$1 = 1,133 won
When you land in Korea, you will arrive to Incheon International Airport which is one of the best airports in the world. I have flown in and out of Korea so many times and every single time I landed there it was just so nice. The airport has all the convenient facilities you could ever need. And once you pass security the Duty Free area is just awesome.
- Accessibility: There are several bus lines connecting the airport to major cities. I used to take the one going to Cheonan which cost me around $15 and took around 2 hours. If you are going to Seoul, there is a direct subway line from the airport to Seoul Station which takes around 1 hour. As well as the fast train KTX which is more expensive but more comfortable and faster.
- Facilities: At the airport you can find several coffeehouses, dry cleaners, spa, sauna, private sleeping rooms, pharmacy, convenience stores, cinema, ice skating rink, etc. Its basically a mall. I specially love the sauna with sleeping rooms. When you come from a long flight and arrive late at night sometimes you either can’t find transportation or you are just too tired to do so. Many times I would just go to the sauna, take a shower and sleep there. Or when I had a very early flight then I would go to the airport the night before and sleep in the sauna, take a shower in the morning and be fresh for my flight. Maybe this concept of sleeping at the sauna sounds weird but in Korea there is this 찜질방 Jjimjilbang culture. When you sleep at the Jjimjilbang it means that you take a shower in a public bath area, you are given towels and a set of cloths. You wear these cloths when you are inside the Jjimjilbang and there is room with a bunch of sleeping mats and you sleep there. The cost for shower and sleeping is $20. The only bad thing is that the place is quite small so there are limited spaces. If its high season then there is a high chance you won’t be able to get in.
- Food: Usually inside airports food is more expensive but I like that at Incheon Airport there is quite a selection to choose from. There are a couple of bakeries and of course McDonald’s which is always super crowded, also Burger King and KFC. Oriental dishes options are quite more expensive. You can also find several convenience stores that sell sandwiches, instant noodles or instant food that you can heat up in their microwave and of course the classic Kimbap roll. After the security check there are not as many options but you can find subway and smoothie king.
There are several neighborhoods in Seoul that are very popular places for tourists and all of them are very accessible by subway. The subway system is very easy and convenient, you can even get an app which will tell you exactly which line to take and how long is it going to take, etc. You can also buy a subway card for 5,000 won called T-money and recharge it. It can also be used in some convenience stores.
Area 1 (Korea’s Culture and Tradition)
1. 경복궁 Gyeongbokgung Palace
Korea’s most famous Royal Palace and the first place where tourists go to experience more about Korean culture, history and traditional architecture. You can also see the reenactment of changing of the Royal Guard. Entrance fee is 3,000 won. The Blue House (Presidential Residence) is only a 10 minute walk from there. Watch Psy’s MV at Gyeongbokgung Palace.
2. 광화문광장 Gwanghwamun Square
It’s an open plaza with the Statue of King Sejong placed in the middle. King Sejong was the one who created Hangeul, the Korean alphabet.
3. 인사동 Insa-dong Market
This is where you can find more of Korea’s culture and crafts, a great place to buy souvenirs and find artsy handcrafted goods. Ssamziegil (쌈지길) is one of my favorite gallerias. The building itself is very artsy and you can find many interesting handcrafts. In the basement there are some “Experience Workshops” where you can do some arts and crafts. On the rooftop there is a nice garden area with a coffee shop. The Alive Museum is also very popular among tourists.
4. 북촌한옥마을 Bukchon Hanok Village
This is one of the largest privately own traditional Korean wooden homes called Hanok. Some of these offer traditional tea houses, museums and gallerias. It’s a very nice place to take a walk around and see traditional architecture. Also filled with nice coffee shops and restaurants.
Area 2 (Shopping)
5. 동대문 Dongdaemun Market
Famous for being a 24 hour market, this is one of Korea’s largest wholesale and retail market. Traditionally it used to be an street open market but now it has developed into a big conglomeration of shopping malls.
