Namdaemun Gate at night, before it was burned down in 2008 by an arsonist
Seoul (서울)  is the capital of South Korea. With a population of over 10.5 million, Seoul is by far South Korea's largest city and one of East Asia's financial and cultural epicenters.
With over 10 million people, a figure that doubles if you include neighboring cities and suburbs, Seoul is the largest city in South Korea and the unquestioned economic, political and cultural hub of the country. By some measures, it is the second largest urban agglomeration on the planet, after Greater Tokyo.
Founded in the 14th century, Seoul was the capital of Korea before its occupation by the Japanese and subsequent division following World War II. Since 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 modern metropolises.
Seoul suffers from a partly unwarranted reputation for pollution and traffic jams. These days, strict emissions laws have brought the pollution under control and, while traffic jams do still snarl up Seoul's streets at rush hour, the extensive subway network means that the traveler can easily shortcut through it almost all of the time. With beautiful palaces, great food and a hopping nightlife, Seoul is a frenetic way to experience the Asia of old and new.
Seoul is a relatively well organized city covering over 600 km² with a population of around 10.5 million. The new modern city built on a 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). Seoul is roughly bisected by the Han River (한강 Hangang), which runs east to west across the city.
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). For travelers, however, it may be easier to divide the city into the following areas:
- Jongno (종로) – The Joseon-era historical core of the city, containing most palaces and government offices, lies on the north side of the Han-Gang(River). Here you can also find Insa-dong which is a popular street area to find souvenirs and within walking distance to many of Seoul's historic cultural landmarks.
- Gangnam (강남) – The area south of the river that is more 'uptown' and more modern. This is perhaps Seoul's most popular area for tourists and is also where the largest hotels are.
- 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.
- Hongdae (홍대) and Sinchon (신촌) – Located west of Seoul Station in the gu of Seodaemun (서대문) and Mapo (마포), Hongdae and Sinchon are two of the areas most frequented by hip college students and foreigners. Features hundreds of restaurants, bars, and night clubs. West of Mapo-gu you can find the Seoul World Cup Stadium.
- Dongdaemun (동대문) – Once home to Korea's first modern sports stadium, Dongdaemun is now a fashion shopper's paradise. With literally hundreds of vendors across dozens of buildings, you can find just about anything on sale here. Hyehwa (혜화) – colloquially known as Daehangno (대학로), is Seoul's performing arts center, with dozens of small theaters with live dramatic and comedic performances lining every street. On Friday nights in summer, as the heat goes away, this district is filled with life and street commerce past midnight.
- Yongsan (용산) – Yongsan is home to the US Army Military Base as well as one of the largest electronics markets in the world. 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.
- Songpa is where you'll find Lotte World, Olympic Park, and Seoul (Jamsil) Sports Complex. Songpa is one of the richest districts in seoul.
- Jung rests to the south of City Hall--but still north of the Han River--and is where you'll find the 262-meter peak of Namsan (남산), a structure similar to the shape of Seattle and Shanghai's most popular skyscrapers and the National Theater.
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 best way to get from the airport to Seoul is by bus. Limousine buses (₩14000 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 (₩8000-9000) will take you to major transit hubs. If you're visiting for the first time it's recommended to take 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.
The A'REX  train link connects the airport to Gimpo Airport, with express and commuter services (both ₩3100) running every 12 minutes for a trip time of 28-35 minutes, making this both faster and cheaper than the bus if transiting between the airports. From Gimpo Airport, transferring to subway lines 5 or 9 will take you into various parts of the city. The rest of the link to Seoul Station is scheduled to be ready in December 2010. However, if you have a lot of luggage and prefer not to transfer several times, the airport limousine bus is your best option.
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 be done running too.
A taxi direct to Seoul will run around ₩50000/70000 regular/deluxe. Black deluxe taxis (모범 택시) and some regular taxis accept credit cards, but most regular taxis (일반 택시) do 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.
Beware 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; one possible shortcut is to take the subway to Gimpo and transfer to the subway there (see below).
