Sep 26, 2013

My Lists: 11 Hallyu-related things to do in Seoul

BigBang for G-Market at the Chungmuro Station (I think)

I'm no expert on Seoul, nor on Hallyu. But I have been to Seoul, a grand total of two times. And I've watched a boatload of k-dramas, k-movies, and I listen to more k-pop than I'd like to admit. So, one can say I have some sort of credence to suggest Hallyu-related things to do when one should have the opportunity to visit the city.

Short of lining up to watch Music Bank and Inkigayo, these are some of my suggestions on what you can do in Seoul to discover everyday Korean culture with a Hallyu twist.

1. K-Pop Merchandise - You can spot k-pop stuff almost everywhere in Seoul. In Hongdae, Myeongdong, or Dongdaemun... You'll find things related to your oppa that you just have to purchase, whether it be his latest mini-album or a pair of socks with his face on it. It doesn't help your wallet either that almost everything in stores is endorsed by your favorite idol or actor.

BigBang socks, Psy socks, G-Dragon's One Of A Kind mini-album

2. Visit a coffee shop - There are hundreds of coffee shops around Seoul. And really, go ahead and choose any which one of them. But what makes Jass Cafe special is that it was featured on one of the dates of the Goguma Couple (CNBLUE's Yonghwa and SNSD's Seohyun) on their season of We Got Married. Jass Cafe has a quaint, artsy feel to it and they serve good sweet potato lattes. If you're not a fan of the show nor the couple, go ahead and choose any cafe operated by your favorite idols (i.e. Coffee Cojjee by JYJ's Jaejoong; Kona Beans by Super Junior's Leeteuk, Sungmin, and Kyuhyun; Mouse Rabbit Cafe by Super Junior's Yesung; etc.).

Inside Jass Cafe in Hongdae

3. Namsan Tower - Whichever way you decide to ascend the mountain, you're assured of a gorgeous view. You can take a bus, but the bus only goes so far and then you go the rest of the way on foot. Which isn't bad, especially for all those photo ops. But also, you can take the cable cars and pretend you're Geum Jan-di on your first date with Gu Jun-pyo. If you didn't get that Boys Over Flower reference, what are you doing on a Hallyu blog?

The view from N Seoul Tower

4. Coffee Prince Cafe - Here's another coffee shop on the list, which I refuse to merge with number 2. Coffee Prince is an institution on its own and it does not just have an idol related to it. An entire drama was centered on this coffee shop. And it starred Gong Yoo and Yoon Eun-hye and Kim Jae-wook (in a small supporting role, but who cares?)! I've heard bad reviews about the place, but its had a change of management since and I found the experience to be enjoyable, albeit expensive.

The iconic wall at Coffee Prince

5. Gwanghwamun Square - Stand right in between the statues of Admiral Lee Soon-shin (as pictured below) and King Sejong and imagine you're Lee Min-ho in that sequence in City Hunter where his character Lee Yoon-sung first gets to Seoul - where he, for some reason, takes a cab from the Incheon airport and gets off in the center of the Square (how realistic). Directly to the right of the admiral's statue is the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts - if nothing else, Running Man shot one of their earlier episodes here with idols Jokwon (2AM), Ham Eun-jung (T-Ara), and Jung Yong-hwa (CNBLUE).

The statue of Admiral Lee Soon-shin in Gwanghwamun Square

6. Visit a palace - There are "Five Grand Palaces" in Seoul. Choose any of them and pretend you're in a sageuk. I've only been to the Gyeongbokgung Palace (because my second visit to Seoul took place in winter and it was too cold to be outdoors for so long), and it was gorgeous. Gyeongbokgung was considered the main palace in the Joseon dynasty, but the eastern Changdeokgung is usually considered more beautiful.

Hyangwonjeong Pavilion in Gyeongbokgung

7. Garosu-gil in Sinsadong - If only to get away from all the neon lights and pojangmachas that are almost everywhere in Seoul, head down to Gangnam and find the quaint little street called Garosu-gil in the Sinsadong area. Literally meaning tree-lined street, Garosu-gil is a short stretch of narrow road lined with gingko trees. It's popularity lies in its faux-Frenchness. Garosu-gil is filled with cafes, restaurants, and boutiques, and has been featured in many a dramas. Most recently, That Winter The Wind Blows. Also, ZE:A's Kwang-hee and Secret's Sun-hwa had a date here during their run on We Got Married.

Garosu-gil in winter

8. Myeongdong - I can't help it, the shopping addict in me just loves Myeongdong. Everything can be found here. Restaurants, coffee shops, souvenir stores, and shops upon shops. And this is also the reason why Myeongdong is always bustling with people, both locals and tourists. It's this huge grid lined up with all your favorite stores, both foreign and Korean. Are you looking for Forever21 and H&M? Go to Myeongdong. Looking for BSX, Etude House, or Spao? Go to Myeongdong. Cheap street food? Yep, Myeongdong. Also, it has been featured many times in your favorite dramas and variety shows. Recently, SHINee's Taemin and APink's Naeun held one of their dates here. So did the Adam couple, back in 2010.

Myeongdong is shopping heaven

9. Hongdae - My favorite part of Seoul is still Hongdae. The young and artsy vibe of the area is just the best thing. And a big plus is the fact that due to it being a student-infested area, food and shopping in Hongdae is very cheap. It's been featured widely in dramas, most notably in Mary Stayed Up All Night and A Gentleman's Dignity. More boho than the rest of Seoul, Hongdae is just right up my alley.

Murals in Hongdae by art majors from the nearby Hongik University

10. Visit a Hallyu exhibit - There's sure to be one somewhere. You can try Lotte World and find their Star Avenue. There are even miniature versions of this exhibit at Lotte Department Stores. You can also head down to the KTO (Korean Tourism Organization) office where they have a gallery dedicated to all things Hallyu.

Rain's handprint in Star Avenue

11. Watch TV - Stay at home and watch some Korean programming without the subtitles. Your oppas do it on their down time, you should try it too. You may not understand most of it, but it sure is interesting watching the shows with Korean commercials and everything. Try channel surfing and you'll find some of your favorite oldies but goodies on rerun on some cable channel.

YGE's CEO Yang Hyun-suk on K-Pop Star (SBS)

Can you suggest more things to do in Seoul for those of us who are Hallyu-obsessed? Share them with me in the comments.


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