Whenever my friends in Berkeley tell me they want to visit Korea, I’m eager to present them with the places they must visit. I love Seoul. I’ve lived in Seoul for five years and I’m not thinking of leaving. Seoul is the most convenient city to live in Korea. I love the city vibe, the well-preserved historic sites, the Han River flowing in the middle of the city and the people. People in Seoul are busy and I love to be a part of their energy — it’s very energetic. Also, the best part of Seoul would be the night culture. When it hits 10 o’clock at night, all the people go out downtown to the bars. It’s the most vibrant time of the city. So, it is my utmost pleasure to tell people about my favorite places in Seoul. I highly recommend you put these places on your itineraries.
Hangang (Han River) Parks
Well, this is not just my favorite place in Seoul, it’s everyone’s favorite place. Hangang is huge. It flows through the middle of Seoul. You can easily access any of the parks. There’s a total of 12 parks and the most famous parks are Ttukseom Park (my fav), Yeouido Park and Mangwon Park. The goal with these parks was to provide an eco-friendly environment for citizens of Seoul. It does have a nice urban-nature atmosphere. You can see people biking, jogging, walking, having picnics and enjoying the view of Hangang. The best part of picnics in Hangang is the food delivery. Just order Tteokbokki and chicken and enjoy it with beer. You can easily access convenience stores in any park. Some Hangang parks have skateboard parks, outdoor concert places and swimming pools for kids too. I go to Hangang with my friends whenever I feel like “Oh, it’s a day to go to Hangang.” You can enjoy a beautiful sunset by the scenery of the river, the bridge and the subway crossing the bridge.
Bukchon Hanok Village
Jongno is the district that preserves the history of Korea and Bukchon is one of its neighborhoods. Next to Gyeongbokgung Palace, located at the heart of Seoul, Bukchon Hanok Village is a neighborhood with traditional houses, called Hanok, from the Joseon dynasty. The name “Bukchon” means Northern village, as it is located at the north side of Jongno. Hanoks have been remodeled to guesthouses, restaurants, cafes, tea houses and cultural centers for tourists and locals. It is definitely the best place to experience traditional Korean culture. Some houses in Bukchon are the actual homes of the locals, so be careful and respectful while looking around. After coming down from Bukchon Hanok Village, you can also visit the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) Korea, Seoul Museum of Craft Art and Anguk-dong. The best part of Anguk-dong is that all the signs of stores, which originally have English names such as Starbucks, are written in Korean. It’s a neighborhood that keeps the traditional value of Korea.
Seongsu-dong & Seoul Forest Park
Here’s another park recommendation. Seoul Forest Park is located in the middle of an urban area. It’s a park where you can enjoy a picnic under the sun on a lazy weekend. The best part of Seoul Forest Park is a small neighborhood called Seongsu-dong next to the park. With young artists heading to this neighborhood due to low rent prices back in 2011, Seongsu-dong has become a hot place that targets the younger generation. The old factories have been remodeled to large cafes and galleries for young creatives. Due to this attribute, Seongsu-dong is also called the “Brooklyn of Seoul.” Not only the tourists, but also locals (including myself) flock to Seongsu-dong to visit restaurants, cafes and small shops. Most of these places gained their fame on Instagram. Younger generations in Korea love the “retro” vibe of Seongsu-dong. Even Dior has opened its pop-up store in this neighborhood, attracting visitors with the building that imitated Dior Paris 30 Montaigne. If you are a K-pop fan, don’t forget to visit SM Entertainment’s new building next to Seoul Forest Park.
Inwangsan, located at the back of Gyeongbokgung Palace, is a rocky mountain with a main hiking trail alongside Seoul City Wall. Hanyangdoseong (Seoul City Wall) was built in 1396 to surround and defend Hangyang (Seoul), the capital of Joseon Dynasty. Besides Inwangsan, the wall also passes other main mountains: Bugaksan, Naksan and Namsan. Among these mountains, Inwangsan is my favorite. Along the mountain, there are many cultural centers where you can stop by, enjoy nature and look down at the scenery of Seoul. You can visit Yoon Dongju Literary Museum, a tiny museum devoted to one of the most beloved poets of Korea, Yoon Dongju. If you walk up Inwangsan foothill for five minutes, you would find Cheungun Literature Library, a library that combined the modern building with Hanok, the traditional Korean houses. You can be surrounded by a waterfall, greens and Hanoks while reading a book. You can also visit the Chosochaekbang book cafe that welcomes hikers with books, coffee, bread and beautiful scenery.
Seoul embraces all the generations. Even though Seoul is a city with a busy atmosphere, take your time to enjoy the urban nature and traditional Korean culture. Enjoy your trip to Seoul!