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10 million people, a figure that more than doubles if you include neighboring cities and suburbs, Seoul is the largest city in South Korea and unquestionably the economic, political and cultural hub of the country. By some measures it is the second largest urban agglomeration on the planet, after Greater [[Tokyo]]. |+|
With over million people, a figure that more than doubles if you include neighboring cities and suburbs, Seoul is the largest city in South Korea and unquestionably the economic, political and cultural hub of the country. By some measures it is the second largest urban agglomeration on the planet, after Greater [[Tokyo]].
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In recent years, Seoul has been swamped with tourists from China, Japan, and Southeast Asia, following the success of Korean pop culture. Travelers will frequently overhear Japanese, Mandarin, or Cantonese; many restaurants and stores, especially in the more touristy areas like Myeongdong, will have signs in Japanese and Chinese as well as Korean and English. However, this travel destination, long popular among Asians, is still relatively unknown in the West and frequently passed over by Westerners for nearby [[Shanghai]], [[Tokyo]], [[Beijing]], and [[Hong Kong]].
In recent years, Seoul has been swamped with tourists from China, Japan, and Southeast Asia, following the success of Korean pop culture. Travelers will frequently overhear Japanese, Mandarin, or Cantonese; many restaurants and stores, especially in the more touristy areas like Myeongdong, will have signs in Japanese and Chinese as well as Korean and English. However, this travel destination, long popular among Asians, is still relatively unknown in the West and frequently passed over by Westerners for nearby [[Shanghai]], [[Tokyo]], [[Beijing]], and [[Hong Kong]].
Revision as of 00:57, 6 March 2013
- Seoul is a huge city with several district articles containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings — have a look at each of them.
Seoul (서울) is the capital of South Korea. With a municipal population of over 10.5 million, and a metropolitan population totaling over 20.5 million, Seoul is by far South Korea's largest city and one of East Asia's financial and cultural epicenters. A fascinating blend of ancient traditions and cutting-edge digital technology, home to endless street food vendors and vast nightlife districts, an extraordinarily high-pressure educational system and serene Buddhist temples, a dynamic trend-setting youth culture and often crushing conformism, extraordinary architecture and endless monotonous rows of grey apartment buildings, Seoul is a city filled with stark contrasts, contradictions, and paradoxes.
With over 11.8 million people, a figure that more than doubles if you include neighboring cities and suburbs, Seoul is the largest city in South Korea and unquestionably the economic, political and cultural hub of the country. By some measures it is the second largest urban agglomeration on the planet, after Greater Tokyo.
In recent years, Seoul has been swamped with tourists from China, Japan, and Southeast Asia, following the success of Korean pop culture. Travelers will frequently overhear Japanese, Mandarin, or Cantonese; many restaurants and stores, especially in the more touristy areas like Myeongdong, will have signs in Japanese and Chinese as well as Korean and English. However, this travel destination, long popular among Asians, is still relatively unknown in the West and frequently passed over by Westerners for nearby Shanghai, Tokyo, Beijing, and Hong Kong.
However, the traveler who does visit will not be disappointed. This sprawling metropolis is truly vast - though the casual traveler can see most of the main sites in a few days, a dedicated traveler could spend months exploring all the alleyways and far-off neighborhoods. As the capital of a country that has gone through massive development in the past sixty years, Seoul is constantly changing at a incredible pace, matched only by the mainland Chinese cities. This frantic pace of life is reflected everywhere - in Seoul's cutting-edge digital technology, in the millions of commuters rushing to work everyday in the world's third largest subway system, in one of the most vibrant nightlife scenes in the world, and in the thousands of high rises and apartment buildings still under construction.
Considering all of this, one may be forgiven for forgetting that Seoul has a long history stretching far back into Korea's dynastic past. There is evidence for settlement in this area as far as 18 BC but Seoul as the capital city of South Korea has a history back to the 14th century. Originally named Hanseong (한성; 漢城), the city was the capital of the Joseon Dynasty from 1392 to 1910, when Korea was occupied by the Japanese. The Joseon Dynasty built most of Seoul's most recognisable landmarks, including the Five Grand Palaces and Namdaemun. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, the city was re-named to its current name, Seoul. Since the establishment of the Republic of Korea in 1948, Seoul has been the capital of South Korea. Occupied twice during the Korean War by Communist forces, the city was extensively rebuilt and today is one of Asia's primary metropolises. Much of Seoul's infrastructure and facilities, such as the buildings, stadiums, and transport systems, are exceptionally modern and clean.
Seoul is a relatively well organized city covering over 600 km² with a population of around 11.8 million. It is a new modern city built on an ancient and shining history. The city is located in the north-western portion of South Korea approximately 40 km east of the Yellow Sea and 60 km south of the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The city is roughly bisected by the Han River (한강 Hangang), which runs east to west across the city. Seoul blurs seamlessly into its surrounding satellite cities, most of which are also served by the Seoul metro. The largest of these is Incheon (to the west) in which Seoul's main Airport, and the area's main seaport, are located. Other satellite cities include such as Ilsan (to the north) and Anyang (to the south).
Seoul's Administrative Districts
Administratively, Seoul is divided into 25 districts (구 gu), each with an area and population comparable to a small city. The districts are then further subdivided into 522 sub-districts (동 dong). The Han river bisects the city, splitting it into two halves: Gangbuk (강북), the northern, more historical half, and and Gangnam (강남), the southern, wealthier and more modern half. The sheer size of the city means that travelers to Seoul will find it difficult to locate a true "center" of Seoul; instead, Seoul is almost more like a collection of cities that happen to be bunched together, each with their own central business and commercial districts. The two largest core areas are Jongno/Jung in the north, and Gangnam in the south. For travelers with more time, there are many more, smaller centers and districts to be explored, such as the island of Yeoui-do and the college district of Hongdae/Sinchon. For the typical traveler, it would be useful to divide the city into the following areas:
North of the River (강북 Gangbuk)
- Jongno (종로) – The Joseon-era historical core of the city, containing most palaces and government offices. This district, along with Jung (중) district immediately to the south of it, makes up one of the main centers of the city. Here you can find the most famous of the Five Grand Joseon Palaces, Gyeongbokgung, with a long avenue leading up to the main gate. To the east of Gyeongbokgung are clustered Changdeokgung and Changyeonggung, two more of the Five, and Jongmyo Shrine, the main Confucian shrine in the dynastic era. Sandwiched between these two areas is Bukchon, a quaint housing area filled with 'hanok', beautiful traditional Korean houses that also date back to the dynastic era. South of Bukchon is Insa-dong which is the largest antiques market street in Seoul, and further south is Cheongyecheon, a renovated stream and park that runs through the heart of the downtown area.
- Jung (중) – This district makes up the other half of the historic core, with Cheongyecheon stream as its northern border. It holds some of the few remaining European-style government buildings left over from the Japanese era - the City Hall and the Bank of Korea, both in the west, centered around a large plaza often serves as a rallying point for protests and soccer games. Immediately to the southwest of the City Hall is Myeongdong, an large upscale shopping district that gets extremely busy at night and on weekends, and one of the top ten most expensive shopping districts in the world by rent. To the south of the City Hall is Namdaemun Market, another large shopping district that is decidedly cheaper than neighboring Myeongdong. Further south of Namdaemun is Seoul Station and Namsan Mountain, with the Seoul Tower at its summit. Finally, the eastern part holds Dongdaemun, an enormous fashion district with dozens of clothing malls, complexes, wholesalers, and department stores.
- Seodaemun/Mapo (서대문/마포) – These two districts lie immediately west of Jongro and Jung, and contain dozens of universities and colleges. As such, this area is home to some of Seoul's most active nightlife districts: Hongdae (홍대) and Sinchon (신촌). Sinchon is close to Yonsei University, one of the most prestigious in Korea, and has hundreds of restaurants, bars, clubs, and stores that are open well into early morning, packed with throngs of students during the weekend. Hongdae is famous for being the center of Seoul's indie and underground arts scene – expect to see street performers, indie rock bands, graffiti, and independent stores. During the night, Hongdae really comes alive, even more crowded than Sinchon and absolutely enormous – it's easy to get lost inside this huge nightlife district, and has the second highest concentration of foreigners, after Itaewon.
- Yongsan (용산) – Yongsan is home to the US Army Military Base as well as one of the largest electronics markets in the world, Yongsan Electronics Market. On the top floor of this market is a Starcraft Arena - and yes, computer-obsessed Korea does, in fact, regularly broadcast Starcraft matches on national television. This is also where you'll find Itaewon (이태원), perhaps the most culturally diverse area on the entire peninsula and home to dozens of restaurants featuring cuisine from the world over, numerous shops selling everything from custom-tailored suits to antiques, and several Western pubs and bars. Itaewon also has the only mosque in Korea, and as such there are a growing number of Middle Eastern and Pakistani immigrants. Talks are also finalizing on Yongsan International Business District, a $28.8 billion dollar project that when completed, will have a 665m centerpiece tower, the second tallest in the world.
South of the River (강남 Gangnam)
- Gangnam (강남) – Gangnam is the glitzy center of modern Seoul, home to hundreds of glass and steel skyscrapers, neon billboards, and some of the most expensive real estate in the country. The core business district runs along Tehran-ro from Samseong Station to Gangnam Station. Gangnam station is the true center of Gangnam - with dozens of high rises, hundreds of restaurants and bars, and thousands upon thousands of neon signs lining Gangnam street, this area is not only a major commercial and nightlife center for young adults, it is Korea at its futuristic, digital, high-tech best. Samseong station at the other end of Tehran-ro is connected to COEX, a huge underground shopping mall with a movie theater, aquarium, hotels, food courts, and a Hyundai Department Store. To the north of this business district (but still in Gangnam) is Apgujeongdong and Cheomdangdong, some of the most affluent areas in Seoul, and home to hundreds of upscale luxury brands and department stores.
- Songpa – a primarily residential district east of Gangnam where you'll find Lotte World, Olympic Park, Seoul (Jamsil) Sports Complex, and the Sincheon nightlife district. Lotte World is an unusual place - just a few bus stops away from COEX, it is yet another enormous shopping and entertainment complex, but with a twist: It holds one of the largest ice-skating rinks in Korea, and the largest indoor theme park in the world. Good for families with children, but be warned: on a rainy day, the shortest lines may be an hour or longer. Sincheon (신천, not to be confused with Sinchon, 신촌) is a large, crowded nightlife area, mainly populated by an older, local business crowd due to its location near Gangnam.
- Yeoui-do (여의도) – An island in the Han River in Yeongdeungpo-gu (영등포-구) and the closest Seoul gets to Manhattan with skyscrapers, the National Assembly and the Seoul Stock Exchange. Though it may seem attractive for tourists, in reality there isn't too much to do here, and the island gets pretty desolate during the weekends.
- Yangcheon – a district of western Seoul with the Mok-dong area at its centre, home to some of the tallest residential buildings in Seoul, a large Hyundae department store and an ice rink.
Most visitors arrive via Incheon International Airport (IATA: ICN),(), located on Yeongjong Island in the neighboring city of Incheon and covered in detail in its own article.
The A'REX  train link connects the airport to Seoul Station (for further connections to KTX high-speed services) and Gimpo Airport (most domestic flights), operating from 5:20 AM until midnight. Two versions exist: Express services to the city (every half hour) takes 43 minutes and cost ₩13,300 (with WiFi available on board), while commuter services (every 6 minutes) take 53 minutes and cost ₩3,700.
It is worth noting that with some airlines you can check into your Incheon flight in Seoul Station before you get on the AREX train. Immigration officers are also on hand to stamp your passport, which means you are processed and can quickly go through the Diplomatic Departures entrance in Incheon Airport.
Travel time to Gimpo Airport is 28/35 minutes, with both services charging ₩3100, making this the fastest and cheap option for intra-airport transfer as well. If you are heading to Incheon International from Seoul Station and using Korean, Asiana or Jeju Air, the express train may be your best option. You can check your bags and even pass through security and immigration, allowing you to skip the lines at the airport and to spend a little longer in the city, or helping you make a mad dash to the airport.
However, if you have a lot of luggage or are heading to southern parts of Seoul (eg. Gangnam), the airport buses remain your best option. Limousine buses  (₩15,000 to/from city for one way, ₩6500 to/from Gimpo Airport (domestic flight)) travel directly to major areas and big hotels in Seoul, while public buses (₩8,000-9.000) will take you to major transit hubs. If you're visiting for the first time, it's worth paying a bit extra for the limousine bus. For either bus type, consult the big maps or staff to figure out which route best suits your needs; you can then find the shuttles outside 1st floor arrivals (if possible get this information from your hotel before arriving). Or simply, walk out and ask the many ticket sellers (they are wearing vests) which bus goes to your hotel because if it's a popular one or in a popular area, they'll surely know which you'll need. It's best to buy tickets at any of the the ticket gates near the bus arrival area but you can also pay the fare using won or a T-Money card if you have one. The limousine bus drivers are extremely friendly but don't count on them knowing too much English. There are maps inside the buses letting passengers know which stops are upcoming and these are also announced in Korean and English. Pressing any of the red buttons inside signals to the driver you want off at the next stop.
You can purchase and recharge a T-Money card at the GS25 store which is located at the end of the arrivals area, next to "International Arrivals F" exit.
If you have a late flight and plan on getting into Seoul via bus, make sure you get out to the curb as soon as you can. The last buses run shortly after the last flights land. If you miss your bus, you'll be stuck paying for a taxi, as the trains will stop running too.
A taxi direct to Seoul will cost around ₩50,000/70,000 regular/deluxe. Black deluxe taxis (모범 택시) and almost all regular taxis accept credit cards, but a few regular taxis (일반 택시) may not. Ask the driver before you get on if you can pay by credit card. You are expected to pay any road tolls on top of the meter fare. Having your destination written down in Korean will be very helpful. Steer clear of taxi drivers trying to pick you up from inside the terminal and even the bus stop. As both buses and taxis are subject to traffic, allow extra time for rush hour delays (or take the train back).
