It’s exciting and also overwhelming to be in a whole new country that’s so different from what you’re used to. When I came to South Korea, I had all sorts of expectations of things I would do and was very aware that Seoul is a restless city and there are numerous things to do under the sun (or snow if you’re here during winter :D). I knew I wanted to do so much but sometimes, you just don’t know where to start.
Also, CAU’s dormitory would frequently organize cultural exchange programs, for example, there is one in which you make a group that has international students and Korean students with a ratio of 1:1. You would be given a sum of money to enjoy with your program group members – going on trips, eating good food, and doing lots of activities to experience the Korean culture. In this case, it would be nice to have a clear small list of activity ideas in hand – so let’s get started!
One of the nice places to hang out is by the Han River. It is a long river that flows through South Korea and can be seen in most places in Seoul. Part of the Han River is also very close to our CAU campus. Especially at night, the view of the skyline by the Han River is spectacular. One nice thing do when spending time by Han River is to make use of their well-maintained bike lanes that extend down throughout the whole river. And to make things better, bike rental is free! There are many stops around the river where bike rental is available though some may have a fee so it’s good to check before-hand! Also, remember to bring a valid photo ID such as a passport or driver’s license. Here is a useful link with all the info you need to know about free bike rentals:
Another must-do activity is to have “Chimaek” by the Han River. This is a very popular thing to do in Korea, where people set picnic mats down, order fried chicken and beer and just hang out with friends and enjoy the river breeze. It is definitely an awesome experience that I highly recommend! Sometimes, there would also be fireworks in the evening so it is also a definite hotspot for Koreans going on dates.
Every year, Seoul shows off a beautiful choreography of fireworks at the Firework Festival right by Han River. It is a huge event with hundreds of stalls and booths with activities and games. People set down mats all over and wait for the show to begin. Though I must warn you, that there will be a LOT of people – right from getting on the subway to getting off. But I still encourage everybody to go for the experience. Plus, the fireworks are very beautiful and well done.
There is no better way to experience the ancient art and culture of Korea than to be dressed in their traditional Hanbok and stroll around a historical palace. Some of you may find it weird to dress up and walk around in the bright colored Hanbok but trust me, it’s very normal and it will be one of your longest lasting memories and experiences here in Korea – at least it was for me. It usually costs between 10,000₩ – 30,000₩ for the Hanbok rental, depending on which store you go to. And sometimes the palace entrance fee is free for those wearing a Hanbok, but if not, it would just cost around 3,000₩. For more information, click this link: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264337
Noryangjin Fish Market
If you’re up for a not-so-typical experience, visiting the Noryangjin Fish Market would be a good option. Especially if you were to go with your Korean group mates from the dormitory, your experience could maximized. What people usually do here is bargain for the prices of seafood and after the price is set, it will be properly sliced, and cleaned and packed. They would then head to a nearby restaurant to have it cooked. Not only would you have an awesome experience but also get to taste fresh seafood.
If you are daring enough you could try eating a dish called Sannakji. It is chopped-up raw octopus and it’s so fresh that it’s still wriggling.
The fish market is not too far from the Noryangjin Bus Stop. Just take bus Number 01 from the bus stop at either Front, Middle or Back Gate.
If you’re a very outdoor-loving person, taking a hike at Bukhansan is a nice way to start one of your days. Bukhansan is a huge mountain in the northern part of Seoul. It has many peaks and hiking trails for beginners up to expert hikers. Whichever peak you decide to go for, it will definitely show you a breath-taking view. It takes about an hour by subway using Line 7. I would highly recommend not bringing too much in your backpack because it really does weigh you down. But definitely bring enough water! And if you’re going during winter, bring something warm but not too bulky and heavy. You can find more information about this national park and of different hiking trails and peaks in this website: http://english.knps.or.kr/Knp/Bukhansan/Intro/Introduction.aspx?MenuNum=1&Submenu=Npp
If you’re up for a trip outside the hub of Seoul, but at the same time, not too far away, a perfect day trip would be one to Nami Island. There are many water activities to enjoy especially if you’re here for the Summer or early Fall period. Besides that, it has a lot of beautiful scenery no matter which season you decide to go.
It is about an hour trip or so to get there, and there are a few ways to get there. Here is some information on how to get to Nami Island and some basic info:
“Pepero Stairs” in CAU
If you’re looking for a place to chill and hang out especially at night, you have to know about the famous Pepero stairs on campus. It is a popular hangout place for students to eat, drink, and chat. Just buy whatever you want – food, drinks, dessert – bring it to the stairs, and enjoy with your friends. Almost every night, you will see groups of people spending time there. Also, I must mention, it is a good spot to meet locals and make new friends too! But just a tip, even though it is a public place where people drink and talk, be mindful not to be too rowdy or excessively noisy.