5 Must-Dos in Seoul

When I wrote my “10 Vancouver Must-Dos List” for summer 2014, some of my readers asked me if I could do one for South Korea when I returned end of August that year. I began it and never finished it. I sincerely apologize. Recently I’ve had quite a few people ask me about what to do and see in South Korea, which prompted me to find this draft and complete it.

Although it has been delayed, I finally managed to compile one and it’s been updated since my last trip to South Korea in Spring 2016. Instead of writing “10 South Korea Must -Dos List” as was the original plan, I will now divide them up by cities. This post will focus on the must-dos in Seoul. 🙂

As someone who loves to travel, see the world and have new experiences, I know that I should really take every opportunity I get to venture off to another place in the world that I’ve never been before. However, there is just something about South Korea that holds a special place in my heart. I have been to this beautiful and dynamic country 5 times in the past 6 years. Every time I return, I love it even more. ❤

There’s just so many fun things to do, see and delicious food to eat in South Korea!

Here are my top 5 things to see and/or do while in Seoul:

1. Shopping in Myeongdong & Dongdaemun

If you’re a shopaholic like me, Seoul is the place to be. It’s a shopper’s paradise! From fashionable clothing, shoes, fancy hair accessories, jewelry, makeup, face masks to gadgets, Seoul has it all. Moreover, depending on your style and taste, you can go from high end to affordable trendy. Two of my favourite places to shop in Seoul is Myeongdong and Dongdaemun.

Myeongdong is considered the shopping mecca in Seoul. It has endless stores from international brand Forever 21, H&M, UNIQLO, to popular Korean brands. If you feel like you’re done with Myeongdong, hop over to Dongdaemun. At Dongdaemun, you can literally shop till you drop, since shops close at 5am! You can slowly shop at every floor of the shopping malls all night, and re-energize with some food in the food court so you can continue shopping into the early morning! I love both Migliore (lower end mall) and Doota (higher end mall) because you can find lots of local designers and brands!

myeondong

rainbowcottoncandy

I loved seeing and eating such colourful cotton candy at Myeongdong! If you’re there, try looking for this street food stand! 🙂

 

2.Insadong

I love this area as you can see Korean culture come to life through its traditional arts. Also, Insadong is filled with lots of delicious Korean food places (including street food, look for “Dragon’s Beard Candy” to try!), tea houses, art galleries and unique shops (check out Ssamziegil Mall). For me, the best part in Insadong is appreciating cultural art such as the Korean ceramics, paintings, antiques, jewelry etc. I always enjoy buying souvenirs here for myself and others as they are not only one of a kind but also handcrafted.

For more information:

http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264354

https://theculturetrip.com/asia/south-korea/articles/the-top-10-things-to-do-in-insadong-south-korea/

 

3. Bukchon Hanok Village

If you want to get a feel of living in a traditional Korean village, this is the place to go as you explore it. This village has many alleys and traditional houses known as hanok from the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1897). This is an actual neighbourhood where locals reside so tourists are asked to respect the peace and quiet of its local residents when wandering the alleys and taking photos. There are also tea houses, cafes, restaurants, cultural centres, galleries, museums and guesthouses spread throughout this neighbourhood. This is a wonderful place to learn more about Korean history and culture!

For more information:

http://english.visitseoul.net/attractions/Bukchon-Hanok-Village_/263#

http://www.theseoulguide.com/sights/villages/bukchon-hanok-village/

 

4.Gyeongbokgung Palace

A trip to Seoul is not complete without visiting this beautiful Main Royal Palace of the Joseon Dynasty!

For more information:

http://www.royalpalace.go.kr/html/eng/main/main.jsp

http://www.theseoulguide.com/sights/palaces/gyeongbokgung-palace/

 

5. Cheonggyecheon Stream

If you want to find some tranquility in this busy city, this urban park is the perfect place for it! It’s more than 15 feet below street level and surrounded by small waterfalls, greenery and many overhead bridges.

For more information:

http://english.visitseoul.net/attractions/Cheonggyecheon-Stream_/35#

 

*Worth Exploring: Hongdae 

For entertainment and nightlife, check out this vibrant youthful area that never sleeps! It is known for its indie music and urban street art. It is also filled with all night dance clubs (many close at 6am), bars and independent cafes etc. When you come here, there are often live street performances. Aside from the lively nightlife, shopping is great in this area too!

10 Vancouver Must-Dos List

I just came back from a much-needed relaxing one week vacation to Vancouver, British Columbia after one intense month of wrapping up the end of the school year, and getting ready for my exciting summer teach abroad opportunity, and moving to a new school for September.

