Seoul (서울; ) is the capital of South Korea.
With over 10 million people, a figure that doubles if you include neighboring cities and suburbs, Seoul is by far the largest city in South Korea and the unquestioned economic, political and cultural hub of the country. By some measures, it is the second largest urban agglomeration on the planet, after Greater Tokyo.
Seoul suffers from a partly unwarranted reputation for pollution and traffic jams. These days, strict emissions laws have brought the pollution under control and, while traffic jams do still snarl up Seoul's streets at rush hour, the extensive subway network means that the traveler can easily shortcut through it almost all of the time. With beautiful palaces, great food and a hopping nightlife.
The picturesque gate to the right burned down due to arson on February 10, 2008 after standing for almost 700 hundred years.
Seoul is a relatively expansive city with a population of around 10 million. The city is divided in two by the Han River (한강 Hangang), which runs east to west across the city. The Joseon-era historical core of the city, containing most palaces and government offices, lies on the north side in and around the district of Jongno (종로), overlooked by the 262-meter peak of Namsan (남산). The south of the river, known as Gangnam (강남), is more 'uptown' and more modern. The island of Yeoui-do (여의도), in the river, is the closest Seoul gets to Manhattan with skyscrapers, the National Assembly and the Seoul Stock Exchange.
 Get in
 By plane
 Incheon Airport
Nearly all international flights to Seoul land at the futuristic Incheon International Airport (인천국제공항) (Template:IATA)  west of the city. The airport is well signposted and caters to all your traveler needs, and even includes a sauna, an optician, and a small mall. There are two tourist information offices and many global ATMs. Currency exchanges are available, and are fairly priced.
Buses run directly to Seoul and are probably the best option for most travellers. Many "limousine buses" (W13000 or so) travel directly to major hotels in Seoul, while public buses (around W8000~W9000) will take you to major transit hubs. Consult the big maps to figure out which route best suits your needs; you can then find the shuttles outside 1st floor arrivals. Or simply, walk out and ask the many ticket sellers (they are wearing vests) which bus goes to your hotel.
The A'REX  train link to Gimpo Airport is now open, with express and commuter services (both W3100) running every 12 minutes for a trip time of 28-35 minutes, making this both faster and cheaper than the bus. The rest of the link to Seoul is scheduled to be ready in 2010, but for now, you can continue from Gimpo by regular subway — although this is quite slow.
Beware of taxi drivers trying to pick you up from inside the terminal and even the bus stop.
If you have a late flight and plan on getting into Seoul via bus, make sure you get out to the curb as soon as you can. The last buses run shortly after the last flights land. If you miss your bus, you'll be stuck paying for a taxi, as the trains will be done running too.
A taxi direct to Seoul will run around W40000/60000 regular/deluxe. As both buses and taxis are subject to traffic, allow extra time for rush hour delays; one possible shortcut is to take the subway to Gimpo and transfer to the train there (see below).
If you have time to kill at the airport but don't have the time or energy to face Seoul's traffic, see Yeongjong Island or Incheon for some layover suggestions. If you're connecting through ICN to another destination on Korean/Asiana and have over 6 hours to spare, you may be entitled to a free transit tour or hotel — ask at the transit desk.
 Gimpo Airport
The more centrally located but older Gimpo Airport (김포국제공항, GMP) caters only to the shuttle services to Tokyo-Haneda and Shanghai-Hongqiao, as well as domestic flights within South Korea. Gimpo Airport is easily reached on subway Line 5 (W1400 and 50 minutes to downtown), and you can transfer to/from Incheon Airport with the A'REX rail link. A taxi to central Seoul will run around W30,000.
 By train
Seoul is the northern terminus of the KTX high-speed line to Daejeon, Daegu and Busan. There are two KTX stations within city limits: Seoul Station (서울역), on lines 1 & 4, and just a few stops south, Yongsan Station (용산역), on line 1 & 4(Shin-Yongsan station).
Nearly all ordinary (non-KTX) services also use one or both of the above terminals, but services east to Chuncheon and southeast to Gyeongju via Danyang use Cheongnyangni Station (청량리역), to the east of the city on line 1.
 By bus
Every weekend approximately 2 million Seoulites leave the city, which goes a long way to explaining why the city has no less than five major intercity bus terminals.
- Central City Terminal, also known as Honam Terminal, Express Bus Terminal stn (Lines 3, 7). Directly adjacent to the Express terminal, serves buses to North and South Jeolla.
- Dong Seoul Bus Terminal (동서울버스터미널), Gangbyeon stn (Line 2). Buses to points east of Seoul (Gangwon).
- Express Bus Terminal (서울고속버스터미널), Express Bus Terminal stn (Lines 3, 7). Also known as Gangnam Terminal and Gyeongbu-Yeongdong Terminal, this is the largest of them all and serves pretty much the entire country, but most services head east (incl. Busan, Daegu, Daejeon). Lines to Jeolla, however, use the Central City/Honam Terminal right next door.
- Nambu Bus Terminal, Nambu Bus Terminal stn (Line 3). Serves places southwest of Seoul (South Chungcheong).
- Sinchon Bus Terminal, Sinchon stn (Line 2). Buses to Ganghwa Island. Note: That's Sinchon station, not Sincheon, which is also on Line 2 but on the wrong side of the city!
 By boat
There are ferry services to various points in China from the neighboring port city of Incheon. Currently no services run from Japan directly to Seoul; many Koreans take the coach or KTX train to Busan, where several ferry and hydrofoil options are available.
 By car
No matter where in Korea you start your journey, there will be at least one tolled expressways (Gosok Doro) and national highways (Gook Do) that lead to Seoul; the most important one is the Gyeongbu Expressway, linking Seoul with Busan.
