Korea, Republic of
Seoulites work hard and play harder, and flights to Seoul deliver you to a city that has some of the best restaurants, lounges and nightlife venues in South Korea. Add in the 24-hour ‘bangs’ (rooms) – used for everything from computer gaming to karaoke – and it becomes clear that Seoul doesn’t really sleep. And you don’t have to either.
Seoul is one of the most affordable capital cities in Asia. Travelling on the metro costs next to nothing, and mid-range and budget hotels give you plenty of value for money. From there, as long as you eat like the locals (easy to do when Korean food is so tasty), you’re unlikely to run out of the local currency won.
The city is a cool mix of old and new. Every Seoul district has its own quirks and finding your favourite is part of the fun: Insa-dong, Myeong-dong, Yongsan and Gangnam are just a few to add to your list. Hip student neighbourhood Hongdae is a good place to start, chock-full of fashion boutiques, trendy lounges and pet cafes. It’s more than likely that you’ll end up in Itaewon, which is a magnet for expats and has some of the best dining and nightlife in the city.
It’s amazing when you consider how quickly South Korea recovered from the Korean War to become one of the strongest economies in the world. And speed remains the name of the game – this is the land of super-fast Wi-Fi, an uber-efficient public transport system and a bullet train (the KTX) that travels at a dizzying 300km an hour.
Yes, Seoul is a modern city, but one that’s proud of its heritage. Throughout the city, you can see temples and teahouses being used the same way they have been for centuries. And don’t be surprised to see people dressed in colourful traditional clothing (hanbok), especially if it’s a national holiday such as Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving).