I have wanted to visit Seoul for as far back as I can remember. It always seemed so otherworldly and mystical to me. The perception here in New York is that Seoul is both the future AND the beauty capital of the world! Having now visited, I can attest that both beliefs are entirely true!
I couldn’t believe my luck, when I was asked to travel to Shanghai for work, that my flight would have me stopover in Seoul! It felt absolutely destined to be. On my way back to New York, I spent 5 glorious days exploring this fascinating metropolis. Below are my suggestions for a first timer’s visit.
What to Pack:
- Quite surprisingly to me, Seoul is much cooler than Tokyo, Hong Kong, or Shanghai during March and April. I definitely needed a long wool overcoat, sweaters, and jeans for wandering around the city. I would also be remiss not to mention that Seoul is a dressy city. Women and men alike take their style very, very seriously. For better or worse, image is everything in Seoul so do pack your best.
Where to Stay:
- Aloft Seoul Gangnam: contemporary, comfortable, and affordable 4-star hotel located on the riverfront and a 5 minute walk to Cheongdam subway station. It was the perfect place for me to drop my belongings and head out for a full day of exploring.
What to See:
- Gyeongbokgung Palace
- Bukchon Hanok Village
- Gwangjang Market
- Dragon Hill Spa: go for the Gold Package
- Korean Nail Art: for the coolest decals
Where to Eat:
- Hobak Sikdang: Traditional Korean BBQ in Hannam-Dong. Truly one of the most amazing experiences I had in Seoul.
- Slow Village Brewery & Pub: Delicious Makegeolli (milky, sparkling rice wine) paired with classic Korean dishes.
Where to Shop:
- Sinsa-Dong: This area is comparable to Soho New York. Super trendy shops and unique local designers. Also home to the Gentle Monster Flagship which is definitely worth a visit.
- Starfield COEX Mall: You’ll find all your quintessential international brands here but the real reason to visit is to catch a glimpse of the Starfield Library (below).
- Myeong-Dong: International fashion brands, lots of Korean beauty goods, and local street vendors for eating along the way.
Where to Play:
- Hongdae: No trip to Seoul is complete without a great Karaoke night in Hongdae. It’s situated super close to Hongik University and caters to the younger crowd. It’s characterized by the bright blinking lights, street performers, and all around self-expressive vibe.
What to See Outside the City:
- Haeundae Beach, Busan: roughly 2.5 hrs from Seoul, Busan boasts one of Korea’s most beautiful and well-known beaches. It’s worth spending a weekend here given the lively nightlife and cosy cafés.