Be dazzled by the glitz of Korea on your next trip to Seoul and beyond
By Nicole-Marie Ng and Natasha Tan
With the soaring popularity of the new series, “Descendants of the Sun”, the K-wave sweeping Singapore shows no signs of slowing down.
From non-stop shopping and feasting to visiting the filming locations of your favourite Korean dramas, here’s our round-up of the best things to do when you visit Korea.
1. Explore Gyeongbokgung Palace
Built in 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace was the first and largest of the Grand Palaces from the Joseon dynasty. Explore the impressive Imperial Throne Hall where the king gave declarations of national importance and greeted foreign envoys. The scenic pavilions are not to be missed, standing statuesque against the surrounding lake. Visitors can also catch the changing of the royal guard between 10 am and 3 pm daily.
The scenic pavilions are not to be missed, standing statuesque against the surrounding lake. Visitors can also catch the changing of the royal guard between 10 am and 3 pm daily.
2. Channel your inner K-pop star
Korean Pop fans should not miss spending time at SMTOWN@coexartium complex. Try your hand at being a K-pop star by visiting their recording studio. Professional staff are on hand to help launch your solo album, but be sure to book your studio time in advance. Head to the fifth floor to SMTOWN Theatre; here you can catch a holographic performance by your favourite K-pop acts.
3. Dance at a silent disco
Held every month on the streets of Hongdae, the Silent Disco is a unique roaming party that is loads of fun. Participants are issued a portable wireless headphone that streams music pumped out by a DJ you can’t see. Passers-by stare incredulously as you rock out to remixes of the latest Korean dance hits.
4. Step into North Korea
Take the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) tour from Seoul, and you can safely cross the border from South Korea into North Korea and come back to tell the tale. During the tour, you will be taken to Panmunjeom, an abandoned village located in the middle of the DMZ.
It is here where the historical signing of the Armistice Agreement took place. Communist forces and the United Nations Command (UNC) signed the agreement in 1953, making Panmunjeom a significant historical place.
5. Have live seafood
For the freshest seafood in Seoul, look no further than Noryangjin Fish Market. Purchase live sea urchin, abalone and oysters from friendly fishmongers, then proceed to a nearby restaurant to get your seafood cooked.
You will have to pay the restaurant a small fee for cooking your seafood, but if you are eating any of your seafood raw, there is no charge. Must tries include the live baby octopus that is served still wiggling and sea urchin with the umami taste of the sea served straight from the shell.
6. Experience thrilling rides
Lotte World has 45 attractions, making it the world’s largest indoor theme park. Split into two parks, Lotte World Adventure and Lotte Water Park, Lotte World is filled with rides that will make your heart race. In particular, the Gyro Drop and Gyro Swing are every adrenaline junkie’s dream.
If you aren’t a fan of thrilling rides, Lotte World also has an ice skating rink, laser shows and a folk museum to keep both young and old occupied.
7. Tour Jeju Island
Still a hot favourite among tourists visiting Korea, a trip to Jeju Island is a must to escape the hubbub of Seoul. Hike up Korea’s highest volcanic mountain, Mount Hallasan, which offers seven scenic trails. Make a stop at the Teddy Bear Museum to hug a giant teddy bear. Or for something a little more out of the ordinary, visit Loveland, a sculpture park themed on sensuality and eroticism.
8. Pose on a potty
Yup, you read that right. Built by the late Mr. Sim Jae-Dok, former mayor of Suwon city, this toilet-shaped house has interactive displays that chart the development of the modern toilet around the world. The hilarious Toilet Culture Park consists of tongue-in-cheek artwork and historical toilet displays from across the ages. Be warned that this is not the place for the easily offended.
9. Shop the latest beauty buys
Myeongdong is a shopaholic’s dream come true. You’ll find the streets lined with plenty of affordable beauty brands like innisfree, Etude House and Missha. Want to stock up on brands not available in Singapore? High end beauty brands like Amore Pacific and Hera, as well as fashion label Stylenanda are available at nearby Lotte Departmental Store. Not only are the products here a lot cheaper (as compared to back home), there are constant promotions and lots of free beauty samples too.
10. Visit a seaside temple
Located in Gijang-gun, Busan, Haedong Yonggungsa was built in 137 by a great Buddhist teacher known as Naong. This unconventional temple was built by the shore and overlooks the ocean. For the best views, climb the 108 stairs that will lead you to the perfect spot to view the temple in its full glory.
11. Spend the night at a bath house
These 24-hour Jjimjilbangs (or bathhouses) are a staple in Korea and also make for an affordable accommodation option. Rates vary from 6,000 won to 14,000 won per entry but gives you access to bathing pools, saunas, game rooms, restaurants, nail salons, karaoke rooms and even gyms.
Just a heads up: Don’t expect a private bed, as most Jjimjilbangs are fitted with bunk beds or thin sleeping mats.
12. Shop in hipster heaven
Common Ground, located in Jayang-dong, Gwangjin-gu, is the World’s largest Cargo Container Shopping Mall, making it is a definite must visit on your trip to Korea. The mall is made up of approximately 200 cargo containers that can be moved from place to place. Don’t expect to find big brands here, the shops mainly house pieces from up-and-coming designers or trendy restaurants.
The blue containers and natural sunlight that pour in from the roof will help you snap the perfect OOTD!
13. Sip on the finest teas
Forget Starbucks and have traditional tea instead. One of the most tranquil teahouses is Suyeong Sanbang, which promises customers a fully relaxing experience. This charming teahouse is located inside a Hanok. Have a sip of tea and enjoy the silence and the natural beauty of Korea around you.
If you prefer a faster-paced environment, Isadong is the place for you. Named after the area it lies in, O’sulloc Tea House Isadong Store is the place to go after a day of shopping. With a wide variety of food and drinks to choose from, you are sure to be spoilt for choice.
14. Stroll down Cheonggyecheon stream
You probably recognize this iconic stream if you’re a big K-drama fan. Play pretend and do like your favourite lead character and stroll down the Cheonggyecheon stream. Located in downtown Seoul, Cheonggyecheon is an 8.4-kilometre long stream that even lights up at night.
15. Stay in a Hanok
Not far off from Gyeongbokgung Palace lies Bukchon Hanok Village. Within the village lies hundreds of Hanok homes that dates back to the Joseon Dynasty.
Bukchon Hanok Village is still an active residential area, so you can stay there by renting a guesthouse. Learn more about traditional Korean culture by exploring the streets or having a meal at one of the many tea houses.
16. Enjoy panoramic views
For just $12, you can relish in the magnificent view of Seoul’s skyline from the top of Namsan Mountain. The N Seoul Tower is one of the cities most popular tourist spots and has been a part of Korea’s skyline since the 1980’s.Also, situated on top of the N Plaza is the Roof Terrace where it is famous for its “Locks of Love”. Thousands of padlocks attached to its fence by loving couples, representing their infinite love for each other.
An enchanting mix of new and old, Korea will leave you in a daze with its whirlwind of blinding experiences.