A day in Seoul, South Korea

Hello, Seoul/Korea lovers from near and afar! As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am currently a Global Seoul Mate which is basically an ambassador for all things Seoul 2020. So far, this year has been… trying, to say the least.

Our challenges up until now have mostly been related to home life and staying indoors. That changed this month when the theme was announced as ‘A Seoul Itinerary’. I had to challenge myself to put together a one-day itinerary for a trip to Seoul! (I actually cheated and did this over several days because I am quite busy these days… and I also technically don’t live in Seoul, I just work there!) Here is my itinerary for your next trip to Seoul (providing things go well around the world and international borders resume as somewhat normal!)

This itinerary is best for someone coming to the Gangnam area of Seoul for business or a conference. I spend most of my time in the Gangnam/Seocho area of Seoul as my office is located there!

Before you embark on your one-day journey in Seoul, be sure to have the following apps downloaded:

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Naver Maps (English)

Google Maps works better in Korea nowadays but the best way to get exact public transport directions, times and travel durations is to download this app.

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Subway Map App

To get around the Seoul subway, download a map of the Seoul Subway network. I’m sure that there are more apps to download, but I don’t think it’s necessary. If you have a phone in Korea, you will be okay. There is a lot of free wifi in Korea, so It’s not always necessary to purchase internet for your trip… or maybe I’m just old fashioned… Okay, let’s start the itinerary!

 

7:30 am – Yangjae Flower Market

The Yangjae flower market is a great thing to do early in the morning in Seoul. The greenhouses are cool and fresh and there are so many flowers and plants to look at. If you or someone you are travelling with are a big fan of plants, this might be a great way to start off your morning!

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Directions: Take the Shinbundang line to Yangjae Citizen’s Forest, exit via exit 4 and keep walking straight until you see the colourful lego building!

 

8:00 am – Walk along a stream in Seoul

There are so many streams in Seoul, you’re sure to find one on your journey here. My favourite one to walk along is near the flower market and is called ‘Yangjae Cheon’. The stream is peaceful and a great way to get some exercise in before you start a day of… well… walking a lot and exercising!

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9:00 am – Drink some coffee at any cute hidden cafe, the scone is optional

Hint: Yes, there are lots of great chain cafes that will charge you $5 for a watered down cup of coffee milk… or you could search the area you are in for an independent cafe and enjoy a unique experience. Independent cafes (i.e. not Starbucks, Holly’s etc) are usually cheaper and less crowded!

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11:00 am – Find a view of Namsan Tower, it’s beautiful from any angle

My favourite place to see the tower from is Hannam. But it’s also great to go and climb the mountain! I would also recommend taking a bus when going to Namsan areas because you can get a great view of the houses, the tower and the things that are going on! Use Naver maps to find the best route.

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1:00 pm – Time for lunch…Gimbap Heaven

There are gimbap stores all over Korea that sell a huge list of Korean dishes at a very low price. They are usually called ‘Kimbap Country’ or ‘Kimbap Heaven’. Here is what the places usually look like on the outside:

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I  know, it looks intimidating, but the food is cheap, the service is fast and the gimbap is usually amazing! Note: The above is not owned by me.

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2:00 pm – Head across the river to the DDP

If you’re an architecture and design lover, the DDP is a must see location on your Seoul itinerary. The Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) houses exhibitions, restaurants and small design markets all year round. The exhibitions are always design related and often require the purchase of a ticket. When I first came to Seoul in 2017, I stayed in an Air Bnb that overlooked the DDP and it was design heaven.

There is also a lot to do in this area but this district is most famous for its textiles and cheap shopping!

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6:00 pm – Dinner Time ~ The best sashimi in Seoul!

My favourite place in Seoul for sashimi is ‘Yangjae Chobap’. Which means Yangjae sushi. It is the best sashimi I have had in Korea….You will have to go back to the Gangnam area for this stuff…and it’s a tiny little restaurant in a tiny little alley way but it is SO GOOD.

