Seoul is the capital city of the Republic of Korea, well-known for its K-Pop, Koreanovelas, distinct cuisines, and of course the place itself has a lot of things to offer to tourists and travelers. Seoul is blessed with different kinds of beauty in four different seasons. They say, it is at its best during Autumn but I have also seen how marvelous it is during springtime. Well I do hope I could come here again and see how it is during Winter and Autumn.
From Dubai, our family flew to Manila via Qatar Airways with 1 hour layover in Doha and 3 days in Seoul to save on travel costs. We are actually vacationing to Philippines and decided to stop over to Seoul to discover what it has to offer.
Day 1 of Seoul Searching
Annyeong-haseyo! We landed at Incheon Airport at 4pm local time. This happened during springtime of April at this year. April 9th to be exact. It was a bit warm inside while we queue at the immigration and baggage counters. After finishing all those arrival formalities, we purchased a bus (airport limousine) ticket going to our hotel in Seoul. Since our hotel is in Myeongdong, we took bus 6015 and this costs ₩10,000.00 each person. We waited for the bus outside the airport to which we were greeted by a cold temperature of 8 degrees and were like puffing dragons due to the cold.
It was an hour journey from the airport to Seoul. We stayed at Wonsville Myeongdong which is just 5 mins away from the airport limousine stop and subway station. We just had a quick power nap and then decided to explore outside and to have our dinner. We traversed the famous Myeongdong Street and set our foot to one of the authentic Korean Restaurants (I was trying to recall the name of restaurant but it couldn’t just sink in). We ordered some sweetly marinated and grilled pork and beef and a bean curd soup. We had only two orders but they were accompanied with so many side dishes such as ‘kimchi’. The food was nice but we had it a bit expensive at ₩52,000 with additional rice, fresh orange juice and a small can of soda. After successfully satisfying our cravings, we continued gallivanting the Myeongdong Streets. It was still very lively at 10 in the evening. Sidewalk shops are open and you can find a lot of things being sold – cosmetics and skin care items, bags, shoes, garments and delicious korean street foods. We promised to come back the following day to try on the foods as we are already tired and sleepy that time.
Day 2 of Seoul Searching
We woke up as early as 7am, albeit having some jetlag and having a different time zone. We would like catch up the breakfast served at the hotel lobby so that we’re all prepped at 8am. The buffet was limited to cereals, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, steamed spinach, and some few Korean food. The food was just right and it’s everything we need to start and fuel up our day.
MYEONGDONG CATHEDRAL (서울 명동성당)
First place to sojourn is the Myeongdong Cathedral which is considered as the first Roman Catholic Parish in Korea. Although Christianity was heavily persecuted during the ancient times, the building was constructed through the commercial convention between France and Korea.
How to get there by Subway: Myeongdong Station (Seoul Subway Line 4), Exit 8. Turn left and walk along Myeongdong 10(sip)-gil St. for about 300m and turn right at the intersection. Turn right and walk along Myeongdong-gil St. for 100m to the Catholic Center. The cathedral is on the right.
GYEONGBOKGUNG PALACE (경복궁)
Next stop is the country’s most famous Gyeongbokgung Palace, used to be the main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty. It is said that of all the five palaces, Gyeongbokgung is the grandest and prettiest. Entrance fee to the palace is ₩3,000 which comes with a free entrance to the National Folk Museum of Korea. Don’t lose your ticket as they might ask you for it when you enter the National Folk Museum. One would also enjoy watching the changing of the guards ceremony which happens every 10am, 1pm and 3pm.
How to get there by Subway: Gyeongbokgung Palace Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 5
BUKCHON HANOK VILLAGE (북촌한옥마을)
Bukchon Hanok is located in Anguk Station which is basically just a station away from Gyeongbokgung Palace Station.
We strolled uphill and down the narrow alleys of the traditional villages. It was very tiring yet very rewarding. Bukchon Hanok is a representaation of Seoul’s history dating back to the 14th Century. At present, hanoks are being used as cultural centre and guesthouses, although other locals still reside in this village.
After that tiring journey, we decided to have a break by having lunch in another authentic Korean Restaurant. We ordered some spicy seafood noodle soup, ‘bibimbap’ and another grilled beef & pork. Our bill this time is much cheaper than the previous one. The food was great, it was evidenced by queue of the people waiting to dine.
How to get there by Subway: Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 2.
– Go straight for about 300m to arrive at Bukchon Hanok Village.
From the restaurant, we continue to walk until Ssamziegil. Ssamziegil is a famous little shopping center in Insadong. Here you will find all sorts of cute Korean souvenirs such as shirts, bags, traditional Korean costume or hanbok, handicrafts, etc. We also found an interesting café called poop café. We tried the poop-shaped pancake with nuttella and it tasted really delicious.
