to stop at the Kyungbok palace subway station.
  2. Insa-dong (인사동) has outgrown its own reputation to become a tourist wondering area to find the best souvenir and traditional goods to bring back home as gift for the family and friends. Next to the palaces, it could be reach from the same subway station as the previous recommendation.
  3. Samchung-dong (삼청동) is a newest area that turns its charm full on, with nice walks and cafes at every corner. The back alleys offer warmed beverages, overpriced restaurants, and tiny specialized shops. It would be better to go during week days since it is usually packed during the weekend. There's a famous (칼국수집) which is highly recommended. Also close to those palaces area, easily reach from the same subway stop mentioned before.
  4. Yonsei (연세대), Ehwa (이화대), Hong-ik University (홍익대) area are among the best to chill out and see the night life of Seoul. This is the place to eat cheaply, drink as much as you can, and dance till you drop (lot's of clubs and 노래방)
  5. Shin-chon (신촌동) is located between three of the most prestigious universities in Korea (Yonsei, Ewha Woman's, And Sogang), explaining why it is always filled with youngster at any time of the day or the night. Shin-chon is a place to also party late at night, eat as much as you can and compete if you dare with local expert in bar competitions.
  6. Myung-dong (명동) is the commercial center of the planet Seoul, and often compare to Ginza of Seoul. All the brands you can think of and the one that you don’t know about are in this district.
  7. Itaewon (이태원) is the place foreigners town in Seoul. To satisfy its small foreign population, the dong proposes a ton exotic restaurant, and overseas bars, for some fun and music have a pick at JJ bar and club at Hyatt Hotel.
  8. The Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, (747-18, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, next to Itaewon) is composed of three buildings each designed by a different architect: Rem Koolhaas, Jean Nouvel and Mario Botta. Based on drastically different designs, the ensemble reinforces each building in its uniqueness. A must see for Art lovers and Architecture fans.
  9. Nam-san (남산) best experienced at night, offers some hiking, recreation and views of downtown Seoul's skyline.

  1. Garosu-Gil (가로수길) is a newly nice walking area. Similar to 삼청동 in North, but fancier, the place offers brunches, cafes and restaurants for the Southerners. Try School Food (스쿨푸드) restaurant for yummy 떡뽁이, 김밥, and restaurant Bucella (부첼라) for tasty sandwiches.
  2. Chungdam-dong (청담동) & Apgujeong-dong (압구정동) are the new hip profiles of the South with tons of restaurant, bars, fancy shops. A place highly recommended for brunch or cocktail is “CAFÉ 74” (Tel: 02 542 7412 Address: 83-20 Chungdam-dong, Kangnam-Gu - opposite the entrance to Rodeo Drive up the hill on the left oppposite the Gaucho Grill). You can also go Dosan park (도산공원) for cafes and short walk
  3. Gangnam-Station (강남역 부근) is a new place for youngsters to hang around among office space. The area surrounding the busiest subway station in the whole Seoul Metropolitan Subway system, with approximately 123,000 daily passengers using it on average, is an important commercial and entertainment district
Outside Seoul
  1. Walk along the Han River around Banpo Area (반포지역 한강시민공원) around sunset
  2. Guacheon (과천 현대미술관) and its Contemporary Art Museum, is an interesting walk outside of Seoul. Easy access by subway line 4 (대공원역). There is also a large amusement park and zoo if you like at the same subway station. It's pretty nice area and walk when weather is nice.
  3. Dongdaemoon (동대문) has a large night market at line 4 (동대문운동장역)
  4. DMZ proposes an intriguing day trip for any visitor going to South Korea. This unique place, sometime only accessible by foreigner for obvious security reason, is famous around the world and could only be accessible by tour (ask your hotel, they will probably refer to a large collection of flyer and other brochure).
  5. Bookhan Mountain (북한산) offers day trekking just a stone throw from Seoul. Small restaurants around the entrance offers yummy 김치전, 파전, 막걸리, for long and hardship walks. Can be access by subway.
  6. For some more short hiking, you may go to mountains near Seoul, such as Dobong-san, or Soyo-san, all of them can be reached by subway easily
  7. Seol-Ak and Kyungpodae (on the East Coast of South Korea) are the best hiking place to go to on a longer trip to South Korea, only if time
  8. Namsangol Hanok Village (남산골한옥마을) is a typical Korean village where traditional houses have been restored and local festivities are famously organized for tourist
  9. Jeonju Hanok Village is located in the city of Jeonju and overlaps Pungnam-dong and Gyo-dong. There are over 800 traditional Korean 'hanok' houses. While the rest of city has been industrialized, Hanok Maeul retains its historical charms and traditions
  10. Namisum is a beautiful island, created as a result of the construction of the Cheongpyoung Dam. Although, the island is a green island, with many kinds of trees, including chestnut and poplars, it is also a multipurpose resort equipped with botanical gardens, a zoo and amusement attractions.
  11. Odae-San National Park is located on the Taebaek Mountains, the longest mountain range in South Korea, and proposes a large variety of historical sites, and convenient facilities for you to make it a smart base for latter exploration.
  12. Jeju-do (제주도/濟州島) is probably the best place to enjoy beautiful mountains, seashores, food and two Natural World Heritage Site: the Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes. If there were only one place to visit outside Seoul, that would be the one.

Where to Eat