Seoul Food War Memorial of Korea

In May of 2015 I travelled to Seoul, South Korea – a city that had been on my list for quite a number of years. When I arrived at Seoul Incheon airport I was armed with an extensively researched itinerary and high expectations. In short, Seoul did not disappoint. The bus ride to my accommodation revealed orderly lined shopping strips sprawled with Korean signs, countless BBQ restaurants and leafy trees I had never seen before in my life reaching for the clear sky. My instinct excitedly confirmed my expectations.

What was initially supposed to be a one week trip turned into a two week adventure. I was lucky enough to have time up my sleeve and seized the opportunity to uncover more of this incredible city and country. From its incredibly rich and complicated history (I still cannot comprehend families living apart between North and South in such close proximity), its thriving modern culture and such a strong social focus on food, fashion, art, design and the aesthetic.

For the most part this Seoul Mini Guide is a curated compilation of the places and meals that have nestled their place in my memory. There is so much to do in this city – the world’s second largest metropolitan area just shy of 26 million people. To understand the geography of the city and its history I would highly recommend visiting the War Memorial of Korea (pictured above) on your first day, as well as the N Seoul Tower. The latter has a section when you pass the Observatory on the way out via the lift, which gives you an overview of the city by district and key attractions including historical facts (printed in white on the windows.)

I have also tried to include directions for trickier locations. If you are on Steller Stories you can also check out my story here (Steller is a wonderful visual storytelling app that lovers of words and images should add to their collection – it’s free!)

My accommodation offered a complimentary Continental style breakfast every morning but I didn’t eat it once as I preferred to venture out early and beat the crowds (and eat something a little tastier). This gave me the opportunity to try places on my itinerary and my favourite: snacks on-the-go from street stalls. This was also the perfect time to grab a coffee.


Seoul Food Dutch CoffeeDutch Coffee being made at my ‘local’ in Seoul who unfortunately don’t have a web presence




If you visit Seoul, it will be hard to ignore the countless cafes offering Dutch Coffee. Virtually every cafe I went to offers this method of brewing drip filter coffee using ice cold water instead of hot water or steam. Although I am adventurous and open to trying everything when it comes to coffee, wine and food  I am still a creature of habit and will stick to things I love once I’ve found them. I often opted for a hot latte’ when ordering my coffee and in 95% of cases brought my own soy or almond milk with me – which almost every barista kindly agreed to use. Note: If you are a plant based milk drinker the majority of cafe’s in Seoul only use cow’s milk. Like me, buy your soy or almond milk (widely available from corner stores) and in most cases your cafe will use your milk if you ask them. Here are my two favourite cafe’s, in particular Coffee Libre which I went out of my way to visit many times. They directly source their coffee and roast it exquisitely! There was another cafe that I visited almost daily in Mokdong (pictured above) but unfortunately I could not locate their contact details (no web presence!)

It unfortunately was a little far for me to get to but if you have the chance please visit one of Terarosa’s cafe’s or see if you can get your hands on their specialty coffee beans. Absolutely delicious and the brand sources its own beans. Most of their cafes are outside of Seoul so you will need to plan your visit.


Seoul Food Coffee LibreEnjoying a delicious Iced Coffee from Coffee Libre (note: apologies for the takeaway I need to buy a new KeepCup)


Coffee Libre – Various locations including 252-15 Yeonnam-dong, Mapo-gu

For the Mapo-gu location which was the main cafe I frequented, turn right outside of Exit 5 at Hongik Station (Line 2) and walk to the main road. Start walking left and within 5 -8 minutes you will see a corner store with an orange column out the front. Take a left at this street. In less than one minute you will find Coffee Libre on your right hand side. It is a very small cafe that seats probably ten people maximum. If you can, definitely buy some of their beans to take home with you. I recommend the No Surprises coffee beans for something milder that you can drink everyday.


