Seoul in South Korea was somewhere always high up on my bucket list, as most my family and friends know I’m obsessed with Asia and it’s traditions. Seoul was somewhere I had always wanted to go, and with the airline I work for they fly there daily.
Over the past few years I’ve flown to Seoul quite a few times, and every time I visit I put a little itinerary together of things that I want to go see and experience. Seoul really is an amazing city with so much to see and do, from old traditional temples and palaces to modern high rises and cute and quirky cafes and boutiques. Seoul is definitely a city with a lot to offer any traveller.
South Korea is starting to become very popular with tourists as people are really starting to take notice of this small and beautiful country. Korean culture is starting to be known all around the world with its huge K-Pop scene, Korean fashion and Korean beauty products starting to turn up on in our shops back home.
Years ago I didn’t really know anyone that went to South Korea and more and more I hear people saying they have been or are planning a trip there. I really would recommend Seoul for a city break or to stop on for a few days on the way to somewhere like Australia, New Zealand or somewhere else in Asia. Try and add it to your itinerary as it’s such an exciting city. Try and beat the crowds of tourists before it starts to become the next big travel trend.
Sights & Activities
Bongeunsa Temple is a Buddhist temple situated just a few minutes walk away from Gangnam’s COEX Mall. This beautiful temple is a complete contrast to its corporate surroundings and office blocks near by. This temple was constructed back in 794, and originally had a different name and location, and was moved to its current location where it’s set in a small hillside, and is a peaceful place to come and visit. It’s open all year round and free to enter.
The temple offers an over night templestay which visitors can book onto or if your limited on time and happen to be in Seoul on a Thursday they also offer a temple tea ceremony and tour, but make sure to book onto either of these experiences well in advance as they can get booked up very quickly! If your in the Gangnam area this temple is a must visit, I loved wandering around the grounds and finished off my visit in the temples traditional tea house with a tea and cake.
Bukchon Hanok Village
Bukchon Hanok Village is Seoul’s largest concentration of Hanok which are Korean traditional wooden houses. It is located between 2 of Seoul’s largest palaces which are Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung.
The village is full of windy streets and the best way to see it is to get lost within it. There’s so many little places to stop off at from small boutiques and craft shops, art galleries, museums and cafes. We also saw several workshops where you could book into to learn a traditional Korean craft.
Bukchon is one of my favourite areas in Seoul as it’s authentic and really quaint and quirky. Try and come early in the day to avoid crowds and you can easily spend a few hours getting lost and wandering the cobbled streets. It’s hard to believe your in a huge metropolis when in Bukchon it takes you back in time to days gone by.
Changdeokgung Palace is one of of Seoul’s main tourist attractions and is a UNESCO world heritage site. The palace was originally built back in the 15th century and was built as a secondary palace to Gyeongbokgung Palace, both were destroyed in the Japanese invasion in the late 1500s. Later Changdeokgung was rebuilt and became the main residence until 1872.
I have visited the palace twice once on my first trip to Seoul and another time when myself and colleagues hired the traditional Hanbok to wear. The entrance into the grounds is KRW3000 per adult which is really cheap, however if you wear a Hanbok you get free entrance. There is a guided tour of Huwon (secret garden), which is meant to be amazing unfortunately I have also just missed a tour when visiting. Try and book in advance or plan your arrival time so you can make the tour.
Out of all the palaces around Seoul, Changdeokgung is my favourite. It’s definitely the most beautiful out of all the palaces and has gorgeous gardens and greenery.
Cheonggyecheon Stream runs through downtown Seoul and stretches almost 7 miles in length. It was created as part of an urban renewal project, and is a restoration of the stream that was once there. Today’s it’s been fully restored and runs past many sights, and passes under 22 bridges before flowing into the Hangang River. When I visited there was an art installation set up, and throughout the year there are many events and exhibitions which run along it. It’s great to have a wander along or take a drink down and sit along the stream and escape the hustle and bustle of the streets above.
Seoul City Hall was redeveloped back in 2013 and is a modern Korean design, with lots of steel and glass and has a quirky shape, it’s worth a visit if your going to visit Deoksugung Palace as it’s just across the road from it, and you leave the subway just by it. I wouldn’t make a special trip to just see City Hall however if your in this area it’s something new to see.
There is a Citizens Hall in the basement of the City Hall which holds a mix of multimedia and art and design installations and a cafe. There is also a speakers corner where people can come and express their views.
