Innovation meets tradition in Seoul, a metropolis where world-leading advancements in technology and edgy fashion have done nothing to diminish the value of the city’s roots and history. Here in South Korea’s capital, you can wander through intricately reconstructed temples and palaces one hour, then enjoy delicious Korean cuisine in a funky café the next.
While its 10 million residents enjoy calling one of Asia’s most liveable cities home, travellers need only a day to discover just how special Seoul really is. Whether you’re looking over the modern city from atop one of its towering buildings or browsing a stylish boutique right in the heart of it, the appeal and infectious vibe of Seoul will leave you enchanted.
As Seoul is not itself a seaside city, cruise vessels dock in the nearby northwest metropolis of Incheon. From here, it is a 75-90 minute journey to the nation’s capital.
Incheon’s international passenger terminal is quite new and is still being improved and developed (as of September 2015). However, basic facilities are already available, including:
An internet café
A tourist information desk.
Further facilities, including a bank, can be found at the nearby subway station, which is also a popular launching pad for the trip to Seoul.
How to Get Around
If you aren’t taking part in a shore excursion that takes you to Seoul, there are two main ways of getting to the capital: taking a taxi or riding the subway.
Once in Seoul, transport options are numerous. Stick to the convenient subway, opt for some bus rides (the yellow buses are best for tourist stops), or choose a taxi. Cabs in Seoul come in regular and luxury form; the latter is distinguished by its black exterior. Saving money by sticking to standard won’t tarnish your time here though – you can expect friendly service and comfortable interiors from all taxis in Seoul.
Hiring a car is also an option, but this is best left for only the most confident (and patient) drivers. After all, being one of the world’s largest and busiest urban hubs comes with a fair bit of traffic!
Travel times from Seoul Station:
It is a 6 minute journey to Myeong-dong shopping district (including 3 minutes of walking)
It is a 10 minute journey to the War Memorial of Korea (including 7 minutes of walking)
It is a 21 minute journey to the N Seoul Tower (including 18 minutes of walking)
It is a 27 minute journey to Gyeongbokgung Palace (including 1 line change and 11 minutes of walking).
Currency – The currency used in Seoul is the South Korean won (₩). Each won is comprised of 100 jeon in the same way each dollar is 100 cents; however, this sub-unit does not come into play during day-to-day purchases. The coins in circulation range from the ₩1 coin to the ₩500 coin, while notes are available in ₩1,000, ₩5,000, ₩10,000 and ₩50,000 denominations.Most shops will accept credit cards, but not all ATMs are compatible with foreign cards. Look for a Global ATM if you need to withdraw some wons.
Time Zone – Seoul sits in the Korea Time Zone, which places the city 9 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).
Weather – The city experiences a humid, subtropical climate with four very separate seasons. Summers get hot, with temperatures peaking in the mid-30s (degrees Celsius) in August. Winters are cold, getting as chilly as -13 degrees Celsius in January. Outside of summer, rainfall is fairly infrequent, which means travellers can enjoy very welcoming weather in spring and autumn.
N Seoul Tower – Also known as Namsan Tower, this landmark is an icon of Seoul. Already located atop a hill, the tower’s sky-piercing height of 236.7 metres gives visitors and locals alike picturesque panoramas of the city. Aside from the observation deck, the tower’s multiple floors are home to gift shops, restaurants and more.
War Memorial of Korea – This memorial is widely considered a must-visit for travellers in Seoul – even those with no interest in either war or the country’s history. Prepare for a truly touching experience and a chance to develop a thorough understanding and appreciation for South Korea’s past and present.
Gyeongbokgung Palace – Don’t panic; this fascinating site is much easier to admire than it is to pronounce. This ‘palace greatly blessed by heaven’, as its translation describes it, is full of history and is beautiful to behold. From the front gates to the pavilion built on an islet at the palace’s rear, every space here has a story worth hearing. And hear them you can, thanks to the regular and free guided tours available in English, Japanese and Chinese (as well as Korean, of course).
Myeong-dong Shopping District – A trip to this tech and fashion frontrunner of a city is simply incomplete without a touch of retail therapy. While the opportunities to indulge in some spending are endless in Seoul, the Myeong-dong district stands out as an outstanding option. Turn one way for market stalls and street food, turn another way for high-end fashion boutiques and gadget stores… just about anything you might like to purchase can be found here amongst the eternally buzzing crowd.