Guesthouse Myeongdong, 62-8 Chungnuro 2-ga, Jung-gu; +82 2 778 5800; guesthousemd.co.kr. Simple and clean rooms in the heart of buzzing Myeongdong.
Hotel Ibis Budget Ambassador Seoul Dongdaemun, 334 Toegyero, Jung-gu; +82 2 2079 8888; ibis.com. This newly opened hotel is the perfect base for those looking to explore the bustling, eclectic streets of Seoul and the shopping opportunities they offer. Head over to nearby Jung-Gu market for dried seafood, or to Gwangjang market for silks, linens and intricate handmade souvenirs. The subway station is at your doorstep and it’s a 10-minute walk to Dongdaemun Design Plaza, with Myeongdong only two subway stops away.
Moon Hostel, 9 Donggyo-ro 30-gil, Mapo-gu; +82 70 7801 3525, moon-hostel.seoulhotelskorea.com/en. A cozy hostel offering guests free WiFi and American-style breakfasts. You can choose to stay in a private room or a dormitory.
Nine Tree Hotel, 51 Myeongdong 10-gil, Jung-gu; +82 2 750 0999. We love this three-star hotel’s prime location – it’s a mere one-minute walk away from Myeongdong Station’s Exit 8.
Sieoso Hotel, 11 Eulji-ro 12-gil, Jung-gu; +82 2 2278 7134; sieoso.com/ko. Very comfortable budget lodgings, located within walking distance to the districts of Myeongdong, Insadong and Bukchone.
Where to eat
Café aA, 408-11 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu; +82 2 3143 7312; aadesignmuseum.com. A casual cafe with unique mid-century decor – even the faucets and doors are vintage pieces from the owner’s private collection.
Cheong-Nyun Tteokbokki, Express Bus Terminal Shopping Center (Goto Mall). A small and unassuming stall serving up tasty tteokbokki (spicy rice cake), a must-try street food in Seoul.
Coco Bruni, Hongdae, Mapo-gu; +82 2 334 1875. The long pastry chiller is the café’s main attraction, with delicately decorated cakes (such as the exquisite Marron Tarte) and chocolates (try the Chocolate Praline) on display.
Dalsuda, 79 Eoulmadang-ro, Mapo-gu; +82 2 338 0033. A popular dessert place specializing in patbingsu (shaved ice dessert), available in various flavors like green tea and coffee.
Ddong Café, 4/F Ssamziegil Building, 38 Gwanhung-dong, Jongno-gu. Also known as Poop Café, this is exactly what you would expect it to be — a novelty cafe with poop and toilets everywhere! But wait, don’t go “ewww” just yet. This café serves heavenly desserts in the cutest way possible — Instagram-worthy orders include poop-shaped scones with jam, and latte served in a toilet mug. If you want a quirky “only in Korea” experience, this should definitely be on your list.
Hello Kitty Café, 18 Wausan-ro 19-gil, Mapo-gu; +82 2 334 6570. For all things Hello Kitty, from the bright pink decor to the Instagrammable latte art that’s drawn using a Hello Kitty stencil.
Night dining tour. O’ngo (ongofood.com) conducts popular night dining tours that will take you to places like Korean barbecue restaurants and Gwangjang market, which is famous for crispy mung bean pancakes.
Myeongdong. A walk through Myeongdong district is a feast for the senses, as you’ll be surrounded by all sorts of street food. For less than KRW5,000, you’ll get to enjoy snacks like grilled cuttlefish, spicy rice cakes, and more.
O’sulloc Tea House, 47-1 Myeong-dong 1-ga, Jung-gu; + 82 2 774 5460. Indulge your tastebuds with green tea-infused ice cream, cakes, beverages and more. You can also purchase tea bags as souvenirs.
Paris Croissant, various locations, pariscroissant.co.kr. Sink your teeth into yummy pastries – such as blueberry tarts and red bean sesame balls – at this popular Korean bakery.
Pojangmacha. This essentially refers to the covered wagons you’ll find all over the city, which serve up street food such as stir-fried chicken gizzards and egg bread. Some of them also sell alcoholic beverages like soju (distilled rice liquor).
Seokparang, 25 Hongji-dong, Jongno-gu;+82 2 395 2500; seokparang.co.kr. Feast like the ancient kings and queens of Joseon on over 50 types of banchan (side dishes) at this traditional restaurant.
Sinseon Seolnongtang Myeongdong, 2-2 Myeongdong 2-ga, Jung-gu; +82 2 777 4531. The seolnontang (ox-bone soup) here is especially rich and sweet.
Thanks Nature Café, 486 Seogyo-dong, Seogyo Prugio Apartment Store B121, Mapo-gu. You’ve heard of cat and dog cafés, but this one lets you sip coffee and eat waffles beside two incredibly lovable sheep!
Tosokchon, 5 Jahamun-ro 5-gil, Jongno-gu; +82 2 737 7444; tosokchon.com. The ginseng chicken soup (samgyetang) here will warm you up nicely on cold winter days. Locals also drink the healthy soup as a stamina booster to beat the summer heat.
Two Two Fried Chicken, various locations; 22chicken.co.kr.en. Wash down a platter of Korean-style fried chicken with an ice-cold beer.
Vinyl, 61-1 Wausan-ro, Mapo-gu; +82 2 322 4161. Enjoy creative cocktails in radioactive colors packed in clear, Ziploc-like bags, hanging as if in a hospital’s IV unit.
