About Stewart H
Lives in Seoul, Seoul, South Korea
Since Jul 2014
25-34 year old male
I've been based in Seoul the last few years and Korea has continued to capture my heart as the years go by. But I also feel even one lifetime isn't enough to fully explore what's out there so I try and head out of Seoul whenever I can. Traveling, making friends, gaining new perspectives, and lots of good eating is all that I need to live a happy life. Visit my blog for more info about Seoul! http://whatsstewin.blogspot.com
Landmarks & points of interest
Colleges & universities, History museums
Architectural buildings, Castles, Historic sites, History museums
Landmarks & points of interest
Natural history museums
Flea & street markets
Flea & street markets
Historic sites, History museums
Landmarks & points of interest
Landmarks & points of interest
When the government decided to improve living conditions in the impoverished and poorly developed Dongsung-dong district, Naksan Public Art was born. Since 2006, when the project launched, some 70 artists have whipped up a variety of murals, sculptures, street furniture, and other installations — all around the theme of “connecting, merging, and associating” — resulting in a uniquely beautiful and artistic neighborhood that's well worth exploring.
Though mostly unknown to travelers, the Seodaemun Prison and Museum is a notorious and painful site for Koreans. During the colonial era, the Japanese imprisoned, tortured, and executed many Koreans here — including some of the most revered political and independence dissidents, like the student activist Yu-Gwan-sun, who died as a result of torture at the age of 18. Today, the prison is a museum where you can learn about the Korean independence movement and view jail cells, watchtowers, and the execution room, as well as some realistic (and horrific) recreations of the torture and interrogation methods that were used here. Like the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Seodaemun Prison provides a grim but necessary look at some of Korea's darkest history.
At 338 meters high, Inwangsan (or Mount Inwang) is a historically significant rocky mountain that's very popular with local hikers. Winding along the remnants of the stone city walls, the mountain paths take you past historic fortresses and the Buddhist temple, Inwangsa, while the peak offers great views of Seoul city on clear days. Ingwangsan is a sacred mountain for Shamans, and many gather daily around the mountain, especially near to the old shamanistic shrine, Guksadang. The rocky mountain is also known for its many unique boulders and formations, which have been given names such as 'hat rock,' 'eagle rock,' 'crouching tiger rock,' and others.
The Korea Furniture Museum is a true hidden gem that provides visitors with the ultimate immersive experience of how Koreans used to live — in terms of philosophy, nature, culture, and history. The private museum's vast grounds feature 10 stunning restored hanok (traditional Korean homes), which feature exquisite antique furniture from various periods.
Though it's often overlooked for other, more famous, palaces like Gyeongbokgung or Changdeokgung, Deoksugung, has its own unique merits. Its architecture and design are a mix of the old Joseon era and the modern era, featuring a few western-style buildings and gardens. The various architectural styles here might seem as though they would clash, but it all comes together harmoniously to create a beautiful setting worth visiting.
To get a better grasp on the long and illustrious history of Seoul, make time for the Seoul Museum of History. From its prehistoric era to the modern age, the museum provides detailed information about how the city became the global metropolis it is today. There are plenty of relics and interactive exhibits that should keep kids entertained here too!
Just south of Dongdaemun Market lies the neighborhood of Gwanghui-dong, where migrants from Russia and Central Asia first began settling and setting up shop in the '80s. Soon after, the area became known as 'Little Russia,' 'Mongol Town,' and 'Central Asian Village,' depending on who you ask. The latter name is probably the most appropriate, as the neighborhood’s composition is a fascinating mix of Russians, Kazakhstani, Uzbeki, Mongolian, and others. Today, the signs in the slightly run down neighborhood are peppered with both Cyrillic and Korean, and there are a bewildering mix of sights and scents that are uncommon in Korea. Marts here sell goods and hometown favorites from the Central Asian region, while the restaurants scattered around offer some of the best and authentic Central Asian eats in all of Korea, including borscht, cabbage rolls, meat dumplings, and more. Here, you’re bound to momentarily forget that you’re in the middle of Seoul!