6. 남대문 Namdaemun Market
This is a great place to find inexpensive souvenirs and trinkets. There are hundreds of stores selling cloths, housewares, electronics, jewelry, toys, food, etc in bulk. It can be a little hectic with all the little stores and people pushing you to buy stuff, but in this market you can also try to bargain prices and get better deals if you buy in bulk. * At 용산전자상가 Yongsan Electronics Market you can also find all kinds of electronics for a cheaper price.
7. 청계천 Cheonggyecheon Stream
A stream flowing in the middle of the city. A popular resting place for residents and tourists alike. Also a very famous location for the lantern festival celebrated between April and May.
8. 명동 Myeong -dong
This is probably the most popular place for young people to go shopping. Mostly Japanese and Chinese tourists come here to buy fashionable cloths and Korean cosmetic products. After Dongdaemun and Namdaemun, this became the most famous and modern shopping district in Seoul. There is a wide range of coffee shops and restaurant options to choose from for your shopping breaks as well. But the products here are more expensive than in Dongdaemun and Namdaemun. Opening hours are after 10 a.m. Here you can also see Nanta Performance, a comic sketch placed in a kitchen using cooking utensils as percussion instruments. Ticket prices start from 40,000 won.
9. N Seoul Tower or Namsan Tower
It’s a great place to get a panoramic view of the city. You can either take a bus or the cable car to go up. The cable car is located in Myeongdong and costs 6,300 round trip. Many couples come here to put a “Love Lock” on the Roof Terrace. If you want to go up the tower the fee is 9,000 won and there is also a really cute Teddy Bear Museum for 8,000 won.
Area 3 (Night life)
10. 이태뭔 Itaewon
This is a neighborhood famous for being a place where foreigners meet. Probably because it is near the main U.S. army base. There you can find foreign food and other foreign products that you might not find in normal Korean stores. Many Muslim students go there to buy halal food and you can also find any kind of foreign food restaurants like Arab, Turkish, Russian, Thai, etc. It’s a great place to experience the diversity of cultures that come to Korea. This neighborhood is also famous for it’s night life; the bars are over crowded with foreigners or Koreans wanting to meet foreigners.
11. 홍대 Hongdae
This is also a major neighborhood for nightlife. Full of bars, restaurants, clubs and street performers. Definitively a gathering place for Korea’s youth. But also during the day it offers many trendy, hipster and vintage stores as well as themed coffee shops. Similarly at 이대 Ehwa Woman’s University you can find cute shops and coffee shops.
12. 강남 Gangnam
This neighborhood is known for being a high class neighborhood with fancy buildings, restaurants and clubs around. More of an upscale shopping option with famous international brands. It became even more popular after Psy’s Gangnam Style video was released worldwide.
Area 4 (Other Entertainment)
13. Everland Themed Park
This is Korea’s largest Themed Park. It offers different kinds of entertainments like roller-coaster rides, Safari world, the beautiful flower gardens, shows, etc. Aside from the themed park it also offers Caribbean Bay water park. To get there first take the yellow line at Seolleung Station until Giheung Station. Then transfer to Yongin Ever Line until the last stop called Jeondae Everland Station and from there you can catch the free shuttle bus. When is winter, people prefer to go to Lotte World which is an indoor themed park. You can get there if you go to Jamsil Station. Right next to it is also a huge Lotte Department Store and Lotte Hotel.
14. COEX Mall
The Convention centers and Exhibitions halls are always busy holding some kind of event. I have been there many times for conventions about International Tourism. Outside is the shopping area where you can find several stores and restaurants. There is also the COEX Aquarium for 22,000 won.
15. 63 building
This skyscraper holds art exhibitions on the 63rd floor called 63 Sky Art which costs 13,000 won. As well as 63 Sea World for 19,000 won and 63 Wax Museum (similar to Madam Tussauds) for 15,000 won. In that area Yeouido Park is a very large area for camping, bicycling, picnics, etc. Also famous for the Cherry Blossom Street during May.
I’ll also leave some links that can be helpful when visitng Korea. There is always something happening in Seoul so be sure to check their events calendar. Safe Travels!