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Yangjae Chobap (양재초밥)

 

8:00 pm – Coex Starfield Library and Bongeunsa Temple

Okay, so after your day of travel, it’s time to head back to the are where your hotel is… which might be in close proximity to CoEx mall if you are here on business. Currently, there is an incredible public art billboard called ‘The Wave’ displaying at CoEx near SM Town. After you have watched ‘The Wave’, you can wander inside the mall and see the amazing Starfield library. There is always an art installation in the centre of the library that changes regularly. A really great way to wind down at night, find a light meal with a coffee and just enjoy some quiet.

If that’s not quiet enough, cross over the road to go to Bongeunsa Temple; a beautiful temple in the middle of the city.  It is so nice to walk around there at night, especially on a hot Summer’s day!

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Jo So Ko Instagram

Here are the posts for this month’s mission! Be sure to follow my Instagram for all things South Korea!

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9:00 am ~ A walk along a stream followed by coffee and scones at an independent cafe! There are so many streams and rivers in Seoul that give you a quiet and cool break from the bustling city. I personally love the stream near my office (양재천) because it's leafy green and full of surprises! ☕ Chain cafes like Starbucks and Holly's are great, but to get a more unique experience in Seoul, it's best to try and find a smaller cafe tucked away behind busy roads. You don't have to lool to hard to find a cute place to have your morning coffee! ☀️ #globalseoulmate #gsm2020 #visitseoul #seoulguide #myseoul #seoulsearching#mykoreanadventure#seoul#southkorea#koreablogger#expatlife#koreanearandfar#일상#데일리#사진스타그램#양재#양재카페

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Hwaseong Fortress: UNESCO World Heritage Site in South Korea

There are fourteen listed UNESCO World Heritage Sites here in South Korea, and one of them is only a 15-minute drive from my home. Hwaseong Fortress is located in the Gyeonggi Province city of Suwon. Suwon is also home to some of Korea’s biggest tech company HQs like Samsung and LG.

The fortress was built in the 18th century by King Jeongjo for defensive and political purposes. It was also built to house the tomb of the King’s father. The Suwoncheon stream runs through the centre of the fortress which you can see in images below. UNESCO’s website state the following about the incredible features of the fortress:

‘The walls incorporate a number of defensive features, most of which are intact. These include floodgates, observation towers, command posts, multiple arrow launcher towers, firearm bastions, angle towers, secret gates, beacon towers, bastions and bunkers’.

Information Source

If you’re looking for a beautiful place to explore that is just outside of Seoul, I would highly recommend visiting the Hwaseong Fortress. People were starting to set up picnics along the stream now that the weather is warming up here. The site boasts gorgeous views of Suwon and is a great way to get in a mini-hike on the weekend. There are also lots of beautiful modern cafes juxtaposed against traditional architecture and the surrounding fortress. Here is the cafe we visited. Scroll to the end of the images to find out how to get there.

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How to Get There

Train and Bus

Take the Line 1 train to Suwon Station and catch the 66 Bus to the fortress

Ice Skating at City Hall in Seoul, South Korea

Merry Christmas to the four people who consistently read my blog! I hope you had a great time with loved one(s) and reflected on the year we’ve just had. I have been absent on my blog due to visa struggles and moving house! All of our dilemmas have been solved and we are back to our happy normal life selves. My husband and I recently ventured further south east to Yongin in Gyeonggi Province. We feel so excited to move a little further from Seoul away from the chaos…

Today, we spent our afternoon gliding around City Hall’s ice skating rink in an attempt to enact Frozen 2 on ice. It was my first time strapping into ice skating boots and slipping on ice (I’m Australian, this is all foreign to me, I’ve never even been skiing). I managed to find my rhythm rather quickly thanks to many summers spent rollerblading in my local neighbourhood.

There was ample space for skaters of all varieties: speedsters, grandpas, clusters of friends who all kept falling over, and nervous parents. There was a special section for little kids to learn how to skate and it was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. As well as the learning zone, there was a separate rink for kids and parents to fall over in. I also saw some people playing curling and assumed they were Canadian because who plays curling? Does one ‘play curling‘ or simply just ‘curl‘?

In any case, I regretted not wearing a cape for this icy occasion but I’m pretty sure I’m a contender for Disney’s Frozen 2 On Ice Korea Tour 2020. My husband seemed to be a seasoned skater and glided around effortlessly. He’s good at almost everything so it was no surprise that he had skater’s legs and could spin without hesitation!

How to Ice Skate in Seoul:

If you’re visiting Seoul between Jan and Feb, the ice skating fun will be up and running. Just head to City Hall station on line 2 or line 1 and follow the signs! It’s hard to miss. We were lucky to have a sunny blue sky over us as we skated! It costs 1,000 KRW (roughly $1) to skate for 1 hour including skates and a helmet! How cheap! Also, bring a 500 won coin to use the lockers to keep all of your belongings safe (not that anyone would touch them in Korea!)

Second Hand Bookstore in Seoul (서울책보고)

Today, I went to the incredible second-hand bookstore ‘서울책보고’ along with my friends from Korean class! They have a variety of both Korean and English books. If you are living in Seoul and struggling to buy books to read in English, this might be a great option for you. Bonus points: it has beautiful arched shelves that lead you through a tunnel along the entire store!

As an expat in Korea, it’s hard to get my hands on English novels, so I picked up 3 to keep me going next year on public transport. I’m not sure that it is wise to buy more books a week before moving house, but I am still in the store so I may not end up buying them all (edit: I didn’t). Keep scrolling through the images to see the directions on how to get there!

How to Get There

1, Ogeum-ro, 14, Sincheon-dong, Songpa-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea

Bus Jamsil Naru Station (about 608m walk after getting off)-342, 3318, 3412, 4318, 16

Subway Line2 -Jamsil Naru Station Exit 1

(Information from their website http://www.seoulbookbogo.kr/front/ )

A Day of Books in Seoul, South Korea

Here are a selection of images from my humble, but forever runing out of power, smartphone. I’ve been wandering around bookstores and the Seoul Metropolitan Library in the City Hall area of Seoul.

After multiple unanswered phone calls with an airline that shall remain nameless, I needed to get outside into the fresh air. Although my fingers are numb, fresh cold air is better than the music you have to listen to when you’re on hold.

I hope my 2-3 regular readers are having a great week! I would love to hear about what you get up to in the wintertime in Seoul. Stay WARM! The bookstore in this post is called ‘Arc’n’Book’.

If you’re interested, the area in the map below is a great place to walk around and find things to do in Seoul! You can kind of just wander and end up in a cool, photogenic location!

The Colours (and smells) of Gwangjang Market, Seoul, South Korea

Yesterday morning, we popped open our umbrellas and hopped through puddles to get to Seoul’s ‘Jewelry City’. Yes, that is a real place in Seoul, and yes, we finally bought wedding rings as a proclamation of our love. We hadn’t planned on it, but Gwangjang Market was located right next to the city of jewels. We had really been wanting to go there for a long time, what a cowinky dink. My husband is particularly keen on street food and was in heaven at the market.

I’m not sure why I thought otherwise, but shopping for wedding rings is so difficult. Why do western men have to shop alone for engagement rings? What a terrible culture. We went to four different sellers, touched a lot of hands and saw a lot of fake diamonds (they don’t put the real diamonds on display for some reason??). Because of this difficult shopping decision, we had to take a time out and feast on street food. We decided to eat some 족발 (Jokbal – pig’s feet), 잡채 (Japchae – sweet potato noodles) and 떡볶이 (Tteokbokki – spicy rice cakes). We then went in for a second sitting and ate 빈대떡 (mung bean pancakes). What’s was even better was the stall seats were heated. You definitely need a warm bottom to consume things like pig’s feet and mung bean pancake.

