While I knew I didn’t want to just book onto a guided tour package for the entirety of my trip because I already had plenty in mind to see, I was also very, what’s the word, cautious/anxious about travelling alone to a place where I could barely speak the language. I know the essentials and basics but my pronunciation is, as expected, terrible!
I’m perfectly fine with being in my own company and I rarely consider ‘oh what must people think of me, adventuring alone’, but I found that planning my trip day by day, including hours that I didn’t actually end up sticking to and a back-up list of restaurants, helped to ease my anxieties about getting lost, having to find places to eat, etc. and ensured that I managed to hit up most if not all of my ‘places to visit’. I’m such an awkward human that I’m ‘that guy’ who not only must know where all the doors are, where the nearest main road and train station, etc. is but also scrupulously studies new currency for ages before arriving in the country, to avoid drawing attention to myself in any shape or form. Yep.
You’ll find on my itinerary, therefore, that I was almost completely meticulous about my plans, including prices for tourist attractions, the expected distance to travel between stations on the subway and even which station to change at! Of course, everybody is different but I suffer with waves of travel (particularly public transport!) anxiety and I even do this meticulous planning in London and Hong Kong whenever I’m venturing to a completely new destination.
Having said that, of course I still managed to lose myself, discovering some gorgeous other spots in the process, I think I only visited one of the foodie places that I wanted to and there’s always time to see more places the next time I visit, eh? I didn’t really end up sticking to my original plans (see those here) but had a pretty successful trip, sights and timing wise, so the bits included below are what I actually ended up doing.
Without further ado, here’s what I got up to in Seoul, February 2016. For full transparency and just as a benchmark of spending, I took ₩675000 and ended up spending around ₩575000, as one traveller who ate plenty, visited a handful of tourist spots, picked up souvenirs and shopped an average-amount-for-a-blogger 😉 Also! Scroll to the bottom for my wholly interactive map, colour-divided by proposed day.
d a y O n e:
Gyeongbokgung Palace, Bukchon Hanok Village, Samcheongdong. Palaces and shopping.
d a y T w o:
Nami Island and Petite France, N Seoul Tower.
d a y T h r e e:
Brunch, Hongdae, K-pop Star Road, Han River Cruise/Rainbow Bridge. K-pop tourist and fashion shopping day.
d a y F o u r:
Myeongdong, Gangnam, COEX Mall. Hot spots and stylish Seoul.
The Daisybutter Map to Seoul:
My tips & recommendations:
- Seoul is awesome for tourist information centres and the people that operate them are overwhelmingly friendly and helpful. On the whole, you’ll find they speak Korean, English, Mandarin and Japanese. Likewise, most subway stations have free maps and tourist guides available in these four languages that I’d recommend picking up. My Airbnb host went ahead and picked some up for me and even noted down all the relevant bus routes for me!
- N Seoul Tower: Expect huge queues for the sunset to nightfall slots. I queued for over an hour! The cable car ticket doesn’t include a ticket up the tower itself, but you get a pretty awesome view on the standard observatory deck (where the restaurants and lovelock gates are!).
- Changdeokgung Palace: I think I enjoyed Changdeokgung more than Gyeongdeokgung Palace, purely because of the beautiful Secret Garden. You’ll need to book a guided tour slot for this (English: 11.30am, 2:30pm and 3:30pm) and the tour is entirely on foot for an hour and a half. It’s quite steep in parts and I’d recommend trainers or sturdy boots! Seriously, I’m going to go again when I visit in a different season. I 100% recommend visiting!
- Myeongdong: If you’re a reader that has all the world in common with me, you NEED to hit up Myeongdong. This is your mecca for Korean skincare and excellent street eats (although I’d recommend Dongdaemun for the best street food I found). My favourite brands are Missha, The Saem, Innisfree, Laneige and Etude House, if you’ve never dipped your toe into the heady world of Korean beauty before! Once you reach Myeongdong station, simply take Exit 8 and you’ll see the main shopping street. Here you’ll also find plenty of amazing boutiques and cafes, Lotte Plaza (amazing, infamous department store and home of the SMTOWN pop-up) and the LINE Friends flagship. My recommendations? Brand Market (for those knits, dresses and coats you always see me wearing; it’s down a set of stairs), the Hello Kitty Café (duh) and the above beauty brands.
- Download the Korea Subway app! If you’re anxious about travelling and navigating the city, this app is a godsend. I actually ended up travelling on foot or by bus like a true local for much of my trip but this app helps you map out your route and tells you which door to exit from, etc. The subway is a little more complicated than the London underground or Hong Kong’s MTR, but nothing unmanageable. Click here to download!
Some links I think you’ll find useful:
- Rachel’s blog for travel posts
- This site to book the Nami Island and Petite France in One Day tour
- The Airbnb private room I stayed in (based in Itaewon and the host is lovely!)
- Korea Subway app – another Rachel recommendation!