Seoul, a city of over 10 million people is far from the United States. But with so many non-stop flights from major cities like Chicago, New York, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco you’ll get there “before you know it” – after a couple of complimentary inflight meals, movies and drinks.
This design-driven creative city with advanced IT infrastructures and 2,000 years of history was designated a UNESCO City of Design in 2010. These days Seoul has won the hearts of the young and old throughout the world not because of designs alone. They are visiting Seoul to have first hand experiences at places of interest shown in their favorite Korean dramas. Some have the hope of meeting their favorite movie stars.
What can you do in Seoul besides visiting drama studio and drama locations? Here are Travelmath’s 5 things to do in Seoul:
Changdeokgung Palace and Huwon
Joseon Dynasty existed in Korea between 1392 until the Japanese occupation in 1910. You can trace the 500 years Joseon history by visiting four main palaces. They are Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Deoksugung, Changyeonggung and Unhyeongung. If you only have time for one palace, we recommend Changdeokgung.
Changdeokgung is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was constructed in 1405 as a secondary palace of the Joseon Dynasty. Restored in 1610 after the Japanese invasion (1592-1598), the palace became the main place for the kings for about 270 years. It is also the most well preserved palace of the Joseon Dynasty.
Another attraction not to be missed while visiting Changdeokgung is the Secret Garden, known as Huwon in Korean. Huwon is only available on set times and through guided tours. A separate ticket is needed to visit Huwon.
More information: Changdeokgung and Huwon
Korean food is generally spicy and low in calories. Every meal in Seoul comes with side dishes (banchan in Korean) and kimchi is an indispensable side dish on a Korean table setting.
Some of the must try dishes when visiting Seoul are bulgogi (barbecued beef), galbi (barbecued ribs), samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup), bibimbap (steamed rice topped with chili paste and preserved and cooked vegetables), japchae (stir fried glass noodles), topokki (spicy rice cakes), juk (Korean style porridge), gimbap (Korean rolls), sundubu jjigae (soft tofu stew) and jeon (Korean fried vegetable pancakes).
Street food is everywhere in Seoul. For a concentrated place for street food you must get to Gwangjang Market. Here you may get to try all the food listed at more affordable prices.
Bukchon Hanok Village
Bukchon was the place of residence for Joseon Dynasty’s scholars. Today it is still a private residence area that attracts thousands of tourists per day. You can walk through the narrow streets filled with private traditional houses called hanok. There are a few guesthouses, teahouses, restaurant and cultural centers in the village.
Signs like “please do not disturb the neighbors in this area” and “please give the residents in Bukchon morning calm and quiet evening” are found throughout the village. Visiting hours are from 10 am to sunset.
Some of the places of interest in Bukchon include The Han Sangsu Embroidery Museum, The Traditional Liquor Museum Gahoe-dong (the center of the village) and eight viewing points of the city and palaces.
Seoul is a shopper’s paradise especially for those who like cosmetics, skin care products, fashion and luxury goods.
Korea collects 10% Value-added Tax (VAT) and luxury tax for high priced luxury goods. Visitors may be eligible for a tax refund when goods are purchased at designated stores and must be 30,000 won or more.
Namdeaemun market is the wholesale center of Korea. You can find many fashion items in wholesale prices here. Myeong-dong is one of the best places to shop for cosmetics, fashion and souvenirs. Dongdaemun market is the place for clothing at affordable prices and Gwangjang Market is filled with traditional Korean clothing like hanbok.
You can check out mega shopping malls like Coex Mall, Park Mall and Centum City and electronics outlets in Itaewon, Insadong and Yongsan Electronics Market and Techno Mart.
Find out more about tax refunds here.
This tour will take you to Checkpoint 3 of Panmunjeom’s Joint Security Area where you may peek into the land of mysterious North Korea. The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is about 154 miles (248 kilometers) across the Korean Peninsula from the mouth of Imjin River in the west to the town of Goseng in the east.
A half day tour from Seoul usually starts at 8 am or 11 am. This tour usually takes you to Imjingak Park, The Bridge of Freedom, The Third Infiltration Tunnel, DMZ Theater and Exhibition Hall, Dora Observatory, Dorasan Station and Unification Village.
More information: DMZ
Tips before traveling to Seoul: