[Travels] Best 5 Things to Do in Seoul, South Korea

So I spent about six weeks in Korea as a student in Korea University. The friendships forged has got to be one of my biggest takeaways. It was a good experience living independently as well. All in all, I really enjoyed myself!

Before I digress, here’s a list of some of my favourite places/eats/activities to do. While I only narrowed down to my Top Five picks, I hope this short guide will be helpful to those planning a trip to Seoul or intending to participate in Korea University’s summer school programme!

  1. SAMCHEONG-DONG

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I really liked this area because it was not overly crowded and there are many nice cafes to explore. It also stood out from the rest of Seoul because it was very scenic – there were mountainous landscapes in the backdrop and the streets reminded me a lot of Japan. Since it is near the Gyeongbokgung Palace, you may wish to head there after visiting the palace. The Bukchon Village, another tourist attraction, is also nearby. The area is not very well sheltered so it would be nice to go when the weather is pleasant. Also, be prepared do a fair bit of walking from the station. Alternatively, you can take a shuttle bus back to the station. A comfortable duration to spend there would be 4 to 5 hours.

Nearest subway: Anguk Station Exit 1.

  1. HEYRI ART VILLAGE

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Churro Bar, where we had churros (Spanish donuts). They were a delectable treat!

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Cafe Adamas253, one of the most gorgeous looking cafe I've ever chanced upon! We ordered their matcha roll cake which was a delight! 

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Book Cafe, Heyri Art Village. Look at the ceiling-high shelves. A book lover's dream come true!

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White Block Gallery, Heyri Art Village.

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White Block Gallery, Heyri Art Village.

Heyri is up north of Seoul and because there is no nearby subway, it takes some time to travel there. What’s special about this place is that the cafes are really beautiful and the buildings are all tastefully designed. There are also art galleries featuring local artists, of which some required a small entrance fee.

We spent most of our time café-hopping and taking pictures of the beautiful buildings and surroundings. I liked that the area was very peaceful and quiet, even on a weekend. Given that this place is relatively new, it’s not exactly foreigner-friendly and you’re pretty much left on your own to explore. A day trip is sufficient and we spent about 6 – 7 hours to cover the entire area. Oh yes, Heyri is really near North Korea so you will be able to catch a glimpse of the DMZ from the bus!

To get there: From Hapjeong Station, Exit #2, take Bus #2200 (07:00-23:20, every 15 minutes; it takes 40-50 minutes) and get off at the Heyri stop.

  1. GAROSU-GIL ROAD

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JAJU, a lifestyle/homeware store

This ranks as my favourite shopping district. And yes, I’ve been to several shopping districts in Seoul including the usual suspects: Dongdaemun, Myeongdong, Hongdae, Edae, and Express Bus Terminal.

Although relatively more upscale, I enjoyed the shopping experience more because:

  1. The streets and shops are neatly organized (basically in two straight lines)
  2. You hardly see duplicates of items, e.g. same outfits and shoes every where.
  3. Prices are usually clearly listed and you cannot haggle
  4. There are the usual flagship brands (such was Forever21, H&M, ALAND, Olive Young, Top Ten, 8ight Seconds) as well as independent boutiques
  5. My favourite store was JAJU, a lifestyle/homeware store where I procured many mason jars and cute tableware. To me, it was Korea’s version of Muji.
  6. There are many lovely cafes in the area where you can enjoy a cuppa and rest your feet

Nearest subway: Sinsa Station, Exit 8. Go straight (250m), until you see the street that says “Sinsadong Garosu-gil Road (신사동 가로수길)” on the left.

  1. KOREA UNIVERSITY

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I took two modules in Korea University – International Trade and Finance and Basic Korean Language. Summer school was a structured programme; there were classes from every Mondays to Thursdays and Fridays were usually meant for field trips. You can view more information about the programme here.

I stayed in Allive Gositel, which was a student dormitory off-campus. It costs about 20,000 won a day.

PROS: Personal air-conditioning, personal toilet, personal refrigerator, considerably larger than other student dormitories, affordable, free Wifi access, and a 5 – 7 minute walk from Korea University Subway.

CONS: It is a 17 – 20 minute walk from the area we had our classes at (which was nearer to Anam station). Besides the small mom-and-pop eateries and 24-hour convenience stores around, there are not much food options within a stone’s throw.

Still, I would recommend Allive Gositel if you don’t mind walking. To book a room, drop them an e-mail at: 0213heo@hanmail.net

Nearest subway: Korea University Station or Anam Station

  1. FOOD

Too many to list down, so I will only focus on some of my personal favourites.

– Boto açaí

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So the açaí berry has been all the rage these days. Could this be another of those doughnut fads?

It’s touted as a “superfood” because of its antioxidant qualities. It is apparently good for one’s skin and health. I haven’t seen a similar concept in Singapore or other parts of Asia. Apparently, this trendy açaí is more commonly found in Los Angeles, Hawaii and New York. I decided to see for myself what the hype was about and it did not disappoint! I went there twice and on both occasions, there was a snaking queue. 

This smoothie bowl, consisting of wholesome ingredients such as fresh fruit, granola, chocolate chips, shredded coconut, goji berries, chia seeds, raw bee pollen and mint, was a refreshing summer treat. 

Açaí bowls cost 5,500 won for a small, 7,500 won for a medium and 12,500 won for a large serving.

So what exactly is the acai berry?

It is an inch-long, reddish-purple fruit. It comes from the acai palm tree, which is native to Central and South America

Nearest subway: Sinsa Station, Exit 8. Go straight (250m), until you see the street that says “Sinsadong Garosu-gil Road (신사동 가로수길)” on the left.

Address of Boto Acai: 551 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (02) 516-3686
Operating hours: Noon to 10 p.m. daily

– Plant

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This quaint vegan eatery in Itaewon boasts a very homely interior with a lovely ambience. We could even see the  kitchen where food was made-to-order. It made me feel like I was dining in someone’s cosy abode. Their daily menu is simple: two main dishes, some beverages (soy lattes and ades) and a selection of vegan layered cakes and other vegan pastries.

I especially enjoyed the Thai Peanut Soba Bowl (12,000 won) Pumpkin & Gingerbread Cookie Cream Cake (5,500 won), the Peach & Banana cake (4,500 won). I usually bake my own vegan cakes as such vegan bakeries are a rare find in Singapore. I really enjoyed the food at Plant and I would recommend even the non-vegans to drop by this gem of an establishment.

Nearest subway: Itaewon Station, Line 6, exit 4. Come out the stairs and walk straight down Itaewon road. On your left you will see a SNEAK SOUL (sneaker store). Turn left into that alleyway with steps. Walk straight down the steps, crossing the intersecting road and walking straight into the next alleyway (between Greek on the Grill and LOFT). Walk a bit further and PLANT will be on your right. This video might be helpful: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idnN88k71Mo

서울시 용산구 이태원동 63-15
Phone: 070-4115-8388
Operating Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 11am – 7pm. Lunch service starts at noon.
Closed on Mondays.

(Note: All information in this blog post is accurate as of 12 August 2014.)

  • shannax

    nice one v! you look super cute in the Churrobar photo :)

    • vickiima

      Thanks dear! :)

  • guest

    hello! i’m planning to purchase stuff from jaju for my new house. would u happen to know if they actually helps to ship the items to us if we hit a certain purchase amount? i’ve been trying to check their website / fb but it seems like they doesn’t have it? thank you!

    • vickiima

      I’m not sure about that. So sorry!