Seoul-Searching: 5 Can’t Miss Activities in South Korea’s Capital City

south korea — By on May 25, 2012 at 4:45 pm

By Chantal and Carolyn Moclair
Exclusive to the Lost Girls

It’s all about Seoul!  Seoul, South Korea was the last stop on our six and half week backpacking trip around Asia. When we arrived in Seoul, we knew instantly that our last stop could very well be our favorite.  After a week in South Korea’s capital city, we narrowed down our 5 favorite activities into a ‘Can’t Miss’ list for future Seoul-searchers.

N Seoul Tower1) The N Seoul Tower:  Being from Toronto, Canada, we have a fascination with visiting tall towers around the globe, and seeing how they measure up to Toronto’s own CN Tower.  Visiting the Seoul Tower was a given on our list of things to see, and it didn’t disappoint. At the top of this famous Seoul landmark, there are 4 observation decks that offer panoramic views of the city, with its sky-high buildings and maze-like streets.  The tower itself is located on Namsan Mountain, which is in central Seoul, and stands at 236.7 m (777 ft).  Keep in mind that it is important to go on a clear day.  We went on a cloudy day and visibility was limited, but when the clouds lifted we did get a great view!  At the base of the tower, be sure to check out the “Promise for Endless Love” outdoor exhibit.  Hanging padlocks are placed on the Tower fence to represent symbols of love for tourist couples and Korean couples alike.  As well, you can find restaurants, gift stores, and the Teddy Bear Museum store.  After considering that we would be leaving Asia in a few short days, we had a mini-quarter life crisis and each left with a teddy bear from the store (we named them Bev and Ted).  In the Tower complex, you will find outdoor exercise equipment, the Palgakjeong Pavilion, and the Namsan cable cars to take you back down into the city.   The N Seoul Tower is definitely a must-see in Seoul!

2) Shopping at Insa-dong:  We had a wonderful time exploring Insa-dong Street.  Stretching over 700 meters, Insa-dong is a shopper’s paradise filled with crafts that reflect Korean culture.  Traditional items, such as paper, clothing, pottery and tea can all be found in specialized stores.  We especially had fun admiring the crafts, where the talent is evident and proud Korean culture is deeply embedded.  Best of all, they have reasonable price-tags, even on a backpacker’s budget.  The usual tourist favorites such as postcards and magnets can also be found on this sprawling street.   A treasure trove of traditional crafts and tourist must-haves, Insa-dong marks one of the most memorable attractions in Seoul, and another must-see!

Seoul DMZ Tour3) DMZ Tour:  Something we highly recommend is a tour of the DMZ, or De-militarized Zone.  The tour is very interesting, informative and digs deep into the history of North and South Korea.  We booked our tour through our hostel a few days before we wanted to go.  It was a half-day tour, for about $40 CDN/US, on a bus equipped with a driver and English-speaking guide.  The tour included Imjingak Park, Freedom Bridge, passing by Unification Village, the 3rd Tunnel tour, Dora Observatory, Dorasan Station, and stopping at an amethyst store on the way back to Itaewon, the drop-off spot.  Some especially memorable parts of the tour include: photo ops with colorful life-size letters spelling out “DMZ” and the 3rd Tunnel statue, visiting the DMZ theatre and pavilion, taking the 3rd tunnel tour into the tunnel itself (where you have to don a hard hat and pictures are forbidden), and seeing into North Korea at the Dora Observatory.  Overall, it was a really wonderful tour.  The only snafu in our plan for the day was when the two of us were accidentally left behind at the Seoul Amethyst jewelry store.  Here’s a tip: if the guide gives vague instructions about when and where to meet, just follow her around.  We were left alone in a store full of amethysts we couldn’t afford, trying to explain to the employees that our tour guide forgot us.  They were very helpful and called her, and even arranged for another car belonging to the tour company to pick us up and take us to our hostel.  The DMZ tour was definitely worth taking!

4) Korean BBQ:  Another ‘Can’t Miss’ activity on our list is going to a Korean BBQ restaurant.  We chose a restaurant spontaneously, without knowledge of its name or what it served, because everything was in Korean, and it ended up being one of our favorite memories.  The wait-staff was helpful in recommending what we should get to eat, and when it arrived at our table, it was raw.  This meant we had to cook it ourselves on the silver BBQ in the middle of our table.  It is something we’ve never done before at a restaurant and made for a great experience!  There is only one word to describe the food: 맛있는 (Korean for Delicious!).

Anyang Art Park5) Anyang Art Park:  Though it’s an hour or so outside Seoul, Anyang Art Park in the city of Anyang (20 km south of Seoul) should not be missed!  The Art Park itself is just a bus ride north of Anyang in a beautiful forested area lined with a riverbank where locals like to hangout out on the flat, dry rocks, and dip their toes in the icy water.  The Art Park is home to a showcase of 52 peculiar pieces of sculpture by International artists and Korean artists alike.  A map of the Art Park is engraved on a flat black rock, which is not as helpful as the Korean people themselves.  If you look lost, kind Koreans have no qualms about coming over to you and helping!  Some of our favorite sculptures at the Park include: “Paper Snake” by Japanese artist, Kengo Kuma, 3-Dimensional Mirror Labyrinth by Danish artist Jeppe Hein, and the Dancing Buddha by French artist Gilbert Caty.  Visiting Anyang Art Park was a very unique experience and we highly recommend venturing out of Seoul for a day of art admiration.

 

Chantal and Carolyn Moclair are identical twin sisters with a great love of travel!  They were bitten by the travel bug at the early age of three months old while in Brazil for their first trip abroad.  Twenty two years later, they’ve traveled to 40 different countries with no plans of stopping. Recently graduated from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada with an undergraduate degree in Honors Sociology and a minor in Criminal Justice and Public Policy, they will soon be embarking on another adventure:  Completing a year-long Master’s Degree in Publishing at Kingston University in London, England.  They both have big plans for the future, hoping to embark on a Lost Girls journey of their own one day. 

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