The more centrally located 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 subway lines 5 and 9, as well as the A'REX rail link to Incheon Airport. Line 5 requires about 50 minutes just to get downtown, while Line 9 offers express trains (every 20 min) that skip most stops and can take you clear across the line in 30 minutes, making it a better choice for most visitors. Both lines cost ₩1400, while a taxi to central Seoul will run around ₩30,000.
Seoul is the northern terminus of the KTX high-speed line. There are two KTX stations within city limits:
- Seoul Station (서울역) for trains to Busan via Daejeon and Daegu. Accessible via subway lines 1 & 4.
- Yongsan Station (용산역), for trains to Gwangju and Mokpo. Also on line 1 & 4 (Shin-Yongsan station).
Nearly all ordinary (non-KTX) services also use one or both of the above terminals, but services east to Chuncheon 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 no less than five major intercity bus terminals.
- Central City Terminal, also known as Honam Terminal, (Metro Lines 3 or 7, 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).
- Seoul Express Bus Terminal (서울고속버스터미널), (Metro Lines 3 or 7, 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.
- Nambu Bus Terminal, Nambu Bus Terminal stn (Line 3). Serves places southwest of Seoul (South Chungcheong).
- Sinchon Bus Terminal, Sinchon stn (Line 2). 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 at least one 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.
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 lines (11 if you count the Bundang Line and Incheon Line), all numbered and 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, however Koreans don't really make use of these numbers and they're not on most subway maps, so don't rely on them. A subway map including Line 9 (opened in early 2009) can be found here:.
Subway fares are based on the distance traveled, but the shortest ride costs ₩1000 when using a magnetic ticket. Small magnetic stripe tickets are available for single trip or multiple trips. Tickets can be purchased from ticket counters or vending machines. All the vending machines accept coins, but only a few accept bills. Be sure to have enough coins or ₩1000 notes as if your fare isn't large enough, trying to purchase tickets with say a ₩10000 may be rejected by the machine. If there's no manned ticket office, there's usually a bill exchanger lurking nearby. Hang onto your ticket until the end of your trip, as you'll need it to get out. Also, try to buy round-trip tickets whenever possible (no discount but it'll save time from having to wait in line, especially during rush hour). Seoul's automated ticket machines aren't as easy-to-use as those in Busan, for example, and for most first-time visitors, simply purchasing from the attendant will likely prove easier. The ticket machines often only have buttons for the fare (eg. ₩1000, ₩1100 etc.)- there is a map of the metro printed above each ticket machine, with the cost of the journey marked next to each station (costs depend on which station you are at). So you first find the station you want to go to, read off the corresponding fare, and then buy a ticket to that cost.
If planning on using the Metro extensively or staying for more than a few weeks, 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 ₩2500 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 (there are common with Seoul's extensive subway system) and you can get all but ₩500 back if you have unused credit. Typically for most travelers 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, etc. and 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 operated 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 - ₩1000
T-Money Card - ₩900
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.
The city of Seoul provides an interactive bus map at the following site: Seoul Public Transportation System Guide .
There are four kinds of taxis in Seoul: regular taxi, deluxe taxi, international taxi and call taxi. Deluxe taxis are colored 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, "regular" in Seoul might be "delux" in their hometown! It's 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 which is a kind of deluxe taxi, the drivers of which know English and Japanese and can guide you around Seoul city.
The basic fare for regular taxis is ₩2400 (₩2880 at night), with additional fare of ₩100 applied according to time and distance.(Basic fare is up to 2km, additional fare is ₩100 per 144m.) In deluxe taxis, the basic fare is ₩4500 and the additional fare increases in increments of ₩200. (₩4500 basic fare up to 3km, additionally ₩200 per 164m.) 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 (e.g., 1-2 Metro stops) it is usually cheaper to catch a taxi than to take a bus or subway.
In general, English speaking ability is poor among taxi drivers and many would not know more than the names of the most popular tourist attractions, so it would be wise to 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. Taxi's 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 therefore may be easier for any English speaking tourists.
As of 2009, most taxis will accept credit cards and T-money cards. Those that do will 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. Say "Young-soo-jeong"(영수증), which is receipt in Korean.
Car rental is very unappealing in Seoul, as drivers are reckless and the streets are plagued with seemingly perpetual traffic jams. 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 public transport instead.
See also: Korean phrasebook
As elsewhere in Korea, a grasp of basic Korean will be helpful.
