Over the past couple of years, K-pop and korean dramas have become part and parcel of our lives. Korean BBQ, Bimbimbap, Korean Fried Chicken, Korean Ginseng Chicken are readily available in Singapore, with a little Korean town in Tanjong Pagar and Bukit Timah. Heard of BB cream and snail masks? Etude House, Laneige, Skin Food, Belief are also popular korean skin care companies that have sprouted all over Singapore.
With more exposure to Korean food and its culture, more and more Singaporeans are making their way to Korea, only to realise that they should have visited earlier! South Korea, with its location in the temperate climate offers 4 different seasons that tourists can enjoy. If you have always been intrigued by this fascinating country, you should make it a point to visit while it is still very affordable!
If it is your first trip to Seoul, then you definitely need to do plenty of research as there are plenty of things to do and a multitude of places to visit. Let’s start with thinking about where to stay in Seoul.
1. Seoul Station
The Seoul Station may be compared to the Shinjuku station in Tokyo or the Taipei Railway Station, where the subway lines and the bullet trains co-exist. It has direct connection to both Gimpo and Incheon airports – with a direct link that brings you to the latter in 43 minutes, complete with downtown check-in at this station so that you can enjoy your ride to the airport without many luggages.
Lines 1 and 4 are available in this station as well and you can also take the Korea High Speed Train (KTX) to Busan (44,800 won) in 2h 58 min or Mokpo (43,300 won) in 3h 17min.
There’s a huge Lotte Mart next to the train station where you can buy many Lotte food products, pack them into cardboard boxes and ship them home!
2. City Centre – Myeong Dong/Chungmuro/City Hall/Euljiro 1
Myeong Dong is where the face and beauty shops all congregate. Innisfree, Nature Republic, The Face Shop etc. have multiple branches in this area, but do note that these are all franchise stores with different bosses so the promotions that are running or the freebies that are given may be different. If you are interested in shopping for beauty products, then it may be worthwhile staying close to Myeong Dong!
Myeong Dong is on Line 4. Chungmuro is one stop east on Line 4 and City Hall/Euljiro1 are on Line 2. Lines 2 and 4 will bring you to most of the touristy places in Seoul, hence the additional benefit of staying here.
2 of the best hotels in Seoul can be found here – The Westin Chosun and the Lotte Hotel are located side by side, with the former between City Hall and Euljiro 1 and Lotte Hotel at Euljiro1. The Lotte Departmental Store with 3 levels of Duty-Free shops and the Lotte Young Plaza are also found here, which is a haven for shoppers too.
3. University Quarter – Hongdae/Hongik University, Sincho, Ewha Woman’s University
Hongdae is where many university students hang out, hence the presence of many cheap housing options. Students on exchange should take note of this location! Food options are aplenty in Hongdae area, and there is plenty to explore as you can walk through Hongik University-Sincho-Ewha Woman’s University area. There is a weekend market (Hongdae Free Market) in Hongdae area from 1-6pm on Saturdays from March to November where college artists display their wares from hair ornaments crafted in Korean traditional needlework to bags and hats, paintings and even music CDs.
Line 2 serves the 3 stations mentioned above.
However, because of the large crowd of people here, it might be too rowdy for some people.
4. Gangnam, Apgujeong, Sinsa
Probably one of the most popular neighbourhoods popularised by Psy, Gangnam is found south of the river and it is one of the most expensive areas to stay in Seoul. Conferences are commonly held in COEX Convention & Exhibition Centre, so conference-goers will probably want to stay around this area. In addition, some of the upmarket global and luxury brands may be found here. There are a couple of streets here that will take you a few days to explore – Garosugil, Apgujeong, Sinsadong and Cheongdam.
Apgujeong, Sinsa are found on Line 3 which is NOT connected to the AREX Airport Line. Gangnam is on Line 2. Be prepared to take the airport limousine bus or plan your trip carefully for additional travel time to the airport if you plan to stay in this area.
Itaewon is where you find a congregation of nationalities from all over the world, and plenty of italian, japanese, chinese and international food choices! There is plenty of nightlife with many clubs and pubs that open till late. During Halloween, people dress up and attend street parties. Definitely an area of consideration for the hardcore partygoers.
Itaewon is found on line 6, which can transfer to the AREX Airport Line.
6. Palace Quarter – Gyeongbukgung, Gwanghuamun, Jonggak
As the name suggests, the palace quarter is where you find the famous palaces in Seoul. There are 5 ancient palaces that are mentioned in every guide book that you refer to – Deoksugung, Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung and Gyeonghuigung Palace. The 2 most popular would be Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung. In this area is Insa-dong which is famous for traditional craft and the ancient houses in Bukchon Hanok Village.
Gyeongbokgung is on line 3, Gwanghwamun on line 5. Line 5 has connections to AREX Airport line whereas line 3 has no direct connection. This area is good for those who want to save on accomodation yet want to stay near the City Centre as the accomodation here is slightly cheaper than the latter.
The Bottom Line
The choice of location eventually boils down to budget and what you plan to do in Seoul. Compared to nearby countries like Japan or Hong Kong, accomodation in Seoul is relatively inexpensive. Regular readers will know that I usually use Airbnb for my accomodations. Airbnb is where people rent out their homes or bedrooms for additional revenue. In Seoul, many of the listings that I’ve found are able to house up to 4 or more people easily, hence making it a viable option for people travelling with family and friends.
There are many other similar websites in the market, but Airbnb is one of the pioneers and is thus reputable and popular. Remember to communicate with the host first and check out reviews by fellow travellors before you book! Get a SGD$32 credit off your first booking if you sign up through this link here.