OK ladies and gents – I don’t know about you, but whenever I go somewhere new, I constantly look for Top 10’s. Top places, to see, go out and have a unique experience. After living in South Korea for a year, I can safely recommend the following fun-filled experiences:
10. Eat Sushi – I don’t mean the roll kind I mean the kind that’s still squiggling. If there is anything Korea is known for it is its assortment of crazy food. Have you seen those restaurants with lots of things swimming around in them? Well go to them and order one of the octopuses. Koreans love to know their assortment of seafood is fresh – and it will be. Your lovely sushi will literally still be moving around on your plate. Yum…(said no American ever, but you really have to do it)
9. See the changing of the guard at the Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul. Entrance is free and the show is nearly every morning. Absolutely worth seeing.
Preview courtesy of youTube:
**A NOTE ON PALACES & TEMPLES in KOREA: Once you have seen one, you have seen them all. Take my word for this and save your time from going to every temple and palace in Korea. They all were destroyed like 5 times between the Japanese, their Dynasty wars and the Korean War. So while the temple may be ‘from 550’ it really is the place of the former old temple and only about 20 years old.
8. Take a tour in Gyeongju. Gyeongju was the ancient capital of the Silla dynasty, one of the 3 major ruling dynasties in Korean history. The Silla dynasty ruled 2/3’ of the Pen from the 7th-9th century and left some of the few relics left in the country today.
7. Party until the sun comes up – because in Korea the bars don’t close until you do. Well of course this is a given, but where to start? As a foreigner I’d recommend the following itineraries:
Seoul – Start off in Itaewon. Tell the cabbie to drop you off at the Hamilton Hotel and just look around. There are a slew of bars filled with expats and particularly military from the post down the road. Anywhere is really great however, my favorite was always just walking behind the Hamilton for the collection of little bars and pubs.
From Itaewon (which would begin around 9 or 10) you can head to either Hongdae or Gangnam. Both offer you two different crowds. Hongdae is located right next to Hongik University in Map-go. This area will give you mostly college students and probably more westerns. Gangnam is the posh area of Seoul. If you are looking to mix up your evening, I would recommend progressing to one of the many electronic clubs there. Out of your choice in Martini bars and house venues, Club Eden was one of my favorites to dance the night away.
FYI: To any of my hip-hop lovers, your best bet for this type of music will be in Hongdae. Most of the club scene is fairly European and contains mostly lasers and loud beating music. Regardless, I’d encourage you to give it a try. There is something mesmerizing about swaying with the beat filled with tanqueray.
BUSAN: This is the best place to go in the summer. Skip Seoul, go to Busan if it is warm outside — and be prepared to be stared at if you put on a skimpy suit. Koreans don’t believe in sun exposure of any kind.
Where to stay — don’t book any kind of a room. Get a cab to drop you off at the Busan Aquarium. Cross the street and walk behind the BMW dealership. Look left down the alleyway. There you will find a smattering of Love motels. Basically Korean hotels that don’t require anything but to pay in cash. Do it – you won’t regret the experience.
Start your night with Wolfhounds or the Rock n’ Roll bar, both within walking distance of eachother and in the same square as the love motels. Both cater to expat clientele but you may make some local friends there as well. After you have had your fill of beer, head to club Maktum. There is a cover, but it will get a drink and an evening full of fist-pumping dancing.
Don’t think this is the end of your night. An evening out in Busan is not complete without a late night swim and watching the sunrise on a new day (or the end of a really awesome one).
6. See a traditional Korean dance show. There are a ton of free shows held throughout random festivals in Korea, however, if you want to see quality, go to the Korea house. They offer dinner and a show in a small intimate room all within the bustling city of Seoul.
Korean tourism website:
Korea house website:
5. Seasonal – if you are lucky enough to hit four seasons in Korea (or are just in the country for one), these two are a must. Summer – go to the Boryeong Mud Festival. Winter – Go Skiing.
2nd-3rd week of July: Boryeong Mud Festival marked my first weekend in Korea. Little did I know this event was most of my friend’s top event to go to in Korea. Just think water park, except the water is replaced with Mud and nearly every westerner is drunk.
Dec-Mar – Skiing in Korea is fairly good. The best slopes are in the north, about a 5 hour drive from any major city. Yongpyong resort will host Alpine skiing in the 2018 Olympics. Most of the resorts get booked completely fairly early so don’t wait if you want to stay on the resort. However, a cheaper option is to just stay at a local spa for 10,000 won ($10) or Love motel just outside the resort, which is what we did when skiing in Yongpyong. The below website has a listing of the resorts and their locations:
4. Hike. Really you could go almost anywhere – Korea has an array of well-preserved hiking trails Korea’s extensive tourism website has loads of trails. The most famous is Seoraksan national park up in the northern part of the country. Worth a trip during the fall when the leaves are changing all kinds of lovely colors.
3. Do a TEMPLE STAY. Absolutely worth it. Honestly, there is no better way to experience one of the most influential things in Korean culture. My previous post on temple stays should be a good intro, but simply look up temple stays on the Korean tourisms website and you’ll find a listing of options all over the country.
2. Norabong it – aka make it a Karaoke night. First, make sure to bring a big group of friends (if you have Korean friends, even better) and be ready to belt your heart out. Whats better, is if your singing skills are as good as mine (terrible) you will be in your own separate room, so your friends will be the only ones to laugh at (or with) you.
1. Go to a Jimjilbang (aka Korean Spa). Everyone is naked. The pools are ridiculously hot and you can sleep in the facility for only 10,000 won (about $10). There are a ton scattered around the country, but my favorite by far was located in Busan in one of the largest department stores in the world, Shinsegae’s Spaland: