It’s no secret that the major attractions in any city are popular for a reason and most travellers don’t need to be told to visit them. However, the locals’ understanding is that popular spots are not limited to historic monuments and scenic views. Often hidden gems can be overlooked by someone who visits a place for the first time.
In particular, this is the case with destinations like Seoul, which are not within a few hours reach and learning about them from Internet sources can be quite far away from reality. As Korea’s grand city, Seoul should be on the radar for anyone who’s looking for extraordinary experiences and enjoys a fast-paced lifestyle.
Here are a few useful tips for those heading to Seoul for the first time.
Seoul has an excellent public transportation system. And fear not, if you don’t speak Korean—English is more than enough as most signs are bilingual.
Once you land at Incheon International Airport, you can choose from several different ways to get to the city centre, including the airport train (AREX), the subway (metro), limousine buses and regular taxis. Set aside between 45 minutes and 1,5 hour to get there depending on your means of transportation.
What to eat in Seoul might be a tough decision to make with so many unfamiliar names, interesting textures and rich flavours to choose from.
A good place to start from is to check out Foursquare, and choose the top rated restaurants and then head to an eatery or a street food stall across the street. As a rule of thumb, these places tend to be cheaper and serve very similar menus. Dishes to not miss out on are spicy rice cakes, gyeran bbang (egg bread), kimchi, the legendary Korean barbeque and soft-serve ice cream to satisfy your sweet tooth.
A quicker and a more insightful way to explore Korean cuisine in Seoul is to ask Mina, a local who can take you to her go-to eateries. One of the benefits of doing so is that you won’t have to use sign language to order food and you’ll also learn more about the etiquette and how different dishes are cooked.
Most of the sightseeing in Seoul can hardly be squeezed into one day as the city has something to offer for both history buffs and fans of contemporary times.
If you prefer learning about the Korean culture from its history, then you should stop at the National Museum of Korea. The entrance is free of charge, but some exhibitions might need separate tickets that can be priced up to 12-13 euro. With a collection counting back to the Paleolithic era, at the museum you can see antiques, crafts, arts, and more.
For a contemporary-art enthusiast, Leeum Samsung Museum of Art is worth a visit. There you can find both Korean and International modern art, encompassing paintings, sculptures, video and photography.
Don’t forget that markets are also part of the immersive cultural experience and should not be missed while exploring Seoul. Swap fancy shopping malls for local markets and some souvenir shopping. Markets like Namdaemun are open all day and night, and there you can find just about everything, from food and fabrics to appliances.
Seoul offers a seemingly limitless choice of entertainment, shopping, culture and dining to travellers. To include all these attractions on your itinerary, but without all the unnecessary hassle that comes with organising things to see and do in an unfamiliar place, you can ask Mina to do it for you and experience Seoul beyond its top attractions.