The closer but older Gimpo Airport  (김포국제공항, GMP) caters only to the shuttle services to Tokyo-Haneda, Osaka-Kansai and Shanghai-Hongqiao, as well as domestic flights within South Korea.
Gimpo Airport is easily reached on the A'REX link from Seoul Station or Incheon Airport, as well as subway lines 5 and 9. All lines intersect Line 2 which runs in a large circle through Seoul. Line 9 (Gold Line), a private subway line in Seoul, has three express trains per hour. Travelers coming into Seoul should first have detailed directions to their destination from the nearest station then consult the subway map before deciding on which line and route to take. All three lines cost ₩1,000-2,100 (depending on distance), while a taxi to central Seoul will run around ₩30,000. Discounts for subway fare are available with T-Money cards.
Seoul is the northern terminus of the KTX high-speed line. There are three KTX stations within city limits:
- The newly added KTX at Youngdeungpo is now running to southern destinations.
Nearly all ordinary (non-KTX) services also use one or both of the above terminals, but services east to Chuncheon or Gangneung and southeast to Gyeongju via Danyang use Cheongnyangni Station (청량리역), to the east of the city on line 1.
Every weekend approximately 2 million Seoulites leave the city, which goes a long way to explaining why the city has five major intercity bus terminals.
- Central City Terminal, also known as Honam Terminal, (Metro Lines 3, 7 or 9, Express Bus Terminal stn). Directly adjacent to the Express terminal, serves buses to North and South Jeolla.
- Dong Seoul Bus Terminal, (동서울버스터미널), Gangbyeon stn (Line 2). Buses to points east of Seoul (Gangwon and some part of North Chungcheong).
- Seoul Express Bus Terminal, (서울고속버스터미널), (Metro Lines 3, 7, or 9, Express Bus Terminal stn). Also known as Gangnam Terminal and Gyeongbu-Yeongdong Terminal, this is the largest of them all and serves pretty much the entire country, but most services head east (incl. Busan, Daegu, Daejeon). Lines to Jeolla, however, use the Central City/Honam Terminal right next door. For the most part there's no need to buy a ticket days in advance except for maybe during holidays. There's even a ticket window labeled "Tickets for Foreigners" where the attendant can speak English. Fare from Seoul-Busan is about ₩20,000 and buses come continuously throughout the day. Small restaurants and snacks are all throughout the station. Journeys longer than 2 hrs. typically will have a short stop at a rest area. Most buses are very comfortable and extremely safe.
- Sinchon Bus Terminal, Sinchon (Underground) stn (Line 2) or Sinchon stn (Gyeongeui Line). Buses to Ganghwa Island. Note: That's Sinchon station, not Sincheon, which is also on Line 2 but on the wrong side of the city!
There are ferry services to various points in China from the neighboring port city of Incheon. Currently no services run from Japan directly to Seoul; many Koreans take the coach or KTX train to Busan, where several ferry and hydrofoil options are available.
No matter where in Korea you start your journey, there will be tolled expressways (Gosok Doro) and national highways (Gook Do) that lead to Seoul; the most important one is the Gyeongbu Expressway, linking Seoul with Busan. To avoid the daily traffic jam on the Gyeongbu Highway near Seoul, take Jungbu/2nd Jungbu, Seohaean, or Yongin-Seoul Expressway.
Traffic jams are all too common in Seoul, so be careful on the streets and head underground when possible. Street and subway signage is usually written in English as well as Korean.
In Seoul, you can visit most places by using the subway. There are currently nine numbered lines plus a smattering of named suburban lines, all distinguished by different colors. All signs in the subway system are in Korean (both hangeul and if applicable, hanja) and English. The signs leading to the platform for a particular direction of travel on a given subway line typically list the names of a number of stations in that direction. Stations each have a 3 digit number, but locals rarely make use of these numbers, and they're not on most subway maps, so don't rely on them. A subway map can be found here:.
Subway fares are based on the distance traveled, but the shortest ride costs ₩1,000 (base charge) plus card deposit ₩500 (refundable if you return the card at designated machines at each station). The base charge roughly covers up to 10 km of the journey and ₩100 is added for every 5 km beyond that. Cards can be purchased from vending machines ONLY. All vending machines accept coins and bills, up to ₩10,000 notes (and some ₩50,000 notes, but cash exchange machines are at each station). Hang onto your card until the end of your trip, as you'll need it to get out. Most of Seoul's automated card machines are equipped with touchscreen and full English support (along with Chinese and Japanese). Since ticket machines may be crowded, buying two cards (one for each way) is recommended.
If planning on using the Metro extensively or staying for more than a few weeks, you should consider purchasing a T-money stored value contactless smart card. You can buy this card at most subway stations and many newspaper kiosks near subway entrances, as well as convenience stores. The card itself costs ₩3000 and cash can be charged onto the card as often as you like. When entering and leaving a subway turnstile, place the card on the reader (leaving it inside your purse or wallet is fine) and it will deduct the appropriate fare from the card. Using this card will allow you to save ₩100 on all transfers (these are common with Seoul's extensive subway system) and you can get all but ₩500 back if you have unused credit.
Typically for most travellers staying less than 2 weeks in Seoul, purchasing this card may not be cheaper but other factors should be considered: it can also be used for taxi fares, buses, storage lockers, pay phones, etc. However, using a transportation card is highly recommended if you wish to use it for buses as well simply for its ability to transfer between them since you will not have to pay for the basic 900 fare twice for a single journey when using two modes of transport. It also saves the hassle from figuring out how much you need to pay or waiting in line to buy a single-use ticket. The subway is not open 24 hours, so you may be stranded late at night.
Seoul also has an extensive bus service. There are four different kinds of buses: yellow, green, blue, and red. Yellow buses have a short circuit usually around tourist areas. Green buses travel around neighborhoods and connect with the subway. Blue buses go across town, while red buses are intercity buses. Buses will only stop at designated bus stops and will not wait for indecisive travelers.
Adult fare is as follows:
Cash – ₩1,150
T-Money Card – ₩1,050
Note that by using a T-Money card, you can transfer between the bus and the subway for free up to 30 minutes after your last scan. That is to say, the base charge of ₩1,050 won't be charged twice. If, for example, you are travel 10 km by subway, transfer to a bus and travel a further 5 km, 1,050 won will be deducted once you leave the subway, nothing will be deducted when you enter a bus, but you will be deducted ₩100 for the extra 5 km journey you made on the bus. Note that if you do not tag the machine as you leave the bus, you will be charged the maximum fare possible by the route.
The city of Seoul provides an interactive bus map at the following site: Seoul Public Transportation System Guide .
Deluxe taxis are black with a yellow sign and are more expensive than regular taxis but provide better and more comfortable service. Regular taxis are silver. For the most part, regular taxi cabs have leather interiors and the drivers are nice--so, for many people, "regular" in Seoul might be "deluxe" in their hometown. It is easy to hail a taxi any time of the day or night along any relatively major Seoul street.
You can call a deluxe taxi wherever you are by calling 3431-5100. Sometimes, you can find a visitor's guide taxi, a kind of deluxe taxi, the drivers of which know English and Japanese and can guide you around Seoul.
The basic fare for regular taxis is ₩2,400 (₩2,880 at night), with a surcharge of ₩100 applied according to time and distance. (The basic fare is up to 2 km, plus ₩100 per 144 m.) In deluxe taxis, the basic fare is ₩4500 and the additional fare increases in increments of ₩200. (₩4500 basic fare for up to 3 km, plus ₩200 per 164 m). International taxi drivers speak at least one foreign language (generally English) fluently. International taxis use the same basic fare as regular taxis, plus an additional 20%.
If there is more than one passenger, and you are traveling only a short distance (like 1-2 metro stops) it is usually cheaper to catch a taxi than to take a bus or subway.
In general, taxi drivers do not speak English or any other foreign language, so have your destination written in Korean to show to the taxi driver. It is also wise to get your hotel's business card in case you get lost. Some may even reject looking at a map so whenever possible, have the location written in Korean.
All taxis advertise a free interpretation service that can be called if you need help. The phone number for the interpretation is on the window sticker of the back seats. Taxis that have an "On Base Authorized" sticker on the side, or a green sticker on their front bumper, are capable of entering US military bases in Seoul. These drivers are required to speak better English as part of their contract and may thus be easier for any English speaking tourists.
Most taxis accept credit cards and T-money cards and thus have a V-shaped orange card sign on the roof of the taxi by the front passenger seat window. However, drivers generally prefer that you pay cash, especially for short rides.
You can also ask for your receipt ("Yeong-su-jeung" 영수증).
As in any other city, there are some bad apples, and some drivers may take you the long way. Although the drivers often have a GPS device on the dashboard of their car, this is relatively meaningless if you do not know the area or cannot speak sufficient Korean to argue the point.
In general, make sure the driver turns on the meter, get an idea of the cardinal direction of your destination (north, south, east, west), and use the interpretation service if you want to agree to a fare beforehand.
However, keep in mind that there is often road construction or protests around Seoul, so sometimes a long route is necessary. If you suspect you are being ripped off, the most a non-Korean speaker can do is write down or take a picture of the driver's ID (located above the glove box) and report the details to the company.
Internationally known car rental companies like Hertz are in Seoul, just be prepared for a driving challenge and long rush hours. In addition, parking spaces are hard, if not close to impossible to find, especially during peak hours. Therefore, unless you are planning to head out of the city, it is not advisable to rent a car and you are better off relying on the excellent public transport system instead.
Getting around in Seoul without a local escort (be it friend or cab driver) can be tricky, since this is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. While Seoul occupies less land than New York City, it can be more confusing. The major roads twist and turn, the various rail lines, rivers and mountains are obstacles and the smaller roads turn into a labyrinth of alleys. Most people will try to help you find your way around but often won't know themselves; best to familiarize yourself with some landmarks and the nearest subway stations. Learn the landmarks closest to where you are staying. The better-known landmarks in Seoul (such as the N Seoul Tower located in the center of town)can prove helpful at times. A compass will still work when a GPS fails.
Once you know your immediate surroundings, you'll find that Seoul isn't such a huge place and the pedestrian approach can be an enriching experience.
There's usually a subway stop within a ten-minute walk in any direction.
Whether on bicycle or foot, the best way to escape traffic is to learn the rivers and streams. Most of these waterways empty into the Han River or another tributary to the Han, so look to the direction of water flow at any creek; chances are, it's headed for the Han. The Han runs right through town, generally moving West (sometimes Southwest; sometimes Northwest), so knowing where you are in relation to the Han is helpful.
The Han River as well as most streams are lined with massive parks that feature outdoor gymnasiums, multiple-lane bicycle paths, and 24-hour restrooms. Cars are generally not allowed. Pedestrian bridges on the smaller waterways are common.
Numerous mountains with hiking trails can be found in the city.
See also: Korean phrasebook
As elsewhere in Korea, a grasp of basic Korean will be helpful. If you plan on an extended visit, consider learning to read the Korean written script, hangeul. It takes very little time to pick up the basics, and it can be endlessly helpful. A quick (free) visit to the Story of King Sejong Exhibition Hall beneath the Statue of King Sejong in Gwanghwamun Square will give you an introduction to the Korean written language and some interactive exhibits to practice. Thirty minutes there will see you recognising and pronouncing some Korean words.
Shops in major tourists areas, including Insadong, Myeongdong, and Itaewon, will probably have staff that speak at least some English, and some may have staff that speak Mandarin, Cantonese and/or Japanese. While all younger Koreans are required to study English in school, due to a lack of practice, proficiency is generally poor, and most residents of Seoul only know a few simple words and phrases. If lost, a useful tip is to write down your question in simple words and show it to someone young. That being said, it is still possible to get by using only English, though it goes without saying that a basic grasp of Korean will make your trip much smoother.
Detail of the king's bedchamber, Changdeokgung
Roof with protective figurines, Changdeokgung
As the ancient seat of Korea's royalty, there are no fewer than 5 major palaces in Seoul, and some are definitely worth a visit. You can pay admission fee with T-money at the entrance(no additional discount applies). ISIC holder can get a discount at ticket office.
- Gyeongbok-gung(경복궁,景福宮), Yulgukno (subway Gyeongbokgung or Gwanghwamun). This is Seoul's grandest Joseon Dynasty-era palace and the seat of power for centuries before it was razed in 1592 by a Japanese invasion (and again by the Japanese in 1910). This was the first palace used by the Joseon Dynasty. Large parts have now been restored and the vast grounds also house the Joseon Palace Museum and the Korean Folk Museum. Admission fee is ₩3,000, open 9AM-6PM (open till 7PM on holidays) daily except Tuesdays.
- Changdeok-gung(창덕궁,昌德宮), 99 Yulgong-ro, Jongno-gu (Metro Line 3, Anguk station 5 min walk or Line 1, 3, 5 Jongno-3ga Station). This palace is second only to Gyeongbok-gung (the original Gyeongbok-gung was built before Changdeok-gung but wasn't used for as long a time) in historical importance, this was first built in 1405 and was the seat of power between 1618 and 1896. The buildings have all been recently restored and freshly repainted, creating a dazzling but still elegant effect that got the palace listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Buildings of particular note include the blue-roofed Seonjeongjeon, which was the King's office, and the Daejojeon ("Great Making Hall"), his bedchamber, but perhaps most famous of all is the Huwon ("Secret Garden") in the back. Access to the complex is by guided tour only (₩3,000) except on Thursdays when only self-guided tours are available in summer from April to August. Korean-language tours run every half hour (Japanese-language tours also available) but English tours are only offered at 10:30AM and 2:30PM, and last around 60 minutes with a walking distance of about 2.5 km, including some steps and inclines for the Huwon portion (the grounds are wheelchair-accessible for most parts but may have to enter certain areas in a reverse direction from the group). Closed Mondays. Mainline bus (blue): 109, 151, 162, 171, 172, 272. Branch line (green): no.7025.
