A Thrilling South Korean Getaway

Have the Time of Your Life in South Korea

Traveling the planet is one of the greatest pleasures this life has to offer. It doesn’t matter if you go to Western Europe, East Asia, Australia, Africa or anywhere else. Globetrotting can be one of the most invigorating and fascinating things you ever try. South Korea is an East Asian country that’s becoming more and more of a travel hub in recent times.

People from all different nations are flocking to Seoul, Busan and beyond. If you want to savor an international journey that’s well-rounded, intriguing and dynamic, then you should consider booking a South Korean getaway right away. This country is in the northern region of Asia close to both Japan and China.

Widely Known Tourist Attractions in South Korea

South Korea is a nation that has a rich and comprehensive history. Seoul is the country’s biggest metropolis and capital. It naturally is a haven for all kinds of historic and cultural sights, too. If you visit this energetic destination, you can think about going to Gyeongbokgung Palace. This structure has been in existence since all the way back in 1395. It’s in the northern section of the lively city.

Bukchon Hanok Village is yet another historic spot in Seoul. The village has actually been around for six centuries. People who want to get glimpses of South Korean culture may get a lot out of trips to this spot.

Busan is a sizable port destination in South Korea. People go to the city to revel in its lovely beaches, temples and mountains. Food lovers may want to go to Busan, too. Jagalchi Market has the distinction of being the nation’s biggest seafood store. If you want to feast on fresh fish, this may be the place for you.

South Korean Hospitality

South Korean people tend to be extremely polite and warm. If you have questions about directions, tourist attractions and more, you probably won’t have a hard time pinpointing people who will try their best to help you out.

It doesn’t matter if you have questions about getting Korean money at a foreign currency exchange shop. It doesn’t matter if you want to figure out how to deal with public transit systems in city settings. Interacting with South Korean people is often a wonderful and heartwarming experience.

Dining in South Korea

South Korean cuisine has been gaining traction all over the world in recent years. People can’t get enough of the spicy tastes that are frequently associated with the nation’s many dishes. Fans of fermented cabbage often are big on kimchi, a genuine Korean staple.

There are many appetizing dishes accessible in dining establishments scattered all throughout South Korea. Some examples of particularly beloved foods in South Korea are bulgogi, japchae, galbi and bibimbap. Bulgogi is a dish that revolves around beef barbecue that’s marinated. If you have a penchant for meaty flavors, then you won’t be able to say no to a hearty meal in South Korea.

Finding terrific food in South Korea is a piece of cake for tourists. There are all sorts of restaurants in the nation that cater to people with all kinds of budgets. If you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on dining in the nation, there are so many restaurants that can accommodate you nicely. Small noodle shops tend to be ideal for diners who want to keep their costs low.

There are all sorts of delectable options on hand at these noodle shops, too. Spicy noodles are a favorite in South Korea. If you have a craving for stir-fried noodles in South Korea, you never have to look too long.

If you have time to spare in your hotel or motel room in South Korea, you can try watching dramas. South Korean dramas have been a major sensation in all different corners of the planet. People can’t resist these dramas in other parts of Asia. They’re massive hits in North America, South America, Europe, Australia and beyond as well.

If you want to get a glimpse into life in South Korea, watching these hilarious, romantic and lighthearted television programs can often work well. It’s usually pretty easy to catch one of these shows on television in South Korea. There are always many options on hand.

Oedo Island

Geoje Island things to do – A Korea travel…

Hike Mt. Daegumsan

Hiking Mt. DaegumsanBeing a country that’s 70 mountains, hiking is a pretty popular thing to do in Korea in general, but in my opinion, the hikes in Geoje are much more interesting.

Hiking Mt. Daegumsan was especially interesting for me because of the breathtaking island views on the way to the top. In the spring time, huge fields of azalea’s bloom on the top of the mountain, and look absolutely stunning.

Walking through the fields of pinks and purples makes the hike all the more worth it.

Be sure to check when they’re in bloom though – they only stay around for a few weeks in the spring!

Oedo Island

Oedo IslandBuilt by a husband and wife who settled on the island in 1969, this popular botanical garden does a pretty good job in showing the loving relationship between the couple.

