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Thinking about travelling to Seoul? South Korea is in a state of idolisation by nearly everyone these days. Some people are interested in the street food, some are addicted to the music and booming film and television industry (Parasite, Squid Game etc), but everyone can agree that the beauty of South Korea is unparalleled.
Seoul has many tourist spots and there are lots of beautiful places to visit. If you are in Seoul, don’t miss to see these places. Seoul, is the capital of South Korea and the biggest city in the country. Seoul is teeming with fun and fascinating attractions.
Seoul has Korea’s best nightlife, it is home to some of the world’s best hotels, and the city is one of the most technologically advanced cities in the world.
Unfortunately, the travel slowdown has put an end to this tourist boom, but whenever borders reopen, expect it to resurface with a fury. Until then, you may use the most recent version of our Seoul travel guide to plan your next trip.
Because of the current COVID-19 Pandemic, all foreign nationals entering South Korea must present a negative PCR test certificate (with limited exclusions – see ‘Exemptions’ below). The test must have been completed within 48 hours before leaving. You should go through the material on the website of the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in London. Even if you have recently recovered from COVID-19, you must still have a negative COVID-19 test result as mentioned above before flying to South Korea.
K-ETA and Visas
According to the Korean government’s entrance regulations, British citizens can enter South Korea as tourists for up to 90 days without a visa, albeit they should be aware of the quarantine requirements. You’ll also need a return or onward ticket. Working on a tourist visa, whether as a teacher or in any other capacity, is prohibited.
To enter without a visa, Korean Authorities say you must get a Korea Electronic Travel Authorisation (K-ETA). You have up to 24 hours before your travel to submit your K-ETA application, and it will be valid for two years from the date of approval. There is a modest fee that is non-refundable. For additional information about Visa status and to apply, go to the official K-ETA website.
If you’re a Philippine passport holder residing in Manila, check out our step-by-step tutorial on how to apply for a South Korean visa.
Seoul has a population of 10.29 million people within its city borders, but when you take in the surrounding areas, that figure climbs to 25.6 million, making it the world’s second biggest metropolitan area.
It’s no surprise that Seoul is currently the fourth most economically powerful metropolis in the world, trailing only Tokyo, New York City, and Los Angeles (as measured by GDP).
In recent years, South Korea has made headlines in the IT, automobile, and entertainment industries. Samsung for example, are worldwide renowned brands.
Incheon Foreign Airport is home to almost all international flights. From Incheon, there are various options for getting to downtown Seoul.
Taking a taxi is easy, but it is also costly. A cab ride into the city takes approximately an hour and costs between KRW 55,000 and KRW 75,000.
Busses are available throughout the day from Incheon airport.
Myeongdong, Insadong, Hongdae, and Itaewon are the greatest spots to stay in Seoul, based on our personal experiences and what I’ve read online. They provide a variety of services, so it all depends on your preferences.
Insadong is great for culture and the arts, whereas Myeongdong is great for shopping. Itaewon is Seoul’s international neighbourhood, whereas Hongdae is youthful and fashionable. We went to each of the four locations, but only remained in Myeongdong and Hongdae. Hongdae is our personal favourite.
I’ll go through each region in more depth below, but Booking.com and Agoda are good places to start looking for hotels in Seoul.
If you plan on doing a lot of shopping in Seoul, Myeongdong is the place to be. It’s a retail zone containing big-name stores and boutiques, as well as restaurants, cafés, and street food booths. If you prefer Korean cosmetics, you’ll almost certainly never leave this store.
The hotel where we stayed no longer appears to be available, but you may look for hotels in Myeongdong on Booking.com and Agoda. Take a look at some of the best hotels in the area:
Hongdae is a lively and energetic neighbourhood with a laid-back college town atmosphere. We’ll definitely stay here on every return trip to Seoul because it was our favourite area in the city.
Bingo House is a tiny 5-room guesthouse located near Hongik University Station’s Exit 6. A 7-Eleven and a GS25 convenience store, as well as a few restaurants and cafés, are all close. A communal space with free water and kitchen supplies is available, but there is no breakfast. Agoda is a website where you may reserve a room.
Five Grand Palaces
Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, Gyeonghuigung, and Deoksugung are the five Joseon Royal Palaces in Seoul. We just went to the first two, but you could easily go to all five if you wanted to.
The largest and possibly the most magnificent of the five are Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung. Gyeongbokgung was the main palace and one of only two (the other being Deoksugung) where visitors could see the Royal Guard change. Changdeokgung, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the Huwon or “Secret Garden,” is equally spectacular.
For additional photographs and information, see my page on the Changdeokgung and Gyeongbokgung palaces. You may embark on a self-directed tour or take a guided tour (Klook | Get Your Guide). Changdeokgung and Gyeongbokgung are two of the most popular hanbok rental locations in Seoul.
If you want to visit many palaces on your own, you should consider purchasing an Integrated Palace Ticket.
Hanok Village of Bukchon
In a city as contemporary as Seoul, it’s good to have a spot like this right in the heart of the city. The atmospheric Bukchon Hanok Village is a maze of small lanes and old Korean dwellings known as hanoks.
Exploring its maze of streets will transport you back in time and show you what Seoul was like 600 years ago. It’s one of the greatest venues in Seoul to rent a hanbok and enhance your Instagram game, just like the royal palaces.
For additional photographs and information, see my page on Bukchon Hanok Village. If you’re interested in learning more about Bukchon Hanok Village, you might want to take this free walking tour or travel with a guide.
