Our last day in Seoul was a free for all so I had made a list of a few places I wanted to see and kinda sorta challenged meself to get it all done in about 12 hours!

I convinced myself at the airport that I didn’t need a local sim, which in all honesty I really didn’t, BUT it would’ve come in handy here and there just because. During breakfast the morning of, I sat with my ickle pencil and notebook, googled station stops and directions, any hints from the online world really lol and off we went!

If you’re from Toronto, you already know how slightly lame our miskeen metro system is. It’s nothing compared to the likes of London or New York, and now Seoul lol a whole lot of colors and interchanges and English words on top of Korean symbols and super overwhelming to look at when you’re already a tad confused! On top of that no one appeared to be at the information booth underground and besides a map, 3 ticket machines and an entrance barrier, there wasn’t much third party assistance.

The machines themselves are helpful if you know where you want to go. They easily translate into English and sort your fare accordingly. I was hoping to grab a tourist pass or a day pass of some sort but obvs couldn’t ask anyone so not sure if one exists, but from my understanding you purchase one-way tickets to your stop or via your route which I’m aware is completely ridiculous for people who live there and there must be a system in place, but just in my experience I’ve got no clue! Your girl did the one-way one-way thing and it was fine; fares are also super cheap so #winwin ! Did mess up one time and barriers wouldn’t let me exit, but some nice elderly Korean men helped me jump over (their idea promise) and that was that!

First stop: Bukchon Hanok Village

  • Anguk Station (Subway line 3; dark orange line)

-take exit 2 and walk North (this is dumb I know but it might help; I hate when people use north/south/east/west because who blady uses that anymore) toward Bukchon-ro Street. Walk for about 10-20 minutes and you’ll begin to see traditional houses and tourist shops which also rent out traditional dresses for all your Instagram needs! (*rumor has it that if you dress up, you’re granted free entry into the palace..!)

The village itself isn’t really a ‘tourist’ attraction; it’s simply a residential area which houses hundreds of traditional houses called ‘hanoks’ that apparently date back to the Joseon Dynasty. The traditional essence and structure of the houses has been preserved whilst still current with signs of ‘the modern world’ lol and its quite interesting to see the contrast between the two; ie. a benzo pulling out of a hanok house or security cameras overlooking traditional doors etc. but it’s a beautiful area nonetheless! Also if someone is selling strawberries while you’re around, buy some lol the sweetest strawberries ever!

Next make your way to  Bukchon-ro 5-gil street; go back the way you entered and make a right onto Bukchon5 and walk straight on for a bit. Depending on the season, Jeongdok Public Library on your right is (was) a beautiful spot to catch the cherry blossoms if they’re in season. We were apparently in the last week of the season so a lot of them had already bloomed and fallen but it was still super beautiful to see and walk through.

Continue on Bukchon 5 after that; the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is on your left if that tickles your fancy – I just admired it from the outside lol

Cross over at the lights and you’ve got both the National Folk Museum of Korea in front of you and the back entrance to Gyeoungbokgung Palace. The museum grounds are free to walk through (obvs your girl chose that option), which was lovely, and then I’d definitely recommend leaving and continuing [south] on Gallery Street until you come to the main gates of Gyeoungbokgung Palace. Again, the massive entrance grounds are free to tour and walk around [didn’t go in because we were on a time constraint], but the architecture of the palace and seeing people dressed in traditional wear is definitely something to experience!

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Palace over, head to the closest metro which would be Gyeoungbokgung station (Subway line 3; dark orange line) either towards Common Ground or Seoul Tower, whichever you fancy. I did Common Ground next only because we were staying closer to the tower so I figured I’d do that then head back to the hotel, but both are easily accessible once you’re on the metro!

Space: Common ground

  • Konkuk University Station [dark green line; line 2 or 7]

-take exit 6 and walk straight for 5-10 minutes and you’ll see it on your left

Common ground is one of Seoul’s first pop-up stores and has been built with about 200 vibrant blue shipping containers stacked and welded together to create the space. Definitely exudes a more hipster and urban vibe to the city and just a wicked spot to check out. Restaurants are on the 3rd floor with a terrace overlooking the grounds, café’s on the first, and food truck grub in the open area on the grounds; stores are lined up indoors and are def more urban/street brands.  Apparently there’s also a weekend market which takes place alongside various street performances and such.