Filled with an impressive collection of thousands of plants and flowers, all perfectly lines and taken care of.

There isn’t a leaf out of place on this island. The colours, the smells, the sculptures, will all take you by surprise. It’s so beautiful, it’s usually referred to as the “paradise of Korea”.

How to get there: There are many different ports on Geoje, but if you’re in Okpo or Gohyeon, the easiest way to get to Oedo is taking a ferry from the Jangsangpo port.

Geoje beaches

Geoje beach KoreaI think we’ve established that Geoje is an island by now, so it’s pretty obvious that there are many beaches on the island. My personal favourite is the Hakdong Pebble Beach – it was the first beach I visited on the island, and therefore holds a little spot in my heart. It’s different from the typical sand beach, and plus, sand doesn’t get in awkward places, although it’s a little uncomfortable sitting on pebbles at first.

If you’re a bit of an explorer, that the path down towards the right side of the beach – you’ll find the pebbles get bigger and bigger the further you go down, until they’re literally bigger than you!

Other popular (sand) beaches on the island include: Gujora, Deokpo, Wayheon

How to get to Hakdong Pebble Beach: Bus number 56 from Gohyeon Bus Terminal.

4. P.O.W Camp

Geoje Island pow camp museumIt’s always good to get to know some of the history of places, and this island has plenty. It used to be home to Chinese and North Korean P.O.W soldiers during the Korean War – up to 170,000 of them.

With the signing of truce on July 27, 1953, the camp was closed. The park was constructed to recreate the everyday life of prisoners of war based on the material and record of the time.

A walk through the park will take you back in time to experience a little about how life was like for these P.O.W., from how they ate, cooked, or even went to the toilet.

5. Rent a motorcycle and explore

Geoje Island motorcycle hire rentPublic transport isn’t the best on the island, the buses do the job at the end of the day, but most mainly go between Okpo and Gohyeon – the two big, main towns on the island.

Because of this, you mainly see just those parts of the island, but there’s so much more natural beauty on the island that is unseen purely because no form of public transport really goes there.

I recommend hiring a motorcycle and going out of the main towns, and explore the beauty of the island – trust me, there are some amazing views and spots on the island.

Best places to visit in Korea. Our top 5

My personal top 5 best places in Korea.

1. Jindo (Jin island)

When someone asks me about the nicest beach in Korea I immediately think about the beach in Jindo. There are some beautiful beaches around Korea so in summer all beaches are crowded like you can’t imagine.

In the summer of 2006 I went to Jindo. Located in very south of the Korean peninsula. 6 hours driving from Seoul.

I am not a big fan of crowded places. That is why I normally don’t go to the beach in the summertime here in Korea but this one is totally different! Of course there are many beaches around the island but I want to go somewhere where the local people go. I stayed at a little house right by the ocean and I asked a man who worked at a ferry dock: “Where is your favorite beach around here?”. He drew the whole route on the map that I was carrying. He was so excited about having a tourist in his town and very enthusiastic! Asking local people is a great way to get information.

After a 20 minute drive there it was: Seomang beach. It’s located on the Southwest side of Jindo with a great view. Soft blue ocean, mild waves, welcoming summer sunshine, little islands floating on the ocean. As soon as I saw this beach I instantly fell in love with it. There were only 5 people: parents with their two children and an owner of a little supermarket. The sound of little girls giggling while the waves softly crash. What more could you want? Seomang beach is certainly not a big or a fancy place but for me it’s perfect!

2. Busan

Busan is the 2nd biggest city of Korea. Located the opposite side of Korean peninsula in Gyungsang-do (Gyungsang province). As I was born and raised in Seoul I see Busan as a very exotic city. Busan is on the coast so it is a totally different vibe than Seoul and they speak with a strong accent.

When I was a freshman I decided to take some time off and go some place very far from where I live. Many of my friends in school are from Busan, so I just decided to buy a red-eye train ticket. It takes 5 hours by train from Seoul to Busan. Now we have a KTX so it’s shortened to 2 and a half hours

So there I was at midnight, train to Busan in complete dark highway.5 o’clock in the morning Busan station was very busy, unexpectedly. Had some light breakfast at street vendor and I headed to beach. Whole point of trip to Busan in fall was see some ocean.