Seoul Food Lusso Lab


Lusso Barista Lab – 62-26, Samcheong-dong, Jongno-gu

Another specialty coffee house that definitely has a Melbourne-style feel to it, these guys make a great coffee and have a great range of beans. Make sure you check out their rooftop so you can sip your cup of Joe with a view.


To Sok Chon SamgyetangOutside at To Sok Chan


Seoul Food Korean Chicken SoupKorea’s famous Samgyetang at To Sok Chon



To Sok Chon – 5, Jahamun-ro 5-gil, Jongno-gu

Samgyetang is Korea’s famous ginseng chicken soup. After extensive research it seemed that To Sok Chon in Jongno-gu was one of the most renown places for it, so I went there. It is quite a filling meal as your soup is served with a whole baby chicken. To Sok Chon is famous for its soup because they use a secret recipe with 15 ingredients. I could only count seven!

I went there with a Korean friend from my Indonesian studies in Jakarta. When a mature man who’s been around the traps in Seoul (and the world) tells you it’s the best Samgyetang he’s ever had, well you know you’re onto a good place! Bookmark To Sok Chon for your visit.

 Seoul Food Rose Bakery SeoulThe delicious chicken sandwich from Rose Bakery

Rose Bakery – 261 Comme des Garcons Itaewon Street, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu and Hyundai Department Store, Samseong-dong, Gangnam-gu

The first Rose Bakery opened in Paris in 2002 and in 13 years the business has expanded all over the world, including New York, London and two locations in Seoul. Despite not being Korean, Rose Bakery offers an extensive range of delightful salads, sandwiches and cakes all made with local and organic produce. Although it is expensive, you do absolutely get what you pay for.  Rose Bakery’s Hannam location is the perfect spot to visit before or after a visit to the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art which is just around the corner.

Seoul Food Bills SeoulBill’s famous ricotta hotcakes


Seoul Food Bills Seoul InteriorThe striking interior at Bills in Seoul

Bills, Jamsil – 1F Lotte World Mall – 300 Olympic-ro, Songpa-gu

Only open since October 2014, I must say that it was a surreal experience eating Bill Granger’s famous ricotta hot cakes with honeycomb butter…in Seoul. For fans of Bill’s eggs and brunch fare you can now add his Jamsil restaurant to your itinerary. It is a little out of the way obviously depending on where you’re staying but the restaurant is within the Lotte World Mall if you are keen to do some shopping indoors. The space was beautifully fit out, lots of natural light, stunning details from the chairs to the artwork and crockery. You will also be pleased to see a very well stocked range of homemade treats at the main counter.


Heungbuga – 59 Tonguidong, Jongno-gu, Seoul

This place was just another restaurant that seemed to be a full-house every time I walked past. Finally I managed to get a seat for lunch and had some of the most impressive sushi I’ve ever eaten. The restaurant is small and cosy – so best for solo travellers or couples. It is always packed so try to make a booking, get there early or simply order take away.  This is a great spot to eat if you are planning on visiting (and you should!) the Daelim Museum which I will mention later. To get to Heungbuga go to Exit 4 at Gyeonggokgung Station (Seoul Subway Line 3) and walk straight. Take a right at the first main intersection (short walk) then walk straight until you reach the restaurant which will be on your right hand side.


Seoul Food Samcheong Sujaebi Restaurant outsideSamcheong Sujaebi Restaurant



Samcheong Sujaebi Restaurant Soup with the worksSuper delicious Sujaebi

Samcheong Sujaebi – 101-1, Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu

I came across Samcheong Sujaebi on one of my many daily 10 hour walks on foot. It caught my eye because it looked authentic and was bustling with people. I took a seat and even when I ordered I had absolutely no idea what would be coming out. Thankfully I ordered well going with Sujaebi, (hence the name) upon the staff’s recommendation. I have since learnt that Sujaebi is a traditional Korean soup that unlike a lot of Korean meals, isn’t spicy. The soup base is made with a seafood stock (kelp and anchovies) and flat hand torn noodles – the combination creates a lovely texture and the flavour is exceptional. This is definitely a dish worth trying!


