Living in Asia, you often hear that Seoul, South Korea is one place that can’t be missed. I was really intrigued by all I had heard about Seoul, but because of how cold the winters get, I wanted to make sure that I visited during the summer. So I messaged a friend who was planning to visit Hong Kong in June and we booked a quick 48-hour trip to Seoul.
Korean currency is called Won, and they don’t take other types of currency. Most places do, however, take credit card, including cabs, but keep some cash with you to either top up your T Money transportation card (more information on this below) or to have just in case.
Seoul is huge. But thankfully travel around Seoul is really affordable and easy.
- Getting to/from the airport: Incheon airport is quite far from Seoul, but there are three ways to get into the city.
- Bus – Taking a bus from the airport is usually my least favorite option even as a former New Yorker. But the bus options from Incheon to Seoul really changed the game for me. Not only are the buses spacious and clean, but they also get you to most of the main hubs in the city, including Metro stations. The bus stops are also right outside of the airport and there are loads of bus ticket stations that you’ll see after you exit customs and they’re all great at helping you figure out the right bus.
- AREX Train – The AREX train is another option that gets you to downtown Seoul from both Incheon and Gimpo airports. It is faster than the bus, but it only takes you to Seoul station. So if you’re not staying near Seoul station, you might have to connect from there.
- Taxi – We didn’t use a taxi to get to the city, but you can find more information about it here and ask the airport staff to help you – they’re super friendly!
- Getting around the city:
- GOOGLE MAPS DOESN’T WORK – It took me a day to really realize this. They use a map app called Naver instead (an English translation is available on the phone app). I ended up combining both by using the GPS on Google Maps to determine which direction we were walking in (Naver doesn’t show this), while following the route laid out on Naver. It sounds cumbersome, but once you know which direction you’re in, you can just follow Naver.
- Cabs are super cheap so in case you don’t want to walk, it’s a great way to get around. But if you’re open to public transportation, the Metro is amazing. It might take a bit to figure out how it’s all laid out, but once you do, it’s the easiest way to get around since all displays have English. You can purchase single rides at the station, but I recommend getting a T Money card or another pass from 7-Elevens or other convenience stores. You can load it up as you need to and quickly go from place to place. Most of these cards can be used on the buses as well
Where we stayed:
There are loads of great areas and beautiful hotels to stay in when visiting Seoul, but we opted for Hotel 28 in Myeongdong, and loved it.
We chose to stay in Myeongdong because we had heard there was good shopping there, but we also found that the hotel and location perfectly suited our needs.
The hotel is a small, extremely well maintained, boutique hotel with a fun rooftop that we took advantage of on our first night. The rooms were spacious and the staff was super helpful. It was also really easy to get around from there because of the hotel’s proximity to the Euljiro 1-ga station.
What we saw:
We spent about 60% of our time eating, 10% shopping, and the remaining going to:
Where to eat:
Saying that we tried a few things is a severe understatement. And in case you’re wondering, they were all so good <insert drool emoji>
- Hotel 28 Rooftop
- Angel-in-us Coffee – It’s a coffee chain in South Korea, but has great coffee and souffle pancakes
- Egg Drop
- Gwangjang Market – Where food sighting and sightseeing become one. We grabbed tteokbokki and gimbap at a random stall but ate lunch at the Gohyang Kalguksu Stall as featured on the Street Food Seoul episode on Netflix. Yoonsun Cho’s knife-cut noodles and dumplings were the best meal I had on the trip.
- VVertigo – the Conrad hotel rooftop
- Two speakeasies in Gangnam:
- Coffee Hanyakbang
- Paris Baguette – A global chain that started in South Korea, so we figured, why not
- Myeongdong Gyoja
- BHC Chicken Beer Plate
Where to shop:
Our clock ran out before we could spend much time shopping. But we did do some damage when shopping for beauty products in Myeongdong.
Myeongdong is known for its plethora of beauty product shops that line each street. Some stores are even repeated from street to street to make sure that you don’t miss one in whatever direction you might be walking in. The beauty products range from skincare and makeup to body shaping patches, so there’s literally something for everyone. And when I say body shaping patches, they’re literally patches that claim to contour your face into the perfect v-shape chin line or reshape your stomach area. I have no clue whether they work, but if you’re interested, there’s only one way to find out!
- When to go:
- From K and other friends who have been, Seoul can get really cold in the winter, thanks to the winds. So I made it a point to go in the summer which in my opinion was probably more worthwhile because we could explore rooftops as well.
- The temperature fluctuates quite a bit in the summer from humid and hot during the day, especially when the sun is out, to high 60s (F) / ~20s (C) in the evenings. So if roaming about during the day, don’t forget your SPF. Then switch it out for a light layer in the evenings.
- What to pack: It of course depends on what you want to do and what season you travel in, but one thing to bring are shoes you can walk in. Like in any big city, you should expect to get a fair amount of walking in at least during the day, and then can switch into something more impractical for the evening.
- Language: Most people know English and are super friendly so we found it pretty easy to get around. In fact, one shop owner was so nice that he stopped working to use his phone to call a restaurant we were looking for.
It’s great to finally be able to confirm how amazing Seoul, South Korea really is. The food is amazing, the streets are clean and colorful, and the people are super friendly and helpful.
The only downsides were that we didn’t get a chance to dive into the shopping culture outside of makeup. We also didn’t make it to the Seoul Library and… missed out on Korean bbq! I’d also like to see the DMZ. But those are all reasons to go back!
See you soon Seoul!
Edited by: Betty Ho