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I Left My Soul in Seoul – Part 1 Family trip with a toddler edition

Last month, our family of three went to Seoul, Korea during the peak of this year’s Autumn season to experience fall for the first time. It was a 9-day and 8-night trip that left some profoundly amazing memories and pangs of joy whenever we thought of this beautiful city. What made this trip extra special was the many firsts we got to experience – first time overseas with our one-year-old, first overnight flight and basically first of doing anything in Korea!

Our itinerary was carefully planned to combine fun and chill, explore and rest to accommodate our purpose of enjoying all surroundings and the spontaneity that came along. More importantly, we needed to ensure our kid’s utmost comfort throughout the whole trip so the itinerary comprised of places and activities that are mostly family-friendly.

If you are planning for a trip to Seoul especially during the Visit Korea Year 2023 – 2024, keep reading and don’t miss out on tips that will be shared throughout this article!

While these are not chronologically listed, below are some of the places that we have explored and loved (we actually loved all of the places we visited but here are the top ones):

 

Indoor Fun

1. Starfield COEX

Nearest train station: Bongeunsa (Line 9)

  • Starfield COEX Mall is located in the district of Gangnam, known as one of the richest regions in Korea comprising an upscale living lifestyle and high-end malls. We visited the famous Starfield Library and Gangnam Statue as well as enjoyed the sunset in the heart of this modern town. We were astonished by the design of skyscrapers, contemporary architecture and big screens all around that clearly showcased Korea’s technological advancement and its clever use to attract the eyes of the public.

There is also a massive COEX Aquarium that houses 650 different species of marine animals and has the largest number of sharks in Korea. We guarantee time with your family will be well spent at this stunning and spacious healing spot.

 

2. Dongdaemun Plaza (DDP)

    Nearest train station: Dongdaemun History & Culture Park (Line 2)

    • DDP is another prime landmark that is shaped quite like a UFO which gives out the vibes of futuristic and ultra-powerful even from afar. DDP also stands for ‘Dream’, ‘Design’ and ‘Play’, as true as its name goes, this place has housed many art exhibitions, fashion shows, events and conferences at an international level so it is naturally famous among people who visit Korea.

 

In the plaza, there are many lounge spaces and rest areas and you can easily spend hours just admiring the façade. Outside with just a 7-minute walk, you can visit Dongdaemun Market and many fashion outlets that close as late as 5.00 am!

3. GOTO Underground Mall

Nearest train station: Express Bus Terminal (Line 9)

  • Shopping haul in Seoul won’t be complete without the final hurrah at GOTO especially for ladies who love fashion at an affordable price. The items sold at GOTO are much cheaper than in other tourist spots like Myeongdong and Hongdae and you can just shop till you drop along these underground stores.

We bought many high-quality clothes with an awesome bargain here as souvenirs for people back home and they didn’t disappoint.

 

Outdoor Sun

4. Haneul Park

Nearest train station: World Cup Stadium (Line 6)

  • Haneul Park is one of the five beautiful parks located under the umbrella of World Cup Park. We chose Haneul as it was situated at the highest part with an Observation Deck to see Seoul and Han River. It was also one of the most challenging itineraries for us as we had to push a stroller worth 6kg with a toddler of 12kg uphill for at least 3km but the breathtaking atmosphere and chilly weather made the journey easier.

   

Most people took the Zig Zag stairs to the peak or a shuttle bus but we opted to walk because the queue for the shuttle was ridiculously long during the weekend. Our scenic walk was rewarded with the most stunning view of Pampas Grass (Silver Grass) everywhere and hearts so full of pleasure to be here!

5. Seoul Children’s Grand Park

Nearest train station: Children’s Grand Park (Line 7)

    • This place is such a gem and we didn’t expect it would leave a strong impression upon leaving. Not only is the entrance fee free of charge, but the park that spans at least 53,000 sqft also has everything from a zoo, amusement rides, playgrounds, hiking trails and various gardens.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by a dazzling musical fountain show that easily took almost an hour of our time for its mesmerizing symphony, and our kid had the best time there. There are plenty of animals you can admire for free such as tigers, elephants, deer, bears, zebras, kangaroos and other mammals as well as Marine House’s seals, polar bears and aviary birds of all kinds. Not only does Grand Park capture children’s hearts, it is also beguiling for adults. Parents will be thrilled to see their kids enjoying their childhood and rest assured that the facilities for children are top-notch for everyone’s comfort too.

