I’m back from a week of traveling in Seoul and can’t wait to share my travel adventures!
When I was itinerary planning for Seoul I did a lot of research to understand the lay of the land. From my research I realized that Seoul is huge! The city is divided into 25 districts and divided by the Han River. Our hotel, Shilla Stay Mapo, was located in the Mapo district which is West of the city. The main district, Jongno, is where you can find most of the tourist attractions such as the palaces, Bukchon Village, Insa-dong, and Cheongyecheon stream. The Jung district includes the other half of the tourist attractions such as Myeongdong shopping area, Namdaemun Market, Dongdaemun, and Namsan mountain. South of the river is the famous Gangnam district which is known as the Beverly Hills of Seoul and contains sights such as COEX mall, Bongeunsa Temple, Samneung Park, and Olympic Park.
Getting Around in Seoul
From Incheon airport the most convenient and cost effective way to get to Seoul is to take the AREX train. Depending on what part of Seoul you are going to there is the Express Train or All Stop Train.
Subway // The subway in Seoul is massive. A great app to navigate the Seoul subway is this one. I used it several times to navigate around the city and get updates on travel times between stations.
Taxi // A few times we traveled via taxi because it was easier with the baby and stroller. Taxis are very cheap in Seoul. However not many taxi drivers speak English. Therefore I made sure to have the addresses pulled up in Korean and I made sure to grab a direction card from our hotel and gave it to all the taxi drivers when we needed to get back to the hotel. We didn’t have many issues
Walking Map App // To my surprise google maps doesn’t really work in Seoul. Before traveling I read a few articles recommending to download NAVER Map for walking directions. The app does provide great walking directions and additionally offers multiple routes via subway and taxi (including estimated fare cost).
There is a lot to see in Seoul. I was there for a week and I don’t think I was able to see everything but I definitely hit the highlights! There are many sites to see and the easiest way to discover Seoul is to explore each district on a daily basis. I’m breaking down the sites by each district.
Jongno District | This district is basically the center of Seoul and contains majority of the palaces and sights to see.
- Gyeongbokgung Palace // This is the largest palace in Seoul. It is huge and there is a lot to see!! Be sure to catch the changing of the guards during your visit!
- Changdeokgung Palace // We did a drive by by this palace and sadly didn’t get to visit. It was on the itinerary but that day it was super hot and my nephew wasn’t having it therefore I nixed it and we ended up at a cafe instead.
- Bukchon Village // This area is a tradition Korean village that contains traditional Korean homes. Grab a cup of coffee from a local shop and roam the streets of this picturesque area.
- Jongmyo Shrine // This was another temple I was eager to visit however didn’t make it because it was a super hot day!
- Jogyesa Temple // This was one of my favorite temples! The lanterns were up for Buddha’s birthday celebrations (May 22) and thankfully we visited just in time before they were taken down.
- Insa-dong // This area consists of little alley ways filled with shops and tea houses.
- Ihwa Mural Village // I was very excited to visit this area and see the famous flower staircase mural and fish murals. It was a bit tricky getting here as it is a residential neighborhood, we took a cab from our hotel. Upon arrival I realized that the famous murals were gone! One of the locals explained that many of the residents didn’t appreciate the influx of tourists and painted over the murals in 2016. There are new murals popping up every once in a while however the famous staircase mosaics are officially gone.
Jung District | This district makes up the other half of the sights to see in Seoul.
- City Hall // The major attraction of this are is the “I SEOUL U” sign. It makes for a great photo op!
- Deoksugung Palace // This palace is directly across the street from City Hall. Tickets are required to visit.
- Dongdaemun Design Plaza // Dream, Design, and Play. This famous building was designed by the famous architect Zaha Hadid. It’s very modern! The building has various exhibits. My favorite part was the rooftop green space. Additionally the little artist shops were absolutely adorable.
- Cheonggycheon Stream // This stream is just a quick walk from Dongdaemun Design Plaza.
- Namsangol Hanok Village //
- Namsan Seoul Tower // Namsan Tower is an observation tower located on Namsan Mountain. To get to the tower you can take a Cable Car, bus, or by walking which takes about 40 minutes. We opted for the cable car to the tower. Once you arrive at the tower you can purchase tickets to go up to the observation deck to see 360 panoramic views of the entire city.
Gangnam District | This is the famous “Gangnam Style” district known for its glitzy shopping and modern buildings.
- Bongeunsa Temple // This temple is directly across COEX Mall. Be sure to make it all the way to the top to admire the statue of Maitreya.
- COEX Mall // The highlight of COEX Mall is Starfield Library. The library is a sight to see!
- Samneung Park
- Olympic Park
Mapo District | This area consists majority of the universities. There aren’t many sights to see in this area however there are a ton of great food and cafe! I will have a separate post sharing all the delicious food and fun cafes in Seoul to visit.
Yongsan District | This area is known for its multi-cultural and diverse neighborhoods.
- Itaewon // This area contains majority of the Halal food and other international foods and neighborhoods.
Seoul has many shopping districts!
- Myeongdong // This area is mostly known for it’s great skincare and cosmetic shops. A few of my favorite shops in this area are Stylenada, Etude House, Nature Republic, Tony Moly, Skin Food. I stocked up on so many sheet masks!! They are incredibly cheap in Korea and totally worth it. The same Tony Moly sheet masks I get in the US from ULTA for about $4 is only $1 in Korea! As a skincare junkie I was in heaven! I definitely went a little overboard and bought over 100 sheet masks.
- Namdaemun Market // Seoul is famous for all the night markets. These markets typically start around 10/11pm and last until early morning around 4am. Sadly we didn’t get to visit one due to my nephew’s sleep schedule. But I did here from locals that there are lots of great deals and street food that can be found at the market.
- Gangnam District // If you are looking for high end shopping and designer labels then Gangnam is the place for you. It’s basically like Rodeo Drive. You can find all the designer labels in this area!
One thing to note is that Wifi is available pretty much everywhere in Seoul and it’s super fast!! All the cafes and restaurants have Wifi and display the network and password for customers. Additionally I rented a Portable Wifi Egg via SK Telecom. The kiosk is conveniently located in the airport therefore as soon as we landed I picked up the Wifi egg and dropped it off at the airport before leaving Seoul. The Wifi egg was great to have since it allowed me to constantly be online which was beneficial for directions and keeping in touch with my family.
I absolutely loved Seould!! Aside from all the sites and delicious food I was totally blown away by how nice and helpful Korean people are. I can’t tell you how many times someone helped be with directions, or helped carry my nephew’s stroller up and down the stairs, and all the sweet servers in restaurants who played with my nephew so we could eat our meal. Everyone was beyond kind which made our trip very enjoyable.
Tomorrow on the blog I will have a detailed food guide for Seoul!!