I finally visited Seoul with a friend this past September! We spent 3 days there on our own and met up with a tour afterwards. Our first day, we arrived at around 4PM in the afternoon. By the time we got to the city center and checked into our hotel, it was about 7PM!
After much research, we had chosen the Four Points by Sheraton, Namsan Seoul hotel. We chose this for a variety of reasons, including 1) there is an express train from Incheon Airport that arrives directly to Seoul Station and 2) Seoul Station is connected directly to the hotel. The train ride only took a little over 30 minutes!
Make no mistake; the walk from the Express Train station to the hotel was a good 15-20 minutes and includes the use of several escalators. We didn’t have that warning, so be warned that it’s a far walk if you have several pieces of luggage! Still, if this is an option for you, I highly recommend the hotel for the spacious rooms, cleanliness, excellent location, and friendly staff! They also have free shuttles available for a variety of tourist locations, although the schedule is quite sparse.
Korea was humid and hot, even in September. Not as humid as Hong Kong was, which was the second leg of our trip, but still incredibly hot. Unlike Hong Kong, air conditioning is not blasting in every store and subway, and overnight, much like in Europe, the hotel’s a/c will stop running for a bit.
Day 1 – Evening
The first order of business after leaving the hotel was to visit Dongdaemun. We were going to look for the night market but we ultimately did not find it. We first found and visited a Daiso very briefly, but since we were hungry, we were much more interested in finding some local food.
A visit to the DDP that evening was a must; unfortunately, we did not know that they were having a Food Truck festival there and had already eaten by the time we arrived! The queues for food and drinks were very long. We took some pictures of the lit flower garden, and walked along the booths. Many vendors down a particular outdoor corridor were selling hand made goods, ranging from leather pieces to various jewelry. It was like Etsy stores, live in front of you!
Unfortunately for us, while we managed to squeeze in a little bit of shopping in some shops, we did not realize that the subway service stopped at 12AM and were left with the ordeal of needing to flag down a taxi to return to the hotel. Luckily, the hotel had given us a card upon check-in that we could pass to a taxi driver. Still, this was a frustrating and lengthy ordeal. We returned to the hotel so late that we didn’t even have the energy to sheetmask.
Day 2 – Full Day
We went to bed late the first night, and started up relatively fresh the next day and starving. We ended up stopping by a Lotte fast food store for burgers and fries as brunch (I know, I know, we really could have chosen better local foods than burgers! We were hungry!) We spent almost the entire afternoon shopping at the Express Bus Terminal Underground Mall.
Bring shopping bags, people. You don’t want to have to pay for bags; plus, you can bring large ones and even a backpack like me, to store your purchases while freeing up your hands for more shopping!
This mall was HUGE. I think I read somewhere it was over 600 stores. You can find everything here, from trendy clothing to the popular road shop Korean Beauty stores, to home decor, to fresh flowers! On each end of the lengthwise mall, there were food stalls and mini restaurants, coffee shops, seating areas, and relatively clean bathrooms. If I went back to Korea, I would certainly come here first! Not only can you arrive here easily by subway, you are virtually unaffected by weather, and can do all kinds of shopping here! The prices for clothing were very fair with a good variety of clothing, but be warned, 99% are one-size, and they don’t really allow you to try clothes on.
After shopping here, it was practically dinner time. We had looked up a restaurant at Sinsa area, one with 20 side dishes! Sadly, even with the detailed instructions and asking locals upon arrival, we could not locate the restaurant. Still, the area was bustling with shops and restaurants, so we did eventually find a place to sit and eat dinner before we continued our shopping spree at Watson’s, Lohbs and more. Of course, we came across the Line Cafe too, and had to stop by for some pictures!
Day 3 – Full Day
Our next full day started off with a stop at the ever-popular Isaac Toast! I ordered a Bulgogi MVP and it was delicious! We stopped by the one in Myeongdong with the intention of going to the Lotte Duty Free store.
Of course, we had to buy some drinks to follow up after this delicious sandwich!
