Travelers' Tales Seoul articleTo the casual observer, Seoul might be easy to stereotype as nothing more than an entertainment machine. After all, it’s the birthplace of koreanovelas (which are subbed and dubbed in various languages from Tagalog to French), K-pop stars (who now embark on sold-out world tours), and the LSS-inducing hit, “Gangnam Style” (you know, the one with a billion views on Youtube). A good chunk of tourists, in fact, are fans drawn to the South Korean capital because of this so-called “Hallyu wave.”

But while trekking to K-drama filming spots, seeing your favorite acts in concert, and celeb-spotting in the Myeongdong shopping district comes with the city’s allure, it most certainly isn’t confined to that. Beneath the glitzy, showbiz exterior lies an older, even grander Seoul, which quietly soldiers on thanks to meticulous preservation. With its royal palaces, quaint traditional villages, and local watering holes clustered around the Han River, the city presents a heady juxtaposition of history and hipness.

Last summer, I spent a week-long holiday in Seoul with a friend—my first time in Korea and its celebrated capital. Maybe it was the cultural splendor, the glorious cityscape—maybe it was the unexpected air of romance—in any case, I must admit that the place hooked me in. In fact, I’m heading back for seconds this year, and I can’t wait!

Below is my travel diary from Summer 2012. It details all the exploring we did at must-see landmarks and the blending-in we mastered at less touristy nooks. Take these suggestions for a great Seoul experience—before you know it, you’ll be saying “annyeong” to your next trip!

(Photos by Stephanie Castillo and Anina Favis; in-article photo taken at Bukchon Hanok Village)

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