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Seoul, South Korea

Seoul is one of the dream destination of most of the Filipinos now. Thanks to all the Korean dramas, K-pop, Korean barbeques and Korean skincare that have officially taken over not just the Philippines but most of Asia. Personally, Seoul is my second favorite Asian city, next to Tokyo. This is because Seoul is into anything aesthetic and beauty which is what I’m much into.

Also, Seoul is always on the global top ten destination cities. You can’t blame the tourists from around the world, right? Seoul almost has everything – from the world heritage sites to its advanced technology to its underground malls and retails shops to its Korean food and side dishes to its modern design and architecture to its beauty and plastic surgery scene. There’s so much to do and see in this city.

Seoul Facts

Seoul, which is during the Joseon dynasty (the longest dynasty in Korea) called Hanyang or Hanseong, is the capital and largest city of South Korea. Just after Joseon Dynasty in 1897, the Japanese invaded Korea for 35 years, destoying their palaces, culture and economy. Then shortly after freeing themselves from the Japanese invasion, a civil war between North and South Korea began. In 1953, the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which is now also a tourist destination, was made to officially seperate South and North Korea into two sovereign states.

However, there’s no peace treaty signed between two states in 1953 which makes both South and North still at war, without the warfare and clashes. It was only this last April 2018 that both leaders of South and North Korea met in the DMZ and agreed to work on a peace treaty that will officially end the Korean war.

Geography: 

Seoul is located in the Northwest part of the South Korea and comprises 605 square kilometers. Han River flows in the middle of the metropolitan city while eight mountains border the city.

Climate:

Seoul has a temperate and continental climate. August is the hottest month (30°C) while January is the coldest month (-7°C). Best time to go for tourist is during spring (March – April) and autumn (October – November).

SEOUL PRE-TRAVEL GUIDES

Philippines Peso (PHP) is accepted in money changers in Seoul but they prefer the 1,000PHP bill. On my experience, I had a higher conversion (maybe around 200-300PHP more) with my PHP was converted in USD here in Manila then had my USD converted in KRW in Seoul. There’s a lot of money changers around Hongdae, Myeongdong and Dongdaemun.

In getting accommodations, always pick between Hongdae, Myeongdong and Dongdaemun. These places are the most touristy ones and usually most of the tours’ pick-ups are here.

Airbnb rental are much evident in this city than Tokyo. It is also a cheaper alternative than hotels.

Food is a little pricey in Seoul compared to Southeast Asian countries but it is cheaper than Tokyo’s. One decent meal might costs P300-P400 while their street foods start with P100. Make a P1,000 budget/day for your meals.

How to go to SEOUL

FROM MANILA:

There are numerous airlines that offer direct flights everyday from Manila to Seoul. They are Philippine Airlines, Korean Airlines, Asiana Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Jeju Air and AirAsia. Travel time takes 3 hours and 30 minutes but due to the one hour time difference of Seoul to Manila, you’ll arrived to Seoul in 4.5 hours.

Regular airfare to Incheon (where the airport serving Seoul is) is almost 12k PHP above. A 8,000 PHP airfare is already a good deal while it can go down to 3,000 PHP (with taxes) during piso seatsales.

*All prices here are when booked 6 months prior the travel dates. Seat sales are usually based on their promotional posters.

AirAsia
11,500 PHProundtrip
  • Seat Sale:
  • 4,000 PHP
Cebu Pacific
14,500 PHProundtrip
  • Seat Sale:
  • 4,000 PHP
Philippine Airlines
23,000 PHProundtrip (w/ 20kg bag)
  • Seat Sale:
  • 15,000 PHP
Jeju Air
11,000 PHProundtrip
  • Seat Sale:
  • 5,000 PHP

GOINg Around SEOUL

Getting around Seoul is easy for they have an efficient transportation system such as their trains and buses that connects whole Seoul and its neighbouring regions. You can almost go anywhere within the city with the subway.

If you’re commuting around Seoul, it is better to avail their T-money to avoid lining up everytime for single journey tickets or creating unnecessary line on the bus entrance while counting money. Fare is also 100 won cheaper when you’re using T-money than single journey tickets/cash. Additional bonus is that you can use it as well on convenience stores!

It costs 2500KRW (~125PHP) but you can also avail it in Klook to save you the hassle.

SUBWAY

Unlike in the Philippines, Seoul’s subway is a heaven sent to the locals and tourists. It is the most efficient and cheapest mode of transportation when going around Seoul. Almost all tourist attractions have a nearby subway stop. You can download their Subway Seoul app to help you in navigating and transfers on different subway lines.

TAXI
Seoul City Guide

Photo from visitkorea.or.kr

If budget isn’t an issue, you can take taxis when roaming Seoul since most of the drivers are already good in English. You can easily spot them since they are color coordinated depending on their classification. The base fare of a standard cab starts at 2,800KRW.

BUS

Seoul City guide

Buses are also another way to roam around Seoul but it is more tricky to navigate than the subway. Unlike in Singapore where I can use Google Maps to know on what bus number and bus stop I can hop on/off, Seoul is not Google Maps friendly. In order to know what bus number to ride, you can do advance research of the places you wanted to go.