 Get around
Traffic jams are all too common in Seoul, so be careful on the streets and head underground when possible.
 By subway
In Seoul, you can visit most places by using subways. There are currently 8 lines (10 if you count the Bundang Line and Incheon Line), with a 9th under construction. The lines are numbered and distinguished by different colors. All signs in the subway system are in Korean (both hangeul and if applicable, hanja) and English. The signs leading to the platform for a particular direction of travel on a given subway line typically list the names of a number of stations in that direction. Stations each have a 3 digit number, however Koreans don't really make use of these numbers and they're not on most subway maps, so don't rely on them.
Subway fares are based on the distance traveled, but the shortest ride costs 1000 Won when using a magnetic ticket. Small magnetic stripe tickets are available for single trip or multiple trips. Tickets can be purchased from ticket counters or vending machines. All the vending machines accept coins, but only a few accept bills (a sign will be posted if it can accept the new (2006/2007) won notes). If there's no manned ticket office, there's usually a bill exchanger lurking nearby, although they don't always accept the new (2006/2007) won notes (a sign will be posted indicating such). Hang onto your ticket until the end of your trip, as you'll need it to get out.
If staying for more than a day or two, consider purchasing a T-money stored value contactless smart card. You can buy this card at most subway stations and many newspaper kiosks near subway entrances. The card itself costs 2500 Won and cash can be charged onto the card as often as you like. When entering and leaving a subway turnstile, place the card on the reader (leaving it inside your purse or wallet is fine) and it will deduct the appropriate fare from the card. When using a T-money card you'll get a small discount on subway fares, and you can also transfer between subway and bus at a reduced fare. The subway is not operated 24 hours, so you may be stranded late at night.
Although there is only one subway network, lines 1-4 and 5-8 are run by two different companies, so information is available on two websites, the Seoul Metropolitan Subway Corporation and te Seould Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corp.
- Seoul Metropolitan Subway Corporation 
- Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corp 
 By bus
Seoul also has an extensive bus service. There are four different kinds of buses. The color and size is different for each of them. The color (blue, green, red or yellow) describes the kind of route the bus takes. For example, red buses are long distance routes, and green buses connect subway stations to the surrounding areas. Note that most buses won't stop to pick you up unless you flag them down, and you also have to press the red "stop" buttons to be let off.
 By taxi
There are three kinds of taxis in Seoul: regular taxi, deluxe taxi and call taxi. Deluxe taxis are colored black with a yellow sign, and are more expensive than regular taxis but provide better and more comfortable service. Regular taxis are silver. It's easy to hail a taxi any time of the day or night along any relatively major Seoul street.
You can call a deluxe taxi wherever you are by calling 3431-5100. Sometimes you can find a visitor's guide taxi which is a kind of deluxe taxi, the drivers of which know English and Japanese and can guide you around Seoul city.
The basic fare for regular taxis is 1900W, with additional fare of 100W applied according to time and distance. In deluxe taxis, the basic fare is 4000W and the additional fare increases in increments of 200W.
If there is more than one passenger, and you are traveling only a short distance (eg 1-2 subway stops) it is usually cheaper to catch a taxi than to take a bus or subway.
Another kind of taxi is the AAFES taxi, although this type is mainly used by US military personnel on post. These taxis generally speak English better than the local taxis and take US$. The basic fare is $2.30 with additional fare of $0.30 according to time and distance. You can call for an AAFES taxi by calling 0505-736-5113.
In general, English speaking ability is poor among taxi drivers and many would not know more than the names of the most popular tourist attractions, so it would be wise to have your destination written in Korean to show to the taxi driver. It is also wise to get your hotel's business card in case you get lost.
Detail of the king's bedchamber, Changdeokgung
Roof with protective figurines, Changdeokgung
As the ancient seat of Korea's royalty, there are no fewer than 5 major palaces in Seoul, and some are definitely worth a visit.
- Gyeongbok-gung(경복궁,景福宮), Yulgukno (subway Gyeongbokgung). Seoul's grandest palace and the seat of power for centuries before it was razed in 1592 by a Japanese invasion (and they did a repeat after 1910). Large parts have now been restored and the vast grounds also house the Joseon Palace Museum and the Korean Folk Museum. Entry W3000, open 9AM to 5PM daily except Tuesday (when the palace is used for shooting TV dramas).
- Changdeok-gung(창덕궁,昌德宮), Yulgukno (subway Anguk). Second only to Gyeongbokgung in historical importance, this was first built in 1405 and was the seat of power between 1618 and 1896. The buildings have all been recently restored and freshly repainted, creating a dazzling but still elegant effect that got the palace listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Buildings of particular note include the blue-roofed Seonjeongjeon, which was the King's office, and the Daejojeon ("Great Making Hall"), his bedchamber, but most famous of all is the Biwon ("Secret Garden") in the back. Access to the complex is by guided tour only (W3000) except on Thursdays when only self-guided tours are available. Korean-language tours run every half hour but English tours are offered at 11:30 AM, 1:30 PM and 3:30 PM. Closed Mondays.
- Deoksu-gung(덕수궁,德壽宮), (subway City Hall). Located in downtown Seoul across the street from City Hall, Deoksu Palace vividly contrasts to the other nearby palaces like Changdeok Palace. Built during the mid-fifteenth century, the architecture of the buildings inside are heavily influenced with Western designs. Hence, you will see a fusion of both Korean and Western architecture. Closed on Mondays. Admission: Adults (19 to 64 years old): 1,000 won (groups: 800 won), Children (7 to 18 years old) and soldiers: 500 won (groups: 400 won), Children 6 and under, seniors 65 and over: Free.
