It’s challenging to stop your mind from wandering through the streets of Seoul whether you’re a newcomer to the Hallyu scene or a seasoned pro. Such is the splendour of the capital of South Korea.
Some of the most famous locations from your favourite K-drama are also fantastic places for a visitor to see for the first time. Here is a guide written by a K-drama lover (yeah, that’s me) for your next trip to Seoul.
The Namsan Tower, often known as the N Seoul Tower to tourists, is the greatest place in Seoul to get a great view of the capital without having to walk too far. This is because of the outdoor elevator. Many K-drama programmes feature dates at this famous location. From Joon Jae in The Legend of the Blue Sea to Goo Jyon-Piyo in Boys Over Flowers, this location has seen protagonists patiently wait for their lady loves against the backdrop of lovely snowfall and bright city lights.
From September to November, the cable car ride to the tower provides panoramic views of the fall foliage during the day and a stunning nighttime overhead view of the city. Remember to hang your padlock on the Love Lock Bridge’s handrails as Song-Yi and Min-Jun did in their movie, My Love from the Star.
One of the biggest indoor theme parks in the world is the fantastical Lotte World, which frequently appears in K-dramas. All year round, it is vibrant, enchanting, and lovely, but spring, when cherry blossoms line the streets, is especially lovely. The fanciful Camelot Carousel provides the ideal carnival experience, with 64 beautiful white horses prancing up and down at a leisurely speed. Like Kang Tae-Mu and Shin Ha-Ri from Business Proposal, enjoy corn dogs and bumper cars, or demonstrate your prowess on the ice skating rink like Han Seo-Jun and Im Ju-Kyung from True Beauty. To get to the most attractive location with a view of the Lotte World Castle, cross a bridge from the indoor World Adventure area to the outdoor Magic Island.
The Star Avenue, located in Lotte World, is a really entertaining area where you can nearly “touch” life-size hand impressions of all your favourite K-pop and K-drama stars. No matter which way you turn, get ready to enjoy interactive videos on sizable digital screens and purchase here for never-before-seen fan gear. For a K-pop enthusiast, this is what paradise looks like.
Itaewon has long been considered one of Seoul’s most sophisticated and well-lit neighbourhoods, but it rose to the top of travellers’ must-see lists after appearing in the Park Seo-Joon series Itaewon Class, a smash hit on Netflix. Itaewon is a medley of streets filled with trendy and interesting beer bars, BBQ restaurants, independent shops, cute boutiques, clubs, and other establishments. Itaewon is now considered essential to any travel to Seoul and was once avoided by locals as a dirty red-light neighbourhood. Check out the G Guest House in Itaewon if you’re seeking a place to stay. Its architecture is bold and distinctive, yet understated.
Don’t be shocked if you come to a standstill while crossing Noksapyeong Bridge, where Park Seo-Joon, the male protagonist of the K-drama Itaewon Class, frequently went for walks. A large group of punk dancers will likely be blocking the road with their rapid manoeuvres. Here, it’s a typical scene, especially on the weekends after dark.
Do you recall Do Bong-Soon and Ahn Min-endearing Hyuk’s picnic date from Strong Women, Do Bong Soon? Or the moment from the movie Lie to Me where Kang Ji-Hwan and Yoon Eun-Hye can be seen riding in cute duck boats down the river?
At the Han River, you can relive these memories in detail as well as many more. There are many different things to do here. Prepare for water sports like flyboarding and kayaking. The freshwater river is open for swimming and fishing for largemouth bass. Keep an eye out for the Banpo Bridge, where 200 lights cast a 570-meter-long fountain with swirling, rainbow-coloured water jets into the air. Or you could just camp out at the Han River on a warm summer night.
The campground has amenities including tents, 24-hour showers, BBQ grills, and hot, fresh ramyeon served in disposable foil tins. In-house live music is frequently used to serenade fellow campers. Despite physically dividing the city, the Han River really strengthens Seoul’s community.
The Seoul International Fireworks Festival, which takes place every October, features a stunning firework display accompanied by music and laser lights on the banks of the Han River.
Take notes if you wish to emulate the success of the Shin-Tak marriage from the popular Korean show Goblin. The most famous scene was filmed at this beach, at one of the five (now specifically identified by a signboard) rocky piers on a breakwater by the sea, where Ji Eun-Tak initially summons Kim Shin on her birthday. This picturesque white-sand beach is a 2.5-hour drive from Seoul, but it’s worth the trek for its gentle waves and shallow blue seas. Enjoy the salty air and dip your hands in the clear water to collect some shells to bring home as mementos.
Many neighbouring businesses are renting out accessories like the red scarves and buckwheat flower bouquets seen in the programme as a growing crowd of people tries to recreate the Goblin scene that was filmed here.
