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First time visiting Seoul - advice

First time visiting Seoul - advice

Old Feb 19, 17, 12:19 am
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First time visiting Seoul - advice

I've read a fair bit of the advice and think I have a plan. But I haven't been to Seoul before so I wanted to run my thoughts by a few of the experts here that know Seoul well in case I'm missing something.

We are three Americans headed there in mid April - arriving in Seoul on a Thursday. We are going to join the USO DMZ tour and it looks like the Millennium Hilton is close to where that tour starts. If there is a better hotel option or the Millennium is a bad choice for some reason please comment.

We will arrive from Beijing. There is an Air China flight that lands at GMP at 9:50 pm or an Asiana flight that lands at ICN at 8:10. From what I've read, GMP is closer and easier but arriving on Asiana at 8:10 would seem to be a better choice. It also appears that the two best options to get to the hotel are a taxi or the KAL bus - and with three people the taxi won't cost much more than the bus.

I think that this is logistically sound but would appreciate any thoughts or comments (on any aspect of this).

We depart from ICN at 11:30 am on a Saturday so I'm thinking we should stay Friday night at a hotel closer to the airport. The Grand Hyatt Incheon seems like a good choice - but I have far more points and higher status with Hilton and IHG than Hyatt. Unfortunately, there don't seem to be any Hiltons close to ICN and the one close IHG property seems decent but still 30 to 45 minutes from the airport. So, just curious what folks who have done this a few times think.

And if there is a "can't miss" restaurant near the Millennium Hilton please let me know. We love Korean food served in the USA so can't wait to try the real thing.

Thanks for any thoughts or suggestions.
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Old Feb 19, 17, 8:20 am
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The Millenium Hotel is not really a good location and it's kind of old. Stay closer to Myeongdong or City Hall. Better for walking around to sites easily.

Gimpo is a much, much faster airport. There are literally just a few flights per day, so there are no lines for immigration and you can be on the train within 20 minutes of stepping off the plane. Incheon can vary wildly.

You don't have to stay near the airport. Limousine buses and trains start at 5 AM. I would recommend though with four people book an international taxi. intnatltaxi.co.kr They are run by government and offer flat rate and schedule pickup. With four people the per person price is similar to the bus ticket price per person. You can also take them from the airport as well.

The best place for food as a visitor would be the area near Jongno Avenue of Youth. It is a real local area for nightlife and most places have English menus. Myeongdong has English menus as well, but there is nothing local about Myeongdong.
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Old Feb 21, 17, 6:40 pm
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The Millenium Hilton is pretty old and it's on top of a hill with nothing much around the hotel itself. Also if you are arriving at ICN prebook a taxi or take one of the limos because the ICN taxi mafia can be pretty nasty.

If your departing flight is on an airline that can check in at Seoul Station or CALT in Samsung-Dong check in there and get your passports stamped so you can use the fast track at ICN. The lines at ICN in the late morning and evening can be stupendously long because most flights leave at those times. And yes the time saved by using fast track will probably offset the time traveling to the airport.

For food, avoiding Myongdong is a good idea. Gwangjang Market or Jongro is OK, Yeonnam and Sangsu for the latest trends and Cheongdam/Garosugil for expensive and snobbish.

Oh BTW April is prime time for the yellow dust blowing in from China. Come prepared.
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Old Feb 21, 17, 9:14 pm
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I'm worried about the yellow dust too. I'll be there first week of April.

You might want to take a look at AirBNB. I am staying at a nice apartment in Hongdae for a very reasonable price...right by the airport train and subway.
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Old Feb 22, 17, 3:45 am
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The Millennium Hilton was renovated extensively a few years ago and is not so far from "the action" as other posters claimed. A few minutes and you are already at Namdaemun markets and the nearest subway station.

In the other direction, new real estate development around the Korea Development Bank building has brought quite nice restaurants and shops within walking distance.

And the buffet at the Japanese-Korean restaurant "Genji" within the Hilton is still one of the best in Seoul.
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Old Mar 1, 17, 3:20 pm
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There are 3 Hilton Honors properties in Seoul:

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/hilto...seoul-kor.html

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/hilto...ilton-kor.html

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/hilto...seoul-kor.html

If the OP wants to stick to the Hilton brand, I'd suggest browsing through those threads in the Hilton forum. There are tons of regulars over there who will contribute.


That said, on my last trip to Seoul, I stayed at the Conrad and would recommend it in a heartbeat. Was upgraded to exec room with a view of the river. The lounge and restaurant there were fantastic. It was a bit of a subway ride to get to some places, but I felt the property more than made up for that.

As for getting from ICN to the property, I just took the train to subway. On the return, I splurged and took the limo bus (had a bunch left on my T-money card, which works on that bus).
That said, I do speak Korean, so I was able to figure my way around rather easily.
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Old Mar 3, 17, 7:24 am
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Consider using the train

There is an express commuter rail style subway that runs from both Incheon and Gimpo Airports to Seoul Station. Seoul Station is maybe a 5-10 minute walk from the Millennium Hilton. The subway costs something like 3-3.50 USD. If you get disoriented at Seoul Station, a taxi from Seoul Station to the hotel would be another 3 USD (the base fare).