I fully expected to be able to buy a lot at the Duty Free store. I envisioned it to be a choice between better prices compared to shopping locally and having more gifts or samples with purchase, or possibly local sales.
The place looked like a war zone. So many people, mostly Chinese, pushing, shoving, crowding, and speaking loudly. It was clear that the sales associates there were used to catering to Chinese customers, as almost all of them spoke Mandarin fluently, and automatically spoke Mandarin to me when I looked around. Many things are packaged in bulk here, so beware if you are wanting to buy individuals; you still can, at okay-prices, but their best offers are in bulk.
My experience was very poor here, including:
- Primera – Sales associate realized the cc cushion was out of product but refused to open a new one for me to colour match, citing that I should try the darker colour, and determine if it was too dark, I should buy the lighter one. Also, when I asked about the availability of the dual pack Miracle Seed Essence (larger size), she told me that they didn’t have it, but I should buy the smaller bottle because it’s the same value (no, it isn’t. Please, use your calculator).
- Banila Co – another customer interrupted the sales associate who was answering my questions, asking if the Clean it Zero sold in sets of 4. Upon finding out it was, he demanded to purchase 40 sets, and the sales associate abandoned me as if I were invisible.
- The Saem – the sales associate helping me out asked her colleague, the cashier, where the samples were when she peeked into my bag before handing it to me. The cashier replied in Korean, and the sales associate frowned, then handed me the bag before excusing herself to get change for me. I asked the cashier if I could get some samples; got some serious cut eye before she passed me 4 samples as if I were begging for them.
- Asked the counter selling Memebox products if they had the I’m From Honey Mask, was told that just because they sold some Memebox products, it didn’t mean they carried everything, so don’t expect to find anything other than what I saw in front of me.
At this point in time, we were done. Every time I asked for a price, I was quoted in China Yuan (RMB) instead of USD. However, I did have a very positive experience at the little SeaNTree booth on the other side of the duty free area. I was treated like a valued customer, and I was very happy with my purchases!
Ended our visit with the Lotte Superstore, then dropped our goods back at the hotel before we headed out to Hapjeong area. The Gentle Monster store looked like an art installation! Called it a night after some more local shopping.
Day 4 – Most of the Day
Our very last day started with a brunch by the Ewha University area. We had traditional congee at a lovely, highly recommended place named Bonjuk. It was delicious!
After that, we headed out for some shopping in the Ewha University area. There were a lot of cute clothing shops but the clothing there was very much like what we found at the Express Bus Terminal, but at higher prices. Many stores put out racks in front with 10,000W to 15,000W clothing, but once you step inside, everything is 50,000W+. Again, you cannot try a lot of the clothes unless it is outerwear or vests. We stopped at a cafe briefly to use bathrooms and to rest our feet, and this cafe looked out to the University.
Of course, we also stopped by for some fish cake and Tteokboki, which was absolutely delicious. The street here was lined with roadshop brands, so we did our final bits of shopping here, and headed back to the hotel to pick up our checked luggage, as we had to head back towards the airport to meet the tour we were signed up with. The concierge arranged a flat-rate taxi for us to go to the other hotel, and it took over an hour to arrive there by car.
There you have it, a brief overview of our couple of days in Seoul by ourselves! If I could do it all over again, I think I would still stay at this hotel. One thing I would do, is eat smaller ‘main’ meals, so I could get more local street food. As someone who is used to eating main meals and not snacking, I feel like I missed a lot of opportunities because I saw delicious food, but was always too full to eat it. Don’t eat too much each meal, guys, save room to keep eating along the way!
I would love to visit Korea again! Even though it was hot, I would choose to go in late summer or early fall, just because I can save room by packing light clothing, leaving more room for shopping goods, haha! I wouldn’t join the tour again, but that allowed me to visit a number of touristy areas at a fairly low cost.
I’ll be writing another post soon, about tips to travelling Korea, and sharing some funny experiences and whatnot that I encountered while I was there! Stay tuned for more!
Disclaimer: The pictures above were taken personally. The experiences are my own, especially that of the Lotte Duty Free area.