The past week has been incredible as I was able to explore and discover the beauty of Vancouver and its surroundings, and experience the laid back lifestyle of the Vancouverites. Part of this vacation was made so much better with the companionship of my good high school friend Sheena, and also my Vancouverite friend Greg, who has such a wealth of knowledge of his city and province. Thank you to both! 🙂

Vancouver is such a beautiful and eclectic city in Western Canada. Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast, a foodie, a history buff or interested in trying out a variety of activities, there is definitely something to do for everyone there.

Here are my top 10 favourite things I enjoyed doing and seeing while in Vancouver and hopefully this list will entice you to visit Vancouver as your next travel destination!

1. For Cyclists: Biking around Stanley Park via Seawall

StanleyParkBiking

Stanley Park is a huge public park located in the West End of Vancouver and it is very bike friendly. It has a path called Seawall, where one can bike, cycle or in-line skate around the park. Sheena and I enjoyed a very pleasant day biking all around the Seawall, savouring the scenic views along the way and stopping whenever we wanted to take photos or rest. There are benches spread throughout the park and logs placed on the beaches for sitting. This urban park is like a peaceful paradise in the midst of the city.

Tip: End your biking at Kitsilano Beach where you can get a beautiful view of the sunset around 9pm.

 

2. For Lovers of Shakespeare: Bard on the Beach in Vanier Park

BardonBeach

If you love Shakespeare as much as I do, this summer festival cannot be missed! It runs from June to September and is located by the beautiful waterfront in Vanier Park. Plays are performed in open-ended tents, where the backdrop is the magnificent view of mountains, sea and sky. We saw an evening performance of “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” and loved it a lot because it added a modern twist to it with some 21st century fashion and music thrown in as well.

Tip #1: If you have time before the show, walk around the waterfront in Vanier Park so you can see the natural beauty all around you.

Tip #2: The weather cools down in the evening, so dress for the evening weather by either wearing layered clothing/long pants or bring a light jacket.

 

3. For Yogis & Yoginis: Yoga Everywhere!

YogaRobson
Vancouver is known as the yoga capital of Canada and literally everywhere you go, there will be signs of a yoga studio nearby. Of course I had to try a yoga class! Luckily, I found one right in the heart of where I was staying in West End Vancouver. The exciting part is that this local yoga studio is a secret gem in the neighbourhood and not a lot of people know about it. I will be blogging about my yoga experience there soon so stay tuned! 😉

Tip: BoredInVancouver has a good post on free yoga around the city so check out
http://www.boredinvancouver.com/listings/free-yoga-vancouver-by-donation/

 

4. For Nature Lovers & Hikers: Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

CapilanoBridge
You can easily spend a few hours here because the suspension bridge is not the only attraction; it also has trails for walking/hiking. As well, it has its Treetops Adventure and Cliffwalk where you can walk to get closer views of the rainforest, and the Capilano River and Canyon. I found it fascinating that in the middle of the city there is a rainforest. I learned a lot about vegetation in this part of the province during this trip. This place is another peaceful oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Tip #1: Even though it is about 10-15 minutes away from downtown Vancouver, we really appreciated the free shuttle bus service offered by the park for tourists like us who don’t like driving a car. The shuttle bus service is frequent; it runs every 15 minutes. The stops are located in several key places in downtown for pickup and drop off. Here is the free shuttle bus service schedule: http://www.capbridge.com/visit/shuttle-service/

Tip #2: The fudge is freshly made here and is a must eat! There are so many flavours to choose from and the fudge shop is located in the souvenir gift shop called “Trading Post”. I think the sea salt chocolate fudge is out of this world!!

Tip #3: If you’re not too tired after this adventure, you can drive over or take the bus to nearby Grouse Mountain to hike up the challenging and steep hiking trail known as the Grouse Grind. It takes about an hour and a half to hike all the way up. Once you’re up there, you can get a beautiful view of the city, sea and mountains.

 

5. For Foodies and Sushi Lovers: Sushi is a Must!

Sushi selection at Fujiya Japanese Foods

Sushi selection at Fujiya Japanese Foods

As my friend Greg pointed out when we were on our city tour walk, Vancouver is a highly Asian-populated or influenced city. It seems almost around every corner, we were greeted by Asian restaurants. Therefore, what better place to have freshly made sushi by Japanese chefs than in Vancouver? We tasted a variety of sushi from restaurants and even bought some from this Japanese supermarket (“Fujiya Japanese Foods” on 912 Clark Drive) for a picnic at Queen Elizabeth Park, another beautiful park with gardens and panoramic view over the city. There were so many different kinds of sushi to choose from in Fujiya that it kind of got overwhelming. 😛 My final verdict on the sushi from Fujiya is that they are not only cheap, but also fresh and super delicious!

