Arriving in Seoul Incheon airport was a quick 3 hour flight from Hong Kong and thereafter, the airport express train took me only 50 minutes to Hongik university stop and cost me about USD2.
Hongdae, the area around Hongik university was full of guest houses, boutique hotels and its full of hip cafes, restaurants, cool shops and at night, the place comes alive with street stalls and the BBQ Korean restaurants and pubs all come bustling to life! Even if you spend 5 days here, you would not be able to finish having the different designer cool coffee and the snacks around the area. I had the most amazing Mandoo here in one of the streets and it’s freshly steamed. Of course, you find all the big skincare brands all around too. The vibe is very lively and young, it is after all, a university town.
Speaking of university, there is also shopping and food at Ewha university area, very close to Hongik. Ewha university is a very beautiful compound as well.
Another pretty cool neighbourhood with hip cafes and restaurants is Sinsadong. I had a very delicious rose cake at the French patisserie L’Aubenuit. The teas are a delight too!
Next up, I went shopping in Myeongdong. Shops are about the same but the area has a more touristy, adult feel to it. It’s also amazing that most of the shop assistants speak Mandarin more than English! I guess chinese tourist area plenty here, that’s why. I went to Myeongdong for a particular reason. The Myeongdong kyoja. The delightful Michelin rated Bib gourmand dumplings and noodles shop. It is good and easy to find once you’re there. I got the signature noodles that was smooth and silky with dumplings that are delicious in the thin thin skin. I love korean dumplings, Mandoo, because it’s skin is so thin the flavour of the meat can shine through. The broth is also pretty amazing. In summer, try the cold noodles as it looked delicious too!
In Myeongdong, there is so much street food you have to try some or all 😝. Choose from egg toasts, lobster with cheese, the traditional Tteokbokki (rice cake), odeng(fish cake), chicken, octopus and pork yakitori, tempura, hotdogs on a stick, the choices are endless!
After the food, walk towards Cheonggyecheon which is a beautiful stream right in the heart of Seoul city. This stream looks great in the day and night. I only managed to see it at night as the sun sets at 6pm here in October. It’s a good 10km walk the whole way, but I only walked from Myeongdong to Dongdamon. Along the walk, you’ll see works of art, water features, beautiful lights, people hanging out and signs telling you how much calories you’re burnt from the walk and hear the soothing sounds of running water. Very nice!
Dongdamon is a shopper’s paradise. It doesn’t sleep. Apparently, my Seoul sista told me late night till 4am, it’s for wholesalers because the shop owners can then buy their goods to sell in the day. It made sense and I found Migliore which is mostly very hip clothes for ladies, mostly made in Korea. The prices are reasonable too. It has the feel of shopping in Platinum mall in Bangkok but more orderly and you can bargain a bit if you pay by cash so bring more cash!
One of my favourite things to eat in Seoul was the Samgyetang and where best to have it? At Tosokchon! This place has been serving this dish to hungry Koreans since very very long ago. It’s won the award for good traditional korean food and I agree! This place is super crowded during lunch but I managed to waltz in at 11am when it opened and got a seat easily. You will get a serving of ginseng wine, kimchi and radish, salt and pepper with your soup. It’s a great way to start your day especially if you want to visit Gyeungbokgung (the Korean palace) after. To get here, get to Gyeungbokgung station exit 2 and walk straight for a block and turn left into Jahamun ro 5 Gil, you will see the queue once you turn left so you won’t miss it.
After the hearty breakfast, I made my way to the huge palace Gyeongbokgung. You can rent the Hanbok costumes if you want at many of the shops or just have fun taking photos of people that do. Tickets to the palace is only 3000krw and I spent quite a bit of time walking slowly admiring the autumn trees and I especially loved the traditional folk museum, so don’t miss that bit. Remember to also take the photos with the real guards at the entrance and they have a guard changing ceremony on the hour. I managed to catch a short one at half past 1, guess the guards needed to walk a bit to stretch their feet.
If you like to see the traditional Seoul, head to Bokchon and Insadong, a short walk from Gyeongbokgung. Bokchon Hanok Village is full of beautiful well preserved traditional houses which houses actual residents. We saw many people walking around the neighbourhood and in my heart I do pity the people staying there because they have to deal with tourist pollution. I admire them too because they have such beautiful cute houses!
A good rest stop was a tea house, I stopped at blue flower tea house which is just before you head down to Insadong. The owner was a very nice and handsome man who also teaches teamaking and has very nice chinaware for his tea and cakes. He also gave us complementary jujubes which were in season.
Insadong was a rather touristy street it’s beautiful too because of the many traditional buildings and tea houses around. They also have plenty of shopping and I bought very good green tea from Ossuloc. The company also owns innisfree, sulwahsoo so you know it’s premium and natural tea and ingredient from Jeju. For snacks, I had the very traditional Hotteok which is a korean pancake with cinnamon paste inside. Super yummy and made fresh when I was there.
I love October in Seoul, I didn’t know that until my Seoul Sista told me that October is the season for the silver grass festival and also, pink grass. Hanuel Park comes alive in beautiful colours as all these grass only blooms once a year. I was surprised and asked what happens the rest of the year? She said it’s just a green park 🤣. This has got to be my most memorable memory of Seoul. I was so lucky to have good weather and see the beautiful colours of nature. To get there, take the train to World Cup stadium station and walk up the 300 steps to the park. There are also many tourist buses and there is also a buggy for a fee from the entrance to the park if you don’t wanna walk the steps up.
