Seoul is no doubt one of the hottest places to visit in Asia recently with the rise of the Hallyu Wave (K-pop, anyone?) and K-Beauty trends. But while you fangirl over your favourite idols (ahem, BTS) and visit all the spots where K-dramas were filmed, there are also a ton of other sights to see and things to experience in Seoul. Going to Seoul alone? Here are some top places to visit and things to do for fashion, beauty, wellness and food as a solo female traveller in the city:
Underground shopping centres are where the gold of Korean fashion is buried. They are all around Seoul, usually linked to metro stations. They sell trendy clothes and a wide range of accessories. See a top that you would like to buy at a retail store in Myeongdong? You can probably find it cheaper here. Experience fast paced transactions with Korean ahjummas as they take your money in one hand and hand you your clothes in another. Get lost in shops down long corridors, looking for the best deal. You might need to sit down afterwards (don’t worry, there are restaurants tucked at the back just for this purpose), but you will find good quality clothes for the best prices here!
Dongdaemun: District of Peak Korean Fashion
Another option for those looking for current trends in Seoul is the Dongdaemun district. It is home to the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), where Seoul Fashion Week is held every year. DDP houses a fashion mall showcasing Korean designers. Enjoy unique artistic pieces, or check out subtler pieces for everyday wear. If you can’t get enough of shopping after visiting DDP, there are a few malls within walking distance, such as Lotte FitIn and Designer Club. A full day of shopping in this area will definitely satisfy the shopaholic in you!
Tip: If you happen to visit Seoul during Seoul Fashion Week, DDP is the perfect place to go! There will be a lot of photoshoots outside the Plaza, and you might come across celebrities attending shows!
Get a hair makeover at a Korean salon
Consider a change of hairstyle when you travel to Seoul alone! Try going for a trendy ash coloured look, or a muted blue purple balayage, the options are quite literally, endless. A lot of salons welcome foreigners nowadays. Another plus is that some stylists can actually speak English, so you can steal some hairstyling and hair care tips from them as they transform your hair. Stylists will curl and style your hair before you leave, so if you’re going to a snap-worthy location afterwards, it’s a definite win for you. An extra plus for K-pop and K-drama fans is that you might run into a celebrity at the salon!
Tip: Make sure to book an appointment online beforehand and prepare a picture of your desired style, just so that the stylists know what you’re going for!
Attend a K-Beauty makeup class
Interested in how Koreans achieve ‘that glow’ on their face while looking like they have no makeup on? You can take a makeup class while you’re here! A lot of beauty salons and famous makeup artists offer classes on how to achieve the signature Korean look. Another good thing about taking a class is that you’ll be meeting new people! Whether they’re a traveler like you or a Seoul local, you’re bound to make new friends. A studio that we recommend is the Jung Saem Mool Art & Academy. Jung Saem Mool is one of the leading makeup artists in Korea, having been the first to create the ‘transparent makeup’ look. She also has her own makeup line, so you can pick up a few products after your class and recreate the looks that you learnt!
Visiting Seoul alone to reset, refresh and relax? Then this option is for you! Treat yourself to a top quality facial in a spa opened by premium Korean beauty brands. If you have been following K-Beauty for a while, Sulwashoo is a name familiar to you. They have two spas in Seoul, the Sulwashoo Spa and the Sulwashoo Balance Spa, both offering premium treatments with their products inspired by Korean herbal medicine with balancing and anti-aging benefits. If you already use their sheet masks in your skincare routine, this facial treatment is the level up you need. Another spa that we highly recommend is the Whoo Spa Nonhyeon, which uses products from (you guessed it) The history of Whoo, which uses ancient recipes from Korean royals in their skincare products. It’s obvious to say, but you are going to be treated like a queen (which is what Whoo means in Korean, by the way) during your facial. Bonus: You’ll also get free samples of their products as an aftercare package, so all the better!
Get a Red Ginseng spa treatment at SPA 1899
Your mom and your aunties might have told you to get them Red Ginseng supplements and skincare products from Seoul, but why not experience the detoxifying properties this magic root yourself? SPA 1899 is the place to go! The spa uses the famous Cheong Kwan Jang Red Ginseng in their treatments, from the 1899 Signature Oil in your facial or massage to the cup of ginseng tea you drink while waiting. The spa offers a range of packages, like a facial focus treatment or a premium full body treatment for three hours (includes a facial, full body, foot and head massage). In any case, you will definitely be getting the all beautifying properties of this prized plant, and leave the spa with soft and silky skin.
Going for a stylish brunch in Yeonnam-dong
Nothing is more classy than going for a fancy brunch or afternoon tea in some place grand like a hotel. Why not go for a trendy alternative when you travel alone? Yeonnam-dong is a great place for brunch, and near the popular district Hongdae. Here are some of my top recommendations: Sarr, a tea room that serves fluffy souffle pancakes dusted with icing sugar and roasted bananas (I also recommend the matcha one, yum!), and Grain – a cafe that serves Nordic and Danish style brunches that serves breakfast trays with five little plates of breakfast favourites such as eggs, homemade bread and avocado. Get your phone camera ready, as you would definitely want to snap pics of your food!
Experience lunch like a Korean royal
Han-jeongsik (한정식) is a Korean style table d’hote, a full course meal enjoyed by royals. And you have the chance to try it yourself in Seoul! Jihwaja is a restaurant that serves truly authentic Korean royal cuisine. Jihwaja finds its roots from Hwang Hye-seong, a Royal Culinary Art Master who learnt her craft from the last cook of the Joseon dynasty. Selected into the Michelin Guide in 2017, it is without a doubt a must go when you visit Seoul! There is a weekday lunch special, which would be perfect for a solo traveller such as yourself! Another thing that I appreciate about Jinhwaja is that they adjust their menu to suit your dietary requirements, should you have any. Bon appétit!