Seoul, exciting as it is, can be an overwhelming acquaintance at first. It takes some time to get one’s bearings in a city of 10 million people, especially if you, as I, come from a place with about half as many in the entire country.
But having spent a fun, if cold, December week and a bit here with Cat, exploring just a few of its neighbourhoods, I thought I would share some first impressions of Seoul – and the occasional second impression.
The city is divided into 25 gu (districts, similar to London’s boroughs), which are subdivided into several hundred dong (neighbourhoods). We had a look at these 7 delightful areas:
Let’s begin in Itaewon.
I thought we would be all happy-go-lucky this time, so I had only arranged flights, and sleeps for the first three nights. This would allow for the freedom to move around and check out different neighbourhoods; to see what we liked and where it might be interesting to stay.
Those first three nights were at Mondrian Seoul Itaewon, which I chose simply because the design looked fun and futuristic. Opened just a year ago, it is cool and contemporary – and also quiet, even though it’s only a few blocks away from the centre of Seoul’s most hustling, bustling neighbourhood.
Itaewon is lively during the day, and even more so at night. It is also Seoul’s most international neighbourhood. Walking along main street Itaewon-Ro, we see brass plaques in the pavement, welcoming us in many languages.
Never did find a Norwegian one; the Swedish greeting will have to do.
Lovely as the Mondrian is, though, it is a bit too quiet for me. Luxury hotels often are. So for the following two nights, I find us a room in G Guesthouse, also in Itaewon, in a word-covered building on top of snowy stairs.
I quite like these simpler forms of accommodations you see, and have lots of fun memories from hostels around the world. This is where you meet other travellers and locals, this is where you can exchange tips and recent experiences, plans for the next few days (or weeks or months), get new ideas, or find travel mates – if you want.
G Guesthouse gets great reviews, especially the fab roof terrace. Cat, however, is much less open to the hostel experience than I am. She is not impressed, roof terrace or not. And I suppose that isn’t very relevant in -10° C anyway. She simply books herself into nearby Hamilton Hotel instead (kids, eh?