Whether you are an international student studying abroad, a student at a Korean University, or a college student on vacation, Seoul has so much to offer in terms of entertainment and culture. While I was studying abroad at Yonsei University, I had the opportunity to explore many parts of Seoul with the friends that I met at the university.
Note: Although I specifically gear this article towards college students because I experienced these cities while studying abroad, the destinations that I mention are worth visiting regardless of whether you are a college student or not.
I recommend a visit to Hongdae, also known as Hongik University Street (홍대), because of the city’s vibrant and youthful personality. Hongdae is home to hip cafes, unique fashion shops, skincare stores, art galleries, norebangs (karaoke), and a large selection of bars and clubs. During the day, the city is a wonderful place to explore because of the street performers, dining options, and streets filled with places to shop. Although Hongdae can get crowded at times, the crowds of college students adds to the youthful and playful vibe that it emits. A unique attraction that I would highly recommend to visitors of all ages would be the Trickeye Museum, an interactive art gallery that allows visitors to take pictures with the art pieces. In addition to entry into the museum itself, paying for admission includes one trip to the Ice Museum and Carnival Street (which is perfect for kids). I went to the museum with a gorup of three and had a blast taking photos of the art pieces. I would definitely recommend the museum for any Instagram lover.
At night, Hongdae transforms and becomes a premiere spot for those seeking to experience the Korean party culture (while on a budget). During the weekends, my friends and I would go to Hongdae at night to barhop and club with other students. Most partygoers would start the night off at a bar at around 11PM, and would later go to a club after a few drinks. For those hoping to experience nightlife in Korea, I would highly recommend going clubbing in Hongdae. In contrast to the clubs in the United States (where most people would leave the clubs at around 2am or 3am), Koreans stay at the club until 6am or 7am. A couple locals mentioned to me that leaving the club to catch the subway (when it reopens at 5am) was “normal” and “pretty much assumed when one goes to a club”. When I first heard this, I thought it was insane. But after partying several times in Hongdae, I realized that it was the truth.
Itaewon is dubbed the “foreigner part” of Seoul, and is the best destination to see the diversity in South Korea. The cuisine and shops at Itaewon take inspiration from (or are run by) people of different cultures. For foreigners, a visit to Itaewon allows them to see a Korean twist to the cultures that they are familiar with. For those seeking to experience the party culture in Korea, the nightlife in Itaewon is something that must be experienced. This city is known for its large variety of clubs and bars that are foreigner friendly. There are clubs that are more high-end, and clubs that are more fit for people on a budget. I would recommend a visit to Itaewon shortly after arriving in Korea. Because the city is so foreigner friendly, it will help ease foreigners
Ewha Womans University
I would definitely recommend a trip to Ewha Womans University (and the streets in Ewha) for people who are looking for an affordable place to shop for clothes and skincare. Ewha is near several other universities, so it is often crowded with college students after they finish up classes. For women, the clothes at Ewha are both cheap and stylish. The individual boutiques are adorable, and I would definitely recommend visiting several of them. There are also many popular skincare and beauty stores, such as the Face Shop, Etude House, Tony Moly, Holika Holika, and others. This street is also known for being a good and cheap place for trendy haircuts.
After shopping around at the streets by Ewha University, I recommend visiting the university itself. The architecture at Ewha is modern and breathtaking. Because the campus is relatively small, one hour would be sufficient time for sightseeing at the university.
Myeongdong is a popular location for all tourists and is known for its shopping, restaurants, and street food. The street food at night in Myeongdong is delicious, although slightly overpriced. In additional to traditional Korean street food, there are also several dessert option, such as Korean style Taiyaki with honey comb and green tea ice cream. Myeongdong has various animal cafes, where visitors can buy a drink and be surrounded by adorable pets. Although dog and cat cafes are the most common, there are cafes for hedgehogs, bunnies, and other animals as well. In Myeongdong, I visited a dog cafe with a close friend and had a wonderful time fighting for the attention of the cutest dogs.
The inside of a dog cafe
Sinchon is a street filled with a variety of shopping and food options for people of all ages. On the weekends, there are usually events or street performers that sing, dance, or perform magic shows. Because Sinchon was right across the street from Yonsei University, I was able to visit Sinchon almost every day for the six weeks that I lived in the dorms. On the main street, there is a large department store, several skincare stores, and coffee shops and cute cafes. The side “back streets” of Sinchon are worth visiting if you’re looking for a restaurant, kbbq options, unique cafes, and bars.
Sinchon has a very special place in my heart (and all the friends that I studied at Yonsei with) because it is a city that has such a tranquil and warm vibe. Although there isn’t anything remarkably spectacular about Sinchon at first glance, a couple visits there will convince you that there is something special about the city that can’t be described. I definitely recommend eating a meal or two in the backstreets of Sinchon after sightseeing at Yonsei University, which has beautiful architecture.