- Deoksu-gung (덕수궁,德壽宮), (subway City Hall). Located in downtown Seoul across the street from City Hall, Deoksu Palace vividly contrasts to the other nearby palaces like Changdeok Palace. Built during the mid-fifteenth century, the architecture of the buildings inside are heavily influenced with Western designs. Hence, you will see a fusion of both Korean and Western architecture. Closed on Mondays. Admission: Adults (19 to 64 years old): ₩1,000 (groups: ₩800), Children (aged 7-18) and soldiers: ₩500 (groups: ₩400), Children 6 and under, seniors 65 and over: free.
- Changgyeong-gung (창경궁,昌慶宮), (Subway line 4, Hyehwa Station 10 minute walk or 20 min walk from Changdeok-gung). Originally built in 1104 as a summer palace for the Kings of the Koryo Dynasty, it became one of the main palaces during the Joseon Dynasty. The palace was used as a temporary home for the King during the time Gyeongbuk Palace was being built. Unlike other palaces that has a North-South orientation, Changgyeong Palace faces East-West. Also, what is famous about this palace is the fact it connects to Jongmyo Shrine, a holy place for the Joseon Dynasty, where sacrificial rites are practiced for previous kings and queens. Closed Tuesdays. Admission: Adults (19-64): ₩1,000 (groups: ₩800), Children (aged 7-18): ₩500 (groups: ₩400), Children 6 and under, seniors 65+: free.
- Gyeonghui-gung (경희궁,慶熙宮) and Seoul History Museum (서울역사박물관), (Subway line 5, Seodaemun Station, exit 4). Originally built in the 17th century, it was burnt down twice in the 19th century. It was largely destroyed by the Japanese during the colonial rule to build a school for Japanese children. It was finally restored in 1985 and opened to the public. Free admission.
Seoul offers many excellent opportunities for hiking. The mountains in Seoul are at most 800 m (3,000 ft), accessible by public transit and the trails range from easy to difficult.
- Mount Bukhan Offers probably the best hiking opportunities in Seoul. It is in the north of Seoul and can be extremely crowded on holidays. To visit a popular area, take line 1 to Dobongsan station.
- Mount Gwanak – Gwanak station, line 1. The sammak temple is located in.
- Mount Samseong – Close to Gwanaksan.
- Mount Inwang – Located in central Seoul.
- 4.19 Memorial Cemetery – 224 people were killed during the April 19 Movement, and were buried in this cemetery. It became a national cemetery in 1995. This place has a museum, several statues, and a mausoleum. It is a popular park to learn about culture and heritage.
- Boramae Park – Formerly the site of the Korean Air Force Academy, which in 1986 turned into a park - Boramae, or hawk in English, symbolizes the Air Force. The size of the park is about 360,000 square meters and its sports facilities, a small zoo, a pond, and walking paths are well designed. The huge pond, which is 9,000 square meters, is surrounded by willow trees and benches, and people love to sit here. The pond is full of cool shades during the summer, and is spectacular when snow falls in the winter.
- Namsan Park – Located in the center of Seoul and considered a symbol of Seoul. Namsan Park is an ecology-island surrounded by urban districts. In spite of being an urban ecology-island, wild animals live in the park. Located in the middle of Seoul, the mountain filled with pine trees can be seen from almost every corner of the big city and the residents of the areas surrounding the hills enjoy the fresh mountain air.
- Olympic Park – Built for the 1986 Asian Games and the 1988 Seoul Olympics. A lake, a large field covered with the grass, and a square with sculptures are very popular among visitors. It is frequently visited by brides and grooms to take their wedding pictures. There are a couple of courses that are ideal for jogging or walking. In addition, the outdoor stage and the six stadiums are often used for concerts and other special events. Also a well known modern art museum named SOMA Museum is located within the park that features modern artworks of both korean and international artists. the entrance fee for the museum is ₩3,000.
- Tapgol ("Pagoda") Park – A small park frequented by the elderly and the footsore traveller, just to the east of Jongmyo Shrine. Contains 500+ year-old namesake pagoda under protective glass, and a nice large gazebo to get out of the sun. This is where the Korean constituation was first read aloud by the public during the 20th century. Acts as a navigation landmark when moving between Myeong-dong, Jong-no and Insa-dong neighborhoods.
- Yangjae Citizen's Forest – You will find a forest on your right if you drive through Gangnam Street. It's a park with streams and a clear view of the sky. There are over 106,600 trees planted in it, and it's a very popular picnic spot for young students.
- Yeouido Park – More than 30,000 visit it on the weekdays and over 60,000 people visit it on weekends. The size of the park being 230,000 m². This giant concrete field was built for military aviation purposes in emergencies. There is a traditional Korean forest, and in many other places you can enjoy concerts, cycling, or taking walks. Hundreds of trees and flowers offer you shade and an opportunity to relax. It is recommended to visit the three ponds. There are also basketball courts, so feel free to stop by and play. For a nominal fee, one can also rent bicycles or rollerblades for use at the park.
- Yongsan Park – Reminds you of famous parks in other countries that you might have seen in some movies. Large grass fields and thick forests will make you feel much relieved from bustling city life ; you will see many kinds of birds and trees. The park once used as U.S military base camps. In 1992, Seoul City bought the land and built the park.
- Hangang Citizen's Park – Located along the Han River at 13 districts - Gwangnaru, Jamsil, Gangdong, Ttukseom, Jamwon, Banpo, Ichon, Yeouido, Yanghwa, Mangwon, Seonyudo, Nanji, and Gangseojigu. You can see many people strolling or jogging along the trail paths, as well as in-line skaters, bicyclists, and soccer fields or basketball courts. Yeouido, Jamsil, and Ttukseom districts are especially popular because of the cruise services on the Han River.
Temples and shrines
- Jongmyo Shrine – Certainly the most famous shrine devoted to the royal family members of Korean dynasties. The grounds are a bit more walker-friendly than some of the palaces, admission is cheaper and they also have some interactive equipment available to learn about the rituals and ceremonies used to treat deceased royal family members. ₩1,000. Closed Tu.
- Mount Inwang (인왕산 Inwangsan) – (near subway Dongnimmun). This 336 m hill is home not only to the eponymous Inwang Temple (Inwangsa), but also Seoul's most famous shamanist shrine Guksadang (국사당). To get there, take Exit 2 and start climbing uphill following the "Inwang Temple" signs, through the huge construction site (as of 2006) and up through the temple gate. You'll see a map board and several paths, take the left staircase upward, past the bronze bell of Bongwonsa and you'll reach Guksadang. Behind it are several creeks with shamanist offerings and the bizarre rock formation known as the Zen Rocks; there are plenty of trails if you want to poke around, and the Seoul fortress wall can be seen running near the top of the hill. Be careful not to photograph or disturb any rituals you see being performed.
- Jogye Temple (조계사, 曹溪寺) – The chief temple of the Jogye order of Buddhism, the dominant branch of Buddhism in Korea. As such, it is one of the most important modern Buddhist temples in the country.
- Bongeun Temple (봉은사, 奉恩寺) – Traditionally an important Buddhist temple with rich history in a rural outskirt of old Seoul, the temple is now the biggest, richest, and the most visited temple in Seoul as the area near the temple, GangNam, transformed from rice field backwater in 80s to the most ritzy and opulent borough in South Korea. The temple has impressive array of Buddhist buildings and sculptures, and it provides a quiet resting and pray place to tourists and locals alike in middle of skyscrapers and shopping miles.
- World Comic Convention, (Metro Line 3, Hagnyeoul station), . Twice a month the SETIC convention center hosts Seoul's World Comic con Festival. Admission is 4,000W but the inside is rather bland unless you are extremely familiar with Japanese and Korean anime. Your best bet is to go during convention hours and mingle with the crowds of Korean teenagers in elaborate cosplay costumes dressed as their favorite anime characters. Most are excited to see foreigners and very glad to have their pictures taken. As mentioned, this convention only takes place twice a month, so check the website (Korean only) to make sure it will be in session while you are in Seoul.
- Bukchon, (North Village). The collective name of the few tiny suburbs ('dong') wedged between Gyeongbuk Palace and the Secret Garden, just north of Insadong and Anguk Station. This area was where relatives of the royal family, high public officials and other important families lived for over 500 years as they serviced the nearby palaces. Today, some 900 of their traditional Korean 'hanok' houses remain, making this area one of Seoul's most picturesque centres for arts, culture, food and fashion.
- Namdaemun, (남대문,南大門), (formally known as Sungnyemun (숭례문,崇禮門), (Metro Line 1, City Hall stn). The Great South Gate is a symbol of Seoul and has been designated as National Treasure Number 1. Particularly beautiful when floodlit at night, and best combined with a visit to the adjacent Namdaemun Market. Unfortunately, an arson lit fire in February 2008 destroyed much of the structure,and rebuilding is not expected to finish until 2012.
- Dongdaemun, (동대문,東大門), (Metro Line 1, Dongdaemun stn). More formally known as Heunginjimun (흥인지문,興仁之門), the old eastern gate of the city still stands. Though not as impressive architecturally as Namdaemun, the Dongdaemun market is infinitely more interesting than the its counterpart. Since Namdaemun was burnt down in February 2008, it is one of 3 original city gates still standing along with Bukdaemun (북대문,北大門), the Great North Gate more formally known as Sukjeongmun (숙정문,肅靖門) and a smaller minor gate known as Changuimun (창의문,彰義門).
- Seodaemun Prison, 101 Hyeonjeo-dong, Seodaemun-gu, (Metro Line 3, Dongnimmun stn, exit 5). Tue-Sun 9:30 AM-6 PM (5 PM in Nov-Feb). Originally built in 1908, the prison became infamous during the Japanese occupation, when it was used to torture, starve and execute Korean political prisoners. Actual prison cells, wax figures and videos are used to demonstrate the shocking brutality; most signs are only in Korean, but volunteer guides can describe the sights in English. Obviously due to the content, this site is not suitable for young children or those of a sensitive nature. ₩1500.
- COEX, (Metro Line 2, Samseong stn). This very large mall is located in Samsung-dong, Gangnam-gu. This state-of-the-art complex was designed for international conferences, and holds 150 specialized exhibitions and 15,000 conventions/events a year. The centre also plays a role in promoting international trade by connecting international buyers with local businesses. A variety of stores and attractions can be found in the COEX including: the COEX Aquarium ; a large Western-style "luxury" cinema; the Kimchi museum ; a traditional video game arcade; a PC Lounge; hair and nail salons; a large bookstore with many Korean, English, and Japanese publications; and a pharmacy. There are also shopping options in COEX and include mens and womens clothing, jewelery, sportswear, souvenirs, shoes, and electronics. As far as food options, there is a large food court serving several types of contemporary and traditional food cafeteria-style, and western chains such as TGI Friday's, as well as restaurants, hofs and cafes located all throughout the interior and exterior of the COEX. The COEX is also directly connected to the COEX Intercontinental Hotel and the City Air Terminal. Yearly conventions at the COEX include online gaming conventions (such as the popular Korean-originated MMORPG Lineage), anime conventions, and auto shows. It is possible to spend the entire day in this covered mall without setting foot outside, which can be a blessing if very bad weather hits outside.
- N Seoul Tower, (Namsan Tower), (Metro Line 3 or 4, Chungmuro stn or line 3 Dongguk University). Once the tallest tower in Asia, it has the best panoramic view in all of Seoul. Many Seoulites and visitors have visited the tower to catch a glimpse of the city’s landscape while enjoying the nature of Namsan Mountain and a host of other attractive facilities. Owing to the tower's unique structure, the observatory section boasts spectacular views of the changing foliage throughout all seasons. N Seoul Tower was renovated in 2005 with a newly designed high tech multimedia. The tower can be reached on foot, by taxi or, on the south side, by cable car. The cable car is available from 10AM-10:30PM and is reached by a 10 min uphill walk from Myeongdong stn, from exit 2 or 3. Centrally located, it can be seen from nearly anywhere in Seoul and is a helpful reference for visitors on foot. There's also a Teddy Bear Museum at the tower which has lively illustrations of Korean culture. Of course all characters are Teddy Bears.
- The National Museum of Korea, (Metro Line 4 and Jungang Line, Ichon stn). Houses the best of the best collection of artifacts and relics from across Korea throughout different periods and dynasty. Also has some West Asian pieces from Japanese Governor-General of Korea. Closed every Monday.
- Cheonggye Stream, (near Cheonggye Plaza near Insa-dong). This stream has recently been converted into a verdant tourist attraction from its previous state as a busy freeway.
- Korean Folk Village, (한국 민속촌,韓國民俗村). (Metro Line 1, Suwon stn.; free shuttle bus departs from Suwon stn to the Folk Village; ask at the Tourist Information Center). A nice outdoor museum located in the Yongin suburb with displays that depict the lives of the different social classes and regions of Korea during the Joseon Dynasty. Also has some live performances of traditional Korean skills. ₩12,000-18,000 depending on the admission package you purchase
- Unhyeongung, (운현궁,雲峴宮). A museum located in Jongno-gu, formerly the residence of a Joseon Dynasty prince and where the wedding of the second last king of the Joseon Dynasty was held, it has several mannequins depicting the dressing style of the yangban or noble class during the Joseon Dynasty.
- National War Memorial, (전쟁기념관), (line 4 and 6, Samgakji stn). A museum about Korean military history and Korean War. Ancient, Middle Ages, and modern Korean weapons are on display. Also several fighter, bomber, and trainer aircraft which used during Korean War are on display.
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- Lotte World, . (Metro Line 2, Jamsil stn) One of the world's largest indoor amusement parks that is located in Seoul by the Jamsil Station. It has a folk museum where one can have an insight into ancient Korean life. Lots of rides, and reopened in the summer of 2007 after a massive reconstruction.
- Everland, . The Korean version of Disneyland. It is south of Seoul and transportation by bus is the easiest way to get there. Non-stop buses to Everland leave from various parts of Seoul daily. Has a miniature zoo where one can see a lion-tiger hybrid.
- Seoul Land . Theme park located in Gwacheon. This park was opened just before the Olympics in 1988. It is easy to get to by subway and is open year round.