There are many great beaches in Busan such as Haeundae, Gwanganli, Songjung and few others. Heaundae is the most famous one in Busan so I went there. Sitting on sand beach, and watching sun’s rising. It was little foggy day so sunrise makes the sky really red. A bit scarlet-ish. Perfect moment indeed. Since that trip I fell in love with Busan. Oh and I can’t leave out Jagalchi-Sijang. One of the best seafood local markets in Korea. You pick something you want from the fish-full of basket and they make sushi out of that in second. I still remember the atmosphere and taste of with sushi and Soju. By the way, Busan has their own brand of Soju, so try it if you dare.

3. Mt.Seorak (Seorak san)

Mt.Seorak is one of the most beautiful mountains in Korea. Mt.Seorak is in 3 hours away from Seoul to east, in Gangwon-do (Gangwon province).

There are two memorable visits to Mt.Seorak in my life. First, when I was sophomore I went there in fall to see some maples. Have you heard autumn of Korea is full of color? We are not famous with maples like Canada, but it is really phenomenal.

My friends and I drove to Mt.Seorak to see all the colors. Mt.Seorak is beautiful in any season but particularly in autumn. We knew it was going to be very crowd so we decided to just drive around the mountain. We’ve seen some great views on the way but when we were getting closer to Mt.Seorak, it was unbelievably beautiful. We drove up to mountain and the whole mountain was covered with red, yellow, green, and many other pretty colors. The best maple art I’ve ever seen.

Second experience was when I was very young. Frankly I don’t remember much details of that trip. However this is important and memorable because this trip was a sign of my travel-full of adult hood. It was drizzling day, and we were hiking up to Mt.Seorak. I was very young and 1,708 meter high is quite hard for a little girl. But I didn’t give up. I was on the top of the mountain and I remember this moment intermittent but strong. That was the moment I discover my nature of adventure.

4. Jeju island (Jeju do)

Asian Hawaii. This is a nickname for Jeju Island. The biggest island in Korea, it has the highest mountain in South Korea and it made by volcanic activity of the Mt.Halla, the highest mountain in South Korea. So it has different geological features.

I visited Jeju Island several time in every season for many years, and I fell in love every time.

The best compliment I want to say about Jeju is this little island is full of nature. Beautiful beach, amazing waterfall, all the strange rocks made by volcanic action, people, and culture.

You can imagine how beautiful beach must be according to the nickname.

All over this island there are full of mysterious looking natural landscape. Waterfalls, strange looking rocks all round the island, and all the black basalt.

Now we can visit jeju island by plane any time we want but it is quite far from homeland so Jeju has its own cultural difference. Old jeju regional dialect is very different than regular Korean. I’ve read about it before I visited Jeju but it’s quite hard to imagine. Then I saw local people talking and yes, I didn’t understand at all. It is very interesting experience.

Oh yes and the highest mountain in South korea. 1,950 meters high, located center of island, it called Mt.Halla. I climb to the top once, and it was the hardest hiking I’ve ever been. However the view was the best for sure. Botanists say there are very valuable plants in Mt.Halla. Maybe because of that the view around the path was gorgeous and view from the top was phenomenal.

Next time I visit Jeju, I will meet more local people and learn more stories about Jeju.

If you are planning to visit Korea, I recommend include Jeju island in your itinerary.

5. Taean Bando (Taean peninsula)

West sea of Korea is very interesting. Three sides of Korean peninsula have all different kind of beach. East sea is very deep, and has short sandy beach. Around South sea is not deep as East Sea but it has long and wide sand. But beaches around West Sea is mud flat and not deep. When you visit West sea, you have to check timetable for tide.

I liked mud flad of West sea. There are little peninsula in West Sea, called Taean Bando. (Bando is Korean word for peninsula) Nice beaches around the peninsula. One beach I saw a little crab making a hole and go in and out of the hole he/she made. It was so amazing. You can see many other see lifes in this mud flat.

One other thing amazes me was the shape of mud what wave made. I can’t explain how it works but when the ebb tide is coming I could see underwater mud flat and they all shape like wave. Natural mysteries I guess.

