"It's better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times."
After weeks of anticipation it was finally time to make the 11 hour trip from London to the capital of South Korea, Seoul.
I have to admit my knowledge of Korea was limited to Gangnam Style, Samsung phones and the antics of Kim Jong Un. That was all about to change pretty rapidly!
Following a nightmare flight which had us packed like sardines into an outdated British Airlines aircraft I landed at Incheon airport jet lagged, tired and hungry. My initial thought of Seoul was that it had tones of Toronto and Tokyo however, there was none of the chaos from the Japanese capital and seemed to be vastly populated by young people.
My stay in Seoul was limited to just three days and the highlights were defiantly Zaha Hadid's Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Changdeokgung palace and the Iwha village situated in the north of Seoul.
Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)
The Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) is the work of the late Zaha Hadid and is a photographers dream. A full day could easily be dedicated to exploring the structure from both outside and within.
The Design Plaza appears as if it were transported to present day from the year 3000 on an Alien spaceship. While the exhibitions within were not as enticing during my visit, the architecture on display defiantly is the main draw here.
There are multiple events on at all times as well of a string of cafes and places to have a coffee and snack.
Iwha Mural village
The Ihwa Mural Village turned out to be one of my favourite spots in Seoul. Trekking up to the top of Mount Naksan to enter the village is no mean feat and the village itself is filled with many stairs and inclines so it is a good idea to wear a pair of comfortable trainers. The Ihwa village is filled with various murals and trendy cafes most of which offer impressive vistas.
I made the trip to the village midday on a Saturday and was expecting the place to be jam-packed full of tourists. However, it seems the Ihwa village is still a relatively unknown spot and was peaceful and quiet.
This partly is down to the fact that the village hasn't just been transformed into a commercialised tourist attraction (as the Bukchon Hanok Village is). While there are a couple cafes, some street art and small galleries around, the Ihwa Mural Village is still essentially just an old residential area which is mostly just homes.
I decided to take a short break from exploring and stopped off at the Second Step cafe. Coffee in general is great in Korea and Second Step (directions) is no exception. If you end up in the same spot, make sure to secure a balcony seat which offers up a unique view of Seoul.
The Ihwa Mural Village is an absolute dream for anybody interested in photography and is defiantly worth the hike up the mountain!
Changing of the Guard at Changdeokgung
Generally speaking I’m not one for royal ceremonies however, the changing of the Guard at the Changdeokgung Palace absolutely cannot be missed. The ceremony takes place at various spots across Seoul however it is best viewed at the Palace.
Best of all the guards come up close to the spectators and the colours on show are spectacular. Make sure to check out the impressive secret Garden after the show too.
All in all
All in all Seoul came as totally unexpected surprise and ended up being one of my favourite cities.
There is plenty to see, the people are friendly and the food is absolutly delicious. I for sure will be making a longer trip back to the Korean capital city in the near future.
Head over to my Instagram page for more photos from Seoul!