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5 things to try in Seoul

Published October 29th, 2014

South Korea. It’s not normally on the top of anyone’s list of places to visit.  But you know what? That’s what makes it such a great destination to check out! Get off the tourist trail and try something different. Why not spend a night or two in the capital, Seoul, on your way to Europe or North America (ask your SF consultant about a free stopover in a 5-star hotel!)? Here are my top 5 picks to keep you busy in this wacky town.

 

Lost in translation: Don't get your snowman wet - wha...?

 

1. Get naked

Wait. What? Get naked? Yep, head to a traditional jjimjilbang (take a shot at pronouncing that!). These are super-popular places where Koreans go to hang out (literally) with friends, family and randoms while washing, relaxing, napping or having a snack. It’s a totes crazy custom but I say: get amongst it! They are separated by gender btw, but you can meet your (clothed) significant other in common areas as well.

There are heaps all over the city, so start your morning with a steam and clean before hitting the pavement. Sorry, no photos for obvious reasons!

 

Matt on the mountain.

 

2. Take a hike

After you’ve “viewed the locals”, it’s time to view the city. Walk to the base of Namsan Mountain and find the cable car starting point. I recommend walking up the 1.5-kilometre trail as the view will be so much more rewarding. But, if you’re feeling lazy and not up for it, jump on the cable car and enjoy the ride. There’s a great viewpoint of the city halfway up, however the vista from the top is the money shot.

 

Lock your love in at the base of Seoul Tower.

 

Treat yourself to a draft beer or vending machine beer, and be sure to check out Korea’s answer to Paris’ love-lock bridge - thousands of padlocks attached to the fences surrounding the base of the Seoul Tower. Profess your love to the world or ride the elevator to the top of the tower for a heart-stopping gander.

 

Food on a stick - the ultimate portable snack in Seoul.

 

3. Chow down

I’ve been to Seoul a few times and have fallen in love with the tasty treats the city offers. You’ll see massive lines outside the popular eateries all over the city around lunchtime. My tip is to scout one out and then chill with a beer until the queue settles down.

 

Chicken galbi - nom nom!

 

My top three dishes to try would be: dolsot bibimbap – a mixture of warm rice, sautéed vegetables, chilli sauce, beef and a raw egg served in a hot stone pot, chicken galbi – mixed marinated chicken, sliced cabbage, sweet potato, perilla leaves and rice cake fried together in a hot pan, or Korean barbecue – your choice of meat cooked on your very own barbecue placed in the middle of your table and served with myriad sauces, pickled vegetables and kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage).

It would be rude not to down a bottle or five of soju, which is Korea’s little brother to Japan’s sake. I personally prefer soju over sake as it’s much easier to drink… too much, that is. Be warned!

 

Not the most subtle way to visit the DMZ.

 

4. Visit a warzone

North Korea and South Korea have not been the best of mates since a peace armistice was signed at the end of the Korean War. This was in 1954, but the war has not officially ended. So now, there’s a 250-kilometre long and approximately four-kilometre wide De-militarized Zone, or DMZ, that splits the two nations.

Crazy stuff. Even crazier is that you can go on a half-day trip there! Watch propaganda films, ride a Ferris wheel and go deep underground to see where the North Korean army tried to tunnel all the way to Seoul. Look, it’s not exactly Harry Potter World but definitely worth a trip for the stories! Sorry, no photos allowed so you’ll just have to go see it yourself.

 

A hipster bar/van in Hongik.

 

5. Be hip with the hipsters in Hongik

Grab the metro to Hongik University station and follow the throngs of young, pretty people about a block to the main drag. It’s people-watching heaven here, fashion your own bar crawl by mixing up the beers, fried snacks and soju. Be sure to take shopping breaks in between to buy a trendy one-off snap back or some nice socks, whatever!

 

Hongik - where the party comes to you!

 

As the night wears on the clubs will get busy, so make sure you’re in there with your dancing shoes on before they fill up. Oh, the local uni kids love chatting with foreigners to practice their English, so get yo’ talk on!

 

Matt Castell

If you could make travel a full-time job would you? I am. I've been called a "jack of all trades" many times over the ten or so years spent wandering the globe. Always looking for new skills to learn, whether it be lion taming or flying helicopters... I'll give it a go! Being a Travel Agent for Student Flights has been the top pick so far though!