This page will be unofficially under construction as I visit all the places in Seoul and blog about them. I’ll update as time passes, but here is a brief guide to Seoul and everything awesome about it.
Note: I don’t own any of these photos, so I linked them to where I found them.
Seoul is one of the fashion capitals of the world, and I adore Korean fashion. The girls here prefer modesty to overexposure, and their clothes are sophisticated, feminine, casual, and timeless. One of Seoul’s main drawing points for me was the fashion, and here is a list of the best places to shop in Seoul.
1) Dongdaemun Night Market: Open all day, but most vibrant at night, from about 10 PM – 2 AM. Get off at the Dongdaemun History and Cultural Park stop off Line 2. A bunch of malls here are good, but the highlight for me (a poor college student) is the rows and rows of clothing and accessory stalls lined up on the streets of the area, with sellers eager to make a good sale off of you. Bargaining is possible, but can be hard if you don’t speak Korean. To my surprise, however, most of the street sellers I met spoke decent English, some of the best English speakers I’ve encountered in Seoul!
2) Myeongdong: Many people call this the quintessential shopping district. I think that the good thing about Myeongdong is that there are a lot of little shops and boutiques for clothing and accessories. A lot of the clothing are to-die-for, and since there is a wide variety of styles, anyone could find things that fit their tastes. However, the downside is that the stores are generally pretty pricey. One boutique that I love has tops that sell for up to 80000 won (about $80). Pretty steep, yo. However, there are also nice street shops as well, and the area has a lot of street food vendors that you should definitely try. I usually come to Myeongdong at night, when I think it really glows with the lights of all the stores. Did I forget to mention that Myeongdong has amazing little shops that sell kpop merchandise? Yeah, sorry, I know that’s a big bonus for Myeongdong.
3) Edae: Get off at Ewha Women’s University on Line 2. I didn’t get a good chance to properly explore this place, but just know that Edae is an area of shopping dedicated purely to teenage/young adult women. The prices are decent and a lot of the clothes/accessories are very cute and pretty. I need to come back here later to give a proper review.
4) Gangnam Underground Shopping Center: Gangnam is known as the most sophisticated and expensive district in Seoul, but fear not. The underground shopping center (connected directly to the subway) has a huge selection of shoes, clothing, accessories, and kpop merchandise for relatively cheap. Unfortunately, there’s not much in the way of bargaining here.
Korean food is like no other – it’s spicy, flavorful, and full of texture. Some staple foods here are bibimbap (mixed vegetables and rice with a nice chili sauce), ddukbokki (rice and fish cakes in a spicy sauce, usually a street snack food, but can turn into a meal when added with ramen, vegetables, and eggs), naengmyeon (cold buckwheat noodles with chili sauce, either with or without soup), and kimbab (vegetables and meat wrapped with rice and seaweed). The youth like to eat western food, and chicken and beer (consumed together) is surprisingly popular. Most places in Seoul have good food, and it’s pretty hard to find bad food, in my opinion. But here’s a list of the special places in Seoul that you should visit if you are a foodie.
1) Mabokrim Ddukbokki in “Ddukbokki Town,” Sindang: Get off Sindang, exit 8, from Line 6. Turn left and keep walking until you see a big street sign above you that says ‘Sindang-dong Ddukbokki Town’ in Korean. The restaurant is on your left. Don’t worry, it will probably have long lines cueing out of the place. That’s how you know you’ve found it. The ddukbokki here is amazing. Once you eat Mabokrim Ddukbokki, you don’t go back. I’m in love. I won’t even explain it, but it’s simply the best. Just don’t wear nice clothes when you come here – the sauce may splash.
2. Biya in Anam, Anam (Line 6), Get off at exit 2 and facing the intersection, turn right and keep walking for 5 minutes – it’s on your right. This is right at the foot of the hill on which I live, and I don’t know what it is about Biya (and I’ve only been there 3 times), but I love it to pieces. There’s basically only one thing there – it’s like a jjijae, a soup-like concoction of hot dog sausage (which I have an undying love for), onions, other vegetables, dduk, and ramen (if you order it, which you should). The soup is heavenly – it’s a bit spicy and but so tasty. Totally go to Biya if you don’t mind venturing a bit out of the way (but if you’re a KU student, it’s so close to home).
3. Pajeon and Makgeolli: These two are the quintessential pair for a rainy day. Pajeon is scallion pancake (tastier than it sounds), and makgeokki is traditional Korean rice wine. On more than one occasion, I have been out to eat pajeon and makgeolli, and it is absolutely heavenly. Pajeon is one of those things you have to try to know how delicious it is. It looks like this and that one has seafood in it, which is extra yummy. I usually get pajeon with either seafood or kimchi. Makgeolli, like I said, is rice wine, and it tastes similar to beer, but a bit creamier, if you can imagine that. Personally, I’m not a fan of the taste of any alcohol, but makgeolli is a lot more drinkable than soju (THE staple Korean alcohol of choice). You can get good pajeon and makgeolli pretty much anywhere…I’ve tried it in Anam, in Hyehwa, and this other place whose name I forget. If you are curious, send me a comment/email, and I will find you a list/directions of the best pajeon & makgeolli places in Seoul :)
There are only a couple of places in Seoul to get living necessities. The first is Home Plus, the second is Daiso, and the third is E-Mart. Home Plus is the most popular among foreigners (and my friends), but I think Daiso is the cheapest and I would recommend going there. E-Mart is really out of the way from KU, so I’ve only been there once, and the prices and selections are similar to Home Plus, so I don’t really recommend it.
Cafes are a biiiiiig culture here in Korea. And when I say big, I mean BIG. Cafes are where predominantly young people congregate and hang out. If you want to sit down somewhere with a friend and chat, you go to a cafe. If you want to discuss a class project with your teammates, you go to a cafe. If you want to go on a blind date, you go to a cafe. If you want somewhere to chill after clubbing and before the subway opens in the morning, you go to a cafe. You see, the possibilities are endless. The only downside is – cafes are very, very expensive. Your ticket to staying at a cafe for hours at a time is a drink or a food item, and let me tell you, the coffee here doesn’t get cheaper than 5,000 won (approximately $5). It’s like $5 a pop for a small cup of coffee. And I wonder why I’ve gone so broke so quickly since I’ve come here. Cafe culture is something that doesn’t exist in America, and I love taking advantage of the plethora of cafe options here.
Cafes in Korea come in two major types: chain cafes and home-grown, folk cafes. The major cafe chains are as follows: Caffe Bene, The Coffee Bean, Hollys Coffee, Tom N Toms Coffee, Angel-in-us, A Twosome Place…and there must be more. There are also subpar coffee chains, that have a few different branches but aren’t as recognizable as these that I’ve listed above. I won’t write much about chains, because they are basically all the same – they offer good-quality coffee and desserts, and they generally take up a good deal of space (sometimes 2-3 floors), meaning it is very likely to find empty seats for you and your date. The downside is that they are relatively homogenous, meaning there aren’t significant differences between one coffee chain and the rest, in terms of aura and drinks/food.