One of my very best friends and teammates from the University of Tennessee, played professionally this past year in Seoul, Korea. A lover of all things weird, cool, strange and exciting, I couldn’t imagine anyone better to give me their take on this beautiful city! Here’s a guest 24 Hours Series from Leslie Cikra.
I had my fair share of opportunities to explore Seoul living in South Korea this past year, so when Kels asked me to do a 24-hour segment, I jumped at the chance to share my favorite spots!
Seoul is such an underrated city. I absolutely fell in love with it at first sight. It has so many undiscovered nooks and crannies, international restaurants all over the city and seemingly never-ending night life, all mixed into the culture of traditional Korea.
There are many ways to get into the city. If you are flying in, you most likely will fly into Incheon International Airport, which is about an hour cab/subway ride into the city.
If you are already visiting another area of Korea, or happen to live in the middle of the country like I did, you can take advantage of Korea’s high speed KTX train, which takes only an hour and a half and makes for the perfect day trip.
With an extra night off, I head to KTX train station to try and hop on a late night train. It’s always a good idea to book tickets ahead of time, because it sells out a lot, and you definitely don’t want to stand for an hour an a half if you don’t have to!
9:00 PM: With a 7:30 departure time I pull into Seoul Station and beeline for the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (or DDP) to get a night view of the flower garden made up of 20,000 LED lights. It is an easy subway trip from Seoul Station – hop on the 4 Line and take it 4 stops to Dongdaemun History and Culture Park. You should come out right below a giant space ship looking building. The flower garden art installation is usually open from sundown-10 pm, weather permitting.
I recommend using the subway for all your travels in Seoul. Many neighborhoods are just a few stops away from each other. All of the signs are in English and Korean, so even if you only know how to say hi and thank you, you’ll be able to get around solo without much trouble.
If you are staying, I highly recommend the 4 Points Sheraton. Affordable and a great location to get to Myeongdong or Itaewon!
9:00am: I start my morning off bright and early with some bubble tea from Gong Cha, and head off for a 20-minute walk to one of my favorite neighborhoods for shopping, the Myeongdong fashion district. On the way, I walk through the Namdaemun wholesale district, where tons of early morning bartering is already in progress. You’ll know you have hit Myeongdong when multiple stories of shops and restaurants start to surround you. You’ll find lots of street food, sales people on microphones outside of the many skin care stores, and little Korean boutiques.
This is a fun place to pick up lots of little trinkets, and I always grab a bean paste covered strawberry on the way out. If you go on a weekend or at night, it gets pretty busy as this is a popular place for young Seoulites to hang out.
12:30pm: Lunchtime! My next stop is Itaewon, a famous neighborhood for foreigners. It’s a 15 minute subway ride, or about a 5,000 won cab ride…a little less than $5. This area has some shopping, but is more known for its eclectic international food and bar scene. You can find anything from French to Mexican, and it is one of the most popular party spots in the city. I stop at my favorite Mexican spot, Vatos, for Korean fusion street tacos and a marg.
1:30pm: Post grub, I get ready to head to trek up to Namsan Tower for the best view in Seoul. It’s a little bit of an adventure to get up there, but it is so worth it for the panoramic views. Cabs aren’t allowed to drive all the way up there, so options are either walk the 45-minutes uphill to the top or wait for one of the line 2, 3, or 5 shuttle buses. I opted for the bus, and then decided to walk down. Seoul also has their own version of the Paris love lock bridge on a fence at the base of the Tower.
4:00pm: The hike is only about 20 minutes down, and thankfully all downhill. And I jump in a cab and head back to Seoul Station to make my train home. I would have loved to squeeze in Insadong on Hongdae; 24 hours never seems like enough time for Seoul! There are so many things to see and do and you can only squeeze so much into a day!
Have you ever been to Seoul? What are your favorite things to do and see?