Coastline of West sea is really complicated. Hence many islands, little peninsulas, and beautiful little beaches. When you visit West sea of Korea, I recommend you to take your time to look around.

Check out this amazing tour from Beijing to Seoul over 14 days, from Intrepid Travel. What do you think of the itinerary? Would you go?

Arienne and Tristan in Busan

A guide to expat life in South Korea

Meet Arienne Parzei and Tristan Thackray, two Canadians from Toronto who have spent the last two years living in South Korea. Working as English teachers, they’ve experienced the culture, lifestyle and history of this quirky country and are now backpacking around China, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. We had the pleasure of meeting them recently and chatting about their awesome travel blog at seeyousoon.ca. We wanted to know more about their life in South Korea.

Why did you go to South Korea?

Arienne and Tristan in BusanAfter finishing university and working in our respective fields for a couple of years, (Arienne in TV production and Tristan in stage production) we knew we wanted to see more of the world. We figured teaching abroad would be a great opportunity to travel and make money at the same time. We originally considered China and Japan as well as Korea, but in the end settled on Korea due to its better work standards (when compared with China) and lower cost of living (when compared with Japan). This meant we’d be able to save more money, which would allow us to travel for an extended period of time when we were finished our contracts.

What were your first impressions and did they change?

Gyeonbokgung PalaceObviously, arriving in Korea meant a blast of culture shock. The unity of Korean culture and society seemed like an impenetrable fortress that, as foreigners, we were only allowed to look at, but never enter. This initial feeling of exclusion was further compounded when we moved to the small city where we were assigned to live and work. Jecheon had only 140,000 people, packed into an area the size of a town (in Canada), with only one movie theatre, a bowling alley, and a ton of bars and restaurants with next to no English, anywhere! For both of us, being a miniscule minority in a small city was a polar opposite to living in the culturally diverse metropolis of Toronto. In the beginning, we couldn’t order food, read any signs, or even talk to the many people who gawked and stared at us. Essentially, our first impressions were ones of isolation, frustration, and feeling like a child with adult problems.

But as we settled into the daily routines of the job and felt more comfortable in our city, we really began to enjoy our time in Korea. Regularly we would travel around the country on the weekends to learn more about the culture and people, but we would always be happy when we’d return back to our small, country city, that began to feel like home.

What was the food like?

Korean BBQIn one word: incredible!  We’re not picky eaters to begin with, so we were up to trying anything and everything Korea had to offer. The cuisine is filled with many spicy dishes, and soon enough we were able to handle the spice like the locals. Kimchi (fermented cabbage in a red, spicy paste) is a staple at every meal, including breakfast, and we found ourselves enjoying it almost right from the start. Since we’ve been on the road we find that we occasionally get hit with a craving for kimchi! Luckily there are a few Korean grocery stores in Toronto that’ll satisfy our cravings. Korean BBQ is probably one of the most recognizable dishes outside of the country (and it’s delicious), but there’s more to the cuisine than grilled meat. Some of our favourite dishes include kimchi jjiggae (a soup made with kimchi and pork or tuna), pajeon (a large potato pancake filled with green onions and seafood), dalk galbi (spicy chicken and cabbage grilled in a large iron skillet), and nang myeon (a cold noodle soup perfect in the summer months). If you’re into adventurous meals, Korea’s got plenty of those too, including intestines, live octopus tentacles, and even dog meat!

What was the toughest thing about living there?

students in korean schoolFor us, the toughest thing about living in Korea was some of the nuances related to Korean culture. There are a number of things in Korean society we found really hard to accept, even though for Koreans it was normal run-of-the-mill stuff. For example, seeing students going to school from 8am to 5pm, and then going to special after-school academies at night was frustrating to see. Especially when the kids roll into our class and can’t get their heads off the table because they’ve barely slept. The long days at school are just part of the issues faced by students in an increasingly competitive education system.

The language barrier played a daily roll in our lives in Korea and unfortunately the Korean mentality of ‘saving face’ often meant that people who could speak English, wouldn’t, because they were too afraid of embarrassment. This led to numerous games of charades in public, with numerous Koreans standing thinking, “why is this foreigner dancing around like a drunken fool?” Even when we learned basic Korean, there were still things we couldn’t do, like go to a walk-in clinic, deal with household bills over the phone, or order delivery food from any place that didn’t know “the foreigner apartment”. This made us heavily reliant on our ‘co-teachers’, who lucky for us were wonderfully supportive and always willing to help.

