I’d highly recommend visiting Seoul in December during Christmas because this place lights up like no other. This city is so lively and vibrant around this time because a lot of people from the tropic countries would fly in just to enjoy the icy cold weather. It can go as low as -10°C.
I spent 5 nights at Grand Ambassador Seoul associated Pullman which is located in Jung-gu. The room is fairly spacious but quite dated. This hotel provides in-room espresso coffee from Nespresso Machine, LCD TV, heated toilet seat, bathtub and my room had a quite stunning view of the Seoul Tower. Among facilities equipped in this hotel; indoor swimming pool with automatic temperature control, indoor golf, gym and sauna. They also provide free shuttle service to two shopping districts (Myeongdong & Dongdaemun) from 5pm to 10pm.
The nearest subway station is just down the street called Dongguk University Station (line 3). I landed in Incheon Airport and took the Korean Air (KAL) limo bus for ₩16,000 (USD15) straight to my hotel, the journey took approximately 1 1/2 hours. If time is not an issue, you can opt for the train; Take a train towards Seoul Station at Incheon International Airport Station → Transfer to subway line 4 at Seoul Station → Transfer to subway line 3 at Choongmuro station → Get off at Dongguk Uni Station and head towards exit 1 or 2. Taking the train is much more cheaper, provided you have the time and you don’t carry much stuff with you.
The hotel’s location is a plus; it’s near the subway line 3, 7-eleven and other local stores. There’s a food junction called CJ Food World which you can experience food culture that housed a food court of restaurants and brands owned by South Korea’s largest food company CJ (10-min walk from hotel). The hotel is also located close to Dongdaemun Market (an expansive commercial area in Seoul that caters to all kinds of shopping needs; 15-min walking distance).
It’s so easy and convenient to get by around Seoul because the Subway is super efficient. The stations are distinguished by name, number and colour and all names are in Korean and English, transfer stations where two or more Lines intersect, are marked differently. Ticket can be purchased from the ticket machine in each station but it’s more convenient to purchase a T-Money card (a public transit card) from 7-eleven for ₩2,500 (without credit). You can use this card for train, bus and even taxi.
Each Subway journey costs ₩1,050 and bus is around ₩500 where taxi starts from ₩3,000.
Most of the attraction places are within walking distance, with the nice and cold weather, there’s no excuse not to walk more. Although sometimes my spine failed on me because it got way too cold.
Places of Interest
Seoul has a lot of memorable attraction spots for all travellers. Ranging from places with local and traditional charm to places that exude modernisation. They have a few places that are catered for tourists to buy souvenirs and local made crafty items and they also have a more upscale shopping district that are catered mostly for young travellers.
- Gyeongbokgung Palace
This is Korea’s most famous royal palace, the grandest and most beautiful palaces of the 5 grand palaces of Joseon Dynasty. For a nominal admission fee of between ₩1,500 to ₩3,000, you get access to the palace. With the option of an integrated ticket price of ₩10,000, you get access to Changdeokgung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace, Deoksugung Palace, and Gyeongbokgung Palace, amongst a few other destinations.
- Heunginjimun Gate
This is the last remaining gate of the Four Great Gates of the Seoul City and the gateway to Joseon (the former name of Korea). It was built 600 years ago in the east of Seoul to guard the city. Until now, the gate still posed a grandeur landmark in downtown Seoul.
- Dongdaemun Design Place (DDP)
It was built on the very soil where Dongdaemun Stadium was demolished. The unique shape of the building attracts many onlookers. With futuristic look and free-flowing curves, which somehow resembles like an egg-shape. This building embraces history and culture.
- Namsan Seoul Tower
This tower offers panoramic but hazy views (during winter) of the whole city, a cosmic metropolis built after the war. This iconic tower stands 237m, not too tall compared to other iconic towers from all over the world but Seoul Tower has its own charm which makes it worth the visit. Read more…
- Seoul City Wall
There is a fortress called “Seoul City Wall” which surrounded the city of Seoul and it has been preserved for 600 years. This City Wall is adorned with symbols of Confucian philosophy and consists of 3 main gates; Sungnyemun, Heungunjimun and Doneuimun. There’s a free walking tour provided which starts from 10am to 2pm.
- Itaewon Market
This place offers a great market and housed many halal restaurants for Muslim travellers. The best kebab can be found right in the heart of Itaewon. There are plenty of nice bars and pubs in Itaewon where drinks are cheap and the party scene is not too shabby at all!
- Dongdaemun Market
The place to go when you need to find just about anything. From fabrics to accessories, Dongdaemun Market has every fashion item imaginable. One of Seoul’s favourite locations for those looking for a good bargain. A perfect blend of traditional markets and a few modern shopping malls.
- Nandaemun Market
Place to find goods at affordable prices which opens round-the-clock. Tourists’ favourite spot for souvenirs hunting. Cheap market where you can find practically anything! It’s a fun and crowded, but try going there at night for an even more exciting atmosphere.
It’s a fascinating place that offers a mix of old and new goods and the place to find those locally-made crafty items. This place exudes more local and traditional charms; a more toned down and laid-back market compared to other markets I went to in Seoul.
A fashion Mecca for shopaholics. This is the shopping district with more familiar and international brands like COACH Premium Outlet, Forever 21, H&M, Nike and much more. A must see for tourists especially during Christmas because this place lights up like crazy. The busiest shopping district I’ve been to in Seoul and definitely worth going. This is the Orchard Road of Seoul.
This place is the heart of Korea’s youth culture. Hongdae refers to the area stretching from Hongik Univ. Station (line 2) to the main entrance of Hongik University and this area is home to some of Seoul’s most active nightlife districts. This quirky neighborhood full of students, artists, bohemians, punks, hippies and youngsters in general and it’s also famous for its art scene, is also a great place for shopping where all of the latest trends in fashion can be found here.
Many Korean dishes are known for being spicy. It may be best known for its barbecued beef and pork too but they have more to offer besides all that. Barbecue is the number one thing and what Korea is most famous for. No doubt eating those sizzling meat in the cold weather excites your appetite. The sumptuous taste of marinated beef served with the ever so famous kimchi are something beyond incredible. Korean cuisine is made up of unique aromas and tastes. You’ll be missing a lot if you have not tried Korean food which is one of the healthiest cuisines on earth.
There are over tens of thousands of places to get WiFi in Seoul. Most restaurants provide free wifi but if you want to get connected around the clock, you purchase a data plan / wifi prepaid from any convenient store. I bought mine from 7-eleven for ₩3,300 (24 hours), they offer other packages ranging from ₩3,000 to ₩9,000 from various providers.
It’s not that I need to be online 24/7 but it’s nice to have an internet for me to find places, maps and google anything I need to know and look for. This is pretty useful and convenient for all travellers.
Seoul in a Nutshell
I can’t believe it took me this long to visit Seoul. This is an incredible city and I dare say my favourite one after Ho Chi Minh. Most of the people speak English and although they don’t, they wouldn’t “shush” you off like how I experienced back in Taoyuan (Taipei). No visit to Seoul is complete without a trip to at least one of its many markets. A vibrant city with amazing energy, filled with warm and friendly people. I can’t wait to return to this city to catch up with what I’ve missed.