Gangnam style! A backpacker’s guide to Seoul 

Seoul is the super cute South Korean capital that’s home to 10 million people. It’s a quirky, colourful dreamworld where couples wear the same outfits and nobody says no to a selfie… extra points for a peace sign hand gesture. I adored this place, and after spending ten days here I have a few tips to share. Read on to discover my Seoul city guide!

Places to visit in Seoul

Hongdae

Seoul’s answer to Shoreditch. It’s a university area so it has a young crowd and amazing nightlife with loads of unusual bars, as well as cool places to eat and countless clothing boutiques. It’s adorable and most things are open 24 hours here including shops and cafes.

Places to visit in Seoul

Itaewon

The busiest hotspot for nightlife in Seoul. Not as hip as Hongdae but a whole lot more hedonistic. There are a lot more western style bars and ‘Irish’ pubs here and also some seedy ones – watch out for ‘Hooker Hill’!

Seoul nightlife

Gangnam 

You can’t go to Seoul without visiting Gangnam, the spiritual home of Korea’s biggest legend, Psy! It’s full of swanky clubs and restaurants so there isn’t much to do in a backpacker’s price range other than check out the various Gangnam Style tributes. It’s the richest district in Korea after all!

Myeong-Dong 

A shopping district that specialises in cosmetics and beauty products. Heaven for make-up lovers!

Things to do in Seoul

  • Climb Mount Namsan – The highest peak in Seoul and home to the N Seoul Tower, with the best views over the city. You can take the cable cars but the hike isn’t too difficult, plus it’s free and gives you more time to take in your surroundings and get plenty of photos.

Things to do in Seoul Mount Namsan

  • Sing in a noraebang – Korean karaoke rooms in Seoul are a big deal. You can rent by the hour and they’re equipped with stand up mics, disco lights and tambourines. My idea of a perfect evening! Go midweek during the day for the best price.

Things to do in Seoul karaoke

Seoul karaoke rooms

  • Visit Gyeongbokgung Palace – Centuries old royal palace of the Joseon dynasty. My favourite attraction in Seoul! The palace itself is so beautiful and made even better on a clear day when Bugaksan mountain is visible to the North.

Things to do in Seoul Gyeongbokgung Palace

  • Collect free samples at Myeong-Dong – Myeong-Dong consists of street after street of beauty shops, and we all know Koreans do beauty like noone else! The stores all offer amazing buy one get one free deals, as well as free samples just for looking in their store. Here’s the freebies I collected on a quick whizz round:

Places to visit in Seoul Myeong-Dong

I’m a sap for anything kitsch, so Korean beauty products are right up my street. Just look how cute!

Korean beauty products

  • Have a coffee at a dog cafe – Seoul has a range of different animal cafes, but if you don’t love dogs the best we can’t be friends. Just joking! The dog cafe in Hongdae has all kinds of pups big and small just waiting for your cuddles.

Things to do in Seoul dog cafe

  • Explore Bukchon Hanok Village – A traditional Korean village preserved perfectly despite being smack bang in the middle of Seoul. People still live in the hanoks today, and some are guesthouses that you can stay in for an authentic Korean experience.

Places to visit in Seoul Bukchon Hanok Village

Where to eat in Seoul

  • Korean BBQ – Obviously!! Korean BBQ is as good as everyone says and more than lives up to the hype. Most BBQ places don’t speak English but it doesn’t really matter, you just choose your meat and are brought an array of sides as standard. We actually didn’t know what we were ordering, but it’s all delicious and super healthy. You’ll find them on every corner, so just take your pick!

Food in Seoul Korean BBQ

  • Taco 66, Hongdae – Not very Korean, but an amazing little place at the end of our road that we couldn’t resist going back to. It’s really cheap – about £3.50 for a meal and £1.50 for a beer – and does the best burrito I’ve ever had!

Where to eat in Seoul

  • Myeong-Dong street food – everyone recommended Dongdaemun night market for street food, but Myeong-Dong had the best we found by far! The options are endless here – I went for dumplings followed by a 32cm ice cream…

Street food in Seoul

Nightlife in Seoul

As i mentioned above, the best nightlife in Seoul is found in Hongdae and Itaewon, with more upmarket options in Gangnam. You can’t swing a cat without missing a bar in either of these districts, but these are my favourite:

  • Zen Bar, Hongdae – A ginormous pub with pool tables, beer pong, darts, Jenga, table football…basically any bar game you can think of. It’s very lively and full of students – we had one of the best nights out of our trip in here!
  • Fat Albert’s, Itaewon – A western style bar with the cheapest beer we found in Itaewon. It’s about £1.80 for 500ml, and Korean beer is a lot stronger than what we’re used to at home! This place is right on the main street and always packed.

 

10 days seemed like a long time to spend in one city at first, but there’s so much to do in Seoul that it ended up being just right. It’s a great place to experience all that’s weird and wonderful about Korean culture, and the locals are so friendly and helpful to foreigners. South Korea blew my expectations away and I’ll definitely be going back one day to see some more of it. If anyone has any other recommendations for Korea, let me know in the comments below!

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