Was South Korea an expensive place to live?

Jagalchi Fish Market BusanOf course, ‘expensive’ is a relative term, but in general we would say no, Korea is not an expensive place to live. On the other hand, it isn’t cheap either. Most people coming to Korea to teach will have their housing paid for them, so there is a huge savings right off the bat there. However, for most everyday products, you will pay pretty much the exact same price in Korea as you will in North America. For those living in Seoul or other large cities, you will find yourself probably finding it a little harder to save money than those living in less populated areas, simply due to the larger supply of forms of entertainment. Restaurants are generally pretty cheap compared with the west. A couple can dine for roughly $15 with a drink each. Bars on the other hand are not as cheap, with most drinks costing between $4-6. If you’re like us and want to save a bunch of cash, it can be pretty cheap to drink at home, especially if you’ve developed a taste for soju ($1/bottle). You can also expect your monthly utilities (hydro, gas, internet, phone) to be slightly cheaper than they are back home.

What were the highlights of your 2 years there?

Korean MasksExperiencing Korean hospitality: Being welcomed into a Korean household is a really special thing. If you arrive as a guest, you’ll leave as a friend. If you come as a friend, you’ll leave as a member of the family. There is almost no end to the generosity and care the Koreans show to their guests. It truly is amazing.
Making a good lesson plan, and then having it succeed: We both worked really hard on making our classes as fun and educational as possible for our students. For both of us, there were some really big road blocks in the classroom, but it made it that much sweeter when we learned how to avoid the pitfalls and really get a message across to a group of learners. Seeing the ‘light bulb’ go off in a student’s head is a really special feeling.

Traveling and learning about Korea: Being nestled between the economic and cultural giants; China and Japan, Korea is often an afterthought for travelers looking to come to Asia. For us, seeing what the country had to offer really opened our eyes to how dynamic Korea really is. It seems that almost every week there is a festival happening somewhere in the country, and with a relatively cheap and incredibly comprehensive transportation system, it’s really easy to get from one place to another with little to no stress at all.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to go to Korea to teach?

Lotus Lantern Festival, SeoulLearn to read Hangeul (Korean alphabet) and speak a little Korean. Hangeul is nothing like Chinese or Japanese characters. It’s very simple to read and write, and the sounds associated with each character are very similar to sounds in English. The Korean language is a little more difficult than the alphabet, however learning how to greet someone, order food, and general courtesies really isn’t too hard to do. Accomplishing both of these things will really open you up to more possibilities, instead of just going to the same old places and eating the same food because you know they understand a little English there. Believe us, learning even a little Korean was a really liberating experience, and it also showed the Koreans we were serious about being a positive addition to their society.

Don’t expect Korea to adapt to you. This is pretty much the one thing most people have difficulty accepting. The amount of times we both thought, “well back home this would never happen,” or “why don’t they just do it like this” was really frustrating, simply because it didn’t make a lick of difference what we thought. The reality is, you can’t change the country, and even if you could, is that really the right thing to do? What you can change however is yourself or your mindset. There may be some things that won’t mesh with who you are, but do your best to go with the flow, and if you are going to reject an idea, do it quietly. However, there are some really great ideas in Korea, and you may just find yourself doing things the Korean way when you get home.

Got any questions about life in South Korea?

Post your comments and questions below and we’ll get Arienne and Tristan to reply! Check out their video of leaving Canada and arriving in Korea.

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Cost Saving Tips for Traveling South Korea

By Arienne Parzei 

Cheap holiday in KoreaGenerally speaking, South Korea is not an expensive country to visit. It falls right in the middle of the price spectrum when comparing it to Japan and China. Lodging, transportation, and food are the three main areas where our money is always being spent. After living in South Korea for 2 years, I’ve found some ways that have helped me stretch my wallet a little further, and in turn will help you get the most out of your won while traveling through the country.

