Hostelworld.com’s latest guest post ‘Free things to do in Seoul’ is by Juno, a travel blogger who, in her very own words, ‘designs the world’. Currently working as a mechanical engineer, she is also a perpetual backpacker. She has all these peculiar ideas about travel and she pours them out on her travel blog, Runaway Juno. She lives by cosmic wonder, sarcastic jokes, love and serendipity. You can follow her on Twitter at @RunawayJuno and also on facebook.
History, food, people, nature and fun – these are great words to describe Seoul, the capital city of South Korea. Seoul may not be on a list of the most beautiful cities or the most popular tourist spots in the world, but Seoul has everything travellers are hoping for. It’s beautiful in all four seasons, has fun activities all around the city, has rich cultures to learn, is full of warm-hearted people to meet and has lots of delicacies to enjoy. Thankfully, there are also lots of free things to do in Seoul…
Discover the Han River
The Han River is by far one of the most significant things in Seoul. It’s remarkably wide for a short river, and people who live in Seoul depend on this river. It has been connected to Korea’s history for a long time and for many years the city of Seoul has put lots of effort to make this area more nature-friendly.
It is great to check out either during the day or at night. Under the daylight, it’s a great place to hang out and maybe even workout as it’s a popular place to do a little jogging on a track or go on a bike ride. If not feeling energetic don’t worry…it’s also perfect for a peaceful picnic. At night, having a beer or two with the view is recommended. All twenty seven bridges on the river are brightened up after sunset, so enjoy a quiet and peaceful atmosphere in one of the busiest cities in the world.
Soak up culture in free museums
A museum tour is a highly effective way to get to know the place where you are staying. Check out one of the finest museums in the city, The National Folk Museum of Korea, which offers free admission. It’s located next to the main Palace of Seoul, Gyeongbok Palace. It is easy to spend a day inside this huge museum. There are three main exhibition halls – History of Korean People, The Korean Way of Life and the Life Cycle of Koreans. There are also two special exhibit halls and one children’s museum. You can also sit in a replica of an old Korean style house. Make sure to wear a ‘hanbok’ (Korean traditional cloth) and smell all sorts of ingredients.
In addition, if you are interested in Hangeul (Korean language) check out the King Sejong museum in Gwanghwamun city square. Under the gigantic statue of King Sejong, there is an underground museum that focuses on his life. He was a respected king and also a musician, a scientist and a linguist.
Check out the ‘Hongdae’ neighbourhood
If you want to have some fun and feel like local, take a subway to ‘Hongik University’ station on line two (green line). Hongdae (as everyone calls it) is a place for everything – shopping, dining, clubbing, and it’s especially good for art. Due to the influence of Hongik University’s top-notch art program, Hongdae is always full of arty spirit. Don’t worry about getting lost. Once there, step into a small alley and start your exploring from there. It is the place to witness some of the most creative street art in the city. You will also come across small but very unique themed cafes and restaurants, and be prepared to encounter street performances like bands playing, guitar sessions and street dance. It’s not easy to spot street performance in Seoul but in Hongdae, it’s one of the routines. Also check out the free weekend market in Hongdae playground.
Be amazed by a view at night
Located in the middle of the city, Namsan (Mt.Nam) offers breathtaking views. Seoul N Tower, the tower at the top of the mountain, is one of the most romantic spots in the city. The way up to the mountain is very easy. There is a cable car available, but take an hour or two to hike up and get some fresh air. When you reach the top, the view of the entire city is in front of you. Below the busy city lights look so pretty in the distance, just like fairy lights, while coloured bridges decorate the dark Han River. If you want you can go to the top of the tower for a higher viewing point, but since you are at the top of the mountain already, going to the viewing deck is not necessary.
Hiking is an activity that’s very easy to get involved in in Seoul, as well as the whole of Korea. When you look at a map of the Korean peninsula you will notice lots of concentrated contours – mountains cover over 70% of the peninsula. Seoul is no exception. It is a massive, high-developed city but also home to lots of nature. As well as the view of the skyline, you can see the mountains too.
There are many mountains that offer beautiful (and easy) hikes. To name a few, there is Mt. Bukhan in the north, Mt. Gwanak in the south, Mt. Cheonggye in the east and Mt. Nam in the middle. Hundreds of people of all ages and fitness levels scale the summits every week. So grab a map, get a subway ticket and go off hiking.
Thanks again to Juno for this guest post full of ideas for those looking for free things to do in Seoul.