Photo: Night view of Yeouido during Seoul Fireworks Festival
Seoul is a fast-paced city, sensitive to the whimsical changes of fads. All one has to do to feel this atmosphere is watch the Seoulites passing by, effortlessly navigating between what is in and what has faded. The constant change keeps Seoul exciting so that even a long stay here will feel new every day. For tourists who don’t have time to spare, it can be difficult to choose where to go. Read on for our suggested two-day itinerary, jam-packed with all the hottest places Seoul has to offer.
Photo: Brunch menu (top) / Cafes along Hapjeong-dong’s Café Street (bottom)
The streets of Hapjeong-dong are lined with quaint cafes. Each café has a unique atmosphere and personality, drawing in many young people looking for a special experience not found at large chains. From coffee made by certified baristas to delicious bingsu and various sweets, the cafes here have it all. Start your trip right by finding the perfect, hidden café for a cup of coffee and a light brunch to store up energy for the day ahead!
Photo: Fashion shops in Hongdae
Ask anyone where you can find Seoul’s most youthful atmosphere and the answer will most definitely be Hongdae. This area, centered around Hongik University, is filled with shops selling various fashion styles, restaurants, pubs, clubs and more. With so much to do, it’s no wonder this district is bustling with visitors both day and night. Visit the free market at Hongdae playground, watch one of the many street performers showcase all they have, or just people-watch, keeping your eyes open for the fashion-conscious celebrities that visit the area.
Hongdae is popular among trend-setters because you can easily find and purchase the latest trends in a variety of fashion styles. Particularly in recent years, the area has seen an increase in the number of multi-shops. Multi-shops feature dynamic brands and items, selected according to the merchandiser’s style, making it fun to browse and compare not just shops but the shop owners as well.
Photo: Sculpture at Digital Media City
Digital Media City (DMC) is an industrial complex located in Sangam-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul. The area is home to the offices and media centers of many broadcasting companies, including Korea’s three main media networks. The largest building and the one sure to catch the eye is the new MBC building. The unique exterior isn’t the only great thing about this building; the building is also home to Garden Studio, an open-studio where visitors can watch a live radio broadcast. The area is often visited by hallyu fans, hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite stars between broadcasts. The modern vibe of the buildings and sculptures at DMC were enough to earn them a spot in the filming of the international blockbuster hit, “Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015).”
Photo: Common sights along Gyeongnidan-gil Road
Gyeongnidan-gil Road located in Itaewon gained popularity thanks to being featured in variety programs like “Infinity Challenge,” and has recently taken the spotlight as a hot place. The area is famous for the vast number of restaurants, pubs, and cafes lining the street, drawing in many visitors looking for a delicious meal. The exotic exteriors of the cafes and street-art decorating the walls make this place great for taking photos. Buy churros and ice cream to eat as you enjoy all Gyeongnidan-gil Road has to offer!
Photo: Scenes of Usadan-ro Road
With the commercial district of Itaewon moving from the area around Itaewon Station to Gyeongnidan-gil Road, another street has emerged as a hot spot; Usandan-ro Road is located on the opposite side of Itaewon-ro Road from Gyeongnidan-gil Road. Running to Seoul Central Masjid, Usadan-ro Road offers a unique vacation experience. Rather than being flashy and commercialized, the road is famous for its plethora of antique shops. Walking among the mix of red-bricked houses and small shops, you will definitely enjoy the warm, vintage feel that cannot be mass produced. To get the most of your experience here, try to visit on the last Saturday of the month, when a flea market is held along Usadan-ro 10-gil.
Photo: Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) night view
Attracting attention at first sight of its exterior alone, Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) is one of Seoul’s most vibrant night views. Built with large, curving lines over a wide area stretching from Pyounghwa Fashion Town to the newer shopping complexes, when the sun sets, the silver plating takes in and reflects back all the colorful lights of the surrounding shopping centers. The plaza regularly hosts fashion shows from international designers, exhibitions, and other cultural activities, and has many famous restaurants and designer shops. Whether for food or shopping, the stream of visitors to DDP seems never-ending.