I highly recommend finding the Hangeul (Korean) script for your hotel and writing it on an index card. That way you can just give it to a taxi driver if you ever get lost. Taxis within the Seoul's downtown core are never more than $20 and often a lot less.
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Old Mar 4, 17, 1:40 am
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Originally Posted by guwinster View Post
There is an express commuter rail style subway that runs from both Incheon and Gimpo Airports to Seoul Station. Seoul Station is maybe a 5-10 minute walk from the Millennium Hilton. The subway costs something like 3-3.50 USD. If you get disoriented at Seoul Station, a taxi from Seoul Station to the hotel would be another 3 USD (the base fare).


I highly recommend finding the Hangeul (Korean) script for your hotel and writing it on an index card. That way you can just give it to a taxi driver if you ever get lost. Taxis within the Seoul's downtown core are never more than $20 and often a lot less.
The Millennium Hilton is know to Seoul cabbies as "Namsan Hilton"
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Old Mar 4, 17, 6:40 pm
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Originally Posted by guwinster View Post
There is an express commuter rail style subway that runs from both Incheon and Gimpo Airports to Seoul Station. Seoul Station is maybe a 5-10 minute walk from the Millennium Hilton. The subway costs something like 3-3.50 USD. If you get disoriented at Seoul Station, a taxi from Seoul Station to the hotel would be another 3 USD (the base fare).
The express train to ICN costs about 7 USD, leaves every 30-40 minutes and is takes 43 minutes and does not stop at Gimpo. The local train costs 3-4 USD, leaves every 10-15 minutes and takes 56 minutes. While you absolutely have to take the express train if you check-in at Seoul Station if you're not checking in there then the only advantage is the slightly shorter ride, better seats and less people. This means the express train is virtually empty all the time because only 4 airlines have check-in desks at Seoul Station.
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Old Apr 13, 17, 10:04 am
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Having just returned I have a few thoughts as a first timer -

I was there for a week. The public transportation system is amazing, - extensive and cheap. It's a little bit daunting and slightly confusing at first. I stayed right next to the Hongik Univ stop which made using the airport train very convenient. Careful study of the options led me to use the Korail trains instead of the subway on a few occasions including using the airport train. Since the fare is all the same and you use the same card it's all very simple. As a bit of a transport geek I totally loved it. The stations are often huge with tons of exits and transferring between lines can mean lots of escalators and walking, but signage is extremely well done.

I was a little bit surprised how little English is spoken especially in what I would have thought were big tourist areas. I spend a lot of time in SE Asia where communication with English is fairly easy. At least signage is in English in most places.

I only ended up visiting one palace as they all seemed pretty similar. I bought the pass that gets you into all of them since it was so cheap (10000 won), but in the end only used in one place. I left it at the Airbnb in case some one else could use it since it's good for 3 months.

Seoul N Tower was a little disappointing. Partly that was due to the haze in the air which really limited visibility. I probably should have gone later in the day.

I did visit the new Lotte World Tower observation deck which opened the day before my visit. Rather expensive, but I am a sucker for those things. Again it was pretty hazy but once it got dark the city lights view was OK. The windows were pretty filthy on the outside though which made photos even more difficult. Not sure it was worth 27000 won.

The cherry blossoms were just getting started around Seokchon Lake so that was a nice sight in the same neighborhood as LWT. Some nice night time photos with the tower reflected in the lake.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza was awesome and probably my favorite place. It was like visiting the future. Lots of great photos there. Too bad the building's pretty much empty on the inside.

Tons of cops downtown. There was a big pro-Park demo one day so the police with shields and riot gear were out in force including the subway stations downtown. It was a little disconcerting.

The National Museum is great and free for the permanent collection. I went there on a rainy day for a few hours. There's a tunnel almost the entire way from Ichon station to the museum. It was nice to learn a bit about Korean history. The collection has enough interpretation in English.

The whole city seems to be composed of coffee stores, convenience stores and steak houses. I was also surprised that the shopping mall concept as practiced in other places seemed foreign there. Having just spent a week in Bangkok which is nothing but shopping malls it seemed odd.

All in all I really enjoyed the city. Did a ton of walking.
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Old Apr 13, 17, 11:30 pm
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Glad you enjoyed! The police are always there in FULL force for any protest. It's just a show of strength. They typically do nothing. They're usually all young Army cadets anyway doing their military service.
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Old Apr 14, 17, 1:58 am
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Originally Posted by glennaa11 View Post
Having just returned I have a few thoughts as a first timer -

I was there for a week. The public transportation system is amazing, - extensive and cheap. It's a little bit daunting and slightly confusing at first. I stayed right next to the Hongik Univ stop which made using the airport train very convenient. Careful study of the options led me to use the Korail trains instead of the subway on a few occasions including using the airport train. Since the fare is all the same and you use the same card it's all very simple. As a bit of a transport geek I totally loved it. The stations are often huge with tons of exits and transferring between lines can mean lots of escalators and walking, but signage is extremely well done.