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.
- Gyeongbok-gung(경복궁,景福宮), Yulgukno (subway Gyeongbokgung). 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 they did a repeat after 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. ₩3000, 9AM-5PM daily except Tu (when the palace is used for shooting TV dramas).
- Changdeok-gung(창덕궁,昌德宮), 99 Yulgong-ro, Jongno-gu (Metro Line 3, Anguk station 5 minute walk or Line 1, 3, 5 Jongno-3ga Station). 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 (₩3000) 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 11:30AM, 1:30PM and 3:30PM (and you can not enter without a guide!) and last around 90 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): ₩1000 (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-minute 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): ₩1000 (groups: ₩800), Children (aged 7-18): ₩500 (groups: ₩400), Children 6 and under, seniors 65+: Free.
- Gyeonghui-gung(경희궁,慶熙宮), (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 metres (3,000 feet), accessible by public transit and the trails range from easy to difficult.
- Bukhansan 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.
- Gwanaksan Gwanak station, line 1.
- Samseongsan Close to Gwanaksan.
- Inwangsan 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 place, for it is a park where you can come and take a rest.
- 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 come. 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.
- Tapgol ("Pagoda") Park. A small park frequented by the elderly and the footsore traveller, just to the east of Jongmyo Shrine. Contains the 500+-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, respectively. The size of the park being 230,000 square meters, 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 12 districts - Gwangnaru, Jamsil, 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--and admission cheaper--and also have some interactive equipment available to learn about the rituals and ceremonies used to treat deceased royal family members. ₩1000. Closed Tu.
- Mount Inwang (인왕산 Inwangsan), near subway Dongnimmun. This 336-meter 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.
- Jogyesa (조계사, 曹溪寺) is 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.
- World Comic Con 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) is 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 centers of arts, culture, food and fashion. Hanokgirl.net provides information about Bukchon, including how to get there, places to visit and walking tour maps.
- Namdaemun(남대문,南大門) (Metro Line 1, City Hall stn). More formally known as Sungryemun(숭례문,崇禮門), 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 expected to take up to 3 years.
- 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 couterpart. 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 signage is 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 center 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 Sony Playstation Store; an Xbox Store; a traditional video game arcade; a large bookstore with many Korea publications and imported Japanese books, manga and magazines; a chain electronics store to provide the traveller-in-need with batteries, camcorder tape and discs; and a Studio Ghibli store with lots of character goods (for anime fans). There are also shopping options in the COEX, including national brands mVIO, WhoAU California and Caspi Conus. 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. In 2003, a popular entertainment sports bar called GimmeFive opened in the back of the mall, featuring live kickboxing, fashion shows, and a drag queen cabaret show to close the evening; it occupied the space formerly occupied by but then vacated by the Dave & Busters chain. 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) 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 boats 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 to 10:30PM and is reached by a 10 minute 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 travellers 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, Ichon stn) Houses the best of the best collection of artifacts and relics from across Korea throughout different periods and dynasty. Closed every Monday. But do not expect too much.
- Cheonggye Stream, Located near Cheonggye Plaza near Insa-dong. This stream has recently been converted into a tourist attraction from its previous state as a stagnant mosquito breeding wetland.
- 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.₩12000-18000 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.
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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, in 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 Kwacheon. 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.
- LG Arts Center (Metro line #2, Yeoksam Station, Exit 7). 679 Yeoksam, 1 Dong Kangnum gu, Seoul. phone="+82 2 2005 0114" Opened in 2000, this modern, multi-purpose performing arts auditorium 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.
- 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]), .
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.
- Han Jeong Hye Cooking Institute (한정혜요리학원), (Jongno 3-ga Station, exit 5. 5 min walk), ☎ +82 2 742 3567, . For class times, inquire in advance. At Han Jeong Hye Cooking Institute you can learn how to prepare Kimchi, Bulgogi, and Bibimbap. Lessons cost between ₩60000-100,000.
- Institute of Korean Royal Cuisine(궁중음식연구원), (Anguk Station, exit 2. 20 min walk), ☎ +82 2 744 9092, 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 won.
- 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 ₩70000, ₩60000 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!
