Famous for being the beauty district of Seoul, Myeong-dong should be your first port of call as an introduction to the shopping, food and culture of the city. If a store isn't selling cosmetics or a beauty experience here, it's probably selling some high-end fashion label.
Arrive from midday to witness the street stalls set up shop and nom on everything from grilled squid to dakkochi spicy chicken skewers.
Or pop by in the evening for all of the above under the glow of the street's neon lights.
Food, clothing and wet markets are heavily sprinkled throughout the city. If you're searching for boutique fashion, Dongdaemun Designer Plaza is a marvel to look and shop at.
This futuristic building was designed by Zaha Hadid and is a multi-purpose space which includes exhibition rooms, a design lab to incubate future designers' projects and a shopping centre.
Head to the Namdaemun Markets in Hoehyeon for something more traditional. This is the country's oldest and largest market and is a mix of retail shops, market stalls and restaurants hidden deep in its laneways. You can eat mighty cheap here and it's not unheard of to eat standing at the stall while chatting with your friends.
Word of warning: there are not one, not two but FIVE grand palaces in the soul of Seoul. They all date back to the Joseon Dynasty and are grand complexes you could spend hours exploring.
Changdeokgung Palace is the most famous as it's on the UNESCO World Heritage List for its "outstanding example of Far Eastern palace architecture and garden design". Its gardens were the largest during the Joseon Dynasty.
Gyeongbokgung Palace is open on Monday, unlike the other palaces, and is particularly known for its traditional changing of the guard ceremony. Catch it at 10am and 2pm daily, except on Tuesdays when the palace is closed.
Seoul has done an impeccable job at preserving its traditional architecture and you'll see this in its wide variety of Hanok Villages.
Some are still occupied, such as Bukchon Hanok Village which is over 600 years old and is a mini pocket of laneways flanked by tiled-roof stone-built houses. It's a quiet zone that's closed on Sundays in respect of the locals.
Others, such as Namsangol Hanok Village, are open folk museums where you can peer into restored Hanok homesteads.
For a special treat, hire a Hanok costume and walk through these traditional backdrops – camera in hand, naturally.
You've heard of the High Line in New York. Now, walk Seoul's answer to it. Dubbed Seoullo 7017, it's a disused highway repurposed into a sky garden that runs from Malli-dong through City Hall to Hoehyeon.
Observatory towers grace you with higher perch points, while recycled pianos and potted plants provide a calm and creative atmosphere.
That's the high line but further west in Hongdae is where you'll find a more down-to-earth repurposed space. The Gyeongui Line Forest follows a disused rail line of the same name that was built during the Japanese occupation.
Now it's a forest walk and creative space with a book swap facility and art spaces in the shape of train carriages.
6. Lotte World
When you have kids in tow the best thing you can do is take them to Lotte World. This amusement complex consists of indoor and outdoor theme parks, a shopping mall, sports facilities and more.
You can stay at the park hotel or take the subway to its doorstep.
Designed to look like Disneyland, the park offers a princess castle, roller-coasters by the bucket load and entertainment around every corner.
Foodies will be glad to hear that there's a heavy focus on food in Lotte World too.
If your sole purpose is to eat until you drop, you'll find no shortage of options in this city. From market stalls serving grilled meats to tea houses selling baked goods, there's food aplenty waiting for your belly.
The place to be? Insadong. This hotbed of Korean fare has it all. Start with some people-watching in a tea house then grab a few bites at a local market stall (the boiled fish cakes and grilled BBQ chicken are mouthwatering) on your way to a Korean barbeque joint.
We particularly recommend 8palsaik where you can dine on eight marinated meats, from ginseng and wine to herb and hot. Don't forget to order the soju while you're there to wash it all down.
If after you've walked Seoullo and the Gyeongui Line and you're keen to continue the magic, make sure you walk all or part of the Cheonggyecheon stream.
It's 10.6 kilometres of recreation space alongside a restored stream that was destroyed during the Joseon Dynasty. It runs through the heart of the city under 22 of its bridges.
At night the stream is lit up in colourful lights and during festivals, such as Christmas, there are lanterns on the water in celebration.
Seoul day trips
Explore beyond Seoul city centre to see a different side of the country.
11. Take the train from Seoul to Busan
Busan is South Korea's other big city hub and has been touted as being the next big destination by Expedia and Skyscanner. This port town is famous for its beaches, mountainous landscape and markets and is a two-hour fast speed train from Seoul.
If you're strapped for time you can see it in a day. Otherwise we recommend spending a few days to do it justice.
South Korea's demilitarised zone is the space that divides it from North Korea. There are various areas of the DMZ you can visit. This includes:
The tunnels of aggression – Underground tunnels presumably built by North Korea that land in South Korea.
Dora Observatory – A viewpoint that lets you cast your eye into North Korea via binoculars or by eye on a clear day.
Joint Security Area (JSA) – The part of the DMZ where North and South Korea can stand face to face and you can walk between the countries.
Freedom Bridge – Located outside the JSA, it's the bridge that joins North and South and was used for prisoner exchanges during the Korean War.
Stephanie Yip is the travel editor at Finder and has been writing about travel and lifestyle for over a decade. She has written for Travel Weekly, Escape, Thomas Cook Magazine, Showpo, The Nibbler and Hostelworld. She was also the editor of kids magazine DMAG. Stephanie has a Bachelor of Communications from the University of Technology Sydney and has visited over 50 countries (and counting). She has a passion for sharing her experiences and knowledge of travel and helping readers stretch their dollars while on holiday.
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