Korea is definitely something else, if you haven’t been before culture shock beckons. The Koreans are lovely, welcoming and hospitable and they do their best to try and speak English. This often does not work as well as one would hope, so bring a mini-dictionary (with pictures) and plan your itineraries ahead.
Gyeongbokgung Palace – cc license flickr photo by murmu
Buildings and Attractions
Seoul is huge with lots to see, so it would be wise to put aside a few days on your itinerary to spend here. In terms of sights, the imposing Gyeongbokgung Palace is at the top of the list. For lovely city views head to the N-Seoul Tower, positioned on top of Namsan Mountain. A really unique place to visit is the DMZ – DeMilitarized Zone, a must-experience if you are into the controversial political and military history of North and South Korea.
To have a glimpse of what life might have been like in the past, visit the tranquil historic Korean Folk Village in Suwon, where you’ll find many traditional furnishings, clothing, handcrafts and period architecture as well as recreations of traditional ceremonies to admire. It is located 2 hours outside of the city, but well worth taking the time out for. If short on time however, make a stop at Namsan Hanok Folk Village park in downtown Seoul instead.With cheap flights to Seoul readily available, you can enjoy all it has to offer.
Food and Drinks to Watch Out For
Like other Asian cultures, a similar type of savoury food is served three times per day. Koreans are avid meat-eaters and enjoy their pungent flavours, lead by an assorted selection of all things pickled, from the popular kimchi cabbage to ginger and you-name-it. In fact, I suspect that pickle-making is considered something of a competitive art in this country and there are few things indeed that do not end up head first in a vinegar concoction. Just be aware that dog meat is part of the traditional cuisine, so try and find out what’s in a dish before you order. Vegetarians should head straight to plentiful Buddhist restaurants instead, although many establishments will now offer a token veggie dish as well.
For colourful nightlife and restaurants galore head to either Hongdae or Shichon student district. If you are confident enough, make sure to stop by one of the many noraebang karaoke rooms!
If you have a chance, do partake in the traditional Korean Tea Ceremony or darye. Alternatively, there are plenty of traditional teahouses, where you can relax and let your tired feet rest for a while.
Shoppers will love Namdaemum Market, where you can find anything from souvenirs to bargains on clothing, handicrafts and many street food stalls. For those that don’t enjoy shopping that much, it’s a good one stop shop for any last minute gifts before leaving Korea. For those that love their quality souvenirs, Insadong Street is unmissable for traditional Korean arts, crafts and stationery.