- For information: Kukkiwon, WTF Headquarters .
- For training in Seoul: Sangrok Gym .
There is an immense demand for ESL (English as a Second Language) instruction in Seoul. See the main South Korea article for details.
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.
- 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. 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 Landrover, 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.
- 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, Gucci and Prada sit alongside Korean designer brands.
- Galleria  A very popular upscale department store.
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.
Duty free shops: You can use won, United States dollars, or Japanese yen. There are clerks who can speak Japanese in nearly every shop. Also the following credit cards are accepted: American Express , JCB, Mastercard, or Visa.
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 won 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.
Another interesting food trend in Seoul are the bakeries found all over the city. Common big chains.
All-American diner at Itaewon could be a good choice for who tired of Koreanized fusion.
Keep an eye out for restaurants with signs that have either a pig/cow or what looks like a plate of uncooked bacon. These tend to be galbi restaurants, which is the korean barbecue. Fromthese you can order Samgupsal (pork) or galbi(beef) which is cooked on the table in front of you. A meal and a beer will usually come to about $10
Seoul has plenty of budget places to eat. Everything from convenience store junk food and noodles to street stall food and lots of 24 hour 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 ₩2000-9000 at these restaurants. The larger department stores in the city have basement food courts that offer excellent food (not recommended if you care about atmosphere).
- Sadongmyenok (사동면옥), Insadong 5-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 ₩5000. English menu available.
- Ala-Too Cafe - Near Dongdaemun Stadium, exit 5, are 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.
- New Delhi Restaurant, Itaewon (Noksapyoung station exit 1, cross overpass, turn right, 2 min up the hill on your left). Run by a Canadian-Indian owner, ₩15000 gets you a a wonderful Indian meal. Try the chicken vindaloo, the garlic nan and the samosas.
- Smokey's, Itaewon (Itaewon Station, 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), Apgujeong, Gangnam. 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 home. Burgers range from ₩5900 for the "Classic" up to ₩10000 for the deluxe varieties. Jumbo patties are available for an additional ₩3000. Burgers can be ordered with fries, coleslaw, and a drink for an additional ₩3500.
- 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) Pattaya is, unsurprisingly, a 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 ₩13000-18000, while curry pots and stews can run over ₩30000.
- Jeonju Jungang Hoegwan (전주 중앙 회관), Myeong-dong (Myeong-dong Station, exit 5) This Korean restaurant specializes in the Jeonju variety of bibimbap, which features different ingredients and spices than other bibimbap dishes. Delicious and healthy, a meal will set you back ₩8000-12000. Phone: 02) 776-3400 Hours: Daily 8:30AM-10:30PM.
- Everest, Dongdaemun (Dongdaemun Station, 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. Meals generally cost ₩8000-15000 per person. Bollywood music videos are free.
- 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. A typical meal will run ₩15000-20000. Well worth it as it is very unique to the dining landscape in Seoul.
- 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.
- Once in a Blue Moon . Great food and atmosphere are a plenty at this snappy restaurant/jazz bar. Well worth the money for a nice night out. Live jazz music every night.
- 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 it's 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.
Itaewon is Seoul's international district, housing a variety of Western-styled venues to eat, drink and be merry. Being a place where many foreigners congregate, it remains somewhat of a niche nightlife area for Koreans who are interested in a more international scene. A number of notable bars and clubs spot the area, both on the main street and in the alleys off it. Recently becoming gentrified as more upscale restaurants and chains move in. The US army has decided to move the nearby army base outside of Seoul within the next few years so expect regular changes to the area..
Many bars in Itaewon celebrate Thursdays as Ladies' Night which often means that ladies drink free before 12am. Finally, there are a few gay bars, located two alleys east of the main street. There you can find a club and a few bars near one another.
Due to its proximity to the nearby United States Army Garrison Yongsan, a large number of American military are found here in the evenings and weekends. It is not unusual to see uniformed military wearing CP (Courtesy Patrol) or MP (Military Police) armbands enforcing the curfew.
- Geckos, (opposite Quiznos). A relaxed bar scene and good food. Very popular with GIs and expats.
- Seoul Pub.
- Rocky Mountain Tavern . A Canadian bar for expats living in Korea. Located north of the main intersection.
