Travel Guide – Seoul Korea 2015
After my trip to Croatia I had a short recovery time in London before I headed to Asia. I had always wanted to go to Seoul and I grabbed the chance to have some mother daughter time on a short trip there. Hong Kong has had a fascination with Korea for years and the K-pop phenomenon has long dominated the Hong Kong cultural scene. Korean soaps, pop stars and fashion has made a mark in Hong Kong and doesn’t set to die down any time soon.
Over the years I have slowly noticed that places which normally imported Japanese fashions have switched to all things Korean. I have slowly fallen for the creativity and style, and “Gangham Style” simply put Seoul solidly on the world map. But even after sitting through several episodes of Korean soaps, hearing about the fashions, listening to my friends and family talk about the newest pop stars and what they’re wearing and now 1/2 of my wardrobe comes from Korea I have still never visited. So when my good friend from London (who is Korean) told me she was going back to Seoul for 3 weeks I took it as a chance to go back to Hong Kong and pop into Seoul for a couple of days to see what all the fuss was about.
Here are some tips and places I would like to share after my short trip to Seoul:
- Take a shuttle bus or public transport from Incheon airport to the centre of Seoul it is a long way and it’ll probably cost a bit to get anywhere.
- Be aware that there are international taxis and they cost more then regular taxis, we asked the hotel for a card saying the address of the hotel in Korean.
- Don’t be afraid to try new things, Korean cuisine is great and like Chinese they like small plates which you can share. We went to a simple noodle place on our first night for dinner and they had great dumplings, kimchee, spicy noodles and soup noodles.Take a wander and just take a punt on something you never know what you will find.
- Go to the department stores – Shinshegae and Lotte are great places to go and have a walk around. They have great food halls plus they stock loads of local designers. Go to the food hall and pick up some traditional mandu (Korean dumplings), bibimbap, or Korean Chicken. Also don’t forget to try some great pastries and coffee, Koreans love coffee and pastries and they do it so well, you could get lost there for the whole day. Don’t forget that they have a duty free department at the top of the store in Lotte, stock up on Korean cosmetics but beware it does get extremely busy, best sharpen those elbows – don’t forget you can get tax back on your purchases.
- Walk up and down Garosu-gil and check out the shops down this incredible shopping street. Don’t be afraid to wander down the side streets as there are loads of little independent shops. Karis is a little gem of a store which we found along the side streets filled with beautiful bags of different shapes and sizes made of brushed and printed leather with a textured print with the most beautiful details. I had to bring one back myself, not to mention a photo of their beautiful shop, my cobalt blue Iris Boston back is something I haven’t stopped using since I returned from Seoul.
- Go and visit the Gentle Monster store just off Garosu-gil and wander around their intriguing “5th Space” shop. It is one of the most impressive and inspirational stores I have ever been to, a concept store reflecting the theme of “Home and Recovery”. Just look at the different ways they display their sunglasses and glasses in such unique and hauntingly beautiful way.
- Visit the Rachel Cox shop, they have some incredible shoes and they are made and designed in Korea. I love my sparkly white slip on trainers and they get loads of compliments, check out my instagram account for a photo of them, follow me for daily updates.
- While wandering the back streets stop for a place to eat. Japanese food is prevalent in Seoul and we had some tasty examples while we were there. Unochubo was one we found for lunch and they do a set lunch menu for a great price. (524-14 Sinsa-dong, Gingham-gu). According to my friend and tour guide the restaurant is headed by a famous chef who was actually there while we were eating, he also has a bunch of cookbooks which adorn the walls.
- Try a Bingsu – Even though it was coming on Autumn when I went to Seoul I had to try Bingsu which is a popular snack food in Korea. It is shaved ice with a flavouring added to it traditionally red bean. We popped into the first place we saw in order to have one which turned out to be a 1960s coffee shop and ours came complete with red bean, cake and ice cream with green tea flavouring. I wasn’t complaining although it was extremely big even for 3 people to share.
- Do coffee – I have discovered that Korean’s love to do coffee and they have some incredible coffee shops and bakeries to sit back and have a cup, a slice of cake and a chat with friends. L’atelier in Itaewon was the most impressive – just see the interiors! If swanky isn’t for you then there are loads of others including dog cafes and cat cafes if you miss your furry friend at home.
- Take a wander around the cute little streets of Itaewon. The new and up coming area of Itaewon intrigued me. With a vibe to rival Dalston it felt like I wasn’t in a big city at all. Trendy little shops of independent designers and retailers fill the streets. Even little cafes and restaurants, plus i’ve been told some really cool bars are here at night. Take a wander through the streets and you’ll understand what I mean. Even the traffic cones match the shop exteriors, now that is attention to detail.
- Take a walk around Myeong-Dong and go shopping. Lined with loads of shops especially those selling cosmetics Myeong-Dong is a shoppers paradise and it is filled with weird and wonderful stuff to buy. Take a look in Tony moly for some fun cosmetics such as face masks with animal faces. Or simply just wander around and look in all these amazingly decorated shops which simply had loads of cool stuff to mix into your wardrobe. The accessories and jewellery was the highlight for me while I was there as was the mirrored sunglasses. I stocked up on mirrored sunglasses, jewellery and cosmetics including some lip glosses which I took home for my girlfriends. I now know why people from Hong Kong go to Korea for shopping.
- Go to the Play no More store – not far from our hotel was the Play no more flagship store. This playful brand has made it’s way internationally with K-pop stars and A-listers carrying this cute little bag with a cartoon pair of embellished eyes. I never knew that it was a Korean brand until I saw it here. I had to make my way to their flagship store which simply sold this signature bag in lots and lots of different colours, it is a pretty impressive sight.
- Eat at Bada Steak and sit in their gorgeous pink room under their epic chandelier. Bada Steak is somewhere I have to highlight, even though it isn’t Korean cuisine I had a great time and meal here, at Bada Steak you get Italian food done beautifully. We tucked into a starter of fresh octopus salad with tomatoes all serves on miss matching plates and cutlery. Followed by a tomato pasta and a whole fish fish served grilled sitting on a little spicy tomato sauce filled with baby tomatoes, garlic and olives. They go to the fish market everyday and choose the freshest fish to serve that night, they draw it on the wall everyday and you can buy whatever they have. Love all the quirky aspects to this restaurant which makes this place so special and worth a visit while you’re in Seoul.
Before I knew it my trip had come to an end, I was so gutted that I couldn’t stay longer but it was a good amount of time to get a good taste of Seoul. We stayed at the Westin Chosun which was perfectly situated for shopping.
I found Seoul a little like Tokyo where you just have to take a leap of faith and go into different places just to take a look. Don’t worry about getting lost in translation just go for it, go for a wander and find different places to see, eat and shop. I loved seeing the care and attention which Koreans put into their surroundings, it is unlike any city I have ever been to and I understand the fascination which people have around their creativity and culture. I have been converted and I definitely want to go back sometime in the future, it’s another city on my map which is perfect to explore.
Have you been to Seoul? What did you see and do you have any recommendations for the next time I go?