One glimpse of Seoul and you’ll know why it’s trending. There is no city in the world more adept at finding a fad and, with mind-boggling speed, blowing it up and putting it on every street corner and back alley. If you see it in Brooklyn today and it’s even remotely cool, you’ll likely see it in Seoul tomorrow.
World-class dining? Check. Museums and galleries? Check. A nightlife that never stops? I mean, we did rank Seoul the number one party city in the world, so. South Korea’s capital is a whirlwind of action, a high-energy hub of 10 million residents who fully embrace the work hard, play hard mentality. And since South Korea is small, with Seoul a mere four-hour train ride from even the farthest-flung city, it’s easy to go full vacation mode and explore the country at large. Allot enough time. I recommend at least a week, so you can really “do” Seoul and also take a day trip or two.
The blazing neon, the blaring K-pop, the beckoning street food, the beautiful natural escapes -- and the shopping, oh, the shopping! There are many reasons why Seoul is on our list of 19 places to go in 2019. See for yourself.
Walking around Seoul can feel like a competitive sport
Except worse, because there are no rules. There’s no sense of directionality, as in “you walk on your side, I’ll walk on mine.” Pedestrians are pushy, motorcyclists are certainly not concerned about your safety, and the “sidewalks” are really just extra parking spaces for cars.
Take it in stride (!) and bask in the bedlam. Half the country has packed itself into Seoul’s greater metropolitan area. Getting around the city can be hectic, but it’s a pleasure in its own way.
Luckily, public transit is easy to find and cheap to use
With more than 20 subway and extension lines, and hundreds of bus routes, to say that Seoul is well connected by public transit is an understatement. And despite its rapidly rising cost of living, transit is still cheap -- usually only KRW 1,250 (about US $1.05) a ride. Buy a T-Money transit card and load it up at the station kiosks, or stop inside a CU or 7-Eleven and ask the clerk to do it for you. The touch-card will work on every subway, bus, and taxi -- not only in Seoul, but nationwide. The super handy KakaoMap, KakaoMetro, and KakaoBus apps will help you navigate, and the Kakao T app will let you order a cab even without a Korean credit card (just select the “pay to the driver” option).
For the most part, a trip on the metro will get you within a short walk of your destination, and faster than a taxi in traffic ever could. But if you’re out late and the subway isn’t operating, do hail a cab. You’ll know the driver is available when you see the red 빈차, or “empty car,” sign illuminated in the windshield. The meter starts at KRW 3,800 (about US $3.15).