Finally, back to a Thursday travel post. I’ve been spacing them out a bit because, believe it or not, we actually don’t travel enough for me to post on a different place every single week! : ) On our way back to the US, we spent basically one day in Seoul, South Korea and had a great time. I had no idea how large the city is and it was completely different from what I expected. Seoul is often described as a major metropolitan city with lots of skyscrapers, so I thought it might be something like Tokyo, but it’s definitely not!
We had several options of cities to fly through after our amazing month in Thailand but I’m so glad we chose Seoul. Our plane landed around 1AM, took a shuttle to our hotel, got up early the next morning and had the whole day to explore. We decided on a hotel pretty close to the airport because we had so little time in the city. The hotel was easily within walking distance to the metro so it was perfect. As soon as I grabbed some of the BEST cold brewed coffee I’ve ever had in my life, we were off.
The Seoul metro is very nice and clean (definitely nicer than what we were used to in DC!). They don’t have a day pass option though so we chose destination passes. This was a bit confusing and pretty expensive but well worth it. The metro map is hands down the largest I’ve ever seen and they have certainly prepared each station in the event of any attacks.
Our first stop was the Gyeongbokgung Palace. Unfortunately, we happened to be there on a Tuesday, which is the one day per week the palace is closed. What we were able to see of it was pretty impressive though. This palace was the main palace of the Joseon dynasty and built-in 1395. It’s also the largest of the five grand palaces built during that dynasty. Like many of the palaces and architecture in South Korea, the palace was destroyed during the Imjin War. It was restored during the 19th century.
From the palace, we walked down several streets of one of the traditional Korean neighborhoods. The architecture was amazing and the houses are all still being lived in today.
Next stop was the Changdeokgung Palace, which is a UNESCO site (Featured Photo). This palace was constructed after Gyeongbokgung Palace between 1405 and 1412. It was destroyed during the Japanese invasion in 1592 and reconstructed in 1609, only to be burned down again in 1623. Each restoration is said to have stayed true to the original design.
We spent quite a bit of time walking around the palace. The grounds are expansive and that was even with skipping the additional Secret Garden tour, which I’m sure is very beautiful (although my feet thanked us for passing). We did purchase additional tickets to Huwan which includes several buildings for living quarters, pond, and several interesting shrines and statues.
By the time we were done walking around the palace I was more than ready for lunch, so we headed to the Kwangjang Market. I could have stayed there for the rest of the day! We tried traditional potato cakes and the best handmade dumplings and kimchi I’ve had in my entire life. Arguably one of the best meals I’ve ever had. The variety of foods available in the market was absolutely astounding.
When we couldn’t eat anymore, we headed toward the metro via a nice walk by a stream where locals gathered to dip their feet in the water in the shade of the bridges. We took the metro to the N Seoul Tower. A fairly short but uphill walk and we were waiting for the tram to take us to the top. We didn’t end up with a very clear day but still had a beautiful view. Because it wasn’t very clear we didn’t feel we needed to continue up to the highest point, which is an additional ticket purchase.
The top of the tower is covered in “love locks”, and when I say covered, I mean they are everywhere! They’re sold in the gift shops at the top and bottom of the tower, along with sharpies, if that’s on your to-do list! There are several snack places and restaurants at the top of the tower as well.
When we finished there, we hopped back on the metro and headed to the Seogyo-dong area of Seoul. By this time it was rush hour. The metro was packed and we were the only two people in our car not staring at our phones.
When we got to our stop it was pretty clear we were in a very hipster area of Seoul. We wanted to check out the Magpie Brewery (because what’s more hipster than craft beer?) and we weren’t disappointed. After that, we wandered around in search of dinner. I was really hoping to find some bibimbap but was actually out of luck. Either that area is too hip for traditional foods or we just didn’t know where to look. We did ask the staff at Magpie if they knew where we could find some thought and even after employing Google, they couldn’t find anywhere to recommend themselves.
So, bibimbap is #1 on the list for our next trip. Another highlight we’re planning for next time is hiking. The geography of Seoul is full of mountains with lots of hiking and mountain biking trails. Maybe we’ll even get in some camping.
We ended up with Korean BBQ for dinner, and spent another couple of hours walking around the area before catching the metro back to our hotel. The next day we took the shuttle back to the airport and were on our way home!
From what I could gather, typical attire in Seoul is fairly modest. In fact, many of the clothing options in the stores would be perfect to wear in Kuwait. Loose fitting tops with longer short sleeves, longer skirts and shorts or long dresses. We were there during the week though so I’m not sure how much the typical dress differs on the weekends.
We could have spent way more time exploring this massive city so a return trip is definitely in our future. Everyone we met there was so nice and very helpful. And I seriously cannot wait for more Korean food.