- ChangGyeong-gung(창경궁,昌慶宮), (Subway line 4, Hyehwa Station, exit 4). Originally built in 1104 as a summer palace for the Kings of the Koryo Dynasty, it became one of the main palace during the Joseon Dynasty. The palace was used as a temporary home for the King during the time Gyeongbuk Palace was being built. Unlike other palaces that has a North-South orientation, ChangGyeong Palace faces East-West. Also, what is famous about this palace is the fact it connects to Jongmyo Shrine, a holy place for the Joseon Dynasty, where sacrificial rites are practiced for previous kings and queens. Closed every Tuesdays. Admission: Adults (19 to 64 years old): 1,000 won (groups: 800), Children (7 to 18 years old): 500 won (groups: 400), Children 6 and under, seniors 65 and over: Free.
- Geyonghui-gung(경희궁,慶熙宮), (Subway line 5, Seodaemun Station, exit 4). Originally built in the 17th century, it was burnt down twice in the 19th century. It was largely destroyed by the Japanese during the occupation to build a school for Japanese children. It was finally restored in 1985 and opened to the public. Free admission.
- 4.19 Memorial Cemetery. 224 people were killed during the April 19 Movement, and were buried in this cemetery. It became a national cemetery in 1995. This place has a museum, several statues, and a mausoleum. It is a popular place, for it is a park where you can come and take a rest.
- Boramae Park. Formerly the site of the Korean Air Force Academy, which in 1986 turned into a park - Boramae, or hawk in English, symbolizes the Air Force. The size of the park is about 360,000 square meters and its sports facilities, a small zoo, a pond, and walking paths are well designed. The huge pond, which is 9,000 square meters, is surrounded by willow trees and benches, and people love to come. The pond is full of cool shades during the summer, and is spectacular when snow falls in the winter.
- Namsan Park. Located in the center of Seoul and considered a symbol of Seoul. Namsan Park is an ecology-island surrounded by urban districts. In spite of being an urban ecology-island, wild animals live in the park. Located in the middle of Seoul, the mountain filled with pine trees can be seen from almost every corner of the big city and the residents of the areas surrounding the hills enjoy the fresh mountain air.
- Olympic Park. Built for the 1986 Asian Games and the 1988 Seoul Olympics. A lake, a large field covered with the grass, and a square with sculptures are very popular among visitors. It is frequently visited by brides and grooms to take their wedding pictures. There are a couple of courses that are ideal for jogging or walking. In addition, the outdoor stage and the six stadiums are often used for concerts and other special events.
- Tapgol ("Pagoda") Park. A small park frequented by the elderly and the footsore traveller. Contains the namesake pagoda under protective glass, and a nice large gazebo to get out of the sun. Acts a navigation landmark when moving between Myeongdong, Jongno and Insadong neighborhoods.
- Yangjae Citizen's Forest. You will find a forest on your right if you drive through Gangnam Street. It's a park with streams and a clear view of the sky. There are over 106,600 trees planted in it, and it's a very popular picnic spot for young students.
- Yeouido Park. More than 30,000 visit it on the weekdays and over 60,000 people visit it on weekends, respectively. The size of the park is 230,000 square meters. There is a traditional Korean forest, and in many other places you can enjoy concerts, cycling, or taking walks. Hundreds of trees and flowers offer you shade and an opportunity to relax. It is recommended to visit the three ponds. There are also basketball courts, so feel free to stop by and play. For a nominal fee, one can also rent bicycles or rollerblades for use at the park.
- Yongsan Park. Reminds you of famous parks in other countries that you might have seen in some movies. Large grass fields and thick forests will make you feel much relieved from bustling city life ; you will see many kinds of birds and trees. The park once used as U.S military base camps. In 1992, Seoul City bought the land and built the park.
- Hangang Citizen's Park, located along the Han River at 12 districts - Gwangnaru, Jamsil, Ttukseom, Jamwon, Banpo, Ichon, Yeouido, Yanghwa, Mangwon, Seonyudo, Nanji, and Gangseojigu. You can see many people strolling or jogging along the trail paths, as well as in-line skaters, bicyclists, and soccer fields or basketball courts. Yeouido, Jamsil, and Ttukseom districts are especially popular because of the cruise services on the Han River.
 Temples and shrines
- Mount Inwang (인왕산 Inwangsan), near subway Dongnimmun. This 336-meter hill is home not only to the eponymous Inwang Temple (Inwangsa), but also Seoul's most famous shamanist shrine Guksadang (국사당). To get there, take Exit 2 and start climbing uphill following the "Inwang Temple" signs, through the huge construction site (as of 2006) and up through the temple gate. You'll see a map board and several paths, take the left staircase upward, past the bronze bell of Bongwonsa and you'll reach Guksadang. Behind it are several creeks with shamanist offerings and the bizarre rock formation known as the Zen Rocks; there are plenty of trails if you want to poke around, and the Seoul fortress wall can be seen running near the top of the hill. Be careful not to photograph or disturb any rituals you see being performed.
- Namdaemun(남대문,南大門) (subway City Hall). More formally known as Sungryemun(숭례문,崇禮門), the Great South Gate is a symbol of Seoul and has been designated as National Treasure Number 1. Particularly beautiful when floodlit at night, and best combined with a visit to the adjacent Namdaemun Market. Unfortunately, a fire in February 2008 destroyed much of the structure, and rebuilding is expected to take up to 3 years.
- Dongdaemun(동대문,東大門), (subway Dongdaemun). More formally known as Heunginjimun(흥인지문,興仁之門), the old eastern gate of the city still stands. Though not as impressive architecturally as Namdaemun, the Dongdaemun market is infinitely more interesting than the its couterpart. Since Namdaemun was burnt down in February 2008, it is one of 3 original city gates still standing along with Bukdaemun(북대문,北大門), the Great North Gate more formally known as Sukjeongmun(숙정문,肅靖門) and a smaller minor gate known as Changuimun(창의문,彰義門).