Casablanca Sandwicherie – Yongsan-gu, Yongsan-dong 2ga 44-7

I have a very good friend that has been living in Seoul for about seven years, also the contributor of the images of our Inside a Seoul Lunchbox piece. He raved about this spot and his recommendation was on point. Though they are known for their sandwiches, their soups and salads also seem to be incredibly popular. I went with their Moroccan Chicken sandwich which had an amazing marinade and combination of sauces in a Banh Mi style baguette. It was one of those meals where you are already thinking about ordering another before you’ve finished.



Can I just say that Korean BBQ and Korean fried chicken are honestly on my best foods ever eaten list. So much flavour and goodness and yes these aren’t dishes to be eaten everyday for obvious reasons, but when in Seoul! The majority of my dinners here included both of these meals. My personal preference for Korean BBQ is chicken or pork meat so I’ve included the two standout gems I visited. With regards to fried chicken there were SO many places written up online and by the end I’d  sampled at least five or so different spots. Ho Chicken was my personal favourite due to the lack of excessive batter and the herb spice mix. All the details below.


Seoul Food BBQ birds eyeKorean pork BBQ at Mapo Jinjja Wonjo Choedaepo


Mapo Jinjja Wonjo Choedaepo  – 3, Mallijae-ro 1-gil, Mapo-gu

Mistakes are often the portals of discovery and I found a great one of the pork variety. I was actually on the hunt for Jeon (savoury pancakes), as I’d read that ‘Jeon Town’ was a short walk from Gongdeok Station. I lost my way and stumbled upon Mapo Jinjja Wonjo Choedaepo which I decided to settle on, on account of the ‘since 1956’ on their outdoor sign and given the amount of people crowded inside. This was probably one of the highlight meals of my Seoul trip. I was a lone traveller seated amongst drunk Korean businessmen at almost 9pm.  The group I was sharing a table with were feasting on BBQ’ed pig skin and continued to do so as I worked my way through my own meal. Not unusually (because I don’t speak Korean) verbal language was an issue but not body language. The wonderful and kind staff not only helped me to select my deliciously marinated pork ribs to be barbecued, they also gave me tips on how to eat it – on its own, wrapped in lettuce or pickled radish. Absolutely make visiting here a priority and if you are travelling with friends it’s a great spot not lacking in atmosphere. Note: I tried the pigskin which my neighbours kindly offered me but it wasn’t for me. Pork ribs all the way!

To get here head to Exit 5 from Gongdeok Station (line 5) turn left and take your first right. The restaurant will be only a few doors down, look for the sign with a yellow cartoon pig with a thumb’s up and ‘since 1956’ underneath it.


Seoul Food chicken bbqBBQ grilled chicken and Naengmyun salad at Junseob Dakgalbi

Junseob Dakgalbi – Ph. 033-261 7998/033-261-1237

After visiting Korea’s amazing Rail Park an hour out of Seoul which I will talk about later, my friend and I lunched at an incredible restaurant that specialises in chicken. The area of Chuncheon near the Rail Park is allegedly famous for its Dakgalbi, a spicy stir-fried chicken dish. We instead opted for their BBQ grilled chicken and Naengmyun – a cold, buckwheat noodle salad served with a spicy sauce. Both dishes were incredibly fresh and flavoursome, and yet another meal where I was ready to keep on ordering. If you go to the Rail Park definitely dine here. Unfortunately I could not locate a web presence or address for them, only their numbers. However, when you come out of Gimyujeong Station walk straight up the road (you will see a handful of restaurants). Junseob Dakgalbi will be on the right hand side and towards the end of the street. Look for a sign with a superman costume and the head of a little baby on it (strange but true).


