Seoul is one of my favorite cities to go to because it's perfect for a girl who loves to eat & shop, aka me. I call Seoul "girl heaven" because there's such a huge variety of malls, skincare stores, cute cafes, yummy restaurants, you name it. I've been to Seoul twice before for fashion week and a press trip, but this was my first time doing Seoul on my own with my best friend.
I would highly recommend doing Seoul with a girl friend, you guys will have so much fun! Since I've been to Seoul a few times before, this trip I only focused on going to my favorite places and doing things I've never done before that's a bit unexpected.
Here are 7 things you NEED to do in Seoul.
1. Rent Hanboks and take pictures at the Gyeongbokgung Palace
161 Sajik-ro, Sejongno, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
This was hands down the best & most memorable experience I've had in Korea. My best friend and I rented hanboks for 2 hours and just walked around the Geyongbokgung Palace taking pictures of each other. You can find a ton of hanbok rental shops across the street from the Geyongbokgung! The one we went to (which had a better variety of hanboks) was to the right of the palace if you exit the palace. Another perk about this is that you get free admission into the palace if you wear a hanbok.
2. Visit the Korean Folk Village
90 Minsokchon-ro, Bora-dong, Giheung-gu, Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea
This was actually super far to get to, but if you have a friend who has a car or friends you can split the uber ride with (uber $100 one way, bus $6 one way) then it's not too bad. I would recommend coming here just because Seoul is such a developed city, you would never really get to see a "folk village" unless you go outside of the city. Keep in mind this is probably a day trip because there's so much to do in this village. It's more like an amusement park. They have horror rides featuring asian ghosts, acrobatic performances, a cultural museum, and even a place where you can rent hanboks and take studio photos!
3. Eat at the Traditional Gwangjung Market
88 Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno 1(il).2(i).3(sam).4(sa), Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
I've never had kimchi that was more fresh and delicious than at this market. (This is coming from a Chinese girl who can only get kimchi at restaurants and Hmart and Sunday lunch at church.) I ate EVERYTHING here. We tried japchae, fish cake soup, kal-guksu, dukbokki ... I've never tasted homier and fresh flavors in my life. Not to mention it's so fun sitting at the stands in the mix of everything. I would eat here every day if I could. This is a definite must visit! The food is super cheap too--a bowl of kal-guksu with fresh handmade handcut noodles was only $5. Cash only!
4. Ask for Marble Nails at Witch Nails
Yeok sam 1 dong, Seoul
You NEED to get your nails done in Korea. That is a must. Korean nail trends are really different than nail trends in the US. It's a lot more subdued and simple here in the states with minimal designs, but Korean nails are incredibly detailed and they last forever. I opted for a simple white but I got a glass and pink marble nail design on two fingers. (In Korea the trend right now is to have a different design on each finger.) There are a ton of nail salons in Korea so you can't really go wrong with any of them, but the one we went to was called Witch Nails and it's right in Myeongdong so we just went shopping after!
5. Go shopping at Stylenanda Pink Hotel
37-8 Myeongdong 8-gil, Chungmuro 2(i)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
I love Stylenanda and every one of their stores are always super cute. This one is really unique because each level is themed like a hotel. You'd just have to visit and see--every level is super photogenic. We had so much fun exploring each floor of this store because each level was a surprise. They have really cute funky pieces and it wasn't really my style but I did love their makeup packaging and formula (I've been using their pink eyeshadow nonstop) so I pretty much bought my weight in makeup.
6. Buy TONS of skincare at Lotte Mall
81 Namdaemun-ro, Sogong-dong, Jung-gu, 서울특별시 South Korea
Korea is the best place to buy skincare not only because they carry so many amazing brands that we don't have access to in the states but also because you can shop duty free! Lotte Mall is a duty free mall where you can get your tax refund immediately. It was right next to our hotel at The Plaza Seoul so we just walked back after buying a ton of skincare.
Shopping at major brands in Korea is nice because you get tax free AND there's a ton of promotions so for example if you buy an SK-ll essence, you also get a cleanser sample and a face mask in a gift set.
Don't forget to ask for free samples when you're shopping at skincare brands because it's customary for them to give you a ton of samples too! (Not really at big labels like SK-ll but at Innisfree and Tony Moly yes.)
Brands I love & recommend:
SK-ll - Try their Essence, anti-aging eye cream & cleanser. I'm trying it for the first time and I'm HOOKED.
Innisfree - I love their Green tea face mist, sunscreen, face masks.
Amore Pacific - I picked up a face roller from them, their creams are way too expensive to buy ... they're like the Korean La Mer.
Leaders - I got their masks and so far I really love it, stay tuned for a review!
Etude House- I don't love the branding of this brand it's too cutesy but they have a good collagen line of moisturizer, face masks & mists that I use.
7. Experience Korea's drinking culture at Kodachaya
143-56 Sangsu-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Last but not leas ... you have to experience Korea's drinking culture! In Korea you'll see drunk people stumbling out of convenience stores with another 6 pack in their hands but the amazing thing is that crime is super low in Korea. Our Korean friend told us a story of how she got drunk and a group of 4 stranger guys put her in a taxi and sent her home. Crazy!
Kodachaya is titled "the best bar in Gangnam" and after going there twice already I have to say that I don't disagree. The line to this place is always super long, this time we had to wait an hour to get in. But so worth it! The restaurant style here is a bit different because it's self serve, but I think that's what makes this more fun. Go with a group of friends and drink beer & soju. As it gets later in the night you'll see tables get rowdier and rowdier with bottles of soju piling up. I recommend shopping at the Gangnam underground station before coming here to eat and drink.
I'm had so much fun traveling on this trip and even more fun writing about it afterward to share with you guys the stories and culture of these places. Do you guys have any best places in Korea to go to? Share with me in the comments below!