Deoksugung Palace served as a palace back in 1593 and has changed hands over the years and is a mix of traditional Korean design with some western influences. This is the only Palace is Seoul that gets lit up and illuminated at night, and is open until quite late. I went in the early evening and it was pretty quiet. The palace does also offer free walking tours at set times.
There is also Daehan Empire History museum located within the palace walls but can only be entered on an escorted tour and it showcases the palaces interior and some contemporary art. The palace isn’t very big and can easily be walked around in less than hour if your not taking in any tours or the museum.
The DMZ which is the shortened name is the demilitarised zone and is a border barrier that divides the Korean Peninsula roughly in half. The DMZ is a weapons free buffer zone between North and South Korea. It was created by an agreement between North Korea, the People’s Republic of China and the United Nations in 1953. The DMZ is 160 miles long, and about 2.5 miles wide.
There is a variety of tours you can book to visit the DMZ. We booked a half day tour through the hotel concierge which picked us up from our hotel at 8.30am, and drove straight to the DMZ which took approximately 40minutes. First we travelled to Imjingak which is only 4 miles from the Military Demarcation Line. This town was built in 1972 in the hope that someday unification would be possible. There are several sites to see here such as the Unification Bridge and the Dorasan Station which is the last station before North Korea.
We also visited secret tunnels dug by North Korea. Since 1974 several secret tunnels have been discovered crossing the military line. They are believed to have been planned as a military invasion or infiltration route and each tunnel is large enough for 30,000 soldiers to pass through in an hour. There is also the Dora Observatory which is a viewing point to peer over to North Korea.
The DMZ is probably one of the most eerie and strangest tourist attractions I’ve ever visited. It seemed really surreal being on the South Korean side of the border which seems like a different world looking over to the North Korean side.
The DMZ seems like a purpose built leisure park, then you look over to the other side which seems bleak and dreary. There was also really loud Korean music playing at one of the viewing points when I asked our guide why it was so loud she explained that it was to drown out the propaganda messages North Korea was blaring out from across the border.
There is also lots of messages and prayers written on notes and ribbons from South Koreans, visitors and North Koreans that have escaped the regime. This is really heartwarming to see such beautiful colours and messages in a dark tourism spot.
No trip to Seoul would be complete without a trip to the DMZ to understand the sensitivity and divide between the 2 nations of North and South Korea. It really is an eye opener.
Dongdaemun is an area in the city that is full to the brim with various malls and markets selling everything and anything. It’s a bit of a maze to navigate around and so much to look at, so maybe go with a rough idea of things that your looking for or things you would like to buy, as it can be overwhelming with how much stuff there is on offer in the markets.
As well as lots of markets in the area there is also the Dongdaemun Design Plaza and History and Culture Park which houses a museum, an art hall, exhibition space, park, design lab and market. There are also lots of sculptures all around the park and plaza. If your visiting the markets or particularly into architecture and design then make some time to wander around the design plaza and park.
Dongjin Market is in Hongdae and is a hidden gem in an old warehouse style building just below a church, you would never know it was there unless you were seeking it out. On weekdays it is like any other market, but on the weekends it turns into a craft market with lots of sellers selling their handmade goods from jewellery, candles, purses and perfumes etc. There was some gorgeous bits on offer to buy, it’s only small and I spent about 20 minutes walking around looking at all the stalls, I didn’t really see many westerners there and the market seemed to attract lots of locals.
If skincare is your thing then Korea in general is the place to go – the cosmetic industry is big business in Korea. Korean beauty is known all around the world and is always trending. One brand that sticks out is Dr Jart+ which is a popular Korean skincare brand. When in Seoul if your in the Gangnam area you need to visit Dr Jart+ flagship store which is is in Sinsa-dong. The shop was one of the coolest shops I’ve ever visited with karaoke booths, rooftop trampolines and the pinkest soft play area. This was such a fun shop to visit and of course purchase some face masks.
Gangnam means south of the river which literally correlates to this area of the cities location. Gangnam is in the south of the city and sits along the Han River. The area was made famous by the song Gangnam Style by Psy and really made Gangnam well known world wide. The area is the up market part of the city with high end shops, restaurants, lots of cosmetic surgeries and real estate.