Going up on the 3rd floor you will find the Wall of Love where lovers express their undying love for each other, written on a small piece of note and hanged on the wall.
How to get there: Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3) and Exit 6.
Walk towards Jongno Police Station and enter the Insa-dong one-way street of Crown Bakery & GS25, and go straight for 100m.
TESEUM in DONGDAEMUN
From Ssamziegil, we took the subway to Teseum or the Teddy Bear Museum. We paid an entrance fee of ₩7,000. (Tip : Funko offers discount ticket for Teseum+Mirror Maze ticket package! => ₩11,000. This discount price is even cheaper than Teseum only tickets! Check the following link for more info:
How to get there: Dongmyo Station, Exit No 6
LED ROSE DISPLAY AT DONGDAEMUN DESIGN PLAZA (동대문 디자인플라자)
Our last part of our itinerary for the day is the Led Rose Exhibit at Dongdaemun Design Plaza. DDP itself is a must visit due to its unique building designs – UFO shape. It houses various art exhibits and one of these is the beautiful, magical Led Rose Garden.
How to get there: Get off at Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station (Seoul Subway Line 2, 4 ,5) and Exit 1.
Our 1st day in Seoul was the most busiest one. After DDP, we took a cab back to the hotel as we can no longer take further steps to the subway station. But then I had the most unforgettable day on that day as my mobile phone was lost at the cab right on our very first day. The worst part of it is that I did not ask for the receipt which means it will be hard to trace the owner of the taxi. And this is the saddest part – most of photos were taken on that phone which means all those photos and memories that we had were also gone. Not only that, all my important contacts, previous photos and videos, and other documents were also gone (***sigh..) Going back to the hotel, I feel very frustrated and devastated. Instead of taking some rests, we reported the details to the online lost items with the help of our hotel receptionist. My husband even contacted his local friend for help. And to add to the agony about it, he said there’s a slim chance that it will be returned and recovered.
Day 3 of Seoul Searching
We’re supposed to head to Gapyeong today (Nami Island, Petite France, Garden of the Morning Calm). This must be the highlight of out Seoul trip but due to what happened, we lost all the enthusiasm and energy to go on.
I woke up feeling lazy and heavy. My husband could feel my sentiments. We checked with the receptionist if there’s anyone who called up or if there’s any update from the website but to no avail. I barely touched my breakfast plate, I’m still in mourning stage. Then my husband told me to cheer up it’s just a mobile phone that’s lost and we could replace it. He said that we should make the last part of our stay a memorable one, and so we prepped up and find our feet to the tallest tower in Seoul – the N Seoul Tower.
THE N SEOUL (N 서울타워) / NAMSAN TOWER
N Seoul is an important landmark in Seoul. It is a broadcast and communications tower, standing proud at 777 ft. above sea level. We took a taxi from the hotel but it has taken us only at the base of Namsan mountain. We then took a bus going up to the tower. The scenery is even beautiful – we were surrounded by the pink blossom petals or the commonly called cherry blossoms.
The N Seoul Tower is yet another romantic place to visit for lovers and couples. It also exhibits the love locks (like the one Paris). Hanging named padlocks symbolizes eternal love and has been one of the most popular tourist activities in Seoul. There are two areas where you can find the love locks – one is located at the side of the N lobby, next to the N Gift and the other one is at the Roof Terrace on the 1st floor. I brought a pad lock with me so this time, I was able to leave a memory of our family love lock (we didn’t do this when we were in Paris and Amsterdam).
How to get there: There are two ways on how you could get there, one is by circular shuttle bus and the other one is through a cable car.
1. Bus – Namsan Circular Shuttle Bus
* Namsan Circular Shuttle Bus No. 02. Take the bus from the closest subway station Chungmuro Station (Seoul Subway Line 3, 4), Exit 2 (in front of Daehan Cinema) or Dongguk University Station (Seoul Subway Line), Exit 6.
* Namsan Circular Shuttle Bus No. 03. Take the bus from the closest subway station: Seoul Station, Seoul Square (Seoul Subway Line 1, 4), Exit 9 or Itaewon Station (Seoul Subway Line 6), Exit 4 or / Hangangjin Station (Seoul Subway Line 6), Exit 2.
* Namsan Circular Shuttle Bus No. 05. Take the bus from the closest subway station: Myeong-dong Station (Seoul Subway Line 4), Exit 3 or Chungmuro Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 2 (in front of Daehan Cinema).
