It’s safe to say that the proper noun “Korea” has developed a poor taste in many people’s mouths lately due to international relations with North Korea. Despite the recent uproar in the media, South Korea is actually a safe and fun place to visit (in my honest opinion – turn off the news and listen to the folks who live there). There are so many different activities one can do there, many which are quite unique to the country itself. I recently had a good friend from America come visit me, and she was pleasantly surprised with how much she enjoyed herself. This is a list of everything we accomplished during her visit, which can also be a helpful guide if you’re looking for fun things to do on your trip to South Korea.
1. VISIT A THEMED CAFE
Seoul is packed with themed cafes at literally every corner. Don’t know what a themed cafe is? Essentially you go to a cafe (as you would for coffee) but there could be cats everywhere. Or dogs. Or raccoons. Or covered in Alice in Wonderland decor. Or even filled with potty decor. The possibilities are endless! I decided to take my friend Kendall to the Bunny Cafe (pictured above) and it was incredibly adorable. For a small fee of $5 we got to play, hold, and feed bunnies for half an hour. We loved it. You can easily Google other cafes, but if you want to check out the Bunny Cafe in Hongdae check out their page here.
2. SEE A BASEBALL GAME
You’re probably thinking to yourself “Huh? But I can do that in America!” While that is true, you can’t see a Korean baseball game in America! So what’s the difference? At a Korean baseball game you can: (1) Drink alcohol out of frappuccino cups (2) Watch the cheerleaders and their crazy routines (3) See the crowd thoroughly engaged, excited, and 100% emotionally involved in their team (4) Eat all sorts of wacky foods (5) Enjoy a game of ball for a pretty cheap price.
There are stadiums all over Korea, pictured above is the Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul. You can check out the schedule for games here.
3. CHECK OUT THE DMZ
Did you know that North Korea and South Korea/USA are still technically at war? Yup! They signed an Armistice Agreement in 1953, which helped construct the DMZ. This is the only recommended way to “see” North Korea (and if you actually go visit NK you are supporting a corrupt regime, shame on you!). Arguably the most unique place in the world, the DMZ is a high security area that divides North and South Korea. The JSA (Joint Security Area), pictured above, is where you can go see the conference room designed for meetings between the North and South. In this conference room you can stand IN North Korea. Pretty incredible! The spookiest part is knowing that North Koreans are watching your every move, so don’t do anything stupid. Pro Tip – Make sure your tour includes the JSA as that is the best part.
4. VISIT THE HWASEONG FORTRESS
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Hwaseong Fotress resides in Suwon. While Suwon isn’t in Seoul, it is a short 36-45min subway there. It was constructed in 1794-96 by King Jeongjo to house and honor the remains of his father. Haenggung Palace stands at the base of the fortress wall (which costs a nominal fee to enter), but walking along the grounds and on the wall is completely free. Here you can grab some ice cream from the local vendors and see some stellar views of Suwon.
5. PARTY IN ITAEWON
If you want to experience South Korea like a local, you will have to reserve a night for going out. Koreans love to party! While you can party in many districts in Seoul (i.e. Gangnam, Hongdae, etc) Itaewon is my favorite district. It is known as the International District. Craving French food? It’s there. Want a late night Mac and Cheese joint? Yup, Itaewon! There are many bars, clubs, and restaurants to choose from. It’s a popular place among expats.
6. RENT HANBOKS
One of my favorite activities that Kendall and I did was rent a traditional Korean Hanbok (much like a Kimono in Japan). For $15 we could wear the Hanboks for 4 hours and explore all the museums and palace grounds in Seoul for free. It made for a truly fun experience, and many people wanted to have our pictures taken with us! There are Hanboks for men, women, and children – a fun activity for all ages.
7. DO THE GANGNAM STYLE
Oppa Gangnam Style! When many people think of Korean culture, they think of that one random pop hit with the funny dance moves from 2013. Gangnam is a posh district in Seoul full of high end shopping and delicious restaurants. Due to the popularity of the song, they’ve constructed a Gangnam Style Dance area, so should you choose to partake. Clearly I did! It makes for a fun photo op.
8. EAT ALL THE KOREAN FOOD
Okay, DUH. I will always recommend you eat food. Not only is it essential for survival, it’s also delicious. Korea is known for their amazing BBQ (which pairs well with their Bud Light equivalent, Cass Light) as well as signature dishes such as Bi Bim Bop, Tteok-bokki, and Pumpkin Duck (yes, you read that correctly). Explore the paths less traveled, most often the best restaurants in Korea are the hole-in-the-wall places. Don’t be afraid to try kimchi, their signature side dish, you might end up loving it. However you can never go wrong with BBQ and beer.
Kisses & Kimchi,