Gangnam doesn’t have lots of sites and attractions however Bongeunsa Temple is located in the district. Gangnam is a great place to come shopping and cafe hopping. Great areas to shop are along the K-Star Road also known as Cheongdam Fashion Street, Sinsa-dong and Apgujeong Rodeo Street which passes between Cheongdam and Sinsa-dong, all of these streets are full of high end shops, plenty of boutiques and cafes and restaurants. Along the K-Star Road you can see lots of GangnamDols which are bear sculptures decorated with popular k-pop bands logos.
There is also a statue dedicated to the Gangnam Style song such as the famous hand statue which depicts two bronze hands doing the horse dance which is done in the music video. The statue is located close by to the COEX Mall which is Asia’s largest underground shopping mall and a few minutes walk from Bongeunsa Temple, I would suggest if visiting the temple to take a wander to the statue as they’re so close to one another. There is also another Gangnam Style type statue just by Gangnam Station, and is a great place to start to explore this busy area.
Gangnam is a great area to explore if you have plenty of time or if your a huge k-pop fan, however if you have limited time in Seoul – I personally would visit other major and historical sites before visiting Gangnam, even though I loved this area of the city I think when visiting Seoul there is so much more authentic Korean sites on offer before wandering the shops of Gangnam.
Gentle Monster is a Korean shop specialising in glasses and sunglasses which may not seem particularly interesting, but the shop itself is more like an art exhibition which changes regularly. I love a pair of sunnies and have visited both flagship stores which are in Hongdae and Sinsa-dong and literally felt like I was walking around the Tate Modern, when in Seoul make sure to stop off at one of the Gentle Monster shops for a browse!
Gwangjang Market is one of Korea’s largest and most authentic markets selling a whole range of items from fabrics to food and everything in between. With over a 100 years of history this market is popular with many locals. Personally this wasn’t my favourite market in Seoul, however if your seeking out classic Korean dishes this is the place to come, there are plenty of small stalls and restaurants to sit at for some lunch.
I had some kimchi, tteokbokki (rice cakes in spicy sauce) and mung bean pajeons (savoury Korean pancakes). This market is better suited to carnivores and pescatarians as there is a huge array of meat and fish dishes available. I struggled as a vegetarian and found out while I was eating the tteokbokki that it isn’t vegetarian, and contains fish sauce! There are plenty of stalls selling pajeons though and you can get meat free ones. I would recommend visiting the market if your going to Dongdaemun Market as it’s not too far from there, but I wouldn’t make a special visit to this market unless you want to sample plenty of Korean streetfood.
Gyeongbokgung Palace was originally built back in 1395 and was a royal residence. It was burnt down by the Japanese in the late 1500s. The palace was rebuilt some 300 years later but then was once again destroyed during Japanese colonial rule in the 20th century.
Today the palace was reconstructed which is why it looks immaculate and new but still feels very authentic and traditional. The palace has lots of buildings, gates and gardens throughout its walls as well as housing several museums.
There is a small entrance fee of KRW3000 per adult. There is also a changing of the guard ceremony held on the hour between 10am – 4pm. The palace offers free guided tours at set times and audio tours are also available.
When walking around Seoul you will see lots of visitors walking around in traditional Korean clothes which are called Hanbok. They are normally worn as formal attire for special occasions, festivals and ceremonies.
Around Seoul there is a huge choice of Hanbok and lots of rental shops all around the main tourist attractions and palaces. On a recent trip the crew and myself decided to give a try and went to a rental shop one of the girls had been to before called which is just across from the Changdeokgung Palace.
We paid about £10 per person for hire but most of the palaces offer free entrance when wearing a Hanbok. It’s really good fun dressing up and you can also get some really cool pics around the palaces.
Hello Kitty Island
Hello Kitty Island is a small museum dedicated to the world’s most famous cartoon cat. Hello Kitty Island is located in the Seoul Tower Complex. If your a huge Hello Kitty fan like myself or have children then this is an absolute must! It’s full of cute Hello Kitty memorabilia and is set up like Hello Kitty’s home with a lounge, kitchen, bedroom, dining room etc full of merchandise.
It’s only a small museum and gift shop I think I spent approximately 30 minutes or so in there, and it’s only KRW8000 per adult which is about £5.50. If your visiting Seoul Tower this fits in really nicely with your trip there.
Hongdae is the student region in Seoul located close to the Hongik University. Hongdae is known for its young, artsy hipster scene. Hongdae has lots going on with restaurants, bars, cafes, shops, markets and live music. It has a buzz about the area from day all through to late at night.
