Visiting Seoul? Insiders Share Tips

Night’ establishments are similar to a club, but they are more geared towards the older crowd in their 30s and 40s. Socializing rules are different in these places. Guests can mingle naturally on the dance floor in a club, but waiters arrange introductions in a night establishment. Tables and are available, and the guests can get access to them if you buy expensive liquor by the bottle. Socializing mainly happens on the dance floor, where patrons can drink and dance. Well, grab your party pants and top up your glass with soju to read everything about Seoul’s nightlife.

Downtown, shoppers often compare Lotte vs Shilla on duty-free prices but the difference is less in price and more in layout and access. The Lotte high-rise store is easy to find in Myeongdong – and always packed to the gills. Shilla duty-free is farther out in a green enclave next to the hotel, with a more upscale hushed experience. If you want to watch some K-League action, catch FC Seoul at the World Cup Stadium (; weekends March–Oct); every now and then foreigners can buy special tickets that include a free beer. Seongnam and Suwon, the two most dominant Korean teams, also play near Seoul; the atmosphere at all grounds is fun but they can be on the empty side, unless you’re lucky enough to be around for a major international game ().

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Lotte Department Stores can be found all over Seoul — and South Korea. But the Myeongdong Lotte is Lotte’s first and flagship store for a reason. With perks for international travelers such as a duty-free shop on the 10th floor and conveniences like interpretation services and personal lockers , it’s no wonder that the place is so jam-packed with glittery-eyed shoppers. The Lotte Department Store and Myeong-dong shopping district are a few steps away, as is the Euljiro-1-ga subway station. The hotel’s deli, Vecchia and Nuovo, has some of the tastiest sandwiches in Seoul — the chicken curry is near perfect.

A historical neighbourhood in Seoul, Bukchon Hanok’s pretty streets lined with traditional-style houses is well worth the visit. Spend your time here simply wandering between the alleyways and streets, tucking into a sweet Korean treat in any of the adorable cafes or shopping for a souvenir. This shopping tour is essential, and this $10 hanbok styling session will see you dress up in traditional Korean party get-up. A newish kid on the Yeongdeungpo block is the 283-room Courtyard Seoul Times Square close to new shopping and entertainment areas. As with the brand this is a minimal service operation with a Momo Café, bright welcoming rooms, and big smiles.

Some of the popular features at this 4-star hotel include free Wi-Fi and an all-inclusive meal plan. There is also a bar and lounge area in the hotel. Finding vitamins in Korea isn’t difficult, but I’ve found them to be somewhat overpriced.

You can take a cable car if you like, but as I’m sure you’ve already gathered, walking is our preferred mode of transport. Finally, if you really need a budget hotel or a place to kip without unduly denting your wallet, try your luck at the Seoul Youth Hostel at Mt Namsan. There are 50 rooms accommodating up to 300 persons. There are kitchenettes for home cooking and even a rooftop cafe with great views across the city. New in Kangnam and not far from COEX is the Aloft Seoul Gangnam , with amenities from Bliss Spa and and in-room 42-inch monster TVs for work and play.

Farther from the action and miles from the pack when it comes to design eccentricity, is the funky 252-room Vista Walkerhill Seoul (which took over from the W Seoul-Walkerhill in January 2017 ). Perched on a promontory above the Han River – and a snaking expressway – The W was less a hotel than a fashion statement for the hip and gloriously reckless. It combined an ultramodern exterior with eclectic furnishings seemingly borrowed from a Manhattan nightclub or a trendy Hong Kong bar. Ornate lifts with mosaic tile floors rise up to overly darkened corridors pierced by thin points of pencil beams. It is startling then to throw open a door and walk into a bright virginal all-white room.

There are hiking paths leading up the hill and a six kilometre jogging path to the Han River. Down the hill in Itaewon, not far from the Grand Hyatt, is the utterly camp IP Boutique Hotel that opened in March 2010. Walk in to a Mad Hatter’s Ball of checked floors, crimson carpets, deep-padded high-back yellow sofas, wall mirrors creating depth-of-field illusions, and swings in the lobby. The 142-room hotel occupies a small mid-rise block at one quiet end of the Itaewon strip.

Large mirrors – like the casually leaning black frame – offer the briefest whimsy and much opportunity to preen. A little farther away and walking distance to delightful Insa-dong is the quirky concept design Makers Hotel ( with a great deal of budget individuality in rooms starting at W80,000 (about US$70). Hotel Doma Myeongdong () is also a little further but in the Myung-dong district while DOTT Hotel Myeongdong serves up tight 12sq m rooms with the lure of free WiFi, a rooftop garden with a city view, and massage services. Dott is somewhat elusive online so track them down through one of the online travel agents. The Nine Tree Premier Hotel Myeong Dong 2 ( is a larger and slick 408-room newer hotel with compact but pleasant 26sq m rooms featuring grey carpets, pastel tones, olive bed runners, city views, and free WiFi. Also find a fitness centre, spa, ancl 3 meeting rooms if you happen to be in need of a small meeting.

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