My initial thoughts of Seoul were that it was going to be fact paced, full of vibrant nights, beautiful historic architecture and great food. I didn’t do as much research as I usually do before going to a country for the first time but I knew that Seoul was known for Korean BBQ and I knew the country was crazy over k-pop of course (oppa gangnam style, op op op op). Shame on me for not knowing more about Seoul because this city has more to offer than I imagined. I blame the fact that planning a 4 month South East Asia trip was enough information to take in as it was. So here I am sharing with you a list of all the things that I loved about Seoul.
First things first – the amazing food
Where do I even start, I ate my heart out in Seoul. I’m not really one for spicy food but I couldn’t resist, so that’s saying something. The Koreans do love a bit of spice and I found myself even craving spicy food by the end of the trip. Bibimbap is one of my favourite dishes (traditional Korean dish of white rice mixed with sautéed and seasoned vegetables, chilli type of paste, a fried egg and meat of your choice) and the Koreans also do great fried chicken. There are many chicken and beer restaurants you can go to but Kkanbu is one you have to try (you have to try their fishcake soup too, surprisingly really good!). Korean BBQ is also a must, although never filling enough for me on it’s own – you’ll see BBQ restaurants everywhere.
Kimchibap at Homemade Meal, Itaewon (left) and Korean BBQ, Itaewon (right)
Street Food, street food everywhere
Tornado potato, grilled meat skewers, grilled sea food, egg bread, french fry covered hot dogs, freshly squeezed lemon, orange and pomegranate juice served in plastic bags with a straw- the list is endless. Myeong-dong has a never ending street food market for around 2,000 won a skewer (roughly £1.15). You will be overwhelmed with the selection (and also won’t stop wanting to eat more and more).
Left to right- egg bread, street food variety, pomegranate juice.
Dessert, milkshakes and coffee cafes everywhere
Milkshake cafes are known as Freakshakes in my hometown (London) which have only started existing in Jan 2016 and are only found in hipster areas, the massive jars of loaded milk, ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate that taste deliciously calorific but look too good (and Instagram worthy) to miss. These cafes are pretty much accessible everywhere in Seoul, it isn’t just a trend and it’s cheaper too.
You won’t miss seeing a Korean with a plastic cup of some sort of drink in their hand on the street. I can guess it was either an iced coffee, bubble tea or a milkshake and it’s because there are so many cafes within kilometres away from another. Also, hipster looking cafes with quirky interior are not too far to find.
Koreans are bloody creative
Yes, Instagram worthy ice creams, penis looking ice creams?, waffles and macaroons filled with ice cream, foot long ice creams and chocolate poo pancakes. It’s crazy how much I’ve seen the Korean’s food creativeness adapt in other countries, well done for that Seoul *clap clap*.
Rose ice cream at Milky Bee in Myeong-dong (left) and Penis looking ice cream at Bukchon Hanok Village (right)
Foot long ice cream at Myeong-dong (left) and Poo pancakes at Ssamji Gil (right)
Transport is easy
The metro is cheap, clean and efficient – costs for travel are around 1250KRW one way (I realise London is completely ripping me off!) and it’s easy enough to understand your way around with english signs everywhere. The stations are well maintained and trains are air conditioned. A plus is that there are vending machines and convenience stores available on platforms if you’re ever feeling peckish and thirsty.
It’s actually relatively inexpensive
During all the planning, I needed to know how much to put aside for Seoul. I knew that it was going to be a bit more expensive in comparison to the South East countries so I read other travel blogs on how to budget for Seoul. Bloggers were mentioning that it was quite expensive that to be on a budget you would have to probably buy super market food and eat at your hostel. So, I originally put £450 aside for spending but when we got there, it wasn’t as expensive as we thought. There were a couple of days we bought instant noodles to eat for lunch but there were also days we splashed out on dinners. If you compare Seoul to Tokyo or Seoul to London even, costs were really not that bad. Read this blog for how much I spent in Seoul.
How the city is remarkably safe
Travelling alone is not a problem here, crime rates are extremely low and when I was at one of the busiest night clubs in Hongdae, guys were just leaving their mobile phones on the table with no worries.
How cute and romantic the city is
There were couples everywhere and the date options are endless hence why I think there are so many creative cafes out there in Seoul. The Koreans have even created their own little tiny Paris to overlook the city with lots of love locks everywhere (fyi the perfect date spot).
This may be as some may say, the foreigners district but I really enjoyed staying here. We stayed at Is@k Hostel around a 7 minute walk from Itaewon station. If you’re feeling for a cuisine that isn’t Korean, this is the place to go as there are a vast variety at your feet from Japanese, Thai, Indian, American, Middle Eastern, Chinese, Brazilian – you name it, it’s there. Not that it really mattered because we were searching for traditional Korean dishes anyway but at least the option is there.
I have to recommend these three places to eat that we found near our Hostel because they deserve it.
Two Broz – Not exactly Korean but their burgers are a must try! Two bothers opened up this burger place back in 2010. The burgers here are fresh and handmade. Their egg and bacon burger was perfect and their chips were seasoned with salt and a bit of spice. A tiny bit expensive for burgers in Seoul but definitely cheaper than a Mc Donald’s meal in London and of much higher quality. Interior was simple and clean with Kendrick Lamar’s album on replay. I had an egg burger on a street stall for much cheaper but it just honestly wasn’t the same.
Homemade Meal – if you’re looking for a cheaper eat around the area of Itaewon for Korean food, this is your place of traditional dishes for around 7,000 won (roughly £4). The restaurant name says it all.
Maybell Bakery and Contran Cherrier – For Maybell bakery, you’ll have to wake up a little early as they open at 11am but everyone queues up at this place prior to opening and by midday everything is gone. The only two things always left were onion bread and a custard creme brioche, so that’s all we got to try because we never made it before the rush. Contran Cherrier, an artisan boulanger created by a innovative french baker who travelled the world, was an exceptional alternative but very expensive in comparison.
Contran Cherrier artisan Boulanger
Architecture and Design
Seoul has a mix of traditional and modern landmarks that are very close to one another. Gyeongbokgung Palace is a stunning example, a palace originally built in 1395 is the largest of all palaces and is situated in between the view of the mountains and city.
One of Seoul’s other major modern landmarks are the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, where nearby are a manmade field of beautifully lit led roses that makes a wonderful stroll in the evening.
Last but not least, one of the main reasons why I would come back to Seoul is for their incredible range of beauty and skincare products that can be found in Myeongdong. I reckon 40% of my wage would probably be spent on face masks, face creams and make up if I lived there, the options are endless. Not only that, clothing is relatively economical, always on trend and of great quality. Gangnam is your place to be if you love a bit of luxury shopping.
Seoul was exactly as I initially thought it would be but better, I was able to travel through the ancient and the modern, I was able to fulfil my hunger with all types of exciting and creative foods, I was able to take both relaxing strolls in the outdoors to energising bright and colourful walks in the city. I was able to party to the early morning with other crazy partiers without a worry and dance along to both english and k-pop. I have more the reason to return because 10 days wasn’t enough to explore what more Seoul has to offer, so for now, looking forward to seeing you again Seoul x
To summarise my trip, check out my Seoul video here.