If you like Korean fashion then this is the place to come, there are lots of shops and stalls selling a huge selection of Korean clothes and accessories. In the evening there is street performers and crowds of people. Any trip to Seoul must include a trip to Hongdae to experience the entertainment heart of the capital.
There are so many beautiful shops in Hongdae it’s an Instagram dream with so many amazing photo opportunities. On the weekend there also appears to be lots of pop up markets and stalls which appear all over Hongdae. Try and aim to be in Hongdae on a Saturday as you can easily spend a hole day here with all the markets. If you like vintage shops a great one I found was called Ropausada it’s located next to the Studio Ghilbi shop and has so much choice and clothes definitely worth a visit for any vintage clothes lovers!
Hongdae Free Market
Hongdae Free Market is held every Saturday and hosts a whole range of stalls which only sell genuine creative arts and crafts. The area is a prime cultural hotspot which sometimes has bands, cultural events, charitable organisations and workshops. I really enjoyed wandering around this little market, it really is with a visits if your in Seoul on a Saturday. It attracts lots of locals and young artists, the market has lots of unique pieces to buy from jewellery, pottery, glassware and much more.
Ihwa Mural Village & Naksan Park
Ihwa Mural Village is a slightly unusual attraction, it originally was a run down village which was going to be demolished, then in 2006 an art project transformed the neighbourhood into an artistic tourism landmark, with metal sculptures, colourful paintings and mosaics by local artists. It’s a beautiful place to visit set on a hillside, it not only has lots of street art to view but also amazing views of the city!
While your visiting here as well you can also walk around Naksan Park which is a lush leafy space, where you can get the most spectacular views of the city and the surrounding mountains. I found that both the village and the park were really peaceful and didn’t seem over crowded with tourists, however please be respectful to locals when visiting, as I believe in the past there has been issues with tourists not being considerate to the area, being noisy and leaving litter which has upset locals.
I really enjoyed visiting this area of the city and found it tranquil, I also stopped in one of the small cafes and grabbed an ice cream before heading off to my next stop. This is an absolute must when in Seoul, the views were stunning!
Itaewon is an area in the city which is popular with foreigners and expats and has a huge foodie scene with a whole range of different cuisines available. There is also a huge nightlife scene in the area and sometimes the area can be a little on the seedy side, however I really enjoyed exploring this area so don’t let that put you off. It’s quite a quirky district of the city not only are there lots of places to eat and drink there are plenty of antique shops and adult sex shops. The area is also popular with the LGBT community with Lots of gay bars and clubs available. This area really does have something for everyone.
Jogye-sa Temple is the headquarters for the Jogye order of Korean Buddhism. It has the largest hall of worship in the city and is beautifully decorated with lots of carved woodwork, golden Buddhas and lots of fresh flowers. I’ve been on several occasions and each time I’ve been there’s been a different theme in the grounds of the temples from bright colourful lantern displays to pretty floral arrangements.
The temple is a hive for various activities and sometimes there are Street food stalls, stalls raising money and awareness for various causes. There are also programs, tea ceremonies temple stays that can be booked and arranged too.
Line Friends Stores
Line Friends are a bunch of characters which were created as stickers for the mobile messenger app – Line. Line Friends is extremely popular in Korea and it is now much more than a mobile app, and the brand has branched out into lifestyle merchandise. There are several other ranges under the Line Friends brand such as BT21 which is a collaboration with K-Pop band – BTS. There are shops and cafes that have sprung up all over Seoul. If your in the city and want to see what all the fuss is about amongst Koreans then check out the shops in Hongdae, Gangnam, Itaewon and a few others dotted around the city, although you will see these cartoon characters all over the city with smaller shops selling the merchandise.
Myeong-Dong is Seoul’s retail heart bursting full with shops, boutiques, cafes and lots of street vendors. This noisy street full of hustle and bustle is a main attraction in itself. Just wandering down this crazy street there is so much to see, and lots of colourful and quirky shops.
This is also a great place to come if you want to stock up on Korean beauty products they have lots and lots of shops just selling Korean face masks. While walking down here I was given a few free facemasks by people wanting you to have a browse of their shops.