2. Cable Car
Boarding point: Myeong-dong Station (Seoul Subway Line 4) Exit 3, walk for about 15 minutes following the street of the right side of the Pacific Hotel.
AMISO KOREAN RESTAURANT
Hubby’s former colleague, Woo Soohyo had arranged to meet us up in one of the famous Korean Restaurant called Amiso. Amiso Restaurant is located at the 5th Floor of Polaris Building in Myeongdong. The restaurant offers a simple dining atmosphere with very good food. Woo Soohyo ordered some set meal of ‘bulgogi’ (grilled marinated beef) and it tasted really good. He demonstrated to us how to eat the bulgogi. We didn’t find it hard to do it as it is done by putting the bulgogi on the lettuce, add some sweet sauce on it. It is like eating sharwarma in Dubai where you put chicken/beef plus some garlic sauce on the ‘kubos’ or Arabic bread. He also introduced to us the famous Korean alocoholic drink called ‘Soju’. Soju is equivalent to basi in Philippines, which is a rice liquor. We stayed there for more than an hour, talking a lot of different things. I find him warm and friendly. He even gave Apollo a present, a beautiful Carbot. It is not just an ordinary robot car, it is actually a robot of Naval Commander Yi Sun Shin transforming to a Hyundai car.
After that sumptuous lunch, he took us to a nearby café to indulge on a highly popular Korean ice dessert called ‘bingsu’.
We parted ways at around 3:00 in the afternoon. He has to visit another friend in Seoul while we continue to roam around the streets of Myeongdong. We bought some souvenirs and tried some of the street foods.
HELLO KITTY CAFE
My boys doesn’t like the idea of going to Hello Kitty Café. Of course I do understand that it’s not a boy thing. Prior to this, we went to a dog café in Myeongdong. The area is not child friendly and we were advised that whatever happens to our son,in case the dogs or the puppies bite or scratch our son, it will not be the liability of the management. Of course, we cannot risk the safety of Apollo so we left the dog café and they had no option but to go with me to Hello Kitty Café.
Hello Kitty Café has several branches in Seoul but the largest and most beautiful one is in Hongdae. I actually wanted to visit this one but it is far and since they already have one in Myeongdong, we decided to try Myeongdong instead.
I ordered 2 drinks, a hot choco for hubby and a green tea latte for me, and each costs ₩4,500. Both drinks are too sweet so we decided not to order some cake or cookies to go with it.
Day 4 of Seoul Searching
CHILDREN’S GRAND PARK (서울 어린이대공원)
Our last day in Seoul is meant for our little man. We knew he would be very happy if we take him to the park for him to play and enjoy. It’s actually a great place, massive area and there are a lot of things to do there. The best thing is that the entrance is for free. I have summarized below some of the best thing to do there:
- Adventure Land. Our young man enjoyed the play area at the Adventure Land. There were some basic slides, swing, see-saw, and some musical instruments.
- Amusement Rides for Young Adults.
- Mini Zoo. The place is well-maintained and houses different kinds and species of animals such as elephant, tiger, puma, polar bear, peacock, pony, and others. They also offer camel riding and pony riding as well as an animal show but comes with a price.
- Children’s Museum. This is a great place for kids to enjoy while learning with various activities such as the Family Cooking Program, Art Program, Science Program, Performance Program, Storytelling, and Exhibit Education. The museum is open from 10-6pm everyday except Mondays and holidays. It was a shame it was closed when we went there as it was on a Monday.
- Picnic with family or friends or simply just have some rest on its grassy land.
- Enjoy the scenery. Since we went there on a spring time we had an amazing view of the cherry blossom surrounding the place.
How to get there by Subway: Children’s Grand Park Station (Seoul Subway Line 7), Exit 1.
FEASTING AT SMORGAS VIKINGS
After that wonderful and relaxing time at the park, we headed to Viking’s Buffet in Myeongdong, just within the proximity of Wonsville Hotel to feast on local and international cuisines. They offer a wide array of delicious and sensational food such as sushi and sashimi, udon noodles, seafood, tenderloin steak, pizza, and different kinds of salad and sweets. I must say that pumpkin salad and bacon asparagus roll are to die for. I also had a sip of the traditional raspberry wine which is just ok. Price is at ₩23,000 per head.
I’m not actually sure whether the Vikings Buffet in Manila is of the same company as this one. But anyway, they both offer the same mouth-watering and delectable tastes.
We left Seoul at 6pm and went off to Incheon. Our flight to Manila is at 8am the following day, so we just stayed overnight at Incheon Oceanside Airport Hotel. There was a shuttle bus who collected us to and from the airport. The service was nice, room rates affordable, overall we are satisfied with our stay.