Next up was Seoul Tower also known as Namsan Tower

  • Myeongdong Station (subway line 4; light blue line)

-Make your way to the opposite side of the street [exit 2-4] and wait for the number 5 bus at the bus stop; the stop is literally as it shows in the photo below

Seoul Tower is a communication and observation tower located on Namsan Mountain in Seoul. Presumably its become a tourist attraction because of the view it provides overlooking the city. I had planned to take the cable car up top to get a view and take some photos but time wasn’t on my side so hung about near the foot of the tower and enjoyed the blossoms and whatever view I could manage from there which was still quite lovely!

Because Myeongdong was en route to the hotel, took the bus back from the tower [same route], got off at Myeongdong Station and walked through the street itself to get home. Myeongdong is synonymous with Seoul itself and is definitely a must if you’re ever in the city. Shopping galore and just this exciting bustle which I haven’t experienced elsewhere. There seemed to be a daily evening street food market we caught a couple times which had vendors selling a variety of items if you’re into trying new foods!

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Skin care is another one that kind of took over the street lol its quite overwhelming the first time around, especially if you’re like me and super fascinated by the skincare/cosmetic world lol so I’d recommend doing a bit of research online about certain brands and specific products you might want to try to eliminate a) wasting time looking at everything & b) spending money on things you probably don’t need! The street is also a great place to pick up any souvenirs or novelty Korean items for your peeps back home! ie. Hello Kitty socks, dancing PSY dolls, keychains etc.

And that was that my loves! Made me way back afterwards and headed to the airport to experience the most wonderful week of uncomfortable jetlag possible haha FYI, Incheon Airport isn’t the greatest; we all struggled finding a place to sit let alone something to munch, and the only place open at 11pm was Starbucks which wasn’t quite able to fill the hunger void lol

Anyways! Hope that’s provided somewhat of an itinerary for those who might have Seoul as an upcoming destination, and/or shown how realistic it is to maximize a short period of time wherever you might be! Keep an eye out for a Korean vlog also coming your way soon which will hopefully provide more of a visual to some of the aforementioned! xxx

You’re probably getting sick of seeing all my Istanbul postings on the gram, but I’m not finished yet because I’m having a grand time playing around with newfound tools and making it all visually appealing so #sorrynotsorry ! but thanks to the ones who are still showing love because it makes me feel like you appreciate the werk lol love you!x

This is a quick rundown of what our 3days kinda sorta consisted of. I don’t think I ever plan or schedule things to the T, it’s often a rough idea of a few places I’d maybe like to see or check out (I’ll google beforehand to creep) and the rest is whatevers stumbled upon on the way, but there were a couple new places I wanted to share incase anyones ever in town!


Tourist Attractions 

  • Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque

Standard (written about here and here)

  • Basilica Cistern

This is the largest of several hundred cisterns that lies beneath the city of Istanbul and used to act as a water filtration system for the Place of Constantinople.  Each time I’ve been to Istanbul I’ve always wanted to go but never got around to it, which is weird because its en route to the Metro and Gulhane Park and literally to the roadside of the Hagia Sophia lol lord knows I’ve walked past it a number of times, but definitely a really neat place worth seeing!

  • Galata Tower

This is another place I’ve been wanting to go for ages and always saw it from afar. I had heard it’s a mission to get to and so many stairs and an uphill climb that goes on for days, but it was neither. A bit of an uphill climb but that’s standard and its definitely worth it once you arrive. A friend recommended to go a bit before sunset so you could catch it whilst at the top of the tower and that was sound advice. Be prepared to queue for a bit, but theres a cutesy tram café to grab a cuppa while you wait! It also gets super crammed up top because you’re only able to do a round of the top and exit, but definitely take your time to appreciate the view and if you have to find a special spot to squat at for a bit, so be it! There wasn’t an epic sunset when we went, but it was beautiful to see everything wind down for the evening and the city light up with the call to prayer echoing from each side and seagulls crying and just ugh. Beautiful!

