Top 3: Seoul, South Korea

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View of Seoul at dusk

I recently had a friend write me to ask for my top three things to do in Seoul. He had browsed my blog knowing that I went to Seoul this spring but found no general travel info (other than the awesome cooking class post HERE). It’s true. This spring/summer has been a whirlwind and I haven’t gotten around to blogging more about my Seoul trip.

So here it is: My Top 3 for Seoul, South Korea!

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Locks of Love – Seoul

1. Seoul Tower/Locks of Love.
I seriously thought this was going to be über-cheesy. But the view alone over the city is worth it. We went up a little before sunset so we got to take pictures with daylight and at dusk. We didn’t go up the Seoul tower but just walked around the area at the foot of it. There is a gift shop, restaurant, coffee shop, and plenty of places to sit and enjoy the view (or a picnic if you planned well enough!).  You can take a cable car to the top of the mountain (which we did) or there are walking paths up to it. Don’t forget to bring a lock to leave behind!

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Near Seoul Tower at dusk


2. Nanta Show.

This is a long running show in Seoul and for good reason. It’s Stomp-esque but they use kitchen knives, pots and more to make the beats. They engage the crowd as they work to get the meal complete for the wedding party. There are several theaters showing Nanta around Seoul. We went to the Chungjeongno which is the biggest theater.
Location: Various locations; Click on Nanta Show link above.

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We learned to make kimchi at Kimchi World


3. Food, food, & more food!

Koreans take their food very seriously. From street food to restaurants and coffee shops, their passion for good food is evident. We definitely only grazed the surface of this delicious cuisine but here were a few of our favorites from our short time there.

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Stone bibimbop Cooking Class
Credit: L. Cordes


O’ngo Food Communications

They offer cooking classes and food tours. You can check out my blog post on the cooking class or head to their website for the full offerings.
Location: Jongno-gu, Nagwon-dong 55-1 3rd Floor, Seoul, Korea

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Green tea latte with green tea tiramisu at O’sulloc

O’sulloc Tea House
This tea shop is famous for good reason. Stop for an afternoon tea/pick-me-up here. Their desserts were amazing. I got the matcha tiramisu. Heavenly!
*Note: Seoul in general has a lot of tea and coffee shops. They have unique offerings that I haven’t seen many places. Plus most have free wifi making it great to check-in if needed.
Location: Cheonghwi Bldg. 1st Fl.; 33-1, Myeong-dong 2(i)-ga; Jung-gu, Seoul

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Enjoying some street food in Seoul
Credit: L. Cordes

Street Food
Quite possibly my favorite part of Seoul. I could just eat my way all around! Topokki, hot and spicy rice cake, were my favorite. Another good choice is ho-ddeok, or Korean pancakes on the go.Sanchon – Korean Temple Food

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The many vegetarian dishes of Sanchon

Sanchon – Korean Temple Food
This was definitely an unique experience for Seoul. It wasn’t cheap at about $60 per person for the set meal but you will NOT leave hungry. There was so much food that we actually felt bad sending it back. The setting was tranquil and pleasant. And where can I please find these lotus flower lanterns?!?
Location: 14 Gwanhun-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Kyotofu 
Yes, we live in Japan so Japanese cuisine probably shouldn’t have been on our list but I’ll be honest, we went for the desserts. They had some unique combinations such as chocolate cake with miso caramel. Their overall food was delicious as well.
Location:  Various locations; Click Kyotofu link above.

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We definitely have some LOVE for Seoul after this short trip!!


O’ngo Cooking School – Seoul, South Korea

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Stone bibimbop
photo credit: L. Cordes

I’ve always loved cooking and baking. From a very early age, I was helping my mother in the kitchen or whipping up what I called “Courtney Creations.” However, it wasn’t until 2006 that I had a travel “a-ha” moment.