- The Loft.
- Polly's Kettle.
- Old Town.
- 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.
- The 3 Alley Pub, Popular with the older expat crowd. It's located in an alley off the street near the Itaewon subway station.
- Helios Small Hip hop club with a bit of a reputation.
For some good House/Trance music, try some places like:
- Bar Nana.
- Spy Club.
- King Club. Gaudy and a tad sleazy. Located in a seedy part of the neighborhood.
- Del Disco. Reportedly a gay club.
- Club Volume House/trance club, quite large and a excellent crowd on weekends. It is the best and most upscale club in the neighborhood.
Clothing and jewelry vendors in Sinchon.
Sinchon (신촌), home to universities including the Ehwa Women's University (이화여대 Ihwayeodae) this is a great place to soak up a more Korean environment. (Sinchon is not to be confused with Sincheon, the only difference being the sound of the last o!) Sinchon is set up like many Korean 'play' areas, whereby bars, clubs, restaurants, singing rooms, 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 the different places. Korean bars tend to be rather antisocial compared with their Western counterparts, with people sitting at tables with friends and not tending to mix. There are a number of Western style bars in the area:
- Woodstock. Around since 1991, the bar 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 from their tables. Great place to mix with Koreans of all ages.
- Zen II.
- Nori Ha Nun Saram Dul. A 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 9PM, but a definite must.
- Watts on Tap. Great pub grub and a wide range of imported draughts and bottles. Friendly atmosphere, international staff and clientele, and great tunes. Darts and rooftop patio. Watts regularly hosts events such as The Drinking World Cup and Electro (dance party). Popular with English teachers and the host of international undergrads and grad students at nearby Yonsei, Ewha, Hongik and Sogang.
- The King's Tap (London Pub), 5th Fl., Cupid B/D, Changcheon-dong, Seodaemun-gu (Sinchon St., line 2, exit 3. Go right. Right again at second light. 100 meters on left across from Beer Zone.), ☎ 02-313-2223, . Imported beers on tap and in bottles, pub grub, projection TV. Free pool, darts, foosball and claims to have Korea's first shuffleboard table.
Hongdae (홍대), short for Hong'ik 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:
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, 60's and 70's rock during the week. No cover.
- nb (noise basement) Hiphop.
- Q-Vo Hiphop.
Some other popular clubs include
- Club Saab Small Hip hop Club
- Joker Red Techno club
- Club Tool House Music club
- Club FF Rock music club that is popular with foreigners
- Janes Groove a club that markets itself to foreigners....plays popular music
- Harlem Hip hop club
- S Club hip hop club that gives free entry to all foreigners.
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. There are a number of bars popular with foreigners here too:
- Tin Pan A club/bar with cheap drinks and a dance floor. Popular with foreigners and Korean women.
- Bricxx A hookah lounge with an intimate atmosphere. Has 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 American military personnel, US Federal employees and their dependents. However, it is not unusual to see crew-cuts here on the weekends.
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 up.
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 in Apgujeong aren't necessarily rich and actually live far away. There are some clubs and bars here, but it is a rather subdued venue for partying. Nightlife here consists mainly of designer bars and restaurants. Places where it isn't possible to valet haven't turned out to be great hits traditionally. That said, there are a few small clubs in the area. Expect English to be more commonly spoken in this area too, due often to overseas education or excessive private tutoring. However with it comes 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 as a great place to hang out, not rock out. If you wanted to impress a date for example, this would be a great place to go to. The backstreets of Apgujeong tend to sprout and lose new clubs seemingly at random throughout the year, so exploring off the main drag from time to time can sometimes 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 (강남) is probably the second most popular club area. Also set up in a grid structure, clubs, bars, restaurants and various 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, Kangnam is the place for those rich kids to party and look sexy. The station is central and a ton of buses run through the heart of the entertainment area, so finding your way there is extremely easy.
- NB. Full of clubbers pretty much every night of the week.
- Harlem Next to NB...guess what music they play?
- 4X. Popular with foreigners.
