This is the first of (hopefully) many travel guides to some of my favorite places in the world.
It was the KPop, and probably the kimchi as well that did me in: I love Seoul. I love how vibrant and lively it is, how big and bold and distinctly urban it is, but at the same time how it can also be quaint and creative. I've only ever been to Seoul twice, but have explored it enough to be able to compile a fairly comprehensive guide on what the South Korean capital has to offer (beyond flower boy singers and fermented vegetables, if you're not into those as much as I am).
Local Currency: South Korean won
Local Time: GMT+9 (one hour ahead of Manila)
Official Language: Korean
Where to Stay
For affordable and accessible accommodations in Seoul, the Hongdae area is your best bet.
Hongdae Guesthouse is in a great location near Hongik Station and has clean and comfortable rooms.
What to Do
1. Take a walking tour around the city's popular spots. Visit Namsan Tower to see amazing views of the city, Gyeongbok Palace to witness the changing of the guards, or stroll along the narrow streets of the Bukchon Hanok village, which is lined with traditional Korean houses.
2. Go shopping. Popular shopping districts around Seoul include Myeongdong and Dongdaemun for fashion and beauty care, and the Namdaemun Market for Korean souvenirs and traditional trinkets. For unique, one-of-a-kind artsy pieces, visit the Hongdae Free Market.
3. Learn to ski! YongPyong Ski Resort is only a 3-hour bus ride from Seoul and shuttle buses are available several times everyday.
Where to Go
1. Nami Island. Take a day trip to explore beyond Seoul and visit Nami Island for a lazy afternoon walking or biking along pretty, tree-lined roads and having a picnic by the water.
2. Petite France. A great stopover before you head to Nami Island, Petite France is a little piece of Europe in South Korea.
3.Jukjeon Cafe Street. South Korea has a thriving cafe culture which is particularly evident in Jukjeon Cafe Street. Spend a laidback, romantic afternoon cafe-hopping or sitting idly at one of the many inviting shops to read a book or people watch.
What to Eat
1. Korean Street Food. Give tteokkbeokki or spicy rice cakes a try. If you like skewered meat, dakkochi or grilled chicken is your go-to Korean street food. For something sweet, try bunggeopang or the legendary hotteok! Check out a beginner's guide to Korean street food here.
2. Chicken & Beer. Visit one of many Oppa Dak branches and order their epic chicken dishes with a pitcher of Cass Beer to share and you're set for a great night.
3. Traditional Korean Food. Try gamjatang (pork and potato soup), kalguksu (knife-cut noodles) and mandu (Korean dumplings) or samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup), especially on a cold day or if you're feeling under the weather. And you can't leave Seoul without having Korean barbecue. Galbi (beef) and samgyupsal (pork) are our favorites!
Live Like a Local
1. Exercise by the Han River. Take a long walk, ride a bike, or join the free exercise classes they hold in the area regularly.
2. Care for your skin. Seoulites take skincare very seriously, if the numerous beauty brands and shops littered around the city are any indication. Discover the Korean skincare routine, try it out and see how it transforms your skin!
3. Amuse yourself with KPop! It's more than just "Gangnam Style". Here's the boyband, pretty boy kind of KPop courtesy of my favorite KPop group, SHINee!