Your beloved author (lol) is trying something new. To retroactively write a piece about the city you visited is one thing, but having 8 days in a city is a a fair bit of time. So we find our beloved author (lol) writing this post even before she leaves her current city.
*And at the time of publishing beloved author (LOLLL) was still editing this piece so I don’t even know what I’m trying to get at anymore.*
OK writing in 3rd person is weird. I am your beloved author, and I also hate editing my own work, but looking back on some of the previous posts I’ve written for my travels, it’s come to the point that I really want to try and make my writing as concise as possible, while still keeping a sense of humour and things…flowy (so close).
When I first told people I would be spending 8 days in Seoul, I kept getting told “Are you sure? That’s so long.” It got to the point where I was starting to regret my time there, before I even arrived.
After 8 (OK as I right this, 7 (OK now as i publish actually 8)) days you know what I say? Thank GOODNESS I chose to spend 8 days in Seoul. I have 3.5 weeks in South Korea total, and could have easily spent all of them in the capital. Besides the amazing nightlife, food, and shopping, there’s a plethora of museums, palaces, temples, and cultural and architectural feats to marvel at. In addition, there’s a handful of hikes that take you into the mountains and out of the city and all you have to do is take the subway for half an hour or less.
While not as easy on the budget as Southeast Asia, it’s extraordinarily easy to find cheap (along with a handful of free) acitivites and outings. Many museums offer free admission, and of course walking the local and national parks are always free of charge. With a bit of wandering you can eat meals for anywhere between $4-$10 CAD (with $10 being a very large serving that could be split between friends or used for lunch and dinner). Public transportation is efficient and opens a whole world of possibilty for exploring.
My guesthouse was near Hapjeong Station, in the Hongdae area. Hongdae is where you want to be for nightlife as you can find bars, clubs, noraebangs (karaoke), and a pedestrian street with performers all within walking distance from each other. Not being a night owl, I still found ways to enjoy the vibrancy of this area at night through walking down and window shopping with street food in hand, and going to a bar and noraebang with friends from my guesthouse.
A great, cheap option for a night out with friends? The aforementioned noraebang (karaoke, but named differently here). With 2/3 people, you can pay around $1 for 6 songs. When I went with a group of 7, it was $4 per person for an hour of “singing” (because let’s be honest, it’s screaming/wailing/shouting lyrics and not pretty at all). In the last week I’ve gone with one other friend, and then with a group of 7 total. How I’m still able to talk is beyond me…
Other free activities I’ve partaken in have been visiting the War Memorial and Museum, and hiking Bukhansan National Park. The War Museum and Memorial is, in my opinion, a must-visit for anyone who, like me, has minimal knowledge of the history of Korea and the Korean War. When I visited on a Tuesday afternoon, the military was giving a demonstration on ancient battle techniques and current training drills.
For those looking to escape the city and get a workout, Bukhansan is a must-visit as well. There are many different routes and trails to follow, and you’ll be in the company of older ladies and men who are…for lack of a better word, hardcore (think walking sticks, layers of athletic wear, visers…).
And for cheap shopping, you can’t beat $1 (or less) face masks at Myeongondong, fancy bookmarks at Insa-Dong, and $3-$5 clothes at the Express Bus Terminal underground shopping centre (sidenote: subway stations in general have pretty good clothing selection and price if you’re looking for something less than $10).
How can I forget the rich cultural history and architectural feats. There are 5 Grand Palaces around Seoul, all built by Kings of the Joseon dynasty. I hit up Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung during my time there. Gyeongbokgung is the biggest of the palaces, and covers an enormous area. However, Cheongdeokgung was my favourite. There didn’t feel to be as much empty space as there was at Gyeongbokgung, and I found the colours of the palace and the layout of the grounds more appealing.
For anyone interested, my Seoul itinerary is below. It’s definitely doable to add in more activities, but this was perfect for me
Day 1: Arrival, Hongdae walking steet at night
Day 2: Myeongdong shopping district, War Memorial and Museum, cable car to Namsan Park and Seoul Tower
Day 3: Gyeongbokgung Palace, Insa-Dong shopping area
Day 4: Bukhansan National Park hike
Day 5: Iwha Mural Village, noraebang
Day 6: Jongmyo Shrine, Changdeokgung Palace and Secret Garden
Day 7: Traditional Korean Tea House, noraebang in the evening with hostel friends
Day 8: Shopping at Express Bus Terminal underground mall
Seoul is one of those cities where if you have 1 day or 1 week you’ll easily find things to do (and eat). As I finish this post up I’ve just finished my first day of activities in Jeju and will be blogging about my time here soon!
Until next time!
Next up, Jeju-do (Jeju Island)