Seoul, the dynamic, modern and bustling capital of South Korea has so much on offer. There’s a lot to pack in and 72 hours doesn’t give it the justice that it so deserves. Despite being there for such a short time, I managed to cram a lot in, taking in the huge range of things that Seoul has on offer. Here are some of the essentials for when time is of the essence. This non-exhaustive list covers both tourist and local hotspots, to ensure that your time spent there is used to the max.
Noraebangs – Korean Karaoke
A trip to South Korea is not complete without a trip to a Karaoke bar, known as a ‘Noraebang’. These private booth rooms allow you to go with your friends, choose the songs, and sing your heart out. Complete with props and musical instruments, this is a night out with a twist that leaves you with wonderful memories and the horrible realisation that you are never going to be the next Beyoncé.
Gwangjang Market – Seoul Street Food
For a quintessentially local meal, try the Gwangjang market, where you can find lots of small eateries serving homemade dishes. Here is a good place to try the small restaurants or food carts that serve delicious snacks and meals. The kimchi pancakes are a winner for a comfort food feel and can be paired with local beer or rice wine which is plentiful at the market. Tteokbokki, which are spicy rice cakes, are a classic and are found in abundance at the market stalls. For those who are not so keen on spicy food, kimbap, seaweed rice rolls, are a delicious alternative.
Myeongdong Shopping District
For cosmetics and clothes, there is no place better than this shopping district. Busy, with free samples and pop music blaring from the speakers of all of the shops, this is a must for anyone that wants to experience the unique feeling of shopping in Seoul. Look out for the sheet masks and other famous cosmetics, which can be found in bundles throughout Myeongdong, and be inspired by the street style from the young people. Find a bingsu restaurant for a late night sweet snack of shaved ice with all sorts of toppings.
To get the best views of the city, a dusk or night trip to the N-Seoul tower is a must, taking a cable car to the top of the mountain, where the tower sits. The views are truly spectacular. Make sure to take a padlock (thousands are on every surface at the top) to ensure that the memory of your visit stays forever.
The biggest palace of the historic Joseon dynasty, this wide complex features beautiful architecture and picturesque courtyards. Entry is free if wearing Hanbok (traditional Korean dress). With the rolling mountains behind it, and the hustle and bustle of Seoul in front, it fusions the old and the modern beautifully in a way that makes them feel so unique.
Fascinating history, contemporary culture, fashion and food are all blended into the busy metropolis which makes this list only a small taste of what you can experience in Seoul. But the good part is, it always leaves room for next time.