Visit Seoul in only 12 hours? It was a challenge to me, but I made a list of a few places I wanted to see, despite the short visit. During breakfast, the morning of, I sat with my pencil and notebook, googled station stops and directions and fished for any hints from the online world.
Being from Toronto, I’m used to a metro system that is nothing compared to the likes of London or New York, and now Seoul. The Korean metro was a bit overwhelming to look at, with the many colors, interchanges and English words on top of Korean symbols. As there wasn’t much of third party assistance, it was a little bit confusing to find my way at first.
That is why it’s important to already know where you want to go. The machines are more helpful then. They easily translate into English and sort your fare accordingly. I bought the one-way ticket and it was fine; fares are also super cheap so #winwin!
First stop: Bukchon Hanok Village
The village itself isn’t really a ‘tourist’ attraction; it’s simply a residential area which houses hundreds of traditional houses, called ‘hanoks’, that apparently date back to the Joseon Dynasty. The traditional essence and structure of the houses has been preserved, whilst still current with signs of ‘the modern world’ and it’s quite interesting to see the contrast between the two; i.e. a benzo pulling out of a hanok house, or security cameras overlooking traditional doors, etc., but it’s a beautiful area nonetheless!
Also, if someone is selling strawberries while you’re around, be sure to buy some, because they are sweetest strawberries ever!
My next stop was the Jeongdok Public Library, that has a beautiful spot on the right, filled with cherry blossoms, if they’re in season. We were apparently in the last week of the season, so a lot of them had already bloomed and fallen, but it was still super beautiful to see and walk through. After that, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is on your left, if that tickles your fancy!
The next stop: Gyeoungbokgung Palace
The museum grounds are free to walk through, which was lovely, and then I’d definitely recommend leaving and continuing [south] on Gallery Street until you come to the main gates of Gyeoungbokgung Palace. Again, the massive entrance grounds are free to tour and walk around [didn’t go in because we were on a time constraint], but the architecture of the palace and seeing people dressed in traditional wear is definitely something to experience!
Palace over, head to the closest metro which would be Gyeoungbokgung station (Subway line 3; dark orange line) either towards Common Ground or Seoul Tower, whichever you fancy. I did Common Ground next, only because we were staying closer to the tower so I figured I’d do that then head back to the hotel, but both are easily accessible once you’re on the metro!
Common ground is one of Seoul’s first pop-up stores and has been built with about 200 vibrant blue shipping containers stacked and welded together to create the space. Definitely exudes a more hipster and urban vibe to the city and just a wicked spot to check out. Restaurants are on the 3rd floor with a terrace overlooking the grounds, café’s on the first, and food truck grub in the open area on the grounds; stores are lined up indoors and there are more urban/street brands. Apparently, there’s also a weekend market which takes place alongside various street performances.
Next up was Seoul Tower also known as Namsan Tower
Seoul Tower is a communication and observation tower located on Namsan Mountain, in Seoul. Presumably, its become a tourist attraction because of the view it provides overlooking the city. I had planned to take the cable car up top to get a view and take some photos, but time wasn’t on my side so I hung about near the foot of the tower and enjoyed the blossoms and whatever view I could manage from there, which was still quite lovely!
Because Myeongdong was en route to the hotel, I took the bus back from the tower [same route], got off at Myeongdong Station and walked through the street itself to get home. Myeongdong is synonymous with Seoul itself and is definitely a must if you’re ever in the city. There seemed to be a daily evening street food market that we caught a couple times, which had vendors selling a variety of items if you’re into trying new foods!
Skin care is another one that kind of took over the street! Its quite overwhelming the first time around, especially if you’re like me and super fascinated by the skincare/cosmetic world, so I’d recommend doing a bit of research online about certain brands and specific products you might want to try to eliminate a) wasting time looking at everything & b) spending money on things you probably don’t need! The street is also a great place to pick up any souvenirs or novelty Korean items for your peeps back home! ie. Hello Kitty socks, dancing PSY dolls, keychains etc.
And that was that my loves! Made my way back afterwards and headed to the airport to experience the most wonderful week of uncomfortable jetlag possible. Incheon Airport isn’t the greatest; we all struggled finding a place to sit, let alone something to munch, and the only place open at 11pm was Starbucks, which wasn’t quite able to fill the hunger void lol
Anyways! Hope that’s provided somewhat of an itinerary for those who might have Seoul as an upcoming destination, and/or shown how realistic it is to maximize a short period of time wherever you might be! Keep an eye out for a Korean vlog also coming your way soon which will hopefully provide more of a visual to some of the aforementioned! xxx