- Children's Grand Park, Neung-dong, Gwangjin-gu, . The park was constructed after the decision of the City Planning Facility in 1971 and was opened on May 5, 1973. The park has a zoo, amusement facilities and restaurants. To get there, simply take the subway to Children's Grand Park on line 7. Avoid the weekends as it can get very crowded.
- Horse Racing, Seoul Racetrack in Gwacheon. Races are normally only held during weekends, night racing also takes place during August. During the week, visitors can take guided tours of the grounds.
- Seven Luck Casino, . Two locations in Seoul: Gangnam, attached to the Grand Intercontinental Hotel, and the Millennium Seoul Hilton Hotel in central Seoul. The casinos are only accessible to foreigners (it is illegal for Korean citizens to gamble), so remember to bring your passport. Various card tables and slots are available to play. There is a bar and cafe that serve food and drinks, although expensive.
- Korea MTB Adventures, 205-402 Samsung Remian Apt, Goyang-si (line 3 Wondang Stn), , ☎+82 10 7417 1457, ([email protected]). This company rents mountain bikes, offers guiding services, and supplies equipment such as helmets, gloves, hydration packs, shoes and light systems. They offer half day (3-4 hours - 100,000won or $90US with bike and gear) and full day (4-6 hours - 150,000won or $135US with bike and gear) tours in a few locations in and around Seoul. Options include downhill riding at Namhansanseong, cross country riding near Goyang, and urban riding through downtown Seoul.
- Sejong Center for Performing Arts, 81-3 Sejongno, Jongno-gu, (line 5 Gwanghwamun Stn), . Oldest and one of the largest multi-purpose theatre in downtown Seoul and home of Seoul Philharmonic. Biggest pipe organ in East Asia is in its Great Auditorium, and several video art pieces from Nam June Paik are in the entrance of auditorium.
- Seoul Art Center, 700 Seocho-dong, Gangnam-gu, (line 3 Nambu Bus Terminal stn), . Another great place for performing arts and Korean traditional art.
- KBS Hall, (line 9 National Assembly stn). Home of KBS Philharmonic Orchestra and KBS Traditional Music Orchestra.
- 'LG Arts Center, 679 Yeoksam, 1 Dong Kangnum gu, Seoul, (Metro line #2, Yeoksam Station, Exit 7),  ☎+82 2 2005 0114.Modern, multi-purpose performing arts auditorium opened in 2000, features live musical, theatre and dance performances from Korea and worldwide. Visit website for performance schedule and ticket information. Underground parking is available.
Spas, saunas, and massage rooms
Saunas generally take the form of public baths in Korea, and are a popular form of relaxation. Services such as hair cuts and shoe cleaning are generally available. Some saunas also include sleeping areas for overnight stay. These are known as 찜질방, or jimjilbang, and can be a cheap alternative to hotels when you're just passing through an area.
- The Spa Grand Hyatt Seoul, Grand Hyatt Seoul Hotel, 747-7 Hannam 2-Dong, Yongsan-Ku, ☎ +82 2 797 1234 ([email protected]), .
- Park Club Spa & Fitness Centre, Park Hyatt Seoul Hotel, 995-14 Daechi 3-dong Gangnam-gu, ☎ +82 2 2016 1234 ([email protected]), .
- JES Massage Center at Incheon Airport, Seoul Incheon International Airport, 2 locations: Passenger Terminal 4th Floor Rest & Relax Zone & Concourse A, ☎ +82 32 743 6925.
Korea's cuisine is known the world over for being healthy and spicy. Learning how to make Korean dishes such as kimchi and bulgogi can be messy, but a lot of fun. Fortunately, there are several cooking institutes throughout Seoul catering to foreign tourists.
- O'ngo Food Communications, Jongno-gu Nakwon-dong 55-1 3rd Floor, Seoul, Korea (exit Anguk Station (Orange, Line 3) exit 4 walk 5 minutes and make a left at the sign for the road Samil-daero 30-gil), ☎ +82 2 3446 1607, . For class times, inquire in advance. Learn to make authentic Korean dishes in English or Japanese from Korean chefs. O'ngo Food Communications offers classes to make bulgogi and kimchi, Korean barbecue, and Vegan Temple Cuisine. You get a tour of a traditional Korean Market after the classes to see Korean ingredients and people. Lessons cost between ₩65,000-120,000.
- Institute of Korean Royal Cuisine(궁중음식연구원), (Anguk Station, exit 2. 20 min walk), ☎ +82 2 744 9092, +82 2 3673 1122, . For class times, inquire in advance. As the name implies, you learn how to prepare royal cuisine, as well as rice cakes and hangwa (Korean Cookies). Lessons cost between ₩50,000 to ₩100,000.
- Son's Home(손즈홈), (Yeoksam Station, Exit 3. Five minute walk), ☎ +82 2 562 6829, . 10:30AM-1:30PM, and 5PM-8PM (Groups of at least 5 only). Closed W.. Son's Home specializes in teaching Kimchi preparation. Lessons are ₩70,000, ₩60,000 children under 15.
Korean ceramics are known around the world for their simple beauty unique designs. Visitors can learn how to make pottery at the National Museum of Korea and the pottery villages just outside of Seoul in Incheon and Yeoju.
- National Museum of Korea (국립중앙박물관), (Ichon Station, Exit 2. 10 minute walk), ☎ +82 2 2077 9000, . For class times, inquire in advance.
- Taekwondo, Korea's most popular martial art:
- Kukkiwon, WTF Headquarters, .
- Taekwondo in Seoul: Sangrok Gym, .
- World Gym, 765-2 Yeosam-Dong, Kangnam-Gu, (closest metro is Hanti). The gym is OK, equipment is very 80s but has dumbells which go upto 50 kg, two smith machines and a couple of benchs among other machines. Not good by Western standards and not as good as Chicago fitness club in Busan but definitely good enough for short term training if you are staying in Seoul.
- Baseball, Korean Professional Baseball League is very popular and has recently produced talent worthy of Major League Baseball.
There is an immense demand for ESL (English as a Second Language) instruction in Seoul. See the main South Korea article for details.
Note that Seoul municipal government has decided to phase out foreign (non-Korean) teachers of English in all public schools. Although it has yet to be seen if this will be successful in practice, it may have an effect on your options in Seoul.
Namdaemun Market at night
- Namdaemun, . The largest traditional street market in Korea. This market is located in the center of Seoul and is a famous shopping place for tourists. Clothing for children and accessories are the most-commonly sold goods in this market, but there's lots of food as well and many outdoor eating options, especially in the evening. There is also a huge digital camera market in this area.
- Dongdaemun, . This market is of equal historical significance to Namdaemun market. While Namdaemun is an old-fashioned market, Dongdaemun market has large department store-like buildings such as Doota, Migliore, and APM that have trendy shops and stalls grouped together so customers can shop efficiently and save time. Many younger people and tourists come here to shop. One of the buildings here, Dongdaemun General Market, sells Chimachogori, which is a Korean traditional dress, or bedclothes. Some of the shops like Nuzzon are open all night.
- Insa-dong. Insadong is known for its art galleries and shops, and is possibly the most touristy place in South Korea. It is a great place to buy cultural souvenirs. There are also a few stores that offer interesting vintage toys and various kitsch. Insadong also contains many traditional tea and coffee shops. It is one of the few places that vegetarian restaurants can be found.
- Ewha Women's University. At the front gate of Ewha Women's University, visitors can find a dense market geared towards young women. You can find stores that sell clothes, shoes, hats, handbags, and so on. There are also clothes for men. Recently franchise stores have started to move into the area.
- Yongsan Electronics Market. (Metro Line dark blue ,Yongsan stn)Yongsan Station is in IMall which is another huge shopping mall with two storeys full of electronics. Without negotiating you can have cheaper prices when compared to amazon.com. Yongsan is one option in Seoul if you are looking for electronics goods. Made up of over 20 buildings housing 5000 stores, you can find appliances, stereos, computers and peripherals, office equipment, telephones, lighting equipment, electronic games and software, and videos and CDs. A lot of the products are bought in Japan and resold in Korea by dealers. The market has a reputation for fleecing foreigners, particularly due to its proximity to the Yongsan U.S. Army Base. Be wary as Koreans try to avoid Yongsan for their electronics needs and rely instead on internet shopping as sellers in Yongsan are not averse to ripping you off if you don't seem to know a lot about electronics. If you go, it's best to bring a Korean guide so you can ensure you're getting a good deal. The problem is no or very poor English. Only Korean warranty. Cash prefered. At IMALL they add 5% as tax when you pay by Visacard. At Yongsan Electroland it dependes on the seller. Up to 10% addition is possible.
- Techno Mart. There are two Techno Marts in Seoul: the original at Gangbyeon station, and the new store at Sindorim station. Both complexes house over 2,000 stores across eight floors that sell a variety of high-tech products. From electrical appliances to computers, you will find everything you need. The first floor has cosmetics, accessories, and stationeries. The second and third floors comprise Korean-made electrical goods, while the fourth and fifth floors sell foreign-made electrical appliances. The sixth floor sells cell phones and their accessories. Computers are sold on the seventh, and on the eighth music and DVD stores. Aside from all the high-tech gadgetry, there are over a dozen restaurants on the 9th floor, and a cineplex and arcade on the 10th.
Fashion shopping in Seoul isn't a mere industry, it's an art form.
Myeongdong, is probably the largest and best-known area; it is definitely the most tourist-friendly fashion area. In the spring and summer, fashion models/sidewalk promoters can be seen strolling the streets of Myeongdong promoting various cosmetics, stores or other fashion-related products. Many regular people also tend to catwalk their newest outfit on these streets. Rows of stores are available to look for that perfect accessory, and most of Korea's major brands can be found here: mVIO, Caspi Conus, WhoAU California, AHM, So.Basic, Noxon, Basic House, UGIZ, 1492, nipper, hang ten, A6, Bean Pole, Jambangee, Giordano as well as a few international brands such as Lacoste, Land Rover, Adidas, Gap, Zara, Koolhaas, Uniqlo, Anna Sui, and Forever 21.
- Migliore, . One of the biggest fashion buildings in Seoul. It has 17 floors above ground and 7 basement floors. Information boards in Migliore are written in Korean as well as English, Japanese and Chinese for foreign tourists. US credit cards are often accepted, but ask before haggling if you aren't sure. The outside stage features a "talent show" of local dance groups (mostly high school or college student groups) most nights until about 9 PM; typically they are wearing many of the local fashions, and some of the dancers can be located in the various department stores working as employees.
- Shinsegae, 2-5 Chungmuro 1-Ga, Jung-gu, Seoul (subway line 4 Hoehyun exit #7, bus 0014, 1016, 7013, 406, 503, 505, 9400, 9402, 9410, 9502, 9710), ☎ +82 2 1588-1234, . 10:30AM-8PM, check in advance. The oldest department store in entire Korean peninsula. Original store building is refurbished in 2008 and becomes high-street boutique. Accepts major credit cards, including Amex and JCB. (37.5610156,126.9826331)
- Lotte Young Plaza, . A relatively new addition to the scene, located just across the street from Avatar department store. This department store is oriented towards a younger, upscale clientele, and in addition to the usual Korean brands and international brands, the top floor of the space features an assortment of quality eating establishments to replenish your shopping energy. The wine bar is recommended. Sometimes art installations can be found on the top floor. US credit cards accepted.
Apgujeong (압구정), widely known as "The Beverly Hills of Seoul" is the land of luxury, brand name goods. International brands like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Gucci and Prada sit alongside Korean designer brands.
- Hyundai Department Store, 429 Apgujeong-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (subway line 3 Apgujeong), ☎ +82 2 547-2233, . Mo-Su 10:30AM-8PM. Main store of well-known department store chain.
- Galleria, 515 Apgujeong-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, . A very popular upscale department store. Just several blocks away from Hyundai Department Store. Also has a branch in Seoul Station.
Near the Cheongdam Intersection lies the heart of the Korean shoe scene. Cutting edge shoe shops include Sue Comma Bonnie, Hyaang, Heels and Namuhana.
Trends often begin in University areas like Hongdae. Hongik University boasts Korea's most famous art school, thus fashion in this area is often influenced by the students' artistic sensibilities. The shops in this area feature funky, punky, boho, and vintage style. Ewha Women's University also has a big shopping area in front of it’s main gate, as do many of the Women's colleges. Many trends also originate here. There are even seamstresses who can help you make your own designs come to life.
Won, Yen and US dollars are accepted, along with major credit cards. Most shops have staff who can speak Japanese. There are duty-free shops in both the Incheon airport and the major department stores: Lotte, Shilla Hotel. There are other duty-free shops at Walkerhill Hotel, SKM DFS in COEX Mall.
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Much of Korean social life revolves around food and the city is packed with restaurants, so it would take a determined man to starve to death in Seoul. This fate may still befall you if you insist on English menus and meals consisting only of easily identifiable, familiar ingredients, so see South Korea#Eat for a quick Korean menu reader. An alternative is to just point and eat, your hosts generally will accommodate. If you look in the right places, a good meal (lunch or dinner) including side dishes can cost ₩5,000 or less (try basements of large department stores).
Vendors selling Korean fast food in Gangnam.
In addition to Korean food, Japanese restaurants in Seoul tend to be excellent, featuring excellent sushi and sashimi. Chinese restaurants exist, but are typically adapted to suit local preferences. There are a few Italian restaurants; these are generally excellent, with chefs trained in Italy, although flavors tend to be more or less Koreanized, with sugar in the garlic bread and meatballs.
Bakeries are found throughout, including some of the common big chains.
Seoul has plenty of budget places to eat. Everything from convenience store junk food and noodles to street stall food and lots of 24 hr Korean fast food restaurants. The 24-hour restaurants are great because they've usually got a wide variety of foods, including: mandu, odeng, dokbokki, naengmyeon, udon and ramyeon. Prices do vary from about ₩2,000-9,000 at these restaurants. Also open late into the night are Korean BBQ restaurants, which are everywhere in Seoul. These can be very cheap and are usually of good quality. Barbecue options usually are limited to pork and beef, and they often come with a smattering of side dishes. Korean BBQ is, in itself, an experience that makes you feel like a Seoulite. The larger department stores in the city have basement food courts that offer excellent food (not recommended if you care about atmosphere).
