The 2018 Winter Olympics are set for 9th-25th February and this year being held in Pyeongchang, South Korea. For those who may not know, this is a city located about 80 miles east of Seoul – which has piqued our interest as a top travel destination. During the two-week sporting spectacular you’ll find 102 events across 15 different sports, but beyond this the country has so much more to offer. Keep reading for the inside scoop on what you might find in this unusual travel pick.
Seoul is a place that hits the sweet spot between cutting-edge and deeply traditional. This city blends temples, palaces and mountain trails with high-fashion, high-tech and K-Pop beats. Being the epicentre of over 5,000 years of Korean history, you can still find remnants of ancient Korean civilization here and there. Equally, Seoul is a 24-hour neon light-filled placed where you can find somewhere to eat or drink as any time of day or night. Seoul is the second largest metropolitan area in the world (after Tokyo) with a population of over 25 million, although it is only one-twelfth of the size of Beijing. Average temperatures vary dramatically; ranging from -4°C in February (ideal for Winter Olympics!) to 25°C or higher in the July/August summer months.
The flight to Incheon International Airport takes approximately 11 hours from London, but worth the travel time to see the airport alone - which has been ranked one of the best in the world. Once there you’ll find one of the most impressive public transport networks in the world; featuring high-tech details at every turn. Picking up a T-money card is a good idea for travelling around the city; one journey will cost about KRW1,250 (approx. £7), and definitely download one of the Metro apps to help you navigate!
So once you’re there, what’s worth a visit?
1. Explore Bukchon Hanok Village
2. Watch the changing of the guards at Gyeongbokgung Palace
3. Shop ‘til you drop in Myeong Dong, or one of the many underground shopping centres
4. Take a cable car up Mount Namsan
5. Indulge (all day!) in delicious street food
6. Wonder around Namdaemun Market
7. Enjoy an exhibition at Dongdaemun Design Plaza
8. Dip your toes in Cheonggyecheon Stream
9. Challenge perceptions at the Trick Eye Museum (an museum of optical illusions)
10. Check out the massive K-Pop music scene
These are just our top 10 favourites, but of course there are so many awe-inspiring sights we couldn’t possibly list them all!
You definitely won’t go hungry in Seoul. Find everything from foot-long ice creams and Korean-style braised chicken (Andong Jimdak), to ginseng chicken soup (Samgyetang) and rice cakes in sauce (tteokbokki). Try café-hopping in Garosu-gil, and stop for some Jujube Tea. The average price of a day’s worth of meals is around KWR 20,000-30,000 (£14-20) and you may be relieved to know there is a no-tipping culture!
So, whether you’re travelling out for the Winter Olympics or Paralympics, or just want to explore beyond your comfort zone –Seoul is definitely not a destination to be missed! And as always, you can make your spending money go even further pre-ordering your South Korean Won in advance. Our Reserve & Collect service allows you to order currency up to two weeks in advance; locking in the rate at the time of ordering.