PRIVATE CARS
Seoul City guide

photo credits to klook.com

If you’re not a fan of public transportation and can afford some luxury travel, then book a private car via Klook. It is comfortable since you’ll have your own car. Also, it is efficient since you can also choose create your own custom itinerary that the driver will follow. This is also good for big groups.

ACCOMMODATION

HONGDAE AIRBNB

Seoul City Guide

On our family Seoul travel last Winter 2019, we booked a 3 bedroom airbnb since we are 3 families. Almost all airbnbs in Myeongdong are already booked so we settled in Hongdae which is something new. Hongdae might be on the other side of Seoul but I love the energy (this is the university area of Seoul) and how cheaper the shops here compared in Myeongdong.

The airbnb is a little crowded for 15 people but we loved our place because its quiet despite it is just near some shops, clean and spacious common area. You can sign up to Airbnb using my referral link so we’ll both get discounts!

Seoul City guideSeoul City guide

SUMMIT HOTEL DONGDAEMUN

But on our first visit in 2015 (back to where airbnbs are still not famous), we checked in in Summit Hotel Dongdaemun. The hotel has a good location in Dongdaemun, it is just a 5 minute walk away from the DDP, the malls and to a lot of restaurants. It is a 4-star hotel, big and clean. The receptionists can also speak well in English. We got the Royal Twin Room that cost us around P5,000/night.

The downside of this hotel is that the room has little space to walk around especially with open luggages; and that at night, the sidewalks are a little dark and scary to walk to.

Seoul City Guide

Seoul City Guide

As I’ve told in the travel guide above, it is better to stay in Seoul, Myeongdong, Dongdaemun and Hongdae area. These areas are the very much alive during the night and are the usual pick-up points of the tours. But honestly, you can stay anywhere in Seoul because they have an efficient train system.

*All hotel prices below are in Philippine peso.

Guesthouse
P500 - P1500per night
  • Hostel Korea Original - P759
  • K pop Guesthouse Seoul - P1,057
  • FunFun Stay Guesthouse Hongdae - P1179
  • Gyerim Guesthouse Myeongdong - P1,232
  • Beewon Gusthouse - P1,405
Budget Hotels
P1,500 - P4,000per night
  • Sieoso Hotel Seoul - P3,355
  • Philstay Myeongdong - P3,745
  • Benikea Noble Hotel - P3,050
  • City Park Hotel - P2,207
  • Hotel Gaon Dongdaemun - P22,839
Luxury Hotels
P5,000 -P9,000per night
  • Hotel 28 Myeongdong - P7,443
  • Novotel Ambassador Seoul - P7,450
  • Hotel Gracery Seoul - P9,135
  • Pacific Hotel - P8,238
  • Grand Hyatt Seoul - P8,769

Gyeongbokgung Palace

This is the main and the biggest royale palace of Joseon dynasty. It will take almost 2 hours to roam the whole area.
Open Hours: Wed – Mon, 9AM – 6PM
Entrance Fee: 5,000KRW (~250PHP)

N Seoul Tower

It is the communication and observation tower of Seoul located in Namsan Mountain. It is also famous for the love locks on the foot of the tower.
Open Hours: everyday, 10AM – 11PM
Entrance Fee: 11,000 KRW (~550 PHP)

Bukchon Hanok Village

It is the famous korean traditional village in Seoul preserved for many years. It is a residential area so tourist are encouraged to be respectful.
Open Hours: Mon-Sat, 10 AM – 5 PM
Entrance Fee: free

Lotte World

Lotte World Seoul

photo credits to visitkorea.or.kr

Lotte World is the largest indoor theme park in Seoul. Beside the amusement park is the tallest building in Seoul – Lotte World Tower.
Open Hours: everyday, 9:30 AM – 11:00 PM
Entrance Fee: P1,338 (via Klook) | P2,146 (w/ Lotte World Tower)

Myeongdong Cathedral

Myeongdong Cathedral is the national cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seoul and birthplace of Roman Catholic community is Seoul
Open Hours: everyday, 7 AM – 9 PM | English Mass: Sunday, 9AM
Entrance Fee: free

Haneul Park

Haneul Park Seoul

photo credits to visitseoul.net

Haneul Park is one (and most famous) park in World Cup Park. It is famous for its silver grass and the beautiful view of Seoul from it.
Open Hours: everyday, 9 AM – 6 PM
Entrance Fee: free

Changdeokgung Palace & Secret Garden

The second royale palace of Joseon dynasty and know as the Eastern Palace since it is in the east of Gyeongbokgung.
Open Hours: Tues – Sun, 9AM – 6PM
Entrance Fee: 3,000 KRW (Palace) | 8,000 KRW (garden)

Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)

It is actually the major venue place for fashion shows, exhibits, conference and other events in Seoul. But due to its modern architecture and design, it became one of Seoul’s top destination.
Open Hours: everyday, 24 hours
Entrance Fee: free

Cheonggyecheon Stream | Heunginjimun | Seoul Fortress Wall 

Just 5 minutes walk away from DDP are these gorgeous landscapes that is nice to see and walk by too. It is good for a slow afternoon stroll.
Open Hours: 24 hours
Entrance Fee: Free

