Seoul Gyeongbok Palace
Gyeongbok Palace (Photo credit: 이룬봉)

Seoul Travel Guide

QUICK FACTS

  • Officially known as Seoul Special City, with a population of ~10.6 million people.
  • Part of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network due to cutting edge design.
  • Located on the banks of the Han River, with a history going back 2,000 years.
  • A global financial and technological powerhouse, with the world’s fourth largest metro economy by total GDP (after Tokyo, NYC, and LA).
  • Has a very high quality of life, and the world’s fastest internet connections (up to 1 Gbps).
  • Nickname: Soul of Asia

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

  • Currency: Won (KRW).
  • Spoken languages: Korean, although most locals have a basic grasp of English.
  • Best time to visit: from October to March. Pack a sweater and an umbrella, as the weather can be unpredictable.
  • Arriving via aiport: Incheon Airport (ICN) connects with most areas of the city via Limousine buses and Express Train with fares calculated based on distance. Taxi stands are located at the arrival level and cost ₩40,000 to ₩65,000.

WHERE TO STAY

Jongno and Sinchon offer guesthouses, hostels, backpacker bars, and cafés close to the main sights, while Itaewon boasts a great variety of shopping options. Garosugil and Sinsa are fashionable and quiet, while Apgujeong takes the honours for trendy cool.

GETTING AROUND

  • T-Money is a transaction and transportation card that can be used to pay for subway and bus fares, giving you a ₩100 discount on tickets plus free transfers across the network.
  • The Seoul Subway is the world’s largest (by length), and known for its efficiency and cleanliness. Lines are distinguished by colour codes. Fares start at ₩1,150 and are distance dependent.
  • Bus routes are also colour coded, and cover defined routes within the city with tickets based on a starting fare plus an additional ₩100 for each km thereafter.
  • Group taxis are either Call Vans or Jumbo Taxis, the first being used for passengers transporting freight and cargo goods, and the latter for regular passengers. Call Vans have negotiable fares and license plates that start with the number 8; Jumbo Taxis use the meter with fares starting at ₩4,500 for the first 3 kilometres and ₩200 for each additional 164 metres. Standard (regular) taxis charge ₩2,400 for the first 2 kilometres and ₩100 for each successive 144 metres, and can be booked on 02-1330.

SEOUL NIGHTLIFE

  • Drinking age is 19, and last call is at 5 AM.
  • Hongdae has a multitude of bars, cafés and street performances that go deep into the Korean sub culture.
  • Sinchon and Gangnam Station are the watering hole of Korean university students looking for cheap drinks and casual bars that stay open late.
  • Samcheong-dong is where the fashionable and trendy congregate.

UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT

  • Gyeongbok-gung is Korea’s most famous palace, once belonging to the Joseon Dynasty.
  • Seoul Tower is a communication and observation tower – the highest point in the city.
  • Heunginjimun is one of the Eight Gates of Seoul in the Fortress Wall of Seoul, also designated as a National Treasure.
  • The National Museum of Korea is dedicated to Korean art and history, and boasts the largest collection of relics and antiquities in the country.
  • Cheongwadae is the presidential residence, also referred to as the Blue House. Visits need to be booked a week in advance.
  • Sangam Stadium was built for the FIFA World Cup 2012 and is a distinct structure, shaped like a traditional Korean kite.
  • Lotte World is the world’s largest indoor theme park, complete with luxury hotel, top rides, excellent shopping options and the Korean Folk Museum.

INTERESTING WALKS

  • Namsan Park is perched atop its namesake mountain in the centre of Seoul, accessible by cable car.
  • Insadong is a one-stop shop for everything Korean including tea houses, galleries and quaint shops selling antiques.
  • Namdaemun Market is perfect for souvenir shopping over some healthy haggling.
  • Bukchon Hanok Village is a beautiful area of the city bearing traditional Korean housing.

LOCAL WISDOM

  • Koreans place family values above individual needs. Protocols and etiquettes are strictly enforced and respected.
  • Pungmullori is a traditional Korean art form combining music, dance and acrobatics. Performances can be caught at the Korean Folk Village or at Chongdong Theater.
  • Where to find good cheap eats: Sindang and Ojang for quick and cheap meals eaten standing up, Majang meat market for barbecue and Dobong for the city’s best tofu.
  • Dangerous areas: Seoul is generally very safe. Exercise caution at night, especially when walking alone (just as in any major city).

RECOMMENDED SEOUL GUIDE BOOKS

Recommended trip duration: 3-4 days


SEE ALSO:
Seoul Travel Guide was last modified: September 22nd, 2016 by Nick
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