The official presidential residence of Korea, Cheongwadae is also known as 'The Blue House.' This important seat of authority, located in the tranquil part of Jongno (just north of Gyeongbok Palace), has a colorful history, including being the target of a bloody North Korean assassination attempt on the South Korean president in the late '60s. Security continues to remain tight in and around the Blue House, and tours are only allowed upon the submission and approval of an application at least 3 weeks in advance. As such, most visitors only make it to the guarded gates of the Blue House, but not inside. However, the 40-minute tour is worth the effort, allowing you to stroll the presidential grounds, gardens, and official buildings. You'll even be given a souvenir mug after the tour!
Bustling Hyehwa and the surrounding Daehakno neighborhood are popular student hangouts, both for their convenient location (close to colleges), and for the many performance/theater productions that are put on daily. On Sundays, the area between Hyehwa Rotary and the Hyehwa Catholic Church transforms into a sprawling market operated by Seoul residents and the surrounding vicinity’s Filipino population. It’s a great spot to pick up some more exotic, hard-to-find goods like fresh papaya, spices, and coconut juice. The variety of authentic Filipino snacks and food offered here is also quite staggering: Long-simmered pork adobo, hot lumpia fresh from the fryer, and a number of different kinds of pancit are just some of the eats that you can enjoy munching on here!
During the rule of Park Chung Hee in the late '60s, a plot of land on a hill in Itaewon was set aside for Islamic countries, as a way to win favor for Korean companies interested in doing business with the Middle East. A three-story masjid (mosque), complete with minarets, was constructed on the site and is today Korea’s only mosque. Hundreds of Muslims hailing from Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Middle East, as well as some locals, trek to this holy place of worship to attend their weekly prayer and gather together to converse afterwards. The mosque is a beautiful sight to behold, especially when lit up at night, and its symbol of tranquility is a stark contrast to the vibrant and energetic Itaewon neighborhood in which it's located.
This prehistoric settlement in eastern Seoul dates to the Neolithic period but was only discovered by accident in 1925. Replicas of the settlement offer a glimpse of the type of housing the prehistoric ancestors of Koreans lived in, while the museum provides a replicated look at how they might have actually lived.
The Gyeongdong Market is actually a cluster of large traditional and newer markets, but it's perhaps most famous for the Oriental Medicine Market at its center. This is one of Korea’s largest and sells everything from dried herbs and berries to exotic ingredients such as deer horns and dried insects. It also sells teas and other tonics with different beneficial health properties. And it's one of the best places to get your hands on the prized local ginseng which can be bought dried, fresh, or even juiced. The other markets here also sell seafood, meat, produce, side dishes, and more for fractions of the prices you’d find at the supermarket.
If bargain-hunting is your thing, the Dongmyo Flea Market is one of the best places to get your treasure hunt on. Every day, next to the stone walls of Dongmyo Park, countless stalls set up shop with random offerings from old books and paintings to appliances and furniture. Especially popular is the secondhand clothing section (visited by the famous national pop star, G-Dragon, and comedian Jeong Hyun Don during a past 'Infinity Challenge' TV episode). Best of all, prices are dirt cheap, making this an excellent way to pick up some interesting items for less.
Shamanism has shaped Korean culture and beliefs since ancient days, and one of the best places to learn about the history is at the Gahoe Museum, which houses the most comprehensive collection of Korean shamanistic art. Here you'll find hundreds of talismans, amulets, and other related material, including various traditional folk art.
For carnivores, a visit to Korea's largest meat market should prove tasty and worthwhile. Every day, fresh meat from all over the country is brought here to be butchered, prepared, and displayed. Despite the market's age (it's been around for 40-plus years) and narrow alleys, meat is kept according to strict hygienic and sanitary standards, and the prices are 20-30% less than in most supermarkets. Especially popular is the hanwoo, 100% Korean beef, which is prized for its taste and tenderness. You can choose to purchase your meat to take home, or you can take it to one of the many associated BBQ restaurants, where, after paying a fee for the coal and all the fixings, you can grill it right then and there!