Photo: LED Rose Garden outside DDP
The DDP’s largest attraction at night is the expansive field of LED roses, creating the perfect romantic atmosphere to end your day. There are 25,550 roses, one rose for each day of the 70 years since Korea’s independence from Japan. The roses will be here for one year only, so be sure to visit when you can to enjoy a festival-like atmosphere while celebrating Korea’s liberation.
Photo: Lotte World’s Magic Island
Conveniently located near Jamsil Station on Seoul Subway Line 2 and 8, Lotte World Tower & Lotte World Mall along with Lotte World is a multipurpose shopping mall featuring department stores, duty-free shops, a movie theater, aquarium, amusement park, ice skating rink and more. Since the recent opening of Lotte World Tower & Mall in 2014, it has truly become a one-stop entertainment destination. Even an entire day spent here would not be enough time to enjoy all that Lotte World Tower has to offer, but for our tour schedule, let’s enjoy a taste of the fun before continuing on our journey!
Photo: Interior of Lotte World Tower
The mall offers a great shopping experience, with a variety of shops selling everything from internationally renowned fashion brands to vintage items, and cosmetics to SPA brands. Duty-free shops featuring over 400 favorite brands of international tourists are additionally available, and Star Avenue has gained popularity for providing a fun hallyu culture experience.
No shopping trip is complete without a nice meal, and Lotte World Tower does not disappoint. After getting your fill of shopping and entertainment, sit down to fill your belly at one of the mall’s many restaurants. The themed restaurant Seoul 3080 allows one to travel back in time along reproduced 1930’s Jongno Street and Myeong-dong from 1960-1980's. If you want the feeling of traveling the world, stop by 29th Street, designed with the concept of walking down the streets of a foreign country in mind.
Photo: Seokchonhosu Lake in spring (left) & in autumn (right)
Seokchonhosu Lake resembles a figure 8, being divided in two sections of dongho (East Lake) and seoho (West Lake). From the east lake, Korea’s tallest building, Lotte World Tower, can be observed up close while the west lake offers a view of Lotte World’s fairy tale-like Magic Island. The lake is also known for its beautiful cherry blossoms in spring and colorful foliage in autumn. If lucky, you can catch the amusement park’s firework show reflecting off the lake at night. During the day, it is quite common to spot Seoulites out for a jog or office workers enjoying their lunch break at the park.
Photo: Sinsadong Garosu-gil Road
The hippest trend-setters and fashionistas are easily spotted at Sinsadong Garosu-gil Road, as if the whole road were a long cat walk. The street is lined with stores selling the latest and most unique fashion items. Editorial shops are quite common and if you’re lucky, you might be able to snag a limited edition item!
Give your tired legs a rest after your shopping spree by relaxing at one of the many cafes on this tree-lined street. For the best way to soak in the atmosphere of Garosu-gil, look for a café with a patio or open window seats. With the number of cozy and uniquely decorated cafes and dessert shops along the boulevard, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed about your decision, but rest assured that no matter which café you chose, you will enjoy yourself.
Photo: Hangang River Ferry Cruise dock
Fans of the hit drama, “My Love from the Stars (2014)” will recognize this location from the scene where the main character Jeon Ji-hyun attended a party cruise. You can enjoy the same spectacular night view of Seoul from the Hangang River Ferry Cruise. Take in the bustling city as you float by on the leisurely flowing Hangang River, running through the heart of the city.
Photo: Night view from the observation deck of 63 Sky Art
One view of Seoul that should not be missed is the city’s night view. Starlight is replaced by the powerful lights of the tall buildings and the many cars still filling the streets. Seoul 63 Square, a landmark of the city, offers one of the best spots to view this bright nightscape. Seoul 63 Square, also known as 63 Building, has an art museum, 63 Sky Art, on its 60th floor, making it the highest art museum in the world. The museum also serves as an observation deck, allowing visitors to enjoy a 360 degree panorama of the city. The ever-popular N Seoul Tower can be spotted to the northeast and the newly built Lotte World Tower is located in the southeast. In October of every year, the night sky bursts into color during the Seoul International Fireworks Festival.
* This column was last updated in November 2015, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details from the official websites before visiting.
<Last updated on November 24, 2015>