Yoogane, various locations. Specializes in seriously delicious dak galbi (spicy stir-fried chicken with vegetables), which is whipped up right in front of you at your table.
What to do
Apgujeong-ro, Apgujeong-dong, Gangnam-gu. This boulevard in the city’s most affluent district is lined with chic department stores and luxury boutiques like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Cartier and more. It also plays host to several fashion festivals every year.
Blue House, 1 Cheongwadae-ro, Jongno-gu. This complex is the official residence of the President of the Republic of South Korea. The roof of the main building is marked by blue tiles (hence the name), which blend in with Mt. Bugaksan in the background.
Bukchon Village, 37 Gyedong-gil, Jongno-gu. Home to hundreds of hanok (traditional Korean wooden homes) dating back to the Joseon dynasty, as well as several cafes, restaurants and galleries.
Dongdaemun Design Plaza, 281 Eulji-ro, Jung-gu; +82 2 2153 0000; ddp.or.kr. This neofuturistic building (which looks rather like a spaceship, we think!) is home to various museums, galleries, shops and a rooftop park.
Elysian Gangchon Ski Resort, 688 Bukhangangbyeon-gil, Namsan-myeon, Chuncheon-si, Gangwon-do; +82 33 260 2000. This popular resort has beginner, intermediate and advanced slopes to cater to skiiers of all abilities. After a day on the slopes, head to the ski house to refuel with some draft beer and finger food.
Ganghwa Ginseng Center, 335 Ganghwa-daero, Ganghwa-eup, Ganghwa-gun. This is the largest wholesale market for all kinds of ginseng products sold directly by farmers. Ganghwado Island boasts optimal conditions for ginseng cultivation, thanks to its clay soil, sandy loam, and cool climate.
Gyeongbokgung, 161 Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu; +82 2 3700 3900. Also known as Gyeongbok Palace, this was the main residence of the royal family during the Korean Joseon Dynasty from 1392 to 1910. It has been destroyed and then reconstructed several times over the years.
Heyri Art Village, Paju; +82 3 1946 8551; heyri.net. Spend an entire day visiting galleries, bookshops and cafes at this dedicated art village located about an hour’s drive north of Seoul.
Insadong Junction, Jongno-gu.Known to visitors as Mary’s Alley, this area is home to over 100 antique shops and countless art galleries, quaint stores with Chinese pottery and jewelry, restaurants, taverns and traditional tea houses.
Itaewon, Yongsan-gu. This trendy neighborhood — highly popular with expats — is bursting at the seams with diverse international restaurants, bars, clubs, and shops.
Jeondeungsa Temple,37-41 Jeondeungsa-ro, Gilsang-myeon, Ganghwa-gun. Located within Jeongjoksanseong Fortress, this Buddhist temple is a sterling example of Joseon architecture. It conducts temple stays every weekend, during which guests learn temple etiquette, zen meditation and more.
Korean Folk Village, 90 Minsokchon-ro, Giheung-gu. Contains architectural styles from different regions, including a farmhouse, a noble mansion and a provincial government office. You’ll also get to watch diverse performances, from martial art on horseback to gymnastics displays.
Myeongdong Cathedral, 74 Myeongdong-gil, Jung-gu. This Gothic Revival church – also known as The Cathedral Church of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception – was the birthplace of the Roman Catholic community in Korea.
N Seoul Tower, 105 Namsangongwon-gil, Yongsan-gu; +82 2 3455 9277. Take a cable car ride to this communication and observation tower, which offers 360-degree views of the city. It’s the tallest point in Seoul, at 236m in height.
Namdaemun Market, 21 Namdaemunsijang 4-gil, Jung-gu; +82 2 753 2805. A great place to stock up on pasalubong like homeware, fabrics, toys and stationery. Don’t forget to haggle! If you need an energy boost while shopping, there are also dozens of stalls serving up street food like mung-bean pancakes.
Nami Island, Chuncheon, Gangwon-do; namisum.com/en. Take a shuttle bus or a train to this scenic, crescent-shaped island, which was where popular Korean drama Winter Sonata was filmed.
Paldalmun Gate, 780 Jeongjo-ro, Paldal-gu, Suwon-si, Gyeonggi-do. Also known as Nammun, the southern gate of Hwaseong Fortress is located right smack in the middle of the city, and is surrounded by shops and restaurants.
Petite France, 1063 Hoban-ro, Oeseo-myeon, Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do. Experience European cultural activities and watch a marionette performance at this French-themed park.
Samcheong-dong. This neighborhood is where you’ll find traditional Korean houses, alongside pleasant cafes, shops and art galleries.
Seoul City Bus Tour, seoulcitybus.com. If you’re on a budget, avail of this bus tour (KRW12,000), which is cheaper and faster than the subway. You can hop on and off at any of its 22 stops for an entire day.
War Memorial of Korea, 29 Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu; +82 2 709 3139; www.warmemo.or.kr. Learn more about the country’s troubled past at this museum, which houses over 33,000 military artefacts displayed in both indoor and outdoor exhibition halls.
Wolmido Island, 252 Wolmi-ro, Jung-gu. Named for its triangular shape, this popular weekend destination is home to attractions such as a Meeting Square, an Arts Square, a Performance Square and a theme park called Play Hill. It’s connected to the mainland via a highway and a monorail.
World Trade Center Seoul, Samseong-dong, Gangnam-gu. Also known as COEX. Besides its status as a business hub, it’s also a veritable shopper’s delight, housing Korea’s largest underground shopping mall.