Myeong-Dong is one of my favourite areas in Seoul it’s so lively which I love. The main street is also great for anyone instagram obsessed there are tons of places and sites along the street for Instagram pics. You could easily spend a good few hours here wandering in and out of the many shops and cafes.
Namdaemun Market is Korea’s largest traditional market selling a whole range of products from clothing, accessories, homeware, toys and everything in between, you can pretty much find anything you’re looking for in this huge maze of market stalls. There are also tons of street food vendors too, so even if your not planning on doing lots of shopping it’s a great place to come and have a wander and grab a bite to eat. When in Seoul try the Tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) you can get them in abundance at the street food vendors in the market, although they are served at vendors all over the city too.
Namsangol Hanok Village
Namsangol Hanok Village is located in Namsan Park and is like stepping back in time. It’s a cultural village, which feature 5 different yangban which is the Korean name for upper class houses from the Joseon era. All of the buildings there have been relocated there from other parts of Seoul.
There is also Seoul Namsan Gugakdang located here which holds events and concerts here regularly. While I was here there was lots of lovely stalls selling arts and crafts and some music playing with lots of locals playing games.
Namsangol Hanok Village is free entry and they offer free walking tours throughout the day at allocated times. This was a really good attraction to see and to see the traditional old houses.
Some Sevit are four artificial islands located along the Han River, they are the worlds first floating islands to be used as a cultural space. The area is lit up in leds at night. The islands host events and exhibitions and are home to restaurants and cafes and there is an outdoor deck and roof obersavatory. Not too far from Some Sevit is the Banpodaegyo Bridge Rainbow Fountain which has daily fountain shows that run between April to October.
Studio Ghilbi Shop
If your a fan of the Studio Ghilbi anime films, then you need to give the shop a visit in Hongdae. Studio Ghilbi have made so many anime films such as Spirited Away, Howls Moving Castle and My Neighbour Totoro to name just a few. Studio Ghilbi is actually a Japanese film studio in Tokyo, but the films are popular in Asia and worldwide.
I’ve always been into anime films and love the Studio Ghilbi films, so while wandering around the streets of Hongdae, I decided to pop into the shop which is similar to a Disney shop with lots of merchandise for sale, and the store aesthetics are all film references, with lots of photo opportunities.
Stylenanda is a Korean shop and brand and it has several shops dotted around Seoul. Stylenanda is the dreamiest of shops for any girly girls out there like myself, it’s full of makeup, clothes and accessories, which may not sound like anything different to back home.
However Stylenanda has a difference it is probably one of the coolest shops I’ve ever been in (and trust me I’ve been in a lot!). The Myeong-Dong store is super chic and is set up like a pretend hotel, and every level was something different, on one floor it was set up like a hotel reception, another was set up like a bedroom, another floor set up like a laundry room and with lots of marble, gold and pastel pink – this is one of the prettiest girliest shops ever!
The Stylenanda in Hongdae is also just as cool and has a more scandi modern feel to the shop and has the better of the Pink Pool Cafes in my opinion. When in Seoul you have to go to at least one of the Stylenanda shops.
N Seoul Tower
N Seoul Tower is perched on top of Namsan mountain within the protected 109 hectare park of Namsan. The Tower also marks Seoul’s geographical centre. It’s a popular day out for locals as there are lots of attractions in and around the tower, and Namsan Park itself is a peaceful place but with lots of walkways, pagodas and much more. Namsan Park has great views across the city and surrounding mountains.
When I visited the N Seoul Tower I took the cable car up and bought a return ticket which was KRW9000 which roughly works out at £6 so was pretty cheap. At the base of the Tower there is lots to see and do such as a small pagoda, shops, cafes and museums. Hello Kitty Island is also based here which is one of the main reasons I visited. I went during the day but would like to go back at sunset to see the city lit up with twinkling lights.
The base of the Tower is a popular date spot as all the railings around the base are adorned with thousands upon thousands of padlocks and messages with couples names and messages. I bought a small heart tag while I was here for a few quid and wrote my husbands and my name on it.
Tapgol Park was Seoul’s first modern park and holds a historical significance and several national treasures such as Wongaksaji Sipcheungseoktap (a 10 story stone pagoda) as well as a number of monuments dedicated to various patriots and resistance members who fought for Korean independence during the Japanese occupation. I walked down to the park after visiting Unhyeongung Palace as they are pretty close walking distance to one another.
