Korean Shopping Tips
Korea Travel Itineraries
My friend Steph (who wrote a post about where to eat in Makati/Manila) and her boyfriend are going to be on a layover in Seoul on their way back to New York.
Read the itinerary I made for Neal.
I made them an itinerary. She had a few requests, so I worked on getting those all in the itinerary...and I did! She also requested that it isn't too crazy full of drinking, etc.
They arrive at 8PM to Incheon Airport and then leave again at 11AM.
It made it slightly challenging, but I think it may work! (I hope she will update me/the blog about what they ended up doing.)
I suggested that they stay in Hongdae area since it has a bunch of cafes and stuff that's open 24 hours and also because it's located on the airport railroad.
I only recommend places I have tried...so please trust me and my tastes. You can ask tons of people...after I take them someplace, even if they were slightly hesitant at first, they become followers of my food opinions and recommendations.
If you want me to make you an itinerary, let me know. Leave a comment or email me at eat.stretch.explore (at) gmail.com with your requests and the time constraints! If I make you an itinerary, I would like to ask you to try and write a guest post for me, though...nothing intense. It can be as long/short as you want!
Note that just to be safe, if you’re going to take the subway somewhere else, be at the station around 11:45PM just to make sure you can make the last train. So, either make sure you are somewhere you want to be…or else be okay with taking a taxi. First train is something like 5:30AM.
Hongdae Option – I recommend going here…to maximize your eating and get most stuff ticked off your list.
8PM Arrive ICN Drop off luggage at the luggage storage level 3 (either landside or airside) Take airport railroad to Hongik University Station (홍대입구역) ~90minutes
10PM Estimated arrival time. Food options:
Galbijjim – 매운갈비찜 restaurant in Hongdae. Open until 3AM This one is spicy steamed galbi. You can choose between pork (9,000KRW) and beef (13,000KRW). You can also choose the spice level. You can order some tofu soup 순두부탕 (not the spicy one you’re thinking of) (3,000KRW) or steamed egg 계란찜 (3,000KRW) or rice balls 주먹밥 (3,000KRW), fried rice 밥볶음 (2,000KRW) (You can get your soju and beer here if you want.)
Spicy rice cakes (aka ddeokbokki):
Spicy rice cakes, kimbap, fried vegetables, shrimp octopus, etc – 미미네 본점 Spicy rice cakes 국물떡볶이 (3,000KRW), fried shrimp (1 for 2000KRW, 6 for 10,000), squid 오징어, seaweed roll 김말이
죠스떡볶이 Jaws Ddeokbokki. Virtually the same menu as above, just depends on what you want to try and how busy they are. I prefer the 미미네 option, but Jaws has soondae and the fish paste cakes.
Big ice dessert thing aka bingsoo: I tried so many places, so you get a lot of options.
빙빙빙 – I recommend the milk, green tea, or lemon flavors. The “one person” serving is very large. Cheap price..about 5000KRW.
피오니 – They have handmade condensed milk. Recommend the strawberry bingsu. I do not recommend the strawberry cake slice. Bingsu 8000KRW
Directions: On the blog.
Maman Gateau – They have freshly made caramel bingsu. I also recommend their cakes. Pretty expensive, though. Directions: On the blog.
Korean pancake: I recommend going to a makeolli place in Hongdae to eat pajeon. The one I recommend is 막걸리 싸롱 You can get makgeolli, I usually go for the unlimited refill one with my friends, cocktail makeolli, beer, soju Recommended menu items: the pancakes, they have some fusion ones, I recommend the kimchi pancake or the potato pancake or the seafood one
Shopping: (This was the difficult part of their itinerary because of the time they will arrive in Seoul at night and leave Seoul in the morning) I’m not sure if you will be able to do any shopping. Most stores in Hongdae and Edae don’t open until 10 or 11AM. Some stores will be open in Hongdae.
Piercing: (Steph really wanted a piercing since it is really cheap in Korea and I've gotten a few in Seoul and my ears haven't fallen off or anything...even the one time I got one done in a subway station...)
I recommend either Cobra in Hongdae or this other place in Edae. The place in Edae is kind of hard to find if you don’t know the area well and kind of looks sketchy, but the guy is super professional, I can try to remember the directions if you want me to do so. Just ask!
Cobra directions: Exit 9 of Hongdae Station. Go to the left out of the station. At the big street turn left. At the first street, turn right. At the third street, turn left.
Market: 광장시장 – This is kind of hard to get to, but I recommend here for food. From Hongdae Station, you can either take the subway to Euljiro-4-ga Station (line 2) – 8 stations Or else take bus number 273 or 271 to the Jongro-5-ga bus stop (14 stops) Places to eat here: 꼬마김밥 for kimbap, 부촌육회 for yukhoe – steak tartare, 순희네 빈대떡 for bindaeddeok and makeolli
Misc. Sightseeing stuff: Gwanghwamun – Take bus 273 or 271 to Gwanghwamun bus stop (9 stops) - From there you can look at Cheonggyecheon stream and the City Hall - There’s also a palace you can look around outside. - There’s also a skating rink at City Hall now, I heard.
I would skip Namdaemun market…it’s billed as a “night market” but most places close early. My mom really wanted to go to it because it was called a “night market” and I voiced my opinion, but we went anyway. She was disappointed, so then we walked to Myungdong again.
I think you will have to leave to the airport too early to do any real shopping in Myungdeong, but if you want to check it out, it’s at Eulgiro-1-ga station on line 2. Go out the exit that you have to walk up the stairs a bit and see a lady selling a ton of socks on the staircase … I think number 5? You should get out of the exit and see a couple of Outback Steakhouses…and I’m being literal, there are two within a block and a TGI Friday’s. Be careful, it is easy to get lost. If you want some cheap stuff, my friends often go to this store (don’t remember the name) that is like 4 stores down from the A Land.
I can also do a Myungdong itinerary, if you want it, but I think Hongdae is better.
Tutorial: How to use free WiFi on Seoul subways
Korean Shopping Tips
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Recommended travel books:
If you are traveling to Korea, while English is often available on signs and at tourist destinations, it may be wise to know a few phrases since oftentimes the staff at restaurants and other tourist destinations, bus stations, do not know English well. I have looked over multiple Korean phrasebooks and I recommend the Lonely Planet Korean Phrasebook & Dictionary for its small size (makes it great to carry around) and its ease of use.
It gives you a feel of all the different neighborhoods and districts of Seoul and a brief overview of what each district is known and how the city is laid out to help you plan the most efficient and fun trip!
I definitely recommend, if you get the chance, to get out of Seoul and really explore Korea. Each province and city has its own feel and personality. Plus, the country is about the size of Indiana and transportation options abound, so traveling around is definitely do-able.
Choosing the best country guide was a little more difficult for me. I am typically a Lonely Planet fan, but I found their guide to not be quite as current as this Frommer's guide.
Having an up-to-date guide is very important in Korea since things can literally change overnight!