- Ala-Too Cafe, (near Dongdaemun Stadium, exit 5). Along with some Russian, Mongolian, and Central Asian restaurants (including the excellent and cheap Ala-Too Cafe, above a bakery). Wander around and discover the area a bit - you'll be rewarded with delicious food and an exotic experience.
- Sadongmyenok (사동면옥), 29-21 Jongno Gwanhun (Insadong 8-gil, down the alley). Justly famous for its manduguk, a soup of gargantuan homemade dumplings stuffed with meat and veggies and served with side dishes for ₩5,000. English menu available.
- Loving Hut Achasan. Part of a vegan chain, this restaurant serves a mix of vegan Korean and international food, most dishes 6,000w - 10,000w. A soy cutlet is 10,000w and dumplings are 6,000w. It serves food, coffee and non-alcoholic drinks, and has a frozen food section where you can stock up on vegan essentials for home. The menu is in English and Korean and includes pictures. English is spoken by the friendly staff.
- Richard Copycat's All-American Diner, Itaewon (Itaewon stn, exit 4. Walk straight for 200 m. 2nd floor, Starbucks next to McDonalds), . The only place in Seoul serving authentic greasy American food. Tons of food and drink. Open from 7am to 2am. ₩8,000-23,000.
- Everest, Dongdaemun (Dongdaemun stn, exit 3. Walk straight for 100 m. Turn left at the pharmacy and walk 50 m). Nepali restaurant featuring dozens of delectable dishes ranging from mutton curry to butter naan. Bollywood music videos are free. ₩8,000-15,000.
- The Frypan, Nationwide (http://www.thefrypan.co.kr/). This is a chain serving American-style fried chicken and chips, as well as draft beer. Set apart from the hundred of other chicken bars in the area thanks to a nice, hole-in-the-wall atmosphere and generous portions, not to mention the authenticity of the food. ₩14,800 chicken and chips.
- Jacoby's, Haebangcheon (Noksapyeong stn, line 5, exit north toward Namsan tunnel. When you reach a large intersection, look for kimchi pots on the left side of the street, next to the Yongsan Garrison wall. Head up that side street, continue walking up the hill. On the right up the street, about 400 m past the kimchi pots). Offers a wide variety of burgers, arguably the best for the value, in Seoul. In an area often known as the foreigner ghetto, a popular area for expats to live just west of Itaewon.
- Jeonju Jungang Hoegwan (전주 중앙 회관), Myeong-dong (Myeong-dong Station, exit 5), ☎ +82 2 776-3400. 8:30AM-10:30PM daily. This Korean restaurant specializes in the Jeonju variety of bibimbap, which features different ingredients and spices than other bibimbap dishes. Delicious and healthy. Meals ₩8,000-12,000.
- New Delhi Restaurant, Itaewon (Noksapyoung stn exit 1, cross overpass, turn right, 2 min up the hill on your left), ☎ 007. Run by a Canadian-Indian owner, ₩15,000 gets you a a wonderful Indian meal. Try the chicken vindaloo, the garlic naan and the samosas.
- Pattaya, Itaewon (Itaewon Station, exit 1. Walk 50 m. Turn right at the KFC and walk to the end of the alley. Turn left and walk 70 m past the 3 Alley Pub). Thai restaurant, and perhaps the best in Seoul. With a menu featuring nearly 100 different items, you're bound to find your favorite dishes and make some new ones, too. Stir-fried rice and noodle dishes cost ₩13,000-18,000, while curry pots and stews can run over ₩30,000.
- 'Le Pied de Cochon (르 코숑), Dogok-dong 419 Kangnam-gu (Meabong 매봉 stn line 3 exit 4, cross overpass, turn left), ☎ +82 2 577-8503, +82 10 6336-8724, . 11AM-1AM. A French restaurant specialised in pastas, pork meat and Rosé wine. Come here to try the "Pied" with a glass of wine. Pastas are around ₩7000 and set menus can run over ₩30,000.
- Smokey Saloon, Itaewon, Apgujeong, Gangnam (Itaewon stn, exit 2. Go out the exit and walk 50 m. Turn left at the Hard Rock Cafe and walk 50 m. Turn right and walk 10 m). Featuring a selection of over a dozen authentic American-style hamburgers, freshly made onion rings, and hearty chili-cheese fries, Smokey's is one of the best places to get a taste of the U.S. Burgers range from ₩5.900 for the "Classic" up to ₩10,000 for the deluxe varieties. Jumbo patties are available for an additional ₩3/000. Burgers can be ordered with fries, coleslaw, and a drink for an additional ₩3,500.
- Zelen, Itaewon (turn right at the KFC at the Hamilton Hotel. Follow the small alley until the end and turn left. Again walk to the end and take the stairs heading up). Fantastic Bulgarian restaurant featuring lots of stuffed everything - from tomatoes to mushrooms, peppers and chicken breasts. Well worth it as it is very unique to the dining landscape in Seoul. ₩15,000-20,000.
- Hanwoori (한우리), Nonhyeondong (south of Apgujung). An upper-end Korean restaurant that specializes in the Korean version of Shabu-shabu, which is a boiling pot to which you throw in vegetables and very thin slices of meat. Their menu is extensive and while their atmosphere may not be cutting-edge, it is classy and clean.
- J Pub Ryu, . Amazing food and drinks, specializing in sake. The atmosphere is lively with the occasional celebrity sighting. A definite hot spot any night of the week with an innovative menu of Japanese fusion.
- Pizza Hill. An excellent pizzeria close to the Walker Hill hotel in Gwangjin-gu. As its name implies, the restaurant has a lovely view of Seoul on top of a hill and prices higher than the hill it sits on. However, the pizza is well worth the price. Worth a visit if you hit it big at the nearby casino.
- See South Korea#Drink for general guidance to nightlife in Korea.
Seoul features a mind-bogglingly large array of nightspots catering to every taste and budget.
- RAndy's Bar (RAndy's Pub), 동대문구 (Get off HUFS station line 1 and go out exit 6, walk 100 meters and turn left. RAndy's is on the little alleyway on your right), . 5:30 p.m. - 2 a.m.. Foreign-owned bar in front of Hankook University of Foreign Studies known for a varied clientele, great pool table, and affordable prices. Has Red Rock and Hoegaarden on tap.
Itaewon is Seoul's international district, with a wide variety of Western-styled venues to eat, drink and be merry.
Since many foreigners congregate there, Itaewon remains somewhat of a niche nightlife area for Koreans interested in a more international scene. A number of notable bars and clubs spot the area, both on the main street and in the nearby alleys, and the area has become more gentrified as more upscale restaurants and chains move in. Due to Itaewon's proximity to the nearby United States Army base, a large number of American military are found there in the evenings and weekends. However, the US army has decided to move the base to a location outside of Seoul within the next few years, so expect regular changes to the area.
Many Itaewon shops, restaurants and bars cater to foreigners, and English-speakers in particular.
Many bars in Itaewon celebrate Thursdays as Ladies' Night, which often means that women drink free before 12am. There are also a few gay bars located two alleys east of the main street, with a mix of clubs and places to drink.
- Richard Copycat's All-American Diner, . Tons of great food and drinks. The only place that serves authentic Buffalo wings in Seoul. They also serve great American breakfast better than that of any five-star hotels in Seoul.
- Geckos, (opposite Quiznos). A relaxed bar scene and good food. Very popular with GIs and expats (and prostitutes seeking customers).
- Seoul Pub, has a pool table, darts and Guinness on tap. Badly needs a renovation.
- Hollywood, is a sports bar with a pool table, darts, a golf arcade game and several TVs airing all kinds of sports.
- Rocky Mountain Tavern, . A Canadian bar for expats living in Korea. Located east of the main intersection. They have weekly chicken wing specials. Go early.
- The Wolfhound Irish Pub & Restaurant, . #in the alley behind Geckos across from Quiznos/Family Mart#. Serves a great selection of draft beers and hearty, homemade meals. Tuesday nights are buy one, get one free fish and chips.
- Dillinger's. . #in the alley behind Geckos across from Quiznos/Family Mart#. Serves draught and bottled beers and good food. Wednesday night is Wing Night, where 10 wings go for 4,000 won. Sports played on a number of big screens, plus lounge/club upstairs.
- 3 Alley Pub, . Popular with the older expat crowd and located in an alley off the street near the Itaewon subway station. Great food and a wide selection of draut beers.
- Sam Ryan's Sports Bar& Grill , . Located above 3 Alley Pub, this is the best sports bar in Seoul for North American sports. It shows numerous sports throughout the year on replay, sometimes live. Darts in the corner. A terrace in the back enables one to get away from all the noise.
- Helios. Seedy hip-hop club.
- Metro. A lot of older expats and many Koreans hit up this joint. Only one Korean beer on tap, but free pool. The front #or right side when you go up the stairs# seems to be for the expat crowd, while the back #the left door when you go up the stairs# seems to be more hof style for the Korean crowd. They have the typical range of snacks available and free peanuts for beer drinkers.
- Bless U is another older expat haunt. You better be good with your pool game or you'll be waiting in a long line to go again. Darts are also available. They have great popcorn and decent draft beers. It changed ownership last year and has been running a tight ship since.
- The Rose & Crown. London-style pub with great fish and chips and interior decoration. Darts and sports on the big screen available.
For some good house/trance music, try some places such as:
- King Club. Gaudy and a tad sleazy. Located in a seedy part of the neighborhood.
- Club Volume House/trance club, quite large and a excellent crowd on weekends. It is the best and most upscale club in the neighborhood.
- Phillies. A Canadian-owned sports bar and grill with a pool table and darts in the basement. Beer prices are par and food is OK.
- Craftworks, . Located across Haebangchon in the Gyeongnidan area. Find the NOXA bar and walk past it two or three stores down. No pool or darts, but their 8 craft brews are the best beers you'll find in Korea. Seriously.
Sinchon (신촌), home to universities including Yonsei University (연세대학교) and Ewha Womans University, is a great place to soak up a more Korean environment. Not to be confused with Sincheon, which is closer to Jamshil, Sinchon is set up like many Korean entertainment areas in which bars, clubs, restaurants, karaoke boxes and sometimes even motels are structured in a grid-like fashion. The only way to familiarize yourself with the area is to stroll the alleys and discover all of the different places. Korean bars tend to be rather anti-social compared with their Western counterparts, with people sitting at tables with friends and not tending to mix. Yet a number of Western-style bars in the area have opened up.
- Woodstock. Around since 1991, the bar has prompted a slew of copycats but is the best place to hear classic rock and pop. The sound system is awesome and the owner/DJ knows his stuff. Expect large crowds Friday and Saturday nights and seeing people dance next to their tables. Great place to mix with Koreans of all ages.
- Nori Ha Nun Saram Dul. A basement bar infamous for both its great rock music and its decrepit interior with writing on the walls. Difficult to find and almost impossible to get a seat after 9 p.m. Secure valuables as theft is not uncommon in the bar.
- Beer O'Clock.  This Canadian-run bar serves great pizzas and other grub in addition to showing sports on the big screen and offering darts. Weekends are pretty wild at this joint.
- Yaletown. Two Korean Canadians own this third-floor bar that serves up delicious burgers and other Western fare. Big screen TVs keep showing sports and this is also good if you play beer pong.
Hongdae (홍대), short for Hongik University, is the premier club area in Seoul by far. Located around Hongik University, clubs and bars are strewn everywhere around the place. The clubs aren't near the station but aren't hard to find. The most popular clubs are:
- Cocoon Hip-hop and dance music. Entrance: Thursday ₩10,000, Friday/Saturday ₩15,000-20,000.
Miroir, 405-5, Seokyo-dong, Mapo-gu (From exit 4 at Hapjeong station walk in the direction that the traffic flows, when you reach the fake airplane towards the minimart on your right, follow this road (watch out for taxis creeping from behind), turn right at main crossing, follow until you see Family Mart). Psychedelic hippie hangout with psytrance Fri and Sat, 60s and 70s rock during the week. No cover charge.
- nb (noise basement) Hiphop.
Some other popular clubs include
- Club Saab Small Hip hop Club
- Club Tool House Music club
- Club FF Rock music club that is popular with foreigners
- Tin Pan A club/bar with cheap drinks and a dance floor. Only Koreans are allowed.
On a Friday or Saturday expect all of these to be packed tight. Last Friday of every month is Club Day where ₩15,000 will get you into those clubs who are part of the "Club Day". Expect a packed crowd. A number of bars are popular with foreigners here too:
- Bricxx A hookah lounge with an intimate atmosphere and a large mixed drink and wine list.
The place is huge and you could party for a whole week in all the bars and clubs. The best way to see it is to stroll around and find something you like. An interesting note: the entire club district of Hongdae is officially off-limits to U.S. military personnel, Federal employees and their dependents. However, it is not unusual to see crew-cuts here on the weekends since it is rarely enforced.
In warmer months, don't pass up the closet-sized B-Dan on Hongdae's main strip, which offers up take-out draft beer by the plastic cup.
More recently, a number of LP bars playing classic rock and pop has opened up. One to look for is Suzie Q, which is near the 7-11 around the clubs.
Apgujeong (압구정) is the upmarket area of Seoul. Walk around the streets and you'll see teenagers valet parking their new Benz or Audi, strutting their new designer threads, and looking generally, well, rich. That said, a lot of people who party here aren't necessarily rich and live far away. Apgujeong is rather subdued when it comes to nightlife though it has a few posh clubs and bars. Places where valet is unavailable are unlikely to be great hits traditionally. There are, however, a few small clubs in the area. Expect English to be more commonly spoken in this area, too, due many Koreans in the area having studied abroad or received a lot of private tutoring. This has also meant, however, a certain desensitization to foreigners, so don't expect people to stare or approach you as much as they would in other parts of Seoul. Consider Apgujeong a great place to hang out, not party. If you want to impress a date for example, this is a great place to go to. The backstreets of Apgujeong tend to sprout and lose new clubs seemingly at random throughout the year, so getting off the main drag from time to time can yield a new "hot club of the month."