Under Stand Avenue & Seoul Forest
Under Stand Avenue is a modern space for young entrepreneurs and start up businesses set in disused shopping containers. There’s some great shops and cafes at Under Stand Avenue. Just across the road is Seoul Forest which used to be a hunting ground for the royal family back in the day, today it is a park and green space for local families. I would recommend visiting both in the summer months or if your over in the east side of the city, but personally I wouldn’t recommend coming miles out your way for either of these, I enjoyed visiting them both however neither of them will blow your socks off.
Unhyeongung Palace is a small palace located not too far from Bukchon Hanok Village and close to Seoul’s much larger palaces. It was once much larger, but over years became damaged so what is left is really well preserved and they hold many events there all year. If your close by it’s worth a wander in.
Food & Drink
Bali Superstore is a little hidden oasis up some stairs tucked away in the Hongik University area of the city. This gorgeous little bar is decorated with lots of plants, sparkly Buddha heads and trinkets. It’s a bar but also serves food.
Myself and a few colleagues came in here one night after dinner and tried several of the cocktails from the menu my favourite was the June Buck which was midori, banana, coconut rum and pineapple it was really sweet. We stayed in the bar late as it had a really chilled atmosphere but also had some good music playing. This place is great to come either for dinner or after dinner drinks.
Bau House is a dog cafe situated in Hongdae, the drinks are nothing to write home about, but the real reason you come to visit Bau House is to pet all of the cute dogs both big and small. All the dogs are pedigree dogs and there is such a mix of dogs in the cafe and there is plenty of space to play with the dogs and lots of seating. It’s costs KRW8000 which is about £6 and this includes your entrance and a drink of your choice, with a selection of hot and cold drinks.
Blind Alley is another one of Seoul’s animal cafes but this one has raccoons, there are several raccoon cafes dotted around Seoul but this one is located in the heart of Seoul, not too far from the Hondae area and also close to Seoul’s main palaces and tourist attractions. When I visited there was also a corgee dog, and the raccoon and dog seemed to be playing a game of a chasing each other around the cafe.
Bongeunsa Temple Tea House
If your visiting Bongeunsa Temple then make sure to take a break in the temples tea house, I visited late afternoon and sat in the tea house with a cup of Omija Tea which is really sweet and tasty, and I had some small traditional cakes. There’s a mix of floor seating and tables and chairs available. I sat on the floor and relaxed before heading off. It’s a lovely space to come and chill out and escape the city, and if you can – try and book onto the temples tea ceremony which they run on a Thursday just make sure to book in advance as spaces are limited!
Bukchon Street Food
In the Bukchon Hanok Village there are lots Street food stalls and vendors as well as having tucked away cafes and restaurants. While exploring Bukchon area I stopped several times and sampled some delicious street food, my favourite was like a donut filled with glass noodles and vegetables, the best thing about street food is how inexpensive it is and is normally cooked up right in front of you.
Cafe Sukkara is situated in Hongdae and has a rustic farmhouse style with lots of vegan dishes available try the curry vegetables and rice it was delicious! This little cafe also make their own juices and liquors. The decor is shabby chic and the cafe itself is easy to miss if your trying to find it. Look out for its green front door with wreath on, we walked past it several times before realising it. This is a great place to come for lunch or dinner or to just pop in to try one of the many drinks available.
Cafe Sun Vegan Kitchen
Cafe Sun is a cute and quaint little cafe situated in Hongdae and serves up fresh vegan food and drinks. It’s down a quiet street and it can be a little tricky to find. Once I found the place I opted for the vegetable stew and a mocca choc chip frappe, both were made fresh to order. It’s really peaceful in the cafe and a great place to stop for lunch.
Cafe Yeonnam-dong 239-20 (Cafe 2D)
Cafe Yeonnam-dong 239-20 named after its location and also known as the 2D Cafe. It is another one of Seoul’s themed cafes, and was designed to create a 2D optical illusion, which makes you feel as though you have crossed over into a comic book illustration. It’s located in the student area of Hongdae, and can get quite busy so try and head to the cafe either first thing when it opens or in the evening. There is also a small rooftop which is hidden away so be sure to have a wander up there too.
C. Through Cafe
C. Through Cafe has to be one of the girliest cafes in all of Seoul, with hand drawn cream art drinks on offer, beautiful decor and the best tiramisu I have ever tasted, this has to be one of my favourite cafes in Seoul!