- Seodaemun Prison, 101 Hyeonjeo-dong, Seodaemun-gu (subway Dongnimmun, exit 5). Tue-Sun 9:30 AM-6 PM (5 PM in Nov-Feb). Originally built in 1908, the prison became infamous during the Japanese occupation, when it was used to torture, starve and execute Korean political prisoners. Actual prison cells, wax figures and videos are used to demonstrate the shocking brutality; most signage is only in Korean, but volunteer guides can describe the sights in English. W1500.
- COEX. This very large mall is located in Samsung-dong, Gangnam-gu, and is conveniently attached to the Samseong-dong station of the Subway Green Line 2. This state-of-the-art complex was designed for international conferences, and holds 150 specialized exhibitions and 15,000 conventions/events a year. The center also plays a role in promoting international trade by connecting international buyers with local businesses. A variety of stores and attractions can be found in the COEX including: the COEX Aquarium (call-ahead reservations required) ; a large Western-style "luxury" cinema; the Kimchi museum ; a Sony Playstation Store; an Xbox Store; a traditional video game arcade; a large bookstore with many Korea publications and imported Japanese books, manga and magazines; a chain electronics store to provide the traveller-in-need with batteries, camcorder tape and discs; and a Studio Ghibli store with lots of character goods (for anime fans). There are also shopping options in the COEX, including national brands mVIO, WhoAU California and Caspi Conus. As far as food options, there is a large food court serving several types of contemporary and traditional food cafeteria-style, and western chains such as TGI Friday's, as well as restaurants, hofs and cafes located all throughout the interior and exterior of the COEX. The COEX is also directly connected to the COEX Intercontinental Hotel. In 2003, a popular entertainment sports bar called GimmeFive opened in the back of the mall, featuring live kickboxing, fashion shows, and a drag queen cabaret show to close the evening; it occupied the space formerly occupied by but then vacated by the Dave & Busters chain. Yearly conventions at the COEX include online gaming conventions (such as the popular Korean-originated MMORPG Lineage), anime conventions, and auto shows. It is possible to spend the entire day in this covered mall without setting foot outside, which can be a blessing if very bad weather hits outside.
- Seoul Tower (Namsan Tower). Can be reached on foot, by taxi or, on the south side, by cable car. Once the tallest tower in Asia, it has the best panoramic view in all of Seoul. Centrally located, it can be seen from nearly anywhere in Seoul and is a helpful reference for travellers on foot.
- The National Museum of Korea, Get off at Ichon Station. Houses the best of the best collection of artifacts and relics from across Korea throughout different periods and dynasty. Closed every Monday.
- Cheonggye Stream, Located near Cheonggye Plaza near Insadong. This stream has recently been converted into a tourist attraction from its previous state as a stagnant mosquito breeding wetland.
- Korean Folk Village(한국 민속촌,韓國民俗村). A nice outdoor museum located in the Yongin suburb with displays that depict the lives of the different social classes and regions of Korea during the Joseon Dynasty. Also has some live performances of traditional Korean skills.
- Unhyeongung (운현궁,雲峴宮). A museum located in Jongno-gu, formerly the residence of a Joseon Dynasty prince and where the wedding of the second last king of the Joseon Dynasty was held, it has several mannequins depicting the dressing style of the yangban or noble class during the Joseon Dynasty.
- Horse Racing, Seoul Racetrack in Kwacheon. Races are normally only held during weekends, night racing also takes place during August. During the week, visitors can take guided tours of the grounds.
- Everland . The Korean version of Disneyland. It is south of Seoul and transportation by bus is the easiest way to get there. Non-stop buses to Everland leave from various parts of Seoul daily. Has a miniature zoo where one can see a lion-tiger hybrid.
- Seoul Land . Theme park located in Seoul. This park was opened just before the Olympics in 1988. It is easy to get to by subway and is open year round.
- Children's Grand Park, in Neung-dong, Gwangjin-gu . The park was constructed after the decision of the City Planning Facility in 1971 and was opened on May 5, 1973. The park has a zoo, amusement facilities and restaurants. To get there, simply take the subway to Children's Grand Park on line 7. Avoid the weekends as it can get very crowded.
- Lotte World, . One of the world's largest indoor amusement parks that is located in Seoul by the Jamsil Station. It has a folk museum where one can have an insight into ancient Korean life. Lots of rides, and reopened in the summer of 2007 after a massive reconstruction.
Taekwondo, Korea's most popular martial art!
- For information: Kukkiwon, WTF Headquarters .
- For training in Seoul: Sangrok Gym .
There is an immense demand for ESL (English as a Second Language) instruction in Seoul. See the main South Korea article for details.
Namdaemun Market at night
- Namdaemun . The largest traditional street market in Korea. This market is located in the center of Seoul and is a famous shopping place for tourists. Clothing for children and accessories are the most-commonly sold goods in this market, but there's lots of food as well and many outdoor eating options, especially in the evening.
- Dongdaemun . This market is of equal historical significance to Namdaemun market. While Namdaemun is an old-fashioned market, Dongdaemun market has large buildings that group similar shops together so customers can shop efficiently and save time. One of the buildings here, Dongdaemun General Market, sells Chimachogori, which is a Korean traditional dress, or bedclothes. Some of the shops like Nuzzon are open all night, and one of the most popular buildings for shopping is Doosan Tower (aka Doota).
