The Low Down on Shopping, Nightlife and Culture in Seoul, South Korea

Please enjoy this post by Korea-based bloggers, Hedgers Abroad

 

Seoul. One of the largest cities in the world. It is easy to become lost in such a sprawling metropolis. With seemingly endless things to do and see, it’s hard to know where to start. Simply searching through top 10 lists will bring you the usual tourist stuff: Namsan Tower, Namdaemun Market, and so on. If, however, you are looking for something unique or off the beaten path, you’ve come to the right place. We have compiled a list of places that are sure to make your trip to Seoul memorable. We also know that everyone likes to travel differently so we tried to cover all the necessary bases!

SHOPPING

Shopping

Korea is known for fashion. You could easily spend days just shopping in all of the trendy neighborhoods. The prices are typically very modest, if you know where to look.

  • Samcheong is one of my favorite places to explore. With its artsy charm and laidback style, Samcheong is one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Seoul. Located just northeast of Gyeongbokgung Palace, it is easy to get wonderfully lost along the winding roads that are filled with character. Samcheong is especially known for its accessory stores and chic restaurants.Directions:Subway Line #3 to Gyeongbokgung Palace Station, Exit 5. Walk to the road that is east of the Palace and walk north. Cross the street. Samcheong is the neighborhood northeast of the palace.
  • Hongdae is not only a place to find great Indie music, art, and fun bars; it also offers store after store of incredibly cheap clothing. This neighborhood is edgy and young as it is located very close to the Hongik University. Shop til you drop, then go check out some of the quirky coffee shops in the area.Directions: Subway Line #2 to Hongik University Station
  • Myeongdong is of course a very popular tourist shopping paradise. Alongside many popular Korean stores are also some very famous American chains such as Forever 21 and H&M. Be sure to check out some Korean cosmetics while you’re at it. Reasonable prices as well as many free samples await you!Directions: Subway Line #4 to Myeongdong Station

 

Nature

Seoul isn’t just a big concrete jungle. There are also many chances for you to escape the hustle and bustle and enjoy the great outdoors. Being healthy and active is very important in Korean lifestyle, and so there are quite a few places to get lost in nature.

  • The Han River is very famous in Seoul as it runs directly through the center of the city. There are so many things to see and do here, that you could easily make an entire day of it. There are cheap bike rentals, daily river cruises, and of course the famous Banpo Rainbow Bridge. For operating times and additional information, click here.Directions: Subway Line #4 to Dongjak Station, Exit 1 or 2
  • Hiking is super popular in Korea. Get geared up and power your way straight to the top of one of the many mountains surrounding Seoul. There is no better way to get 360 degree views of the city. Bukhansan Mountain is the tallest in Seoul and is gorgeous in the fall with the leaves changing. If you are looking for an easier hike, try Ansan. There are ramps that lead you up the mountain and you are well rewarded with amazing views of the city. We recommend a sunset hike and seeing the city light up at night.Directions (Bukhansan): Subway Line #4, Gireum Station, Exit 3
    Directions (Ansan): Subway Line #2 to Sinchon Station, Exit 4. Take the bus 7024 and get off at the last stop. Walk up the Bonwonsa-gil street for about 350m. You will see the temple Bongwonsa, and you can find a hiking trail from there.

 

Nightlife

The nightlife in Seoul is something to behold. With bars that never close, you can stay out into the wee hours of the night. Drinking is a big part of Korean culture, so when in Korea, do as the Koreans do.

  • It wouldn’t be a true Korean experience without some Norebang. A norebang is a karaoke room, but they also offer many popular American songs. There are hundreds to choose from, but Luxury Norebang in Hongdae is pretty unique. With floor to ceiling windows, you can look out over Hongdae while you sing and dance the night away!Directions: Subway Line #2 to Hongik Station, Exit 9. Walk straight onto the wide street on the left. Turn right after 2 small blocks. Go straight on the street with many restaurants and cafes. Cross the street and keep going straight for about 5 minutes. You will find Luxury Su Noraebang on your right.
  • Hookah is also becoming pretty popular in Seoul. The rooms are dark and intimate and you can choose from many different flavors of sheesha. BrinX Hookah in Itaewon has been around for a while, so they are doing something right. It is located on the street behind the Hamilton Hotel!Directions: Subway Line #6 to Itaewon Station, Exit 1. Walk north up the alley next to the Hamilton Hotel. Turn left and walk down the road half a block. It is on your left.
  • Craft Beer?! If you know a bit about Korea, you know that they are not particularly famous for craft beers of any kind, much to the dismay of many expats. However, located just outside of Noksapyeong Station in Itaewon there are a handful of bars that offer an array of American craft beers as well as some up and coming Korean ones, too!Directions: Subway Line #6 to Noksapyeong Station, Exit 2. Walk straight, cross the pedestrian bridge, go down the stairs on your right, then turn down the alley on the left and you have made it!