- Superclub Circle usually playing house music, sometimes hip hop(only availible for private parties as of July, 2009)
- Club Air House/Techno club.
- Elec Small, trendy club that is quite difficult to find.
Gangnam station (강남) is probably the No. 2 club area in Seoul. Also set up in a grid structure, clubs, bars, restaurants and other entertainment venues decorate this upmarket location. While not as upmarket as Apgujeong, it definitely is busy and lively. If Apgujeong is the place for rich kids to hang out and look cool, Gangnam is the place for those rich kids to party and look sexy. The station is a transit hub and a ton of buses run through the heart of the entertainment area, so finding your way there is extremely easy.
- NB hip hop - Full of clubbers pretty much every night of the week.
- Harlem Next to NB...guess what music they play?
- Eden Electronic house/techno club.
- Club Answer House music club with regular events and famous Djs.
- Club Naked Plays house music and also serves as an after hours club.
- Miero After hours club with great decor.
- Club Mass Large house music club that occasionally brings in famous DJs
- Woodstock Korean-style music pub specializing in 60s & 70s rock and blues - woodstock.co.kr
- Tokyo Jazz, 153-44 Samseong-dong, Gangnam-gu (directly across the street from Coex Oakwood Premier Center), ☎ +82 11 365-1770. A cozy jazz club on the second floor with live piano and vocal music every night and a jazz combo Thursday and Friday nights 9-12 or later if the club is full. Famous for staying open until the last customer leaves.
Note: Certain entertainment districts, such as Hongdae, are off-limits to American military personnel, U.S. government employees, contractors and their dependents.
Seoul's has two unofficial backpacker districts, Jongno (Anguk/Sinseol-dong) to the northeast of the city and Hongdae, Sinchon out to the west. Within walking distance to Dongdaemun Market, Jongno is better located for sightseeing and can be reached directly from Incheon Airport on limousine buses or city bus 6002 to Sinseol-dong stop (₩9,000, 90 min).
Hongdae, Sinchon area is loacated in university area. Yonsei Univ., Ehwa woman's Univ., Hongik Univ. and Sogang Univ. are around this area. so there are many restaurants, bar, club and shopping center and easy to be reached from Incheon Airport by limousine bus and Arex (Airport express train) in 1 hour
- Dustin Guesthouse - Hongik University/Hongdae, 346-42 4F, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul (1 minutes from Line 2 Hongik University stn exit 9), ☎+82 70-4201-0782 ,  email; [email protected] It's like being at home. Free breakfast + coffee all day from a Italian expresso machine. Wifi, laundry, kitchen, hot showers, pc + printer, lockers. The common area is very nice and comfortable with a wide screen 3D TV and DVDs to watch. There is a roof terrace overlooking Hongdae where the owner sometimes hosts free BBQs. Dustin is very welcoming. He goes out of his way to make sure you are happy. The location is incredible, right in the centre of Hongdae. Mixed Dorm, Male Dorm, Female Dorm available from 18,000W/night. Private Rooms Available from 30,000W.night.
- Kimchee Hongdae Guesthouse (Kimchee Hongdae Guesthouse), Seoul, Mapo-gu, Yeonnam-dong 570-16 (5 minutes walk from Hongik Univ. Station), ☎ +82-2-6082-6059 / +82-10-2332-4407, . checkin: 3:00 pm; checkout: 12:00 noon. Located in Seoul’s No. 1 Entertainment and Nightlife District, Hongdae / Cozy & Homey Common Area /Full Kitchen for Fun Cooking / Private Rooms and Dormitory Available 10,000 won - 60,000 won (10-60USD). (37.558844,126.919857)
- Private Studio Apartment, 10 min from Sindorim subway station, . checkin: 2:00 pm; checkout: 12:00 noon. This is a fully furnished private studio apartment. It is just 10 minutes from Sindorim subway station by foot.Room Amenities include free wifi, laptop, laundry machine and microwave. 55 USD.
- Seoul I Guesthouse - Hongik University/Hongdae, 561-61- Yeonnam-dong, Mapo-gu (7 minutes from Line 2 Hongik University stn exit 2), ☎+82 70-8779-6161, www.seouliguesthouse.com email; [email protected] Easily accessible from the Subway/Metro Line 2 green line and the Airport Express Train. Located in Hongdae (clubs,bars) and close to other famous tourist attractions (Myeongdong,Insadong, Gyeongbok Palace,Han River) Awesome friendly multi-language speaking staff. Staff can help book DMZ tours, provide info on K-pop Concerts and other tourist attractions. No Curfew, Free breakfast (Coffee, Tea, Toast, Butter, Eggs, Jam), Free guest computers, free hi-speed wifi, Free use of Bicycyles (3 available), Free Security Lockers, Air Con + Heating, Large common room with Big Screen TV w/ Cable + Korean Movies, Kitchen w/ stove,fridge,oven,microwave available for use, Monthly BBQ parties. Mixed Dorm, Female Dorm available from 17,000W/night. Private Rooms Available as well. Discounts for long term stays
- Backpackers Korea - Sinchon, 106-105 Nogosan-dong, Mapo-gu (4 min from Line 2 Sinchon stn exit 7), ☎+82 2 715-6277, . Friendly cool English, Japanese, Chinese speaking staffs, Free breakfast (Toast, Jam, Peanut butter, Eggs, coffee and tea), free wifi, free international phone call, free laundry, A/C, hot water, rooftop terrace, common room with kitchen. All rooms are equipped with desktop computer, refrigerator, big flat TV with cableTV on the wall. private from ₩55,000/night with own bathroom.
- Bangrang hostel, 397-12 Chungnim-Dong, Chung ku (Metro Line 2, Chungjeongro stn, exit 5), ☎ +82 2 6614-2246, . checkin: 2PM; checkout: 11:30AM. A brand new hotel,opened Jan 2010. distinguished interior. 1 min from subway station, 2 min from airport bus stop. ₩18,000~.
- Blu Guest House, 464-63 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, (Metro Line 2, Hongdae stn, exit#1; Line 7, Hapjeong stn),☎+82 70 7692-9484, +82 11 9921-5621, . Free wifi, free laundry, aircon/heating, lockers, breakfast, no curfew. From ₩20,000. Friendly staff, easy accessable. You get what you pay for.
- Chocolate Tree, 109-91 Nogosan-dong, Mapo-gu (4 min from Line 2 Sinchon stn exit 7), ☎+82 2 3275-1115, . Friendly and adorable English, Chinese speaking staffs, Free breakfast (Toast, Jam, Peanut butter, Eggs, coffee and tea), free wifi, free international phone call, free laundry, dryer, A/C, hot water, rooftop terrace, common area with kitchen. All rooms are equipped with desktop computer, refrigerator, big flat TV with cableTV on the wall. you can get some chocolates at the reception at anytime. private from ₩50,000/night with own bathroom.
- Hongdae Guesthouse (홍대게스트하우스), 159-6 Dongkyo-dong 159-6, Paradisetel unit 302, Mapo-gu (Next to Line 2 Hongdae stn exit 1), ☎ +82 2 336-0003 ([email protected]), . checkin: anytime; checkout: 11AM. Clean, spacious rooms with high ceilings, ondol heating, aircon, hot water. English spoken. From ₩19,000. (one night,2 months)
- Bibim Guesthouse, 241-28 Yeonnam-dong, Mapo-gu (Metro Line 2, Hongik University stn EXIT 3), ☎+82 10-9197-4753, . Homey, cozy, and clean. A stay at this guesthouse becomes intimate with its outgoing owners Panda and Konda who guarantees every guest a worry-free stay in Seoul. They also help out with itineraries, directions and booking. Guesthouse is easy to find from Hongik Station. You can call the number and ask them to fetch you from the station if you're not sure of the way. Or even before arrival, ask them about directions as it is really easy to navigate. Shared kitchen, toilets and H/C showers and free use of cableTV, internet, computer and washing machine. Korean movies, dramas and documentaries are at the living room on one shelf, while maps, guides, and schedules of Seoul events are organized on another shelf. Continental breakfast included. . No curfew. Dormitory ₩20000/person, single & twin rooms for 2 = ₩55000/room.
- Kims' Guest House, 443-16 Hapjeongdong, Mapo-gu, (Metro Line 2/7, Hapjeong stn), ☎+82 2 337-9894, . Comfortable guest house run by a friendly English-speaking family. In the western part of Seoul, 10 min walk from Hapjeong subway station. Share kitchen, toilets and showers and have free use of cableTV, washing machine and internet. Breakfast (jam, toast & coffee) is included. No curfew. Discounts for stays over 1 night. Dormitory ₩20000, single, double and triple rooms; ₩27000/₩37000/₩47000, all have A/C and heating.
- Lee & No Guesthouse, 561-29 Yunnam-dong, Mapo-gu (Sinchon), ☎ +82 2 336-4878, . checkin: 1PM~9PM; checkout: 10:30AM. Near Hongdae, has four-bed dorm rooms and doubles. ₩22,000.
- Soul Guesthouse, Unit#505, 159-6 Paradisetel,Dongkyodong, Mapogu,Seoul, (Metro Line 2, Hongdae stn, exit 1), ☎+82 10 5137-0604, . Female Dormitory. ₩20,000 per night per person. Clean and close to subway. Located at central Seoul.
- Seoul Walker Guesthouse, 441-31, Hapjeong--dong, Mapo-gu (nearest to Hapjeon Station, line 2. Directions are on the website and business cards.), ☎ 070-4028-6904, . checkin: 2-10 pm; checkout: 11 am. The owner, Mr. Yoo, speaks Korean, Japanese, and English. He is very friendly and always asks where you will go (in the morning) and where you went (at night). His young daughters hang around the guesthouse while he cleans. Laundry service is available for 5,000/cycle, which he will operate. He offers taxi service to and from Gimpo and Incheon airports, for 30,000 and 60,000 W, respectively. He has many pamphlets in different languages, books, a computer and printer, and WIFI. KakaoTalk and KakaoStory are available for communication. No curfew, but keep silence after 11. There is a code lock for security. 14,000 (dorm)-70,000 (family).
- Kimchee Dongdaemun Guesthouse, 233-3, Hyoje-dong, Jung-gu, (Metro Line 1, Jongno 5-ga, exit 4, 3 minute walk)(Airport bus NO6002, Jongno 6-ga stop, 1 minutes walk) , ☎+82-2-742-6696/82-10-6315-6696 [[email protected]]Located in Seoul Downtown Jongno area. Easy access to Dongdaemun Market, Cheonggyecheon Stream, KwangJang Market, Changdeokgung Palace. Informative English-speaking staff offering detailed information on directions, attractions, good shows, some of the Korea’s most popular restaurants, cafes, bars, and clubs. A wide selection of rooms; from private ensuite rooms from ₩40,000 to a 6-bed dorm from ₩15,000 for the really price conscious traveler.
- Able hostel/Guesthouse, NO.205, Unit 1, Kumho twin tower, 89-1, Gwanghui-dong, Jung-gu, (Metro Line 2,4,5, Dongdaemun history & culture park stn, exit 5,7, 1 minute walk)(Airport bus NO6001, Dongdaemun Market. stop, 5 minutes walk) , ☎+82 10 2909 1086 [[email protected]] New, comfortable, young atmosphere, with decent bathrooms and a friendly owner amd staffs. Each room has computers available for free internet use, wifi throughout. This place is near Dongdaemun Market but very quiet when you sleep. No curfew. All staff is ready to hang out with guest evertnight. Sometimes they serve korean meal for free. kitchen, free laundry. if you want something they will give you everything they can. just book now.ensuite single room ~ 6 Dorm, ₩20,000~50,000/person/night
- Bong House, 117-2 MyeongRyun3Ga MyeongRyunDong JongroGu Seoul Korea (Check website for directions from the subway and airport.), ☎ + 82 2 6080-3346, . checkin: 2PM; checkout: 11AM. Laid back friendly guesthouse with internet, wifi, purifier, washing machine, A/C, refrigerator, cableTV, gas oven, microwave oven, hair dryer, iron with iron board and dryer for a fee of ₩5,000. The Bong bar which is right next to the Bong house. With each night stay you can claim 1 free beer from the bar. ₩17,000-₩105,000.
- Backpackers Korea - Dongdaemun, 1054 Sungin-dong, Jongno-gu (2 min from Line 1 Sinseoldong stn exit 11), ☎+82 2 715-6277, . Friendly cool English speaking staffs, Free breakfast (Toast, Jam, Peanut butter, Eggs, coffee and tea), free wifi, free international phone call, free laundry, A/C, hot water, rooftop terrace. Dorms from ₩20,000/night private from ₩35,000/night with own bathroom.
- Hostel Korea, 178-65 Sungin-dong, Jongno-gu (4 min from Line 1 Sinseoldong stn exit 11), ☎+82 2 762-7406, +82 2 766-7406, . Friendly English/Chinese-speaking staffs, Free breakfast, free wifi, free laundry, A/C, hot water. Private from ₩25,000/night, private ensuite from ₩30,000/night.
- Mr. Kim's Friends Guesthouse, 446-11 Seokyo Dong Mapo-Gu Seoul (Metro Line 2 Hongik University, exit 1; or airport bus #6002, to Seogyo Hotel ₩10,000), ☎ +82 2 70 4123-9059, +82 11 9059-7191, . checkin: anytime; checkout: anytime. Internet access, guest kitchen, fax service, card phones, bicycle hire, cable TV, DVDs, common room, library, linen included, security lockers, BBQ area, washing machine/dryer, 24 hr security, towel hire, hairdryer for hire, parking, free parking, bicycle parking, A/C, iron-ironing board, tours desk, luggage storage, 24 hr reception. Dormitory from ₩15,000, private from ₩20,000. (37.5637561,126.9084211)
- Seoul Backpackers, 205-125, Namchang-Dong, Jung-Gu, (Metro Line 4, Hoehyeon stn, use exit No 4 and walk down the road; turn left into the next road and you will find the hostel on that road after about 100 m). ☎+82 2 3672-1972 . Backpacker hangout with English-speaking staff. Free breakfast, internet and laundry. Single/double ₩40,000/₩50,000 with own tiny bathroom.
