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 Seoul is a city of contrasts in which the ancient and the modern coexist in harmony. In one sense, it is a hi-tech 21st-century city awash with neon lights and the sights and sounds of a 24-hour metropolis, while at the same time, a city retaining the majesty and graceful ambience of ancient dynasties that once ruled over it. Like the river Han on which it sits, Seoul is constantly moving as it strides boldly into the future, yet simultaneously managing to keep one foot firmly entrenched in its historical past.

currency

South Korean Won (KRW)
KRW1000 ~ US$0.73 (2024)

phone

Police: 112
Fire or Ambulance: 119
Red Cross: 1339

newspaper

The Seoul Times - www.theseoultimes.com
The Korea Times - www.koreatimes.co.kr

hours

Convenience stores are open 24/7; departments are open 9am to 8pm while small retail shops are open 10am to 8pm. Restaurant chains are open 24/7 while independent dining rooms are open until 10pm. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.

population

City - 10 million (2024)
Metropolitan Area - 26 million (2024)

info

Gwanghwamun Tourist Information Center
149 Sejong-daero, Jongno District, Seoul (in front of Donghwa Duty Free)
Opening hours: Sun–Fri 10am–7pm
Languages: English, Chinese, Japanese, Thai
+82 2 735 8688

Korea Tourism Organization
40 Cheongyecheonno, Jung-gu, Seoul 100-180
Opening hours: Mon–Fri 9am–6pm, Sat & Sun closed
+82 2 729 9474
Korea Travel Hotline: +82 2 1330
(Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)

Two Korean Girls dressed in traditional dress running down stairs in Seoul street Savvapanf Photo/Shutterstock.com

The City

The Jongno-gu area of Seoul is one of the city's most fascinating districts, symbolizing the duality of Seoul as both ancient and modern. Here, the historic palaces and the old quarter of Insadong sit aside Daehakno and University St, which is the centre for alternative art brimming with galleries, theatres, restaurants and bars. This dichotomy between the ancient and the modern is also seen in the district of Gangnam, where skyscrapers tower above the delicate architecture of Gyeongbukgung Palace. The city’s commercial centre, Gangnam, is more workmanlike than other areas of the city. However, like Myeongdong, the city’s financial district, Gangnam is also becoming known for its restaurants and bars.

Missing home? Then head for Itaewon - the international hub of Seoul, where expatriates, tourists and locals gather. It is known for its legendary nightlife where Western-style pubs and nightclubs proliferate. Failing that, a spot of retail therapy in the Namdaemun and Dongdaemun areas should certainly scratch that particular proverbial itch.

Young woman tourist with map in hand on the background of Asian architecture, travel to Korea, Seoul Asia Olesya Kuznetsova/Shutterstock.com

Do & See

As one of the largest cities in the world, Seoul offers visitors plenty to explore. Any traveller will find an activity to fit their taste - the Korean capital has everything from historical sites to museums, art galleries, recognizable landmarks, traditional parks and palaces, casinos (only open to foreigners!), theme parks and much more. Seoul certainly is one of those cities that boasts the thrilling variety a traveller craves.

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Gyeongbokgung Palace

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National Folk Museum Of Korea

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Namsangol Hanok Village

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Seoul Tower

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Hangang River Ferry Cruise

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Bukhansan Mountain National Park

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Lotte World

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Coex Aquarium

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Bongeunsa Temple

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Changdeokgung

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Trickeye Museum

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Seoul City Tour Bus

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The War Memorial Of Korea

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National Museum Of Korea

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Namsan Park

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Seoul Olympic Park

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Leeum Samsung Museum of Art

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Yeouido Hangang Park

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Deoksugung Palace

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Dongdaemun Design Plaza

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Seoullo 7017 Skygarden

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Cheonggyecheon

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Dining

Much as expected from a busy Asian metropolis such as Seoul, there are plenty of places to enjoy all sorts of culinary creations. From traditional Korean restaurants to flavourful and endlessly varied street food, along with a plethora of eateries serving cuisine from all corners of the globe, hungry tourists should be more than adequately catered to.

In Korea, every sit-down meal is accompanied by kimchi (a spicy pickled cabbage) and some of the must-tries include bibimpab (vegetables and rice with an egg on top), Korean-style BBQ, and the many side dishes (banchan) that come with a staple of steamed rice.