Insadong

Just a few minutes walk away from Gyeongbokgung Palace, Insadong is famous for its arts, crafts and traditonal Korean culture.
Open Hours: 24 hours, but shops and cafes are only until 10PM
Entrance Fee: free

Starfield Library

One of the Instagram-worthy open library in the world. Starfield Library is located inside COEX Mall in Gangnam
Open Hours: everyday, 10:30 AM – 11 PM
Entrance Fee: free

Banpo Hangang Park

Banpo Hangang Park

photo credits to visitseoul.net

It is a long stretch park along Hangang River where you can view the moonlight rainbow fountain, the longest bridge fountain.
Open Hours: 24 hours
Entrance Fee: free

DAY TRIPS

Nami Island

One of the famous tourist destination in South Korea is Nami Island because of it’s beautifully aligned trees. It turns into a yellow paradise during the autumn and a pure white winter wonderland during winter. It a one hour away drive from Seoul. You can also visit some attractions near Nami like Garden of Morning Calm, Petite France and Gangchon Rail Bike.
OPEN HOUR: 7:30 AM – 9:30 PM
Entrance fee: 10,000 KRW (~500 PHP | Book via Klook)

EVERLAND

Everland is the largest theme park in South Korea. It has a zoo, amusement park, a large garden which is colorful during the spring and summer.
Open Hours: 10 AM – 8 PM
Entrance Fee: 56,000 KRW/day pass (It is cheaper to book in Klook)

VIVALDI SKI PARK

If you’re in South Korea during winter, I recommend for you to try skiing or snowboarding in Vivaldi Ski Park. It is just 1 hour away from Seoul and the experience is once in a lifetime (esp. if you’re from a tropical country like me)
Open Hours: 24 hours
Entrance Fee: P3,575 (Book via Klook)

READ FIRST TIME SKI EXPERIENCE IN VIVALDI SKI WORLD, SOUTH KOREA WITH KLOOK (+ NAMI ISLAND)

SHOPPING

Myeongdong Walking Street

Myeongdong is synonymous for shopping. If you asked most of the people who went to Seoul where to shop, they’ll definitely tell you to go to Myeongdong Walking Street. It is filled with korean beauty stores, boutiques, and souvenirs and korean snacks shops. Bonus point is the numerous street foods around. The street is open 24 hours but most of the stores are open at noontime until 10PM. The best time to go is around 6PM onwards.

Namdaemun Market

Namdaemun Market is a large open air market (tiangge-like) that sells various goods – from souvenirs to clothes to food. It is cheaper here than in Myeongdong Walking Street but the quality is not as good. This is open from 10 AM to 5AM but still depending on the store owners. You can go here by alighting in Hoehyeon Station Exit 4, 5 or 6.

Hongdae Night Market

Hongdae is very much like a little sister of Myeongdong Walking Street. The streets are filled with skincare and make-up stores, food stalls, and fashion stores. What differs Hongdae from Myeongdong is that there’s a lot more bars here and street performers that is enjoying to watch. Thrift stores are also cheaper here than in Myeongdong maybe because Hongdae is nearer the universities. The night market is in Hongik University Station Exit 9.

Dongdaemun Shopping Complex

If you’re into clothes, Dongdaemun Night Market is the place to be. Just across Dongdaemun Design Plaza are buildings that are filled with clothes. It is better to buy wholesale here because it is cheaper.

Common Ground

Common Ground is one of the newest modern mall in Seoul. Aside from hipster shops and good food, this mall will also give you some gorgeous Instagram photos. Made of blue shipping containers, this mall is worth a visit. If you’re not into Instagram, then you can just skip this.

FOOD

Seoul

Shake Shack
Price Range:
400 – 600 PHP
If you wanted to try this Western brand then Seoul has a multiple branches of it. We went to the flagship store in Gangnam but there are also branches in Doota Mall, Dongdaemun and Chungdam. Unlike here in the Philippines, there’s no queue to wait up to.

Seoul
King’s Cross, Hongdae
Price Range:
P500 for drink; P1000 for food
Harry Potter fan? Then this cafe is surely will make you super kilig because it is 6 floors of the Wizarding world. The basement is a pub while the 1F – 4F are cafes in different set-ups like Wizard cafe, banquet hall and wizard dormitory.

Seoul

Woori Garden, Myeongdong
Price Range:
500 – 1000 PHP
If you wanted some authentic Korean dishes then go to Woori Garden in Myeongdong. The food is a little pricey but the food were awesome. I was so inlove with their bibimbap. They also offer some Korean BBQ.

photo credits to www.thetraveldebugger.com

Meating, Hongdae
Price Range: 700 PHP for unli bbq
Unlike here in the Philippines, unli korean barbeque is not a thing in Seoul. Only few BBQ place offers this. Luckily, we found one near our airbnb. There are a lot of meats and side dishes available but you only have 2 hours to eat. One thing, I noticed here is that their meat is not as flavorful and sweet like the ones here.

SEOUL POSTS

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