- Insadong. Insadong is known for its art galleries and shops, and is possibly the most touristy place in South Korea. It is a great place to buy cultural souvenirs. There are also a few stores that offer interesting vintage toys and various kitsch. Insadong also contains many traditional tea and coffee shops. It is one of the few places that vegetarian restaurants can be found.
- Ewha Women's University. At the front gate of Ewha Women's University, visitors can find a dense market geared towards young women. You can find stores that sell clothes, shoes, hats, handbags, and so on. There are also clothes for men. Recently franchise stores have started to move into the area.
- Yongsan Electronics Market. Yongsan is one option in Seoul if you are looking for electronics goods. Made up of over 20 buildings housing 5000 stores, you can find appliances, stereos, computers and peripherals, office equipment, telephones, lighting equipment, electronic games and software, and videos and CDs. A lot of the products are bought in Japan and resold in Korea by dealers. The market has a reputation for fleecing foreigners, particularly due to its proximity to the Yongsan U.S. Army Base. If you go, it's best to bring a Korean guide so you can ensure you're getting a good deal.
Fashion shopping in Seoul isn't a mere industry, it's an art form.
Myeongdong is probably the largest and best-known area; it is definitely the most tourist-friendly fashion area. In the spring and summer, fashion models/sidewalk promoters can be seen strolling the streets of Myeongdong promoting various cosmetics, stores or other fashion-related products. Many regular people also tend to catwalk their newest outfit on these streets. Rows of stores are available to look for that perfect accessory, and most of Korea's major brands can be found here: mVIO, Caspi Conus, WhoAU California, AHM, So.Basic, Noxon, Basic House, UGIZ, 1492, nipper, hang ten, A6, Bean Pole, Jambangee,Giordano as well as a few international brands such as Landrover, Adidas, Gap, Banana Republic, Koolhaas, Fubu, Anna Sui, etc.
- Migliore . One of the biggest fashion buildings in Seoul. It has 17 floors above ground and 7 basement floors. Information boards in Migliore are written in Korean as well as English, Japanese and Chinese for foreign tourists. US credit cards are often accepted, but ask before haggling if you aren't sure. The outside stage features a "talent show" of local dance groups (mostly high school or college student groups) most nights until about 9 PM; typically they are wearing many of the local fashions, and some of the dancers can be located in the various department stores working as employees.
- UTOO (U2) Zone. Another Myeongdong landmark. This department store is oriented towards an older and more upscale clientele. US credit cards almost always accepted.
- Lotte Young Plaza . A relatively new addition to the scene, located just across the street from Avatar department store. This department store is oriented towards a younger, upscale clientele, and in addition to the usual Korean brands and international brands, the top floor of the space features an assortment of quality eating establishments to replenish your shopping energy. The wine bar is recommended. Sometimes art installations can be found on the top floor. US credit cards accepted.
Apgujeong (압구정), widely known as "The Beverly Hills of Seoul" is the land of the brand name goods. International brands like Gucci and Prada sit alongside Korean designer brands.
- Galleria  A very popular department store.
Near the Cheongdam Intersection lies the heart of the Korean shoe scene. Cutting edge shoe shops include Sue Comma Bonnie, Hyaang, Heels and Namuhana.
Trends often begin in University areas like Hongdae. Hongik University boasts Korea's most famous art school, thus fashion in this area is often influenced by the students' artistic sensibilities. The shops in this area feature funky, punky, boho, and vintage style. Ewha Women's University also has a big shopping area in front of it’s main gate, as do many of the Women's colleges. Many trends also originate here. There are even seamstresses who can help you make your own designs come to life.
 Duty free
Duty free shops: You can use United States＄, Japanese ￥or Korean W. There are clerks who can speak Japanese in nearly every shop. Also the following credit cards are accepted: American Express (AMEX), JCB (Japanese credit card), Mastercard, or Visa.
There are duty-free shops in both the Incheon airport and the major department stores: Lotte, Shilla Hotel. There are other duty-free shops at Walkerhill Hotel, SKM DFS in COEX Mall.
Much of Korean social life revolves around food and the city is packed with restaurants, so it would take a determined man to starve to death in Seoul. This fate may still befall you if you insist on English menus and meals consisting only of easily identifiable, familiar ingredients, so see South Korea#Eat for a quick Korean menu reader. An alternative is to just point and eat, your hosts generally will accommodate. If you look in the right places, a good meal (lunch or dinner) including side dishes can cost 5,000 won or less (try basements of large department stores).
In addition to Korean food, Japanese restaurants in Seoul tend to be excellent, featuring excellent sushi and sashimi. Chinese restaurants exist, but they are Koreanized to the point of unrecognizability. There are a few Italian restaurants; these are generally excellent, with chefs trained in Italy. Another interesting food trend in Seoul are the bakeries. These French-style patisseries are even more common than now-ubiquitous Starbucks and many of them serve surprisingly good treats. Three of the biggest chains are Crown Bakery, Tous Les Jours, and Paris Baguette.
Tacky chain restaurants such as Outback Steakhouse, Bennigan's, McDonald's, Burger King, and Subway are horrifyingly common. For a Korean take on fast food, try Lotteria.
Seoul has plenty of budget places to eat. Everything from convenience store junk food and noodles to street stall food and lots of 24 hour Korean fast food restaurants. The 24-hour restaurants are great because they've usually got a wide variety of foods. Including: mandu, odeng, dokbokki, naengmyeon, udon and ramyeon. Prices do vary from about 2,000won to 9,000won at these restaurants. The larger department stores in the city have basement food courts that offer excellent food for cheap (not recommended if you care about atmosphere).
- Sadongmyenok (사동면옥), Insadong 5-gil (down the alley). Justly famous for its manduguk, a soup of gargantuan homemade dumplings stuffed with meat and veggies and served with side dishes for W5000. English menu available.
