Welcome back to the blog!
So, we all know travel is slowly coming back into full force so my friends and I are planning an end of year trip to Korea! I was so lucky to fit in a Korea trip just before COVID back in 2019 but I’ve been dying to go back.
Since then, all the vlogs and Korean tv I’ve been watching have been contributing to a list of things I want to do and places to go.
So just in case anyone else is also planning, here are 10 things you can do while traveling to the wonderful world of food, beauty and culture.
Of course we have to start off with Korea's leading luxury cosmetic flagship store. Explore where traditional Korean Hanoks meet modern architecture, it's absolutely divine. You can also purchase the exclusive porcelain edition activating serum at this store only.
The store is situated in Bukchon, the Hanok village, between Gyeongbokgung and Changgyeonggung Palaces. The area has a lot to see to fill in a day of sightseeing and turning on full tourist mode. As you walk through the streets, there’s plenty of stores with traditional souvenirs to tick off the list. But what I love, is the existence of old tea houses and restaurants in the area – a way to realise the appreciation of the old within the new. 47th Avenue Tea House is a great cosy tea house to enjoy Korean tea as well as traditional treats such as dried persimmon and rice snacks.
2. The Korean Blue House
The Korean Blue House has opened it's doors to the public for the first time in 71 years! From where foreign guests were entertained, the party halls, to the executive office, there's so much to see. Make sure you book the tour in advance and put on your walking shoes because there are a few uphill walks.
There’s plenty of street food and great restaurants that are cheap and cheerful but there’s always room to treat yourself. With the rise of celebrity chefs and the innovation of food in Korea there are a number of fine dining restaurants to choose from. You have to realise that Korea is a community built on service and business so you know you’ll be getting value for money at any of these places. Mingles is a place I've been before, and would go again! This two Michelin star restaurant uses traditional Korean ingredients to create dishes that are familiar but wildly innovative.
4. The Han River & Ramyun
I’ve been to Korea so many times and still never visited the infamous Han River. You might hear it called Hangang (the gang = river). Head over to Yeouido Hangang Park and grab a ramyun sold in foil containers that can be used to cook on the special machine. You can even have food delivered to the park and many take tents to spend a few hours in the park, have a picnic and watch the sunset.
Ok if we're looking for somewhere to party, there are plenty of club options. In the past, a lot of the more popular clubs were in the Gangnam area but this one in Itaewon is worth a visit. With a 'playful warehouse' theme, the interior features a lot of concrete and steel mixed with unique colours. It's open Wednesday to Sunday every week and there are so many great restaurants in the area you could go to before heading into the club.
Ugh, my absolute favourite thing to do that never gets old. The modern public bath houses in Korea are heavenly. There’s something for everyone – sauna rooms, spas, massage chairs, gaming rooms and sleeping cabins. Though, I just love going in and out of the saunas, having some seaweed soup at the restaurant, and then getting a FULL BODY SCRUB. I usually go to the Dragon Hill spa but I saw it’s temporarily closed so, would recommend the Spa in Garden5. It's inside a shopping mall so well maintained and has all the facilities you need. Just beware of getting lost, especially if you're heading in in the evening! It's on the 10th floor.
7. Day to night in Euljiro – shopping, observation deck, cafes, bars and street eating at night
In recent years travelling to Korea, I’ve been more and more inclined to explore outside of the main areas of Seoul. Well outside of Gangnam and Myeongdong primarily. I’m keen to spend a day in Euljiro this time round. Some of the notable things on my list include this incredibly lowkey gallery N/A run by a couple of photographers, it exhibits some really powerful works in the beautiful minimalist space. There’s a number of funky cafes and bars in the area as well as a great view from Sewoon Plaza but excited about ‘Nogari Alley’ – when the weather’s good, you’ll see plastic tables and chairs spread out in the street for a night of alfresco dining – Korean style.
8. Café hopping in Hapjeong
I recently discovered this area on my most recent trip to Seoul and I wish I was staying in the area to visit all the cafes they had on offer. Each café has it’s own individual style and not to mention great beverages. Urban plant, as the name suggests is filled with beautiful greenery inside and out but it doesn’t take away from the cosy vibe. If you’re visiting during cherry blossom season, sit in the garden at Greylab coffee bar or if you’re like me and love a great book café, Café Comma is the one to go to.
9. Lotte World Tower
Everyone goes to Coex, especially in the winter because you can stay indoors in the one place and do everything from shopping to watching a movie. But have you been to Lotte World Tower? It’s currently the tallest building in Korea and the 6th in the world. It has an incredible shopping offering as well as an aquarium, cinema, museum and plenty of food options. But the view from Seoul Sky is to die for.
10.Makeolli tasting from all over Korea – Damotori H
When I say I don’t like soju everyone is like “but you’re Korean”. Look, you can be Korean and not have the love for soju in your DNA. My favourite Korean drink is Makgeolli – traditional rice wine. Something definitely on my list to do is to taste as many different kinds while I’m there and found you can do tastings at Damotori H bar which sources Makgeolli from all over Korea.
Some products to try: