Seoul has a been on my to-do list for more than five years so when my good friend surprised me with a weekend away including a return flight for under £150 I was all in. My friend has visited Seoul numerous times and is practically a local. We had talked about taking this trip since we became friends so it was a very exciting moment when everything was booked and we were at the airport waiting to board our flight.
We arrived in Seoul around 10:30am and had to endure the usual airport dramatics which took more than one hour. Fortunately for myself being British and her being European, we had an easy time. Whilst waiting in line I spotted two Russian girls not having quite the same luck. Later I saw them wondering the streets of Seoul having a blast. Good on them!
Thanks to my local/non local travel friend we made it to the hostel effortlessly via subway. It took approximately one hour from the airport to our chosen accommodation.
Note: You can purchase a transport card in the subway station from a machine vendor. The cost varies depending on how much you intend to use the card. It can be used for the subway and bus. It also has some other perks.
Accommodation – Kimchee Guesthouse
After a five minute walk from the subway station, we arrived at our hostel which is located in the Hongdae area of Seoul. We were welcomed by very pleasant staff who recognised my friend from previous visits so they upgraded our room for free. “It’s not what you know, but who you know“. We originally paid for a shared dorm at approx £6 per night but ended up with a private twin room. We were off to a great start!
Note: Check-in at 3 pm but you can leave your luggage with the staff and head out for the day.
A quick freshen up and a change of clothes later, we set off to do some exploring and eat lunch. My friend was extremely excited to show me around and introduce me to her favourite places so I just let her lead the way. As a solo traveller, this was an interesting change of pace for me but also a welcomed one.
Our first stop was of course for coffee. Mega coffee to be exact. This is no coffee for the light-hearted. The takeaway cup was bigger than my head, contained 2+ shots of espresso and was only about £3.50. The menu is diverse so even if you don’t like coffee you can opt for tea or hot chocolate.
Hongdae is an area of Seoul busting with young, stylish university students and local entrepreneurs going about their day. Everywhere you turn your eyes are met with locals working hard in their privately owned shops, food vendors selling local delicious treats, street performers showcasing their singing and dancing talents and so much more.
We ended up spending the remainder of our day wondering the beautiful streets of Hongdae with some light shopping, trying local food and soaking up the atmosphere and of course the sunshine.
Something to remember. At night time the streets are ablaze with an array of Neon lights as far as the eye can see. Although at first it’s wonderful to see but after a while it starts to hurt your eyes.
P.D.A – Public Displays of Affection are very common in Seoul and I am guessing in South Korea in general (I am just making an assumption). I don’t particularly mind if couples want to be very affectionate in public but the volume of it was a little overwhelming. It’s nice to know the couples there seem to be madly in love with each other. You don’t see that everywhere.
You can easily spot the temple from way across the street due to the immense colours coming from the sheer volume of hanging lanterns. To add to it’s beauty, the sun was shining upon them as if it were planned somehow creating a rainbow effect over the entire temple. I haven’t even gotten to the temple itself yet which was stunning with a strong element of the colour green with intricate detail painted onto the exterior using flowers and animals. Simply picturesque.
We happened to have some time to spare late in the afternoon thanks to planning our day extremely well. Approximately half an hour subway journey from the temple, we arrived at the Park which was much bigger than I had anticipated. Walking along the pathways and across the grass area was just a lovely way to cap off the day. Stumbling across a local BBQ vendor was lucky and happened to be just in time to see the sunset over the river which was a pleasant surprise.
Note: We were there in April and the flowers were starting to bloom but not fully.
Waking up bright and early and after a much needed filling breakfast, we headed to Bukchon Village. I honestly I had no idea what to expect but thankfully it was more than I could have hoped for. Walking around this old style, beautiful, romantic village was the perfect way to spend half a day. I ended up buying a small wooden painting from a local painter, had a virgin strawberry mojito, visited the tea museum and so much more.
Let’s play dress up
While wondering the never ending streets I kept seeing locals and non-locals doing the same thing but dressed in traditional Korean clothing. It was a very hot day so I am glad I didn’t take part in the dress up activity but if I were to go back during a different, cooler season I would definitely get involved with some dress up fun. Personally I think it would be good to do with a small group of friends or even as a family.
The Tea Museum
We stumbled upon the museum by accident whilst climbing some steps to get a good view of the village. In fact, the tea museum was more than just a museum. It was quaint and well designed with a small collection of tea apparatus, a small hidden garden with a pond surrounded by blossoming trees and flowers plus a roof top cafe over-looking the entire village.
Note: The entrance fee was less than £1 and I would happily go visit again in the future.
Whether or not you have visited South Korea will not determine whether or not you have enjoyed great Korean food. BUT there is something to be said about food prepared and eaten in the country of its origin. I have eaten plenty of Korean food in my time but after experiencing it in Seoul I can say with certainty that it is tons better there. I have never eaten so much food in such a short period of time. I have zero complaints about anything food related. Beyond delicious!
I’m sure you have all heard of or eaten Korean BBQ. Please make some time to try some different BBQ restaurants while in Seoul. You will not be disappointed.
A huge slice of pizza for about £2 is something worth trying. Of course there are many flavour options with a variety of toppings and spices plus you can choose from a collection of sodas and beers to wash it down with. It opens at 5 pm and stays open till the early hours of the morning. I know what you’re thinking, it’s the perfect place to go after a night on the town. Well, you would be right!
I didn’t quite catch the name of this dish but you will see it advertised on most cafe windows, around areas with street food and in small restaurants. It tastes like ice-cream but it is in fact shaved ice with a topping plus added milk. It is super strange but super delicious.
A few remaining pictures from my weekend in Seoul
For those who are considering taking a trip to Seoul, I highly recommend it. And for anyone who has never considered it, I hope this short article has triggered a desire to visit in the future. I fully intend to go back in the near future and spend some more time there plus travelling around other cities too.