Seoul has so much to do, and so many different areas to see, that a first visit can be daunting to plan. On your first trip to Seoul why not live like a ‘Seoul-ite?’ Here are the top 5 places to 'live like a local’ and experience the real Seoul!
1. The Seodaemun Prison History Museum
The Seodaemun Prison History Museum is an experience in itself. Many Koreans were imprisoned here while fighting for their independence from the Japanese. Seodaemun Prison was originally used to hold, torture and kill Koreans who followed the Independence movement. It has now been turned into a museum but you can still see the original jail cells, including the basement cell where Yu Gwan Sun (a famous historic figure) was tortured and later died. There are screen displays here showing information about the history of the property and how it developed over time into a prison. You can see how the prisoners lived and examples of different ways they were tortured. The exhibits are mostly inside, so any time of the year is good to visit this historical place. Tickets only cost 3,000 KRW (1.75 USD) and you can easily spend a whole afternoon or day here.
Seodaemun Prison History Museum
Address. 251, Tongil-ro, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul. 서울특별시 서대문구 통일로 251 (현저동)
Price: from 3,000 KRW (1.75 USD)
Opening Hours: Mar - Oct: 9.30am - 6pm. Nov - Feb: 9.30am - 5pm.
Duration: 2 - 4 hours required.
Website: Seodaemun Prison History Museum
2. Themed cafés
No trip to Seoul is complete without a trip to a themed café. You have quite a few to choose from: the Poop Café, the Peanut Café, the Hello Kitty Café, and now a Meerkat Café! All pet cafes in Korea allow you to pet and socialize with the animals, while having a coffee, tea or dessert. If you are looking for a truly unique animal café experience, then I would suggest the Meercat Café or the Sheep Cafe.
If you are looking for a funny and photographic café experience, you can head to Insadong for the Dong Café (Poop Café). Once exiting from the metro station, head down the main Insadong art street to your left, and you will spot the multilevel complex of shopping on your left hand side. On the 3rd floor lies the Poop Café. Drink you favorite latte out of a toilet mug. It is really a cool experience! Don’t expect the coffee to be on point, but you have some interesting latte options such as rose, complete with flower accents. They also have poop shaped cookies, scones and tarts just in case you want a sweet (but questionable looking) treat with your coffee. If you want to take a little something home with you they also sell small knit poop keychains that are very cute and only 4,000 KRW (3 USD)!
If you are a huge Peanuts fan, don’t miss the Charlie Brown Café located in Gangnam, Seoul. After taking the metro to Gangnam station, go out exit 6, walk about three minutes down the road and you are there. You cannot miss the large Snoopy sitting outside the café! You can venture around taking pictures with the different Charlie Brown characters, hangout drinking coffee out of a Peanuts mug and enjoy the atmosphere. Drinks here start at 2,500 KRW (1.5 USD) and go up from there. If you need to buy some Peanuts merchandise, you can also pick up whatever you need at this café.
People from all over the world love Hello Kitty, and there is no better place to experience Hello Kitty’s pink world then at the Hello Kitty Café in Seoul. They offer a variety of sweets, such as cakes, waffles, yogurts, smoothies and coffees. If you choose a coffee, be ready to see your favorite Hello Kitty featured as latte art on the top! This café is a bit pricier than others in Seoul but for the Hello Kitty lover, I would still say it is a must-see.
3. Myeongdong shopping
Myeongdong Market and underground shopping is Seoul’s most extensive shopping area all in one place. If you are looking for clothes, souvenirs, socks, bags, jewelry, Kpop CDs or merchandise, makeup, sunglasses or contacts (to name a few) you can find just about everything here. Outside on the street you will find the market, with locals selling street food, next to socks, next to scarves and everything in between. If you are looking for cheap bargains, stick to the outside street markets or the underground shopping, where deals are to be had. If you enjoy brands, head in to one of the tons of shopping stores, well known or boutiques, that line the market area, from makeup shops (Missha, Innisfree, Tony Moly, Etude House, and Nature Republic) to clothing and shoe stores (Nike, Adidas, Uniqlo, Forever 21, etc.) This shopping area really has it all!
Website: Myeongdong Market
4. Olympic Park
If you have an afternoon and want to see interesting statues and enjoy the outdoors, this is your pick. Take the metro to Olympic Park stop and exit towards the Handball Gymnasium. Head down the main street towards the Handball Gymnasium where you can admire the sunset, sit on a bench and enjoy the weather, or have a picnic in the park along the way. An afternoon can easily be spent here on a date!
Website: Olympic Park
5. Visit Hongdae
Once an area for struggling artists and the not so rich, Hongdae has completely turned itself around into a bustling, popular and sought out travel destination. This area is now home to many students, hostels, cafes, shops and parks. Take the metro to Hongik University, exit 2 and head across the street for the mina (and busy) shopping area. This area has a lot to do and is complete with cafes, restaurants, the famous Kakao friends store, a Samsung store and an Artbox. Meanwhile, the area has also been littered with smaller shops selling all kinds of clothing, accessories, cell phone cases and street food. If you head the other direction, towards Prince Coffee and make a left, you are now in the other section of Hongdae, which has less to do but more space and will be less crowded for walking around in. There are paths to walk on, benches to sit on to reflect and of course there are still convenience stores everywhere, shops, cafes and a couple of restaurants lining both sides of your path.
Website: Hongik University
There's never enough time to see all of Seoul!
All 5 of these unique Seoul experiences are a great way to get your feet wet the first time you visit. No matter if you have twenty-four hours or seven days to explore Seoul, these experiences will leave you wanting to come back again!
All 5 of these unique Seoul experiences are a great way to get your feet wet the first time you visit. No matter if you have twenty four hours or seven days to explore Seoul, these experiences will leave you wanting to come back again!
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