• 01242 242 505
  • 01242 242 505

Seoul

Seoul is bustling city which easily lives up to expectations. Enthralling culture, great food, a fascinating history, frenetic shopping and, its trump card...supurb nightlife.

Eleven million people live in this dynamic hotchpotch of a city; majestic palaces and K-Pop, narrow cobbled streets with traditional hanok homes below futuristic skyscrapers. The constant contrast between old and new is utterly fascinating and, for anyone heading to Korea on a ski holiday we beg you to allocate some time to Seoul, even if it’s only for a couple of nights.

Unless you have strong feelings otherwise, we’ll place you in a hotel in either Insadong or Myeong-dong, central and somewhat hap-hazard neighbourhoods made up of restaurants and bars, Korean teahouses, souvenirs shops and funky art galleries. From here, it’s easy to reach Gyeongbokgung Palace and Bukchon – a village of alleys, cafés, small shops and nearly a thousand hanoks (traditional courtyard houses). Gangnam is south of the river, a mainly commercial area with a dazzling array of shops selling everything from expensive designer gear to unique vintage clothes. The young, beautiful and fashionable gather here in force, all exuding a certain … style.

Seoul INFORMATION

Population:  11 million

Highlights:  Gyeongbokgung Palace; the buzz of Insadong; the hanoks and tea houses of Bukchon; d'Light Samsung showrooom in Gangnam; Namsan Seoul Tower.

Access:  Seoul-Incheon Airport is 30 miles east of the city. There are several different ways to travel between Incheon International Airport to downtown Seoul, the most popular including the Airport Railroad Express (AREX) and the Seoul Metropolitan Subway. However, it is more likely we'll book you a private transfer.

Suggested Itineraries featuring Seoul

Prices are indicative only and include accommodation (low season), lift passes, transfers and – because we are ATOL-bonded – your flights from the UK. Different Snow can also include ski hire, backcountry and off-piste tours, rail passes, private transfers, English-speaking guides, cultural excursions and activities.

Accommodation

In Seoul, you’ll find all types of hotel to suit any budget, from high-class luxury hotels to inexpensive guesthouses and yeogwan (low-end inns). The only unusual thing is that we need to specify that we want a Western-style room, if you want a bed. The Koreans tend to prefer an ondol room, where thick blankets are simply spread on the floor, which is usually heated during the cold winter.

Royal Hotel

Luxury realised in the downtown Myeong-dong district, a hugely popular and trendy area.

A stylish and luxurious option, in the best possible location with immediate access to the lively Myeong-dong shopping and restaurant district. Leave the bustle of the streets and enjoy the Zen-like style of the lobby. The ambiance continues all the way through to the cafe, restaurant and rooms - simply put, The Royal exudes pure 'class'. It is a hotel that features prominently in the latest 'Michelin Guide to Seoul', in no small part due to the 'Grand Kitchen' restaurant on the 21st floor and the excellent 'Spa Element'. 

L7 Hotel

A wonderful boutique hotel - quirky, vibrant and ever-so hip.

A truly amazing boutique style hotel, and in the trendy Myeongdong district...where else?! Indeed, the location is just about perfect, a stone's throw away from busy restaurants, bars and shops. Do check out the hotel's rooftop resto/bar - they even have a nice 'foot soak' bubble pool area where you can relax and look out towards Nansham Tower.

Elsewhere in the hotel, enjoy funky art in the street-level exbibition space before heading up to the 3rd floor reception - where there is yet another studiously cool bar & lounge. The guest rooms are pretty small and altogether quite simple...but in that hipster, minimalist way.  

Ibis Insadong

Great location, good price and perfectly comfortable. All you would expect from...

It may be anonymous and a little characterless -- there’s nothing to suggest you are in Korea here  - but this is also it’s strength. The Ibis in Insadong serves as an affordable and dependable base, ideal from which to explore the city.

So what can we tell you about the Ibis?  It has comfortable (though not huge) rooms with free WIFI and there is a functional restaurant, bar and fitness centre. Buffet breakfasts are served. The WiFi works fine. That’s all we got. We actively choose to stay here when in Seoul because it’s central, its clean, its perfectly comfortable and it doesn’t stretch the finances. Kind of like staying at a Holiday Inn Express or Travelodge back home.

Excursions

Seoul is a safe city and, armed with a good guidebook, it’s certainly possible to head out for a days sightseeing by yourself. However, this always plays second fiddle to the convenience and extra insight offered by a guide, the best way to get the max from your time – but this obviously costs. If you do head out under your own steam, be sure to include both Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung Palaces and then leave plenty of time to explore Bukchon Hanok Village, which sits between them. The reason there are so many traditional houses in this area is that many yangbans (people from the ruling class) lived here during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) and today you’ll find galleries, craft workshops, tea houses and restaurants, along with a number of museums.

For the geeks amongst you, another place we enjoyed was to visit the Samsung d’Light showrooms - where the technology of tomorrow is on permanent display.

Similar to many city’s world wide, the sightseeing buses plough set routes and offer a convenient and value means of exploring the city. Pick up one of the promotional leaflets from your hotel to find the nearest stop and prices.

One thing you absolutely must do is a tour to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), one and half hours outside of Seoul. Viewing platforms give you a rare glimpse across the border and you can enter the tunnels which was dug by the North in an attempt to invade the South.

DMZ

The oddest excursion you'll ever undertake! A two-mile strip of deserted land separates the two Korea's, and on either side two fearsome militaries are keen to demonstrate their might on a daily basis. You can peer in to North Korea ... whilst they peer back at you!

It’s been said that the Demilitarized Zone is the most dangerous place on Earth. This is a mere two mile strip of land separating the two Koreas – simple? Not so. The surrounding mountains, valleys and forests on either side are crawling with troops, guard posts, tanks, tunnels, missiles, bunkers, gun emplacements and land mines. Some of it you can see (i.e. what they want you to), much more of it you can't. As you gaze out upon the DMZ your attention is drawn not to only to North Korea – it's just over there! – but you're also struck by the bizarre tranquility of the place. This is a quiet, lush green hillsides, with rare birds swooping into untouched marshlands. Don’t be fooled!

You can visit Imjingak Park, Freedom Bridge, walk down in to the infiltration tunnels, watch over the zone at Dora Observatory and visit Dorasan Station. Panmunjom is an abandoned village just north of the actual border between North and South, where the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement that paused the Korean War was signed. You can see the building where the armistice was signed still stands and this Joint Security Area (JSA) is where discussions between North and South Korea still take place, in blue buildings that straddle the Military Demarcation Line. The soldiers stare at each other, un-blinking and with their chests puffed out, in an eternal show of strength. But this ain't no game and any demurring or indiscretion is met with the prospect of live ammo coming the other way!

It takes about one and half hours to get up here from Seoul and – to it justice – give over a day for the ‘experience’. It’s quite unlike any other ‘sightseeing’ day you’ll ever do and, if you are anything like us, you’ll be enthralled at the many strange sights. The train going no-where, the kitsch trinket shops, the tunnels going no-where, the un-flinching muscle-men guards, the ... everything!