Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Seoul: Top 10

Time Magazine recently released its list of 10 things to do in Seoul in 24 hours: I saw it on CNN travel and thought I'd share. 

1. Gyeongbok Palace, the main palace from the Joseon period 

2. Bukchon Hanok Village 

3. Shinsegae Department Store, an extremely overpriced department store with about six different coffee shops on the first floor. 

4. Bugaksan Mountain, a mountain near Gyeongbok Palace and the Blue House (the President's house) 

5. Itaewon, the foreigner district 

6. Namdaemun Market, a huge open-air market in Seoul (it puts Stanley Market in Hong Kong to shame) 

7. Cheonggyecheon Stream, a man-made stream that flows through the center of the business district 

8. War Memorial of Korea, a Korean War Museum 

9. Seoul City Bus Tour, get on and get off at your own leisure tour around Seoul 

10. Korean Feasts, aka the best of the best when it comes to Korean food.

I've experienced all of these except the Bukchon Village and I would argue that some of these do not belong on this list. Then again, I wonder if it'd be possible to do all of these things in 24 hours. 

So, here you are folks. My perfect twenty four hours in Seoul, South Korea. 

I would start by waking up in Gangnam (one of the busier districts in Seoul). It's a good resting place for those who come to visit Korea- as it's busy and almost centrally located. I'd open the curtains to see a mad rush of people on their way to the bustling subway. But not I! On this day, I'm simply a tourist, not a resident. I'd get dressed and head out to Butterfingers, a western-style breakfast place in Gangnam. Although you may be disappointed that I didn't head for the traditional rice and kimchi breakfast, you will be proud to know that Butterfingers has a delicious assortment of foods- one of my favorites being he waffles! 

After a hearty breakfast and a hot cup of joe, I'd be on my way. Where to start I'd wonder to myself?! With a whole day and a million things to see, this could be quite the action packed day. I'd start at Coex. If you're a fan of fish, then I'd definitely recommend going to the aquarium. While it can't even compete with the Shed Aquarium in Chicago, it still has an awesome shark tank that would spook any fish fanatic. After an hour at Coex, I'd head to Dongdaemun while on my way to Insadong. While in Dondaemun sway through the streets and spend some of your hard earned money, however, be prepared to have to carry those shopping bags all day. Clothes and accessories are cheap here! Check out the Dondaemun gate on your way out (as the one at Naemdaemun burnt down last year).  

Next, head toward Insadong for some traditional souvenirs and to check out a traditional tea house. Enjoy a cup of peach tea (my favorite) and wander in and out of the shops. Hungry for lunch yet? I am! Next head to Itaewon, the foreign district in Seoul. While Itaewon is neither the cleanest nor safest area to live in, it's home to the N Seoul tower. N Seoul tower sits on top of Namsan Mountain. You have the option to take a cable car up and down or to hike the mountain. If the day is nice, take the hike! On your way up, there is a cartoon museum that will provide a giggle or two. You won't be disappointed with the view (unless it's monsoon season, yellow dust season, or an other typical bad weathered day in Seoul). The view really gives you a sense of how jam packed the city is. Either way, it's awesome! Enjoy brunch at the revolving restaurant at the top. Although pricey, it's worth it :) 

After Itaewon, it's only a hop, skip, and a jump to Cheonggyecheon, a man made stream that runs through the city. What I love about this spot is people watching and the music festivals that they almost always have in the spring and summer. The stream never disappoints as it houses a museum and usually some great art too! Don't be afraid to take off your shoes and dip your feet into the stream, the Koreans do it, and so can you!  On your way home it's a must to see the changing of the guard at Gyeongbok Palace. Some can spend the whole day here, but I'd give myself an hour and pull out my good camera. There are many beautiful photo opportunities. When the light is right, make sure to snap those photos! 

The day is coming to an end at this point, but you must check out the Han River, the longest river in Korea. At the river, have a picnic or rent a bike! My all-time favorite Han River activity is kite-flying, and if the wind is there, you too can fly a kite for 5,000 Korean Won (4 US dollars!). 

Later, meet up with friends for galbi, traditional korean barbeque and don't pass up the kimchi or the soju-- as it's a must! Head out to Hondae, a great bar area, for some more drinks and laughs! Eventually find a taxi and head back home. Bask in the glory that this is your life, and it definitely can't be beat! Although your tired from your day in Seoul, you'll sleep peacefully. 


Jo said...

Wow! That's absoltuely amazing! If I ever go to Seul I will definitely use your itinerary! Thanks a lot! : )

sarah said...

yay for me! i have been to all but one! yay yay!

i want to come back, ray. i want korean fooood. but twice this year already... hmmm

TheBearClub said...

I am off to Seoul for 3 days at the end of July, and have been looking online for places to go to. This is by far the best description I have found, and have bookmarked your page to check out these places.

Thank you so much!!