Refill Your Water Bottles

How to save money in South KoreaThis one makes the list for many other countries and South Korea is no exception. In fact, South Korea makes it extremely convenient to refill your water bottles. Koreans love their water dispensers. They are easily found at train stations, in food courts of malls, rest stops along the highway, and airports. The machines are free to use and dispense both cold and hot water (convenient if you like a cup of tea or a cheap meal of ramyeon). Not only is refilling your water bottle great for your wallet, but also for the environment too.

Stay in Love Motels

Love motels in SeoulDorm-style hostel rooms will be your cheapest option when you’re staying in Seoul. But if you will be travelling around other parts of the country, staying at a love motel will actually work out cheaper based on a double occupancy. Love motels get their name because Koreans can rent these rooms by the hour and, ahem…display their love for one another. But for travelers these rooms can be a great deal. They’ll usually come equipped with a queen-sized bed, a large TV, mini-fridge with refreshments free of charge, bathrooms that sometimes have jacuzzis, air conditioning, and even a computer with Internet capabilities. These rooms can cost you as low as $30 a night! Most of them are located around bus terminals and train stations, with a number of them clustered together. So feel free to shop around for the one you like. And don’t be afraid to even ask to see the room before handing over your payment. I’ve never had a problem with asking to see a room and making a decision afterwards.

Get a T-Money Card

Soul T-Money cardsIf you’re going to be traveling in South Korea for a length of time (more than a week or two), I’d recommend picking up a T-Money Card. This is a rechargeable card that you can use to get on and off the subway in Seoul. It’s beneficial for not only saving you money (100won off the base fare) but also for saving you time, as you’ll have to buy a single journey ticket each and every time you want to take the subway. You can also use the card to pay for taxis, inner-city buses, payphones, and purchases at convenience stores. The card costs 3,000won (roughly $3) and can be purchased at any convenience store.

Eat at Small “Hole-in-the-Wall” Shops

It’s been my experience that the best places to eat food in Korea are at small “hole-in-the-wall” shops, ones that look like little mom and pop restaurants. The food tastes better and is cheaper than the larger restaurant chains. They’ll usually have a large selection of food; from rice, to noodles, and soup dishes. The only draw back with this option is that their menu will most likely only be written in Korean. In Seoul however, they may even have an English menu for you to choose from. Another option for cheaper food is to use cafeterias or food courts in malls. They’ll always have a large display of fake food (my favourite for choosing!) of everything on the menu, along with the price listed beside each dish. You’ll then order at a single counter, be given a ticket number, and wait for one of the food vendors to ring your number.

Pre-Drink at a Corner Store

Cheap pre drink drinks at family martIf you’re looking to have a big night out with your friends, your bill can become rather large if you spend the entire night drinking at a bar. Instead, get your night started at a Family Mart, GS25 or Buy the Way. These are all corner stores that you can easily find on almost any street corner, anywhere in Korea. To make things even easier, many of these shops will have small patio sets outside their doors so you can have a place to sit and enjoy your drinks. It’s perfectly legal in Korea and you’ll see many people doing this. If you want to drink like the locals, pick up a bottle of soju (330mL bottle of 20{bec4beb4183ddc16376e6eff89836f2abe3407e857522bf84005ba0ad48d654d} alcohol for a whopping 1,500won!) and drink it straight or mix it with some juice. One bottle will definitely get your night started on a happy note.

Coffee on the Cheap(er)

The Hello Kitty cafe in SeoulI’m the kind of gal who needs a cup of coffee in the morning. If I can’t get one I’ll usually get the caffeine withdrawal headache by early afternoon and then I’m not a happy camper. In Korea, drip coffee does not exist like we know it back in North America. The type of drip coffee that Korea offers is the fancy, one-cup drippers that’ll run you $5-6 a cup! Instead, many Koreans opt for the instant, all-in-one packets of coffee, and use the water dispensers (as mentioned above) to get their hot water. If this isn’t an option for you and you like your morning coffee in a café, you can still get your café lattes, cappuccinos, etc. But they will run you $3-5, depending on what you’re ordering and where you’re ordering it. If you like black coffee then an americano (espresso with hot water) will do the trick. And if you like some milk and sugar, just ask the person at the counter to add some milk (oo-you in Korean) to your americano and voilà, you just made a cheaper “drip coffee” than ordering one of the fancy espresso mixed drinks.