This small and quirky cafe is tucked away in Itaewon-dong, the easiest way to find the cafe is to get to Noksapyeong underground station, when you exit the station you should be able see a pedestrian bridge which crosses over the main road, walk over the bridge and then take a right and follow the road around to Rocka Doodle and carry on past there a little further on, the cafe is on the left side.
There is a good selection of drinks on offer but honestly it’s best to visit here and experience the cream art drinks they are to die for!
Egg Drop has several locations dotted around Seoul, I visited the one in Bukchon Hanok Village and can honestly say it’s one of the best egg sarnies I’ve ever had, this small little egg sandwich shop seemed really popular with lots of locals queuing up to get these inexpensive eggy delights! It’s great for breakfast, brunch or lunch and they have few different egg sandwich options.
Green Pantry is a cute and cosy restaurant located in Hongdae, it has lots of vegan and vegetarian dishes available aswell as meat options, and all ingredients are seasonal. I came here once before venturing out for an evening of shopping around Hongdae. The service was friendly and the menu is in English, I opted to have the fig and brie cheeseboard which was so delicious and really filling! If your vegan or vegetarian or just craving some more western flavours then this is a great spot for lunch or dinner!
Hops Pizzeria is in the Hongdae area of Seoul and located on an upper floor of one of the high rise buildings by the Hongik station. I decided that if I was going to have pizza again while in Seoul that I would opt for one with. A difference and Hops Pizzeria has lots of weird pizzas to try. I opted for the blueberry pizza which actually tastes a lot better than it sounds. I really enjoyed my blueberry pizza and the service here was really welcoming.
Korean BBQ is everywhere in Seoul and you won’t find it difficult to stumble across a Korean BBQ restaurant. I went to one when I first visited Seoul before I went vegetarian, the restaurants normally offer a good selection of meats and they normally come with sides of various kimchi and pickled vegetables.
Since going vegetarian I haven’t been to another Korean BBQ as they don’t tend to offer much vegetarian options (obviously) however if you are a meat eater then definitely head to one of Seoul’s many BBQ restaurants, and also sample some Korean rice wine which goes well with the various meats.
Most of the BBQ places are really cheap I remember when I went years ago I didn’t spend any more than maybe £12 and we had so much food and wine and left feeling very full.
La Fattoria is situated in Sinchon and serves up a good selection of steak, pasta and pizza. I normally always try and sample the local delicacies, but as I’m vegetarian I really struggle in Seoul trying to find something with no meat or fish, so I find I end up eating a lot of western food while in the city. I stopped in La Fattoria for a pizza and it was really enjoyable, the restaurant itself has both inside and outside seating, and is very nicely decorated and the service was friendly and speedy.
Masa Tacos serves up a good selection of Mexican food, it’s mainly meat options available however they do have one or two vegetarian dishes, I ordered the vegetarian quesadillas and they were amazing and the strawberry lemonade is to die for especially if you like extra sweet drinks. This small restaurant is located in Gangnam not too far away from the K-Road.
The Moomin Cafe is a cafe and shop all themed around the Scandinavian cartoon The Moomins. If your a Moomin fan like myself then this cute cafe is a great place to visit. They sell lots of Moomin cookies and cakes, there’s also lots of Moomin memorabilia for sale too. The cafe is situated in the Hongdae area and is situated just by to the Studio Ghilbi shop tucked around the corner from it.
Myeong-Dong Street Food
Along the busy shopping street of Myeong-Dong there are lots of street food stalls selling all kinds of foodie treats from savoury stalls selling lobster, scallops, dumplings, corn, chicken sticks and much more, there are also lots of sweet stalls selling chocolate covered strawberries, sweets and mochi cakes.
When I came along here I was feeling a little peckish but not wanting a big meal so these stalls are great for quick on the go snacks and best of all supporting local vendors.
Pink Pool Cafe – Hongdae
There are several Pink Pool Cafes around Seoul, they are set in the Stylenanda shops. I have visited the shop in Hongdae and Myeong-Dong, however I prefer the flagship cafe in Hongdae. The cafe is a lot bigger and grander and is so girly and pretty. It serves up a larger selection of drinks and cakes too. I opted for a heart cake which was filled with jam, and the peach cream soda both were amazing. It’s not cheap but is affordable for a cake and drink it cost me about £10.