Andong JjimdakA stand out – Jjimdak



Bongchu Jjimdak – various locations including 33-9 Myeongdong 2-ga, Jung-gu

This restaurant is named after the braised chicken dish from the Andong region which it specialises in. A spicy combination of chicken, noodles, potatoes and vegetables it is a delicious, generously served and filling meal best shared.
To me, this dish is just an example of how diverse and interesting Korean cuisine is. The Bongchu Jjimdak franchise has over 100 restaurants in South Korea and many overseas including Cambodia and plans to open more than 100 in China.


Seoul Food Ho ChickenI can’t even look at this photo I miss Ho Chicken so much!


Ho Chicken – various locations.

As mentioned earlier, while in Seoul I ate a lot of fried chicken. I tried about five different spots sometimes more than once but none compared to Ho Chicken. This franchise has spots everywhere and luckily or unluckily for me one was a two minute walk from where I was staying. I returned for their classic Korean fried chicken which I ate simply, on its own. The batter was crunchy but light and was fried fresh upon ordering (not reheated).

Note: Fried chicken is generally sold only in halves at minimum. Bear this in mind when travelling solo as you will need to be very hungry to eat it all or you will have to transport a lot of fried chicken around with you.


Seoul Food Bossam up closeLike a Boss –  how we roll with Bossam



Bossam is a Korean wrapped boiled Pork dish. Although I ate this at various places it was available almost everywhere I went.  The meat comes served sliced and with a side of lettuce or cabbage leaves for you to wrap it with. It also comes accompanied with the usual Korean side dish suspects which you will be offered when ordering most Korean dishes. This generally includes: garlic, onion, kim chi, various sauces and more (it varies depending on where you go), and they all get re-filled for free!


MakgeolliGetting ready to try Makgeolli




The first time I ate Bossam was also the first time I tried Makgeolli. This is a traditional Korean fermented rice wine commonly drunk out of metal or ceramic bowls. It has a milky appearance and is quite effervescent. Some might even say it is a milder alcoholic version of Yakult. It is an extremely popular beverage choice and is a drink worth trying.



When discussing alcoholic Korean beverages it is impossible not to mention Soju, a spirit made of  water and ethanol (I never  imagined I would ever have to use the word ethanol). It is so popular both inside and outside of Korea that this year it topped the number one selling spirit in the world – go figure! It is commonly drunk in shot glasses or in tumblers the same way you would a nice Scotch. Unless you want to get absolutely blotto I would recommend a few friendly glasses – it is pretty powerful stuff!

Seoul Food more street food with red rice spicy cakesMore Korean street food delicacies


Seoul Food more street foodStreet food in Busan


Seoul Food Kim Chi Jeon from mural villageKim Chi Jeon from the mural village


Seoul Food Skewer Street FoodStreet food in Myeongdong


Kimchi Jeon

Kimchi Jeon is a delicious breed of kim chi pancake that you can easily hunt down at street food stalls. They are generally quite thin (between a crepe and pancake) and pack a bit of a punch flavour-wise due to the kim chi. This is a tasty, satisfying and convenient option when you’re on-the-go.


Seoul Food Subway Kimbap on a stick


Gimbap/Kimbap (pictured above)

The best way to describe Gimbap is like a thinner version of the Japanese style hand roll. I was lucky enough to have tried homemade Gimbap in the past so I knew what I was looking for  (the bar was set pretty high). When you go to Seoul you have the option of seeing the city by bus, its incredibly advanced subway or both. I opted for the subway and was so pleased to find that the street stalls inhabiting the streets of Seoul had found their way to the subway as well. An easy labyrinth to navigate, the subway is teeming with delicious offerings as well as cosmetics, book and clothing stores (Seoul is literally one of the most convenient cities I have EVER seen.) Thus you will find your food search will have to incorporate the underground which was my choice for delicious Gimbap. My favourites were located at Singil Station (on your way to the line 5 transfer) and Yeongbu Office from line 5 as you transfer to line 2 (the stall is on the corner). There are a always a variety of fillings including chicken, pickles, Spam (yes I did), vegetables and many spicy varieties. I would suggest getting a mixed pack so you can pick your favourites.


