Seoul at First Sight - Traveling Around the City on a Budget

Across the Seoul City Hall are couples skating in the center of the bright-lit Seoul Plaza, half-oblivious and half-absorbed with the gentle snow drizzle...Passers-by, on the other hand, race against time to catch the busy subway...These are images of a multi-faceted Seoul-a city full of life, romance, advancement, youthfulness, modernity and heritage. It is stunningly beautiful, refreshingly alive and simply mesmerizing.

Thanks to the "Hallyu" phenomenon, the wonders and culture of the Oriental city has reached far beyond Asia, conquering Americans, Europeans and Latin Americans as well. However, contrary to the elegant and expensive image the city projects, there are places you can enjoy even on a budget or even for free!

Travelling in Korea need not be costly. How? First of all, you've got the option of riding the inexpensive subway system that takes you anywhere you want to go with its several route lines. You can also take the bus which has several stations across the city. What is left for you to think about is your itinerary. Well, if you are set to tour Seoul on a budget, here are some places you shouldn't miss:

1. Cheonggyecheon (Cheonggye Stream)

Once an ignored overpass back in the 70s, this long stream stretching across the city now bursts with inviting charm from the serene sound of water and colorful lights at night. The stream was restored in October 2005 by then-Seoul mayor and now President Lee Myung-Bak. Nothing compares to spending your day here at the stream, cozily playing with water and admiring pieces of art surrounding the place. It is frequented by families as the stream presents a fresh break from buzz of the city above it.

Things you can see here include the grand fountain, the wishing wall, active aquatic life, sculpture and more. Try crossing the Dapgyonori on Gwangtong Bridge on the first full moon as people believe that doing so will save you from leg ailments for the whole year. Cost: Free.

How to go there: Get off at Jongno 3-ga of Line 3 or Gwanghwamun of Line 5.

2. Namdaemun and Dongdaemun

From the Cheonggye stream, you can walk to the nearest shopping areas Namdaemun and Dongdaemun. These are two of the most famous flee markets in Seoul. Namdaemun means "Great South Gate" and Dongdaemun, "Great East Gate". For sure, experiencing these places will engage all of your five senses. See the sights, smell and taste the food, hear the trade and feel the people. Namdaemun offers you items on wholesale and retail with its more than a thousand shops, stores and vendors. Along the streets and alleys of Namdaemun are souvenir shops where you can buy Korean dolls, keychains, fans, masks and other traditional items. Also, street foods like odeng and tteokpokki are available. This place closes every Sunday.

How to go there: Get off at Hoehyeon Station of Line 4.

Another must-see place is Dongdaemun, where shopping never ends. You can also get stuff on wholesale or retail here. There are around 26 shopping malls in this area, two of the most known as Migliore and Doosan Tower. Products range from clothes, shoes, to souvenirs, house items and electrical supplies, etc. It is also closes every Sunday but is open until 5 a.m. on other days. Cost: No Fees

How to go there: Get off at Dongdaemun Station of Line 1 or 4.

3. Hangang (Han River)

How would you like the fresh breeze of river water blowing against your skin, at the same time enjoying the sights of the whole city such as the Seoul Tower, 63 Building and so on? This is possible in Hangang. Being the fourth longest river in Korea, Hangang offers a pleasurable experience for sports activities, sightseeing and relaxation.

You can take a lot of snapshots around this river alone, with your friends or your lover as famous Seoul landmarks are visible from here. Sports and other physical activities such as playing Frisbee, biking, running and roller skating can also be enjoyed around here. At night, the bridge lights up with colorful lights more than you can imagine. Also, have a taste of Korean culture with street foods lining up near the river. There are also a lot of parks situated near the river. Cost: Free

If you've got more budget, try the ferry cruise which runs on six courses you can choose from. Things you can see while on the ferry course, depending on the course you choose, include surrounding islands, Jeoldusan Park, 63 Building, Namsan Tower, Jamsil Multi-Sports Complex and others. Cost: At least 9,000 Won.

How to go there: Get off at Dangsan Station of Line 2, Yeouinaru Station of Line 5, Cheonho Station of Line 5 and 8 or Ttukseom Station of Line 7.

4. Insadong

Known as the art and antique district, Insadong is the place where the old meets the new. It once housed the royal residences of officials and aristocratic families. However, the district now lodges a lot of galleries, supplies stores and handicrafts stores. Old and traditional art forms coexist with modern pieces. You can also find souvenir shops, restaurants and shops that sell hanbok or the traditional Korean wear. There are also scheduled performances especially on weekends such as calligraphy demonstrations and pansori presentation, a form of traditional Korean music. Cost: Free.

How to go there: Get off at Jonggak Station of Line 1, Jongno 3-ga Station of Line 1, 3 or 5, or Anguk Station of Line 3.

5. Gyeongbokgung (Gyeongbok Palace)

For a historical experience of Seoul, be sure to visit the Gyeongbok Palace, the largest palace among the five grand palaces of the Joseon Dynasty. With its name meaning "Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven", the palace was constructed in 1395 when the capital of Korea was moved from Gaeseong to Seoul. However, during the Japanese occupation, a fire hit the city and destroyed a large portion of it. Restoration was later initiated in 1989, which continues up to this day.

You can tour the palace on any day daily except Tuesdays. Admission is 1,500 Won for visitors aged 7-18, and 3,000 Won for aged 19 and above.

Another option is to visit several palaces at once via an all-inclusive ticket you can purchase and is valid within a month. For just 10,000 Won, you can tour the four main palaces Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, Deoksugung and the Jongmyo Shrine.

How to go there: Get off at Gyeongbokgung Station of Line 3 or Gwanghwamun Station of Line 5.

Seoul is a friendly palace where you can feel safe and relaxed. Albeit not much of an English-speaking city, it is still convenient for tourists to go around different areas, get off at different subway and bus stations as well as reach different destinations as major signs come with English translation. Rest assured that people are also helpful to foreigners. So get your bags ready cause whatever happens in Seoul does not stay in Seoul...but beyond!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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