- Ala-Too Cafe - Near Dongdaemun Stadium, exit 5, are some Russian, Mongolian, and Central Asian restaurants (including the excellent and cheap Ala-Too Cafe, above a bakery). Wander around and discover the area a bit - you'll be rewarded with delicious food and an exotic experience.
- New Delhi Restaurant, Itaewon (Noksapyoung station exit 1, cross overpass, turn right, 2 min up the hill on your left). Run by a Canadian-Indian owner, 15000 won gets you a a wonderful Indian meal. Try the chicken vindaloo, the garlic nan and the samosas.
- Hanwoori (한우리), Nonhyeondong (south of Apgujung). An upper-end Korean restaurant that specializes in the Korean version of Shabu-shabu, which is a boiling pot to which you throw in vegetables and very thin slices of meat. Their menu is extensive and while their atmosphere may not be cutting-edge, it is classy and clean.
- Once in a Blue Moon . Great food and atmosphere are a plenty at this snappy restaurant/jazz bar. Well worth the money for a nice night out. Live jazz music every night.
- J Pub Ryu . Amazing food and drinks, specializing in sake. The atmosphere is lively with the occasional celebrity siting. A definite hot spot any night of the week with an innovative menu of Japanese fusion.
Compared to Western drinking habits, Koreans have adopted slightly different ways to enjoy their night out. Sure, you can find Western style bars easily, but going to a Korean style bar (a "hof" or a booking-club as they call them) can be an interesting experience. Hofs (a German word, pronounced "hop" in Korean) are just normal beer places, which serve some variations of soju (Korean alcohol) and side dishes. Customers are supposed to order some side dish to go along the beer. Recently, due to growing competition, many hofs have started to install various gadgets etc. for entertainment. Booking-clubs are the Korean version of night-clubs. What makes them interesting is the "booking" part of the name. It's basically a way to meet new people (usually of the opposite sex) done in refreshing way. Booking-clubs are slightly more expensive than normal bars and hofs, but extremely fun. Night-clubs are different from American style clubs, in that in addition to a cover charge, you are pretty much expected to order booze and side dishes (which can be quite pricey), but other than that, the dancing and atmosphere is about the same.
One of the customary things to do at a booking club is to "dress-up" your table or booth by purchasing expensive liquors and fruit plates, which signals your 'status' to the other patrons of the club (especially your gender of interest). American alcohol especially is marked up a great deal in Korea, so don't be surprised to pay very high prices for that innocuous bottle of Jack Daniels. On the other hand, it is a better value overall to buy a bottle of liquor or a "liquor set" than to purchase drinks individually.
On the other end of the spectrum, many locals go out to drink and eat with their friends at the many Korean grillhouses found throughout the city. It is not uncommon for people to consume an entire bottle or two of soju each, and mixing beer and hard liquor is encouraged. Group bonding over liquor and food is a cultural feature across South Korea.
Interesting note: Some bar districts, such as Hongdae, are off-limits to American military personnel, US Federal employees, contractors and their dependents. A nationwide curfew (imposed and enforced by the US Military as part of the Status of Forces Agreement) is also in effect for persons subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, American military personnel, US Federal employees, contractors and their dependents: midnight Sunday - Thursday and 1 AM Friday - Saturday.
Itaewon is Seoul's international district, housing a variety of Western-styled venues to eat, drink and be merry. Being a place where many foreigners congregate, it remains somewhat of a niche nightlife area for Koreans who are interested in a more international scene. A number of notable bars and clubs spot the area, both on the main street and in the alleys off it.
It should also be noted that many bars in Itaewon celebrate Thursdays as Ladies' Night which often means that ladies drink free before 12am. Finally, there are a few gay bars, located two alleys east of the main street. There you can find a club and a few bars near one another.
Due to its proximity to the nearby United States Army Garrison Yongsan, a large number of American military are found here in the evenings and weekends. It is not unusual to see uniformed military wearing CP (Courtesy Patrol) or MP (Military Police) armbands enforcing the curfew.
- Geckos, (opposite Burger King). A relaxed bar scene and good food. Very popular with GIs and expats.
- Seoul Pub.
- Rocky Mountain Tavern . A Canadian bar for expats living in Korea. Located north of the main intersection.
- The Loft.
- Polly's Kettle.
- Old Town.
- The Wolfhound Irish Pub & Restaurant . (in the alley behind Geckos across from Burger King). Serves a great selection of draft beers and hearty, homemade meals.
- The 3 Alley Pub, Popular with the older expat crowd. It's located in an alley off the street near the Itaewon subway station.
For some good House/Trance music, try some smaller bars like:
- Bar Nana.
- Electric Cat.
- Spy Club.
- King Club. Gaudy and a tad sleazy. Located in a seedy part of the neighborhood.
- Del Disco. Reportedly a gay club.
Sinchon (신촌), home to universities including the Ehwa Women's University (이화여대 Ihwayeodae) this is a great place to soak up a more Korean environment. (Sinchon is not to be confused with Sincheon, the only difference being the sound of the last o!) Sinchon is set up like many Korean 'play' areas, whereby bars, clubs, restaurants, singing rooms, and sometimes even motels, are structured in a grid-like fashion. The only way to familiarize yourself with the area is to stroll the alleys and discover all the different places. Korean bars tend to be rather antisocial compared with their Western counterparts, with people sitting at tables with friends and not tending to mix. There are a number of Western style bars in the area:
- Woodstock. Around since 1991, the bar prompted a slew of copycats but is the best place to hear classic rock and pop. The sound system is awesome and the owner/DJ knows his stuff. Expect large crowds Friday and Saturday nights and seeing people dance from their tables. Great place to mix with Koreans of all ages.