I was a little bit surprised how little English is spoken especially in what I would have thought were big tourist areas. I spend a lot of time in SE Asia where communication with English is fairly easy. At least signage is in English in most places.

I only ended up visiting one palace as they all seemed pretty similar. I bought the pass that gets you into all of them since it was so cheap (10000 won), but in the end only used in one place. I left it at the Airbnb in case some one else could use it since it's good for 3 months.

Seoul N Tower was a little disappointing. Partly that was due to the haze in the air which really limited visibility. I probably should have gone later in the day.

I did visit the new Lotte World Tower observation deck which opened the day before my visit. Rather expensive, but I am a sucker for those things. Again it was pretty hazy but once it got dark the city lights view was OK. The windows were pretty filthy on the outside though which made photos even more difficult. Not sure it was worth 27000 won.

The cherry blossoms were just getting started around Seokchon Lake so that was a nice sight in the same neighborhood as LWT. Some nice night time photos with the tower reflected in the lake.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza was awesome and probably my favorite place. It was like visiting the future. Lots of great photos there. Too bad the building's pretty much empty on the inside.

Tons of cops downtown. There was a big pro-Park demo one day so the police with shields and riot gear were out in force including the subway stations downtown. It was a little disconcerting.

The National Museum is great and free for the permanent collection. I went there on a rainy day for a few hours. There's a tunnel almost the entire way from Ichon station to the museum. It was nice to learn a bit about Korean history. The collection has enough interpretation in English.

The whole city seems to be composed of coffee stores, convenience stores and steak houses. I was also surprised that the shopping mall concept as practiced in other places seemed foreign there. Having just spent a week in Bangkok which is nothing but shopping malls it seemed odd.

All in all I really enjoyed the city. Did a ton of walking.
Wow, reading your report sounds eerily similar to a recent trip I had At least with respect to the protests and such. I also loved DDP! The LED rose garden at night is such a treat. Seoul tower was also hazy when I was there (probably 2pm-5pm). Overall I just really liked the ambiance. Did you check out the Han river? There are some nice views, but I'm not sure which is the best park to visit. I went to the park south of the Ichon Station, not sure where that ranks among them.

What kind of airbnb were you in and how much was the rate?

Also, I just found out that the AREX tickets are more than half of with a KE boarding pass. That would have been nice if I had known that ahead of time
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Old Apr 14, 17, 6:11 am
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How many days was that? I'll be there for 4 days in late June for my first time. travelling alone with no Korean language knowledge. Should be interesting
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Old Apr 14, 17, 6:35 am
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Originally Posted by eeflyer View Post
Wow, reading your report sounds eerily similar to a recent trip I had At least with respect to the protests and such. I also loved DDP! The LED rose garden at night is such a treat. Seoul tower was also hazy when I was there (probably 2pm-5pm). Overall I just really liked the ambiance. Did you check out the Han river? There are some nice views, but I'm not sure which is the best park to visit. I went to the park south of the Ichon Station, not sure where that ranks among them.

What kind of airbnb were you in and how much was the rate?

Also, I just found out that the AREX tickets are more than half of with a KE boarding pass. That would have been nice if I had known that ahead of time
I went to the Banpo Bridge for the "rainbow fountain" show one evening. It was a little underwhelming but worth doing. The floating island buildings that are all lit up at night next to the bridge were really cool.

And I went to the Yeouido park by the river to see more cherry blossoms and the legislature building on my last day.

This is the Airbnb I stayed at. I think I paid something like $70/night.
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Old Apr 14, 17, 6:28 pm
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Originally Posted by niehaubs View Post
How many days was that? I'll be there for 4 days in late June for my first time. travelling alone with no Korean language knowledge. Should be interesting
I was there 3 days. Also alone with no Korean language. It's not bad at all. Most places have signs with English on them. Food wise, there's always pictures you can point at

Originally Posted by glennaa11 View Post
I went to the Banpo Bridge for the "rainbow fountain" show one evening. It was a little underwhelming but worth doing. The floating island buildings that are all lit up at night next to the bridge were really cool.

And I went to the Yeouido park by the river to see more cherry blossoms and the legislature building on my last day.

This is the Airbnb I stayed at. I think I paid something like $70/night.
Okay cool, I'll look into Banpo bridge. The photos on google look nice, but long exposure pictures don't always translate to what is seen in real life, haha.

Is Yeouido park the one that stretches from the bridge away from the river? Or the one that runs along along the riverbanks? I was thinking of renting a bike and doing the loop around Yeouido. Would you recommend that?

That one looks nice and not a bad rate at all.

Thanks for your reply and sorry to any native speakers for any misspellings in the romanization!
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