Try and get to the cafe early if possible as I did have to wait for a table, and the cafe can be really popular, I went late afternoon and every table was taken. If you love the colour pink and love cake then the Hongdae Pink Pool Cafe is the place for you, you won’t be disappointed.
Pink Pool Cafe – Myeong-Dong
In the Myeong-Dong Pink Pool Cafe it’s on the top floor of the Stylenanda store, and is set out like a pool area with tiles, umbrellas, pastel pink tables and chairs and even has a shower style fitting room. The roof terrace is up another flight of stairs, I took my peach tea up there and sat on the large frilly floor cushions. There is also blankets to keep warm too, and it’s really nice to be up there away from the madness of the busy street below.￼
If your craving some home comfort western food like I was one evening then head to Pizza Up which is next to one of the exits/entrances to Hongik University underground station. There are large self order screens when you walk in and you can create your own pizza or choose one of the pizza options and sides on the screen and take a buzzer.
This is kind of like a self service place but has a restaurant atmosphere as there is plenty of seating and it’s quite funky in side with lots of neon lights and signs. It’s also reasonably priced I created my own pizza and it cost KRW13,000 so about £8. The food is cooked up fresh and made to order but also really quickly.
Plant is an absolute gem of a restaurant in a city where vegan food can be hard to find. Plant is such a great place to go for any meal of the day with breakfast, lunch and dinner all on offer plus a great selection of cakes and drinks. It’s all vegan menu offers lots of healthy options as well as comfort food. This small restaurant and cafe is located in Itaewon along one of the main streets tucked away through a small door and up some stairs. I had the mushroom burger which was delicious and then had a chai latte and tried one of the cakes they had on offer. Plant is a must if your vegetarian or vegan or if you just want a some a meat free meal.
Thanks to Nature
Thanks to Nature has to be one of Seoul’s weirder cafes, it’s a lovely little cafe down some small steps hidden away from the busy streets of Hongdae. This cafe has a difference though as it’s home to 2 resident sheep which are in a pen out the front of cafe. For the price of a drink you can go in and pet the sheep and also buy feed from the counter to feed them. Seoul has lots of animal cafes but this definitely has to be the strangest one of them all and also one of my favourites.
Zapangi is one of Seoul’s coolest cafes, it’s about a 10 minute walk from Mangwon underground station. From the outside of the cafe it looks like a bright pink vending machine, but behind the vending machine door is the chicest cafe and has a slight Scandinavian style with white tile bricks and plants, and some neon lights.
What I really loved about Zapangi was it’s girly drinks and snacks, this cafe is definitely aimed at girly girls. There are cakes served in cute metal tins decorated beautifully I opted for one with a mermaid tale poking out the top of the cake and chose the Aurora hot chocolate which was decorated with pastel buttercream and pearl like sugar balls. If your a sucker like me for anything decorated pretty this will be right up your street.
You pay a little more here for the funkier drinks but they were delicious and great for anyone with a sweet tooth. My cake and drink l cost KRW17,000 so about £12 which is more than the average but your paying more for the decoration and the experience.
Transport & Getting Around
Seoul’s subway may look daunting as it is the longest subway system in the world. However after being on it a couple of times it is actually really quick, easy and cheap to get around this big capital city. Once you get used to it you will be a Seoul subway pro in no time!
I would really recommend when exploring Seoul to download the maps.me app this is a great app to have in any country but especially countries where there can be quite a big language barrier. I swear by having this map in an unfamiliar city. It’s like google maps but works offline so is great if you don’t have WiFi, and it has helped me get around Seoul so easily over the years, and I found everything that I wanted to find with ease.
I would recommend planning your day before heading out, and seeing what sights and attractions are near to one another. I normally search places on my maps.me app and save and pin it so I can see what is close by, and what is the best route to take so I’m not wasting time going out of the way etc.
There are lots of tourist information centres through out the city, and I can’t recommend them enough! I went to several in the Hongdae area to check directions and pick up some local maps and the staff speak fluent English and were all so helpful. Try popping into one while your out and about or make a trip to one before starting your day, they have lots of really helpful leaflet and maps where you can get more inspiration from.
If your vegetarian then try and plan where you would like to eat as a lot of restaurants don’t always fully cater for veggies, so I normally research restaurants beforehand. However if your after street food then definitely try pajeon and Korean egg bread both are some of my favourite veggie street food, and are delicious and can easily be found on many of the streets in Seoul.