A vibrant culture and society that will keep you busy in every season, a delicious culinary tradition and beautiful natural landscapes are only some of the reasons that will make you want to travel to Seoul, one of the best places to visit in Korea. Read on for more and get inspired to book your next trip.
Top 10 reasons to travel to Seoul
***Guest post from Mar Pages of Once in a Lifetime Journey travel blog
1. Any food you like, it’s here
Apart from butternut and creamy cottage cheese, any food you like you can find it in Seoul. It’s not just “Korean BBQ”. You can anything from Bulgarian at Zelen to South African at Braai Republic and everything in between. I would highly recommend getting into Korean food though. The Koreans I know are very picky when it comes to food, so you’ll find that most of the cuisine is low on sugar and big on natural flavor. Try some live octopus if you’re feeling adventurous, or visit a traditional Korean restaurant to dig into some Hanshik. Don’t miss the street food like tteokbokki or hit Michelin star restaurants like Gaon and La Yeon. Seoul is for the serious foodies and is far from just kimchi and bibimbap, although there are several different kinds of each.
2. Shopping, shopping, and more shopping
I know that this may not entice most people as a travel destination, but trust me, bring an empty suitcase or two – you will go back home with a brand new wardrobe. If you know where to look, you’ll find massive discounts. As Korea is generally very fashion-forward, they have an “all-must-go” policy at the end of each season, so it’s not unlikely that you’ll find items for up to 90% off. My little secret for shopping is Munjeong-dong Rodeo Street (not Apgujeong) and the “Event Hall” in basically every single department store, usually located on the top floor.
3. Something for every season
One thing about Seoul that I can promise is that you will never be bored. There is something for everyone and for every season. Koreans are proud of the fact that they experience four seasons. There are cherry blossoms in Spring, the Seoul Lantern Festival along the Cheonggyecheon in Summer, gorgeous colors as you trek the mountains in Fall, and awesome skiing spots in Winter (just outside of Seoul). There are loads of festivals going on continuously throughout Seoul and the city is alive at any time of the year. Even mid-winter feels special and magical due to the lights around Christmas time. And as Korea is so thin, you can escape to either coast and go island hopping when the weather holds up.
4. Seoul’s thriving nightlife
If you’re a party-goer, a people watcher or a night owl, Seoul is your kind of city. From opulent sky rise clubs in Gangnam to expat-heavy Itaewon or trendy student occupied Hongdae, there are clubs and parties for all kinds of tastes.
I loved chilling at Obek (500) in Hongdae, a basement club that represents a cave where you can chill out on bean bags and smoke hubby bubbly. There are rock and indie clubs with live music, EDM joints, pretentious cocktail lounges, craft beer breweries and makgeolli bars, so you will definitely find your pick for a good time. The exciting and diverse nightlife is definitely one of the reasons that will make you want to travel to Seoul.
5. The history, the culture, the people
Seoul is Seoul because of the people that inhabit it. Korean service is always overboard and they will go out of their way to please customers. On the streets, you’ll experience the strong “ajumma” bashing their way through the crowds, “ajeossi” drinking to oblivion, young folks looking like K-pop stars and expats wondering the streets with awestruck eyes.
There are culturally significant landmarks at each corner from Gyeongbokgung Palace to Insadong Shopping Street and culminating in The Hanyangdoseong (Seoul City Wall) that lines the city meeting at its four main gates. A little tip for your cultural experience: visit a traditional Hanbok clothing store like OneDayHanbok and dress up while wandering the city.
Korean rich culture is one of the top reasons why you should visit Seoul.
6. Hiking in the city!
Seoul, like the rest of Korea, is very mountainous. So you can ascend the more convenient mountains like Namsan or adventure to the outskirts of Seoul to trek up Bukhansan in Ui-dong or Cheonmasan in Namyangju. One particular difference that you may find in Korea is that the base of the mountains is scattered with trekking stores, the mountains are always full with people, there are Buddhist temples dotted all over the mountains and once you reach the top, you will almost always find exercise equipment and a makgeolli salesperson.
One Korean tradition, when you reach the summit let out a loud yelp of “Ya-ho!” Hiking is by all means one of the things to do in Seoul.
7. Coffee culture
Korea is wired, and Seoul even more so. Not only do they have the fastest internet speeds in the world, there is also a coffee shop at each and every corner. As Korea is a social place, you will find that people do not often invite friends over to their houses, but rather meet up in public spaces. And coffee shops are the perfect location for a meet and greet. There may be high-schoolers cramming for SATs, language lessons going on, grannies meeting for some gossip, Yakuza-looking business men having “meetings”, or just the odd lover enjoying a cup of morning Joe. My favourite coffee shop is Caffe Themselves right in the center of Seoul, near Anguk station and Insadong. I have yet to taste a better coffee. Remember that in Seoul, you are not paying for the coffee necessarily, but the space in which you get free wifi, a seat and a place to charge your laptop and your soul. Takeaways are sometimes cheaper, so check before you pay.
The buses arrive on time, the subway information is in multiple languages, the taxis are cheap. You can never really get lost in Seoul as there is always some form of public transportation within hands reach. So go on, take a wrong turn, you never know what exciting new amazingness you might find.
9. The written language
Hangul, invented by King Sejong is such an easy alphabet to learn. The block-like structures of the alphabet are phonic, like English, not pictorial like Chinese and Japanese. You can easily learn Hangul in a week as it consists of only 24 letters. So when you travel Seoul, you will be able to phonetically sound out words, a plus as some words are borrowed from English so you’ll be able to read “bus” without any English words.
When I first arrived in Seoul, I was shocked by how safe it was. My first encounter was seeing a man leave his car, key in the ignition, engine running, while he went into 7/11 for about 5 minutes. Like any large metropolis, there is petty crime, but nowhere else have I seen a person leave their cellphone and wallet on the table of a coffee shop while they went to the bathroom. And I see it often in Seoul.
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**Pics from Pixabay