Do Seoul like a local
By Juno Kim
15th June 2016
Seoul has been the centerpiece for many Korean songs, poems, and stories over the centuries.
However, before Seoul hosted the Olympics in 1988, Seoul was a relatively unknown city to the rest of the world. Now one of the leading cities of Asia, Seoul is an exciting and mysterious destination that will leave a lasting impression on all who visit.
If a trip to Seoul is on your travel wishlist, read our expert guide on how to see this incredible place through the eyes of a local.
Shopping at Gwangjang Sijang
Getting there: Jongno 5-ga station, Metro Line 1 (Dark Blue Line)
To know a place, visit a traditional market. That’s the motto I follow when I travel the world. This is especially true in my home country of Korea, with a complex culture and five thousands years of history.
Gwangjang Sijang, one of the biggest and oldest traditional markets in Seoul, is a place where you can experience the right balance of local lifestyle and the more touristy side of the city.
But let’s start with the basics: souvenirs. Korea’s colourful, traditional souvenirs are always the best gift to bring home. Insadong is the most famous street for visitors, but you might want to forget Insadong in favor of the lesser known districts. Gwangjang Sijang is a hidden gem just four blocks away.
Once you enter, you’ll find rows of souvenir shops on the ground floor. Souvenirs come in all shapes and colours. Traditionally, Koreans love using colours in their daily life. From tote bags to wallets, from coasters to hand mirrors, there are more than enough things to commemorate your time in Korea. And these souvenirs are very affordable.
You can’t plan a trip to Korea without considering food. Gwangjang Sijang is also a good place to sample some of the typical and authentic Korean street foods. Once your bag is filled with colourful souvenirs, follow the smell of bindaeddeok (mungbean and vegetable pancake). It’s the signature street food of this market. You’ll also find gimbab (Korean rice rolls), tteokboki (rice cakes in red chili pepper sauce), eomuk (fish cakes), and soondae (noodles stuffed in pigs intestine). More curious eaters will find the yukhoe (raw beef) alley, which is usually popular at night.
Theatre hopping at Daehagno, Seoul’s Broadway
Getting there: Hyehwa station, Metro line 4 (Blue Line)
Daehagno has been playing an important role in Korea’s modern theatre culture for the past several decades. This used to be an area where college students gathered when the University was located here (Daehagno means ‘university street’ in Korean), but now it has become Seoul's version of Broadway. Many cultural organizations related to plays, movies, concerts, and musicals have moved in.
In Daehagno, there are lots of smaller theatres for plays and musicals rather than big theatres. Because there are so many shows each day, discounted tickets are available year round. Look out for coupons being distributed on the street. Daehagno is a great place to visit if you enjoy an arty atmosphere. Most of the shows are in Korean, but you might say that art transcends language!
Urban hiking at Bukhansan National Park
Getting there: There are many access points around the mountain. See: http://ecotour.knps.or.kr/dulegil/index.asp
One of the biggest misconceptions about Seoul is that it is a concrete jungle. Granted, it’s one of the biggest cities in the world. But you’ll be surprised looking at the map. There are 13 major mountains within the city limits, and countless hills in many neighbourhoods.
Bukhansan Mountain National Park is an ecological island inside Seoul and a spiritually important mountain for locals. The best part of this park is that it’s accessible from anywhere in the city by public transportation. Bukhansan National Park is divided into two areas with Uiryeong Pass in the middle: Bukhansan Mountain to the south, and Dobongsan Mountain to the north.
There are many peaks in the park that provide panoramic views of the city, but that’s not the only way to enjoy this mountain. Seoul City created ‘Bukhansan Dulleagil’, a walking path that goes around the base of the mountain. With a total distance of 71.5km, it’s divided into 21 courses with different themes. The path leads both into nearby neighborhoods and folds of the forest-covered mountain. It is a relaxing way to experience the city from a different point of view.
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