Remember when I went to Asia and promised to regale you with stories of my travels? Yeah, me neither. Probably because I got back over a month ago. But, per Tuesday’s post, things have been rather hectic since I returned. And it took leaving town (yes, I am gone yet again) for me to finally make good on my promise. In the first of a three-part series, here are my Top 10 Things to Do in Seoul, South Korea. Some are big, others are oddly specific, but they are all the things to do in Seoul that I did and enjoyed. Seoul is an energetic mix of old and new; I can’t wait to return. I hope you have the chance to visit, too.
10 THINGS TO DO IN SEOUL
1. Garosu-gil– A dear friend recommended this neighborhood as a must-visit. She called it the Soho of South Korea, which left me with high expectations as I’ve always loved Soho. Luckily, Garosu-gil did not disappoint. In fact, wandering from shop to shop for the better part of a day was one of my favorite days in Seoul. Expect endless rows of artistically curated boutiques and hip eateries. Though not cheap, most of the prices were reasonable. I found the majority of my trip’s purchases here. The best part? With predominately local designers, you’re guaranteed to bring home some one-of-a-kind items.
2. Gentle Monster– So special that it requires its own category, one of my favorite discoveries in Garisu-gil (really, in all of Seoul) was Gentle Monster. Part art gallery, part eyewear shop, this is the place that dreams are made of. At least, design-fueled dreams like mine. I’ve been following the brand on Instagram for a while, so a trip to one of their boutiques was a priority. While I did expect next-level hip eyewear, I did not expect a five floor artistic wonder. I spent over an hour wandering through bedrooms, laboratories and powder rooms with sunglasses and spectacles displayed throughout. Of course, I couldn’t help but scoop up a couple of pairs myself. My only regret is that I did not visit the other Gentle Monster boutiques in Seoul; each one is entirely unique. Just another reason to return.
3. Leeum Samsung Museum of Art– My sister and I grew up going to art museums. While I didn’t appreciate contemporary art when I was younger, after studying it in college, it has since become one of my favorites. I actually discovered the Leeum on social media, which makes sense, given that the museum is an Instagram match made in heaven. Be forewarned; photos are frowned upon, so snap them quickly. The larger than life installations are not to be missed.
4. Dongdaemun– I used to think that I could out-shop anyone. This trip proved me wrong. Both the Koreans and the Japanese (more on that next week) can shop like nobody’s business. Dongdaemun, home to the futuristic design plaza and endless towers of malls, is a shopper’s paradise. Many of the stores do not open until nightfall, keeping their doors open until the next morning. I recommend checking out APM Luxe, APM Place and Doota to find the latest Korean designers. Truthfully, I didn’t make it more than an hour at this mecca; I was shopped out. Next time!
5. Changdeokgung Palace– No, I didn’t shop the ENTIRE time I was in Korea. I did a little sightseeing, as well. One of the remarkable things about Seoul is that you find modern structures next to ancient buildings. Though I visited a number of palaces during my stay, Changdeokgung was my favorite. Despite the crowds, the grounds were peaceful and the detailed artwork is something you have to see with your own eyes.
6. Shangpree Spa– On the top of most Seoul must-visit lists is a trip to a Korean spa. Unfortunately, my skin is uber sensitive at the moment and I knew that it wouldn’t hold up to the signature scrubbing. Which is why I settled on treating myself to a facial and massage instead. And by settled on, I mean scored, because I experienced the best facial of my life at the Shangpree Spa. Spangpree is known for their rigorous schooling; even if she has years of experience, an aesthetician must complete three years of training before she is able to touch a client’s skin. I have never seen a population with more beautiful skin then the women of Korea. Needless to say, following the heavenly facial and subsequent glowing complexion, I was a Korean skincare convert. I scooped up armfuls of Shangpree products and have had wonderful results. Although they do not distribute their entire line overseas (boo!), you can shop a decent selection at Peach + Lily (as well as tons of other goodies). I recommend this toner, moisturizer and mask as a starting place.
7. Namdaemun Night Market– Everyone talks about Korean street food; Namdaemun is a one-stop shop for trying everything you’ve heard about and everything you haven’t. Let’s just say, I’ve done my fair share of traveling, but even I was perplexed as to what I was looking at half the time. (Have you ever seen these before??) After feasting my eyes on those squirmin’ Hermans, I played it safe with some vegetarian fare. Whether you’re an adventurous eater or not, the night market is worth the visit simply to take in the sights. I can almost guarantee that you’ve never experienced anything like it.
8. Myeong-dong– More shopping because, well, it’s me. After my otherworldly experience at Shangpree, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on more Korean beauty products. Myeong-dong offers every brand out there within a few blocks. Again, the sheer mass of vendors can be overwhelming. But the confusion is well-worth it when you return home with sheet masks and lip glosses galore (at a fraction of the US price tag).
9. Shinsegae– Shinsegae is known as Seoul’s fancy department store. I know what you’re thinking- another store?? But Shinsegae is on my list not for the shopping, but for the food. The department store basement houses a wealth of little restaurants of varying cuisines that, despite the pricy upstairs, are easy on the pocketbook. I also loved browsing the grocery store, which was well beyond my budget but had adorable items like cantaloupes tied with bows.
10. Seoul Tower– Seoul is surprisingly spread out. Seoul Tower is a must-visit because it provides an eagle eye view of the expansive city. Make sure you leave plenty of time to descend the tower. The wait was twice as long to go down as it was to ascend. Take a peek at the infinite number of love locks while you’re there, too.
Images via yours truly + Google images