Seoul Food Take Out Drawing Itaewon Seoul FoodThe Iced Cinnamon Plum Tea from Take Out Drawing


Take Out Drawing – two locations including: 140-861, Itaewon-dong

I visited the Take Out Drawing location referenced. A charming cafe, it is at the end of the main Itaewon drag on the right hand side if you are walking towards Leeum Samsung Museum of Art. A large two storey building, it is a unique cafe that also doubles as an art space. The cafe has a residency  program offering the free use of its space to artists for two months. It is always bustling with young and creative types and has a really relaxed but exciting atmosphere – the people watching is excellent. If you visit, try and get yourself a seat upstairs towards the back of the building. You will find some interesting views including many of Itaewon’s rooftops. Order the Iced Cinnamon Plum Tea with sugar on the side – it is refreshing and has a delicate floral sweet flavour which will not disappoint.


Seoul Food hoddeok stallHo-Dduk is a serious business


Seoul Food hoddeokAny opportunity – delicious Ho-Dduk


Seoul Food hoddeok getting filledHo-Dduk getting the final touches with this seed and nut mixture in Busan




Holy Ho-Dduk! This was probably hands-down one of my top culinary discoveries in Seoul. My only disappointment is not having tasted the fruits of this sublime snack earlier. I am not embarrassed to say that I ate one almost every day of my trip and recommend you do the same. You will find Ho-Dduk sizzling on the hot plates of many Seoul street food stalls. A hot, doughy pancake, this parcel of goodness is traditionally filled with brown sugar, honey, nuts and cinnamon. When you bite into it it will ooze with this hot, sugary mess. There are variations to the filling and the dough, for example I had a few with a green tea dough but all in all they are equally delicious. Trying Ho-Dduk is a non-negotiable.



For my own amusement I often intentionally pronounced this sweet iced dessert as popping sue. Patbingsu is a sensation unto itself with many cafes specialising in and serving countless variations of this dessert. In essence it is a shaved ice dessert with trimmings: fruit, red beans, condensed milk, biscuit crumble, berries, yoghurt, cream, heck I’m sure you can get it with kim chi too. It is a must try and found readily in Seoul.

Seoul Food steamed bun stallHoppang – steamed red rice buns


A dear friend of mine who had travelled to Seoul before, highly recommended I try these red rice steamed buns. They weren’t easy to find (I refused to eat the convenience store variety) but when I did I ran so quickly I almost knocked over the food stall. Delicious, moist and warm, they are very reminiscent of Chinese soft steamed buns. In fact I found them even softer/pillowy. This is another great go-to snack or even breakfast when you’re on the run.


Seoul Food Fruit off the back of a vanFresh fruit being sold off the back of a van


Seoul Food Linda McCartney ExhibitionA poster advertising the Linda McCartney exhibition




Daelim Museum – 21, Jahamun-ro 4 Gil, Jongno-Gu

Seoul is a city that is home to countless art galleries and museums, so it came as no surprise to me when I learnt the city was awarded UNESCO City of Design status in 2010. The Daelim Museum is another impressive Seoul art house. Quite compact and modern, during my stay in Seoul I was lucky enough to see their extended exhibition of Linda McCartney’s photography. It was incredible, I even bought one of the tote bags from the show merchandise! A great space, make sure you check their website to see what’s showing, it is definitely worth a visit.


Seoul Food Linda McCartney horseOne of my favourite photos from the Linda McCartney exhibition

N Seoul Tower – 105 Namsangongwon-gil, Yongsan-gu

This is an observation tower/deck that you will sometimes be able to spot during your travels. It marks the highest point in Seoul and is a great place to enjoy a 360 degree panoramic view of the city’s vastness if the visibility is good (don’t go on a cloudy day like I did). Try to head there early and on a weekday to avoid the crowds.

