By Joo Hyun Kim
If you’ve been to Tokyo, Japan, and fell in love with it, then you’re sure to fall in love with Seoul, the capital of South Korea. More than 10 million people reside in Seoul, making it one of the busiest and most densely populated cities in the world. Although Tokyo and Seoul share lots of similarities, Seoul is distinctive from Tokyo in many ways. (We’ll leave that for you to figure it out when you visit.) The best time to visit Seoul is in the spring ( March- April) and in the fall (September through November), when the weather is mild and airfare is relatively inexpensive.
It doesn’t take weeks to tour Seoul (unless of course, you like it so much and decide to stay longer); you just need to set aside three days to see the city, and you will be able to brag to your friends that you’ve seen pretty much everything there is to see in Seoul. The public transportation system is very efficient in Seoul. Since there is usually a lot of traffic, it’s better to take the subway. Seoul’s subway is clean and spacious, and is very easy to navigate. There are nine subway lines, which are distinguished from one other by different colors. One of the best part about Seoul’s subway system is that you’re able to use your cell phone while you’re riding on it. Now, are you ready for your trip to Seoul?
Here’s some helpful information and tips to make the most of your time in Seoul.
Day 1: Historical and Cultural places to visit:
1. Gyeongbokgung Palace (subway line 3 to “Gyeongbokgung Station”or Line 5 to “Gwanghwamun Station”)—Gyeongbokgung Palace, which literally means “Palace greatly blessed by Heaven,” was built in 1395. It was the main palace of the Chosun Dynasty. The Palace was destroyed twice by the Japanese; first in 1592 and again in 1910, but it was slowly rebuilt. It is now open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., closed on Tuesdays. Admission is 3000 won (about $3). Be sure to also visit the National Folk Museum, which is located inside the Palace. (website: www.royalpalace.go.kr)
2. Changdeokgung Palace (Line 1, 3, or 5 to “Jongno sam-ga Station” or subway line 3 to “Anguk” Station)—Changdeokgung Palace, which means “Palace of prospering virtue,” was built in 1412 during the Chosun Dynasty. It is located east of Gyeongbokgung Palace, and is famous for its Biwon Garden, where the royal family went to relax. In order to visit Changdeokgung Palace, you need to be on a tour. A 90-minute English tour is available at the Palace. It is closed on Mondays, and admission is 3000 won (about $3). (website: www.cdg.go.kr)
(3) The National Museum of Korea (Line 1 or 4 to “Ichon Station”)—There are three floors in this museum. The first floor is the Archaeological and Historical Gallery. On the second floor, you will find the Fine Arts Gallery 1 and Donation Gallery, and on the third floor you can walk through the Fine Arts Gallery 2 and Asian Arts Gallery. The museum has lots of resting places where you can sit if you need to take a break, and a food court, coffee shop, and cultural stores where you can get souvenirs for family and friends back home. (website: www.museum.go.kr)
(4) Insa-Dong (Line 3 to “Anguk Station” or Line 1 to “Jonggak Station”)—Insa-Dong is known for its “traditional and cultural” street. Insa-Dong-gil (the main street of Insa-Dong) is teeming with art galleries, antique stores, traditional tea shops, cafes, and authentic Korean restaurants. This is definitely one of the “must-visit-places” in Seoul.
Day 2: Your Choice
You can spend your second day walking around “Myeong-Dong” in the morning and afternoon. Be sure to catch the beautiful night view of Seoul from Nam Mountain.
In the morning and afternoon: Myeong-Dong (Line 4 to “Myeong-Dong Station”)—Myeong-Dong is one of the most popular “shopping and hang out places” in Seoul. It has numerous clothing and shoe stores. Coffee shops, restaurants, street vendors, and night clubs also line the streets. It has many international brand stores along with large department stores, such as Migliore, Lotte Department Store, and others. There are lots of places to eat in Myeong-Dong, but you should find a place that serves Andong Jjimdak (Korean style braised chicken) and Myeong-Dong kal-guk-su (a type of Korean noodle soup).
In the evening, visit Namsam (Seoul) Tower, about a 15-minute walk from Myeong-Dong. Located on Nam Mountain, this is a great place to view the entire city, especially at night. You can either walk up the mountain (for a little exercise), or take a cable car. Namsan Tower is one of the city’s most “romantic places” for couples to visit. There is a revolving restaurant that rotates 360 degrees in the tower, where you can enjoy a beautiful night view of Seoul while you eat. It takes about an hour for it to completely rotate, so go ahead, take your time and enjoy your dinner! Namsan Tower is also famous for its fashionable bathrooms. (website: www.nseoultower.co.kr)
Then take a walk around Cheong-gye-cheon (Cheong-gye-stream)—(Line 5 to “Gwanghwamoon Station”) About 7 miles in length, it is also a great spot to get in some exercise. After having dinner, you can take a nice walk around “Cheong-gye-cheon” and enjoy a night view of the city.