Lives in Chicago, Illinois
Since Apr 2011
25-34 year old female
Extensive traveler through North America and Asia ... I travel 30+ times per year, both for work and fun (and usually try to combine them). We have a good mix of beach vacations and busy exploring/traveling/sight-seeing. I love trips that involve trying some of the greatest an unique local restaurants, local breweries and wine tasting. I also love military and other U.S. and global history. I stay primarily at Hilton hotels and have stayed in over 300 hotels (from low-end to high-end, boutique to large chain hotels). Expertise: United States, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand and China
Architectural Buildings, Gardens, Historic Sites
Sacred & Religious Sites, Monuments & Statues
Points of Interest & Landmarks, Neighbourhoods
Historic Sites, History Museums
Monuments & Statues
Historic Sites, Points of Interest & Landmarks
Flea & Street Markets,
Points of Interest & Landmarks, Lookouts
Neighbourhoods, Points of Interest & Landmarks
Changdeokgung Palace was the 2nd royal villa constructed and the most well-preserved of the five remaining royal Joseon palaces. Both the palace and gardens are stunning and large. You will find serenity, culture and natural beautify, all in 1 place. I recommend taking the palace + secret garden tour (Huwon tour). The tours are about 2 1/2 hours (60min for the palace & 90min for the garden) which is the perfect amount of time to explore and enjoy this beautiful palace.
We were incredibly luck to be able to visit Jogyesa 2 days before Buddha's birthday and shortly after the lantern festival where some of the floats that were on the water were there in person. The lantern colors and design was mesmerizing and we got to experience a 15min Buddhist prayer session which is a once in a lifetime experience. Also, the head monk was out talking to folks and offered to take a picture which was also a great memory we will never forget. They have a temple experience where I think you can stay and experience if it you are interested. Otherwise, it is a great place to stop in, people watch, pay respects and it will only take you about an hour or less.
Perfect for shopping, gift buying, people watching and dining. Within 3 hours, we were able to see some of the local food being sold on the street, get funny socks for gifts, business holders for our office, an iphone case for a friend with Kia Tigers on it, go to a Tea Museum and try wonderful tea, have some of the best dumplings and cold soup I have ever had, have a beer on the 3rd floor and people watch and have fried dough curved and holding ice cream. I am not sure if you could do this anywhere else in the world in such a small amount of space. It is a must see/do while you are in Seoul and can be great for all ages.
Stop in for a cup of tea and check out one of many gems you will find wandering the streets of Insadong. The teas were delicious and made a fabulous gift to bring back for our friends and family. It was also one of the few places to find peace and quiet within the energetic Insadong area.
Best restaurant in Seoul and one of the top in the world ... fresh vegan food which shocked my husband as I didn't tell the meat-lover until after the meal. There is even a bonus dance performance at 8pm daily that lasts about 45min. When we walked down an alley in Insadong, then another which turns into a dead-end where the restaurant is and we were instantly blown away with the beauty and tranquility of the restaurant. It has a feeling of being outside but also like you have stepped back in time to a peaceful and beautiful place. There is a ton of food so make sure you don't eat ahead of time and it comes out rather quickly. From the squash porridge and water kimchi starter to the herb main course, everything was unique and most things were exceptionally delicious. If you are not adventurous or don't like vegetables and earthy flavors, it could be tough, but if you are willing to take a risk, this is a huge payoff.
Originally built in the 14th century and rebuilt in 1867 after being left alone for hundreds of years, the Gyeongbokgung Palace is a beautiful place to visit. It is quite busy and lively on holidays. Try to plan your visit to watch the Changing of the Guards & small parade (10am, 1pm & 3pm) and/or military training (9:35am & 12:35pm).
Wonderful statue but the gem is the museum underneath. Admiral Yi is a very famous Korean naval commander who supposedly outnumbered 133 warships to 13, and forced into a last stand with only his minimal fleet standing between the Japanese Army and Seoul. He was considered one of the most strategic commanders in history and it is amazing to see the statue and go to the museum to understand how much he was able to do with limited training and with strategy!
