This past March, I had the most amazing time travelling throughout Seoul, South Korea! It was the first stop in my 2 week journey to South Korea and Japan! I decided I wanted to share my itinerary with you all, but to be honest…this took a lot longer to put together than I thought it would…and it only covers one half of my trip! I hope you enjoy reading through my adventures in Seoul, South Korea and I hope it inspires you to go on your own adventure! Without further ado, here is what my trip to Seoul was like!
Flight / Incheon Airport / AREX
Airline: Air Canada | Duration: 12+ Hours Non-Stop Flight | Airports: YYZ (Toronto Pearson International Airport) –> ICN (Incheon International Airport) | Departed YYZ: Thursday March 8th @ 11:30 AM | Arrived ICN: Friday March 9th @ 3:20 PM
One thing is for sure, I am not good with flying. It makes me super nervous and anxious. The funny thing is, it’s mostly the anticipation of getting on a plane and the take-off that makes me nervous. Once I’m settled and in the air, it’s all fine…until turbulence happens.
Last time I flew to Japan, I couldn’t watch a single movie or take a single nap. I was just too amped up, whereas this time I was able to do both, so maybe I’m making some progress! Speaking of in-flight movies, I was able to watch two on the flight to Seoul! I finally watched The Shape Of Water which I had been meaning to watch ever since it screened at TIFF in September of last year! You can click here to check out my review! I was also able to watch Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri which had been on my list ever since all of the Oscar buzz! Both were really good and a great way to pass the time! I had also downloaded some other things from Netflix onto my iPad, but I couldn’t really get into anything.
The flight was rather uneventful (other than for one incident where the flight attendants asked if there were any medical professionals on board, which was slightly terrifying – everyone ended up being okay though) and within 12 hours and a bit, we landed safely at Incheon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea!
Once we landed, getting our luggage and getting through customs was a pretty quick and painless process! Everything went smoothly and we were able to navigate our way through the airport to get to the AREX train. We had done some research before hand and figured out the easiest way to get to our Air bnb was via the AREX train system. We could choose from either the Express train or All Stop train. The All Stop train was the first to arrive so we decided to take the scenic route all the way to Seoul Station in central Seoul!
Our Air Bnb | 3 Minutes from Seoul Station | Free Pocket Wifi
Once we landed, getting to our Air bnb was a breeze! As mentioned above, we had done some research beforehand and discovered that taking the AREX was the cheapest and easiest way for us to get from Incheon Airport to Seoul Station (the closest station to our Air bnb). What we didn’t realize was how close it actually was. Our Air bnb was literally across the street from Seoul Station which was absolutely perfect considering we were going to be using the subway to travel around the city during our trip!
When we arrived, the first thing we did was shower and settle in. Being on a plane for 12+ hours can really take its toll on you. By the time we even got to our Air bnb, it was already around 5 PM and we didn’t really have anything planned for the night except to explore the surrounding area! Also, our Air bnb host was super nice and let us know that she would be coming up to visit and explain how things around the Air bnb worked! She spoke enough English that we could understand everything she said and it was super helpful as she showed us how to use the washing machine and other amenities that probably would have taken us a lot longer to figure out on our own.
Once we were all cleaned up and settled in, we decided to check out the area around our Air bnb!
March 9th – First Night
Seoullo 7017 + Lotte Mart
This was our first night of exploration in Seoul! Our Air bnb was also really close to Seoullo 7017 which was on my list of things to check out anyway! It’s basically this long walkway that is built above the main streets. I’m so glad we got to walk through this at night as there were quite a few lovely light up art displays!
Our Air bnb also happened to be across the street from a Lotte Mart which is basically kind of like a Korean Wal-Mart! They had groceries and health and beauty products + so much more! We visited it multiple times throughout our stay to pick up food for the Air bnb, but also to stock up on all of the beauty products that we wanted!
After our long flight and a bit of exploration, we decided to go back to the Air bnb and call it a night! Time to rest up for our first full day of exploring!
March 10th – First Full Day
Ihwa Mural Village, Doota Mall, Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Lotte Fitin & Cheonggyecheon Stream
Finally, our first full day of exploration! First up on the list was Ihwa Mural Village! This place was super cool as there were a few murals and art pieces displayed around a rather large area! Fair warning, this involved a lot of stairs and walking to get around, but on the plus side, it was completely free! And you get quite a few amazing instagram-worthy pics too!