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Mugyo-dong Bugeo-guk

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Ondal

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Samwon Garden

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Di Matteoh Daehakro

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Braai Republic

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Jyoti Restaurant Sinchon

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Philkyungjae

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Food Court - Lotte Department Store

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Myeongdong Kyoja

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Jungsik Seoul

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Pro Soy Crab

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Hemlagat

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Jinju Kitchen Hamo

Two young woman enjoy using mobile smartphone in coffee cafe, technology lifestyles Surasak Ch/Shutterstock.com

Cafes

One thing that becomes instantly obvious when walking down any street in South Korea is that coffee shops are incredibly popular here. Both international chains and small independent cafes are dotted around the capital, providing a plethora of options to choose from.

Seoul is best known for its quirky themed cafes, some where cats and dogs are the focal point, others where a very specific type of food or drink is showcased and then there is the Hello Kitty cafe where everything revolves around the iconic Japanese character. There is certainly a lot to take in.

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Passion 5

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O’Sulloc Tea House

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Seoulseo Duljjaero Jalhaneun Jip

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Hakrim Dabang

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Casablanca Sandwicherie

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Vatos Urban Tacos

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Tongin Market

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Gwangjang Market

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Rogpa Tea Stall

Seoul city skyline Teerachat paibung/Shutterstock.com

Bars & Nightlife

Nighttime entertainment in Seoul is really more about the neighbourhood than a particular establishment. Each area is known for its very specific vibe, and knowing what you're looking for might be a good idea before deciding on a location.

The go-to areas include: the stylish Hongdae district (popular with professionals), the bohemian Gangnam district (favoured by young, trendy twenty-somethings), and Itaewon (a location most favoured by internationals). Other popular haunts include low-key Myeongdong and Daehangno, as well as upscale Apgujeong-dong or Sinsadong.

Most clubs and bars remain open late into the night but one genre of entertainment really stands out after hours for those looking for an authentic experience of sorts, karaoke. Fall into one of the many Seoulian "noraebang" bars which are popular with locals to show off your pipes and have a sing-song.

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Club Octagon

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Living Room

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J.J. Mahoney's

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Lobby Lounge Bar

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Club FF

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Club Evans

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Su Noraebang

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Theatre

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The Bungalow

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Glam Lounge

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Cakeshop

Traditional Asian market. Scharfsinn/Shutterstock.com

Shopping

Seoul is absolutely the place for shopping enthusiasts. From street markets to high-end shopping malls, the Korean capital has it all. Some of the most popular shopping areas are Myeongdong, Itaewon, and Insadong - each with its own distinctive character.

This metropolis is filled with shopping opportunities at every turn. Markets worth a stop include Namdaemun and Dongdaemun, the Gyeongdong Oriental Medicine Market selling all sorts of traditional miracle cures (Chegidong Station) and Noryangjin Fish Market, even if it's only to watch the traders in action.

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Namdaemun Market

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Dongdaemun Market

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Myeong-dong

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Itaewon

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Apgujeong

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Insadong

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COEX Mall

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Yongsan Electronics Market

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Kyobo Book Centre Gwanghwamun

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Ewha Women’s University Fashion Street

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Hongdae Free Market

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Noryangjin Fish Market

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Åland

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Gotomall

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Tongin Market

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Gwangjang Market

Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul, South Korea FenlioQ/Shutterstock.com

Tourist Information

Incheon International Airport

Incheon International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world is approximately a one hour drive from downtown Seoul by bus or taxi.

Airport buses normally stop directly outside the airport building. Limousine buses run not only to Seoul, but also connect the airport to other provincial cities. The Limousine bus runs to and from the airport every 10-15 minutes and stops at most of the major hotels. You can buy a bus ticket from ticket booths next to the bus stops outside on the pavement.

Taxis are available from stands no.16-21 on the arrivals floor. For a more economic alternative, private cars can be hired through the Grab app after registering for an account.

The other airport in Seoul, Gimpo International Airport is much smaller but closer to the centre of town. It acts as Seoul's secondary airport.

