A weekend getaway in Seoul

Posted by on May 5, 2016 in Asia, South Korea, Travel | 0 comments

A weekend getaway in Seoul

There is no shortage of palaces, temples and other sites to see in Seoul, but instead we opted for a relaxing weekend exploring different areas on foot, eating street food and window shopping boutiques and markets.

Seoul is a vibrant city, particularly at night when it’s lit up in all it’s neon glory.

There’s an energy pulsing through the streets, a sense of fun without the sleaziness.

 

Getting around

The metro is easy to use and will take you anywhere you want to go.  I loved that the seating area for the elderly and pregnant was sacred, and even on a busy subway no-one would sit there!

The Airport Express train from Incheon takes about 45 minutes and drops you off in the city at Seoul Station.  The train is great with comfortable allocated seats and free wifi, definitely my preference over the bus and only 8,000 won.

 

Where to stay

We stayed in a great studio located in Jonggak, it was right by the subway, an easy walk to Insa-dong and Myeon-dong and surrounded by restaurants and bars.

 

Street near our apartment

 

Where to go

Myeon-dong is a fun tourist area for shopping and eating.  There are big name stores like H&M, Nike and Forever 21, as well as smaller stores offering cheap goods, and plenty of street food to keep your energy up.

There’s a side street of fried chicken places, hilariously KFC is located at the end of the street and unsurprisingly was always empty!

 

Street food fire

 

Insa-dong has a long pedestrian street lined with market stalls where you can get anything from clothing to jewellery and souvenirs.

I happily browsed the stalls admiring the unique fashion styles, and ended up buying a handmade necklace and bag from two lovely vendors.  My only issue was that you can’t try the clothes on as there’s nowhere to do so.

Note it’s not like other places in Asia where you are expected to barter heavily, here the price is what it is.

 

Insadong fans

 

Itaewon is an expat hub full of western restaurants and bars. The main street is busy and full of people trying to sell you stuff, but when you get into the back streets it’s much quieter and there’s plenty of trendy independent cafes and boutique stores.

There’s also an antiques street which is fun to wander along, but note most stores are closed on Sunday.

 

Itaewon antique shop

 

My favourite area was Hongdae / Shinchon around Hongik University.  It has an industrial feel, with small hipster cafes where students worked on laptops and leafy streets.

Nearby is Ewha Womans University which is the place to go for ladies looking to shop cheap clothing, shoes and accessories.

Finally we had to visit Gangnam, made famous by Psy’s hit song. Here we found plenty of luxury brand stores, and the Samsung centre with cool prototypes in an interactive display.

 

Wayne and Em Gangnam

 

 

Korean foods to eat

First things first, fried chicken and beer is definitely the star attraction and you can’t walk a block without passing a fried chicken place.  We went to two and the chicken was quite different at each, one much crispier and the other softer, and with very different sauces.

At most places you’ll get a few side dishes like kimchee complimentary with your meal.

 

Wayne with fried chicken

 

There is a tonne of street food including fried chicken (of course!), rice cakes, chicken skewers, kim bap (like sushi), sausages, noodles, octopus, fruit, egg bread and more.

You could easily eat from the street vendors at every meal and have something different.

The vendors are well regulated with good hygiene standards and the food is served fresh, so it’s safe to eat.

 

Street food skewers

 

Other Korean favourites are BBQ, congee and bibimbap.

We had dumplings and noodle soup at Kyoja in Myeon-dong, a place with only four dishes on their menu and a ticketing system to order.  Not where you would go to hang out for a leisurely dinner, but the food is cheap, fast and tasty.

A few doors down we also ate at Yoogane where they cook up your chosen rice dish on a hot plate at your table.  Obviously nice and fresh, but it was a bit too rice heavy for my liking.

 

Western places to eat

I must confess we ate at a few western places while we were there!

Breakfast at Butterfinger Pancakes, a hugely popular place serving large portions of American style breakfasts like buttermilk pancakes, waffles, eggs and bacon.

At first I was horrified to see that the number 1 rated restaurant on TripAdvisor was not a Korean place, but Mexican restaurant Gusto Taco.  I had to see what all the fuss was about, and turns out it is pretty damn good!  The owner was there to greet us and tell us about their handmade tacos and slow cooked pork.  The iced tea was a refreshing touch, made with organic early grey tea and lemons.

While having Sunday brunch at The Flying Pan Blue we almost could have been in Sydney, with trendy decor and a menu of eggs bennedict, omelettes and salads.

 

Flying Pan Blue

 

We also tried The Flying Pan’s sister restaurant Long Bread, however it was a bit of a disappointment.  The coffee was average, I had a salad that was quite bland, and Wayne had a sandwich (their specialty) which he also wasn’t thrilled about.

I was really keen to visit vegan restaurant Plant, however unfortunately chose to visit on a Sunday which is the one day they are closed!

 

Overall we had a great time in Seoul, a clean and friendly city bustling with great shopping, and a foodies heaven.

 

Canal

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