In the words of Post Malone, “She just wanna do it for the 'Gram”.
There is an abundance of creativity running through South Korea’s capital city, and as a first-time visitor to Seoul, I was beyond inspired. The amount of thought and detail that goes into everything from storefronts to baked goods is a photographer’s dream, and it doesn’t end there. Beyond the bright neon lights and Instagrammable cafes lie 22 National Parks, five grand palaces, and a population of over 10 million. Whatever your reason for visiting this bustling epicenter, here is a list of the most picture-perfect sights to spark your creativity and wanderlust.
While Seoul’s internationally renowned museums may draw a crowd, do yourself a favor and replace the sterile cavernous rooms with a walk down any one of Seoul’s enchanting streets. The buildings on 16, Apgujeong-ro 56-gil in Gangnam-gu are adorned with stunning murals that just might help you forget they painted over 5 Pointz in Queens. These art installations and colorful murals are transforming Seoul’s mundane neighborhoods into vibrant and magical works of art. Gangnam may be known for its designer stores and upscale restaurants, but skip the large price tags to find the flourishing art scene. The art here could inspire even those who claim they are without an artistic bone in their body.
Love it or hate it, shopping is one of the top reasons to visit Seoul. Beyond the fluorescent lighting that quickly has you calling your esthetician, there’s something about shopping in Seoul that won’t have you reaching for a Xanax. For starters, the Myeongdong neighborhood is bursting with such colorful signage, gorgeous typography, and stylish locals that you won’t even notice the number of other shoppers you have to dodge. For all your skincare and cosmetic needs, Nature Republic has you covered. From bee venom toner to snail secretion masks, this beauty brand exhibits natural ingredients from around the world in a kaleidoscope of packaging. Just around the corner is Artbox Myeongdong. Known for its unique designs and candy-colored stationery, Artbox is your go-to for adorable Korean gifts and goodies.
INSIDER TIPPhoto tip: hold your camera over your head to shoot above the crowd and focus on the shop’s candy-colored signage.
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If palaces and crowds are your thing, then Gyeongbokgung Palace is the one to see. Gyeongbokgung is the largest of the five grand palaces and located in northern Seoul. The Courtyard Seoul Botanic Park acts as a great jumping off point being centrally located and commutable on public transportation in just under an hour. Take advantage of the early morning or late afternoon light to get that perfect shot and be historically satisfied without having to deal with the midday tour bus crowds or flat lighting.
Seoul’s Best Party Pad
You’ll need a place to crash, and more importantly, party. If you’re traveling with a crew, the Four Points by Sheraton Gangnam offers penthouse suites that rival your favorite five-star hotels. Book the Penthouse Partyroom and get your camera ready for the 23rd-floor views that highlight this gem. Rainy day? No worries! The reflection of the rain puddling in from the open-air ceiling makes for some dramatic shots to spice up your Instagram feed.
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There’s a reason why people with Instagram are flocking to Seoul. Hidden down narrow streets are Seoul’s most popular hangouts. Even for those who hate social media, these one-of-a-kind cafes will have you reaching for your phone and snapping the too-cute-to-eat sweets and magical interior spaces. The minute you step into these caffeinated art installations you’ll find yourself selfie crazy. One of the most photogenic coffee shops, Stylenanda’s Pink Pool Café is at the top of every fashion girl’s bucket list. Make your way to the fourth floor of Stylenanda’s Hongdae branch and prepare yourself for pink overload. Sip on a green tea latte and dive into a Candyland-inspired pastry while you plan out the most picture-perfect, pastel-colored Insta-story. Something a little less cutesy and more out of the ordinary is Seoul’s YND239-20. Like walking into a real-life comic-strip, cafe YND239-20 is an illustrator’s dream come true.
If pink cafes aren’t your thing, maybe you’ll be more interested in Seoul’s recently-entered craft beer scene. Once a wasteland of light, mass-produced beers, the past five years have seen an explosion of beer aficionados. With the sudden rise in popularity, it’s no longer difficult to find a quality pour. Four Points’ Best Brews Around the World features local beer with a program dedicated to selecting and showcasing brews specific to a particular property. Included in the offerings at the Four Points in Gangnam are the sweet and smooth Dancing Cow Milk Stout as well as the crisp and citrusy Great God of Fun Red Ale from The Booth Brewing Co. And, without surprising anyone, the branding is adorable.
INSIDER TIPPhoto tip: Snap a few shots of the ridiculously cute logos before you start chugging these delicious brews down. There’s nothing worse than looking at a series of photos taken after your fourth pint.
Kill two birds with one stone–freak out your followers while satisfying your hunger. There’s no denying that Seoul has some of the world’s best street food, and with row upon row of food stalls, you’ll have your fair share of options. From the crimson red kidneys to the glowing live seafood, venture in with an empty stomach and an open mind and fill up that empty SD card. Myeongdong is a great neighborhood for sampling.
It’s rare to jump on a subway and be in a National Park in under an hour. Bukhansan National Park is a hiker’s dream, offering breathtaking scenery and challenging rocky terrain. Mix in some K-Pop and soju and enter the Eastern-hiking scene. Slightly different than Western hiking, it’s more of a social event than anything. Among the endless hiking options, the park is known for its multiple Buddhist temples, massive granite peaks, magnificent pines, cold mountain streams, and over 1,000 species of plants and animals.
Take advantage of Seoul’s thriving coffee culture before diving into the capital cities most popular nightlife hotspots. If you’re looking for something with a warehouse atmosphere, head to Itaewon and seek out Beton Brut. With an impressive Funktion-One sound system, this underground gem is most popular with the locals after 1 am. A little less rustic and the more charming option is Seoul’s Glam Lounge. The extravagant interior makes way for high ceilings and a horseshoe-shaped bar making everything and everyone seem a little more approachable. But be fair warned this lavish nightclub comes attached to a somewhat strict dress-code. While photography is usually frowned upon in the club, try to be covert with your iPhone if you really need to tell the world what celebrity you rubbed shoulders with. And, if you happen to stumble into a world-class club with panoramic views, you’ll be happy you stashed your point & shoot in the bottom of your bag.