6. Bukchon Hanok Village

Nearest train station: Anguk (Line 3)

    • As Seoul has the perfect balance of modernity and traditional heritage, Bukchon Hanok Village is one of the cultural hotspots that preserves traditional houses and antiquity dating back to the Joseon Dynasty. The houses are known as ‘Hanok’ and we had the opportunity to immerse ourselves in Korean roots by observing the design of selected guesthouses and teahouses, including the oldest Hanok built in the 14th century (which now has been restored).

Walking around Bukchon Hanok Village gives you the privilege of seeing people donning colourful Hanbok (traditional Korean attire) as other landmarks like Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace and Unhyeongung Royal Residence are just nearby. These are the Instagrammable hubs you definitely want to visit and capture some sweet memories forever.

We also walked around Insa-dong where Korean café cultures blossom and had an array of mouth-watering pastries and unforgettable coffees!

7. Nami Island

The most comfortable 2-hour journey here will be by a private car, you can book this service via the Klook app at an affordable price.

    • Nami oh Nami, who doesn’t know about Nami Island when they visit Korea? This half-moon-shaped island is famously remembered for its significant appearances in 2002’s Korean hit drama Winter Sonata. This sensational TV series that featured female heart-throb Bae Yong-Joon has a fairy tale concept for visitors and provides many exciting activities to do around the island. Some of them include Gangchon Rail Bike, Alpaca World, Garden of Morning Calm and of course the prominent Metasequoia Lane throughout all four seasons.

Nami made all our senses come alive with its breathtaking views and we were just so glad to bask in the smashing beauty of this place. The hours we got to spend here were definitely not enough to tour the entire enclave, but we were glad to have captured many photos for keepsakes.

There are three ways to get to Nami including Ziplines (the most expensive), express boats and ferries (the cheapest). We queued for about 10 minutes for the ferry ride because it made the most sense with a stroller and enjoyed the short ride together. As it was during the peak of Autumn, Nami was exceptionally crowded with tourists but that didn’t stop us from enjoying some quality time as a family. We will absolutely come back to Nami next time!

Street Markets & Shopping

8. Myeongdong Street

Nearest train station: Myeongdong (Line 4)

  • Myeongdong is the number one tourist hotspot in Seoul so most of the people who work at the shops and stalls here can speak English quite fluently. You can get practically everything here – food, clothes, arts, photobooths, souvenirs, skincare, cosmetics and more. Just be alert that some items will be more expensive here so you might not want to shop too much at one place and save some money for other shopping areas.

We had the famous halal egg bun, lamb skewer, Tteobokki, grilled cheese, Oreo churros and ate like a Korean at a fishcake stall! Throughout our trip, we came to Myeongdong about three times to get different things and were happy to report that our suitcase was absolutely stuffed!

9. Hongdae Street

Nearest train station: Hongik University (Line 2)

  • Known as the hippest region in Seoul, Hongdae is crowded with youngsters, fashionistas, artists, international travellers and students. It is situated near Hongik University and Hongdae Street is brimming with pubs, art ateliers, clothes boutiques and needless to say – street foods!

The vibe on this street is quite different from Myeongdong because there were certainly more international faces and styles. The nightlife is extraordinary and there surely is something for everyone in Hongdae. We were there during the Halloween weekend thus it was fascinating to see people walking in costumes and having so much fun. It felt like time had stopped in Hongdae!

10. Namdaemun Market

Nearest train station: Hoehyeon (Line 4)

  • Namdaemun has some of the cheapest shopping options for your fashion needs and souvenirs. At Namdaemun Gate 4, we went to the Kid Wear Shopping Street to get some high-quality Korean-made clothes and we were so happy we did. Prices here start from as low as 3,000 won and you can get a better bargain when you buy a lot and in cash.

The only thing we regretted was not coming here early enough because we spent hours just browsing rows and rows of clothing stores when we realised most of the shops closed around 5.00 pm as the day gets dark quite fast in the Fall.

Having explored Seoul for 9 days and 8 nights, we also had the pleasure of eating authentic Korean dishes at various Muslim-friendly eateries. If you are anxious about getting Halal food, refer to Part 2 of this article to add them to your list of dining experiences in Korea!

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