Arienne Parzei is a travel writer, videographer, and photographer from Toronto, Canada. Her insatiable curiosity for learning about different cultures first-hand has led her to some amazing destinations and experiences, including climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, living in South Korea for two years, and backpacking for eight months through China, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. She shares her travel experiences on her website www.seeyousoon.ca and hopes to inspire you in the process.

10 Things to do in Seoul on a Budget

History, Food, People, Nature and Fun! These are great words to describe Seoul, the capital city of South Korea. Seoul may not on a list of the most beautiful cities or the most popular tourist spot in the world, but Seoul has everything travelers are hoping for. Beautiful in all 4 seasons, fun activities all around the city, rich cultures to learn, warm hearted people to meet and lots of exotic cuisines. Now, I introduce you 10 great things to do on a tight budget plan in Seoul.

Get historical

Seoul is a very historic city. Over 600 years, Seoul has been Korea’s capital city. Seoul city has done a great job preserving Korea’s history.

First, I recommend you visit Gyungbok-gung (Gyungbok Palace), Seoul’s principal Palace. Built in 16th century during Josun Dynasty, but ruined by Japanese invasion and renewed in 19th century. Start with the National Palace Museum which has all history about Gyeongbok Palace. From the main gate you can see the architectural beauty of the Palace.

Moreover, various performances happen during the weekend, such as the ceremony of the opening and closing of the palace gate and also the changing of the guard. There’s also traditional Korean musical instruments and the actual outfits they used to wear in the old days.

There’s more than just Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul, there are many other Palaces around this area. Changdeok Palace, Deoksu Palace, Jongmyo, and Changgyeongung Palace. All these palaces have different history, and architecture to explore.

Just beside Gyeongbok Palace, the greatest museum in country, The National Folk Museum of Korea. The museum is free to enter and is the best way to learn about the people and culture of Korea. How people are living in Korea before and now. Farm life, food, Hanbok (Korean traditional clothes), and of course the royals. You can experience Hanbok by yourself too!

Don’t forget to visit Insadong, a major historical tourist spot, just a block away from the museum. Make sure you try some Korean tea at Insadong.

Experience the history of Korea. The best way to start the journey!

Be cultural

See a Musical in Seoul. It is not Broadway but it has its own charm. Korean theater is getting more popular. Seoul is becoming the center of culture in Korea and the best thing about theater in Seoul is you can be really intimate with actors. Most theaters are small, just 100 seats or so, but it’s not a downside. Audiences get to participate to make a different conclusion at one show (under 30,000 won/25 USD per a seat).

There are many movies too. Nowadays Korean directors have won many international film awards. Catch some great Korean films and many other foreign movies at cinemas (8000 won/6 USD per person).

Can’t leave out live music when we mention Seoul’s culture. There are many live music bars in many areas, Jazz, Blues and of course Rock. Sometimes bands are just playing in the park or streets. Feel some culture!

Flatter the taste buds

Korea is known for it’s spicy food. But that’s not all. You will be very surprised when you see the huge variety of cheap and delicious delicacies. Food is a big part of Korea’s culture. There are many Korean restaurants too but the street foods are definitely worth to try it. Tteok bok I (rice cake with hot-sweek sauce), Umuk(Fish paste), Mandoo, Dak ggo chi(chicken on a stick) to name but a few. You can have a feast for just 2000 won/1.6 USD per person.

Be a nature lover

Yes. Seoul is a big built up city but they have made an effort to preserve and create nature friendly places. You will notice there’s a big river in the middle of the city called Han River. Recently renewed, both sides of the river amazing parks. Large grass fields, a running track, bicycle friendly roads and trees everywhere. On a sunny day, sit besides the river and just enjoy the view.

Other big parks are in the city too. Haneul Park near World cup stadium, Youngsan Park, Citizen Park, and Namsan Park, etc. These are the main forest parks but they all have a different charms.

Recently Seoul redeveloped the  city centre, mixing the old with the new city. For example at Cheonggye cheon there used to be a stream but it has now been reclaimed. So Seoul decided to build a stream like it used to be but fancier. Now there’s a waterfall, sitting areas and rocks. This is fast becoming a really nice spot to take a little break for citizens.

