Discover true Gangnam Style with this one-day itinerary — Photo courtesy of boldmagicpizza
Despite what a certain record-breaking music video would have you believe, you won't find horse stables or galloping pop stars in the Gangnam neighborhood of Seoul. This posh district is all about fashion, trendsetting and defining Seoul's cultural, financial and business future. Discover Gangnam's true style and experience modern Seoul with this one-day Gangnam itinerary.
COEX Mall — Photo courtesy of COEX
Start your day at COEX Mall, which touts itself as the largest underground shopping mall in Asia. Besides hundreds of Western-style stores, there are also dozens of restaurants and coffee shops where you can fuel up for the day. Don't spend too much time in the shops, though; instead, head to the back of the complex where you'll discover more than 40,000 sea creatures at COEX Aquarium.
Next door, the Pulmuone Kimchi Museum offers a look at the country's most iconic dish, as well as opportunities to join a kimchi-making class. Before you leave, stop by the massive Evans Music Store, where you can pick up a few CDs with the latest K-Pop hits.
Mireuk Daebul at Bongeunsa — Photo courtesy of Luke Hoagland
As you exit this mega mall, a large Buddha statue across the street might catch your eye. This Buddha, known as Mireuk Daebul, is the largest Buddha in Korea and depicts the Maitreya Buddha, who is fittingly the Buddha of the future. The statue watches over Bongeunsa, a 1,200-year-old temple and one of the largest temples in Seoul.
The temple includes several halls, thousands of Buddhist scriptures and roughly 10,000 devotees each day. On Thursdays, you can take part in a temple program which includes a tour, Zen meditation and tea ceremony. If you can't make it on a Thursday, English-speaking volunteers are available daily to guide you around the temple.
Bongeunsa Temple — Photo courtesy of Ivan Herman
After finding your inner calm, head to Garosu-gil, a street known for its rows of gingko trees and distinct, European atmosphere. Filled with quaint cafes, fusion restaurants, galleries and trend-setting boutiques, Garosu-gil is an eccentric, upscale mix of celebrity hot spots, artist studios and imported style. You could easily spend the afternoon people-watching from a two-story cafe or navigating winding side streets to discover untouched bakeries and boutiques.
But don't miss the charm of the main street. Work your way up Garosu-gil, picking up a few fashion finds and stopping for a fusion lunch along the way. Then, make your way to Serogu-sil, a street running parallel to Garosu-gil, filled with independent cafes, pop-up shops and quirky character.
There's plenty to do after dark in Seoul — Photo courtesy of doegox
As night falls across the city, head downtown to unwind, Gangnam style. By day, the area surrounding Gangnam Station is the city's financial and business center. By night, the neighborhood transforms into a lively district filled with restaurants, clubs and street vendors offering everything from greasy street food to the trendiest fashion accessories.
Restaurants burst from the city's streets, offering both Korean and international fare. Try a Korean barbecue restaurant for a true Gangnam-style dinner. These eateries are easy to spot with their wooden interiors, table-top grills and large metal tubes hanging overhead to vent the smoke.
After dinner, pop into a "hof" to drink with the locals as they unwind from a long day of work. After drinks, it's time to sing your cares away in a "noraebang," or singing room. Here, you'll unleash your vocal prowess on songs by artists spanning from Elvis to Lady Gaga.
Gangnam is also one of the liveliest spots in the city for clubbing and nightlife, if you're up for it. While public transportation stops around midnight, feel free to experience Gangnam style as late as you'd like--taxis are available all night long.