We then made our way over to Dongdaemun Design Plaza or DDP for short! DDP is a huge urban development landmark with a really cool futuristic feel. The building is super curvy and really interesting to look at. Again, it also makes for some really cool instagram photos! We didn’t really venture inside too much, but walking around the outside of the building was an amazing experience!
Right across the street from DDP was Doota Mall! We had a few malls on our list of places to visit as we were totally ready to shop till we dropped on this trip! We didn’t realize how close it was to DDP, but at least we didn’t have to walk very far! Doota Mall is several stories high (as you can see from the photos above that I took at the very top!) and it had quite a few name brand stores to shop at! There was also a food court where we re-energized before the next stop on our list! Stay tuned to find out what I bought at Doota Mall in an upcoming haul blog post!!
Another location on our list that happened to be quite close to Doota Mall & DDP was the Cheonggyecheon Stream! Unfortunately, we were in Seoul a little too early in the year and everything was still a little dead from the winter season, but walking along this stream was still really beautiful. I can only imagine what it must look like in the summer with all the colourful foliage!
Fun fact, when we landed in Seoul on Friday March 9th, it also just so happened to be Suga from BTS’ birthday! Based on what I had seen on twitter, I knew that it was pretty normal to see banners and ads purchased by fans to celebrate kpop idols’ birthdays! I was really worried that I wasn’t going to find anything for Suga, but turns out I found a WHOLE FREAKIN’ BUS dedicated to him. He just so happens to be my ultimate bias, so I was really excited to find this and take some photos!
Story time: So here’s the thing. I don’t enjoy spicy food. I know, how did I survive in Korea right? Well, the answer is I almost didn’t. Today would mark the first of many incidents in which I thought I ordered something without spice and was surprised when I started eating and my tongue almost burnt off. Funny thing is, my friend who was with me loves spicy food and she said the food that made me want to die was pretty weak in terms of spice level. Apparently, I’m a baby when it comes to spice.
March 11th – Bang Bang Bang
Trick Eye Museum, Hongdae, Mecenatpolis Mall, YG Entertainment, Times Square Mall & Zapangi Café
Day two began with a trip to the Trick Eye Museum! I had this on our list, but I wasn’t sure if it was something that we were actually going to be able to check out or not. We ended up starting our day pretty early and decided to check it out before the crowds got too crazy. Turns out we made the right decision as we basically had the entire museum to ourselves! We bought tickets that gave us access to the regular Trick Eye Museum as well as a special Ice Museum! This ended up being a lot of fun and we got quite a lot of amazing photos! The museum also had an app you could download which, when you used your camera, made the illusions move while you filmed a video. Overall, this was a pretty fun experience that I suggest you don’t pass up! I do recommend getting there as early as you can though because as soon as we exited, there was already a line up of people waiting to get in! It was also pretty cheap to get in. I can’t recall the price exactly, but it was no more than 15,000 KRW (about $15 CAD).
We then decided to walk around the surrounding area of Hongdae! This area is near Hongik University, therefore there were a lot of younger people walking around and enjoying the beautiful weekend! Here’s another mini story time: When we first arrived in the area to go to the Trick Eye Museum, the streets were a mess. I mean, there was garbage and empty bottles of alcohol everywhere. We were kid of amazed by the state that the streets were in and couldn’t help but wonder what the heck had happened here. Well, the previous night was a Friday night. Put that together with university students and bam. Looks like we missed out on one hell of a party. The funny thing was, once we were done in the Trick Eye Museum and came back outside, everything was immaculately clean as if nothing ever happened. Seoul has one hell of a street cleaning team. Literally, there were large clean up crew teams all working to clean the streets. It was quite an amazing sight to see.
From there, we made our way over to Mecenatpolis Mall which was another shopping location that was on our list! This mall was interesting as it had an open roof concept! The mall had about three floors with a lot of name brand shopping locations, but what makes this mall super cool is the umbrella installation at the top! I don’t even think we ended up buying anything here, but we did end up taking a lot of photos!
This wouldn’t be a Seoul travel guide if I didn’t throw in some Kpop right?! Of course, on my long list of places to check out, were a few entertainment company buildings. YG Entertainment, the home of Big Bang, Winner, 2NE1, BLACKPINK & iKon was in the area and I obviously had to check it out. Unfortunately, you can’t go inside, but there was a lot of cool graffiti by fans outside and I mean, the building itself is also super cool to look at!