You’ll find Seoul is a nature loving city. The parks are a nice break from a busy city.

Go hiking

If you look at a map of Korea, or Seoul, you will notice a lot of narrow contours. Yes Korea is a Mountainous country. Seoul is no exception. Hiking is very popular in Korea and you can guess why!

Around Seoul there are lots of beautiful mountains. Bukhansan (Mt.Bukhan) is located to the North.  A procession of large granite rocks create a superb view and introduce Bukhansan. Superb nature view in a big city is going to be a unique experience.

Most mountains are not difficult for beginners to climb maybe that is why hiking in Seoul is really popular. At the top of the mountain, view of the busiest city in the world surrounded by mountains, can you imagine a view like that?

View, view, view!

Seoul N Tower, located at the top of Namsan (Mountain Nam) is a romantic wide view of Seoul with clean air to breath. The way up the tower is amusing. Gorgeous looking trees and flowers are welcoming you. You can go under the tower or up to the viewer deck, either way you can get a beautiful view.

On the Han River, you can see the tall, thin and gold colored building. It’s the tallest building in Seoul, 63 building. When I was a kid, my family went to Han River Park quite often and I would count floors every time I saw the building. Well, I would failed most of the times because I got bored! At the top of the 63 building there is a viewer deck (7000 won/5 USD). Check out the amazing view surrounded by a large river in the middle of the city.

Great Festivals

Festivals are a great way to have fun for free! Seoul has many festivals almost every month. Various themes, organizations and goals. There’s the ‘Hi Seoul’ Festival, Seoul Jazz Festival, International Women’s Film Festival, Seoul World DJ festival and many more. Seoul even celebrates St.Patrick’s day!

Most festivals are free and sometimes they give out souvenirs. Check information before you visit Seoul, or just visit websites of information centres.

Take a ride

Seoul Metro is very clean, cheap and convenient. You can go out of Seoul by the Metro too. The metro system has so many lines so it can be really confusing to use. Directions can be tricky but once you figure out the system then the subway is the best way to get around Seoul. It’s usually 1000 won per one way ticket but it changes according to distance.

There is also a cable car up to Namsan which has been there for over 40 years. A round ticket is 7500 won and one way ticket is 6000 won. You can climb, but the view in the cable car is phenomenal! I recommend going up by cable car and coming back down by walking. It’s a great way to take beautiful pictures of Seoul.

Be a Bargain Shopper

Traditional markets are a big part of Korean life. In the traditional markets you can get a much cheaper price than in stores. Koreans always like bargain prices. Namdaemun Market, the biggest market in Seoul is where you can see customers haggling for the best price, I often ask them to  “Cut the price if I buy two things!” which I think is a pretty reasonable offer! The concept of  2 for 1 is born in traditional Korean markets I’d say.

Fashion central is also a cheap place to shop. Shinchon or Hongdae area, there are many unique vendor streets. Hand crafted work is available, beautiful clothes or accessories. These are often at great prices but you can still haggle for the a bargain.

Wherever you go, you can easily find traditional markets in town. Learn how to say “Please, can you give me a little cheaper?” in Korean. Believe me, it is useful!

10. Night out

If you’ve now done all of the above what else should you do? I recommend you visit these places again at night! For example, Cheonggye cheon is a beautiful stream that is nice to relax and walk around, right? It is still beautiful at night as well, but has different a vibe. Roads and waters shine by beautiful lights and make a wonderful night time view.

Namsan, the small mountain in the middle of the city, is known as the best spot for a night view of Seoul. The road to Namsan itself is nice too. Seoul N Tower on the top of  Namsan has many colors at night. You can also check out it away from the mountain because Seoul N Tower can be seen far, far away.

All the bridges over Han River are gleaming at night. Each bridge has different a theme. You often see many photographers taking photos of the beautiful bridges. Re-visit, or visit nice places at night and see different side of Seoul!

Overland tour to Seoul

If you’re looking to visit Korea check out this itinerary for a tour from Beijing to Seoul over 14 days, from Intrepid Travel.