- Eden Electro 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
- Tokyo Jazz, 153-44 Samsung Dong, Kangnam-gu (directly across the street from Coex Oakwood Premier Center), ☎ 011-365-1770. A cozy jazz club located on the second floor with live piano and vocal music every night and a jazz combo on Thursady and Friday nights 9-12 or later if the club is full. Famous for staying open until the last customer leaves.
Note: Some bar districts, such as Hongdae, are off-limits to American military personnel, US Federal employees, contractors and their dependents. A nationwide curfew (imposed and enforced by the US Military as part of the Status of Forces Agreement) is also in effect for persons subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, American military personnel, US Federal employees, contractors and their dependents: midnight Su-Th and 3AM F-Sa.
Seoul's has two unofficial backpacker districts, Jongno (Anguk/Sinseol-dong) to the northeast of the city and Hongdae 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 (₩9000, 90 minutes), while Hongdae has quite a party scene.
- Backpackers Korea, 1054 Sungin-dong, Jongno-gu (2 min from Line 1 Sinseoldong stn exit 11), Tel.+82-10-4942-2268, +82-10-5001-0307, . Friendly cool English speaking staffs, Free breakfast, free wifi, free laundry, air-con, hot water, rooftop terrace. Dorms from ₩17,000/night private from ₩29,000/night with own bathroom.
- Hostel Korea, 178-65 Sungin-dong, Jongno-gu (4 min from Line 1 Sinseoldong stn exit 11), Tel.+82-2-762-7406, +82-2-766-7406, . Friendly English/Chinese-speaking staffs, Free breakfast, free wifi, free laundry, air-con, hot water, . Private from ₩25,000/night, Ensuit private from ₩30,000/night.
- Seoul Backpackers, 30-1 Iksundong, Jongno-gu (Metro Line 3, Anguk stn). Take 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 100m. Tel. +82-2-3672-1972 . Backpacker hangout with English-speaking staff. Dorms ₩18000, single/double ₩27000/₩37000 with own tiny bathroom. Free breakfast, internet and laundry.
- Seoul Guest House, 135-1 Gyedong, Jongno-gu (Metro Line 3, Anguk stn), tel. +82-2-745-0057 . Basic rooms with air-con in a traditional Korean-style house from ₩35,000/night. Shared bathrooms, Internet, TV etc. For a higher price you can purchase a room with a private bath, television and computer with internet. Some undiscerning travellers like it, though if you aren't on a skid-row budget you might just find the grime and decrepitude of the place revolting.
- Wind Road & Flower Guesthouse,1F 85-5, Myeongryun-dong 3-ga, Jongno-gu, Tel.+82-2-6407-2012~3. E-mail: [email protected] Dorm from ₩15,000/night, free internet.Laundry also available (but not free). The friendly staff speaks good english.
- Yim's House, 33 Waryong-dong, Jongno-gu (Metro Line 3, Anguk stn), tel. +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. En-suite singles are ₩30,000 while doubles are ₩38,000.
- Bangrang hostel, 397-12 Chungnim-Dong, Chung ku (Metro Line 2, Chungjeongro stn, exit 5), ☎ +82-2-6614-2246, . checkin: 14:00; checkout: 11:30. Brand new hostel,opend Jan 2010. distinguished interior. 1 min from subway staion, 2 min from airport bus stop, can go any tour top attraction whthin 15 min. 18,000won~.
- Blu Guest House, 464-63 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu (Metro Line 2, Hongdae stn, exit#1; Line 7, Hapjeong stn), tel. +82-70-7692-9484, +82-11-9921-5621, . Free wifi, free laundry, aircon/heating, lockers, breakfast, no curfew. From ₩18,000.
- Golden Pond Guesthouse, 188-40, 14/5 Myeongryun-dong (Metro Line 4, Hyehwa stn, exit #4), Tel. (02)741-5621 Cell. 010-9921-5621  Golden Pond is one of the newest and cheapest (₩17,000 for a dorm) hostels in Seoul. A comfortable, family style atmosphere, with decent bathrooms and a friendly owner make this hostel hard to beat. Two computers available for Internet use and wireless throughout. This place is near a lot of universities so shops and restaurants are a plenty. 10-minute walk from Changgyeong-gung. No curfew.
