In this world, change is the only constant thing, and K-pop. I jumped into the bandwagon a few years ago and I couldn’t get off, yes, I’m addicted to all things Korean: hallyu, korean food, korean cosmetics, k-pop, k-dramas, Big Bang, etc. I’m beyond excited planning this trip, to Eat, Shop and Fall in Love with Seoul.
Our 5-days Seoul itinerary is the second leg of our extended vacation coming from our one week adventure in Japan. Compared to our intense and hectic itinerary in Japan, our Korean style consists of easygoing activities, laid back sightseeing / oppa spotting, oversleeping and chicken and beer. No wonder, I left my heart in Seoul.
Where to Stay?
Myeong-dong is the place to be. It is a haven of all things beauty, discounts and street food! There are plenty of budget and high end hotels, hostels and AirBNB around the area. I highly recommend staying here if you’re looking to stroll around all day or late at night to shop, eat or have a drink or two. This is also a perfect spot for when you’re tired of shopping and want to rest or leave your partner at the hotel, it’s just a block or few steps away, then come back again for another round.
What’s good in Myeongdong is that almost every corner has a free wi-fi connection, or make that, almost every corner of Seoul has wi-fi connection. It’s fast and reliable that I didn’t even bought a local sim with me during our stay.
Day One – Early Check In, Myeong-dong, Cat Cafe
Our flight from Haneda Airport via Peach Aviation reached Incheon Airport early morning. While buying time at the airport to charge our phones, we collected some brochures for friends who want to visit Korea for Medical purposes. As we all know Korea is known for world-class aesthetic surgeries. Seriously making me jealous, these korean girls are flawless in every angle.
Before I can even stop counting which part of my body needs work, we took the Airport Limo bus going to Myeong-dong. Super convenient as it has room for trunk luggage and on-board too. It leaves every 10 minutes and fare is 15000 won per person. It also stops at major hotels around the city. Travel time is around 1.5 hours and we just have to walk a little less than 10 minutes from the bus stop to our accommodation. For airport limousine route information, please check the official website.
The oppas from the hostel counter were kind enough to accommodate our early check-in request and we get a good size standard room with attached bath. So first things first, our sleep deprived body was aching for a really good nap for the rest of the morning.
We hit the streets of Myeong-dong by late afternoon to hunt for the best lunch and refill our energy. So when in Korea, of course, first meal should be authentic Korean BBQ! Just writing this on, makes me salivate.
Korean food, check! Now, on to shopping! For Cosmetics and skin care products, I personally favor Korean and Japan brands for my sensitive skin. It works flawlessly all the time and I haven’t got any allergic reactions yet on trying any of their product lines. They understand womens’ need and that is to feel naturally beautiful while you’re actually forgetting that you’re wearing any makeup. My holy grail, bb creams, mascara, toners, facial cleansers, korean masks, etc. If it fits the budget, I’ll hoard it. What’s good in Myeong-dong is that all the beauty brands are lined up on the never ending streets. Each shop also gives you some kind of freebie like facial masks, to lure you in to take a look inside. Plus you get a huge discount for showing your passport at Tourists tax refund counters before you checkout.
Next stop is the Cat Cafe. We had a chance encounter with the Cat mascot while aimlessly wandering around Myeongdong. And decided, hey, it would be fun to waste an hour to cuddle and see these kitties. And no regrets at all, it is so fun that I, a dog person, melted for cats. They’re too adorable, too fat and knows how to pose for cameras too.
We cap off the night with the famous Chicken and Beer. Yes, all that I learned from watching Korean drama boils down to eating and drinking. They serve all sorts of chicken flavors for all variety of beers, from sweet, medium spicy to fiery hot!
We’re off to a good start, Seoul. Well played, well played.
Day Two – Gyeongbokgung Palace, National Folk Museum, Bukchon Hanok Village, Myeongdong
Still catching up with sleep, we started off late on Day 2. Found our way to Myeongdong subway station at mid-day and got this pair of cute Line friends T-money cards to use for our bus, subway and taxi journeys.
First stop is Gyeongbokgung Palace to check out the changing of royal guard ceremony. It happens every hour from 10 in the morning till 3 in the afternoon. The palace is the largest amongst the 5 grandest palaces built in Joseon Dynasty and served many Kings and the government of Joseon.
Located near the subway exit, we drop by the National Palace Museum of Korea first and was overwhelmed that majority of visitors were dressed up in Hanbok or traditional korean clothing. Costume rentals flourished the area around the palace so it’s easy to pick and drop these rented hanbok depends on how many hours you intend to do a Joseon era photo session.