Visiting the Bukchon Hanok Village is the simplest and quickest method to transport back in time to the showy Joseon Dynasty, which ruled Korea from 1392 to 1897. Many hanoks may be found here, in addition to the Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace, and Jongmyo Shrine (traditional Korean homes). Sanggojae, which appears as Park Gae-home In’s in the 2010 K-drama Personal Taste, is the most well-known.
This 600-year-old urban colony, which is dotted with homes with pagoda-style roofs enhanced by slightly ascending eaves, preserves Korean heritage through its cultural institutions and museums. The village’s main street, Bukchon-Ro 11-Gil, with its red and grey stone walls, will be recognised.
Numerous characters from K-dramas such as Twelve Nights and She Was Pretty have occasionally been spotted strolling down this route.
In the palace complex, there are hanbok rental shops that offer voluminous, delicate, long-sleeved traditional costumes as well as hairstyling services. Hanbok is the traditional clothing of Korea. As you experience an actual royal getaway, dress the part and whirl around.
The opulent Paradise City near Incheon International Airport meets the hospitality and entertainment needs of urban travellers by housing the largest casino in the nation, a convention centre, an indoor amusement park, a large duty-free retail centre, and a luxury boutique hotel. The Willy Wonka-like amusement park and other scenes from the fantasy-romance drama series Hotel Del Luna were filmed in Paradise City.
In the Korean drama The King: Eternal Monarch, Lee Gon (Lee Min-ho) stays in the Grand Deluxe Pool Villa when travelling to the Republic of Korea in a parallel universe. One of Asia’s largest nightclubs, the strangely designed Chroma, has four storeys and delivers a different atmosphere in each one. Global performers like Steve Aoki and DJ Afrojack have also performed there.
At Cimer, the spa in Paradise City, treat yourself to a jjimjilbang experience. The bathhouse that houses a traditional Korean kiln sauna is lined with hinoki charcoal or Himalayan pink salt crystals and provides the ultimate in luxury and relaxation. Spend the evening by the infinity pool sipping a beverage and taking in the pink sunset.
A collection of quaint stores offering eye-catching items in various kinds and sizes, including K-drama memorabilia, make up the underground Myeongdong retail complex. If you thought the world of K-dramas was big, just wait until you see the scale of the K-drama and K-pop industries. Grab the best K-pop light sticks, holiday cards, pop sockets, scarves, vinyl records, photobooks, keychains, cushions, pins, fridge magnets, mascot plushies, deco tapes, Lomo cards, and more as you get ready to become hallyu-cinated.
The list is endless. Even fan membership kits are available. You’re in for a treat if you enjoyed the earrings and hairpins worn by the heroines. To assist you in choosing, each product in the shops here has a photo of the store next to it on the screen. Spend to your heart’s content since Myeongdong shopping also qualifies for quick tax rebates.
The Alley, which is next to the shopping arcade, offers bubble tea to help you recover from your shopping fatigue. The King: Eternal Monarch is credited with popularising the bubble tea served here.
Visit the Café for BBQ Olive Chicken. Likewise known as the Goblin Korean Fried Chicken Café. This is the eatery Sunny ran in the South Korean drama Goblin. The tastiest tub of delicious chimaek, the Korean version of fried chicken and beer, is said to be found here. For young Koreans, going to Chimaek on a weekday evening to unwind after a successful day at work and form relationships over more than 11 different kinds of fried chicken is a ritual.
This café, with its zany blue door and vintage-looking floor tiles, appears just as it did in the drama. This three-story fast food restaurant is situated in the centre of a busy metropolis and has enormous glass window panels so you can observe city life.
The BBQ Olive Chicken Café has the notorious black fedora that Lee Dong Wook may have worn in Goblin, and the wait staff is dressed in Sunny’s attire from the entire series.
Taean is the name of the made-up rural North Korean village where Captain Ri from Crash Landing on You lives. The picturesque town is located three hours’ drive from Seoul. Fans of Jin-Bin can stroll through the community, look around Ri Jeong Hyeok’s sage-fence home, and breathe in the affection.
After you have filled a hole the size of a crash landing in your heart, proceed to the Haebyeongil, a network of trails that wind through Taean and are about 100 kilometres long. Seven sections make up the trails, which include day-long hikes that go from beach to beach, through hills, under bridges, and through fishing villages. Finally, enjoy the stunning sunset as it sets behind the sand dunes of Sinduri.
Keep in mind that the Taean Tulip Festival, the biggest flower festival in Korea, is held every year from mid-April to mid-May when making travel plans to this charming village. Thousands of tulips, as well as daffodils and lilies, are displayed beside reproductions of iconic landmarks from across the world, such as the Eiffel Tower, an Egyptian pyramid, and a Dutch windmill.
Author’s Note: It’s natural to get carried away by the charm of K-drama and its favourite characters, but just don’t expect it to work in real life. Having said that, yes, I too intend to visit these places one day.