Seongbuk-dong is a wealthy neighborhood in the north of Seoul. Countless embassies can be found in this area, which is hence populated by many foreigners. It’s certainly a very nice and fancy neighborhood, but it also contains many cultural sites worth a visit.
One of those is Hyehwamun Gate, one of four gates in the fortress wall of Seoul. Quite a few sections of that wall still remain (or have been rebuilt), so you can take hikes alongside them. This gate can serve as a starting point, but I didn’t have time to go for a hike here. In general, I highly recommend these hikes alongside the fortress walls, like the one I took at Inwangsan mountain.
The area is quite hilly in general, so be prepared for a bit of exertion while strolling around. This in turn also gives you some great views over the area. There are also many beautiful and traditional houses.
Usually, I just like to go with the flow and walk around aimlessly and see where I end up. It’s usually something worthwhile, like this little temple. Nothing mindblowing, but still a cool place to check out. And you’re basically gonna trip over stuff like that constantly while traversing Seoul.
Who’s a good boy? Most certainly this guy:
A big highlight was Gilsangsa temple. I’ve talked about my love of Korean temples at length before, so I’ll keep it short. They are fantastic, and you should visit as many of them as you can. And Gilsangsa is certainly one of the nicer ones.
Finally, I briefly need to talk about buses. When talking to a fellow student who had already been to Korea multiple times, I was advised to always take the subway if possible and to avoid buses. In general, I agree with this sentiment. The subway is extremely convenient, pleasant (excluding rush hour traffic), and efficient. The buses…less so. They’re not that bad, but the rides can be a bit rough at times, especially if you have to stand. On top of that, it’s certainly more difficult to find the bus stops and to figure out which bus to take where, especially if you’re a foreigner. However, they’re not that bad, really. You just have to get used to it, make sure not to forget to check your T-Money card again when exiting (you will get billed the maximum fare if you don’t), and get used to stuff like the doors already opening while the bus is still driving full steam.
On my travel through Seongbuk-dong however, I had a pretty special bus experience. I was back at the starting point of my journey after a pretty long and arduous excursion, but realized I had missed one big attraction. I figured I could quickly head on a bus and get there. And I didn’t get on any regular bus. Instead, I caught one of these adorable mini buses:
They are about six feet tall and have a dozen seats, if that. The ride through the quite hilly and rural area felt more like a rollercoaster ride than a regular bus trip. And of course I misread the bus schedule and it didn’t lead me anywhere close to where I wanted to go. After about 15 rocky minutes, I was back at the starting point once again. But to be honest, this bus ride was probably twice as interesting and thrilling as the place I wanted to visit anyway. Hence, while I would definitely recommend taking the subway if possible, taking the bus can also be a pretty interesting experience at times.