During the Joseon Dynasty, as Catholicism began to spread in Korea, both converts and missionaries became the subject of a brutal persecution, including mass torture and execution. Jeoldusan Martyrs' Shrine seems like a peaceful place on first glance, but delve deeper and you'll discover that this is the spot where many Catholics were actually beheaded (leading to its name, Jeoldusan, which means 'beheading mountain'). A peaceful and tranquil shrine, church, and small museum have since been erected here to shed light on the bloody history of Catholicism in Korea.
In this peaceful cemetery lie the remains of some of Korea's earliest foreign missionaries and their families. As Korea's first official foreign cemetery, the somber yet tranquil grounds offer a look at the first people from Western civilization to make contact with Koreans, and though the site experienced lots of damage during the Korean War (which you can see in the many fractures and stress that remain on the tombstones), the two sites by the Han River still make for a quiet escape from the metropolitan city.
Arario Museum in Space was founded by Kim Chang Il, well known within art circles as one of the most influential curators in Asia. Branches of his Arario Gallery are found all over, including in Shanghai, but Arario Museum in Space marks Kim’s first 'museum.' Housed in a gorgeously renovated historic building in Jongno, the gallery’s permanent exhibition features more than 200 works by 40-plus international artists. All works were carefully collected by Kim himself, and include those by Kohei Nawa, Barbara Kruger, and many more. The pieces are diverse in origin and media, and the museum’s grounds, with a fascinating mix of old and new structures next to Changdeok Palace, make it well worth a look.
Ichon-dong, in the center of Seoul, may come across as a sleepy, residential neighborhood on first glance, but take the time to explore the alleys, streets, and shops in between and you’ll come across some of the most authentic Japanese stores, restaurants, and bars in all of Seoul. This is due to the fact that Ichon-dong has the largest community of Japanese expatriates in Seoul, giving Ichon-dong the appropriate nickname of 'Little Tokyo.' Here, it’s not uncommon to hear Japanese being spoken by residents, or to see signs written in Japanese. And what the area offers in authentic eats — from baked goods to premium sake bars, fresh cuts of sashimi to hot bowls of udon — makes it the closest you'll come to being in Japan without actually going there.
Nagwon Instrument Arcade has been the go-to spot for Seoul's music lovers since the '70s, when it was first built. Some 200 shops here sell everything music related, including sheet music, music equipment, and probably the widest range of musical instruments in all of Seoul. Whether you're shopping for a new guitar, keys, or even unique instruments such as pipe organs or a ukulele, this institution is your go-to place (though it's decidedly less interesting for non-musical instrument players!).
Urban Seoul doesn’t offer a lot of outdoor green space, but one unique way to experience open air is to do so under a tent — complete with a camp fire — at Seoul’s largest camping site. Located at the western end of Seoul near the World Cup Stadium, Nanji offers 165 camping plots where friends, couples, and families can gather and get a taste of camping within Seoul’s city limits. Sure, the term 'camping' is a bit of a stretch here, as the main activity is to grill and gorge on BBQ (and many simply rent a campsite for only a few hours), but the park still offers walking paths, bike rentals, and plenty of outdoor space to run around, should you want to stay.
The largest ethnic minority in Korea are Chinese residents, but Seoul ironically doesn’t have an official Chinatown! However, enclaves for Chinese residents are scattered around the capital, with one of the largest communities in Daelimdong. Here, signs feature Chinese characters, Mandarin is the dominant language spoken, and the shops mostly cater to the Chinese residents. Many of the residents are ethnic Koreans from China (usually the Northeastern regions of China), called 'Joseon-jok,' and so the food here is mostly reflective of dishes from that region: Noodle soups, steamed buns, thick green onion pancakes, and grilled lamb skewers, are some of the choices, making a nice break from the 'Koreanized' Chinese dishes mostly found elsewhere in Korea.