My husband and I were planning our one-year anniversary trip to Italy. I was researching things to do while we were there and a pasta-making class popped up. Hmm, I have always wanted to learn how to make fresh pasta….and I love Italian food…and free-flowing Chianti wine, YES please! I promptly signed us up for our first cooking class in a foreign country. Seemed like a small decision at that point in our lives but it has forever changed how I/we travel the world.

Teamwork making the pasta

Making homemade pasta during our first cooking class
Florence, Italy

The class was loads of fun! We rolled pasta, made friends with our fellow students, laughed over our “red” pasta when one person dumped wine all over the pasta, and had a leisurely late lunch with “family” because let’s be real, we felt like family at that point! There’s something about joining around a table after learning and cooking together that makes you feel connected to those around you more than any other type of tour. It was definitely one of the highlights of our trip and our pasta-making skills have now been shared with many hungry guests in our home.

Fast forward seven years and I have now taken cooking classes and food tours around the world from Spain to Japan. The latest one was on my girls weekend trip to Seoul. Our entire trip to Seoul focused on one of three things: food, photography, and more food. Ok, maybe we mixed some sightseeing into there but you get the point, we were there for Korea’s delicious food and to document this culinary adventure with our cameras.

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Our instructor at O’ngo showing us how to properly chop the carrots

We signed up for a custom cooking class by O’ngo Cooking School. We all love the Korean dish bibimbap which consists of white rice, marinated beef, several types of vegetables, egg and the spicy gochujang sauce.  It can be served in a metal bowl, or our preferred way, in a heated stone bowl.

The class started at 10AM on but we arrived a little late. Note to fellow travelers to Seoul, the taxi drivers do not know where they’re going and/or they cannot be inconvenienced by dropping you in front of the building. So while the taxis are cheap, we would’ve been better off taking the metro because of clear directions from the metro stop. Instead, we had a taxi driver who dropped us on a major road and pointed down a road before driving off. After 45 minutes of wandering the streets, asking for directions and retracing our steps, we finally stumbled into the cooking school 30 minutes late.

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O’ngo cooking school in the heart of Seoul
photo credit: T. Hong-Sandmel

We quickly washed our hands as our instructor began preparing and showing us how to recreate the stone bibimbap dish. The dish is relatively easy and can be cooked quickly in the house. It just requires chopping, marinating and then cooking the meat and several vegetables. Our instructor said that Koreans prefer around 5 different colors in the bibimbap dish (and that works beautifully for food photography as well!). After she completed her demonstration, it was our turn to whip out the dish. We had fun chopping, cooking and taking pictures along the way.

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Mixed greens salad with a mustard-sesame dressing

While our stone bibimbaps were sizzling on the stovetop, we prepared a simple mixed green salad. I had never thought of a mustard-sesame dressing but it was divine. The dressing was easy to whip up with mustard, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, sesame oil (Korean sesame oil is fabulous – seek it out!) and sesame seeds. The surprise ingredient to the salad greens was sesame leaves which Koreans think are a good mix with meals that serve meat.

Once everything was cooked, we were able to sit down and enjoy our lunch together. We took plenty of pictures prior to eating but once we did, the room became quiet. The type of silence that comes from enjoying your hard work learning a traditional dish of the culture you’re visiting.

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Lunch is served!
photo credit: T. Hong-Sandmel

It was a great experience and we thoroughly enjoyed our time at O’ngo Cooking School. The company offers cooking classes as well as food tours around the city in English. We were unable to do on any of those tours but I hope to next time I visit Seoul.

I’ve included a mixture of photos from the cooking class. My friends allowed me to share their photos as well. It’s nice having friends who are such talented photographers!

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Our ingredients for bibimbap
photo credit: L. Cordes

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Our instructor showing us how to make bibimbap
photo credit: T. Hong-Sandmel

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Now it’s my turn to cook!
photo credit: L. Cordes

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My fellow foodie photogs preparing their bibimbaps

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Stone bibimbaps cooking on the stove
photo credit: L. Cordes

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My best impersonation of Julia Child
photo credit: T. Hong-Sandmel