This course is for those who are eager to delve deeper in exploring this historic and urban city. This 24-hour course won’t be taking you to all the major tourist attractions but, rather, to spots that we might easily pass by without seeing their hidden gem. These small pleasures and quirks that are hidden throughout the city will surely keep you entertained and mesmerized throughout the day.
If you’re someone who likes to start your day with a hearty breakfast, head over to Junnim-dong. The neighborhood’s celebrated Seollongtang restaurant Jungnim-jang is one of few authentic Korean eateries with a long history (46 years!) in the area to open their doors at 7am. Approaching the restaurant, you will smell something that might a little distasteful to some – the rich smell of boiling seollongtang. If you decide it’s not for you, well there’s a Starbucks nearby.
Of all the architectural sites you have to visit when in Seoul, which one would qualify as the best? The answer is simple, the Jongmyo Shrine. If you’ve been around in Seoul for a while, you’ve surely heard of it but perhaps didn’t make out its exact location or might just have had too much Korean-ness from visiting all the Palaces. A shrine dedicated to royal ancestors, Jongmyo captures the idea of emptiness in a grand and awe-inspiring scale. You might be lucky to catch a glimpse of either the Jongmyo Jerye or the Sajik Daeje.
Climb the steady upward hill of Samcheong-dong to discover an oasis of design. Chapter 1 Collect, with its high ceilings, is filled with unique designer furniture and lifestyle products, while hidden at the back is a nice little garden. This shop is a small adventure of its own, as you will always find glimmers of creativity and inspiration. When in Seongbuk-dong, Chapter 1 Collect is a place to stop by.
Gilsangsa Temple, its welcoming doors are open to devout Buddhists as well as devout explorers. And if you find yourself in Seongbuk-dong, this temple is a highly recommended stop. It will be one place you won’t ever regret visiting as your spirits will feel transcended and at peace. The temple, hidden in Seonguk-dong’s green mountains, will give you the feeling of escaping Seoul’s dense and chaotic atmosphere. If you pay a small donation (it’s up to you how much you want to pay) you will be able to treat yourself to some Korean temple food. Gilsangsa Temple is known to cook up some great food, so make sure to head over anytime between 12pm to 1pm. You can offer to help out with the dishes after the service is done. Cleanse your spirits and your soul at Gilsangsa Temple.
Korea Furniture museum Nope, you can't compare this to a weekend at IKEA. This is, after all, one place that special guests of the 2010 Seoul G20 Summit headed to and where many heads of states were ushered to for a cup of Korean tea. It’s been listed on CNN’s list of Seoul’s best museum in 2011 and has welcomed international stars like Brad Pitt (who fell in love with a particular piece of furniture and failed to buy it) and a former creative director of Gucci. One of the most beautiful museums in Korea without a doubt, there's a villa that was once part of Changdeokgung (Changdeok Palace) and more than 2,500 pieces of furniture. Just make sure to make a reservation at least a week in advance as they do not take in a lot of people and slots fill up pretty quickly.
Everyone’s seen the statue of General Lee Sun-shin at the Gwanghwamun Plaza proudly defending the palace behind him. But one thing people might not know is that a replica of the Turtle Boat he is known to have designed and created is tucked away underneath the plaza. It’s not a life-size replica (it’s 55% the original dimensions) but is still big enough for people to explore. Inside the boat you will even find replicas of the cannons that were used.
If you search ‘standing galbi restaurant’, you’ll probably be bombarded with results. It’s become so popularized that you’ll be able to find one of these places in every neighborhood. But the original standing galbi restaurant is the 60 year old Yeonnam Seo Sikdang. Just don’t get it mixed up or confused with all the copycats nearby because it’s Yeonnam Seo Sikdang that serves the tastiest BBQ’s. The beef is a mixture of local ribs and US imported hanging tender. The restaurant only serves up beef so you might want to bring your own rice and kimchi or buy it at a nearby convenience store. The marinated beef only needs to be slight cooked on the fire before you consume it. Since you’ll be standing the whole time, you probably won’t be staying for over 30 minutes. Also, beware of the BBQ smell that will stick onto your hair and clothes – all of which is forgiven as the food is just too good.
Among the several traditional markets in the Cheongnyangni Station area, Cheongnyangni Fruit and Vegetable Market is the one that seems always busy, with a seemingly countless number of visitors filling the narrow alleys, trying out fresh produces offered at low prices. In the midst of this bustling scenery, one unique venue you will find is Sangsaengjang. Walking up the second floor through a little door next to a fruit vendor, you will find a large hall area charmingly decorated with vintage furniture and artworks created by young artists hanging on the walls. The food court offers several types of Korean and fusion dishes, as well as local craft beers. The top floor has a large rooftop area where people gather for camping and parties. Located inside a busy market, it is a space safe from noise complaints while distantly located Bukhansan Mountain offers a neat view for every sober and happily intoxicated soul who comes up here.
Want to deviate from reality?—or, first of all, from the hustle and bustle of the Itaewon alleys? Located on the 6th floor of a building resting on a relatively quiet alley between Hannam and Itaewon, Deviate offers affordable drinks, comfy seats with large tables and nice dance floor. The well-known DJ Yeonjun is the owner of this place, so you can expect some edgy selection of music as well. The overall design of the space is quite impressive, and the full-wall windows offer a view from the top floor. While it's not exactly a "Hangang view," the scenery offered here around the sunrise is quite impressive—which, of course, can only be found with enough stamina and booze.
Seoul’s nightlife is pretty well known with Gangnam’s massive clubs, Hongdae’s Hip-hop vibe, and Itaewon’s unique bars. These places will have your night scheduled filled with great liquor, music and fun without a doubt. But if you’re looking for something a little different, well here’s something that’s well worth exploring – Homo Hill. Some say that it’s the place you’ll be able to taste the true nightlife of Itaewon. You’ll surely be able to live it up here.