- Zen II.
- Nori Ha Nun Saram Dul. A bar infamous for both its great rock music and its decrepit interior with writing on the walls. Difficult to find and almost impossible to get a seat after 9PM, but a definite must.
- Watts on Tap. Great pub grub and a wide range of imported draughts and bottles. Friendly atmosphere, international staff and clientele, and great tunes. Darts and rooftop patio. Watts regularly hosts events such as The Drinking World Cup and Electro (dance party). Popular with English teachers and the host of international undergrads and grad students at nearby Yonsei, Ewha, Hongik and Sogang.
Hongdae (홍대), short for Hong'ik University, is the premier club area in Seoul by far. Located around Hongik University, clubs and bars are strewn everywhere around the place. The clubs aren't near the station, but aren't hard to find. The most popular clubs are:
- M2 Trance/techno.
- nb (noise basement) Hiphop.
- Q-Vo Hiphop.
On a Friday or Saturday expect all of these to be packed tight. Last Friday of every month is Club Day where 15,000 won (15 US dollars) will get you into those clubs who are part of the "Club Day". Expect a packed crowd. There are a number of bars popular with foreigners here too:
The place is huge and you could party for a whole week in all the bars and clubs. The best way to see it is to stroll around and find something you like. An interesting note: The entire club district of Hongdae is officially off-limits to American military personnel, US Federal employees and their dependents. However, it is not unusual to see crew-cuts here on the weekends.
In warmer months, don't pass up the closet-sized B-Dan on Hongdae's main strip, which offers up take-out draft beer by the plastic up.
Apgujeong (압구정) is the upmarket area of Seoul. Walk around the streets and you'll see teenagers valet parking their new Benz or Audi, strutting their new designer threads and looking generally, well, rich. That said, a lot of people who party in Apgujeong aren't necessarily rich and actually live far away. There are some clubs and bars here, but it is a rather subdued venue for partying. Nightlife here consists mainly of designer bars and restaurants. Places where it isn't possible to valet haven't turned out to be great hits traditionally. That said, there are a few small clubs in the area. Expect English to be more commonly spoken in this area too, due often to overseas education or excessive private tutoring. However with it comes a certain desensitization to foreigners, so don't expect people to stare or approach you as much as they would in other parts of Seoul. Consider Apgujeong as a great place to hang out, not rock out. If you wanted to impress a date for example, this would be a great place to go to. The backstreets of Apgujeong tend to sprout and lose new clubs seemingly at random throughout the year, so exploring off the main drag from time to time can sometimes yield a new "hot club of the month."
- Superclub Circle usually playing house music, sometimes hip hop.
- Club Air House/Techno club.
Gangnam (강남) is probably the second most popular club area. Also set up in a grid structure, clubs, bars, restaurants and various other entertainment venues decorate this upmarket location. While not as upmarket as Apgujeong, it definitely is busy and lively. If Apgujeong is the place for rich kids to hang out and look cool, Kangnam is the place for those rich kids to party and look sexy. The station is central and a ton of buses run through the heart of the entertainment area, so finding your way there is extremely easy.
- NB. Full of clubbers pretty much every night of the week. The drawback is they have an opportunistic and rather unfair policy of charging foreigners 5000 won ($5 US) more than Koreans. It is however the best club in the area.
- 4X. Popular with foreigners.
Try a Jjimjilbang for between W4,000 and W12,000 per night. You don't get a room of your own, but if you can, store your luggage into one of the small lockers and you can live quite cheaply for a long time, sleeping in the public sleeping rooms and enjoying the hot-tub and steam room facilities (sometimes a gym is available, also movies and TV shows often play until 11pm or so). To find a Jjimjilbang keep an eye out for the distinctive symbol of a plate with rays of heat rising from it. You may have to investigate as smaller hotels often use the same symbol as well.
Seoul's unofficial backpacker district is Anguk (subway line 3), located just to the north of the city center, within walking distance of the Gyeongsandong and Changdeokgung palaces. You can also reach the area directly from Incheon Airport with bus 602-1 to Anguk-dong stop (W8000, 80 minutes).
- Seoul Backpackers, 30-1 Iksundong, Jongno-gu (subway Anguk). Take exit No 4 and walk down the road; turn left into the next road and you will find the hostel on that road after about 100m. Tel. +82-2-3672-1972 . Backpacker hangout with English-speaking staff. Dorms W18000, single/double W27000/W37000 with own tiny bathroom. Free breakfast, internet and laundry.
- Seoul Guest House, 135-1 Gyedong, Jongno-gu (subway Anguk), tel. +82-2-745-0057 . Basic rooms with air-con in a traditional Korean-style house from W35,000/night. Shared bathrooms, Internet, TV etc. For a higher price you can purchase a room with a private bath, television and computer with internet. Some undiscerning travellers like it, though if you aren't on a skid-row budget you might just find the grime and decrepitude of the place revolting.
- Kims' Guest House, 443-16 Hapjeongdong, Mapo-gu (subway Hapjeong), tel. +82-2-337-9894 . This comfortable guest house, run by a friendly English-speaking family, is located in the western part of Seoul, 15 minutes walk from Hapjeong subway station. The dormitory (W15000), single, double and triple rooms (W27000/W37000/W47000) all have air-conditioning and heating. Guests share a kitchen, toilets and showers and have free use of cable TV, washing machine and internet. Breakfast (jam, toast & coffee) is included. No curfew. Discounts for stays over 1 night.
- Yim's House, 33 Waryong-dong, Jongno-gu (subway Anguk), tel. +82-2-747-3332 . This excellent value hotel is unsure whether it caters to businessmen or backpackers. Rooms are clean and spacious, and Mr. Yim speaks fluent English. En-suite singles are W30,000 while doubles are W38,000.
