I was able to take a little trip to Seoul this past weekend after taking three straight midterms the previous weekend. It was a great chance to get some rest and relaxation!

I kind of fell in love with Seoul… sorry Hong Kong! Seoul is such a beautiful combination of the busy city life with the quiet atmosphere you can only find in a quaint little town like Ithaca. I visited a few different areas during my stay like Hongdae, Sinchon, Myeongdong, Insadong, Jung-gu, and Gangnam-gu. Each neighborhood had its own personality and each neighborhood was unique in its own right. For instance, I visited Garosu-Gil on the last day which is kind of an upscale area (kind of like Soho) and that completely contrasted with Bukchon Hanok Village which is a traditional village I toured the day before.

During my trip, I stayed at a hostel called the Lazy Fox Hostel which provided my group with an apartment-style unit equipped with a kitchenette, a bathroom, and a common room that we shared with another room in the unit. Breakfast was provided in the morning and there was also roof access, which was a major plus! The hostel is also located in a nice area that is quiet, but close to the bustling streets of Hongdae and only a 5-minute walk away from the metro station. If you’re abroad traveling to Seoul and are looking for cheap accommodations, I recommend staying here. We had a little trouble with mosquitos the first night, but were lent an electric swatter by the staff.

There is so much to do in Seoul. Clothing, makeup, and accessories for sale line the streets of Hongdae, Myeongdong, Sinchon, and Garosu-Gil. There’s even a large underground shopping center in Gangnam Station. Many items were pretty good quality and affordable. No wonder everyone in Seoul is dressed so nicely… There are countless museums around Seoul detailing Korean history as well as palaces and traditional villages scattered throughout the city, which give a feel for Korean culture. It was hard to pick and choose which activities we would do and which sites we would visit!

A glimpse of my trip:

Ewha Women’s University – there were many street food stalls selling dukbokki, soondae, fish cake sticks, tempura, etc. as well as interesting shops around the area! The University was started by an American missionary and has a welcome center explaining its history as well as a museum on its premises.

My first meal in Korea! We had dukbokki and soondae at a street food stall right next to Ewha University.

A view from above of the Bukchon Hanok Village.

Another view of the Bukchon Hanok Village.

Street art! There were so many beautiful murals all around the village.

The N Seoul Tower from afar at another Hanok village.

Seoul at nighttime from N Seoul Tower Cable Car.

We also visited the Gyeongbokgung, a palace near the Bukchon Hanok Village and Insadong. 

You can rent a hanbok to wear around your tour of the palace. There are many rental shops nearby. Admission to the palace is free if you wear a hanbok!

I highly recommend trying samgyetang (ginseng chicken stew)! It is served with ginseng liquor and kimchi. My friend (a Cornell alum!) recommended Tosokchon Samgyetang, which was super huge and the stew they served was delicious!

Ssamjigil in Insadong, a shopping center with sloping sides that replace stairs! There is even a poop-themed restaurant at the top floor.

We had our last dinner in Seoul at a jimjilbang, a 24-hour sauna that has baths, fomentation rooms, entertainment facilities, a restaurant, and sleeping rooms. We stayed at Siloam Sauna near Seoul Station. It’s also a great, cheap alternative to traditional accommodations!

Me peacing out in one of the caves in the women’s dugout room. Until next time, Seoul!

I had an absolutely amazing time in Seoul and had a bittersweet departure, but I’m so grateful that studying abroad gave me the chance to visit this city. I watch Korean dramas and my sister is a big fan of Korean music, but I never imagined actually traveling to Seoul because it’s just so far away from the US! It would have been incredibly expensive for me to purchase plane tickets, let alone leave room in my budget for accommodations, food, admission prices, and shopping. But studying abroad closed that distance and really gave me the perfect chance to check off an item that has been on my bucket list for a really long time.

Thank you, Hong Kong and Cornell Abroad!