- Seoul Guest House, 135-1 Gyedong, Jongno-gu, (Metro Line 3, Anguk stn), ☎+82 2 745-0057 . Basic rooms with air-con in a traditional Korean-style house from ₩35,000/night. Shared bathrooms, internet (wifi) and TV. For a higher price you can purchase a room with a private bath, television and computer with internet. Some find it spartan, other like its homey feel, friendly owner and big, fluffy guard dog.
- Songwontel Hostel (as of 02.2012), 102-62 Doneui-dong, Jongro-gu, (Metro Line 5, ChongRo Sam Ga, exit 2 in a small backstreet), ☎+82-2-765-7224. Free wifi. Clean, comfy yet small rooms with private bathroom, ac and tv. The receptionist speaks some english. Double rooms ₩38000/night on week days, ₩45000/night on weekends.
- Wind Road & Flower Guesthouse,1F 85-5, Myeongryun-dong 3-ga, Jongno-gu, ☎+82 2 6407-2012~3. ([email protected]), . Free internet, laundry also available (but not free). The friendly staff speaks good english. Dorm from ₩15,000/night.
- Yim's House, 33 Waryong-dong, Jongno-gu (Metro Line 3, Anguk stn), ☎+82 2 747-3332 . This excellent value hotel is unsure whether it caters to businessmen or backpackers. Rooms are clean and spacious, and Mr. Yim speaks fluent English. Ensuite singles ₩30,000, doubles ₩38,000.
- Golden Pond Guesthouse, 188-16, Myeongryun1ga-dong, (Metro Line 4, Hyehwa stn, exit #4, 5 minutes walk)(Airport bus, SungKyunKwan Univ. stop, 3 minutes walk) , ☎+82 2 741-5621 Cell +82 10 9921-5621 [www.goldenpondgh.com] New, comfortable, young atmosphere, with decent bathrooms and a friendly owner amd staffs. Two computers available for free internet use, wifi throughout. This place is near a lot of pubs and restaurants but very quiet when you sleep. No curfew. All staff is ready to hang out with guest evertnight. Sometimes they serve korean meal for free. kitchen, free laundry. if you want something they will give you everything they can.
The staff are friendly, but the desk is not manned 24 hours a day as advertised. Also, the conditions in the annex are vastly different from the ones in the actual guesthouse (mentioned above). The annex is a pig's sty - the kitchen is just a constantly clogged sink and a fridge, and the bathroom is dirty and unheated in the winter. Make absolutely sure that you book a room in the actual guesthouse (and not the annex), and don't let them bait and switch you to an annex room (which they're known to do).
- Bangrang hostel, 397-12 Chungnim-Dong, Chung ku (Metro Line 2, Chungjeongro stn, exit 5), ☎ +82 2 6614-2246, . checkin: 2PM; checkout: 11:30AM. A brand new hotel,opened Jan 2010. distinguished interior. 1 min from subway station, 2 min from airport bus stop. ₩18,000~.
- Kimchee Myeongdong Guesthouse, 35-16 Supyo- dong, Jung-gu (Metro Line 2/3, 3 mins walk from Euljiro 3-ga stn, use exit 2), ☎ +82-2-2272-4407/82-10-2332-4407,, . Located near to the main shopping area of Myeongdong in downtown Seoul,Dongdaemun is 2 stops away. Gyeongbokgung Palace/Gwanghwamun Square ,Insadong, Jongmyo Shrine, Gwangjang Market and many other interesting places in Seoul. ₩40,000 and up for a room with private bathroom/shower.
- Namsan Guesthouse, 50-1 Namsandong 2-ga, Jung-gu (Metro Line 3, Myeong-dong stn, use exit 3 and walk 100 m up to the right of the Pacific Hotel), ☎ +82 2 752-6363,, . In the shadow of Seoul Tower in Namsan Park. Free internet access, free breakfast, kitchen. ₩45,000 and up. (37.55773713333334,126.98468586666667)
- ZAZA Backpackers, 32-3 Namsandong-2ga, Jung-Gu. (Metro Line 4, Myeongdong stn Exit 2), ☎+82 2 3672-1976, . Brand new facilities, helpful English speaking staff help you to feel right at home. Free wifi, 24 hr access, Private bathroom in each rooms. 24 hr security, towels and hairdryer for hire, parking. Tour info and booking service. Free international phone.
- Prince Hotel address="1-1 Namsandong 2-ga, Jung-gu" directions="Metro Line 4, Myeong-dong stn, exit 2 and walk only 50 m" phone="+82 2 752 7111," url="http://www.princeseoul.co.kr/" price="₩130,000 to 260,000" Free internet access, free breakfast, large 'Blue' rooms with a queen bed and a single bed. Friendly and helpful English-speaking and Japanese-speaking staff.</sleep>
Love hotels, are also a great option. They are usually in pretty good condition and they sometimes have a PC in the room. Love hotels are mainly visited by couples who want some private places during day or night, most of the love hotels (especially those in Gangnam district) are exceptionally clean and usually have widescreen TVs, PCs and so forth. Don't let the name fool you...some of these are the best bets for budget travelers! Be aware that some love hotels discourage stays of more than one night. Main love hotel districts in Seoul include Teheran Street near Yeoksam station in the Gangnam district, Nambu Terminal in Seocho-dong, Bangi station in Jamsil and the area near the Nakwon market in Jongno. ₩25,000-80,000 a night, more on Saturday nights and holidays.
- IMI Hotel, Yeoksam 2-dong 718-18, Gangnam-gu, ☎+82 2 3453-4303, . At the higher end of the love hotel spectrum, some rooms feature Japanese spas and oxygen generators. Rooms from ₩60,000/night.
- Tomgi Hotel, (right next to Metro Line 4, Jongno 3-ga stn, exit 4) . A fine example of the genre, with a variety of unique rooms to choose from.
Alternatively, try a jjimjilbang. You don't get a room of your own, but you can store your luggage into one of the small lockers and you can live quite cheaply for a long time, sleeping in the public sleeping rooms and enjoying the hot-tub and steam room facilities (sometimes a gym is available, also movies and TV shows often play until 11PM or so). To find a jjimjilbang keep an eye out for the the words jjimjilbang (찜질방) or 24 hr sauna (24시 사우나) in Korean. Not all saunas have jjimjilbang stay-over facilities to watch out for that. ₩4,000-12,000/night.
- Dragon Hill Spa and Resort (드래곤힐스파), Yongsan-gu (From Yongsan Subway/KTX Station Exit 1, turn right and walk about 50 m. Pass under the 24 hr neon clock. If you see a armed military guy peeping out from behind sandbags, you've gone a little too far. Passed by the Seoul City Tour Bus.), ☎ +82-2-792-0001 (Main Desk), ☎+82 18 223-0002 (English), . If you have never been to a jjimjilbang then this is perhaps a good place to start. A little on the pricey side for a bathhouse but the premesis is modern, gaudily theme-decorated and incredibly tourist-oriented. Extensive signage exists in English, Chinese and Japanese as well as dedicated multilingual staff, even in the dead of night. Has the usual array of spas, saunas, heated sleeping rooms and Korean restaurants plus a small Japanese-style game arcade, screen golf, swimming pool (swimwear required), terrace restaurant and outdoor cinema on the roof. You can also have your photo taken in traditional Korean attire if you so desire. Sleeping mats are in short supply in line with Korea's favorite running gag, but headrest cubes and blankets are unusually available by request from the locker room attendant with a very hefty deposit: be sure to guard them well in the wee hours. All expenses incurred are charged to a wrist tag and paid for upon departure. Oversize luggage storage available and promise of a Capsule Hotel in the near future. This ''jjimjilbang'' eschews the usual sauna vs. stay distinction in favor of a simpler ₩12,000 for 12 hr access rule.
- Silloam Sauna, 10 min walk from Seoul Station. This is a very large jjimjilbang with great facilities, but the family atmosphere of other jjimjilbangs is sometimes lacking. The locker-room staff will stow oversized luggage if you ask, and a morning wake-up call can be arranged. Sleeping facilities are excellent, clean, comfortable and usually fairly quiet. There are two large dormitories for men and women, plus a snorers' room which sounds like a dragon's lair. The dormitories are arranged unconventionally into lines of bunk beds, more like an open capsule hotel than a standard sleeping floor. In the communal area there are various hot rooms, an ice room, a large gym, a PC room, singing and games rooms and a restaurant. The sauna area has 6 main pools with supposedly healthy minerals and showers. One night costs ₩12,000, which includes access to public baths, exercise facilities and various entertainment rooms.
- Best Western Premier Seoul Garden Hotel, formerly the Holiday Inn, located in the Mapo area across from Yeouido Island.
- Co-op Residence Serviced Apartments, Samseong, Ul-Jiro (near Dongdaemun Stadium), Western (Dongdaemun), Whikyung, Ohmok, Sincheon. From around ₩80,000 for very small but very comfortable single-bed studios to slightly larger double studios. Depending on the property, super-fast internet is either free or cheap (you need to ask for it). The staff are very nice but don't always speak more then rudimentary English. Some of them have restaurants that serve decent food. The Ul-Jiro Co-op is across from the Dongdaemun Stadium and Market and is a little worse for wear. The Samseong Co-op is newer and has heated floors for winter. All of them are handily located and are a fine place to stay if you are on your own. The bathrooms are tiny, as are the TVs.
- Hamilton Hotel, in the heart of the Itaewon shopping district, and next to the Itaewon subway station. Nice rooms, stay here to help reduce culture shock.
- Han Suites, in Chungmuro, right near Myeongdong. An unassuming building, it has a range for rooms from ₩80,000 for a reasonably-sized Studio through to ₩250,000 for a two-bedroom 'Premier.' Popular with both Koreans and expats, it also has super-fast internet at a reasonable price, they restock with fridge in the kitchen with free beer and water and a reasonable selection of TV stations (including ABC Asia-Pacific for homesick Australians). It isn't glamorous or in an amazing part of town, but it's a nice walk to City Hall through Myeongdong.
- Ibis Hotel Ambassador. Walking distance to the COEX in Gangnam-gu at Samsung-dong, next to line 2 subway system Samsung. Convenient for international travelers as it is very close to the check-in and limousine server at KCAT, Korea Air City Terminal, next to the COEX. Free shuttle to KCAT and free wired internet.
- Ibis Hotel Myeong Dong. Across Lotte Young Plaza. 1 min walking from Euljiro-1 station exit 7. Very central, free internet access.
- Somerset Palace Seoul (서머셋 팰리스 서울), No 85 Susong-Dong, Jongno-Gu, ☎ +82 2 6730-8888 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 6730-8080), . The residence is in the heart of the city's diplomatic, business and financial districts. Apartments, ranging from studio to penthouse layouts are fitted with a modern kitchen, washer, dryer, home entertainment system, satellite and cable TV, and broadband Internet access. Daily rates starts from ₩250,000.
Seoul's top-end hotels are impressive, but pricey.
- Grand Hyatt Seoul, 747-7 Hannam 2-Dong, Yongsan-Ku, ([email protected]), . Set amidst landscaped gardens with good views over the city. Full service spa.
- Imperial Palace Hotel, 248-7, Nonhyun-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (Near Nonhyun subway station), . Luxury hotel in Gangnam. Shuttle buses from and to Incheon international airport. Very nice spa. A local favourite.
- THE PLAZA hotel, 119 Sogongro Junggu Seoul (Near Seoul Cityhall), ☎ 82.2.771.2200, . Completely redesigned as Korea’s luxury boutique hotel in 2010, THE PLAZA is now an exceptionally beautiful, independent five-star hotel, ideally located in the heart of the business, shopping, and entertainment districts of Seoul.
- 'JW Marriott Seoul, 19-3 Banpo-dong, Seocho-gu (In the Central City development, Gangnam, next to the Express Bus Terminal, airport connections via the CCAT), ☎ +82 2 62826262, . Rooms are stylish and fully-equipped. Spa, gym, sauna, indoor running track complex covers 2 floors in the basement. Olympic-size pool, climbing wall and golf driving range and Maska's cigar shop selling Cubans. Rooms from US$200.
- Lotte Hotel, Myeong Dong (Subway Euljiro 1-ga), . Grand old lady of downtown Seoul's hotels with 1,300 rooms, all kept in tip-top shape. The obvious choice for ornate Korean luxury.
- Millennium Seoul Hilton Hotel, 395, 5-ga, Namdaemun-ro, Chung-gu, ☎ +82 2 317-3114 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 754-2510), . Luxury hotel near the Central Railway Station and Namdaemun market. Shuttle buses from and to Incheon international airport. Stylish rooms, eight restaurants, various shops and services and a indoor tropical garden. rates start from 250 000 KRW.
- Park Hyatt Seoul, 995-14 Daechi 3 - dong Gangnam - gu (In the business district), ☎ +82 2 2016 1234 ([email protected]), . Upscale hotel that is right across from the COEX shopping complex and host to The Timber House featuring live jazz music.
- Ritz-Carlton Seoul, (In Gangnam, 2~3 mins walk from Sinnonhyeon station on line number 9, exit number 4.), . checkin: 3:00 PM; checkout: 12:00 Noon. Excellent location being minutes away from the subway station and downtown Gangnam (which has many restaurants and bars in the area). The interior of the hotel has an antique luxury feel to it. Rooms are of course in tip top shape, but the less expensive rooms lack a bathtub in the bathroom. Also, the doors to the rooms do not seem to block sound very well.
- Sheraton Walker Hill Hotel, . Luxury hotel famous for its casino, swimming pool and seasonal dance parties. Populated with a lively crowd of regular expats.
- Shilla Seoul, Namsan, . One of the city's premier hotels
- W Seoul, (Located in far east Seoul), . Trendy boutique hotel in Seoul. Has a good Sunday brunch buffet with two seatings, 11AM and 1:30PM. At least ₩140,000/person.
