Things to Do on a Fall-Winter Trip to Korea: Myeongdong Cathedral, N Seoul Tower, Myeongdong Street, Cosme Road

Day 5 was our last full day in Korea, the day when the building excitement quickly descended to panicky depression with the very sharp knowledge that this happy trip is ending. It is the perfect day, therefore, for a full day exploring Myeongdong.

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  1. Sunday English mass. Our hostel B My Guesthouse is in Myeongdong, one of the main tourism capital districts of Seoul. This means that we were surrounded with worthy, traveler-friendly spots on all sides, from Namsan Park, to Nanta Theater, to Lotte Town and Nandaemun Market. Given limited time, we had to pick our battles, starting the Sunday right with a 9am English mass at Myeongdong Cathedral. We trotted down the hill, crossed underground at the subway station and exited at the other side of the street, walking straight for about 10 minutes to get to the cathedral, standing proud at the mouth of one of the streets in Myeongdong’s shopping district.

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  2. Love locked at N Seoul TowerAfter mass, we crossed the street again, going back from whence we came and climbed up to the Namsan cable car, just a few meters past Namsam Guesthouse 5. Climbing a steep slope for 10 minutes at 10 degrees is a very curious experience for the lungs and the stitch at my side. I suggest make a quick trot up the incline and try to stop laughing at some joke your companion told, so you get through the exercise faster. The round trip cable car ride was KRW8500, the most expensive option to get to N Seoul Tower, given you can also take the bus or walk the entire way if you have the stamina for it. Now the cable car ride isn’t as fun as you would think. It is like riding the MRT on a rush hour, with every one standing inside the small car will just enough space for breathing. The sights are spectacular though, so try to get a standing spot near the glass windows. That trip lasted only a few minutes, then we got off and walked a few more steps up to the foot of N Seoul Tower. You can already spend a good few hours here, watching free performances on the deck and going around the many Christmas trees and benches adorned and heaving with love locks. If you forgot to bring your own lock (available at your friendly neighborhood convenience store), you can find these for sale here. They also have love tiles that you can also purchase, a more personalized version of the locks since you can stick your couple picture here and write something (like R&L forever+ever) before you have it immortalized on the walls. The tower itself is an observatory which you can access for KRW9000. It had the usual trimmings of an observation deck, though I felt it was lacking compared to Macau Tower and Jin Mao Tower, as both are quite bigger and more spacious. However, N Seoul boasted of the fancy revolving restaurant n. Grill, a Western style setting led by a Michelin star chef, and therefore requiring a same standard budget. Orders go from KRW60000+. Other tower restaurants HanCook and The Place Dining also had heightened price points, so when lunch bells rang we took our cable car trip back and found solace at the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall.

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  3. On the loose at Cosme Road. After lunch, it was time to consult the shopping list/s and let loose in Myeongdong’s Cosme Road. Fondly named such since it was a labyrinth of cosmetic stores left and right, with names like Etude House, The Face Shop, Missha, the Saem, Nature Republic, It’s Skin and so much more sprouting several branches at every turn. Competition is fierce here, so expect sales ladies to be out in the cold, hollering cheerfully for you to come in, shouting out their store promotions, and waving a little metal basket with a free gift that she will hand over to you just for stepping over the threshold. During our visit, all the free gifts happened to be boxes of flat cotton, so we had quite an impressive stock to bring home. The cosmetic store line up is often alternated by clothing boutiques such as Forever21, Basic House, SPAO, b and also by restaurants and cafes, including of course Starbucks. In the middle of the street you have an orderly array of street food sellers as well as clothing merchants, peddling their proudly Made in Korea goods for cheap (KRW10000-20000 is the usual range). Stores would have funky pop music blasting from their speakers at every turn, shoppers walking around with their carrier bags and coffee tumblers. It was good as a street party and the vibe was contagious. It makes it almost guilt-free to slip out your credit card again and again and again.
  4. Special bulletin: tax refund. As with most countries now, Korea rewards shopping-happy travelers with tax refunds. If you purchase at least the minimum amount (KRW50000 in my experience), you can ask for the tax refund receipt, which you can then claim at the airport.
  5. The wrap up. We spent Day 6 morning cafe-hopping near our hostel, going to Holly’s Coffee for breakfast and Twosome Cafe for some cake, before heading back for final packing. We asked the hostel to book us a shuttle to the airport, and they gladly arranged a 9:20am pickup for us, costing only KRW12000 per person. Not bad for a hassle-free ride. We arrived at the airport at a little past 10am, and got through the tax refund process, baggage check in, immigration, and last minute Duty Free purchase just in time for the first boarding call of our 12:55 flight. Sadness set in the moment we were settling on the plane. I thought maybe I shouldn’t compute the total cost of the trip anymore so I won’t fee even sadder, but the Excel file was ready and all. So I’m sharing the damage to you. See below:
Total cost, breakdown
Air Asia round trip      10,380.00
B My GuestHouse         8,906.39
Korean visa         1,500.00
Thermals, winter clothes         6,350.00
Subway            561.70
Tours/entrance fees/bus/taxi         4,942.20
Food         6,819.33
Shopping      22,081.42


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