Namdaemun gate is a great photo spot and is close to another one of my favotire locations, Namdaemun market, so it is worth adding a short trip to your itinerary. This gate is not the original and was rebuilt several times but most recently in 2008 after it was severely damaged by fire but it is great to see the newly rebuilt gate with some of the old bricks. It is also one of the best places in the city for pictures!
As the largest traditional market in Korea, Namdaemun Market has something for everyone, whether that means gifts for friends and family or a fun, unique gift for your self. We found everything from cool socks & clothing to kids toys, cell phone cases to jewelry and electronics to food items. There are plenty of tourists and locals as the prices are very cheap. It can get quite busy so just be prepared to be overwhelmed. There is also a flower market, jewelry market and some nice galleries and restaurants. A trip to Seoul isn't complete without at least a short trip to this market but if you have the time and patience, you could spend hours here.
Namsan Park is a great park in the middle of the city with wonderful statues, flowers, walkways and is the walking path to get to the cable car or to walk all the way up to N Seoul Tower. On the lower end, there are replica pieces of the old wall that you can walk along, there are some statues and beautiful gardens. As you walk up the park to N Seoul Tower, there are great lookout points, nicely paved stairs with handrails in the steeper sections and a few places to stop for drinks along the way.
Great hike up Namsan Park to get view of N Seoul Tower from all angles or take up the cable car ... either way, the views are wonderful and you get a true sense of how large Seoul is and can see North Korea in the distance on a clear day. The tower is best to visit in early evening so you can see the sun set over the great city of Seoul and then see the city light up at night. The crowds are quite heavy and if you want to go up, get tickets in advance, make restaurant reservations or get there early and be prepared to sit for a while until your time comes. If you don't want to eat, there is a small gift shop and place to buy drink where you can sit and enjoy the view for free. At the gift shop, you can also purchase a lock, write on it and attach it to the wall or trees which are to signal your eternal love.
The War Memorial of Korea is one of the best I have ever been to ... it is tasteful, informative and larger than expected. Whether you or someone you knew fought in the war or not, it is well worth a visit. The memorial is much larger than the pictures online show and it is great to see all the nations that fought together represented. Walking up to the memorial, the 2 statues out front are impactful and beautiful, one of two soldiers from opposite sites embracing and the other showing a cross-section of people impacted by the war. To the right of them, there are 30-40 planes, tanks, missiles, etc that have been retired, some used in Korea and others in Vietnam of since the war. This is one place where you don't need a guide or audio as all the history and explanations are displayed in multi-languages. I highly recommend it for all ages, locals and visitors!!
Europe meets Asia at what I would consider Soho of Seoul. Garosu-gil in the Sinsa-dong neighborhood has everything to have a relaxing lunch and quick shopping trip in between the War Memorial and Museum or do them back-to-back and spend the afternoon enjoying and relaxing in Garosu-gil. From the cafes and great shoe / clothing boutiques that will remind you of Paris to diverse art galleries and shops to enjoy an afternoon snack or ice cream, you will forget you are in the 2nd largest city in the World and in Asia (Tokyo is 1).
Huge museum with description in multiple languages and an extensive audio guide. The history of Korea is fascinating and the museum did everything they could to relate it back to today so you can see some of the ways that each of the different eras or regions influenced what we know today as South Korea. There were also exhibits on Japan, India and SE Asia and also an incredible amount of private donations. The museum is huge so either plan for 4-5 hours or plan the places that you want to see ahead of time so you spend more time there either on the tour or with an audio guide and just browse the rest.
Don't let the title of "foreigner district" (as Itaewon is known) scare you away. It is a great place to end your trip to Seoul with hundreds of restaruatns with any type of cuisine you could want, great shopping and an energetic night scene. There are also quite a few great hotels in the area ... no trip to Seoul would be complete without at least spending one evening in Itaewon.