Seoul is a city that never sleeps and you can find something to do, anytime, anywhere. Having access to do things like food shopping or grabbing a bite to eat 24 hours a day is why Seoul has become one of my favorite cities in the world. Also, there is literally a district in Seoul for every type of person. There are districts for the budding fashionista's, the coffee-goers, the party animals and the travelers. Seoul also has the perfect blend of modern buildings and historic landmarks. The typical Seoul 'to do list' would recommend tourist hot spots like Myeongdong and ltaewon, however as a honorary Seoulite, I'd like to give alternatives to the top 5 day trip spots to check out in the city during your time teaching in Korea.
1. Lotte World Tower & Seokchon Lake
There is plenty of things to do in Songpa district and the recently opened Lotte World Tower is one of them. Lotte World Tower opened in February this year, wowing crowds with a magnificent firework display. The tower has become a symbol of Korea's economic growth and a display of the nation's pride. The tower is located in a beautiful part of Seoul, surrounded by the Han River, Olympic Park and Seokchon Lake.
Seokchon lake compliments Lotte Tower as it reflects its magnificent structure in the water. Year round the lake is a great place to walk and in the Spring and Fall the views are rather picturesque, with the tower and cherry blossoms in the Spring and the foliage and the tower in the Fall. It is also a great place to have a picnic, take a stroll or lounge around at the many trendy cafe's with views of Lotte Tower and Seokchon Lake.
Below the tower is probably the most impressive mall in Asia, called the Avenuel. Whether you love luxury brands or beautiful interior, this building is a must-see. It smells like Gucci and feels like Louis Vuitton. It is a place where the elite Asians come to shop and the design is truly magnificent.
2. HBC (Haebangcheon)
HBC is the trendier part of Seoul, and is great a place to hangout, eat and party with friends. A lot of the city's up and coming bars and restaurants are located here, and you will always find foodies exploring this district. This district is also a great place to experience the foreign community of Seoul.
HBC is a place known for 'self-discovery' and in this district foreigners are exchanging languages, taking dance classes, playing a part in a musical, or dj-ing at night. Anything and everything goes here and usually you will find plenty of things to do and connections to make.
The recommendable thing to do is to stroll through HBC, discovering your taste buds as you adventurously meander between every little cobbled street. There is a maze of side streets and you can come across many shops, hipster cafes and even cat cafe's. Arts and crafts designed by local artists can be found in the nook and crannies, and you are bound to find something unique that catches your eye.
3. Hanok Bukchon Village
The Hanok Bukchon Village is possibly my favorite place in Seoul. I usually take all my foreign visitors there to enjoy the older relics that the city has to offer.
It is also the best place to experience a traditional tea house. The tea houses are inside of Hanoks, which are old Korean houses, and the Korean hostesses' make you feel welcomed. Here you can sample Korean and Chinese teas in a cultural setting and there are also delicious Korean treats such as rice cakes, pumpkin cookies and roasted sunflower seeds.
You can also wear a Hanbok, a traditional Korean dress, and discover the streets of Samcheondong with a feeling of nostalgia. lt is a great way to experience the past lifestyles and ways of Korean people.
Samcheondong is a part of Seoul that has retained its ancient roots with views of the old city walls and the traditional setting of a Hanok Village. Once you enter the Hanok Village there is a cobbled road aligned with the old city walls that plays host to candy-floss vendors and musicians. Finally, you can walk your way through these streets sampling everything from ttoboki (hot rice cakes) to mandu (dumplings).
Forget Myeongdong, Garosugil in Apgujeong, is the place to shop in Seoul. It is not only the hippest shopping district, but it is also crowded with k-pop stars and top local fashion designers and artists. The district is also nearby Gangnam and the famous Hyundai Department Store.
Garosugil is a street in Apgujeong and all the shops run along the street. You can start at the Sinsa station entrance and walk down to the end of the street. This street is particularly pretty in the Spring and Fall.
Apgujeong is a popular district for eating-out and there are plenty of trendy cafe's and alternative restaurants. Koreans particularly love Apgujeong for a fancier dinner and a Western-style brunch. The area is also saturated with some of Korea's most expensive cosmetic surgery clinics.
5. Ihwa Mural Village
Ihwa Mural Village is the perfect spot in Seoul to go on a date. It is situated in the Hyehwa district nearby Dongdaemun and is a popular university hangout.
Ihwa Mural Village has art in unexpected places and while discovering the area you can enjoy artwork everywhere. There are paintings on staircase, house walls, and inside cafes and art shops. You can also find plenty of shops with unique art, and craft designs.
Finally, You can venture up Mt. Naksan and experience beautiful murals on the mountainside, while trailing along the old city walls. The village has embraced the idea of caring for its residents and their heritage, while also embracing art.
Guldarigil is the best street to find the most unique murals and to enjoy Ihwa Mural Village and Naksan Park.
Whether you are placed with a teaching position in Seoul, or plan on visiting the city for a weekend trip, I hope these tips have been helpful as you make your plans.
It is no surprise that Tijana Huysamen, a South African born Capetownian, avid traveler and travel journalist, fell in love with South Korea and its people. After Tijana arrived in South Korea in 2010, she had the opportunity to live in the heart of the Korean countryside. During her time spent in Chungnam province she learned to speak Korean, prepare Korean food and experience the humble nature of the countryside people. After a year break in New York, Tijana jumped at the opportunity to return to Korea again, and is currently working at the CDI Jamsil Branch, in Jamsil, Seoul. Read Tijana’s Aclipse blog to gain a unique perspective on Korea and her shared experiences and adventures both in a major city and in the countryside. Follow Tijana on Twitter @TeeAnni or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request more information on teaching in Korea!