A Checklist For Your First Trip To Seoul

There’s more to Seoul than K-Pop. While your chances of running into an actual K-Pop idol in the capital of South Korea are slim, there are plenty of things to do to make your visit memorable. We highly recommend that you add these to your must-do list, if you’re heading to Seoul for the first time.

Go palace-hopping

South Korea has five palaces from the Chosun Dynasty — Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, Deoksugung, and Jongmyo. The most famous and largest is Gyeongbokgung, also known as Northern Palace, where you’ll find the National Folk Museum of Korea. You may visit only Gyeongbokgung, or purchase a combo ticket that gives you access to all five palaces, including the secret garden inside Changdeokgung Palace. 

Pro tip: There are free guided tours in English, Japanese, and Chinese thrice a day. The palace is closed every Tuesday.

Shop at Myeongdong

The busiest shopping district in Seoul, Myeong-dong is open from 9am to 10pm daily. No matter the weather, it’s always packed with tourists — an estimated 6.8 million visitors per year. There are plenty of options for shopping, entertainment, and nightlife. As for food, you can go from street food carts to indoor restaurants.

Pro tip: Foreign visitors who spend KRW30,000 or more on shopping are entitled to get a tax refund. It applies not just in Myeongdong, but any store that has the tax-free logo.

Visit a museum

Like any other destination, you don’t have to visit every single museum on the list. Choose one or two that truly pique your interest. If you’re a history buff, try the National Palace Museum of Korea and National Folk Museum.

Art lovers can choose from the Seoul Arts Center, Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, Hangaram Art Museum, or National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.

For quirky interests, check out the Teddy Bear Museum, L’Ateleier Interactive Museum, Trick Eye Museum, Grevin Museum, Poopoo Land, and Museum Kimchikan.

Pro tip: There are English-speaking guides you can hire for a museum tour. Photography is allowed as long as you don’t use flash, tripods, and selfie sticks.

Explore the beauty culture

Thanks to their distinct beauty standards, Seoul has become the beauty capital of the world. Their shopping districts are brimming with makeup and skincare stores where you’ll find the latest innovations in cosmetics. If you’re looking to improve your skincare routine or are just curious about K-beauty trends like snail cream and donkey milk sleeping masks, explore the beauty shops around town.

Pro tip: Korean beauty brands are found globally, so try K-Beauty brands that are not available in your home country. Don’t take the free samples if you’re not planning to buy anything from the store.

Unleash your inner child at a theme park

Everland, Korea’s biggest theme park is located in Gyeonggi-do, which is 51 km away, but Seoul offers several options. Lotte World has rides, an ice rink, parades, a folk museum, a lake, and department stores, while Children’s Grand Park has a zoo, botanical garden, amusement rides, and shows. Freezing Island, a winter-themed indoor theme park, is worth checking out as well.

Pro tip: To avoid crowds and long lines at the rides, schedule your visit during a weekday.

Discover great finds at a traditional market

Namdaemun Market is the largest and oldest traditional market in Korea. You’ll find almost everything you need — clothes, jewelry, toys, food, flowers, stationery, souvenirs, handicrafts and even appliances. Test your haggling skills and see if you can get what you want for a bargain. It’s also a great place to sample Korean street food.

Pro tip: It can get chaotic, so be prepared to wade through a crowd of vendors and customers looking for a good deal until nighttime and the wee hours of the morning.

Go on a food trip

Whether it’s street food or a sit-down meal, Korean food is all about meats and vegetables served with steamed white rice and an array of side dishes like the classic kimchi. If the spicy noodle challenge was easy for you, go for the tteokbokki, rice cakes and fish cakes cooked in chili paste; kimchi stew, which has tofu, noodles, and pork; bibimbap, a rice bowl meal with a dollop of chili paste; and jjambbong, a spicy noodle soup. If you want something that won’t make your eyes water, go for japchae stir-fry noodles; naengmyeon, cold buckwheat noodles; kalbi, grilled marinated beef; and the classic bulgogi. Save room for dessert and share with your buddies an order of bingsu, shaved ice dessert with sweet toppings.

Pro tip: If you’ve seen your fair share of Koreanovelas, you’d notice that they enjoy their meals with shots of Makgeolli, a traditional rice wine, or Soju, a colorless distilled beverage, both of which have potent alcohol content. Drink moderately.

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Update: simpler Korean visa application process for Filipinos

To help mark the 70th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the Philippines and South Korea, the visa application process for Filipinos have been simplified. It includes reducing the number of required documents for multiple-entry visa requests, especially from qualified professionals, media and government workers.

According to South Korean ambassador Han Dong-man, the country is also offering double the number of scholarships they’re already giving to Filipinos who wish to study there.

Since July 2018, visa applications are processed via accredited travel agencies, as the number of applicants increased. In 2018 alone, half a million Filipinos visited South Korea.

Visit the South Korean embassy website for more details. overseas.mofa.go.kr/ph-en/brd/m_3275/list.do

Written by

Kate Alvarez

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