FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Seoul Sizzles with Food, Fashion, Palaces and Pageantry

by Gregory D. McCluney

Mar 22, 2021

© SANGA PARK | DREAMSTIME .COM

March 2021

Like the frenetic kitchen of a sold-out Korean restaurant, Seoul is hot, sizzling, a 24/7 mass of energy. Yet few travelers have the bustling South Korean capital of 25 million people at the top of their bucket list of destinations.

Seoul may not possess the panache of Paris, the royal history of London or the flair of New York City. What it does offer is thousands of years of history, mega-shopping for the latest fashions, a vibrant food scene particular to Korean customs and tastes, five palaces, pageantry, casinos, clubs and exciting attractions to please business visitors or entice families. Add to this a favorable exchange rate ($1 equals 1,103 won) and lots of English-speaking young people you won’t find in most other Asian countries.

When you’ve settled in your hotel (there’s one to fit every budget) and rested from the major time change, you’ll find subways and taxis provide the best way to see the city. Purchase a T-money card for the subway and enjoy the good maps and English signage at most stops. Taxi drivers rarely speak English but can translate using smartphones (keep the business cards provided by your hotel). Taxis are reasonable, clean and abundant. Unless you read or speak Korean, the bus system will prove an unnecessary challenge.

The Han River divides Seoul into two major sections: north (Gangbuk) and south (Gangnam). The northerly, older section houses many tourist sites while the south, the new Seoul, is more affluent and the place to be seen with the latest fashions and technology.

Each section further divides into many distinct neighborhoods. You’ll most likely navigate to a destination by finding these neighborhoods, such as the popular tourist area of Insa-dong or the palace area of Gyeongbokgung. Shopping exists in almost every neighborhood, with many retailers specializing in crafts, high fashion, sports clothing and electronics. You’ll find only two actual enclosed malls, with multiple levels and international brands.

© SEBASTIAN CZAPNIK | DREAMSTIME.COM

Get your bearings with a visit to the N Seoul Tower, the highest point in the city. Take a cable car and then a fast elevator to the top for a 360-degree view of the city. At sunset you get a different view on a Han River cruise, no advance reservations necessary.

After cruising the city, drop into one of the many “meat houses,” where you cook your own entrée over a flaming grill built into the middle of each table while you socialize with other guests. Servers bring a host of side items to accompany your freshly grilled meats. It’s all for fun, and you may make some new Korean friends during the evening.

For those interested, a daytrip to the DMZ border with North Korea can prove either fascinating or scary. One million troops stand guard on the most heavily fortified border in the world. Either full-day or half-day tours are available, including travel time, and may not be ideal for all family groups, although many do make the trip. Visitors witness awesome military pageantry and get a glimpse of what it means to live in a divided country.

You can spend almost a full day in Korea’s premier museum, the National, the sixth- largest in the world. Its three floors display thousands of artifacts, archaeological objects, an entire floor of fine arts featuring more than 800 works and yet another strictly for Asian art.

Few visitors to Seoul pass up a visit to the royal palace complex of Gyeongbokgung, an easy subway ride from almost any hotel. Situated in the heart of the city, it includes a performing arts center, throne room, meditation pond and more historic buildings, including the National Folk Museum.

As you’ll be doing a lot of walking in the city and crossing the river several times a day, take a break at one of the Han River’s bridge cafés. Relax and order a cool iced drink or green tea and plan your next stop while the city buzzes around you, always in high gear.

For visitors who want a hands-on Korean experience, a visit to Korea House near Myeondong offers a cultural arts experience as well as a restaurant. With demonstrations on making kimchi, hanji (paper craft) and traditional dance, each class lasts about two hours. In the evening some of Korea’s top performers take over with traditional dance and music performances, with English subtitles.

After dinner, head to Itaewon to experience a mix of Seoul’s nightlife. Here a combination of tourists, U.S. military, businesspeople and local Korean students and lovers come to see and be seen. On weekends, hot clubs like Soap Seoul have folks spilling out of the front doors and into the street. For LGBTQ+ visitors, the most popular bars, dance clubs and karaoke bars may be found in both Itaewon and Jongno. The fun continues in the Hongdae (university) neighborhood, where students gather to dance and sing in private karaoke rooms.

In this Korean city, there’s always more action just around the corner.

