- Incheon International Airport (ICN) (인천국제공항)Incheon International Airport (ICN), Yeongjong-dong, Jung-gu, Incheon, South KoreaConsistently rated as the best airport in the world, Incheon International (the air gateway to Seoul, though it's about 90 minutes from the city center in the city of Incheon on the west coast) is ... read morevirtually perfect. Free wifi, good restaurants, clean, efficient, and well-run, there's little not to like. Services like rental cell-phones are affordable and easily sorted, and though I hate airports on a whole, Incheon is one I'm always slightly glad that I'm stuck in.Recommended for:Business Travelers
- Woodstock BarSinchonThere are several associated 'Woodstock' bars scattered throughout the city of Seoul's various entertainment districts, but the finest is the one located in Gangnam, a short walk from Gangnam ... read moreStation's exit 6. Beloved by expats and locals alike, Woodstock's main draws are the super-friendly staff and an excellent music request system. Like a personal jukebox, just write an artist and song on one of the provided 'request' sheets, hand it to the barkeep, and wait a few minutes before rocking out. Woodstock is Gangnam's go-to spot for a Friday or Saturday meetup: the beer's cheap, and the food isn't bad either.
- GOMcine서울시 감남구 역삼동 827-68Short for GOod Meat CuisINE, GOMcine is located a few hundred meters from exit 2 of Gangnam Station. While the menu is quite good across the board, the real draw here is the sogogi samgyeopsal (beef ... read morebelly), paper-thin strips of perfectly tender marinated beef, cooked over a charcoal brazier at your table. At 9000W per serving, it's a steal, though you may find after the first that just one serving is simply not enough.Recommended for:Foodies
- Leeum Samsung Museum of Art747-18 Hannam-dong Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea 02 2014-6901Located in the Itaewon neighborhood, this fantastic (if small) museum is worth visiting just for the fantastic architecture of the modern building that houses it. Presentation of its collection, from ... read moreancient Korean celadon ceramics to contemporary non-representational painting, is top-notch. Smaller than the mammoth National Museum, but on a whole more digestible, and more rewarding. Admission 10,000 won, closed Mondays.Recommended for:Art & Design Lovers
- Yongsan Electronics Market대한민국 서울특별시 용산구 한강로동The Yongsan Electronics Market (located at Yongsan Station) is a celebration of modern Korea's technology fetish: 5 floors of digital cameras, computers and laptops, rice-cookers, video cameras, audio ... read moreequipment, electric shavers and PC accessories. Just wandering through the complex is impressive: if it runs on batteries or plugs into a wall, it's here. While visitors from the UK will probably find that they can bargain for goods at cheaper prices than they would find back home, North American visitors will probably end up paying more than they would in the States or Canada. The clerks at Yongsan can be a little aggressive, and are accustomed to fleecing tourists not used to the market experience: be sure to bargain hard.
- Dragon Hill Spa40-713 Hangangno 3(sam)-ga, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South KoreaNot necessarily Seoul's finest spa, but one of its biggest and certainly the easiest to find, this traditional Korean public bath house is located directly outside of Yongsan Station. The atmosphere ... read moreis a little hokey, with some faux-classical touches, and it can get mighty crowded on the weekend. Still, for an introduction to the Korean bathhouse experience you could do a lot worse. Pay your entrance, slip out of your clothes in the locker room, and spend a few hours sampling the various hot and cold baths and sauna rooms. If you're feeling adventurous, go in for a full-body scrub, but be forewarned that the masseurs go at it with a vengeance!
- Jogyesa Temple (조계사)45 Gyeonji-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South KoreaThe pre-eminent Buddhist temple within downtown Seoul, Jogyesa is the seat of the Jogye order of Korean Buddhism, and makes an excellent stop while you're in the central Gwanghwamun / Insadong ... read moreneighborhood. I've taken lots of visitors to the city to this small, pretty collection of traditional pavilions, with their enormous ornate Buddhas, but my fondest memories of it come from the yearly "Lantern Festival" for Buddha's birthday each spring, when the courtyard is hung with thousands of colorful paper lanterns, casting rainbow-colored shadows and transforming the space with a festive atmosphere. The lanterns are normally up for a month on either side of the holiday, which varies with the lunar calendar.
- Jeongak GalleryInsadong-gilIn the Insadong tourist street, this small gallery selling handmade woodblock prints by Korean artist Kim Tae-Wan is a favorite place of mine for gifts or souvenirs in Seoul. Unlike the inauthentic ... read moreChinese calligraphy sold elsewhere on the street, the prints here are pure Korean -- beautifully made and presented, and surprisingly inexpensive.Recommended for:Art & Design Lovers
- InsadongInsa-dong, Seoul, 11 South KoreaThe flagship 'traditional Korean' street in central Seoul, Insadong may be a cultural put-on, but it's a tasteful one, and there are some excellent tea-houses, restaurants, and print shops along it, ... read moreinterspersed with the souvenir emporiums. Also good for street food at the Jongno end of the street!
- Gwanghwamun SquareSejong-ro Jongno-gu, Seoul, KoreaHemmed in on both sides by rushing traffic and foreign embassies, the newly-completed Gwanghwamun Square, a long and broad concrete plaza at the center of one of the city's most important cultural and ... read moregovernmental districts, is a delightful and sorely needed public space in a city that sometimes lacks for them. With the long avenue framing Seoul's low mountains in the background, and statues of Admiral Yi and King Sejong the Great, it's a pretty spot, and especially popular in the evenings and the warm summer months, when the city's children flock to play in the synchronized fountains on its edge.
- Gyeongbok Palace1 Sejongro, Seoul, 11, South KoreaThe grandest of Seoul's Joseon Dynasty Palaces, the giant Gyeongbokgung complex perhaps bespeaks more of the nature of contemporary Seoul than any other single attraction. Completely swallowed by the ... read moreboxy grey sprawl of the modern city, on a quiet morning within the palace walls, wandering the gardens on worn cobbles between the ornate wooden pavilions with their sweeping grey slate roofs, it's possible to imagine the days of Seoul as the capital of the "Hermit Kingdom", an inward-looking nation fulfilled in quietly living its traditions. That impression vanishes the moment you step thru the Gwanghwamun gate, and into the mad crush of Seoul traffic, where toddlers walk by watching live television on their mobile phones and absolutely everything hums with the city's pali-pali (hurry-hurry) vibe. These buildings -- first built in the late 14th century, but largely dismantled by the Japanese and subsequently reconstructed -- may not be the most striking palace-architecture in East Asia (Japan usually wins that race), but are the perfect place to experience firsthand the way the city (and Korea as a whole) have both negated and preserved their traditions -- Seoul with one foot firmly in its deep past, even as it races forward into an increasingly frenetic and space-age future.
The city's premiere young, funky, artsy university neighborhood, Hongdae (the area around Hongik University, accessed via Hongik University Station line 2, exit 5 or Sangsu Station on line 6) is all ... read moretold my favorite of the city's entertainment districts. With a good mix of locals and expats (not the foreigner ghetto that Itaewon is), it's a great place for dinner, a drink (or 15), clubbing, or a bit of late-night norebang (karaoke -- an essential Korean experience). For the essential savor of the city, though, just hang out in Hongik park on a Friday or Saturday night and watch the street performers with a bottle of makgeolli (rice-wine) from the vendor (2000 won!). You'll leave feeling good about everything in life.
- Namsan Cable CarSeoul-si Jung-gu Hoehyeondong1-ga San 1-19If you don't feel up to the hike to Seoul Tower (it's about 20-30 minutes of steps), or just want an easy panorama of the buildings and mountains of the city center, the Namsan Cable Car is the ... read moreperfect solution. Zipping to the top in just a couple of minutes, it affords a lovely panorama, and if it isn't about to change your life, it's also easy on the wallet. (7,500 won roundtrip, a five-minute walk uphill from Myeongdong Station exit 3)Recommended for:Family Travelers
- Myeongdong Gyoja25-2 Myeongdong 2(i)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South KoreaThe best Myeong-dong kalguksu (thick, wheat-noodle soup) in Seoul, and quite probably the world, this institution has two outlets down the street from one another in Myeongdong. Both have lines that ... read moreare perpetually out the door, but turn-over is lightning-fast, and it's more than worth a few minutes in the queue. Order a kalguksu and some mandu (dumplings) to go with it. Watch out for the kimchi, tho: it's the most garlicky on the planet!Recommended for:Foodies
- Seoul N TowerSan 1-3, Yongsan-dong 2-ga, Seoul, 11 South KoreaOne of Seoul's four recognizable buildings (though fortunately that number is set to rise!) N'Seoul Tower might be a pure tourist destination, but it's also the best place in the city for getting a ... read moretrue idea of how startlingly massive Seoul really is. On a good day, you can see for miles, taking in the spread of this megalopolis as it sprawls on and on through waves of low mountains. On a bad day, you'll be treated to views of Seoul's famous smog-haze, turning everything in the distance into ugly grey-brown shapes. As an upside, the plaza at the base of the tower features frequent martial arts demonstrations by actors in period costume -- actually much cooler than it sounds! (9000 won per adult.)Recommended for:Family Travelers
- Myeong-dong StreetMyeong-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
- The Shilla Seoul대한민국 성남시 서초구 장충동2가 202Located in the historic precincts north of the Han River, the Shilla is arguably the flagship hotel for the city of Seoul, and by extension the whole of Korea, a place where foreign dignitaries and ... read morebusiness bigwigs stay while they're in town. Surprisingly, it's not entirely unaffordable -- a single starts at around 220,000 won per night: around 200 bucks.
Seoul is a city that rewards digging. On the surface, it's an ugly mass of squat concrete blocks sprawling over an area of more than 600 square kilometers, an urban jungle spawned from the ashes of ... read morethe city's near-total destruction during the Korean War. The city plan may be relentlessly utilitarian, and hopelessly low on green space (with the exception of the rounded mountains sprouting from its midst), but the more time you spend in Seoul the more likely it is that this rough, vivacious city will win you over. The Korean capital is the true 24-hour city that other places bill themselves as, a place where you can go shopping for luxury fashions at 3am, or chow down streetside on rice liquor and blood-sausage at 7am right after the clubs let out. Indeed, many of the best experiences here involve food and drink, and tableside is one of the finest places to appreciate true Korean culture -- garrulous, warm, and typically involving a prodigious quantity of alcohol. You won't find the soul of, well, Seoul in a guidebook, so make a local friend or two and dive in! You'll be surprised where you might end up.
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