Whether it is the countless K-dramas you’ve binged, the endless list of songs by BTS you’ve jammed to, or the number of times you’ve enjoyed KBBQ, nothing beats a firsthand experience with the vibrant culture of South Korea. The city of Seoul epitomizes almost everything you can find in this innovative nation. The city is incredibly advanced with its technology and yet fully retains its old traditions. Like with many of South Korea’s neighboring countries, this is one of the best places globally to explore via food, especially with Korea’s distinct flavors. Even if the destinations may not leave a lasting impact on you, the varieties of food certainly will.
The Palaces | There are five grand palaces in the city of Seoul: Changdeokgung, Deoksugung, Changgyeonggung, Gyeonghuigung, and Gyeongbokgung. You can easily spot them with their high fortresses and colorful ornate gateways. The largest of the five is Gyeongbokgung, which served as the main palace for an early dynasty. Within the palace’s premises, you’ll find two museums on the rich history of South Korea’s royalty and its traditions. While there is a lot to discover in Gyeongbokgung, do visit the other palaces, like Changdeokgung and Deoksugung to witness the changing of the guards and the magnificent Zen gardens. Together these palaces are a series of homages to the nation’s past that are sure to stun any of its visitors.
Namdaemun Market | The largest traditional market in Seoul sells a wide variety of items, from street food to accessories to local handicrafts. Because of its vast size and its wide array of items, there are countless things that will definitely pique your curiosity. You can also try your hand at bargaining, which is quite entertaining in itself depending on who you’re dealing with.
Myeongdong | For a taste of the pop culture in Korea, Myeongdong is the place to be, where you can buy into some of Korea’s extraordinary beauty trends and grab some street food while you’re at it. The area is popular with the youth, but maybe grandpa’s willing to tag along and try on that snail face mask.
Dongdaemun | If Namdaemun and Myeongdong still don’t cut it for you, head to the Dongdaemun district where there are a whopping 26 malls. You’ll definitely get in some serious cardio should you decide to explore all of them in one day, and your wallet may also be significantly lighter. This district is recognized for both its retail and design. Within the district, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza is a sight to behold with its standout fluid metallic structures, ideal for the gram.
Namsan Park | Contrary to the dense bustling nature of Seoul’s shopping areas, the verdant greenery of Nam mountain, which towers over the city, is refreshing. Here, you can escape into the park’s botanical gardens and lush vegetation. At the end of your climb, you’re rewarded with magnificent views of the city and the iconic Seoul tower.
Before you embark on the most epic food trip in Seoul, it’s best to be acquainted with your tolerance towards spice first. One of the most quintessential ingredients in Korean cuisine is gochugaru (red pepper), which is then used in gochujang (a red chili paste). These then give the dish a reddish color. Beware of the many pitfalls with Korean dishes, particularly those that take on this common deceitful color, which can prove to be either harmless or downright lethal.
Tteokbokki | This fun street snack consists of chewy stir-fried rice cakes cut into thick cylindrical shapes that are then tossed in a red sauce. This dish scores highly with the unique and honestly entertaining texture from the rice cake mixed in with the sharp, sweet and spicy sauce. If you’re erring on the side of caution with the spice levels, congrats, you’re in for a treat because this is probably one of the most tolerable dishes out there.
Bingsu | If you decide to be a little adventurous with Korean cuisine and find your mouth ablaze, ignited by the spices, rush to the nearest bingsu place. This shaved ice dessert will surely help in cooling things down. With a variety of toppings to choose from, this cold dessert is fun, versatile and certainly sweet.
From the grand palaces and excessive shopping to the lovely long walks and traumatized taste buds, an experience in the city of Seoul is likely to be memorable. The blend of the new and the old keeps things exciting in South Korea’s capital, giving its visitors an entertaining memory.