Nightlife

Culture

Insadong and its surrounding neighborhoods are the place to be when it comes to seeing Korean culture. With palaces, temples, hanok villages, and traditional Korean souvenirs, it’s a place you shouldn’t miss. And with all of these things within walking distance of each other, why would you?!

  • The Bukchon Hanok Village is located east of Insadong. The neighborhood is filled with hanoks, which are traditional Korean style houses. This is a lovely place to take a stroll as it is on a hill that also overlooks Seoul. Since it is a residential neighborhood, it is only “open” from 10am – 10pm.Directions: Subway Line #3 to Anguk Station, Exit 2. Go straight for about 300m.
  • There are many palaces to explore in the area as well. Of course, the most famous is Gyeongbokgung Palace, which is also the largest. Here you can watch the changing of the guard every day of the year except Tuesdays when the palace is closed. For a time table click here.Directions: Subway Line #3 to Gyeongbokgung Palace Station, Exit 5.

CULTURE

 

About the Authors

Hedgers Abroad bio

Stephanie and Ryan are an American couple that have always shared a love for travel — whether road tripping across America together or simply exploring the red dirt country roads of their home state of Oklahoma.

After they got married they weren’t ready to settle down into 9-5 jobs so they moved to Korea in 2013, where they teach English and see as much of the country as possible. You can follow their travels and experiences on their blog, www.hedgersabroad.wordpress.com!

12 thoughts on “The Low Down on Shopping, Nightlife and Culture in Seoul, South Korea

  1. This is a pretty cool list! Good and concise. I think Seoul is coming along just fine. No problems with that megacity.

    I usually like going to Hongdae for pretty much everything on the list, haha. Though for culture, it seems like more and more palaces keep popping up on my radar of things to do.

    Thanks for this!

  2. Nice list! It is always helpful to get the inside scoop as to where some of the less touristy spots are to be found. I will definitely be checking out Samcheong and Hongdae…my current town doesn’t offer much in the way of an arts scene, and I have been trying to figure out where to go to make contacts for an upcoming project I am working on.

  3. I’ve visited most of these places except the Bukchon hanok village! I have seen so many amazing photos from this street / area that I have to check it out on my next visit! I really like shopping in Myeongdong and just returned from a day trip there over the past weekend 🙂

  4. My favourite part about this list is that it’s not overwhelming. I really dislike top 10 lists, that aren’t categorized like yours is. This is very doable. I’m staying in Hongdae this weekend and am looking forward to trying out some of your suggestions!

  5. All of the things mentioned are great suggestions! I love doing shopping in Hongdae, but if your on the southeast side of Seoul, I would recommend Express Bus Terminal underground shopping mall! It has basically the same stuff as Hongdae, but it’s closer.
    Bukhansan is also great, but can be busy! So go early in the morning or closer to sunset!
    Great post, thanks for sharing~

  6. A great concise list! I will say that craft beer is everywhere now, I can find one in almost every neighborhood in Seoul these days! It’s so awesome. 🙂

    Sometimes I miss living in Seoul, but everytime I go I can’t wait to get back to the Busan area. haha

    Enjoyed the guest post by Hedgers abroad, their graphics are always so great.

  7. These are all great! But I guess I’ve been living here long enough, I’ve been too all these LOTS of times, and I need even more off the beaten path. The problem is “off the beaten path” in Seoul usually means tiny old neighborhoods with probably not that much going on.

  8. Great list! There’s so much cool stuff happening in Seoul, it’s a great city. Some of my favorite places to shop are actually in the subway stations, is that weird? So many bargains to be had!

  9. We have been searching for the best craft beer around. We have found some decent stuff, though coming from Vermont where craft beer flows like water, nothing compares to home. My boyfriend is taking a class next month with Seoul Brewing to get started brewing his own stuff! We will be sure to check out Noksapyeong. Thanks!

  10. Thanks for this list, it’s super helpful! I’ve been up to Seoul a handful of times but I’ve really only stayed around Itaewon or Hongdae. I definitely need to see more up there! Bukhansan looks beautiful! Too bad I won’t be able to do that one during autumn.

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