Seoul Food Kim Chi at National Folk museumThe kim chi exhibit at the National Folk Museum of Korea

Seoul Food GyeongokgungJust one of many structures at the Gyeongbokgung Palace


Seoul Food Palace groundsOn the Gyeongbokgung Palace grounds

Gyeongbokgung Palace – 161 Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu + National Folk Museum of Korea – 137 Seobinggo-ro, Yongsan-gu

This is one of the five grand palaces in Seoul and is a remarkable, breathtaking site. Allow a few hours to navigate the area which also houses the National Folk Museum of Korea. Visiting the National Folk Museum will give you a great insight into the Korean culture and history. There is even a section dedicated to kimchi which I loved, did you know that there are over 200 kinds?


Seoul Food Leeum SamsungSky Mirror – an art piece that reflects the sky by Anish Kapoor at the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art


Leeum Samsung Museum of Art – (Closed Monday) – 747-18, Hannam Dong, Yongsan-gu

I mentioned earlier that I was impressed by Seoul’s abundance of art and design. The Leeum Samsung Museum of Art exemplifies this. Stunning architecture, outdoor exhibits and installations, the building space is just generally stunning and literally state-of-the-art. This is a must visit for all art lovers and appreciators of design and architecture. To get there go to Hangajin Station (Line 6). Take exit 1 and when you walk out, walk towards Itaewon. Take a right at the Jo Malone store on the corner and walk up following the road for a good five minutes or so. The building and space will be on your right hand side.


Seoul Food Nami IslandThe absolutely beautiful tree-lined lanes that Nami Island is so well known for


Naminara Island – 1024, Bukhangangbyeon-ro, Gapyeong-eup, Gapyeong-gun

In recent times Nami Island as it is colloquially referred to, has become famous as the filming location for the South Korean drama Winter Sonata. This has contributed to its popularity and rising number of visitors. I was taken there by a Korean friend and was blown away by the layout, design and just general conception of this quaint island. It is a cultural  hub, home to several galleries and an international children’s book festival. Although the island definitely feels themed and targeted at children and families it is very hard not to appreciate the natural wonders. In particular you cannot miss the lanes populated with the famed and giant Gingko trees,  as well as a host of animals including squirrels, deer, ostriches, ducks and birds. The plant and tree life is really stunning. Although it is a little out of Seoul, this is a visit worth including on your itinerary and if you plan your time wisely you will also be able to visit the Gangchon Rail Park on the same day.

Seoul Food Han River at Gangchon
Jaw dropping scenery from the Rail Park ride


Seoul Food Gangchon rail parkArt installations around the waiting area as we waited to board our rail bikes

Gangchon Rail Park –1385, Gimyujeong-ro, Sindong-myeon, Chuncheon-si

Given that the official website does not have a ‘translate into English’ button, I now understand why I was one of the only non-Asian visitors to the Rail Park when I went. Thanks to the research of my good friend and Seoul local Youmi Oh, I spent a good hour or so pedalling a rail bike  on the old railway tracks of Gangchon (now a tourist destination).  The railway takes you through tunnels filled with music (yes they played Gangam Style) and light shows unfit for an epileptic. The most amazing part of the rail bike ride however, is the stunning setting and landscape of the Bukhan River (North Han river) scenery.


Seoul Food MMCAA stunning art piece at the MMCA


National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA Seoul)  – three locations including: 30 Samcheong-ro, Sogyeok-dong, Jongno-gu which I visited and relay below.

If you enjoy the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art then you will also enjoy the MMCA in Jongno-gu. Although a few sections were closed when I was there the showings were quite impressive. In particular was an exhibit called ‘Illusion and Fantasy and Some Fragments of Truth’. A compilation of striking and sometimes confronting works by seven Korean artists which each delved into the exhibits thematic elements.