LODGING

InterContinental Grand Seoul Parnas
Known for its central location, spacious rooms and exceptional service for business travelers, this newly renovated hotel welcomes groups and families as well. Enjoy the spa, pool, lounge and first- class restaurants, including a deli.
521 Teheran-ro, Gangnam
$$$$

Park Hyatt Seoul
Offering contemporary luxury with fantastic views and a great location near COEX mall, the hotel features a spa, pool and an excel- lent restaurant with a home-style Italian menu.
606 Teheran-ro, Gangnam
$$$

The Shilla Seoul
For a slightly more Korean hotel experience, The Shilla offers luxury and superb service among Korean art and décor. International travelers return to enjoy the 23 private acres, Michelin-starred restaurant and private shopping arcade.
249 Dongho-ro, Jung-gu
$$$

DINING

Balwoo Gongyang
A unique experience awaits at this superb restaurant (reserve ahead) operated by monks from Seoul’s main Buddhist temple. The menu features creative continental and temple cuisine, but the vegetarian option stands out. Great for kids.
Temple Stay Information Integration Center, 56 Ujeongguk-ro, Jongno-gu
$$

Doore
Dine like royalty in a 1900s hanok wooden building, a showcase for Korean art. True Imperial cuisine comes on fixed or à la carte menus.
5-24 Insadong 4-gil, Jongno-gu
$$

Samcheonggak
Travel up the hill to the presidential Blue House for a Korean take on international fine dining, at half the cost of Europe or New York, in beautiful rooms with a view. Choose the continental fixed menu.
3 Daesagwan-ro, Seongbuk-gu
$$$$

INFO TO GO

Because of the worldwide reach of the South Korean business network, the city’s Incheon Airport is a model of efficiency and design. Carriers offer direct flights and connections to most of the world’s capitals and beyond. Service to and from other Asian countries is frequent and convenient. Some routes within Asia utilize Gimpo (GMP), a second Seoul airport. The big three U.S. carriers offer service with several non-stops. Once on the ground, passage through customs and immigration is quick and efficient. Reach the city center in less than an hour by rail, express airport bus or taxi. Remember, you need not tip in Korea. You can exchange currency for the local won at ATMs in banks and some retail spots. Major international credit cards are widely accepted. For the best weather, visit in the fall or spring.

Introducing

FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Explore Excursions

#globility

Insta Feed
Daily
Jul 24, 2024

SB Winemaker’s House & Spa Suites Introduces Custom Wine Itineraries

SB Winemaker’s House & Spa Suites offers guests personalized journeys to Mendoza’s finest wineries from Susana Balbo’s family. Immerse yourself in bespoke wine itineraries recommended by Balbo, Argentina’s first female winemaker; her son and third-generation winemaker, José Lovaglio Balbo; and her daughter, hotelier and wine tourism marketer, Ana Lovaglio Balbo.

Hit the High Notes in Nashville

Nashville’s once-modest skyline continues to evolve as its luxury market grows. Lavish hotel properties are added to the landscape while acclaimed chefs stake claim in the robust culinary scene and premier cultural offerings round out the city’s repertoire.

eFlyer Reviews
Jul 24, 2024

Althoff Grand Hotel Schloss Bensberg Review

After a long drive from our previous destination, it was a relief to see Althoff Grandhotel Schloss Bensberg in our view. When we pulled into the hotel court, I felt like we were pulling up to a royal palace. Considering the hotel was originally built as a castle for Prince Elector Johann Wilhelm II of Duesseldorf and his wife, Maria-Luisa of the Medici family, my thought wasn’t that far off.

eFlyer News
Jul 24, 2024

Norwegian Cruise Line to Add Philadelphia as New Homeport in 2026

A major cruise line is set to sail from Philadelphia for the first time in years. Beginning in spring 2026, Norwegian Cruise Line will make Philadelphia its home port for some of its cruise ships, including sailings to Bermuda, Canada and New England. Norwegian’s Jewel will sail to Bermuda, featuring overnight calls to Royal Naval Dockyard.

Exclusive Savings: Cruise Along the Danube River with Global Traveler

Exclusive Sailing with Global Traveler

eFlyer News
Jul 24, 2024

China Airlines Adds Seattle to North American Network

China Airlines officially launched a new route to North America, further connecting Taiwan with the United States’ Pacific coast. The new route from Taipei (TPE) to Seattle (SEA) marks the airline’s sixth non-stop destination in North America.

Daily
Jul 23, 2024

New at the Seaside: Sandbourne Santa Monica Opens

Set upon Santa Monica’s iconic Ocean Avenue, the new Sandbourne Santa Monica is ready for reservations. Beachfront with direct ocean access and offering 175 guestrooms and suites, this soon-to-be favorite address is part of Marriott’s esteemed Autograph Collection. Special touches include a honeybee hive and a dog park.

Sail to the Tropical Splendors of Tahiti and The Tuamotu Islands with Windstar Cruises

This November, Windstar Cruises celebrates more than 36 years in Tahiti with an itinerary taking guests to the clear waters of Tahiti and The Tuamotu Islands on a journey exploring Tahitian culture, the ecosystems of Fakarava, and the sunsets of Raiatea and Bora Bora. The 10-day sailing aboard Star Breeze, Nov. 18–28, departs from Papeete and ends in Papeete.

Daily
Jul 23, 2024

3 Top Choices for New York City Summer Dining

There’s never a shortage of new restaurants opening in New York City any time of year, but some are better designed for warmer weather than others. Whether you’re looking to entertain clients or treat yourself to a well-earned meal at the end of the day, these three newer restaurants are top choices for New York City summer dining.