First official day in the center of Seoul! After our photoshoot on Day 3, we made our way back to the center of Seoul and stayed in Jongno area. It’s considered the “old” area with lots of old buildings, near the palaces and other historical centers. We reunited with my friend Maria and her boyfriend Zack – it was late but we caught up the last few days and then went to bed.
When we woke up, we were ready to hit the pavement! Lots of walking to do for the entire day. We needed energy (aka food) and we decided to check out Isaac Toast, which I have heard so much about.
Isaac toast is a chain and there are many spread throughout Korea. We found one nearest to our Airbnb. This one was a food stand layout but I believe there are other locations where it is a sit down restaurant.
There were so many types to choose from! From beef to chicken, ham and cheese, etc.
I decided to try the Bulgalbi MVP (beef). It was one of the BEST breakfast toasts I have EVER HAD! I am still trying to figure out the right recipe to recreate them back home. Basically it has egg, shredded cabbage, bulgalbi patty, pickles, and special sauces that make it oh so tasty! We vowed to return the next day for more breakfast.
After a delicious (and rather cheap) breakfast, we walked towards Jongmyo, which is a royal shrine center.
From the entrance, we could tell this was a rather large site. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site! Already proud of my heritage 🙂
Unfortunately, when we walked all the way towards the main entrance, we found out that Jongmyo is closed on Saturdays. We decided to return another day and walked towards Myeongdong (a big shopping area).
On the way to Myeongdong, we saw the Namsan Seoul Tower in the distance. It was quite smoggy/cloudy so it’s not very a clear photo.
While trying to figure out the quickest route, we decided to walk through this market area. It looked dark and shady at first so we were going to find a different way, but Joe led the group! Turns out it was an electrical center with all sorts of cords and cables being sold.
Getting closer to Myeongdong, we saw the giant google marker! Decided to take a quick snap before continuing on.
We then saw a giant LOVE sign and couldn’t just walk past it without taking photos. So many pictures to take! So many things to see!
After getting lost for a bit, we decided to follow a random nun hoping she would take us to the Cathedral. The Myeongdong area is very hilly so the Cathedral was hiding behind the other tall buildings!
Alas, we finally found the beautiful Myeongdong Cathedral. It was built it 1898 and this is when Maria and I found out there is a Korean saint named Saint Andrew Kim. If you would like to know more about the cathedral click here.
The inside was beautiful, calm, and quiet. Hard to believe this is in Korea! Almost felt like I was back in Europe. We sat for bit, let Joe take his time (as he is a devout Catholic) and then headed back out.
After the visit to the cathedral, we made our way to Namsan Seoul Tower. Even found an adorable mural. Joe and I had to take a photo in front of it because we are getting married in July!
There are many different ways to get to the tower: driving, hiking, and then there are cable cars! Never having been in one, I really wanted to try the cable car. It was about $8 USD for a round trip ride.
Turns out it was very short and rather crowded. It was still a pretty fun ride and glad we got to try it out.
Immediately when we got out of the cable car, we saw thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of locks on the deck. I knew it was cheesy but we decided to do one for ourselves.
It was about $4 USD to purchase a lock, which wasn’t that bad.
Not sure how often they clean the area out for new locks or how long ours will last, but we decided that we will come look for it next time we return.
As we walked up higher on the steps, we saw beacons and guards. They had lots of experiences you could try like taking photos with the guards, trying out the Korean traditional wear (hanbok) and taking more photos, etc.
Finally, the main entrance to Namsan Seoul Tower. It costs money to take the elevator (I believe around $10 USD) and we said, “why not, we made it all the way up here”. It just sucked that we had to pay for the very short cable car ride AND the probably short elevator ride. But I guess that’s what we get for going to a touristy area.
However, the view did not disappoint! Well maybe a little because of the fog/smog/clouds. But we were able to see the dense city still with lots of greenery and mountains in the back.
We spent a good 20-30 minutes looking at every view around the tower observation deck. In addition to the deck, there are also other shops and cafes you can visit for additional $$$. We decided we could live without seeing a Hello Kitty cafe and went back down, hungry for lunch.
When we got back down, it started to POUR down rain. We quickly made our way to Namdemun Market for lunch. Soaked, drenched, and cold, we ducked into a sit down restaurant to dry out and eat some lunch.
Turns out we were in a pig feet specialty restaurant so we decided to order one and share. Though the meal is called pig feet, the meat is mostly pork legs. Very tender. You eat it as a wrap with lettuce and the sauce surrounding it. It was probably a weird experience for Zack, Maria, and Joe but I think everyone liked the food. We also had beansprout soup. It was nice and warm, perfect for the cold and weary.
After lunch, we gained our strength and made our way to the National Korean Museum. It was HUGE!! We only got to see about two floors worth of museum. It showed the prehistoric items and towards the current history.
Running out of time for the next museum, we decided to head out after the second floor. We then made our way to the War Memorial.
The War Memorial was equally HUGE! They definitely dedicated so much. The tower sculpture (in yellow and green?) represents the two divided nation, hoping for a unification soon.
It is free entrance but we didn’t have much time to check it out. We hurried in and quickly walked through the exhibits. We thought this was for the Korean War, but turns out, they have information on ALL historic wars.
Outside, they had hundreds of tanks, planes, bombers, vehicles used during the war. Again, we ran out of time so we ran through the back area and had to leave.
For the evening, we made our way to Hongdae, the place to be if you are a young college student. In the area there is Hongdae University, hence why there are so many young people hanging out in the area! Again, I failed but we had delicious spicy chicken dinner… So many pictures I forgot to take…
After dinner, we had to check out the Trick-Eye Museum.
Basically it is a museum with 3D art you can interact with and take photos! We took so many photos but here are some of my favorite.
If this is your kind of thing to check out, it is a must! The tickets were just a bit pricey. Almost $18 USD per person.
Our tickets included the entrance to the ice exhibit. As you can see, it was very cold! We barely lasted 5 minutes before running back out.
At this point, with more than 25,000 steps walked, we were all tired and ready for bed. Maria and Zack headed back to the Airbnb and Joe and I decided to check out the night life for just a little bit.
While walking through the Hongdae area, we saw lots of people, street performers, live music, and this random sign of cannabis beer. Cannabis is illegal in Korea, but I’m not sure how they got around to making beer with it. We were too scared to try it and decided to skip. Instead, I saw a sign for a literal melon soju, and decided we HAD to try that.
Typically I do not like soju, but I wanted to try a blend where it had fruit mixed in with it.
This is how it was served. Literally a whole melon with soju blend. We think the white is some kind of cream? Did not taste like ice cream. It was sweet and I could barely taste the soju! A rather dangerous drink…
On our way back, we saw a sign for craft brew pub. It was a rare sight and we decided to check it out. The owner and bartender were very friendly and we tried a few Korean craft beers. We even chatted to the owner about the craft brew scene in Korea (it is up and coming) and even talked about American craft beers.
After our last drink, we realized we missed our last subway back to Jongno. We walked around a bit looking for a taxi and with grueling effort, we finally found one and made our way back to the Airbnb.
When I checked my fitbit, we were at 28,000 steps! My feet definitely needed rest for our crazy and dangerous adventures the next day: the DMZ.