When it comes to spectacular vistas, this location is unrivalled. The observation deck of N Seoul Tower, which stands 480 metres (1,575 feet) above sea level, is the greatest site to enjoy a bird’s eye perspective of the city. The N Seoul Tower is located on Mt. Namsan and is accessible by road or cable car, with the latter being preferred by most tourists. Tickets for the observatory can be purchased at the gate.
Dongdaemun Design Plaza is number four (DDP)
This location is breathtaking. If you enjoy design, any sort of design, Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) should be on your schedule. It’s a combination of a museum, a design store, and a spaceship.
The late Zaha Hadid, the acclaimed architect who constructed the London 2012 Olympic aquatic centre and the Guangzhou Opera House in China, designed the DDP.
The Starfield Library is a public open-air library with hundreds of books and magazines. Its magnificent architectural book shelf has made it one of Seoul’s most popular photo opportunities.
1. Put on a Hanbok
If you like Korean period dramas or just want to learn more about the culture, a selfie in a hanbok is a must. It is a traditional Korean costume worn by both men and women at festivals and festivities. Any of the five royal palaces, as well as Bukchon Hanok Village, offer excellent photo settings. There are a few hanbok rental outlets in those regions, but you may also get one through Klook in advance.
2. Pay a visit to a Korean market.
On travels, we enjoy going to markets since they are frequently the greatest sites to discover amazing street cuisine in every city. Noryangjin Fish Market, Gwangjang Market (seen below), and Nandaemun Market are just a few of Seoul’s numerous intriguing marketplaces. If you’re searching for affordable and real street cuisine in Seoul, they’re worth a look.
3. Take a stroll through Seoul’s neighbourhoods
Seoul is a sprawling metropolis with a diverse range of communities. Insadong, Myeongdong, Hongdae, and Itaewon are four of the most popular, each with its own distinct characteristics.
Insadong is recognised for its traditional arts and crafts, Myeongdong for its high-end brands and cosmetics, Hongdae for its hipster college town ambiance, and Itaeown for its international vibe. All of them serve excellent meals.
4. Go for a walk along the Cheonggyecheon Stream
The Cheonggyecheon Stream is an 11-kilometer stream that passes through Seoul’s central area. Before opening out into the Han River, it goes beneath 22 bridges and through a number of metropolitan monuments. It’s a popular photo op and a fantastic place to cool down in the heat in Seoul.
You may walk down the stream on your own, but if you’d like to learn more about it and the locations you’ll pass along the route, this free walking tour may be of interest.
In Seoul, there is an abundance of delicious cuisine. Seoul will have you waiting down the minutes until your next meal, from Korean specialties like ganjang gejang, galbi, and gomtang to famous street food mainstays like tteokbokki and gyeranppang.
Yeontabal BBQ Restaurant
One of our favourite aspects of Korean cuisine is gogigui, or Korean barbecue. Barbecued marinated meats like bulgogi and galbi over charcoal are incredibly delectable.
Yeontabal’s grilled king beef ribs were among the greatest we’ve ever eaten. They were to die for, smoky, savory-sweet, and incredibly tender, especially when served with steaming white rice and kimchi.
Keep in mind that meat in Korea is often pricey, so anticipate Korean BBQ to be one of your more costly dinners. If you buy a voucher through Klook, you can enjoy a modest discount at Yeontabal.
Woo Lae Oak
Since seeing a documentary on North Korea, I’ve wanted to taste naengmyeon (buckwheat noodles in a chilly broth). It was initially a North Korean delicacy that spread throughout the peninsula during the Korean War.
Woo Lae Oak, one of Seoul’s oldest restaurants, popped up frequently. They’re a Korean BBQ joint that’s also known for their naengmyeon.
The best kalguksu in the city is said to be found in Myeongdong Kyoja. Kalguksu is a noodle dish made with hand-cut wheat flour noodles and served with broth and other ingredients in a big bowl.
Myeongdong Kyoja has been in operation for more than 50 years and is centrally positioned in Myeongdong. When shopping in the area, it’s a terrific location to stop for lunch or dinner.
If you enjoy Korean fried chicken, you must dine at a chimaek restaurant while in Seoul. Chimaek is a combination of the words “chicken” and “maek-ju,” which is the Korean term for “beer.” It alludes to the popular Korean fried chicken and beer pairing.
The fact that Korean fried chicken is double-fried results in a crunchier and less oily exterior. In Seoul, there are several chimaek eateries to choose from, like Oksang Dalbit in Hongdae.
Myeongdong Food Street
Even though we enjoy going to restaurants, there’s something special about eating street cuisine. It’s like being treated to a degustation right on the street!
A journey to Seoul for a first-time tourist would be incomplete without sampling street cuisine in Myeongdong. Myeongdong is a Korean street food lover’s heaven, with specialities including grilled lobster tails, chicken and scallion skewers, and tteokbokki.
The restaurants listed above are some of our faves, but if seven isn’t enough to whet your appetite, see our list of 25 must-try eateries in Seoul.
It also contains information on where to get the greatest gomtang (beef bone soup), the most genuine Jeonju bibimbap, and inexpensive yet delectable Korean BBQ. It’ll even direct you to Seoul’s oldest restaurant, a 110-year-old institution known for its seolnongtang, or ox bone soup.
Seoul’s subway system is so efficient that you’ll likely not need to use any other mode of transportation while you’re there. We never used a cab, and the only time we boarded a bus was to travel to Paju, Suwon, or Jinhae, which are all located outside of Seoul.
It can be complicated at first, but as long as you remember your destination’s metro stop and the line number on which it is located, you should be OK.
Because you may have to go a long distance to change lines, knowing the line number of your stop is essential. You won’t be able to switch lines if you don’t know which direction to travel.
We only offer travel advice on Seoul and hope you find this information to be useful.