things to do in seoul

Seoul's Modern Architectural Marvels

After the end of the Korean war, Seoul, like many Korean cities, was left in shambles.  Reasonably so, rebuilding efforts were focused more on practicality than aesthetics to reconstruct the city quickly and effectively.  These days, however, Seoul's skyline is an eclectic mishmash of modern architecture, from towering cement apartment complexes to eye-catching glass and steel marvels.  Impressive modern buildings can be found just about anywhere in Seoul, a UNESCO City of Design, but there are a certain few that I think visitors should keep an eye out for while exploring the city.  Check them out below.


Ewha Womans University Ewha Campus Complex:  From above, it's difficult to distinguish just what Ewha Womans University's ECC actually is.  This is because the ingenious complex designed by French architect Dominique Perrault is mostly underground; despite this, the entire interior of the building is spacious and full of light. Merging architecture with landscape, Perrault created a functional yet tranquil space to study.  Or to enjoy one of the many facilities the building has to offer: an indie cinema, a fitness center, cafes, and boutiques.  (Get There: Ewha Womans University Station, Exits 2 and 3)


Ewha Womans University's ECC Center.


Undiscovered Seoul: The City's Best Off the Beaten Path Destinations

N'Seoul Tower. Gyeongbokgung. Myeongdong. Garuso-gil.  Very few tourists come to Seoul without these must-see attractions at the top of their to-do lists.  And for good reason, as each offers a unique insight into Korea's capital city.  However, there is a different Seoul waiting to be explored by the more curious traveler.  In fact, there is a myriad of destinations perfect for the adventurer looking to venture a bit further off the beaten path. Read below for a list of my favorite places to experience Undiscovered Seoul.


Exploring the Hidden Market Streets of Euljiro

Before the days of discount supermarkets and department stores, markets were the primary locales for shopping, trading, and gossiping in Korea’s major cities.  Sadly, due to rapid modernization and an increase in more convenient shopping facilities over the past few decades, traditional markets have continuously lost patronage and are quickly diminishing in size and number.  While efforts are being made to preserve them, citizens predict that they will cease to exist in the next twenty years.

Although Seoul is abundant with must-see destinations and attractions, few of them provide an authentic glimpse into Korean culture as well as the city’s traditional markets.   Recently, I went on a self-guided walking tour through the maze of markets in Euljiro, central Seoul, for an insightful look into the daily lives of the Korean working class.

High Kicks and Wood Breaking at Arirang Taekwondo

When I graduated from high school, I thought my days of field trips were long gone.  So, when I was told at the beginning of the semester that my Sogang University classmates and I would be participating in an off-campus "cultural experience" this past week, I got a little bit excited, mostly because it would be a day off from studying.  Considering I've lived in Korea for about four years now, I figured we'd be going to a museum or on an outing to a palace, things I've done many times before.  So, I was surprised and somewhat hesitant when I was told that we would be learning Taekwondo.

Afternoons in Buamdong

Nestled between Inwang and Bugak mountains, Buamdong (부암동) is a peaceful neighborhood located in the center of Seoul, shielded by nature from the neon and concrete that drench the remainder of the metropolis.  Boasting only a single bus stop, Buamdong is not the most convenient place to visit.  It's this very remoteness, however, that has allowed the area to preserve its unique charm, seemingly unchanged by time.

Last year, I spent many a lazy Sunday afternoon in Buamdong, just a short bus ride from my apartment in adjacent Pyeongchangdong.  Though it is not as big as other areas in Seoul, I never tired of wandering the artsy community and exploring its miniature cafes and quirky galleries.  It's subdued sophistication, gorgeous homes, and amazing city views provided the perfect atmosphere for readying myself for the week and relaxing in solitude.


Tong-in Market Dosirak Cafe: The Ultimate Korean Lunch Box

When I was in elementary school, I refused to anything that the school cafeteria spit out.  I was an extremely picky eater and because of this, my mom had no choice but to prepare a lunch box for me everyday.  I would get so excited to see what she had packed at lunch time: a crust-less turkey sandwich, string cheese, a bunch of grapes, pasta salad.  On a really good day, I'd find a Lunchable waiting for me, along with a note wishing me luck on whatever test I'd be taking that day.  My lunchbox meals were not just food... they were special moments in my day, provided courtesy of my thoughtful mother.

Hanok Hideaways


The creak of old wooden floors.  The sliding of beautifully crafted doors.  The upward curves of tiled roofs and the enchanting calm of courtyards.  Hanoks, or traditional Korean houses, are delightful dwellings where those who enter them can't help but be hypnotized by their charm.  Constructed in accordance with nature and geographical location, hanoks were the preferred type of home by Koreans until last century.  Due to population growth and lack of space, Koreans in bigger cities have since been forced to build upward and live in unattractive cement structures.  This is especially true in Seoul, where residents prefer more modern homes with larger living spaces.  Still, there are a few places in the Korean capital where visitors can bask in the beauty of the hanok.


Be a Part of Art: Hongdae's Trick Eye Museum

Seoul is a city for art lovers. From sculpture gardens to galleries, the city is full of cultural spaces dedicated to all things artsy. Hongdae is a neighborhood particularly known for its art scene, with many of its residents being design students at Hongik University. All the others no doubt appreciate the vibrant murals, street performers, and interesting exhibits that are ever-present within the demarcation of the area.

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