People ask me to recommend places to go in Seoul and I don’t know how to answer that, because Seoul is very diverse and you can spend few weeks if you go deep in each area in Seoul. To travel Seoul, you MUST get familiar with subway lines. Koreans often refer to a place with the name of a subway station (even specific exit number of the station) or a number of subway line. Seoul people heavily uses subway because it is really cheap compare to other cities and comes frequently and on time. It costs about 1-2$ and you can basically go everywhere by subway in Seoul. But Seoul has more than 10 subway lines and it can be pretty complex for people who are not familiar with subway. Subway station in Seoul is also a place to shop and eat because there are lots of stores, restaurants, and restrooms or used as an underground pathway when it is cold, hot, or rain.
Because it is difficult to know different neighborhood names, knowing subway lines is useful to plan your trip and move around in Seoul. Line number 2 (Green) is the most often used subway line that goes major places, such as Hongdae, Myeongdong, Dongdaemun, and Gangnam. So I recommend to find your accommodation near the subway line number 2 (or No. 3).
Basic mapping of Seoul by Subway line No. 2.
If you see the line No 2 on the map, it is like a square shape line that is located at the center of the map. This is my subjective choice of grouping, but these are major areas where young people hang out and where touristic places are.
You can joom-in/out at this link ↑
- [TOP CENTER] City Hall – Eulgiro 1ga – Eulgiro 2ga – Eulgiro 3ga – Dongdaemun : Joong-Gu & Dongdaemun-Gu
- [LEFT] Ewha Univ – Sinchon – Hongik Univ – Hapjeong : Mapo-Gu
- [BOTTOM LEFT] Silim – Seoul National Univ – Sadang : Gwanak-Gu & Dongjak-Gu
- [BOTTOM RIGHT] Gangnam – Seouleung – Samseong – Jamsil : Gangnam-Gu
First, the [TOP CENTER] stations are where the famous touristic places and landmarks are located. Gwanghwamun (line no. 5) and Jonggak (line no. 1) is not far to walk from City Center Station so it is better to walk rather than transferring subway. Sometimes, you have to walk more to simply transfer to a different line, than walking to the next station. Along with the historical places, there are lots of museums, art galleries, and performing arts centers in this area which tourists might not know. As a performing arts major, I recommend “Myeong-dong Art Theater (명동예술극장)”, “National Theater of Korea(국립극장), and “Namsan Arts Center(남산예술센터)” .
Places to go
- Historical & Tourist Places: Gwanghwamun, Gyeongbokgung (Palace), Deoksugung (Palace), Changdeokgung (Palace), Changgyeonggung (Palace), Gyeonghuigung (Palace), Jongmyo, Namdaemun
- Cultural Places: Seoul Plaza, Cheonggyecheon, Jogyesa (Temple), Myeongdong Cathedral, Kyobo Book Centre, Insa-dong, Seoul Metropolitan Library, Gwangjang Market, NamSan, Seoul Tower, Namsangol Hanok Village, Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), Nakwon Instrument Arcade (낙원상가)
- Shopping Places: Myeong-dong, Several Duty Free Shops & Department Stores (Lotte, Shila, etc), Dongdaemun Market, Namdaemun Market, Bangsan Market
- Theatre & Arts Centers: National Palace Museum of Korea (국립고궁박물관), The National Folk Museum of Korea (국립민속박물관), Sejong Center Chamber Hall (세종문화회관), Jeongdong Theater (정동극장), Seoul Museum of Art (서울시립미술관), Ho-am Hall of Performing Arts (호암아트홀), 명동예술극장 (Myeong-dong Art Theater), 국립극장 (National Theater of Korea), 남산예술센터 (Namsan Arts Center)
All of the places listed above is not located on the subway line No.2, but you will be able to easily transfer to different lines (No. 1, 3, 4, 5) from No. 2.
Except those historical places, if I choose one place you must go here…. I would choose “Gwangjang Market (광장시장)” instead of Dongdaemun Market where everyone goes. Gwangjang Market, with 100 years of history, is known for vintage clothes and street foods (especailly Yukhoe (육회), which is seasoned raw beef dish similar to a steak tartare. And Small Kimbap (마약김밥) which is called as drug kimbap because it is addictively delicious). There are lots of different types of foods that you can enjoy in this busy and lively market atmosphere.
One more thing I highly recommend is an old restaurant, “Pildong Myeonok (필동면옥)” where I used to go after classes at Univ and is listed as a Michelin guide choice of 2017 and 2018. The plain cold noodle, called Pyeong-yang Naengmyeon (평양냉면) can be quite strange for someone who tries this for the first time (even some Koreans say it tastes like water), but manias of this noodle dish travel different regions to just try this specific type of cold noodle dish. If you are brave to try, go there and order the steamed pork dish (제육) too! This place is in a residential area not in a touristic place, but it is not far from Nam mountain, Seoul Tower, Namsangol Hanok Village, National Theater of Korea, and Namsan Arts Center. These places are not located exactly on the subway line No. 2, so you need to transfer to line No. 3 at the Eulgiro 3ga station and get off at the Dongguk Univ Station.
There are too many places just only in this first section as I listed, so you will need further research and choose where interests you the most. I will introduce other sections of the subway line No. 2 next time 🙂
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