- Namsan Guesthouse, 50-1 Namsandong 2-ga, Chung ku (subway Myeong-dong, exit 3), tel. +82-2-752-6363 . Superbly located in the shadow of Seoul Tower in Namsan Park, this hostel has the usual draws: free internet access, free breakfast, kitchen & laundry and advice with tours. There are no singles but a 4-share costs W60,000 while a twin or double costs W40,000. All rooms are ensuite. Manager Robin is eager to help and speaks near-perfect English.
Love hotels are also a great option. They cost from W25,000 to W80,000 a night, more on Saturday nights and holidays. They are usually in pretty good condition and they sometimes have a PC in the room. Love hotels are mainly visited by couples who want some private places during day or night, most of the love hotels (especially those in Gangnam district) are exceptionally clean and usually have widescreen TVs, PCs and so forth. Be aware that some love hotels discourage stays of more than one night.
- Tomgi Hotel, right next to exit 4 of Jongno 3-ga . A fine example of the genre, with a variety of unique rooms to choose from.
- President Hotel, right next to the Lotte and convenient City Hall metro. Go take a spa break at the Lotte for 18,000 won ($19) with the money you saved.
- Hotel Inn, (Mapo-gu), (subway - Mapo). Get out of the central business district and stay in a real old-school Seoul neighborhood. Ask where "Mapo meat street" is and eat to your BBQ heart's content. This is also extremely convenient to Yeouido island if you're a financial bigshot.
- Hamilton Hotel, in the heart of the Itaewon shopping district, and next to the Itaewon subway station. Nice rooms, stay here to help reduce culture shock.
- Ibis Hotel Ambassador. Walking distance to the COEX in Gangnam-gu at Samsung-dong, next to line 2 subway system Samsung. Convenient for international travelers as it is very close to the check-in and limousine server at the city air terminal next to the COEX.
- Han Suites, in Chungmuro, right near Myeongdong. An unassuming building, it has a range for rooms from W80,000 per night for a reasonably-sized Studio through to W250,000 for a two-bedroom 'Premier.' Popular with both Koreans and expats, it also has super-fast internet at a reasonable price, they restock with fridge in the kitchen with free beer and water and a reasonable selection of TV stations (including ABC Asia-Pacific for homesick Australians). It isn't glamorous or in an amazing part of town, but it's a nice walk to City Hall through Myeongdong.
- Co-op Residence Serviced Apartments, Samseong, Ul-Jiro (near Dongdaemun Stadium), Western (Dongdaemun), Whikyung, Ohmok, Sincheon. From around W80,000 per night for very small but very comfortable single-bed studios to slightly larger double studios. Depending on the property, super-fast internet is either free or cheap (you need to ask for it). The staff are very nice but don't always speak more then rudimentary English. Some of them have restaurants that serve decent food. The Ul-Jiro Co-op is across from the Dongdaemun Stadium and Market and is a little worse for wear. The Samseong Co-op is newer and has heated floors for winter. All of them are handily located and are a fine place to stay if you are on your own. The bathrooms are tiny, as are the TVs.
Seoul's top-end hotels are impressive, but pricey.
- JW Marriott Seoul, 19-3 Banpo-dong, Seocho-gu, tel. +82-2-62826262 . Marriott's flagship property , well located in the Central City development in Gangnam, right next to the Express Bus Terminal and with good airport connections via the CCAT. Rooms are as stylish and fully-equipped as you'd expect, but the star here is the stupendous Marquis Spa & Gym, which sprawls over two floors in the basement and contains a huge gym complete with indoor running track, Olympic-size pool, Maska's cigar shop selling Cubans, sauna and spa facilities, climbing wall and golf driving ranges. Rooms from US$200.
- Lotte Hotel, Myeong Dong (subway Euljiro 1-ga) . The grand old lady of downtown Seoul's hotels with 1,300 rooms, all kept in tip-top shape. The obvious choice for ornate Korean luxury.
- Shilla Seoul, Located on Namsan . This is the premier hotel in Seoul.
- W Seoul, . The latest boutique hotel in Seoul, located in far east Seoul.
- Hilton Seoul 395, 5-ga, Namdaemun-ro, Chung-gu, Luxury hotel near the Central Railway Station and Namdaemun market. Shuttle buses from and to Incheon international airport.
- Imperial Palace Hotel, 248-7, Nonhyun-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul 135-010 . Luxury hotel in Gangnam near Nonhyun subway station. Shuttle buses from and to Incheon international airport. Very nice spa. A local favourite.
- Sheraton Walker Hill Hotel. Luxury hotel famous for its hotel bar, O'Kim's, and its seasonal dance parties. Populated with a lively crowd of regular expats.
Internet cafes known as PC bang (PC 방) are ubiquitous in Seoul, and usually cost just 1,000 won (about 1 USD) per hour. Console gaming (Xbox, PS2) is widely available, and for those with proficiency in Korean language, you might also be able to enjoy a round of online gaming; the fantasy MMORPG Lineage was created in Korea and a slew of MMORPG titles not available anywhere else can be found here.
 Stay safe
Seoul is generally a remarkably safe city for its size, and one can go outside in the middle of the night without worrying so much about criminals. The only possible trouble you may come across is from American soldiers or drunken foreign teachers.
Medical bills can be expensive, so try make efforts to ensure this won't be problem. Some people with sensitive stomachs should be careful in Korea, as the amount of pepper and garlic in the local diet is intense.
 Get out
- Panmunjeom — A village lying in the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea, easily visited on a day trip.
- Yeongjong Island — Beaches, hot springs and fresh sea breezes.