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Despite my entire family being from Korea, I never had a desire to go there until my husband suggested we go to learn more about the culture. Of course, I’m glad he did!
We went to Seoul, Busan, and Jeju Island where we indulged in lots of eating, hiking, and exploring.
Check out what we did, and as a result, the nine awesome reasons you should go to South Korea!
Eat Lots of Delicious Food
The main reason we went to South Korea is to eat! Well, I guess that’s the main reason I go to any country. From $5 meals at the market to $150 tasting menus, Seoul itself has a wide array of foods to try for any palate. It has everything for meat eaters, vegetarians, and especially dessert lovers so don’t shy away from this seemingly foreign cuisine.
One of the best things about the food scene here is that there is street food everywhere so you don’t need to even think about breaking the bank to enjoy the local food! So when you’re not sure what to eat, just walk around randomly until you hit a street cart, and try out whatever you see next.
Immerse Yourself in Street Art at Gamcheon Culture Village
I absolutely love the story behind this village in Busan. In the 1950s, about a million refugees fleed to Busan to find relative safety from the Korean War. Of those million refugees, about 4,000 began to build their homes in the Gamcheon making homes out of scrap iron, wood, and rocks.
Overtime, a man named Choi-je Cho helped build up the village into the solid concrete homes there you see today.
Still, this area was known as one of the poorest areas of Busan until the early 2000s when the Dreaming of Machu Picchu in Busan project started.
Artists painted the city and installed art projects throughout the city, which now attracts thousands of tourists daily making this a prosperous village. It’s one of the top things to do in Busan, Korea.
It’s worth coming to this city to see how much it has grown. It’s quite inspiring! If anything, you should definitely come for its many photo opportunities for Instagram.
Pro Tip: Make sure to come early as possible on a sunny day because starting at about 10-11AM, there will be huge flock of tourists everywhere.
If you feel more comfortable on an organized, this package brings you here and most places I mention in this post in a one week trip around Korea.
When in Busan, you can stay at the Hotel Novotel Busan Ambassador.
Hike the Fortress Wall Surrounding Seoul
If you love hiking and cities and don’t want to choose between the two, you don’t have to in Seoul because the city is surrounded by its ancient city wall that connect four mountains. I didn’t get a chance to do this because of my fibromyalgia, but my husband did it and got spectacular views of the city.
All in all, the entire hike is 18.6km (11.5 miles) but the wall is split into four courses so you can pick and choose the amount of time and energy you want to spend hiking!
Enjoy the Beaches at Udo Island
Udo Island is a tiny island of Jeju Island with a variety of gorgeous beaches and fun activities. There’s a bus route that goes around the whole island, but these get packed with tourists! My best suggestion is to rent a bike and bike towards the center of the island to get off the beaten path at Udo Island.
Nonetheless, don’t skip out on Popcorn Beach, which is named after the peculiar shaped sand/rocks on the beach. Even though they are like little pebbles, the beach is not painful to walk on because the rocks are so smooth!
Looking for something more active? Check out the Ollie Trails of Jeju Island.
Relish in the Past at Bukchon Hanok Village
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Bukchon Hanok Village, a UNESCO Award of Distinction honoree, is a village that lies in the Northern part of Seoul and definitely worth a visit as it’ll bring you back 600 years in time when Seoul was ruled by the Joseon Dynasty. In contrast to the ultra modern Seoul you know of today, you’ll get to experience a neighborhood where noble families and high-ranking officials once lived.
If you want to really get into it, you can rent a hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) to walk around and take photos! But if you want free entrance into one of the palaces, then save your hanbok rental time for that. You’ll find out why in the next reason to go to Korea.
Where to Rent a Hanbok: There are many places to rent a hanbok but I got one from Hanbok That Day Experience.
Experience Royal Life at Gyeongbokgung (경복궁) Palace
Gyeongbokgung Palace is one of the five grand palaces in Seoul. We chose this palace out of all the palaces since it’s the first palace to be built by King Taejo in 1395 and the largest and main one.
Pro Tip: If you wear a hanbok to the palace, your entrance fee is waived! A hanbok rental is about $15-20 for the day depending where you go. If you walk around the palace, you’ll find a ton of places that rent hanboks.
Unlike other cultures, it is not inappropriate to wear a traditional outfit even though you are not Korean. Koreans welcome foreigners wearing hanboks and love to see their colorful traditional clothing worn by all. Don’t be shy!
Already convinced that you should go to South Korea in 2018?
Check out this one week package including airfare that goes to Seoul, GyeongJu, and Busan by Pacific Holidays. It includes most places I mention in this blog post and personally went to.
See the Beauty of Cherry Blossom Festivals
From March to May, South Korea is enveloped in beautiful cherry blossoms everywhere. You can see them as you go about your normal tourist activities, or you can join in on the fun at cherry blossom festivals, tunnels, and parties throughout South Korea.
Find Peace at Jogyesa Temple (조계사)
Jogyesa Temple is the main temple of Seoul and the center of Korean Buddhism. As the head temple of the Joyge order, it’s the main venue for Buddhist events, rituals, and ceremonies throughout the year.
We came here to walk around and enjoy the many beautiful lotus flowers. Mike and I even sat inside the temple for a few minutes to meditate and a moment of respite from the busy city life of Seoul.
Beautify Yourself in the MyeongDong District
MyeongDong is one of the main shopping districts in Seoul and the first place any tourist can think of when they want the top beauty products of South Korea. It’s no surprise as 1 million shoppers are in this neighborhood alone daily!
I’m not big on beauty products but because of the great products and prices, not to mention free samples, I made sure to stop by this neighborhood to stock up on products for the next year. I also made a stop by Myeongdong Kyoja for one of my favorite Korean noodle soups, Kalguksu, from childhood, and dumplings!
Brands to Watch Out For: Some brands of beauty products I like are the Face Shop, Etude House (for more inexpensive but still good quality items), Skinfood, and Too Cool for School, but really, they’re all good. Just walk in and out of the stores, and test the products out to see what works best for you.
Pro Tip: Most of these shops are tax-free, but if it’s not, make sure to get a receipt to get a tax refund at the airport.
You might like: Getting a fraxel treatment at TengTeng Skin Clinic in Seoul
Doesn’t Korea sound like the complete package for food, nature, and history? Take it from me, and book a trip to Korea now! It’ll be a trip of a lifetime.
Thanks for stopping by! xo.