  • Süleymaniye Mosque

This was actually a random stumble and I don’t know why we’ve never crossed paths before. We were headed to look for something else and saw this beautiful mosque and thought lets have a look and dang! Massively beautiful with a gorgeous courtyard alongside a stunning view overlooking the city. The inside of the masjid donned this burnt-orange carpet and a similar interior to the Blue Mosque, but just super beautiful mashallah! (also I had to creep on this man outside the masjid because old people are just beautiful bless them x)

  • Dolmabahçe Palace:

I never knew this existed, but came across some photos of this intrinsic gate on Instagram, did some research, and turns out it was part of Dolmabache! Mashallah times a million for how beautiful this palace is. The architectural detail and grandeur of this place was magical and cleancut and just made me feel honored to be in its presence if that makes sense lol we didn’t go inside to the museum bit, but the grounds are still someplace worth visiting! Round the back of the palace dons the prettiest pink walls (you guys thought it was a filter didn’t you?!) and a rose garden which we were lucky enough to see in half bloom.

  • Grand Bazaar

Standard; super pretty and loads of wonderful bits and bobs with shopkeepers who speak a million and one languages which is quite impressive lol I strongly suggest bargaining a shitload if you’re purchasing something and if there’s no budging don’t fret at all because chances are you’ll find it elsewhere for much cheaper

  • Istiklal Street

another standard; kind of like a high street if you will with familiar shops (zara, Mango, H&M, Sephora etc.) but also has side alleys which are great to stop at for coffee or shisha and is buzzing at night!


Views

This was probably the thing I was most excited about locating and turning into a reality! After a lot of time spent trying to read suggestions on where I could get the best view of the city (not at any of the rooftop cafes-there are many fyi), a few seemed consistent with this place near the Grand Bazaar where you’re meant to knock on a door and ask for a ‘Mr. Mehmet’, pay him a little summin summin and he gives you access to the roof lol sounds super sketch I know, but one of the sites had a google location to the exact spot and another one had photos of what the stairwell looked like so I figured I’d have a go because why not!

Managed to get to the place, and the stairwell looked like it did in the photos but all the doors were bolted shut and there was no sign of anyone residing; more like storage behind the doors. Knocked on every door lol nothing happened but it was one of those moments where you know you can’t do anything but that motivates you to find another way because you just gotta somehow (my word choice and explanation is not its finest at the moment so apologies x ) SO, I was like Hash, you can scale the wall right, you go up and help me up lol there was one of them bushes growing out of the wall and a broken pipe so Hash managed to use them to get himself up and I followed (not as gracefully and it reminded me I have crap upper body strength), cut meself and lay there for about 5 seconds, but dang. When I got up, it was such a freaking beautiful sight to look at! And I was super excited that we had made it and that I was right (because I was on about it since before we left for Istanbul and Hash was like really, you’re not going to do it, how, blah blah) and just ahh! While we were finding a way to get on, these 2 Turkish guys joined as I guess they were also looking for Mr. Mehmet but helped them get up as well and so the 3 of us had a grand time overlooking the city and taking pictures and enjoying life until Hashmat waved at someone below like a dumb and the man started shouting that he was going to call the police and gathered a group of mandem so we jumped off and that was that!

Here is the exact location which you can always load up onto your maps (Buyuk Valide Han) if you go looking for the view lol it stops you at this 4-way crossroad and theres an arched stone wall on your right with Buyuk Valide Han written on it. Turn right and immediately to your right theres a stairwell going upstairs. Go up the stairs, and to your left there are some rusted stairs (like 6-7 steps) to a closed door. Use those stairs to jump onto the tarped material or whatever it is on your left and take on that wall. I’d suggest maybe going with someone so you can give someone a boost and pull the other up (I’m sure I would’ve found a way on my own), but that’s that! Try not to get clocked, but I promise you’ll love it (both the thrill and the view!)

Another recommendation for rooftops is high rise car parks! Walk in and take the lift to the highest floor, take the stairs, but eventually you’ll get to the highest point which more than likely will make you feel on top of the world! (kind of!)