Of course, my Korean experience won’t be complete without being a Royal Lady for a day. Did you know that dressing up in traditional dress gets you a free admission around South Korea’s Grand Palaces?
After returning the rented hanbok, we continued to walk towards the entrance to National Folk Museum. We made a brief stop at the giant radish before heading to Bukchon Hanok Village.
It was an easy 30 minutes walk as we were entertained with the hip vibe along Samcheong-dong alleys. Loving this neighborhood for it’s artistic charm, combining the old-traditional to modern architecture. Art cafes, small souvenir shops and chic galleries lined up the alley. How I roll.
Started from the bottom, now were here! The hilly terrain leads to Bukchon Hanok Village for sunset session. This preserved neighborhood dates back to 600-years of urban development. Interesting to know that unlike any other traditional village, the houses here are inhabited, thus minding some guidelines is a must (like keeping the noise low or protecting the owners privacy). Can’t help but muster silly smiles as I re-played some k-drama scenes on my head.
Back at Myeongdong for some more foodgasm.
Day Three – Nami Island, Petite France, N Seoul Tower
One regret in this trip is not waking up early for this day. We started off late in the morning so we have to cram everything up on our day schedule, missing the Garden of the Morning Calm. Sad.
We head off to Gapyeong Station to take the Gapyeong City tour bus going to the port of Naminara Republic. Ticket costs 6,000 won each and can be use multiple times in a day to hop in and hop off to Nami Island, Petite France, Garden of the Morning Calm, Gapyeong Station, Cheongpyeong Station, etc.
Don’t forget to bring your passport with you. From the Nami Island wharf, you’ll have to go through Immigration when buying a ticket for the ferry ride to the Island. You can also opt to do the zipline if you’re up for an adventure to get to the other side.
After securing our Naminara Visa (Admission fee and ferry fare – 13,000 won), we hop in for a short ferry ride with a bunch of locals and tourists. Nami island became famous for being featured in Winter Sonata. Too bad it isn’t winter but still the place is awesome for picnics, family time, couple bonding, friends outing or even find a quiet spot for your self.
Ostrich, bike rentals, playgrounds, fish pond, rest areas and restaurants are amongst the interesting things to check out. And look, those colorful backgrounds are individual books, installed for the Nami Island International Children’s Book Festival. I would definitely go back on a different season to see this beauty again.
Now, off to Petite France. It’s a 25 minutes bus ride from Nami island. This French-themed village houses french-style buildings, exhibition halls, lodgings and restaurants. I first saw it on TV as a location for Running Man and My Love from the Star.
As we were pressed for time, and made a very silly mistake of thinking that our flight was going to be early morning the next day, we skipped Garden of the Morning Calm. It’s also because it’s a 45 minutes bus ride from Petite France and sundown might not be the best time to visit the garden. Will save it for next time.
Off to Namsan Seoul Tower for a mandatory couple love lock. It’s cheesy but thinking of it now, makes me excited to go back and check our expensive locks. Locks, because we had two. We have to buy from one of the convenience store and it’s a bit pricey annnnd, I accidentally dropped the first lock down the bushes. Whoops.
Day Four – Namdaemun Market, Lotte Mart, Myeongdong Cathedral, Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Cheonggyecheon Stream
Woke up happy realizing that we actually still have 2 days left to spend in Seoul.
Went to Namdaemun Market to catch up on some souvenir items and retail goods. Next stop is Lotte Mart to bring home some Korean snacks. Highly recommend you visit Lotte Mart, not only did we enjoy shopping for local goods, we get to sample a lot of free products from the taste test counters. Happy tummy, happy me.
Back at Myeongdong to drop off all the goodies before heading out for the night. We stop by Myeongdong Cathedral just a few blocks away.
Head out to Dongdaemun Design Plaza and Cheonggyecheon Stream.
Day Five – Myeongdong Cathedral, Incheon Airport
Before we left Seoul, we decided to visit Myeongdong Cathedral again to give thanks for the opportunity to travel and to wish to be back again soon.
Last minute shopping at Myeongdong and I have to hunt for a bigger luggage to accommodate our shopping goods before heading to the airport via the Airport Limo bus.
This trip has deepen my connection with South Korea. I didn’t get the chance to meet Lee Min-ho, Lee Jong-suk, Song Joong-ki or any Oppas I adore but my stomach is obviously happy and my heart is full and that is enough.
Thank you Seoul. Would definitely be back to eat, shop and fall in love again with Seoul.