After the beautiful stroll in the park, I heard to Apgujeongrodeo for my lunch and Kwonsooksoo, a Michelin 2 star restaurant that serves Korean traditional cuisine made for royalty. The place is beautiful and the service impeccable. I had the lunch tasting menu. The food was good but it didn’t wow me. I think because it’s philosophy was for Korean royalty and the taste is supposed to be very balanced, which I found a bit more bland. I prefer my food and my wines more full bodied. 🤭
There is a beautiful mall called the Galleria mall which is one of the most upmarket mall in Gangnam. If you want all the luxury brands in a beautiful setting all I one place, this is it. The basement also has a lot of good food.
For dinner, I had the amazing Jungsik, which is now my favourite molecular gastronomy restaurant in Asia after Andre’s closed. Junsik is one of the first molecular gastronomist that uses korean ingredients. He’s so famous he has now a restaurant in New York. He’s done a great job with the interiors as well and he boasts one of the best wine list in town. He’s not too pretentious with all the foamy stuff, just the right items and his take on the Korean traditional dishes was simply stunningly delicious. The flavours was bold yet balanced and I loved every dish! There is also a bar on the ground floor which seems packed when I finished my dinner. Read my review of this restaurant and another Michelin 2 star restaurant at my food blog here.My 2 stars Korean michelin journey at JungSik
If you love grilled beef like I do but am a solo traveller, head to BaetJang. It has a cute small grill just right for a solo diner and it has small single portions with a mixture of cuts. The vibe is very Japanese and it has quite a good sake menu.
If you love CHEAP PREMIUM grilled Hanwoo (korean beef) head to Majang Dong Hanwoo meat market at Majang station. Buy your premium cuts from the stalls below, pay, then head up to the restaurants to have them cooked. You can have all the vegetables you want and I highly recommend the white kimchi to pair with the fantastic tasting beef. My Seoul sista said korean food is all about balance. You need to balance the oil of the fatty Hanwoo with the white kimchi. I have found my favourite type of kimchi. The white one 😋. After all the melt-in-your-mouth beef, they said we need to wash it down with the cold buckwheat noodles. They were right! It’s damn good and felt refreshing after. Another pro tip: don’t wrap the green lettuce with the beef. Only amateurs do that. Use the white kimchi instead and go easy on the red one. Ahhhhh now I know…..
Where does the whole of Seoul hang out on Friday and Saturday nights? Itaewon!! The place comes alive around 11pm and there are so many clubs, bars and cool restaurants to eat and drink at. We chose the newly opened CASA Corona which of course sold Corona beer and other cocktails. We loved the roof top bar and they serve BBQ at the top too. The roof top bar I guess would only be nice in autumn as winters would be too cold and summers too warm.
My Seoul sistas said that in Korea, they love hearty breakfasts with rice and soups and all the side dishes. I agree! I love too!
Have the very tasty bib gourmand pork consommé rice at OKDONGSIK in Hapjeong. Go early at 11am once they open because queues start before and they only have about 100 bowls at lunch and dinner. The counter seats only 11 people so I was so lucky to be dining just for 1 as I skipped half the queue.
My last meal in Seoul was in a 24 hour shop that sold only beef bone stew in Hongdae where I stayed. The beef broth was thick and the meat fell off the bone. Superb traditional soup done well and so nutritious. No queues at this one as it’s 9am in the morning on a Sunday. But it gets crowded whenever I walk past in the evenings and and late at night so I made a mental note to myself to have this for breakfast. It even has photos of celebrities caught on the CCTV stuck at the cash counter to show you it is a good restaurant indeed that’s open anytime. The restaurant name is in korean so I can only tell you that it’s exit 2 of Hongik university, you turn left once you exit, it’s got a sign of the good traditional Korean restaurant at its door and its 24 hours!
Ladies, if you love facial lasers that rejuvenate your skin, tightens pores, lighten pigmentation, smoothens your face and make it more collagen firm, try Teng Teng skin clinic. The cost of a mini Fraxel laser and an Ultera like laser called Doublo from Denmark is a fraction of the cost you pay in Singapore or Hong Kong. He speaks fluent English too as he’s educated in the US. He also doesn’t charge extra for credit card usage unlike many other clinics. Dr Julian said he was 50 years old and I asked if he lasers himself too because he looks so much younger than me? He said the secret to his good skin is exercise, no alcohol, drink lots of water and sleep well. There you have it ladies! Tips from the Doctor himself. I’ve also checked prices for eyebrow embroidery and lash perming and it’s all cheaper here! I am sorry but I didn’t do any plastic surgery so I can’t give recommendations but I’m sure google will tell you a lot. Else, when I walked around Apjugeong, there were many clinics around and their advertisements were everywhere!!
Seoul, you certainly know how to make a girl happy, well fed and beautiful!
I’ll be back in winter to explore the fish market and other hearty food and of course hang out with my Seoul sistas since they’re only a short flight away.
Sleep, eat, explore, repeat