Seoul is a very fascinating city with many things to do. In the day, you can go sight-seeing at palaces, visit one of the many museums, drop by N Seoul Tower for a glimpse of the city, or cafe-hop at hip areas like Garosu-gil, and Samcheong-dong. And at night, Hongdae – an area near the Hongik University known for its urban arts and indie music culture, clubs and entertainment – comes alive.
Other places like Itaewon and Gangnam have plenty of bars and clubs where party-goers can drink and dance and merry-make like there is no tomorrow. And of course, the midnight shopping at Dongdaenum Market. Seoul is truly a city that never sleeps. Here are 10 Things to do in Seoul.
Korean BBQ Dinner
The Koreans love their meat. And it is so easily available and relatively affordable. When exploring the streets of Seoul, it is no surprise to see Korean BBQ shops dotting the linear of every lane and corner. Embrace the Asian spirit of communal dining, indulge in a spread of meats of different cuts and marinate, grill your own dinner and enjoy it with the assortment of banchan (Korean side dishes) and condiments. Look out for our guide on Where to eat in Seoul as we introduce some of our favourite Korean BBQ restaurants in the city.
Spend a day at Garosu-gil
Garosu-gil, which translates to tree-lined street, is my favourite area in Seoul. It is an upscale area where you can find niche boutiques, chic cafes, fancy restaurants and trendy hair salons. Be charmed by the whole charisma of this area where every soul is well-dressed; entice your senses with the unique offerings of arts, fashion and food; spend a day here and you will want to go back to Seoul again and again.
Read our guide on 10 cafes to visit in Seoul
Make a stop at Gangnam
Psy’s Oppa Gangnam Style took the world by storm, and I am sure everyone knows about it by now. Gangnam-gu – which literally means “South of the River” – is one of the twenty five gu which makes up the city of Seoul. Make a stop at Gangnam Station – the busiest station in the whole of Seoul. There, you can find hip restaurants, bars and eateries.
Eat at a pojangmacha (roadside tent)
One of the things that I had always wanted to try prior to my trip to Seoul was to eat at a pojangmacha – small tented restaurants on wheels, or roadside street stalls – where locals go for snacks and drinks after work. While the South Korean government has been trying to close down some of the roadside tents (due to hygiene and health reasons), there are still plenty of pojangmachas around, so you can easily find one to have Samgyeopsal, Ddeokbokki and wash it down with soju. If you are going to Namdaemun Market, there is a stretch of pojangmachas at the entrance of the market.
Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market
Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market – often compared to Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market – is certainly one of the must-visit places when you are in Seoul. There are many stalls in the market where you can buy fresh sashimi, lobsters, crabs, prawns, live octopus, and a whole lot of other seafood which you probably have not seen before. After purchasing the seafood (make sure to bargain), go to the back of the market to find a restaurant to cook them for you in your preferred style(s).
Eat Samgyetang – Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup
Samgyetang, or Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup, is synonymous with Korea. You will be amazed by the ginseng options, but never mind that, because whatever it is, Samgyetang is a well-loved comfort food. The typical Samgyetang is served in a pot-like bowl, chock-full of chunky chicken, ginseng and other herbs. And if you did not already know, it is a meal on its own because Korean-styled glutinous ice is stuffed inside the chicken.
N Seoul Tower
N Seoul Tower at Nansam Park offers a bird’s eye view of Seoul. If you are planning to head there, we suggest to make a reservation for lunch at N-Grill steak restaurant – a revolving restaurant located at the top of N Seoul Tower which offers a terrific and value-for-money set lunch.
Seoul is synonymous with everything beauty-related – cosmetics, skincare, eyelash extension, facial reconstruction, plastic surgery… you name it, and I am pretty sure they have it.
Have fun at Seoul with the endless streets and alleys of beauty offerings in the happening area of Myeong-dong. Trust me when I say that even the typical men with zero interest in masks and moisturisers will give in and reach out for that bottle of very affordable face lotion. And needless to say, Myeong-dong is a heaven for females.
Shop at Dongdaemun
Going to Dongdaemun – the fashion centre of Seoul – was quite an experience for me. For some reason, I have always pictured the wholesale fashion centre to be messy and disorganised – like Bangkok’s Platinum Mall, or Taipei’s Wufenpu. Instead, Dongdaenum turned out to be an area with endless trendy shopping malls with nicely decorated shops displaying arrays and arrays of the latest fashion pieces.
And the best part? They operate from night till 6am in the morning. We found ourselves cabbing to Dongdaemun when we were so bored at the hotel and could not get to sleep at ungodly hours. So this is what they meant by “Shopping never stops in Seoul”.
Also, look out for the roadside stalls in the area that sell yummy Korean street food. They are the perfect pitstops after shopping.
Take a tour at one of the great palaces of Seoul
South Korean has a very rich history, and for first-timers to the city, a trip would not be complete without visiting one of the five famous royal palaces in Seoul. Transport yourself back in time, and walk down the same paths that the royalties walked.
Flights to Seoul from Singapore Singapore Airlines and Korean Air are the best options for non-stop flights. Budget airlines Fly Scoot and AirAsia have stopovers at Taipei and Kuala Lumpur respectively.
Best time to visit Seoul It really depends on your objective. For those of you who are not afraid of the cold, winter in Seoul can be quite an experience. Otherwise, go during spring to catch the cherry blossom, or during autumn for the perfect weather.
Tips for Seoul Getting around the city via the Seoul Metropolitan Subway – the world’s most extensive subway system – can be quite confusing, especially for first-timers. Make sure you map out the places that you want to visit before leaving the hotel.
For more recommendations, read our guide on where to eat in Seoul.