Seoul with an urban area of more than 25 million people, huge metro system and cutting-edge technology is incredible, slightly overwhelming, and full of creative energy. It actually feels like many cities in one as different areas of this Asian metropolis vary dramatically – from local and traditional places through historic sites to bustling neighborhoods delivering amazing entertainment for fun-loving types.
I arrived on Friday evening in Hongdae, a very lively area near Hongik University with plenty of cool bars, Korean BBQ restaurants, indie fashion shops and great urban art. For the first time during my trip I regretted that I cannot do any shopping as I loved the style of so many clothes. Also shops with beauty products were tempting me with their offering. Let’s not forget that South Korea is very famous for their BB creams and other cosmetics. My determination to stick to the budget and self-control to keep my backpack light quickly got any ideas about shopping out of my head! Dongdaemun Market, aka the Fashion Town was another tempting place where people can certainly shop until they drop. Oh well, maybe some other time or maybe in another life?
The next day during sightseeing at the Gyeongbokgung Palace I had to navigate my way through the weekend crowds but I was lucky to meet a group of volunteers from the International Exchange and Cultural Promotion Institute who showed me around. All the insights that I gained from Gina and Amy helped me to explore other palaces on my own and pay attention to intricate details and understand the meaning behind the colours, signs and symbols. Changgyeonggung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace also known as the Eastern Palace were worth visiting to get under the skin of Seoul’s heritage and interesting and fairly complex past.
A walk around Insa-dong, a quaint and charming neighborhood of Seoul was a real pleasure. Except traditional restaurants, tea houses and bookshops I came across many small art galleries and even saw a cool exhibition called HOOK organised by Media and Design students. Lucky them! I found Seoul is extremely inspiring when it comes to art and design.
Towards the end of my time in the city I ventured out south of the Han River, to see the National Assembly and to check out Gangnam and the Olympic Park. On a beautiful autumnal day the Olympic Park with its sculptures and art installations was a perfect place to visit after few busy days in the city. The park was certainly enjoyed by many locals and turned into a photo shoot location by young couples and families. The light and colours were a treat!
Until I could see it for myself I did not realise that Seoul is superb for hiking. Somehow when researching and preparing my travel list I did not include any details about its impressive hills and granite peaks. If you are planning to spend more time in South Korea’s capital and you are passionate about nature and the outdoors definitely try hiking in Seoul – you will not be disappointed!
Lazy Fox was a fantastic hostel with friendly and helpful staff and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to stay near Hongdae area. I think you would be a rather busy fox in Seoul with so many things to do but still it is possible to relax at this hostel and meet nice people.