Inwangsan Hike

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This weekend Seoul Secrets dusted off its hiking boots in search of a brisk spring hike without leaving Seoul. For a great a view of the city skyline at sunset look no further than Inwangsan Mountain located just north of Gyeongbokgung Palace, this highly sacred ‘Benevolent King’ Mountain is the Shamanic centre of Seoul. This area is also the home to some spots of historical value worth checking out!

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To get to this area take the Subway Line 3 (orange line) to Dongnimmun and take Exit 2, as soon as you leave Exit 2 walk 1-2 minutes and you will see the sign pointing to the left showing you the route up the mountain. But before beginning the ascend its worth checking out some of the other sites near this station. After scouting around the area there didn’t seem to be any clear stand out cafes or restaurants so would highly suggest bringing a picnic or a packed lunch for this one!

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The first place you’ll see as you cross the main road from Exit 2 will be Seodaemun prison, built by the Japanese near the end of the Joseon Dynasty. It was were Japanese soldiers would torture and then execute Korean followers of the Independence Movement.

Open pretty much all year round to visitors apart from a few holiday periods, you can enter any time between 9.30 -6.00 for 3000 won.

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The next quite adequate place to check out is the Independence Gate, located just a stroll away from the prison via the park area. This gate was built to replace Yeongeunmun Gate which was a symbol of diplomatic relations between Korea and Qing Dynasty. The Independence Gate was built following the First Sino-Japanese War to inspire a spirit of independence away from Korea’s previous status as a Chinese tributary state.

This gate is surrounded by a nice little park area, that is surprisingly peaceful for central Seoul and an ideal spot for picnic before or after your hike.

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After checking out the Seodaemun Independence Park head back towards Exir 2 and begin the ascend up the mountain, to start with you will pass through quite a built up residential area of apartment blocks. Once you past the blocks you will see the archway of a temple ahead of you.

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As you keep ascending you will come across Seonbawi Rock and Inwangsa Temple. This unique rock formation has been a shamanic worship site since before recorded history. A peaceful site with an aroma of burning incense that signals the starting point for the actually mountain hike.

Follow the steps to the right of the rock formation and continue your meandering ascend. There are many paths leading off in different directions so just keep walking with the large stone wall to your right. Your aim will be to find some black wooden stairs which allows you to join the stone walking path.

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Finally after about 40 minutes of hiking you should reach the summit of the mountain, we highly recommend taking this hike just before sunset to fully experience the sun setting over this awesome city and the illuminations of Seoul’s many lights coming to life. There is only one thing left to do once you reach the top… and that’s to crack open a much deserved beer with friends and enjoy the view!

Seoul Secrets

 

 

 

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Kondae (Konkuk University area)

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This weekend Seoul Secrets ventured to the Kondae area residing in the East of Seoul. A vibrant and energetic neighbourhood surrounding the Konkuk University, it is more famously known amongst students for it’s night life and party culture. To get here take the subway to Konkuk University on Line 2 and take Exit 6. All areas featured today are marked on the map above.

During the day its a fairly normal university neighbourhood but by night it becomes a whole different animal all together. Seen by many as an area growing in popularity amongst foreigners it is still yet to reach the masses the same way sister university areas such as Hongdae or Sinchon have.

Seoul Secrets decided to check out the area for restaurants, cafes and shopping during the day, but will be bringing you a low down of the infamous night life very soon! Watch this space!

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One of the newest and biggest attractions of this area is the shopping mall called ‘Common Ground’, with its unique structure of blue shipping containers cleverly arranged and stacked to create a great shopping experience and hang out area.

To get here walk straight out of Exit 6 and keep going for 5 mins and you can’t miss it on your left hand side.

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Common Ground consists of three floors, the first and second boasting a wide range of fashion, lifestyle and accessories stores. Taking the stairs up to the third floor will reveal a terrace market which has a range of cafes and restaurants, which are great for chilling out and enjoying the sunshine with friends, family or a loved one. One highlight being ‘Standing Sushi” brought to you by the same guys of the acclaimed ‘Standing Coffee’.

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Once you’ve had enough of shopping check out some of the neighbourhood by heading back towards Exit 6 of the subway, before you reach the exit you will pass a red bricked road lined with an array of stores on your ride hand side. Take a stroll down that road to find the next Secret Spot!

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Apart from being the home to many students this area is also the home for a large Chinese community. Therefore this area has a street lined with Chinese lamb restaurants, some of which being the best lamb skewers in Seoul. One being Maehwa’s skewer restaurant, often filled with people so a reservation would be recommended.

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Once you’ve had your fill of delicious lamb make your way back towards the station on the red brick road…once you’re nearing the main road take a right at the GS25 and walk for 20 more seconds and right again, you will see Cafe Ho2.

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This place is a ‘really hole in the wall’ as it has such an unassuming entrance, but once inside you’ll be greeted by friendly staff. Offering a range of cream cakes and an array of hot and cold drinks. This place gives you a great, clean and bright environment upstairs for studying, catching up with friends, dates or just reading a good book alone.

Have fun in Kondae and we will be bringing you the night life guide soon!

