Seoul has been a very popular destination in the past decade partly due to the success of Korean Wave (Korean pop culture – Hallyu). Visitors are well aware of the usual touristic places in Seoul such as Gyeongbokgung Palace, N Seoul Tower, Bukchon Hanok Village, Hongdae and Myeongdong but there are relatively less-familiar attractions and places that are worth exploring. In this post, discover lesser-known, hidden and underrated places in Seoul, South Korea.
Travelling from Incheon Airport to Seoul City Centre & Getting Around Seoul
We used the train service to travel from Incheon Airport to Seoul City Centre and back. There are two types of airport train service, namely, the Express Train (AREX) and the All Stop Train. For the AREX ride from the airport to Seoul, we bought the tickets from Klook for 7,000 KRW as they were cheaper than purchasing at the counter. For the trip back to the airport, we used the All-Stop train (basically subway train) by using T-money card. The trip back was convenient as we stayed in Hongdae for the last day and there was a direct All-Stop Train service from the Hongik University Station (i.e. Hongdae) to the airport.
We bought T-money cards from a convenience store (CU) at Incheon airport for 4,000 KRW each (without credit). We loaded the card using cash via top-up machines at many subway stations in Seoul.
To get around Seoul, we used Kakao T app (Korea’s Uber equivalent) to travel to nearby places as we travelled as a family (group of three). Tip: Most (if not all) Korean taxis accept foreign credit cards, T-money card and cash onboard), so there is no need to include your credit card details in the Kakao T app as passengers are allowed to pay after completion of the trip.
Accommodation in Seoul
In Seoul, we stayed at the two following hotels and used them as base since they were both located in popular shopping and bustling locations in Seoul (Myeongdong and Hongdae):
1. Ikseon-dong Hanok Village
Ikseon-dong Hanok Village is a Hanok-style area consisted of narrow alleyways with unique shops and instagrammable cafes. In our opinion, Ikseon-dong is one of the most underrated (or rather under-publicised) Hanok-based attractions in Seoul. The village is located about 1 km north of the bustling Myeongdong area.
2. COEX Library in Starfield COEX Mall
The very instagrammable two-storey COEX library is located within the Starfield COEX Mall in Gangnam. It has a reported 13-meter tall bookshelf with more than 50,000 books.
3. National Museum of Korea (& other nearby museums )
The National Museum of Korea (free entrance) is the most prominent and prestigious museums in South Korea. The museum’s collection totals more than 310,000 relics. The museum is consisted of six galleries, namely, Prehistory and Ancient History, Medieval and Early Modern History, Donated works, Calligraphy and Painting, Asian Art, and Sculpture and Crafts Galleries.
Be sure to visit other associated museums in the vicinity, eg. Children’s Museum and National Hangeul Museum. Tip: To visit the Children’s Museum (free entrance) which is located within the National Museum of Korea, visitors need to make online bookings – here is the link. Most (if not all) children’s museums in South Korea need a Korean number to complete an online booking. To get a Korean phone number, consider purchasing a SIM card from the airport.
4. The National Folk Museum of Korea
The National Folk Museum (free entrance) showcases Korean folk artefacts and highlights Korea’s previous agrarian life and cultural beliefs. It is located on the eastern part of the landmark Gyeongbokgung Palace. Tip: Visitors should combine a visit to the touristy Gyeongbokgung Palace and Bukchon Hanok Village with the National Folk Museum as they are within walkable distances.
5. Underground Shopping Centers in Seoul
Seoul has plenty of underground shopping centers at prominent subway stations such as Gangnam, Myeongdong, etc. These underground subway malls are packed with shops selling comparatively cheap clothes and other stuff like ornaments and ladies’ accessories. Be sure to carry cash as many shops only accept cash.
6. Dongdaemun Design Plaza
The Dongdaemun Design Plaza (often called DDP by the locals) is a building complex designed by the famous architect, Zaha Hadid. It is comprised of exhibition spaces, shopping area, design playground, and a food hall.
7. War Memorial of Korea
The War Memorial of Korea (free entrance) showcases about 33,000 artefacts related to the Korean War. Similar to many museums in Seoul, it has a separate children’s museum located behind the Memorial. The Memorial is close on Mondays.