Surrounded by several hills, Seoul is nestled between history and modernity. As the capital of South Korea, it is also the third biggest city in the world. Here is a shortlist for an itinerary into the land of kimchi, soju and barbecue !
How to move ?
Subway, bus, taxis, ride about in Seoul is quite easy. Everything is written in English and hangeul (Korean alphabet). Once at the airport, you can buy a SIM card for 5 days (about 20 euros for unlimited data). It often comes with a TMoney card which enables you to take all public transportations and pay in affiliated stores. As a high technologic country, wi-fi is free everywhere !
First day :
Namsan park is located at the top of one of the hills ; what I like in visiting a city is to take height and have a complete idea of it ! I walked for about 30 minutes and arrived to N Seoul tower that offers a great vision of the whole city heart. As often in Asia, you have also the choice to take a cable car 😉
Let’s try then a typical – and so much present in their art of living – “jimjilbang”. This a kind of public bath or sauna where Korean people like to spend their time. They come with friends, to discuss, relax and enjoy the multiple services offered. You will find there every kind of bath but also movie projection, food, drinks, nap place, massage… I recommend the Siloam Spa, huge and great area for about 10 euros or 15 000 won. Be careful : as in Japan, jimjilbang have naked area (un-mixed).
For dinner, I really enjoyed the Myeong Dong night market. Located near the cathedral, you can find a lot of different street food of excellent quality. Cheese, skewers, kimchi in several ways… The area is also quite lively and busy for a drink. You can also go to Hongdae ; not that far, the student and modern district is very nice as well. Then, if you are full of good vibes, you can join the Soap club for an epic night (famous international DJs and an underground scene as well).
Second day :
A little bit of history… Located in Seoul center, you definitely have to go to Gyeongbokgung palace. At the first place, looking quite like the Forbidden city, you will be impressed by the size and the meaningful colors you find there. So much details ! At certain times, you can have the chance to watch the guards changing. Include with your entrance fee, you can visit the folk museum to learn more about ancient traditions in Korea.
Your first bibimbap is calling ? Lucky you ! There is a street at the left of the palace called Yulgok-ro-1-gil full of delicious dish.
Enjoy then a major temple in Seoul, Jogyesa Temple. You can walk from the palace to this charming sanctuary, at the same time deeply religious and surprising. This is an historical place of buddhism in Korea, where catholicism and shamanism are still very present.
From there, take the subway to join another lovely area, Ihwa Dong mural village. What is to say about Ihwa Dong ? Let’s breath, take coffees, admire street art, panorama and architecture… Another soul and part of history of Seoul !
For dinner, you just have to climb down the hill and find Gwangjang night market. Quite covered, you can take a seat with local people and enjoy soju 🙂
Third day :
Quite intense but I advise you to explore the recent history or modernity of Korea. As divided in two parts, it is a must-see to discover the demilitarized zone (DMZ) at the border of north and south. Ironical isn’t it ? This area is still one of the most guarded worldwide but, in an other hand a unique refuge for animal species. Created in 1953, the JSA (joint security area) is located in the old village of Panmunjom.
To access this place, you need to book a tour with an operator. I recommend you this agency, price differs of the journey you take. It is so impressive and disturbing to be there, in the very center of tension. Emotionally charged as well as you realize that many Koreans dream precisely of the reunification.
If you still have some time, you can go back near Gyeongbokgung palace, to explore Ikseon Dong Hanok village. There you will find little shops, coffees and restaurants in an arty and authentic mood.
I hope you will love your days in Seoul ! Of course, there are a lot of other things to do, so feel free to add your tips or ask for other ones in the comment zone