We then made our way over to yet another mall on our list, Times Square Mall. This one was probably the largest one on our list as you can see from the pictures above. This mall had multiple levels connected by crazy escalators and glass walk ways that made my knees shake. I did buy some more things here (hint hint: look at the bag in the final photo above) but we’ll talk more about that in a future post! I won’t lie, by the time we hit up this mall, we were pretty exhausted. We didn’t really walk throughout the whole thing because we knew we still had plenty of time to shop in the upcoming days.
Our last stop for the day was the famous Zapangi Café. This café is known for its vending machine entrance. People literally line up just to take a photo with it and most don’t even end up going in for any food or beverages. We were lucky that when we got there, the line wasn’t too large and we ended up getting photos fairly quickly! We did go inside, but ended up skipping out on buying any food or drinks.
March 12th – Love Locks
Namdaemun Market, N Seoul Tower, Myeong-dong & Stylenanda Pink Pool Café
Now this was an eventful day! We started out strong by walking through Namdaemun Market! I knew this would be a cool place to check out and pick up any souvenirs or other items that I might want to take home! I picked up a few Kpop related items, but other than that I didn’t find as much as I was hoping to. It was still really cool to walk through everything though!
From there, we made our way over to N Seoul Tower or Namsan Tower. Now, we had literally been walking a lot up until this point and we were 100% down for taking the gondolas that would take you up to the tower. We did however get a little lost and took the stairs about half way up before we found the main gondola. Little did we know that there was a smaller mini gondola that could have helped us avoid taking all those stairs to get to the halfway point. We would only find out about this on the way back down! We did end up going to the top of the tower which is something that I didn’t think we would end up doing. I don’t recall the cost, but I remember the round trip gondola tickets + N Seoul Tower tickets feeling really reasonable.
After getting off the gondola, we came across what felt like millions of love locks that were attached to every surface possible. These were really interesting to look at and I remember watching a video where Stray Kids added their own locks to the many. Guess, what…I found them!
There they are! All nine of Stray Kids’ love locks! It took me a little while to find them after going full Nancy Drew and investigating the Youtube video for clues on where to look, but I finally did it! My friend probably thought I was nuts, but I felt super accomplished! Also, if you don’t already stan Stray Kids, please do!
We then made our way over to one of my most anticipated locations to visit, Myeong-dong! This was probably the number one place listed as a must-visit location while I was doing initial research for our trip. It was literally shopping heaven. They had everything you can imagine from clothing to K-beauty to Kpop, Myeong-dong had it all! We did majority of our shopping here and we made multiple visits throughout our trip. It was always packed with people and extremely lively! I would like to jump on the bandwagon and highly recommend checking this area out!
Another thing that Myeong-dong had a lot of was cafés. I mean, there were a lot all over Seoul, but there were a lot of rather interesting ones in Myeong-dong specifically. We absolutely had to make our way over to the famous Stylenanda Pink Pool Café and get something to drink. One thing about this café is that you have to go through multiple levels of shopping (both clothing & beauty) before you reach the café. There is an elevator, but it was pretty cool to walk throughout the whole store. There were a lot of interesting displays throughout! The café itself is decorated to look like a literal pool as you can see from the photos above. It did take a little while for us to get our drinks as there were only 2 people working and about 25 ordering, but hey…it was worth the wait!
March 13th – Hanbok
Jogyesa Temple, Changdeokgung Palace, Insadong & Cat Café
Today was a day filled with traditional Korean culture! We decided to walk around for a bit in the morning and visit a few temples and shrines! First up on the list was Jogyesa temple! It was visually stunning and very colourful! We spent quite a bit of time here, more than we initially expected, just taking photos and taking in the experience!
We then decided that it was time to try on some traditional Hanbok! While doing some research before our trip, we found out that there were many places where you could rent some traditional Korean Hanbok for a few hours and walk around the city! We decided to rent ours for only an hour so we really only had time to go to one palace so we chose Changdeokgung Palace! We also then realized that because we were wearing Hanbok, we were allowed free entry! The palace itself was beautiful and made for some really amazing photos! I wish we had rented them for longer so we could explore more!
After experiencing more of the traditional side of Korea, we decided to do a little more shopping by exploring Insadong! There were quite a few souvenir shops in this area as well as a multi-level artists market! I found quite a few gifts to bring home to friends and family here! If you look at the photos above, we even found some poop themed treats! How could we pass them up?
