Seoul Searching: Six Superb Sights to See

Isn’t that the corniest title ever for a blog post?

Steve went to Seoul on a business trip, and when he asked if I’d like to come along, it took me about a nanosecond to say yes. This was my first trip to Asia, and I have to say that I fell in love with Seoul.  Let me tell you all about my favourite discoveries.

1. Myeong-dong:

This shopping area runs the gamut from high-end designer brands to street food vendors selling all kinds of delicious snacks.  It’s easily accessible from either Line 2 or Line 4 on the fabulous Seoul Metro. The Lotte department store is a multi-storey feast of designer goods. If you’ve run out of Chanel No. 5 or stepped on your Ferragamo sunglasses, fear not, you can get replacements here. Meanwhile, the rest of us can just have fun browsing.

Back outside, stroll along the main shopping street, where you will find store after store selling face masks and foot peels and skin cream, oh my!

The Lotte Department Store is similar to Saks or Holt Renfrew
A street full of beauty product stores: some brands include Banila Co., Skinfood, Tony Moly and Missha








Korean beauty products are all the rage right now and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I had a great time letting loose my inner girly-girl, and sampling a variety of skin creams and makeup products. The stores will often give out samples to entice you to come in and shop. So between my purchases and the freebies, I ended up with this, and more:

A sample of my loot!
Could not bring myself to purchase this one, though.








So far, I’ve tried several different masks, and the snail one from Skinfood is my favourite, leaving my skin soft and without breakouts. If you want to try Korean beauty products but don’t want to brave the 14-hour flight, check out this website and order directly.The only downside to the mask is that you will resemble Hannibal Lecter while wearing it:

“Do you still hear the lambs screaming, Clarice?”

2. Cookin’ Nanta:

Take advantage of being in Myeong-Dong and go see Cookin’ Nanta.  This show is like a combination of Blue Man Group meets Stomp meets high school cafeteria food fight. The story centres around a team of chefs who have been told by their boss that they have one hour to complete the preparation for a wedding banquet that they knew nothing about. As they frantically prepare, hilarity and toe-tapping rhythm ensue. Knives become drumsticks, butcher’s blocks become snare drums, and the stage is littered with chopped cabbage and onions. The show is mostly non-verbal, making it easily understood by those who don’t speak Korean.  Belly laughs are a universal language.There is a good chance you could be picked from the audience to participate so practice slinking down in your chair when the actors come looking for victims if you don’t want to be part of the show.

3.  Insa-dong

Insa-dong’s traditional Korean arts, crafts and culture are the perfect counterpoint to Myeong-dong’s bright lights and brand names. In this neighbourhood, you can find shops selling traditional clothing (hanbok) as well as crafts like intricate lacquered jewelry boxes and Hanji paper.  Galleries showcase the works of artists and artisans. The main street can keep you occupied for hours, but duck down some of the side streets to find hidden gems.



4.  Yeouido Park

When you’ve had Too Much Shopping, take a breather in Yeouido Park.  Steve and I took a lovely stroll through this beautiful park, finding surprises at every turn.

Like a pond with koi and waterlilies:


And a waterpark by the river:

And an arbor with hanging squash:


And a reflexology foot path:

And a place to take a nap:


5. Gyeongbokgung Palace

IMG_2932This palace was first built in the 14th century, and is a testament to the resilience and determination of the Korean people. It was damaged by fire in 1553 and rebuilt; burned to the ground again in an invasion by the Japanese in 1592, and rebuilt in the 19th century; demolished by a further invasion by Japan in the early 20th century, and is now being systematically restored.  Talk about rising from the ashes! The place is enormous and you could spend quite a long time exploring it. They do offer tours, but we were a bit late in the day to take advantage of that. Instead, we just spent a wonderful couple of hours taking pictures (and sitting in the shade and people-watching).

6. The Conrad Hotel

I have to give a shout-out to this hotel as providing the best service of any I’ve ever stayed at. If you can, stay here. Not only are the rooms and amenities gorgeous, the splendid concierges will also help ease your language barrier issues. I asked for a recommendation for a nearby restaurant, expecting a map. Instead, the concierge phoned ahead for a reservation, asked me what I might like to order and wrote it down for me in Korean on a piece of paper to take with me, and then, stepped out of the hotel to point out to me exactly where the restaurant was so I wouldn’t get lost. Then on another night, Steve and I asked for another restaurant recommendation. This time, the concierge walked us right over to the restaurant as it was hard to find. That’s service!

the view from our room


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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Susana says:

    Awesome! Your story brought back so many memories from my time in South Korea 20 years ago. Kyongbokkong Palace is definitely one of my favourite places and I still have a watercolour painting of Spring Dancers I purchased in Insadong. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  2. Mary says:

    Valerie: Your descriptions are so great to me because, although the places and hotels and food are so unbelievably fantastic, I feel that I’ve taken the trip right along with you!

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