It's that exciting time when a loved one visits you while you are living and teaching in Korea! There is nothing more fulfilling than sharing a special milestone in your life with a friend or family member who is close to you. However, now the sweat begins... Where do you take them? What itinerary will you create? You have only one day in the bustling city of Seoul, here are some great stops on your must-see and must-do list!
This past week, I was beyond excited to welcome my mom to Korea! It was her first time in Asia and the "Land of Kimchi"! It was difficult to think of touristy things to do, since I have become accustomed to a Korean way of life and the everyday surroundings. I researched top 10 tourists’ spots and activities in my local area, Seoul, and used previous travel experience of where to go in this vibrant city. I also contacted Korea Tourism Info and spoke to a few Korean friends to get an idea of what is considered authentic and traditional while visiting Seoul city.
A Unique Historical and Cultural View of Seoul
For a trendy city like Seoul, it is surprising to discover so much history and rich culture in every corner of it. The perfect day spent sightseeing in Seoul from a historical perspective will start off strolling through Gyeongbuk Palace to enjoy the guard change at 10 am. Gyeongbuk Palace was built in 1395 and is the largest palace in Seoul. It is in the most Northern part of the city, and is close to the president’s residence, called the Blue House. It is a wonderful place to find your inner peace; exploring the old Hanok courtyards, sitting by the calming Hyangwonjeong pond and enjoying a stunning backdrop of Bugak mountain.
In front of Gyeongbok Palace is Gwanghwamun Square. This is where you can see a famous King Sejong statue and an underground shrine dedicated to “Hangul” language known as Korean. It is less than a five minute walk from the palace entrance. You can also walk a little further past the square (heading in the opposite direction of Gyeongbok's main gate) and come across Cheongyecheon stream. This stream is a great place to hang out, have a coffee and enjoy the sun. If you walk along the stream, there will be recycled art along the streambed and if you are lucky there might be some artistic displays along the pathway to Jogyesa Temple.
After relaxing in downtown Gwanghwamun, you can walk about 15 minutes to the artsy and bustling neighborhood of Insadong. Insadong has been revived recently, from a tourist craft market, into a lively art-street that promotes local artists and entrepreneurs. A must-have is the famous 'dong' bread with red bean paste inside and a hotteok! Filled with sesame seeds, crispy batter and honey-syrup! Afterwards, you should walk up the spiraling staircase of Ssamziegil shopping center. You should buy all your Korean souvenirs in Insadong area, (it is rated the best area for tourist shopping) such as traditional chopsticks, hairpins and Korean fans.
Located near Insadong’s main street is the unique neighbourhood of Samcheongdong. Samcheongdong is considered one of the best neighborhoods in Seoul, because of its mix of traditional and modern Korea. It is the perfect area to venture to after you are all shoppedd-out! Walk straight towards Anguk station and crossover the street into the Hanok Bukcheon Village. Here you can enjoy old cobbled lanes that pave their way into the wooden-styled Hanok houses, that nestle on various inclines.
A great place to hang-out here, is in a traditional tea house. The Bukcheon Hanok Village has a variety of tea samples from tasty flower teas to refreshing iced teas! A popular tea house nestled in the Bukcheon village is "Cha Masisneun Teull". This tea house is one of my personal favorites because of its unique traditional atmosphere and stunning view of the Hanok village. My mother and I sampled iced Bokbuncha, a traditional Korean tea, and Japanese Apricot flower tea. Accompanying the teas were our choice of delicious fried-nut cookies, which are healthy and natural and truly scrumptious!
By now, you should be hungry and ready for some dinner! Next stop is the famous shopping district of Myeongdong for some of the best Kal-kuksu Seoul has to offer! Myeongdong Kyoja is renowned for their noodles and dumplings. The restaurant has been in business for about 40 years, and always has a long line waiting hungrily outside. The most popular choice to eat here is the Kalguksu, which is wheat flour noodles served in a beef broth with vegetable dumplings inside. After dinner, you can do a little shopping in the Myeongdong district and eat some dessert at Solbing. Solbing is famous for the Korean traditional dessert called Patbingsu (shaved ice dessert with sweet red bean paste and ice cream).
Finally, you should end off an awesome day with a magnificent view of Seoul! A night time view on a clear day in Seoul can present a city of bright lights and hidden treasures. In the distance you can see mountains lit with lighted pathways and zigzagging tail lights of the millions of people below!
Namsan Tower, also known as the North Seoul Tower, is the perfect spot to see a good landscape panorama of Seoul and it is within walking distance of Myeongdong station. You can walk straight out of exit 3 and hook a left at the Pacific hotel to the North Seoul Tower cable car.
Namsan Tower is accessible by cable car or a hiking trail. Tourists prefer catching the cable car near Myeongdong, to the top of Namsan Mountain. My mom and I caught theSky Elevator up to the top of North Seoul Tower . The panoramic view was magnificent from the top and we got to send postcards and eat delicious popcorn, while enjoying a glorious view of Seoul. The cable car round trip cost 8,500W each and the Sky Elevator cost 10,000W each. You can also take a locket with you, and clip it with your name, to the millions of love locks that surround the tower railings.
Overall, my mom enjoyed this day’s itinerary, as we got a final photograph in the North Seoul Tower, showing proof of our great adventure together!
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!