As one of the leading developed countries in the world, South Korea is very attractive for a large number of visitors because of its unique cultural traditions. The tourist visa is extremely attractive in S. Korea.
Korea was annexed in 1910 to the Empire of Japan. When the Japanese empire was destroyed at the end of World War Two (1945), Korea fell victim to the Cold War. As a result, It was divided into two spheres of influence along the 38th parallel (agreement created the Korean Demilitarized Zone -DMZ ). The Americans controlled south of the line and the Russians installed a communist regime in the north, later ceding influence to China. However, no peace treaty was ever signed, and the two Koreas are technically still at war, engaged in a frozen conflict. You can check the short history here.
We arrived at Taoyuan Airport. The most convenient way to travel from Taoyuan International Airport is via the Airport MRT (leaving from Taipei Main Station). You can choose to ride the express train that can take you to either Terminal 1 or Terminal 2 for around 35 minutes. Fare is TWD160 (5 EUR). You can use the Easycard or buy a ticket at the machine.
Local public transport: South Korea has an extreme metro system. The starting price of a ticket within the city is around 1,300 won (1 EUR). It’s also the same price on the bus system. We were using one day pass for the metro.
- Always bring your passport. It is your “ID card” in a foreign country and also, is the condition to get your tax refund directly in some shopping malls.
- Convert your money to Korean Won (₩). Try not to exchange at the airport because of a much higher exchange rate.
- Prepare the 4G Sim Card and Wifi before your trip. You can pre-order at travel agencies such as KKDay, Klook and receive the 4G Sim Card at the airports.
- Google Maps navigation is not working very well in South Korea – Naver Maps is your GPS companion for your road trip. You can download it here.
I was not prepared for this high level of infrastructure, technology at your hand and beautiful people that open to help you any time you need. I didn’t have any problem using English and I felt in love with K-Pop music instantly.
What impressed me the most was that everybody was beautifully dressed all the time. Not just the ladies, but also the men are using makeup. They have a big industry in cosmetics and I both a lot of makeups that I love 🙂
Namsan Tower (N Seoul Tower)
This is an observation deck from the hanging tower, it’s an extremely romantic place that you have seen in the Korean movies. Its also considered as one of the main symbols of Seoul. The motto for this stop is: “not visited, not visit Seoul yet”. The tower also has a place to save the love locks of two people inspired by the famous love bridges in the world.
- Hours: Observatory: Sun-Fri: 10am – 11pm / Sat: 10am – 12pm
- Entrance fee: Observatory: Adults 10,000 won (7 EUR)
Shopping at Myeongdong Street
Here you can find anything you want. Wish for it and you will find it there. Try not to buy from the main street because you can find the same things on the small streets near the center at half of the price.
Gyeongbokgung, also known as Gyeongbokgung Palace or Gyeongbok Palace, was the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty. Built-in 1395, it is located in northern Seoul, South Korea. Check before on the internet, there are several festivals and live music concerts at night but you will need a reservation.
Fun fact: If the eaves of the Pavillion is colorful, that means a female member of the royal family acquired that place. If it’s grey or dull, this means it’s either acquired by King himself or by the royal male members of the family.
It’s the largest indoor theme park in the world and there is also an outdoor theme park called “Magic Island.” Here, you can explore themed rides and all sorts of kid-friendly activities. It’s like Korean Disneyland.
Bukchon Hanok Village, an ancient village
In the middle of the city of tall buildings, is a beautiful ancient village – where daily life is peaceful, calm and gentle. The ancient village of Bukchon Hanok Village preserves in its long history and rich traditional culture of Korea.
Hanok is a traditional Korean style house, a combination of China and Japan influence. You can rent a Hanbok sets at 4,000 Won price (about $US 3.5) and walk around the village like a real local people. There are a lot of locals dressed with Hanbok, taking pictures and just walking around the beautiful village.
Just after the Korean War, many people had no choice but to move away from their homes and find a better life in the cities. Cheonggyecheon was popular for migrants seeking opportunities, as the area had long been neglected.
A lot of festivals are organized here, almost every night (especially in the summer). There is also street food, local shops, and bars. We went two nights in a row via this area and at the first one, there was a live karaoke. On the second evening, there was a small live cooking workshop organized where we learned about local cuisine.
On our first day in S. Korea, we went on a mission to find this super sick shopping center made completely out of shipping containers.
Common Ground is made up of more than 200 shipping containers and they can transform the structure into different designs. There are more than 50 stores, there are mostly pop-up stores, local, and local designers.
It’s super trendy, though. There are also a few cute cafes and restaurant to take a break in, pretty romantic in the evening. I celebrate my name day here and we received a glass of champagne from the house 🙂
It’s pretty romantic at night 🙂
Dongdaemun Design Plaza
The future of architecture!
This place blew me away. I knew the building would be impressive from what I say on the internet, but seeing it in person, especially at night, was something else. It was awesome.
Open since 2014, Dongdaemun Design Plaza or DDP is an ultramodern architectural structure designed to host fashion and design exhibitions. There are also some restaurants, coffee shops and design exhibitions that you can visit for free.
Space feels like a playground. Outside space is featured of all things restored of Seoul’s 600-yr old fortress wall. It’s like a reminder of the past and a look into the future. Easily, I got lost a sense of time there.
Good reading before traveling to S. Korea. I totally recommend it.
Seoul was amazing. I loved everything about this city. There is an air condition application where you can check the air pollution from China. There might be days where it will be adviced to stay inside. When we traveled, the pollution was at a decent level so we enjoyed the outside walking tours as well.