- 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: 11 AM. Clean, spacious rooms with high ceilings, ondol heating, aircon, hot water. English spoken. From ₩19,000. (one night,2 months)
- Kims' Guest House, 443-16 Hapjeongdong, Mapo-gu (Metro Line 2/7, Hapjeong stn), tel. +82-2-337-9894 . This comfortable guest house, run by a friendly English-speaking family, is located in the western part of Seoul, 15 minutes walk from Hapjeong subway station. The dormitory (₩15000), single, double and triple rooms (₩27000/₩37000/₩47000) all have air-conditioning and heating. Guests share a kitchen, toilets and showers and have free use of cable TV, washing machine and internet. Breakfast (jam, toast & coffee) is included. No curfew. Discounts for stays over 1 night.
- Lee & No Guesthouse, 561-29 Yunnam-dong, Mapo-gu (Sinchon), ☎ 02-336-4878, . checkin: 1 PM~9 PM; checkout: 10:30 AM. Near Hongdae, has four-bed dorm rooms and doubles. 22,000KW.
- Namsan Guesthouse, 50-1 Namsandong 2-ga, Chung ku (Metro Line 3, Myeong-dong stn, exit 3), tel. +82-2-752-6363, . Superbly located in the shadow of Seoul Tower in Namsan Park, this hostel has the usual draws: free internet access, free breakfast, kitchen & laundry and advice with tours. There are no singles but a 4-share costs ₩60,000 while a twin or double costs ₩40,000. All rooms are ensuite. Manager Robin is eager to help and speaks near-perfect English.
Love hotels are also a great option. They cost from ₩25,000-80,000 a night, more on Saturday nights and holidays. 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.
- IMI Hotel, Yeoksam 2-dong 718-18, Gangnam-gu, tel. 02-3453-4303, . 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 for between ₩4,000-12,000 per night. 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 distinctive symbol of a plate with rays of heat rising from it. You may have to investigate as smaller hotels often use the same symbol as well.
- Silloam Sauna, 10 minutes' walk from Seoul Station. One night costs ₩12,000, which includes access to public baths, exercise facilities and various entertainment rooms. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Best Western Hotel, formerly the Holiday Inn, located in the Mapo area across from Yeouido Island.
- 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.
- Co-op Residence Serviced Apartments, Samseong, Ul-Jiro (near Dongdaemun Stadium), Western (Dongdaemun), Whikyung, Ohmok, Sincheon. From around ₩80000 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.
Seoul's top-end hotels are impressive, but pricey.
- Grand Hyatt Seoul, 747-7 Hannam 2-Dong, Yongsan-Ku ("onMount), ([email protected]), . Set amidst landscaped gardens with good views over the city. Also has a full service spa.
- JW Marriott Seoul, 19-3 Banpo-dong, Seocho-gu, tel. +82-2-62826262 . Marriott's flagship property , well located in the Central City development in Gangnam, right next to the Express Bus Terminal and with good airport connections via the CCAT. Rooms are as stylish and fully-equipped as you'd expect, but the star here is the stupendous Marquis Spa & Gym, which sprawls over two floors in the basement and contains a huge gym complete with indoor running track, Olympic-size pool, sauna and spa facilities, climbing wall and golf driving ranges. The hotel also features Maska's cigar shop selling Cubans. Rooms from US$200.
- Lotte Hotel, Myeong Dong (subway Euljiro 1-ga) . The 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.
- Shilla Seoul, Located on Namsan . This is the premier hotel in Seoul.
- W Seoul, . The latest trendy boutique hotel in Seoul, located in far east Seoul.
- Hilton Seoul 395, 5-ga, Namdaemun-ro, Chung-gu, Luxury hotel near the Central Railway Station and Namdaemun market. Shuttle buses from and to Incheon international airport.
- Imperial Palace Hotel, 248-7, Nonhyun-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul 135-010 . Luxury hotel in Gangnam near Nonhyun subway station. Shuttle buses from and to Incheon international airport. Very nice spa. A local favourite.
- Sheraton Walker Hill Hotel. Luxury hotel famous for its casino, swimming pool and seasonal dance parties. Populated with a lively crowd of regular expats.
- 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.
Internet cafes known as PC bang (PC 방) are ubiquitous in Seoul, and usually cost just 1,000 won (about 1 USD) per hour.
