Cook Your Own Dinner at a Korean Barbecue
The Korean barbecue has become a popular form of dining in cities all over the world. It’s a very sociable occasion at which diners cook their own meat on a grill at their table. Marinaded meat is ordered according to type (beef, pork, chicken) and cut (thick, medium, thin) and is accompanied by a vast selection of side dishes and sauces. Some great places to enjoy a Korean BBQ in Seoul include:
- Two Plus Itaewon (Itaewon)
- Maple Tree House Restaurant (Itaewon)
- Yeontabal BBQ Restaurant (Gangnam)
- Woo Lae Oak (Jung-gu)
Discover Korean Street Food at Gwangjang Market
As well as sitting down to the Korean barbecue, foodies will love a visit to Gwangjang Market which is probably the best place in Seoul to sample typical Korean street food. This is one of the country’s oldest traditional markets which is located in the Jongno district of the city. It is a vast complex where more than 20,000 people are employed at thousands of stalls. For many visitors the highlight is a stroll around the hundreds of food stalls which are manned by friendly vendors encouraging passers-by to take a seat outside their eatery. Some of the most popular street food dishes include:
- Tteokbokki: (spicy rice cakes),
- Hotteok: (sweet pancakes),
- Kimbap: (seaweed rice rolls),
- Bindatteok: (mung bean pancake),
- Dak-kkochi: (chicken skewers),
- Eomuk Tang: (fishcake with broth).
Watch the Changing of the Guard at the Royal Palaces
The Gyeongbokgung Palace was the main royal residence constructed under the Joseon dynasty until it was destroyed by the Japanese in the 16th century. The monarch had to be temporarily moved to the Deoksugung Palace which is another of Seoul’s five royal palaces built under the Joseon dynasty (1392–1897). There is a daily changing of the guard ceremony outside the Gyeongbokgong Palace at 10am. and 2pm (except on Tuesdays). There’s also a less grand changing of the guard outside the main gate of the Deoksugung Palace every day at 11am, 2pm and 3.30pm (excluding Mondays).
Learn a Craft at Bukchon Hanok Village
Reminders of the way of life of the Joseon Dynasty are few and far between amongst the skyscrapers of modern-day Seoul. Yet standing between the Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung Palaces is the ancient Bukchon Hanok Village which provides an insight into Josean urban life. It is made up of a series of narrow streets overlooked by traditional Korean houses known as ‘hanoks’ and there’s a good selection of tasty street food to snack on. Visitors interested in delving a little deeper into this local culture can try to learn a traditional craft at one of the neighbourhood’s workshops. Options include making paper dolls, carving wooden masks or creating your own perfume.
Enjoy a Romantic Dinner at the Top of the N Seoul Tower
Standing at 480 metres above sea level the N Seoul Tower is one of the city’s main attractions where visitors can take a lift up to the observation deck for panoramic views over the city. Korean couples and visitors from all over the world buy ‘love padlocks’ inscribed with romantic messages which they hang on the fence of the 2nd floor of the tower’s Roof Terrace. Having declared their eternal love couples can then dine at the HanCook Restaurant which offers spectacular views over the Seoul skyline.
Traveller Tip: Whether you’re travelling to Seoul for business or pleasure it’s well worth booking a private transfer from Seoul-Incheon Airport. Your professional driver will be waiting for you on arrival and will safely transfer you to any hotel or other accommodation in the city.
Explore Seoul’s Shopping Neighbourhoods
From huge underground shopping malls to historic Korean street markets, Seoul is a paradise for shopping enthusiasts. There are numerous distinct shopping districts but the most popular ones for tourists are as follows:
Myeongdong: This is probably the best known of Seoul’s shopping neighbourhoods. Whilst it is home to many shops selling well-known clothing brands, it is most famous for its cosmetics and skincare products.
Insadong: With its many art galleries and teahouses this touristy area is a lovely place to leisurely wander around. It’s also one of the best places to pick up souvenirs from shops specialising in traditional Korean items.
Hongdae: This district houses the Hongik University so its shops sell student fashion items at really cheap prices. Saturday afternoons are a good time to visit when the Hongdae Free Market (March to November) takes place.
Gangnam: Made famous a few years ago by the “Gangnam Style” song and video by PSY, this upmarket part of town is home to some of the city’s most expensive shops and restaurants. Its main shopping attraction is the COEX Mall which is Asia’s largest underground shopping mall.
Attend a Hilarious Nanta Show
A Nanta show is non-verbal comedy entertainment performed at the Myeongdong and Chungjeongno Nanta Theatres in Seoul. The performance which is backed by music tells the hilarious story of four chefs trying to prepare a full wedding meal when pressed for time. The show has been running continuously since 1997 and has become a major tourist attraction. It has also been performed on Broadway in New York.
See an Exhibition at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DPP)
This spaceship-like landmark is the centrepiece of the Korean design industry which hosts many art and design exhibitions. Checking its upcoming events calendar before visiting Seoul is highly recommended. The venue itself is worth a visit to see futuristic shops and to take a stroll in the park which stands on the roof of the structure. The evening is a great time to visit when the whole place is illuminated. Nearby is the Cheonggyecheon Steam which is an artificial waterway flowing for almost 11km through the city. It’s a great place to take a break from sightseeing under the shady bridges along its route and to dip your feet in its cool waters.
Take an Excursion to the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
A popular day trip from Seoul is to the buffer zone between North and South Korea which was created as part of the armistice signed by the two sides in 1953. In spite of this agreement hundreds of soldiers have lost their lives along the demilitarized zone during occasional outbreaks of violence over the years. The highlight of this excursion is a visit to the Joint Security Area (JSA) which is where all negotiations have taken place between the two sides since the end of the war. A visit to the DMZ is only possible on official tours which also include the ability to see life in North Korea from the Odusan Unification Observatory and the chance to visit the infiltration tunnels which were built by the North Koreans. You’ll also see the Bridge of No Return where prisoners were exchanged at the end of the war.
Spend a Thrilling Day at a Theme Park
Many travellers (especially those with children) enjoy a break from city sightseeing by visiting one of the country’s major theme parks:
Lotte World: Located across the river from central Seoul, this is the largest indoor amusement park in the world with almost 8 million annual visitors. As well as having many rides and attractions to suit all age groups this mini-Disneyland is home to a water park, aquarium, multiple cinemas and a huge shopping complex.
Everland: Located further afield in Yongin to the south-east of Seoul is the country’s largest outdoor theme park which attracts a similar number of visitors as Lotte World. It is made up of five sectors offering many rides including one of the best wooden roller coasters in the world. Other attractions include a water park and an animal safari.
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