Han river bike rideGetting ‘on my bike’ at Han riverside (image credit: Joseph Brzezinski)


Han riverThe calming and serene views at Han River

Han River Bicycle Ride

The outcome of another trip commandeered by a friend who lives in Seoul. Our bike ride along the Han River for two hours was such a lovely way to see the riverside and observe the people. Our bike ride happened to coincide with some pretty spectacular weather too which made it all the more fun. Note the many public outdoor gyms, an addition to many parts of the city but in particular along this trail. Add this ride to your must-do list. All you need is an ID card and a bike is all yours for two hours. There are a number of free bicycle rental spots around the city, we went to the one opposite Oksu Station at Exit 4.

Seoul Food MuralsOne of the more popular mural works, many people lined up to get a photo on these steps


Ihwa Mural Village  – Ihwa-dong, Jongno-gu

Not quite Montmartre but this village nestled around the Naksan hilltop is quite majestic. Through a campaign called the Naksan Art Project, in 2006 poorly developed houses and districts were given a makeover through a range of art installations and over 70 murals. As you work your way from the bottom to the top, the designs and colour of the murals will inevitably put a smile on your face. Another must for your itinerary, take a book and your camera and take your time observing the visually beautiful surrounds.

Garosugil Street, Sinsa/Shinsa-dong, Gangnam

Located in the area made famous by Psy’s world famous song, this Garogusil street puts the style in Gangnam style. A super hip and sleek spot it reminded me of parts of Paddingtong on Oxford St in Sydney. Designer boutiques, people dressed to impress (though this is the case EVERYWHERE in Seoul – basically the most fashionable people I have ever seen) and lots of shopping, people watching and trendy bars, cafes and restaurants. Well worth a visit. To get there head to Sinsa Station (Line 3) and get out at exit 8. Walk straight 250m then turn left.

Seoul Food Art work at Busan Museum of ArtAn artwork at the Busan Museum of Art


Busan is South Korea’s second largest city, a port town that is known for its beaches and recommended to me by my Korean friends in addition to seeing Seoul. You can get to Busan many ways but due to time and a preference for trains I took the KTX Express. Just under four hours from Seoul to Busan it was a little expensive but convenient and pleasant.

I didn’t allow myself much time but I assure you I probably saw more than Beyonce’ could in the 36 hours I was there. Apart from eating live octopus at the local fish market (a dish which I would say is definitely optional), the musts for me were visiting the Busan Musuem of Art. In some ways the way the space was organised and the calibre of its exhibits was even more impressive than some of what I saw in Seoul, so do make the time to go there if you are in the area.

Seoul Food Busan Temple

Whilst visiting Busan, I would also highly recommend visiting the Haeding Yonggungsa Temple (pictured above). Some of the detail on the temple’s exterior is similar to the artwork at Gyeongbokgung Palace. To top it off the temple is located by the seaside providing some beautiful views.


Seoul Food Igidae TrailSome rugged scenery from the Igidae Coastal Trail

Finally, I also highly recommend the Igidae Coastal Trail – another activity to make the most of the city’s seaside location. Located at Igidae Park I was lucky enough to share this experience with an old friend and Busan local. The walk is very beautiful and calming, another place to take a book and camera and reflect on your travels.


seoul food guideOne of my favourite photos taken on my first day in Seoul at Itaewon


For fashion shopping in general I recommend the Hongdae and Myeongdong districts. You will need a comfortable pair of walking shoes and patience as there are a LOT of shops to get through.

Something which often irritated me and was probably the reason I strayed away from shopping (I also enjoy eating more), was trying on clothes. Due to the amount of make up worn by women in Korea many (not all, but many) boutiques forbid you to try tops, singlets or even dresses to avoid being damaged by smears of foundation, etc. Having said that I did find some places that let me try on tops, and with items like pants, skirts, jackets and cardigans you have free reign.