Console gaming (Xbox, PS2) 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.
Useful contact numbers are as follows:
- Emergency (Police, Fire Department) 119
- Travel Information 1330
- Canada, 16-1, Jeong-dong, Jung-gu, CPO Box 6299, Seoul, Korea 100-662, ☎ 82 (2) 3783-6000 ([email protected], fax: 82-2-3783-6239), . Monday to Friday: 08:00 - 11:45 and 12:45 - 16:30.
- United States, 32 Sejongno, Jongno-gu Seoul 110-710 Republic of Korea, ☎ 02-397-4114 ([email protected]), .
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. With that said, young club-going westerners should be aware of US military police and angry Korean men.
US military personnel are supposed to be on base by around 1am (3am on weekends), but some will stay out late. To deal with this, US Military Police will patrol the streets of Seoul, accompanied by Korean police, and check the IDs of any male who could appear to fit the profile of an American soldier. By law, all foreigners must carry their passport or Korean alien registration card at all times, and Korean police are allowed to check them at any time. (A driver's license is not good enough, because it doesn't show if you're in Korea as a soldier or not.) Failure to identify yourself allows the police to detain you and take you to a police station or US military base to "run your numbers", although they may agree to escort you to your hotel instead. Burden of proof in this situation is on the accused, not the accuser.
Once you have proven that you are not US military, they have to release you. That's nothing to worry about. However, they will release you by the base/station, not where they found you. You could end up with an expensive taxi ride and your night ruined, as it could take hours for this to be completed. This doesn't happen often, but happens enough. Americans saying "I am an English teacher" or anyone saying "I am Canadian", be warned, this one doesn't work very well (Canadians get snagged probably more than Americans). If MPs and Korean police approach you and you don't have ID, your best bet is to speak some other European language and feign ignorance.
Angry Korean men
Most Korean men at some time or another must serve in the military. Add, at times, some Confucian machismo and a military background (some Koreans out partying are still active in the military), a dislike of multi-racial relationships (this is an old value and is disappearing with many of the youth, but many Korean men aren't too happy to see "their" pretty Korean women with Western men), alcohol, and the animosity between Korean soldiers and American soldiers, and you've got an explosive mix that occasionally turns violent.
Again, this isn't everyone, but it is definitely real. Koreans, like most North Asians, have a strong sense of face. For the most part, stear clear of trouble and it won't find you. Basically, keep an eye out for drunks of any kind (just like you would in your home country), avoid offending anybody or getting into any kind of fight, and you'll be absolutely fine. Whenever there is trouble, it doesn't last long, but it can get very ugly.
These two issues aren't everywhere and don't happen often, but they are real, so pay attention just as you would in any major city.
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.
Westerners should take note that Korea (and North Asia, for that matter) is a Confucian culture. Face and honor are important to men while women are often more conservative (on average) than their western counterparts. The under-30 generation is definitely more relaxed than the older generation, but realize that though Korea is modern, it is most definitely not Western. However, given Korea's history and a nearly 60 year military presence of a foreign power on Korean soil (soil which has been divided in half, mind you), anti-foreign and anti-Western sentiment pops up (rarely-not often) everywhere as would be natural given the circumstances. Be respectful of the locals and try not to be loud and make a spectacle of yourself. Korea can be a conservative and traditional country in many ways but do not mistake this for racism. If anything, they may think you a fool for being obnoxious.
Pharmacies are everywhere. While most are labeled only in Korean, the character is easy to recognize, 약. Most pharmacists speak good English.
- MediPharm, take the subway line 2 to Sinchon, take exit number 8 and from the exit walk straight for approximately 3-5 minutes. On the way to MediPharm you will pass 3 or 4 pharmacies (with signs only in Korean), ignore them and move along until you see the MediPharm sign on the left side. The pharmacist speaks English.
- Panmunjeom — A village lying in the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea, easily visited on a day trip.
- Yeongjong Island — Beaches, hot springs and fresh sea breezes.
- 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 galbi with numerous restaurants serving the dish. And also you could 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.
- Deokso — One of the towns outside of Seoul proper but connected on the subway. Home to the world's first commercially flown 747 which has been converted into a restaurant.
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