Seochon Village and Tongin Market

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This weekend Seoul Secrets took advantage of the slightly warmer weather by taking a trip to Seochon village and Tongin Market. To get there you need to take Subway Line 3 to Gyeongbokgung Station, taking Exit 2 and follow the road straight till you reach Woori Bank, where you’ll need to follow the road to the left. Follow the instructions in the picture below to find the ‘Secrets’ featured:

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Seochon Village is a neighbourhood of Seoul, that is filled with charming and quaint alleyways of hanok houses, intimate cafes and unique independent shops. Seochon means western village in Korean and is named such as it is the neighbourhood to the west of Gyeongbokgung Palace. Originally home to middle class citizens who specialized in professions like interpreters and doctors, Seochon has a less clustered ambience compared to the more famous Bukchon, whilst boasting  more sizeable hanok houses.

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The first place you will stumble across when following the directions above is this quaint handicraft store. With a welcoming vibe and a wide range of hand crafted goods, you can browse at ease.

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As you continue to meander up the street you will shortly be met by ‘Astarte&Relax’ on your left hand side. This small dessert cafe has an entrance at the front and back, once you step inside you will be greeted by a glass cabinet of sweet and delicious treats! Either order a take out or sit upstairs ( but don’t be surprised if there’s no seats vacant, as its a very popular place). To find out more on their wonderful desserts check out their instagram: astarte_relax.

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Another great shop that shouldn’t be missed if you’re in the neighbourhood is ‘Coming Jane’. This well presented space sells a wide range of silver jewellery from rings, bracelets and necklaces in every style possible.

Just a few other places to check out along the way:

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Tongin Market

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Once you get hungry from all the walking around look no further than Tongin Market, this marketplace dates back to 1941 and nowadays offers a unique dining experience! Seoul has many markets of all shapes and sizes, but what is unique here is its “Dosirak Cafe”. “Dosirak” meaning lunch box in Korean. Follow the guide below to enjoy this experience to the full:

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Step 1 :

Locate a person selling black trays (usually at one of a few entrances to the market)

Step 2 :

Exchange your cash for coins (for 5000 won you can get 10 coins)

Step 3 :

Enter the market and look for the stalls with a sign which says they accept only coins not cash and fill your tray with delicious Korean food  (these stalls are easy to locate as they’re often surrounded by people and a queue)

 

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In the middle of the market there is a colour coded map that shows all the stalls from food, groceries, fruit and veg to souvenirs and toys. Once your trays is full make way to the 2nd floor and 3rd floor where there is a restaurant area that offers soup,rice and kimchi to go with your lunch box. They also sell the usual drinks upstairs as well as a drink worth trying Sikhye, a Korean traditional drink made of rice.

Got no plans for today?….Check out this ‘Secret’ spot! You won’t regret it!

A weekend of contrast (part 2)

A dry and sunny Sunday…

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Waking up Sunday to blue skies and sunshine after a horrendously wet Saturday, you could not imagine such a contrasting day. So ‘Seoul Secrets’ decided after yesterdays trip to Time Square Mall and high-end shopping, we would offer you a view of shopping in Seoul on a shoe string budget. No better place than Dongmyo Flea Market to find a bargain, check out the highlights below:

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Take exit 3 of Dongmyo Subway station, and immediately be engulfed by people and their goods for sale! The flea market takes place every Sunday and sprawls through alleyways and down side streets for a few blocks (red areas on the map above). Be prepared for the trademark hustle and bustle of a crowded market place, entwined with food stalls and restaurants.

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Here you will find everything you can imagine from used clothes, toys and even eyeglasses! Everywhere you turn you will see something that will catch your eye. Whilst being carried along with the crowd you will come across a diamond in the rough, as the crowds clear a shrine will appear.

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A colourful and serene haven greets you on arrival, sit, rest and prepare to face the crowds once more. Dongmyo Station takes its name from this shrine, built to honour the Chinese general and deity Guan Yu (162-219).

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If you exit the flea market (as marked above) you will see another shrine up in the distance. Cross at the intersection and begin walking up the hill, following the path the left.

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Keep following the path and pass by some traditional housing, eventually you will stumble across the wooden staircase. Ascend and take the path that leads to the left.

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At the top of the path you will be greeted by this shrine, its a great vantage point of the surrounding area. Take time to enjoy the view and even look down on the market from above, gather your thoughts before you enter the fray once more…

 

 

 

A weekend of contrast (part 1)

A wet and windy Saturday…

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Spring arrived in Seoul this weekend bringing a day of constant downpour with it. This led ‘Seoul Secrets’ to search for a day of indoor activities..look no further than some highly sophisticated shopping at Time Square Mall, located at Yeongdeungpo subway station. Follow the directions below:

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Opening in 2009, Time Square Mall is one of Seouls largest shopping malls. It features everything your heart desires and will quench your shopping needs, from high-end luxury brands to CGV Starium, which houses 12 movie theatres, including the world’s largest screen. The mall is easy to navigate using the array of information touch screens throughout.  Check out some of our highlights below:

SAC FOOD

Seoga & Cook is a big plate restaurant chain, that offers large dishes to share with a loved one, family or friends. With a great range to chose from this places get busy quick, so be prepared to queue and wait at least 15-20 minutes.

KYOBO

After you’ve had your fill of food and shopping stop by Kyobo Book store, this store offers a wide range of books including a substantial selection of foreign books. What’s unique about this store is they encourage you to stay and read the books, sitting in designated reading areas and leaving you in peace to submerge yourself in a good book.

BMD ICE CREAM

Now that your food has settled, time to check out Baekmidang milk ice cream store located on the same level as Emart near to the subway entrance. Reasonable priced soft serve ice cream made using organic milk or soy milk. Rich, smooth and creamy ice cream a prefect way to finish off a great day of shopping.