10 Places in Seoul for the Solo Traveler
No oppa, no problem.
(SPOT.ph) The capital and largest metropolis of South Korea may be a favorite destination for families and groups, but Seoul has plenty in store for the solo traveler, too. If you want to interact with people and be in the thick of things, the city’s bustling districts are open till late, but on those days you’d rather keep to yourself, quiet spots provide refuge.
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Here are 10 places to visit in Seoul if you’re flying solo:
Also known as Hongik University Street, Hongdae District is the place to go if you want to be in touch with the young crowd, so you can expect nothing less from this neighborhood than an eclectic mix of shops, cafés, galleries, and bars. With just a quick stroll around the district, you're bound to find something that piques your interest, whether it’s shopping, local cuisine, free street performances, or a lively nightlife.
Hongik University Street is at Hongik-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul. It is open daily from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Don’t let the hordes of tourists discourage you from visiting this popular spot, which was the first and largest of the royal palaces in South Korea built during the Joseon Dynasty. Arrive before it opens at 9 a.m. to purchase your ticket sans the nauseating crowd. Go on a self-guided tour or wait for the free English guided tours—11 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.—that start at the Information Center inside the Heungnyemun Gate.
Gyeongbokgung Palace is at 161 Sajik-ro, Sejongno, Jongno-gu, Seoul. It is open from Wednesday to Monday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (February to May, and September to October); from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (June to August); and from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (November to January). Tickets are at 3,000 won.
A jjimjilbang is a 24-hour bathhouse that’s a big part of Korean culture. They usually have bathing and massage areas, saunas, soaking pools, entertainment lounges, and sometimes, even communal sleeping rooms. It can be a bit daunting for first-timers (especially since you’ll find yourself butt-naked with strangers), so read up about the manners and customs prior to your visit. Don't worry, these bathhouses have separate facilities for men and women.
With the fastest average Internet connection in the world, South Korea’s PC Bang or PC Room will make you rethink the Internet-café culture. Usually open 24/7, a PC Bang is where locals meet up with friends to play popular online games like League of Legends and Battleground, or just surf the net alone for an hourly rate. You can even have food and drinks delivered to your station. No wonder some people never leave!
National Museum of Korea
Can’t decide which Korean museum to visit? Start with the National Museum of Korea, which houses more than 220,000 pieces of art and relics. Go ahead and zone out as you learn more about Korean history, culture, art, and archeology spread throughout three floors for free. If you come on a Saturday, look for free activities, such as concerts and films.
National Museum of Korea is at 137 Seobinggo-ro, Seobinggo-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul. It is open from Monday to Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; every Wednesday and Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and every Sunday and holidays, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is free.
If you need a break from the city, take a subway and bus ride to Bukhansan National Park, where you’ll find the famous Mt. Bukhansan. With several park entrances, multiple trails, and lots of peaks to choose from, your hike is guaranteed to be unique. You can brave the four- to five-hour hike alone using the map provided at the entrance and by following the mountain’s English signs, or join a hiking group.
Bukhansan National Park is at 262 Bogukmun-ro, Jeongneung-dong, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul. No entrance fee. Hiking is allowed from two hours before sunrise until sunset.
Hallyu K-Star Road
Whether you’re a K-Pop fan or you just want to understand what the fuss is all about, a trip to K-Star Road introduces you to “Gangnam Style” shopping and the Hallyu (Korean Wave) of K-Pop. Start by looking for the three-meter-tall PSY GangnamDol in front of the Galleria Department Store, and then check out other GangnamDols of K-Pop stars scattered around the area. You may find fans congregating outside entertainment companies like JYP and Cube Entertainment, hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite stars. If you’re a fanatic, spend all your money at SMTown, SM Entertainment’s K-Pop museum and entertainment center.
K-Star Road is at Gangnam-gu, Seoul. Operating hours vary per establishment.
There’s something for everyone at Myeong-dong, Seoul’s bustling shopping district. Beauty junkies can check out their favorite Korean skincare labels—and score relatively lower prices in most stores. Date yourself in one of the restaurants and street food stalls that abound (the cheese-topped lobster is a must-try!), or if you’re a culture vulture, check out the Nanta theater show or drop by the Myeongdong Cathedral, the first Gothic-style church to be built in the country.
Myeong-dong is at 66, Eulji-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul. It’s open year-round, but operating hours vary per shop.
One of the most Instagrammable libraries in Asia, the two-floor Starfield Library has 13-meter high bookshelves filled with books and magazines. Do more than just take selfies; browse through more than 50,000 titles (some are in English) and find yourself a reading nook.
Starfield Library is at COEX Mall, 955-9 Daechi-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul. It is open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Any themed café
Nothing says solo travel like getting a table for one in a local coffee shop. Skip the coffeehouse chains and choose from dozens of themed cafés around Seoul. Try Thanks Nature Café in Hongdae, where they have two pet sheep roaming around, ready to interact with the customers. If you like all things vintage and whimsical, Mapo-gu’s Ho Ho Myoll has a Volkswagen at the shop front, and you can order coffee with latte art while checking out the antique toys and décor.