Internet cafes known as PC bang (PC 방) (pr: pee-shee-bang) are ubiquitous in Seoul, and usually cost anywhere from ₩800-2,000/hr.
Most have printers at the front desk. These places cater chiefly to gamers, which translates into fairly fast computers, loud sound systems and large screens. Most PC rooms have smoking sections. Typically, the computers run a Korean version of Windows XP and use Internet Explorer.
A Korean keyboard using a Korean OS can type in English or Hangul.
Console gaming (Xbox 360, PS3) is widely available, and for those with proficiency in Korean language, you might also be able to enjoy a round of online gaming; the fantasy MMORPG Lineage was created in Korea and a slew of MMORPG titles not available anywhere else can be found here.
Post offices are basically everywhere in Seoul, although many are hidden on smaller roads and alleys. If you cannot spot any post office nearby, it is good idea to visit university (every university has its own post office in it).
Some post offices are open on Saturdays, Sundays and other holidays (postal service only). Most post offices sell boxes and packing materials. Even the smaller offices typically have at least one English-speaking member of staff.
The Korean postal insignia is orange and white. It can be spotted on post office signs.
- Seoul CPO (서울중앙우체국), 21-1 Chungmuro 1(il)-ga, Jung-gu (Line 4 Hoehyun stn exit #7). M-F 9AM-6PM, Sa 9AM-1PM. Also has a big philately section in basement.
- Gwanghwamun Post Office (광화문우체국), 154-1 Seorin-dong, Jongno-gi (Line 5 Gwanghwanun stn). M-F 9AM-8PM, Sa Su 9AM-6PM (and holidays).
- Seoul Gangnam Post Office (서울강남우체국). M-F 9AM-6PM, Sa 9AM-1PM.
Useful contact numbers are as follows:
- Police: ☎ 112
- Fire Department: ☎119
- Travel Information: ☎ 1330
- City Information(다산콜센터): ☎ 120
Seoul is a remarkably safe city given its size, comparable in safety to Hong Kong or Tokyo. Pickpocketing is not very common and violent crime is minimal if almost unheard of.
If you happen to be a non-Korean male walking hand-in-hand with a Korean female, drunk older Korean men might give you a tongue lashing or occasionally worse. Note that this is far less of a problem than it used to be.
If you do end up in a fight, remember that Korean law is possibly different to your home country. Just because someone else started the fight does not provide you with legal protection if the attacker ends up hurt. As in anywhere else in the world, get out of such a situation as quickly as you can.
U.S. military personnel now have a curfew 1am-5am 7 days a week on the Korean Peninsula, although the curfew can be extended at very short notice. If you are a westerner then the American Military Police may request to see your ID and, if you refuse, may summon the Korean National Police, who have the right to demand it. (This is done to catch American military personel breaking the curfews)
Unfortunately crimes by American soldiers against Koreans do happen, and when they do they often receive a huge amount of national attention. If you are a westerner then you should exercise some extra care when such a case hits the media, although it is still highly unlikely you would be in any danger.
Large scale demonstration in Seoul against the government happen from time to time. Often they can result in a riot where there are pitched battles between protesters and riot police. People do get seriously hurt, so try and avoid getting too close to the action.
Over the last 15-20 years Korea has undergone a major English language boom. Korean families are eager for their children to learn English and commonly place them in private language schools.
However, note with caution that the vast majority of Koreans will not speak any English, particularly the older generation. A few tourist information centers dotted around Seoul are staffed by English speakers, but by and large the average service provider will not speak English.
English signage is visible everywhere in the city, from road signs to subway maps to shop posters.
- The Seoul Global Center, 3rd Floor of the Seoul Press Center, 25 Taepyeongno 1(il)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, ☎ +82 2 1688-0120, . Provides foreign language assistance with regard to public services, but also beyond including help with awkward coping necessities like purchasing a mobile phone.
Pharmacies are everywhere in Seoul. While most are labeled only in Korean, the signage and Hangul character is easy to recognize, 약. Most pharmacists speak some English. Pharmacists are not shy about asking about your symptoms and selling you what they think you need.
- Medical Referral Service, ☎ +82 10 4769-8212, . 8 am to 8 pm (with emergency only coverage after hours). Seoul provides an English-language hotline to assist with finding doctors and other medical services.
Medical bills can be expensive, but not too, so make sure you have valid travel insurance.
Some people with sensitive stomachs should use caution when dining in Korea as some of the local cuisine is heavily spiced with copious amounts of pepper and garlic.
Air quality in Seoul is questionable, at best. Part of this comes from China, but plenty of pollution comes from Korean industries and the growing number of automobiles on the road. When approaching Metro-Seoul via train a visible dome of smog exists. Asthmatics frequently have acute problems, especially in the low-lying areas of town. Pharmacies carry a variety of different allergy and smog masks and are a common sight outdoors.
Mold is very common during the hotter months and the rainy season. While it is pervasive nearest the rivers and streams, many subway stations reek of mildew and mold.
Mongolian Yellow Dust Storms, in Spring, have always been considered dangerous, but more so in recent years, as these storms blow across China's industrial belt, picking up toxins, before sweeping across the Korean Peninsula. Efforts to mitigate the dust storms included a donation of several thousand trees from South Korea to China. The Chinese accepted the trees, then planted them along highways, rather than as a barrier for the dust storms. When dust storms come through Seoul, it is common for local inhabitants to put on mask specifically for dust storms and make haste to the nearest enclosure. Some locals will refuse to travel when Yellow Dust Storms are present.
The Korean Peninsula is the political hotspot of Northeast Asia, hence, a large number of embassies are located in Seoul.
- Afghanistan, 27-2, Hannam-Dong, Yongsan-Gu, ☎ +82 2 793-3535 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 795-2662), .
- Argentina, 5F Choon Woo Bldg, 534 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-ku, ☎ +82 2 796-8144 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 792-5820), .
- Austria, Kyobo Bldg, Rm 1913 1-1, Jongno, 1-ga, Jongno-gu, ☎ +82 2 732-9071 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 732-9486), .
- Bangladesh, 310-22 Dongbinggo-dong, Youngsan-ku, ☎ +82 2 796-4056 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 790-5313), .
- Belgium, 737-10 Hannam-2 dong, Yongsan-gu, ☎ +82 2 749-0381 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 797-1688), .
- Bhutan (Consulate), 123-5 Nonhyun-Dong, Kangnam-ku, ☎ +82 2 738-4970 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 738-4974).
- Brazil, 4F-5F 141, IHN Gallery Bldg, Palpan-dong, Chongro-gu, ☎ +82 2 3444-5961 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 3444-4384).
- Cambodia, 653-8 Hanan-dong, ☎ +82 2 3785-1040 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 3785-1041).
- Canada, 16-1, Jeong-dong, Jung-gu, ☎ +82 2 3783-6000 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 3783-6239), . M-F 8AM-11:45AM and 12:45PM-4:30PM.
- Czech Republic, 1-121 Sinmunno 2-ga, Jongno-gu, ☎ +82 2 725-6765 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 734-6452), .
- Denmark, 5F Namsong Bldg, 260-199 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, ☎ +82 2 795-4187 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 796-0986), .
- Ecuador, Korea First Bank Building, 19th. Floor. 100 Gongpyeong-Dong Jongno-Gu, 110-702, ☎ +82 2 739-2401 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 739-2355), . 9:00 am - 5:00 pm.
- Ethiopia, 657-26 Hannam-dong, Yangsan-ku, ☎ +82 2 790-8927 (fax: +82 2 790-8929).
- Finland, 18F Kyobo Bldg, 1 Jongno 1-ga, Jongno-gu, ☎ +82 2 732-6737 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 723-4969), . M-F 9AM-noon.
- France, 30 Hap-dong, Seodaemun-gu, ☎ +82 2 3149-4300 (fax: +82 2 3149-4310), .
- Hungary, 1-103, Dongbinggo-dong, Yongsan-gu, ☎ +82 2 792-2105 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 792-2109), .
- Indonesia, 55 Yeouido-dong, Yeongdeungpo-gu, ☎ +82 2 783-5675 (fax: +82 2 780-4280), .
- Ireland, 13F Leema Bldg, 146-1 Susong-dong, Jongro-ku, ☎ +82 2 774-6455 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 774-6458), .
- Italy, 3F Ilshin Bldg #714 Hannam-2-dong, Yongsan-gu, ☎ +82 2 796-0491 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 797-5560), .
- Jamaica (Consulate), Olympica Centre 5F, 828-10 Yeoksam-dong, Kangnam-ku, ☎ +82 2 555-4271 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 745-8545), .
- Kenya, 243-36, Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-ku, ☎ +82 2 3785-2903 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 3785-2905), .
- Laos, 657-9 Hannam-Dong Yongsan-Gu, ☎ +82 2 796-1713 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 796-1771).
- Luxembourg (Consulate), #475-9 Pyeongchang-dong, Jongro-ku, ☎ +82 2 316-6101 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 311-8650).
- Mexico, 33-6 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-ku, ☎ +82 2 798-1694 (fax: +82 2 790-0939), .
- Mongolia, 33-5 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, ☎ +82 2 794-1951 (fax: +82 2 794-7605), .
- Myanmar, 723-1, 724-1, Hannam-dong Yongsan-ku, ☎ +82 2 792-3341 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 796-5570), .
- Netherlands, 10F Jeong-dong Bldg, 15-5 Jeong-dong, Jung-gu, ☎ +82 2 311-8600 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 311-8650), .
- Nigeria, 310-19 Dongbinggo-dong, Yongsan-ku, ☎ +82 2 797-2370 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 796-1848), .
- Pakistan, 258-13 Itaewon 2-dong, Yongsan-gu, ☎ +82 2 796-8252 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 796-0313), .
- Peru, Daeyungak Bldg Ste 2002, 25-5, Chungmuro 1-ga, Jung-gu, ☎ +82 2 757-1735 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 757-1738), .
- Philippines, 18-11 Junghak-dong, ☎ +82 2 2170-5200 (fax: +82 2 734-4528), .
- Portugal, 2F 171, Wonseo-Dong, Chongno-Ku, ☎ +82 2 3675-2251 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 3675-2250).
- New Zealand, 8F Jeong Dong Bldg, Jeong-dong, Jung-gu, ☎ +82 2 3701 7700 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 3701 7701), .
- Romania, 1-42 UN Village, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-ku, ☎ +82 2 797-4924 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 794-3114), .
- Singapore, 28F Seoul Finance Centre, 84 Taepyungro 1-ga Chung-gu, ☎ +82 2 774-2464 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 773-2463), .
- Slovakia, 389-1, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, ☎ +82 2 794-3981 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 794-3982), . M W F 10AM-noon.
- Slovenia (Consulate), Rm 402 Young Choice Bldg, 1359-46, Seo-cho 2-dong, Seocho-gu, ☎ +82 2 569-3535 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 569-2350). M W F 10AM-noon.
- South Africa, 1-37 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, ☎ +82 2 792-4855 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 792-4856), .
- Spain, 726-52 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-ku, ☎ +82 2 794-3581 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 796-8207).
- Sri Lanka, Ste 2002 Kyobo Bldg, Chongno- 1 ka, Chongno-ku, ☎ +82 2 735-2966 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 737-9577), .
- Sweden, 8F Danam Bldg, 120, Namdaemunro 5-Ga, Jung-Gu, ☎ +82 2 739-9511 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 737-9392), .
- Switzerland, 32-10, Songwol-dong, Jongno-gu, ☎ +82 2 3703-3700 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 3703-3701), .
- Taiwan, 6F, Kwang Hwa Moon Bldg, 211 Sejong-ro, Chongro-ku, ☎ +82 2 399-2780 ([email protected]).
- Thailand, 653-7, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, ☎ +82 2 790-2955 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 798-3448), .
- Tunisia, 7-13, Dongbinggo-dong, Yongsan-ku, ☎ +82 2 790-4334 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 790-4333).
- United Arab Emirates, 5-5 Hannam-dong, Yougsan-ku, ☎ +82 2 790-3235 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 790-3238).
- United Kingdom, Taepyeongno 40, 4 Jeong-dong, Jung-gu, ☎ +82 2 3210-5500, .
- Vietnam, 28-58, Samchong-Dong, Chongno-Ku, ☎ +82 2 739-2065 ([email protected], fax: +82 2 739-2064), .
Mostly, Koreans are very curious about foreigners. Many will gawk and glare while others will try out their English. For the most part, Koreans are very friendly on the street and will take great pains to be helpful, despite the above attitudes.
If working in Korea, one should do a little reading on Confucianism and how it translates into social standing.
- Panmunjeom — Many tour companies offer DMZ tours which is a day trip from Seoul, the highlight of which is a village lying in the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea. Note that you cannot visit without booking with a tour company, and that some nationalities (including South Korean and Chinese) are not allowed to visit for security reasons.
- Incheon — The place where U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur landed during the Korean War; it also has the biggest and oldest Chinatown in Korea.
- Gapyeong — Popular weekend getaway, east of Seoul. A small town in the mountains of Gyeonggi-do, on the border with Gangwon-do.
- Chuncheon — Filmed in many Korean dramas and movies and now accessible by subway from Seoul
- Suwon — One of Seoul's satellite cities, located 30 kilometers south of Seoul, the city is best-known as the home of Hwaseong Fortress (화성), a UNESCO world heritage site. Built from 1794 to 1796, the fortress consists of four main gates and a 5.76 kilometer-long wall, and features an archery range and other activities. Suwon is also famous for its local football club Suwon Samsung Bluewings as well as galbi with numerous restaurants serving the dish. And you could also go to " Folk village " from there. Suwon has several stops on Seoul Subway Line 1 and is about an hour away from Seoul Station. Several commuter trains travel from Seoul Station to Suwon Station each day, with the trip taking about 30 minutes.
- Busan Take the KTX down to Busan to enjoy the beach in summer. Makes a nice change of pace from Seoul.
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