Between – 152-26 Donggyo-dong, Mapo-gu  Ph: 070-4252-2203

Apart from a pair of shoes which I bought because I realised how much walking I would be doing, the only place I actually purchased clothes was this boutique, Between. Not only did Amelie the owner allow me to try on clothing for the top half she had exceptional style and this showed in her buying. Gorgeous tops, cardigans, cute dresses and all were made locally. The prices were extremely reasonably priced too which you will find with most fashion shops in Seoul, except of course your high end fashion stores. Even the local designer boutiques are quite affordable.

Note: Amelie was playing this Korean singer’s music in the store on my first visit. His voice is incredible (Rnb style) and worth having a listen to particularly before or during a visit to Korea. ‘Sing the spring’ seems to be his most popular hit with a few lines even in English!

 Seoul Food Inside at Gentle MonsterThe incredible showroom space at Gentle Monster


Gentle Monster – various showrooms including 520-9, sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu

Gentle Monster is an incredibly designed store that feels more like walking into an artist’s studio or personal home. Definitely worth visiting if you are a fan of sunglasses, architecture, design or visual merchandising. You can loop this into your visit to Garosugil Street.


Seoul Food drainOn the streets of Seoul



Souvenirs are really a matter of personal taste and as a light and economical traveller I often opt for postcards, however there are some places bursting with so much culture and creativity that it is hard not to leave with something. Seoul is a city like that. As I mentioned, I bought a few pieces of clothing and a pair of comfortable walking shoes. I don’t use much make-up but ended up buying a lip tint and a spray toner – a product introduced to me by one of my hosts. From BB cream to snail masks, Korea is known for its cosmetics and beauty products. There are countless stores and franchises but the one that seemed to stock a good range of quality products at fair prices was Olive Young, supposedly Korea’s number one health and beauty store.

Tea is a staple in my home so I couldn’t help buying some Ginseng tea (widely available particularly in the Insadong area), as well as some Dessert Tea by the hugely popular tea house, O’Sulloc – who are also known for their green tea. Although it is expensive, it is worth visiting and their beautifully presented teas do make great gifts. Unfortunately their website doesn’t cater for the English language but you can find some information about their store locations here.

When eating out you will notice your meal will be served with metal cutlery that includes a spoon and chopsticks. At some stores and even museums they sell the traditional bronzeware form of this cutlery called Bangjja.  I really love the simplicity of its design and the sheen of the bronze. Unfortunately as the real bronze ware is handmade it does come with a relative price tag.

If you have a vision impairment like me, Korea is a great place to get a new set of frames (it’s allegedly the world’s third largest exporter of eye glasses). Eye exams are free and the actual glasses frames are incredibly reasonable compared to Australian prices. The actual process is extremely efficient and convenient with the eye test taking about five minutes and your new glasses being handed to you within the hour! I bought my new frames in the Mokdong area at a store called Glasses Story which was fantastic. Apparently though, Namdaemun is the best place to go as this area caters for 50% of the glasses distributed in Korea.

On a sidenote, familiarise yourself with Puuung – a super talented Korean artist famed for her heart-warming drawings.



– If you are spending more than a week in Seoul, I would recommend buying a T-money card for convenience (check the box when you purchase it as it will have some discount vouchers for around town). It is essentially the equivalent of a MyKi (for Melbournians) and will save you some valuable dollars if you are planning on going to more than one area each day.

– Take screen grabs of directions if you don’t have wifi access.

– English is not spoken widely so do learn some phrases (I would have benefitted from this) and perhaps consider borrowing a Korean phrasebook from your local library. If you enjoy cooking, here is a great website that will teach you about traditional Korean food and recipes and impart some language tips. For language and cultural pointers try this site.

– The Official Korea Tourism site is extremely helpful when it comes to directions, addresses and general information for key tourist attractions, an invaluable resource.

– If you are a student take your student card – you will save a lot of cash on museum and gallery entry fees.



Lots of options here.



To all my friends who made time for me and contributed to making my stay so memorable: Joe, Bapak Jung, Youmi Oh and the lovely Fran. Thank you also to all my friends who shared their recommendations.

JC x


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