Address: Incheon International Airport, Yongjongdo

Email: incheon.airport.mail@gmail.com

Phone: +82 2 1577 2600

Website: www.airport.kr

More Information:

Passport/Visa

Citizens of many countries including the US, UK and Canada can travel to South Korea for tourism purposes visa-free, for stays from 30 up to 180 days. Citizens of most countries in Africa and Asia however will need to apply for a visa in advance. Passports will need to be valid for at least six months starting from the planned date of arrival.

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Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Seoul is typically between April and June, whilst spring is in full swing and the cherry blossoms are raining down in the parks. This is also a good time of year to go and experience the many festivals that take place there every year.

September to November is another promising time to visit the city as the climate is pleasant and mild, unlike the weather in the preceding Summer months which are hot and wet.

Winters are cold but may appeal to some winter sports fans as there is more often than not a flurry of snow towards the end of the year and into the next.

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Port of Incheon

The port of Incheon is the leading base station for exchange in the Yellow Sea region. Although it is not as large as the port of Busan (South Korea's main port) it has been growing in significance since its relatively recent conception in 2005. The New Incheon International Ferry terminal is currently being expanded, paving the way for more tourism and better connectivity.

Address: IBS Tower 31-35F, Central-ro 263, Yeonsu District, Incheon

Email:

Phone: +82 32 890 8000

Website: www.icpa.or.kr/eng/index.do

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Public Transport

The Underground is clean, efficient and operates from approximately 5.30am to midnight non-stop every day. All stations display signs in both Korean and English. You can buy your ticket at the ticket vending machine. Check the website for details (www.seoulmetro.co.kr).

Seoul Bus Station is a central hub for transportation. Standard buses are frequent and inexpensive. You can pay your fare either by scanning your T-money card or paying in cash when entering the bus. Make sure to have change since you cannot pay with bigger bills.

There are several city buses operating in Seoul. The 'Blue Bus' for example, which connects inner Seoul with the outer suburban areas and 'The Yellow Bus' (Circular Line) which goes in a circular pattern around the very central part of Seoul. There is also the Red Bus (Wide Area Line), Maeul Bus (Local Bus) and the Green Bus (Branch Line).

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Taxi

Travelling by taxi in Korea is generally an affordable means of transportation. Taxis come in two varieties, regular and deluxe. It is easy to distinguish between the two as the latter, more expensive of the two is black with a golden stripe colour scheme.

There is also the International taxi service which was created especially for foreign tourists in Seoul who cannot speak Korean. They are orange with a 'Haechi' (the Seoul mascot) painted on the side of it. Arrange one ahead of time at www.intltaxi.co.kr or by calling +82 2 1644 2255.

There is also the water taxi service for rivers crossings. There are total of 17 water taxi stations located along the Hangang River.

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Post

Korea Post is the name of the national postal service which deals with domestic and international deliveries.

Red post boxes may be found all around Seoul and there are several branches of Korea Post dotted around the city centre, most of which lie North of the River Hangang.

Seoul Central Post Office is the best place to go to deal with international deliveries as it is the largest of the lot.

Stamps can be bought in official kiosks, supermarkets and other such licensed retailers. Alternatively, a label may be downloaded and printed out on the Korea Post website.

Address: 70 Sogong-ro, Myeong-dong, Jung District, Seoul

Email: kpostbank@naver.com

Phone: +82 2 6450 1114

Website: www.koreapost.go.kr/eng/index.do

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Health

Seoul is home to some of the best medical facilities and professionals in the world. The city boasts one of the highest cancer survival rates and access rates recognised by the OECD. The universal healthcare system in South Korea is particularly good and the Medical Referral Service (MRS) for foreigners is helpful at putting visitors in contact with the correct, English speaking staff. Seoul National University Hospital is one of the best for internationals.

There are many different pharmacies in Seoul and you can find one on nearly every major street or road. They are marked with a sign that reads “약” or “yak” which means “medicine”. Most pharmacies are closed on Sundays but many located in large shopping malls, subway stations and bus terminals remain open all week.

A 24-hour information service is available by dialling 120 or 1339.

Address: 101 Daehak-ro, Jongno District, Seoul

Email: international@snuh.org

Phone: +82 2 2072 0505

Website: www.snuh.org/global/en/main.do

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Telephone

Country code: +82

Area code: 02

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Electricity

Round two-pin type C plugs. 220V and 60Hz

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