Welcome to our METRO series: a guide that aims to take you on a journey through Seoul, in both a figurative and literal sense, using the metro as your map.
The Seoul Metro has been consistently voted one of the best transport systems around the world. This is due to a number of factors including its frequent service, cleanliness, low cost and general ease of use. It’s no surprise then, that when travelling around Seoul, the metro is the easiest and best way to travel, especially for first time visitors.
In this series, we’ll be covering our six favourite lines and how you can utilize them as an easy itinerary. In our first edition, we’re covering the wide expanse of Line Two and all it has to offer. Starting from the east, we’ll take you on a metro journey travelling through central Seoul, over to the west. Then, finally, we’ll finish up in southern Seoul, showing you the best places to sightsee, eat, and shop along the way.
First things first; in order to get your hands on a subway map, the best and easiest way is to download the ‘Subway Korea’ app from the Apple or Google Play store. This app is the most widely used and the most easily understood among all Seoul metro apps. It has options to change the language to English, Korean, Chinese and Japanese for ease of use. It also has greater functionality allowing you to give a starting station and end station, and it will let you know the fastest route along with the cost. In general most metro lines in Seoul begin their service at 5:30am and finish around midnight, but the app will let you know the first and last train time for your specific journey.
In order to ride the metro you will need to purchase a single use ticket or a T-money card. The single use ticket can be purchased from machines within the station. The machines have English options so they’re easy to use. You simply tell it your final destination and it will give you a ticket. You will need to pay a 500 won deposit which you can get refunded once you return the ticket at your final destination. Simply look for the machine called ‘Deposit Refund Device’ (보증금 환급기), give your ticket to the machine and it will issue your refund. However, if you are travelling around Seoul for a day or more, it’s highly recommended that you purchase a T-money card. The T-money card can be purchased inside the station at vending machines or at any convenience store. The card can be recharged inside the station at the same machine used to purchase tickets, or at any convenience store. The card costs 2,500 won for a basic one or if you are looking for a card with your favourite idols on, it will cost 4,000 won. The benefit of the card is that every journey is 100 won less than with a ticket. You can also use the T-money card when travelling on the bus or taking a taxi, or even use it to pay inside convenience stores.
A single journey on the Seoul metro costs 1,350 won or 1,250 with T-money. If your journey is more than 10km it will cost an extra 100 won every 5km. Then, if your journey is over 50km, an extra 100 won is charged every 8km. Transferring between lines is free (excluding The Airport Railroad Line (AREX) and Sinbundang Line).
Travel tip: With a T-money card, you can also transfer to a bus for free as well.
Hongik University Station (홍대입구역)
Once you have your T-money card you’re all set and ready to explore Seoul. Starting from Incheon Airport and taking The Airport Railroad (AREX) (공항철도) you can easily reach our first recommended stop ‘Hongik University’ (홍대입구역). The area surrounding called ‘Hongdae’ (홍대) is known as the youthful heart of Seoul. Due to the nearby university, the streets are filled with students, cafes and shops. On a Friday and Saturday night the main streets of Hongdae come alive with many street performers singing and dancing. Hongdae shopping street is located just a few meters away from the metro station and is one of the best places in Seoul to find the latest trendy clothes at cheaper prices.
Hongdae is the home of the themed cafe. You can find sheep cafes, meerkat cafes, flower cafes, craft cafes and many more. You only have to stroll around Hongdae for a few minutes before you find one. We recommend ‘Thanks Nature Cafe’ (땡스네이쳐카페) also known as the sheep cafe. Not only does this themed cafe have the most adorable sheep for you to meet and pet, it also offers a great selection of drinks and desserts. The owner of the cafe is very kind and welcoming, and despite the huge popularity of the cafe, he still has time to make every customer feel personally welcome.
Located a short distance from Hongdae is the famous Ehwa Women’s University (이화여자대학교). The university itself has a very interesting architectural design, making it a great photo taking spot. Aside from the university, the surrounding areas are home to streets filled with cosmetics shops. You can often find special deals in this area that you won’t find elsewhere making a must visit for anyone looking to stock up on some Korean cosmetics. Hongik University station is located on Line 2, AREX and The Yongsan Line, making it easy to reach the next stop on our list.
Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station (동대문역사문화공원역)
Getting back on Line 2 from Hongik University Station (홍대입구역) or Ehwa Women’s University Station (이대역) you can ride the metro to our next stop Dongdaemun History & Culture Park (동대문역사문화공원역). This stop is often referred to as DDP for Dongdaemun Design Plaza. DDP is a huge exhibition space with a uniquely designed building. The building itself is completely silver and features huge elongated curves, giving it a very futuristic feel. DDP is the site of Seoul’s yearly fashion week, and has become something of a trendy fashion mecca.
Beyond the confines of the building you’ll find the DDP LED Rose Garden. Each evening at sunset, a huge sea of LED roses light up, painting the DDP with a distinct and mesmeric glow to give your evening a romantic and magical feel.
Leaving DDP on the north side will take you directly to Cheonggyecheon (청계천), a stream flowing 10km through northern Seoul. The stream was part of a huge urban renewal program in 2005, and is now a beautiful place to walk at night, with many plants and resting spots along it. The area is surprisingly quiet and there are some sections that have stepping stones across the stream, making the whole area feel like a hidden grotto in the centre of a busy city.
Konkuk University Station (건대입구역)
From Dongdaemun History & Culture Park (동대문역사문화공원역) you can take Line 2 to reach Konkuk University Station (건대입구역), the next stop on our list.
The station is located right next to ‘Common Ground’. Common Ground is a shopping centre created from old shipping containers. The containers have been joined up to create a unique setting with many independent shops selling handmade gifts and clothes.
Nearby to Konkuk University Station lies Ttukseom Han River Park. From the park there are great views across the Han River, and many Koreans gather here in the spring and autumn months to have picnics. To the west of Konkuk University Station lies Seoul Forest (서울숲), one of Seoul’s largest parks. The park consists of many themed gardens and is free to enter, so it’s definitely worth taking a stroll around if the weather is not too hot.
Jamsil Station (잠실역)
Taking Line 2 four stops further, you will arrive at Jamsil Station (잠실역), the next stop on our list. Jamsil is the home of the famous Lotte Tower. Lotte Tower is the tallest building in South Korea, and the fifth tallest building in the world.
In fact, it’s easy to spot Lotte Tower from almost anywhere in Seoul. The tower itself is filled with shops, restaurants and galleries all spread out over 123 floors. At 500m up the tower lies Seoul Sky, Korea’s highest observation deck. The glass flooring and walls of the observation deck give you a full 360 degree view across Seoul. Tickets for Seoul Sky cost 27,000 won and can be purchased on the day or 14 days in advance online.
Right next to the tower you will find Lotte World (롯데월드), one of the biggest theme parks in Korea. Lotte World is divided up into two main sections; Lotte World Adventure and Magic Island. Lotte World Adventure (롯데월드 어드벤처) is the indoor part of Lotte World, and is actually the largest indoor theme park in the world. Magic Island makes up the rest of Lotte World’s huge 128,246 m2 of land, and is the outdoor part of the park. There are rides, an ice rink, a folk museum, parades, shops and many other things inside Lotte World, you can easily spend a whole day there. Tickets cost 54,000 won for the whole day or 43,000 won if you enter after 4pm. The park is open until 10pm so in order to beat the crowds and save money, we would recommend taking the after 4pm option if you can.
Gangnam Station (강남역)
Continuing on Line 2 you can reach the final stop on our list, Gangnam Station (강남역). Unlike other stops on our list, you don’t even need to leave the station to find things to do in Gangnam. The station itself is situated within a giant underground shopping centre where you will find many clothes, accessory, electronics and cosmetics shops.
If you do eventually leave the station after all the shopping, you will find yourself in the centre of Gangnam, the third largest and wealthiest part of Seoul. The buildings in Gangnam consist of huge skyscrapers and the streets are wide, which is very different from the narrow winding streets of northern Seoul. Despite the modern metropolitan feel of Gangnam, you can still experience a taste of tradition. At the eastern end of Gangnam you will find Bongeunsa Temple (봉은사), a Buddhist temple founded in 794.
Climbing the temple gives an amazing view of southern Seoul in a peaceful temple setting. If you’re lucky enough to visit at the time of Buddha’s birthday you will see thousands of coloured lanterns line the temple, making it even more beautiful.
So if you’re visiting Seoul, why not take our Metro Guide to aid you on your travels. With the simplicity of Seoul’s metro and its wealth of attractions along the way, it’s worth using the metro as your map, and to unlock all the wealth that Seoul has to offer.
Be sure to look out for our next edition where we’ll be covering another line for you to explore!
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