Tip: If you come all the way to British Columbia (BC), you have to try the BC Roll. It is a roll that has barbecued salmon and cucumber since BC is known for its wild pacific salmon. I think it’s so yummy!

 

6. For Shoppers, Foodies & People Watching: Robson Street

We discovered this cute Japanese cafe on Robson street that specializes in yummy parfaits for desserts.

We discovered this cute Japanese cafe on Robson street that specializes in yummy parfaits for desserts.

If you love to spend a day strolling, shopping, eating and people watching, this is the street for you! This busy teeming street is filled with ethnic restaurants, coffee shops, sports bars, lounges, grocery stores and shops. There are a variety of shops from big names to little boutiques, and even a few souvenir shops in between. If you get tired from shopping, you can simply buy a cup of coffee/tea and sit outside on a patio and people watch for fun! 🙂

 

7. For Beach Goers: English Bay Beach, Second Beach and Third Beach (located in Stanley Park), Kitsilano Beach & Sunset Beach

Third Beach

Third Beach

Vancouver is surrounded by beaches, so it is definitely worth to hit up one or more of these beaches and enjoy them whether you want to swim, walk, windsurf, sail, bask in the sun or just play in the sand. I thoroughly enjoyed just sitting on one of its many logs placed on these beaches, observing the beautiful landscape.

 

8. For Photographers: Scenic Route along Whistler

The drive from Vancouver to Whistler and vice-versa is simply breathtaking. There were so many scenic views along the way that I’ll share some notable stops with you here:

Shannon Falls Provincial Park

Shannon Falls Provincial Park

Green Lake Provincial Park

Green Lake Provincial Park

 

Stawamus Chief (a.k.a as the Chief) where people challenge themselves by rock climbing!

Stawamus Chief (a.k.a as the Chief) where people challenge themselves by rock climbing!

Porteau Cove, Provincial Marine Park

Porteau Cove, Provincial Marine Park where scuba diving is possible

 

A view of Vancouver city from the peak of Cypress Mountain

A view of Vancouver city from the peak of Cypress Mountain

 

9. For History Buffs: Victoria

A view of the waterfront and British Columbia  Parliament Buildings

A view of the waterfront and British Columbia Parliament Buildings

We thought if we come all the way to Vancouver, we might as well take a day trip to Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, known for its British charm. This city is named after Queen Victoria of England, and is one of the oldest cities in Western Canada. The British settled here in the 1843. The British influence is evident in its historical buildings, architecture, double-decker buses, horse-drawn carriages, formal gardens and tearooms around the city. We enjoyed leisurely strolling around the major streets and the waterfront area which is pretty and buzzing with activity from buskers performing to artisans and artists selling their work of art. As passionate foodies, we could not resist trying two British meals in famous places while here in Victoria. We had fish and chips for lunch at the popular Red Fish Blue Fish and Afternoon Tea at the majestic Fairmont Empress Hotel. I will be blogging about both food experiences so keep an eye out for them. 🙂

Tip #1: When we arrived to Vancouver, we learned that Victoria is actually very far from Vancouver, and it takes about 4 hours to reach Victoria via bus and ferry boat. At the suggestion of our hotel’s front desk, we decided to book our transportation to and from Victoria through a company called Pacific Coach. They specialize in their Cross Water Service and we found it very easy to reach their bus terminal (Pacific Central Station) from our hotel to board their bus and then we didn’t have to worry about the rest of our trip. See http://www.pacificcoach.com/Bus-Coach-Travel/Crosswater/Vancouver-to-Victoria

Tip #2: The scenic views from the ferry boat was simply stunning. Make sure you go on to the top deck to experience the magic and natural beauty all around you. Bring a light jacket/sweater as it tends to be cooler outside.

Morning ferry ride to Victoria

Morning ferry ride to Victoria

Sunset ferry ride back to Vancouver

Sunset ferry ride back to Vancouver

 

10. For Lululemon Addicts: Lululemon Lab

LululemonLab
If you are a fan of Lululemon clothing, you have to visit this place, where it all began! Be prepared that it is a small retail and fashion space where innovative Lululemon items are designed, produced and sold all in one space. The majority of the products are in neutral colours of black, white, gray and navy blue, and are created in limited quantities. I found the staff to be super friendly, helpful and honest.  The cool feature of this store is that you get to see the seamstresses at work, creating the designs for this shop only, based on the design boards. Lastly, you get pleasure knowing that when you walk out of this shop, you are one of a very few people owning a piece of unique Lululemon clothing, made in Vancouver, that will most likely not be sold in the regular Lululemon stores.