It's a 13-course itinerary offering a little bit of everything—from history and culture to food, drinks, relaxation and party. Get free tours at some of Seoul's oldest sites, enjoy art exhibits and movie screenings for free, eat yummy food and hang out at cool bars on the cheap and find quality music and nightlife, all under 50,000 won. Getting around won't be won't be much of a problem as each and every spot can be easily reached by subway.
Bageloo's selection of bagels—everything from plain to whole wheat, blueberry, garlic and more—are impressive. They're offered with a variety of cream cheeses (Nutella, honey walnut and jalapeño being some of the more interesting options), as well as your pick of classic bagel sandwiches. From 8am until 11am, Bageloo offers a bagel, cream cheese and coffee at 4,000 won. Manager Phillip Oh and his parents, who run the place as a family business, greet us in flawless English. The Ohs aren't even from New York! They’re from California! They’ve spent several months in New York researching and learning how to craft “the perfect bagel.”
Start your day with art and history that will inspire you for a long time, for free. Without spending a won, you can enjoy a special exhibit on the Korean women who migrated to Germany in the 1960's and 70's to work at hospitals as nurses or view photographic works of the late journalist and war correspondent of NBC News, John Rich (1917-2014), who lived in Korea for 3 years documenting the Korean War. If you're in the mood for art, there are also works of multi-media artist Park Chan-kyong (who happens to be the younger brother of film director Park Chan-wook), an experimental media artist duo MIOON and one of Korea’s strongest leaders in fashion, ADER on display.
Tongin Market is the real reason outsiders envy Seochon residents. The vegetables and fruit are widely acknowledged to be very fresh, and the side dishes on sale are toothsome and diverse. The choices are so plentiful that it’s enough to lose track of time as you walk along the arcade, easily over 100 meters long, agonizing over what to eat. But once you do decide, you can take care of your entire meal in the market, from starters to desserts, thanks to the sheer variety of foods available: temple food, fried chicken, noodles, pan-fried cakes, sikhae, sujeonggwa and more. One of the most popular choices is the lunchbox: for a few thousand wons, you receive a small tray and a handful of "gold coins" that you use to buy servings of side dishes around the market, then head upstairs for rice and soup to round out your meal.
There are several ways to experience some of Seoul's oldest (and most beautiful) sites while spending little or no money: rent hanbok on the cheap and get free admissions at Seoul's major palaces, hang out at Gyeonbokgung’s secret pavilion where the kings and queens threw parties back in the day, or get a free tour of Joseon's most well-known recreation site or Korea’s first European-style stone building located inside a traditional palace.
For those who are visiting Bukchon, naZzzam Café is the perfect destination to take a nap, rest your legs or cure a hangover. This modest café is actually quite empty, with simple curtains covering all the windows, a few plants and one small bookshelf with magazines and comic books. Other than that, it’s all just hammocks and fabric dividers for extra privacy. Just inform the assistant of how long you want to stay here so you can be notified when the time comes. The hammocks are all complimented with 2 electronic blankets, and once you’re comfortably snug, the assistant will tuck you in with 2 soft blankets and a rubber heat bag. Lastly, the assistant will spread the fabric dividers and leave you to peace. Next thing you know, an hour would have passed right by! Now, grab your belongings, get your complimentary tea to go and head on out to conquer the rest of the day.
Of course, Seoul offers lots of cheaper dishes, but often you need quality places where you can dine with a friend or a date. From bibimbap to gamjatang, wild vegetable bowls, jokbal, nokdu-jeon, Korean-style tonkatsu, Jeju-style meat noodle soups and "Korean fried chicken," these restaurants provide affordable options that you and everyone in your group will be happy with.
Hongik Children's Park—it's got almost everything, except for children. People-watching is a must when visiting any city, and the Hongdae park is arguably one of the best places for that in Seoul as it, as of 2017, nurtures rather diverse groups of individuals who call Hongdae their second home. In a place like Seoul where alcohol is allowed at public spaces, cheap convenience store drinks can always be paired with curious incidents—in Hongdae playground's case, with a chaotic mix of sounds that street musicians and evangelists happen to create, innocent or alcohol-infused efforts of mating and strange and/or fascinating characters. With the recent construction, the park has fewer seats than before but there are still enough.
Another mainstay of alternative culture in Hongdae, CTR Jebi houses a variety of projects in one building: During the day, the first floor is Jebi Dabang, a café that sells reasonably priced coffee. At night, the signboard slides over to transform its name into “Chwihan Jebi,” which means “drunken swallow” (the bird, not the verb). Jebi is best known for hosting a large number of indie bands every week on its basement stage, which is open to the first floor as well. It can get crowded, especially when bigger names take the stage, so come early for a seat on concert nights. Or simply sit on the wooden deck with a beer in hand and enjoy the music floating up from below.
Are you a fan of convenience store drinking? Try the combination of cheap beer, dried filefish fillet toasted over yeontan coals and reggae music, in Ikseon-dong. “Gamaek” is a portmanteau of "store (ga-gae)" and "beer (maek-ju)". Originated in Jeonju, the gamaek spots scattered throughout the area are known to offer their own side dishes along with cheap beers. In Seoul, too, several "supers" inspired by Jeonju's gamaek joints can be found. Visit Turtle Supermarket located in Ikseon-dong and take a corner window seat to shamelessly enjoy a cheap beer while people watching. A mini-recreation of the Chungcheong region, where the owner's from, this is the place to visit to get that laid-back feeling of being in the countryside. In Yeonnam-dong, there is Yeonnam Super. They sell dried pollack or calamari along with drinks, and the walls covered in messages scribbled by customers give you an idea of how inspirational this place can get.
The sun's coming up soon, we look for food for several reasons: to fill our stomach after all the partying, to reduce the chance of the worst morning after and for the chat we couldn't have at the club or the bar. Here are a few places to nurture your body when it's desperately calling for the sodium, H2O, carbs and fat. The menu basically comes down to pizza, kebab, mandu (dumplings) and noodles soups.