Artsy Fartsy

  • Karaköy

Someone on Instagram had recommended munch at a place called ‘Batazar Burgers’ which was a super cool place and just the general vibe of the area itself (Karakoy) was up my alley (burgers were good too lol Hash loved it so thankyou!) Lots of street art and cutesy cafes, lunch spots, boutiques and the sort. I’d recommend going here after Dolmabache; we got the metro after Dolmabache to Sultanahmet, and my GPS signaling told me to walk…tell me why we ended up walking all the way back to where we started and had munched haha I was like hey! This is such a cool place, twice in one day well done Saira #winning! Turned a corner and went oh. We were legit right here haha #fail it was a lovely walk though so aadhee.

  • Umbrella [street]

I haven’t got exact directions for this next one, but if you stroll around the same area, or even if you ask I’m sure someone will help you, you’ll come to this alley with umbrellas hanging up top. I don’t think this is the famous one, but it got me excited so yay! I thought we could get a sick photo lol but Hash had just about had enough at this point and even the man in the shop came out with an umbrella to help get the right shot but alas. This is the closest we got to the perfect shot but I love it regardless because of the backstory lol

  • Rainbow Stairs

The Rainbow Stairs are also a cutesy place to check out for photos or just to put a smile on your face. In 2013 a man named Huseyn Cetinel spent 4 days painting the bland concrete stairs in rainbow colors simply to make people smile bless him x Unfortunately it was painted over [by the government], but people are freaking amazing sometimes and volunteers repainted them and they survived! Slightly run down now but put a smile on your face they do! If you’re heading by foot you’ll come across a set of stairs that look super broken and painted over in grey; don’t get discouraged lol keep walking and you’ll see the actual ones further up on your left! (*disclaimer: I just googled a bit myself to be sure and this is the location to the ones I managed to get to; not sure if they’re the exact same ‘famous’ steps but they were still coloured steps..!)


Food

In terms of food and munch, I can’t suggest a whole lot of places to try. wallah guys I’m not much of a food person, especially when travelling lol I love trying new dishes and eating etc. but when I’m away legit a cup of tea and a croissant or sandwich or something in the morning will usually get me through til the evening. I tend to grab and go and/or snack on streets as opposed to sit down places.

I’d definitely recommend Hafiz Mustafa if you don’t know if it by now lol for baklava and Turkish tea. The burger place we tried was good (Baltazar Burgers) Definitely fresh juice from one of the street vendors; the best orange juice ever for some odd reason lol alongside street side shawarma and roasted corn and chestnuts from the side stalls. Also love grabbing pieces of Turkish delight and chocolate mushrooms and Haribos for munching-while-walking because that’s just what I enjoy lol

Actually, if there’s one place you do go to, make sure it’s this one! Last year I mentioned we went to this place which Iman highly recommended and they only did a couple things on the menu but was so good and I didn’t remember the name, but I made a point to note it this time around so here it is: Meşhur Sultanahmet Köftecisi and I’ve got the location down below! If there’s a queue just wait lol and I promise you won’t be disappointed! I suggest a plate of the kofte with the red sauce and a salad lol so simple yet so satisfying!

This was my first time not having Lahmacun which is my absolute favorite Turkish dish (its not a dish) which is flatbread with mince on top. Add a bit of lemon juice and coriander on top, roll it and munch and you’re good to go. Super basic I know haha but I’m typically not fussy when it comes to food!


I hope that’s either inspired you to add Istanbul onto your bucket list, or given you some ideas of where to hit up if you’re ever in town, or even just put a smile on your face looking at all the pretty pictures! Let me know if this is helpful in anyway and if adding locations is something you’d appreciate in future posts; I found it super helpful when I was creeping so I hope I can make your lives a little easier too!

I miss blogging and sharing and I don’t know if you guys miss it as well lol but I’m super open to interactions and suggestions on things you might like to see or read about! Xx

Hope everyone’s winding down for the holidays and super excited for time off; I’m counting down to go home and really looking forward to seeing my family and have warm fuzzies inside lol lots of love, light, and hot chocolate sent your way! xoxo