Cat cafés are becoming so popular back home nowadays, but I feel like they’ve been a thing in Korea & Japan for a while now! We managed to find a cute little one in Insadong called 2Cats and let me tell you, it was quite the experience. The cats weren’t all that friendly unless you had food to give them, but I did have a really nice cold peach iced tea! This marked the end of our day of exploration as we were starting to feel the exhaustion from days of endless walking around!
March 14th – Oppan Gangnam Style
Gangnam, K Star Road, JYP, Star field COEX Mall & Banpo Bridge
What is a trip to Seoul without exploring Gangnam? Yes, that’s right…the same Gangnam of Gangnam Style fame! This was one of my most highly anticipated areas to check out and I was so excited to finally be here! First up on the list was K Star Road, a street in Gangnam that features bear-like statues that pay tribute to some of the hottest kpop groups! Of course, I needed to take a photo of the BTS one, but I ran into some other faves of mine along the way!
In Gangnam, there are also many Kpop entertainment company headquarters. One of my absolute faves is JYP Entertainment so of course we had to make our way over there! I’ve seen videos on youtube of some artists walking in and out and there are almost always fans waiting outside, but we must have gotten there really early because there were only three other girls standing around and it looked like nothing was really happening that day! It was still really cool to explore the area and take some photos with the building!
We then made our way over to yet another spot on my most anticipated places to check out…the Star field COEX Library of course! I mean, I do run a book blog you know. This library is absolutely stunning and is quite literally in the middle of a mall. I highly highly recommend checking this place out for the views if not for the amazing display of books!
We then went back to the Air bnb to rest for a bit before we went back out to explore Banpo bridge which we heard lit up at night and also sprayed water into the river below. Well, turns out the water/lights show doesn’t start up until April which was slightly disappointing. We did find quite the all you can eat buffet though…however, it was ridiculously expensive so I don’t recommend it…unless you were insanely hungry like we were and decided why not?
This was our most tiring day, which looking back now I find kind of shocking considering the amount of stuff we did other days. But according to our step counter, we hit 30,000+ steps on this day. It blew my mind if I’m being quite honest.
March 15th – Birthday Bash + Last Full Day
Common Ground, Itaewon, Canucks & Celebrating!
This was a bittersweet day as it was our last full one in Seoul before we made our way back to the airport to head for Osaka, Japan! We managed to pack in as many awesome things as possible as it was also my friend’s birthday! We started the day off strong by heading to Common Ground which is a really cool shopping area made out of shipping containers! It is definitely quite the site to see and there was a lot to buy and a lot of food to eat! I actually really loved this spot!
After shopping for a little while, we decided to head back home to start packing up our things! We had to be at the airport early the next morning, but we knew we wanted to have a night out with food and drinks, so now was the perfect time to start gathering our things!
We then decided to spend the evening in the area of Itaewon! We heard that it was a great place for tourists as there is an American Army Base near by. There were so many places to eat and hang out in this area, but the second we spotted Canucks (a Canadian themed bar) we knew we had to go in! I mean, we were missing home a little at this point and it was nice to eat some food and drink some drinks that we were used to!
We then went back to the Air bnb to celebrate my friend’s birthday with some soju that we bought at a 7/11 on the way home! We didn’t go too crazy though as we knew we had to wake up the next morning to make our way to Japan!
March 16th – Flight to Osaka
AREX @ Seoul Station & Incheon Airport
Before we knew it, it was already time to leave Seoul. I’m not going to lie, I was really upset and I never wanted to leave, but it was time to start a new adventure in another city! We woke up nice and early and took the express AREX to the airport! We got there with enough time to shop around the amazing Incheon Airport.
One of my main goals was to pick up some BT21 merchandise at the LINE store, but alas…they were all sold out. I did manage to find some BT21 themed food and drinks at Dunkin’ Donuts though!
Our flight was delayed by 15 minutes (no big deal) and before we knew it, we were boarding and on our way to Osaka! I’ll be talking more about this flight experience in my upcoming blog post about Osaka & Kyoto!
There you have it! My personal, self curated, Seoul Travel Guide! I’m sure there were so many things that I missed, but you can only do so much when you’re only there for a week and to be honest, I think we did quite a lot! I do plan on going back some day though! I’d love to explore other parts of South Korea like Daegu, Busan & Jeju Island!
Stay tuned for more upcoming blog posts to see what I bought in Korea as well as my experiences in Osaka & Kyoto Japan!
Thank you for reading!
Other Fun Photos!