Last weekend, I teamed up with some colleagues again, this time to spend two days in Seoul. This would be my first time ever to visit the capital, so I was all the more excited.
On Saturday morning, we boarded the train and arrived at Seoul central station some three hours later. We dropped our bags at the hotel – located directly in the buzzing Myeongdong shopping district – and headed right out again. Our first stop was atop Namsan, a large hill right in the city center of Seoul. The view was amazing and personally, I could have done without the additional cost and effort to get onto the famous N Seoul Tower. The milky and greasy plastic windows inspired disappointment rather than awe.
Later, we stopped by Changgyeonggung Palace. It’s one of Seoul’s smaller palaces and is, to be honest, not very impressive. But this meant that there were hardly any people around, so we enjoyed walking through the shady park connected to it. It was a really nice afternoon, but next time, we’ll surely avoid using the City Tour hop-on hop-off busses to get to the sights. These busses unfortunately don’t run as frequently or as punctually as the ads are making people believe. We wasted massive amounts of time each time we got off, waiting for the next bus to finally show up.
We were exhausted from all the walking, so we checked in at the hotel in the late afternoon and headed right out again to find some early dinner. We settled for a decent Korean barbecue place close to where we were staying. After dinner, we decided the night was still young enough to give Itaewon a try, which is a bar area especially popular with expats. We stopped by various bars and tested a multitude of beers. My personal favorites were definitely the ales and porters at the British pub.
The next morning, we took the metro to Gwanghwamun and were amazed by the incredible size of Gwanghwamun Square and its impressive statues. My colleagues talked me into trying on some traditional Korean garments at a stall there – and despite my initial reluctance, I have to admit the pictures do look nice.
The next stop was Gyeongbokgung Palace, which is huge and was far more impressive to us than what we had seen the previous day. We didn’t manage do cover the whole area, but I loved the huge pagoda, the ponds covered with lotus flowers, and the traditional Korean houses that were set up as a small open-air museum. After extensive walks under the blazing sun, we longed for a nice lunch in an air-conditioned restaurant. We found a Vietnamese restaurant close-by, where we had a refreshing lunch of fresh spring rolls, Pho and Vietnamese coffee.
Well-rested, we were up for yet another long walk. From Gwanghwamun Square, we decided to walk all the way to Namdaemun Market. After only a few minutes though, we walked right into a huge demonstration at city hall, so our escape through the metro tunnels led to a small detour. But eventually, we spotted Seoul central station in the distance and from there, finding our way was easy again. After some more extensive walks through Namdaemun Market and various other shopping areas, we arrived back at the hotel. There, we picked up our bags, headed to the main station and boarded the train home.
It was definitely a great weekend! I think we covered the most important sights considering the time we had. But I’m sure I will return to Seoul within the next weeks and months, as there is so much I still haven’t seen. Bukchon Hanok Village, the city wall and Gangnam are just a few places still on my list.