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Travel Well: Seoul


Bongeunsa Temple – Seoul, South Korea

Living in Japan means that many of Asia’s biggest cities and most popular travel destinations are fairly easy to reach. After my trips to Bangkok and Singapore last spring, I knew that I wanted to do a lot more exploring on this side of the world. With both Narita and Haneda airports only a short train ride away from where my husband and I live in Chiba, I have been diligent about planning getaways around Asia for when my husband’s team has long road trips. I went on the first of what I hope will be many weekend trips the weekend before Christmas and Seoul did not disappoint.

My interest in planning a trip to Seoul started a few years ago when I formed close friendships with two fellow basketball wives who have spent a large amount of time with their husbands on various teams in South Korea. Like many, I was ignorant and didn’t really know just how much South Korea has to offer tourists. After hearing them speak so fondly about the area, I knew that a trip to South Korea’s capital city was definitely a must. A lot of people describe Seoul as a city where the old and the new meet. It is one of those places where ultra modern skyscrapers, and urban culture collide with Buddhist temples and ancient palaces. Although 3 days isn’t nearly enough to take in all of what the HUGE metropolitan city has to offer, my mom and I made the most out of our weekend in Seoul and explored as much as we possibly could as we crossed this destination of our travel bucket lists. Here are my picks for where to stay, dine, shop, and play in Seoul, South Korea:

Stay: I’m a Ritz Carlton girl through and through, so during our visit, we stayed at the Ritz Carlton Seoul, located in the Gangnam district. The Ritz Carlton’s fabulous hospitality began long before our stay when members of the concierge team reached out to us via email to help us make reservations and plan the perfect trip. Upon our arrival, we were greeted at the door by one of the women we had communicated with and whisked to our room where we completed the check-in process as we snacked on the fruit tray that was waiting for us when we arrived. That same stellar customer service continued throughout our entire trip. During our trip we also visited the Grand Hyatt Seoul and while I can’t attest to their customer service, the hotel was just as if not even more beautiful than the Ritz Carlton. The lounge area has a beautiful view of the city from atop Mount Namsan and the spa is fabulous.

Christmas Decor at the Ritz Carlton Seoul

Dine: Seoul’s dining scene is famous for street food and Korean BBQ, but they also have a variety of American chain restaurants (I was SO excited to see a P.F. Changs) and fine dining options. Here are my recommendations out of the places where we ate in Seoul:

  1. Jung Sik Dang: When I found out that Seoul houses what many consider to be one of the best restaurant in Asia, I knew we would be in for a treat. From start to finish, our meal was absolutely amazing. Check out what I wore to dinner here.

Jung Sik Dang Seoul
Jungsik Seoul
  1. Korean BBQ: I have to be honest – we actually didn’t have the best Korean BBQ experience in Seoul. The hotel recommended a restaurant to us and we were both extremely disappointed with the food, especially given that we both LOVE Korean BBQ and were really excited to actually try it in Korea. Although we didn’t have the best experience, it’s still something you definitely have to try during a visit and I hope that anyone who does fares better than we did.

Korean BBQ Seoul
  1. N Grill: Although it’s quite a voyage to the top of the Seoul tower, this restaurant is definitely worth the trek. The food was phenomenal and the ambiance was even better as the restaurant rotates during your meal to offer breathtaking views of Seoul.

Shop: There is no shortage of shopping in Seoul and around every corner and connected to almost every major subway station is a shopping center. We didn’t have a ton of time to spend shopping this trip since we wanted to leave time to sightsee as well, so we were looking for a one stop shop. We found just that at Lotte World Mall. Lotte World Mall is a huge shopping center housing trendy Korean boutiques, chain shops such as Zara and H&M, and a substantial selection of designer brands from Fendi to Chanel. My mom and I spent hours walking the multiple floors and corridors of this mall and left with our hands full of shopping bags. Seoul also has a lot of major department stores that are definitely worth a visit. We went to Shinsegae’s flagship store which was very similar to a Sak’s Fifth Avenue.

Shopping in Seoul

A few of my purchases at Lotte World Mall

Play: There is a lot to see and do in Seoul and because of it’s sprawling size, it’s hard to cover it all in just a few days. My mom and I hit some of the major sights, but sadly, I feel that there is still quite a bit that we didn’t get to see during our short stay. For a weekend getaway like ours, Gyeongbok Palace, N Seoul Tower, and Bongeunsa Temple are must sees. If time permits, I have also heard great things about Bukchon Village and the War Memorial of Korea and I look forward to visiting if I make another trip to the area.

Gyeongbok Palace

Gyeongbok Palace

Love locks on the way up to the N Seoul Tower

Love locks on the way up to the N Seoul Tower

One of many beautiful statues at Bongeunsa Temple

One of many beautiful statues at Bongeunsa Temple

My Rating: B

Explanation: I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Seoul was one of my absolute favorite cities, but I enjoyed my experience nonetheless and would return for a shopping trip at Lotte World Mall, if nothing else. I honestly think I owe Seoul a do over – our trip was too short so I felt a little rushed to get in a lot in a short amount of time and it put a damper on my experience.

Travel Well: Seoul

Have you been to Seoul? If so, what were your thoughts? If not, is it somewhere you would like to visit?

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