It was a happy accident that I had my camera in my bag yesterday. I just woke up with that feeling that a good snap was waiting for me, you know? Despite the cold, the rain and the difficult decision making, we ended our day with full bellies, three wedding rings and the realisation that my husband and I have the same ring size! Enjoy some of the pictures I took, but just remember that I was really hangry whilst taking them. Let me know if you’ve been to the market, I’d love to hear about what you ate!

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Hiking Gwanhaksan

Yesterday, I started my day with full mobility of my lower limbs. I ended the day drunk on makgeolli (Korean rice wine), with shaky knees and frozen fingers. This is of course because we ventured to Gwanhak Mountain, located next to Seoul National University. With autumn in full swing, it was so magical to wander through a trail lined with red and yellow trees, crunching on leaves as we hiked 600m above civilisation!

I wanted to bring my fancy camera but, being a novice hiker, I decided to stick to my camera phone. I didn’t need any unnecessary weight holding me down. Hiking is incredibly popular in Korea so we had many buddies along the way. At the top of the mountain, there is a beautiful temple. Because a lot of high schoolers have their SATs this Thursday, there were prayers and wishes hanging from red lanterns. I wanted to soak in the beauty of it all but the temple was on the edge of a cliff and my hands were turning blue. I was joined on the trail with my husband, two classmates and my lovely Korean teacher (oh, and a lil puppy).

I hope to start hiking more regularly! However, it’s starting to get real chilly and there is no way I’m going up one of these Korean mountains in the winter! There was one very smart businessman selling icecream in the middle of a rather gruelling flight of stairs. By the time we saw his little esky, our sweaty bodies were ready for an icy treat and we (obviously) proceeded to buy them. Little did we know that 30m later, we would reach freezing temperatures and lose our craving for refreshing icecream. Had he sold his popsicles at a higher altitude, he would have had to carry a lot of melted bags of ice down the mountain. A very savvy businessman indeed. Enjoy some pictures! The air was not so great on Sunday so there is a bit of a fog situation! Have a happy week and go to my blog to read more about my life in Seoul, South Korea.

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Gyeongbokgung Palace: Hard to spell, even harder to take a bad picture of!

Yesterday, my fellow Korean class members and I ventured out in the dust to visit Gyeongbokgung Palace. This palace is kind of the pulsing heart of Seoul, the lifeblood of the city. Everything around it is more or less using this palace for energy. That’s the way I see it, anyway. It’s by no means an official tourism slogan… yet.

The last time I visited the palace, it was snowy December and I was with my parents. This time, I was able to see things in a less covered-in-snow way. It was so nice to walk around, snapping pictures of just about every texture and leaf in sight. I also loved uploading my pictures to my laptop to find that half of them are blurry or overexposed. That’s always a cool little surprise. It doesn’t really matter though, because, in the photographing moment, I’m having so much fun! Here are some of the pictures that I was so happy to see after a long day of walking and imagining I lived in one of the traditional Korean buildings. Enjoy!

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NUTELLA HOTTEOK!!!

Yeouido Park is a landscape architect’s playground

You know when the stars and zodiac signs align and you have both the energy to leave your house and a pollution-free blue sky? No? Well, you obviously don’t live in Asia. This happened for us only two weekends ago when we ventured over to Yeouido Park near the Han River. We decided to rent a tandem bike and go for a leisurely (sweaty) cycle and then eat (drink from sticky hand) ice cream.

On the way to the bike rental zone, we passed so many strange urban space designs with descriptions in front of each explaining how they cured inner city pressusre disease or something. I didn’t read them because of the aforementioned parenthetical sweat. I felt like I was back doing my landscape architecture elective at uni, by which I mean I had no idea what anybody was talking about but was able to appreciate what was happening nonetheless. Here are some snaps of said spaces! Yeouido is a guaranteed good time! You can also rent basketballs, ripsticks, scooters and other crazy things. Talk about the time of your life! Peace out, reader.